Ang Thong National Park, Thailand

Unforgettable Day trip to Ang Thong National park in Thailand

Due to limited travel plans, I am revisiting my blog of runaway widow travel posts this month highlighting some of my favorite photos and places I was fortunate to see. Thailand…

Ang Thong National Park, Thailand
LINK: https://runawaywidow.blog/2016/08/24/ko-samui-ang-thong-national-park/

Erawan National Park, Thailand

Link – Surprising Benefits of small group tour in Thailand

3 days Johannesburg SOUTH AFRICA
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Chapel in Sudeley Castle
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3 days Johannesburg SOUTH AFRICA
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Chapel in Sudeley Castle
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My Interview with Nomadic Matt – travel blogger and author of “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day”

Interview with Nomadic Matt about travel blogging and advice for widows on solo travel

 I am so excited to share my interview with Matt Kepnes, travel blogger and author of the New York Times best selling book “How to Travel the World on $50 a day”.

On my first solo trip to Thailand I searched the internet for ideas about what to see in Bangkok on my own and stumbled across Matt’s blog: Travel guide to Bangkok.  His informative and easy to read guide set me off on my first solo adventure in a city where very little English is spoken.  I had an amazing day and my confidence soared as I enjoyed sights and markets used city trains and boats to get around.

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I started writing my blog during that trip and found it rewarding and therapeutic to share my journey about my unexpected life as a middle aged widow.  Eventually I wanted to learn more about blogging but courses aren’t available at the local Community College so I signed up for Nomadic Matt’s course called “Superstar Blogging – The Business of Travel Blogging”. It’s designed as a 10 week course so you can pace yourself and learn as you blog.  Even after the 10 weeks Matt and his team keep in touch with students via Facebook and emails and you may even get an opportunity to meet or interview one of the Travel industry experts!

Continue reading “My Interview with Nomadic Matt – travel blogger and author of “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day””

Surprising Benefits of Touring with a Small Group in Thailand

Visit Thailand with a small group for a fun adventure. As a solo traveler, widow, I joined a G Adventures tour – best time!

I would highly recommend using a small group travel company like G Adventures if you plan to see a lot of places in a developing country like Thailand. The #1 reason is that the itinerary has been decided for you based on places and things that other people recommend and they provide lovely air conditioned vans or flights for you to get around. I never would have planned a train ride, visit to a war museum and a cemetery but that is where we visited on day two.

Continue reading “Surprising Benefits of Touring with a Small Group in Thailand”

Krabi, Islands in Thailand and Runaway Widow Reflections

Traveling widow healing adventure after the loss of spouse. two weeks in Thailand

The island near Krabi called Ko Klang is 95 percent Muslim and has a population of 5000.  There are no cars, dogs or alcohol allowed on this island.  We took a moped that had a cart on the side for a tour.  We passed people harvesting rice in a rice paddy. We visited a batik shop where the women showed us how they dye, wax and use floral prints to decorate fabric.  It was interesting but we were too hot to partake in arts and crafts so we supported the community by purchasing sarongs for $4 each.  We then visited a local boat craftsman who proudly showed us his awards and his method for making model Thai long boats.

Ko klong batik Thailand
Batik

Rice paddy Ko Klong Thailand
Rice paddy

hand crafted long boats Thailand

We passed palm trees used to make palm oil and rubber trees harvesting liquid rubber.  These are 2 exports from Thailand.  Back on our long boat we took a tour of the mangrove forest and were happy to see gray monkeys along the shore.

palm trees Thailand
palm trees

harvesting palm oil in thailand
harvesting palm oil

monkeys in mangrove forest
monkeys in mangrove forest

We checked into the Deevana hotel in Krabi and were ecstatic by the lush accommodations. After a bite to eat we explored the area and on the way back I detoured for another massage.  For dinner we tried a Vietnamese restaurant which was very good.  An early night led to an early breakfast.  My two travel buddies opted to enjoy the serene pool and local spas while I decided to end the trip in the fashion I started; with a solo adventure.

I walked down the street and purchased a 200 baht ($6) round trip ticket to the island Rai Lay. Soon a white pick up truck driver told me to get in the back and 9 of us drove to a canal outside of town to catch a long boat to the island.

truck ride to long boat launch to Rai Lay
Truck ride to Long boats

long boats Krabi to Rai Lay
long boats

The 4-6 foot swells instantly reminded me of the movie scene from the Finest Hour which I had watched on the flight here, especially the part where the small coast guard boat dives through the waves. I was hopeful our wooden boat wouldn’t have to do that.  We arrived safely and I had fun exploring the different beaches and caves.  I watched some people rock climb and enjoyed a swim in the sea. I felt very brave as I walked toward the water in my bikini but honestly no one gave me a glance.  The water was warm and salty and felt so good around my middle.

Rai Lay thailand
Rai Lay

traveling widow healing adventure Rai Lay
solo day in Rai lay

I dried off laying on a towel in the warm sun and soft breeze then suddenly felt the rain.  It’s monsoon season here so when it starts, you gotta run.  I had some lunch, stopped into a beachfront Thai massage studio for my stretching and relaxing zen time and then wandered back to where the boats had dropped me off.  The rain had stopped but the waves were definitely bigger on the way back and we all got wet.

My transfer back to town was nonexistent. I thought I had purchased a round trip ticket to town but that white truck was no where to be found!  So I shared a scooter taxi back with 2 young hostel kids. One was from Russia and one from Vietnam.  I made it back to the hotel in time for a swim and happy hour before a sunset farewell dinner with my travel buddies and our tour guide.

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I packed my suitcase and prepared for my 3 flights home tomorrow.  Thinking back on this adventure filled trip I know I have stepped out of my comfort zone like trekking in the rainforest at night and filled my life with some awesome memories and great new friends.  I had some real moments of joy and wonder and faced a few challenges that I successfully navigated so I’m feeling pretty good about that.  However, as I sit here on a beach, on an island in the middle of the Adaman Sea you must admit I have run away about as far as I can go.

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of Mike’s death and I guess I really can’t escape that date.  This year has had many difficult moments but the hardest part is acknowledging that he is really gone and no matter how much I think about how it shouldn’t have happened, and how I could have changed the events of that evening, it did happen and I will never be able to recreate that night.  All I can try to do is manage my thoughts because that is the only thing I do have control over.

So when I get sad about the loss of my husband, I will let myself feel sad and then redirect my thoughts to some of my favorite memories with him.  And I can count my blessings because I am a very fortunate person.

I’ve been tossing around what I want to do in memory of Mike. I think I will continue to celebrate his life on his birthday, the 4th of July, with fireworks and one of his favorite desserts: an ice cream sundae. At his funeral I asked people in lieu of flowers to make donations to the American Heart Association.  I was overwhelmed at the generosity of so many people who made donations in his name.

After my time in Thailand I was really touched by the elephant rescue centers.  However, when I read that it is estimated that 800,000 children are being exploited here in sex trade I started to research organizations that help rescue children.  I found one called Destiny Rescue that uses funding to rescue girls and help train them for jobs outside a life of prostitution.  This year I will make a donation in Mike’s name for destinyrescue.org and invite my readers to make a donation as well.  Thank you for joining me on this healing widow adventure and I hope to make running away to cool places a new habit for me!

Solo female travel krabi and rai lay Thailand

Jungle Trekking at Night or my least favorite thing to do in the Thailand Rainforest

Jungle Trekking at night in Thailand’s Rainforest. Solo widow traveler discovers the joys of primitive and wet night hiking in Thailand.

As my sneakers squished through the black mud and flooded trail I began to wonder why this adventure had not been designated optional.  The trail through the Thailand jungle was exactly what it said it was. The lead trail guide was using his 9 inch machete to swipe fast growing vines from the narrow trail.  Walking between the dense forest was a challenge with a walking stick, however the stick came in handy as we started to climb the side of a limestone mountain.  There was not much mud on the trail at some points and we needed to grab branches and use the walking stick to balance and move forward.

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Unforgettable Day Trip in Thailand: Ang Thong National Park

Tour of the Ang Thong National park with hiking, swimming, kayaking and lunch. Green lagoon and Ko Samui Thailand with small group

Ko Samui Thailand
Ko Samui

Ko Samui day trip healing grief trip

We spent the first part of our G Adventures tour exploring the northern part of Thailand including an amazing visit with elephants in Chiang Mai.  We took a 50 minute  flight from Bangkok to southern Thailand for a week of island hopping and rainforest trekking.  After landing in Ko Samui our tour guide and van driver escorted us to the main strip of a busy little beach town. 

Map of Ko Samui Thailand

Ko Samui is an island in the white square of this map.  The main strip is bustling with international young people visiting beach front bars and clubs as well as hostels for inexpensive accommodations. 

Our hotel the Mercure at Chaweng has a very nice pool area, air conditioned rooms with decent showers and breakfast is included.   Across the street from the hotel is a beautiful white sandy beach.  The water is clean and warm and so very salty.  I paid 200 Baht ($6) for a cushioned lounge chair under tree.  Along with a place to sit for the day I also had access to the hotel bar, pool and toilets.  Well worth it.

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The next day our group crossed the island of Ko Samuii and took a ferry 90 minutes to the Ang Thong National Park. This park is made up of 43 islands surrounded by beautiful turquoise water.  The ferry moored near one of the bigger islands and we boarded smaller long boats to reach the beach.

The first island had a sandy beach and a steep hiking trail to the top of the mountain.  Stone steps were lined with ropes on the side to assist in the climb.  The climb is steep but he views were spectacular, especially from the top.

Ang Thong National Park Thailand
Ang Thong National Park

After the hike, we returned to the ferry where chicken curry, rice, vegetables and watermelon were waiting for us.  The next island we had a  kayaking lesson on the sand then followed the leader around the island and through some caves. Very cool.

Kayaking at Ang Thong National Park Thailand
Kayaking

 

After hiking it was off on another hike that overlooked a green lagoon at the peak.

Green lagoon Ang Thong National Park
Green Lagoon

We weren’t the only foreign tourists on this trip.  The trails were crowded. Not sure where he was from. LOL

Ang thong national park

After the hike I used my goggles and went for a swim.  The water was amazingly clear and clean. Little fish of many colors joined me in a refreshing swim above the undamaged coral reef. It was an amazing day with spectacular views and I finally got some much needed exercise!

Ang Thong National park Thailand

Our group enjoyed dinner near our hotel back in Ko Samui at a Swedish restaurant that served Australian steak. Yummy!

Off  to the rainforest now if I can leave this beach: Next post:

Jungle Trekking at night or my least favorite thing to do in Thailand rainforest.

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More Fun in Chiang Mai and Bangkok

After our time playing with the elephants I was on a super high! We still had time in Chiang Mai and this group just keeps moving.  Some of us visited a really cool 3D art museum which brings taking photos of yourself to a new level.

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Our tour guide brought us to visit a village outside Chiang Mai to have a traditional Thai Khantoke dinner in the home of a local family.  The patriarch invited us to place a flower in the spirit house before we entered the home.  Many places have spirit houses outside them to keep bad spirits out of the homes.  People must offer the spirit house food, drinks, flowers and other gifts as well to bring good luck.

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Our host then invited us upstairs to his home and we saw pictures of his family.  Then we sat and he had us put some odd ingredients in a leaf.  So we did.  Then he told us to chew it.  So we did.  The  we spit it out because that’s what you do.

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After that experience we ventured into the garden.  He had an herb and a leaf for everything! Stomache issues, bleeding, headaches, muscle aches, allergies, impotence, you name it.  He had so many interesting and helpful plants.  He even had his own rice paddy field.

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After our tour his son and granddaughter offered us an appetizer.  Meanwhile grandma was rolling cigars for us.  There was a family of 14 living on this land and everyone was involved in welcoming us.

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We ate a delicious authentic  Khantoke dinner which was a large round tray that had several small dishes to share with friends.  The food was absolutely amazing and everyone enjoyed the dessert and tea after dinner.

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On our way back to the hotel some of us were let off by the market and the Chiang Mai stadium to watch the Thai boxing fights.  Yes.  I actually signed up for this one and was talked into sitting ringside!  I’ve never been to a fight before so if you’re going to go, get front row.  So the Muay Thai fights are 5 rounds, 3 minutes each with a 30 second break.  We watched 3 fights and the third fight was a Thailand girl vs. a British girl.  The Brit won so we were happy and left after that fight.  The scariest part was when they would lean on the ropes in front of us and seriously looked like they were coming over brawling.  My adrenaline rate was quite high I am sure!

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 Saturday morning we were up early for travel back to Bangkok.  We had a lovely tour of the Wat Po temple known for the golden reclining Buddha.  This is also the place where monks live next to and they teach Thai massage.  It was very hot and humid walking around the grounds but we enjoyed taking photos.

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I even have a vertical panoramic photo of me in front of a pagoda.

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So we cooled off on a wild 45 minute speed demon long tail river boat touring some of the canals around Bangkok.

Our last free day before heading to southern Thailand included a visit to The Jim Thompson house.  He was from America and built a beautiful home here in Bangkok with lots of antiques and artifacts.  He also brought a lot of the silk trade to America.  He disappeared in 1967 and no one knows whatever happened to him.

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We visited one of the giant malls, did some shopping, had another massage (they keep getting better) and had lunch.  Also we had time to fit in a fish spa where little fish nibble on your feet for 20 minutes and you try not to laugh too much.

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We said goodbye to some friends who will not be joining us on the second week but all promised to keep in touch with our whatsapp and Facebook. I am enjoying my time and travels in Thailand so much.  This is definitely what the runaway widow needed to do to help get through the loss and memories of this month.  There is plenty of time for reality and grieving when I get home.

Ultimate Thailand Experience: Bathing Elephants in the Mud

Traveling as a widow over 50 as a solo female can be a challenge and a way to heal after loss. Bathing and playing with elephants in Thailand is a joy.

Mike died almost a year ago but he was in my dream the night before what would have been our 26th anniversary and gave me a wonderful message.  I know I am grieving and a widow but I felt happy to wake up today.  I had such a good marriage with him and I have had more than a few dream visits so I knew today would be great.  Also, I was on my way to play with the elephants!

Continue reading “Ultimate Thailand Experience: Bathing Elephants in the Mud”

Temples, Pagodas and a Cooking Class in Thailand

We woke early in Ayutthaya to visit 700 year old ruins of palaces and temples.  We walked around mainly brick and stucco structures and even saw a Buddha head entwined in some roots. One of the pagodas was hollow and had quite a few bats living in who did not seem too pleased that we had visited as well.

Ayutthaya Thailand
Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya Thailand
Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya Thailand
Ayutthaya

Ayatthaya Thailand

Bats Ayutthaya Thailand
Bats

We drove from Ayutthaya to the Bangkok airport and took a one hour flight north to Chiang Mai.  This large city has a population of about 1.5 million people.  Our hotel was centrally located. Upon arrival we had a chance to shower and then all met for dinner.  We walked to a nearby Thai restaurant and then had fun shopping in the night market.  We bargained for scarves, t-shirts and elephant pants.  Some stayed shopping and some of us went home.  Then one of us found a massage parlor near the hotel.  One hour for 250 baht ($9) – I’ll meet you back at the hotel!

Kao Kab Kang Chiang Mai

Night market Chiang Mai
Night market Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

The next morning we all woke up and took a taxi (cute mini mini van with 2 benches) to a local food market.  There we met the chef for our cooking class named Kong.  He took us shopping for the foods we would need for our class.  He also explained a bit about the different foods.

Thailand Cooking Class

Chiang Mai market cooking class
Chiang Mai market

Chiang mai market shopping for cooking class

Then we took another taxi to the cooking school.  We learned how to make spring rolls, cashew chicken curry, chicken stir fry and banana cake.  Kong was a great teacher and we all enjoyed eating everything that we cooked.

Chiang mai cooking class

imageimageRunaway widow Chiang mai cooking class

We learned about some of the different foods. I had never heard of Dorian but we tried some. It is a fruit with a creamy texture like avocado yet it is sweet and a bit grainy.  It smells bad and is dangerous if eaten with alcohol due to the gas. In fact our hotel won’t allow you to bring it in. Tried it but probably never will again.

One of the travelers in our group successfully caught a rare Pokemon on our dining table so I am sure my blog has just gotten way cooler!

After cooking school, we walked over to visit the 14th century Wat Chedi Luang Buddhist temple.  We took pictures and met some monks at the temple.  We had time for a rest or swim back at the hotel, I chose a swim, then left to visit the golden Buddhist temple up on the mountain.  The ride up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was quite curvy and we all felt a bit ill by the time we reached the steps.  There are 300 steps or a tram that takes you to the temple.  The views from the top were spectacular.  We could see planes taking off below and all posed for amazing photos.

Runaway widow Thailand travel
Runaway widow

At 6:00 pm the monks knelt and chanted.  Some visitors joined in as well. It is a very spiritual feeling to be surrounded by such dedicated faith.

I found a local restaurant after a bit of supper to reflect on my trip so far and write my blog.  I am enjoying writing and traveling and spend little time thinking about the loss of my husband and being a widow.  For me this is the best therapy and I could travel all the time.

We started a whatsapp group with our travel buddies to share photos and videos so it took longer to download it all to my iPad.  Thanks for reading my blog and sharing in my adventures!

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