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No time no time no time!

So in my mind I figured I would sit down and write daily into my blog while on my trip in Thailand. That didnt happen -- could have, but it takes too much time to write, add pics, and organize everything to make it aesthetically pleasing. Or rather, it took more time than I wanted to forfeit from our quests here.


So, here I am in Koh Chang. I've been told by so many people how incredible this island is, and how I absolutely have to see it. Well, those people are absolutely retarded. The island is gorgeous, dont get me wrong. The mountains and covering trees give you a feeling like Jack Shepherd will be sprinting from the tree line being chased by the black-smoke-monster --ya, thats a Lost reference for those of you who dont watch.


The beaches are really nice, and the water is super warm -- I'm talking bathwater warm. Almost not refreshing kind of warm. And things are different on beaches here. You dont crowd up on it with a towel and umbrella. In fact, no one really lays on them, except for me and the people with me.


As of this writing, I'm content, with the exception of my sunburn (I wore sunscreen, what gives?!)


The path to contentment took about 24 hours from start to finish, with the entire 24 hour process being a complete joke and leaving an awful taste in my mouth for Thais and Thailand. Heres how it went...


Woke up on the 13th in BEAUTIFUL Chiang Mai at our INCREDIBLE bungalow. Had an early flight, so our host cooked us up our own breakfast really early before taking us to the airport. We get to the airport, hop on our flight to Bangkok and arrive with no issues.


We get off the plane, and need to catch a bus from Bangkok to Chanthaburi. My friend told us that we just go outside of airport terminal, and there will be buses everywhere and just hop on. Well, that doesnt really give the comfort level we want, so we did a lot of research before leaving for Thailand. The first clue, is theres no information online to find regarding times of buses.


So, we go and spend a good bit of time to find the only morning bus already left (at 8:10, we arrived at 9:10). Next bus? 4pm. So we find all our alternatives... Taxi an hour away to a train station (metro train), and hope for a bus from there. Take a taxi TO Chanthaburi. Take a bus/taxi to somewhere else. Ultimately, we wanted to get to Koh Chang or Koh Samet, after visiting my friend. He originally said we can stay with him for a few days, but a few days ago said he doesnt really have room so we'd need to get a place near him. Well, that kinda defeated the purpose. So we decided since we now have to spend on a room, we will just taxi to Koh Chang and get a room there, and he can meet us -- and he agreed.


So, we take our 3500baht taxi ($100) for 4 hours to Trat province. Koh Chang is an island, so you have to ferry. We finally get there, and we need a room. Called a few places friend recommended, theyre full. We talk to a travel agent lady, she calls a bunch of places ... full ... full ... full. Finally, we book one for 9000baht for 2 nights (~200$ US). We are about to get on ferry, and says WAIT WAIT WAIT! Apparently, they called back. Theyre full. They find us one for 5000baht/night, we say no. Finally, we booked some 5 star accomodations with a rock and sand beachfront for 3000baht/night. We get on ferry and are happy and ready to relax.


We cross the water to the island, get off, and having been told that it would be 50baht for 3 people to get a taxi to hotel, we told the waiting taxi ready to leave that we dont want to pay 50 baht PER person. They get super pissed off, yell at their friends in Thai and said probably "screw these Americans! do not take them AT ALL!" We sat there almost 2 hours waiting for a taxi to take us. There were about 10 trucks sitting there, with their drivers at a table playing poker. Finally, Sven from Sveden arrived with 3 Thai women that he met at a club the night before, and was getting ready to leave in a taxi. We asked them why they are keeping us in another taxi, and said to wait that its not full. All kinds of crap and conversation went down between them and a shuttle driver for another resort who was translating, and finally he became uneasy and said he cannot get involved. Ultimately, we ended up paying those asses 100baht/person to get on that taxi (they were trying to get us for 600/baht)


So we arrived finally at our hotel and I say "well, least its nice!" as we get out of the taxi soaking wet due to Songkran. We check in, and are told we cannot go to our room yet cuz the electricity is off. What? No, we're going to our room now. So we do. And the electricity is on. And so is the shittiest surprise ever. We got ripped off. Our 5 star hotel was a dump. Broken furniture, dirty walls, poop-ring toilet, scum and mildew all over bathroom, dirty beds. Did overlook the ROCK beach (no sand). The sad part is the place LOOKED nice on the outside and from the water line, but turned out to be a complete dump.



So, Lisa and I said absolutely not. We left for an internet cafe, since our 5 star hotel failed to have any wireless.


We get on TripAdvisor and start researching. Apparently, most hotels in Koh Chang are ~3 stars. We came to the island in attempt to be pampered and stay at the best accommodations yet. After a few hours research, we decide to pull the trigger on KC Grande Resort for $200/night USD. I was the one booking, and since my credit card got eaten by a machine before leaving, I didnt have my information memorized. So I opted for paypal. Whoops. Instantly, denied for fraud. Well, damn. So I walk back to hotel, grab wallet, and come back. I go to book again with my credit card but am denied by booking website since I already have a request in. So they say contact us 24/7 with livechat. SO I do, FOOLED YOU! They're too busy! Leave a mssage and theyll call us! But no, they cant! Our 5 star hotel has no phone!


So I use vonage to call them. I sit on hold for 15 minutes, then get hung up on because the shitty internet cafe headsets dont work worth a damn. Finally, I book under my sisters name with my credit card vs debit card, and everything is good.


HOME FREE! No, really, we were!


We went back to our crappy hotel, go to bed, wake up, and have breakfast. Which consisted of gross sliced ham, hot dogs, old fruit, cook-to-order eggs, and some porridge. Then we walk to internet cafe, print confirmation page, and hit the beach for the day.


The rest of the day went pretty well, except for that Chris and I got burnt.


Our new hotel is super nice. We have  a few infinity pools, a villa that overlooks the ocean and a pool, and everything works right.


Now, I'm going to relax.



Stop 1/3 DONE – few hiccups.

I write this post with, for the most part, my shoulders high and my anticipation high. I'd be lying if I said today went perfectly, though.


My morning started fine, having had already packed all my stuff and just needing to go out the door.


Airport in Atlanta was good, no issues, even with getting my slash-proof bag through security (went through without even slowin the xray belt down for a better look)!


Yesterday, however, I had some issues. I went to a standalone Wachovia ATM to deposit cash I've been collecting for use in Thailand. I drive off and realized the machine never gave me my card back!! I did a quick u-turn and went back to machine and called up Wachovia. In a borderline panic, the lady on the phone worked a miracle and managed to overnight a new card to my sisters in Los Angeles!


So, here I am, in Los Angeles.


I almost became an all-star by changing our seats on the flight out here to allow an open spot between Chris and myself. Well, one of the LAST PEOPLE on the plane, sat between us. BUMMER! Not bad though, small framed girl that slept the entire time, though nearly with her head perched on my shoulder.


After running some errands and having an AWESOME lunch at  Bay Cities Deli with my sister, I started the hour long [what used to be 5 minute] phone call to Wachovia to activate my new card.


After being hung up on, transferred countless times, I asked for a manager and was connected to check fraud. They then connected me finally to someone that was able to help me... So, issue resolved, but with it was a total headache.


Now I'm sitting here in Los Angeles waitin to take a shower and go to dinner, then off to the airport we go to embark on a 14.5 hour flight, a 2 hour 20 minute layover, and another 4.5 hour flight to our final destination -- THAILAND!


Sleep well... for as you do, I'll be crammed into the coach section of a Boeing 777 :)




You told me I’m a genius and I laughed, but you were RIGHT!

As soon as I decided to go to Thailand, I dove head first into research. Where should I go.... what do I wear.... What shots do I need.... Why the hell is the only thing I can find on forums about traveling to Thailand involve prostitutes.... You know, the normal!


One thing I decided, was I'm going to bring my cameras. That includes my small point-and-shoot "normal camera" and my Nikon DSLR my dad got me for my birthday this year. That raises this standard question... how do I prevent my stuff from being stolen?!


Allow me to introduce you to the Daysafe 100 form Pacsafe. Its a great little bag, in my opinion. It comes in at $149.99, and I think that is well worth the price. It has a slash proof base with basically a chicken wire mesh inbetween two pieces of material, as well as slashproof bag straps (basically have a metal cable running through them). AND some little zipper lock things that I dont want to explain.


I got to thinking though... that bag will be hot on my back in the heat and humidity of Thailand, and I dont really need such a big daypack bag to hold my cameras and small items. My fix?


The REI Flash 18 daypack. Its small, lightweight, wont take up a lot of back surface area to get all sweaty, and isnt BLACK to attract all that extra sun to my back. AND its only $29.50!! The negative, is that its ripstop nylon -- RIPSTOP, not RAZORSTOP. So, that sucks... I got to thinking "Hmmmm... how can I feel comfortable about my stuff not getting stolen by the bottom being slashed out like you read about online?"


Here is how!


I decided to buy some chicken coup wire -- $5.98 for a pretty big roll at Home Depot. Like my food reviews, I get so excited to start stuff I dont document things right -- as you can see form my half eaten food pictures, and the picture of my chicken wire with tape on it already. So, I basically laid out the  chicken wire, cut it to a general size, and then got even more precise and cut it down even smaller so it would fit like a U inside my bag. Then I curled the jagged edges flat, and started to use electrical tape to smooth everything out -- that didnt work well, so off to Kroger I went to buy some duct tape and baby pins to secure it (I stood there looking at sewing kits and baby pins trying to decide which... I bought the sewing kit, and then decided at home I wanted pins so I could undo this easily at the airport to throw away if they wont let it in...)



Heres a close up of the half duct tape, half electrical tape action. I dont have a picture of my final product, but I did two layers of duct tape on all 4 sides and now its completely smooth with no jagged edges (so when I shove my hand in I dont cut it up!)











I wanted to see how my bag looked fully loaded with what I COULD bring, but wont every day (camera in its case, 55-200 lens in its case, SB600 flash in its case, and my light rain jacket for the sudden showers. At this point, the mesh is sitting IN the bag but not secured to see how it will feel.






This picture is the back of the bag, you can see the mesh isnt protruding out anywhere, and lays flat and feels like its not even there.









This is everything that was in there -- I will need to pack the jacket tighter to get the most open space in the bag, so things arent sitting so high on my back.






Here is a shot inside the bag. The mesh is sitting more or less flat -- I've attached ~6 pins on the front/back/bottom of the bag so that if the bottom is slashed, the pins can hold the weight of everything sitting on mesh and things dont spill out. If the sides are slashed, then I'm screwed.. Oh well.







Lastly, here is the exterior of the bag with the pins installed. You can see its not very bad in terms of drawing attention. The only negative, is it gets rid of the nice water resistance of the bag at the two points of entry/exit of the pints. I dont really plan on standing in downpours, so I feel this shouldn't really impact the bag. I can always patch it with some sort of epoxy around the pins, or holes when I take them out after my trip.




So thats that! I have the bag I want, the security of my items I longed, and I saved $107 (figure $30 (bag) + $6 (mesh) + $6 (tape, pins, etc).


How bout that :)

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