Traveling: Things to Avoid While in Thailand

There are many articles and information online relating to the things you should do while in Thailand, but I would like to give you also a list of things to avoid while you are in this amazing place. Making a difference is important and you should try to be considerate of the Thai culture.

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  • Feeding or petting any wild animal, especially the monkeys!

In almost all regions of Thailand, you will find wild animals, the ones you will most likely come into contact are the monkeys that will try to get something tasty to eat from you. Feeding them is not allowed and it’s punishable by law. Not all food is good for them and you should know that they tend to become violent when not given what they want.

Trying to pet them is another huge mistake since you can be bitten or scratched by them and if this happens it is MANDATORY for you to go to the hospital and get vaccinated against rabies. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that they are not sick or that it is only superficial, rabies can kill you if you don’t get the shot in the first 24 hours.

Also, the male might get protective of its family so don’t get to close to the babies or females. I know you want that perfect shot, but trust me it’s not worth it.

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  • Riding the elephants, the Asian elephant became an endangered species

There is a huge debate on this topic and many think that they are actually getting close to the animals and proving that they love them, but this act of riding them it’s far from this. The metal cages are harming them and most of the time they are beaten.

Some say an alternative it visiting the elephant sanctuary, I would say you should try to avoid these too since washing elephants it’s not a natural thing and those animals do not enjoy this “special” attention.

  • Buying any item made from ivory, this is also punishable by law

For this I don’t think I have to make a case, you should never engage in this illegal activity. You will see signs all over the airport and they do search your belongings for this.

  • Visit the tiger temples where the tigers are beaten and sedated in order for the tourists to play with them

Same story as the ones above, the tigers are wild animals and you should never try to convert them into kittens. In most of the temples these animals are tortured and once their purpose is fulfilled are adult ones are killed and their fur sold. Loving animals means that you should respect their natural habitat.

  • Destroying the reef by touching it or by taking parts of them home, also punishable by law

There are many places in Thailand where you can snorkel or scuba-dive into the reef. The beauty of the marine life is mesmerizing and I strongly advise you to see it, but under no circumstances try to touch the reef or to take any part of it as a souvenir. If you do so, the reef will die and it is a crime against nature, not to mention against the laws of the country.

  • Throwing plastic in the sea, forest or beach

You will see a huge amount of plastic thrown all around the forest and the beaches, so try to be considerate about this when offered plastic bags at the supermarket. Also, only put garbage in the containers and don’t leave it behind. The problem of the plastic disposal in a major one in Thailand and millions of creatures are suffering from this.

  • Being late, the Asian people are very punctual and it is a form of disrespect

When you are calling a cab, expect the driver to be there at the exact time you mentioned and try not to be late. The same goes when going on a trip if they say you have to be back at a certain time, be there is a huge sign of disrespect.

  • Getting into an argument or fight with a local

You are their guest but try to follow their rules even if you are right the police will not take your side and you will get into trouble. The Thai police are known to be corrupt so try not to argue with them or give them reasons to pick up an argument with you.

  • Buying the statue of Buddha

Again, you will see signs in all the public places that will notify you that buying the statue of Buddha is a sign of disrespecting their religion. You will see that they usually have the temple in their homes but never the statue. There are plenty of souvenirs you can buy, so try not to get this one.

  • Sun-baying

The sun from Thailand is VERY strong so be careful with it. You can get sunburns while wearing a t-shirt or when there are clouds. Buy suns cream lotion protection with SPF 30 or 50 and stay away from the sun in the middle of the day. If you are not accustomed to the high temperature and high humidity level, try not to stay long in the sun. Even the locals are careful with this and usually have long sleeves and long pants.

  • Buying souvenirs from the supermarket

Souvenirs are usually more expensive there and you should try to buy them from the locals to help them. You will have to negotiate the price on most of the places, but you can also find shops where the “last” price is on display.

  • Packing huge suitcases

You won’t need a lot of things and since it is such a cheap place you can always buy them from there, they have everything you need so you can travel light and not worry about your luggage getting lost. Also, you don’t need any winter clothes, the weather is really hot, even when it rains.

  • Talking in a disrespectful manner about the King or Buddha

The Thai people are very respectful of both their leader and their god, so you should do the same. Even if you don’t agree with them, you are a guest in their country so you should never talk bad these sensitive matters.

  • Using the ATM machines

If you can avoid using the ATM’s machines at all even better, but if you have to use them make sure you retract as much as you needed from a single transactions since the ATM machine will take 20$ as it’s commission. If you are an US traveler make sure you don’t forget your card in the ATM since it is only release at the end of the transaction .

  • Paying by credit card

Most of the places allow you to pay with a credit card but will add 3% to the bill as it is the commission of their bank. To this your own bank will add extra commission and you will lose also at the conversion rate.

  • Exchanging money at the airport

If it is absolutely necessary exchange money a the airport, but only so you can get to your accommodation. The rate is really low and you can end up losing a lot of money. Also keep in mind that the rate varies on the bill, the best rate you will get for 50$ and 100$ bills and the worst for small bills.

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Due to the huge amount of tourists that visited Thailand in the last years, many customs from this country changed. Locals became meaner and started to treat the tourists as “fresh meat”, but this is the direct consequence of the fact that usually, the people visiting show a huge disrespect for their culture, their people, and nature. Acting in a correct and respectful manner will make the locals act in the same way, so be the person you would like to meet and try to follow their rules.

Thailand is a gorgeous place, let’s keep it this way!  

 

 

 

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Traveling: Unlocking Thailand, the Gate Towards the Asian Culture

The longest trip I have ever made and the longest flight took me to one of the most amazing places on Earth, Thailand. A country that has been through so much, war and tsunamis, yet managed to make it through and be one of the most desired destinations for travelers around the world.

 

Last year I was a bit unsure whether I should purchase a trip to Zanzibar or not when a friend told me that I should pick Thailand instead. A few weeks after British Airways made an offer on the tickets from Bucharest to Krabi, with 2 stops, one in London and one in Doha, so I ended up purchasing the ticket and preparing myself for the exotic trip.

The 14 days from Thailand were split between Phi Phi Island, Bangkok and Ao Nang.  My selection of hotels, flights, and areas was made by me and I was not paid in any way to advertise them.

 

I was really disappointed when one week before my departure the company modified the hours and instead of a 4 hours stop, I had a 20 hours stop. The company only offered to refund the money but no other alternatives, given that I had already purchased the accommodation I went on with it, but I strongly recommend you against buying tickets from British Airways. Apart from them being completely unreliable, on the flights that are less than 5 hours you will have to pay for food and beverages on economy class, so you will basically fly low cost but paying for a full service. The flights from London to Doha and Doha to Krabi were operated by Qatar, but due to the fact that I did not purchase the tickets from Qatar I didn’t have internet in Doha, yes 20 hours stop and no internet because the only complimentary WIFI is from Qatar to their direct customers. Also, Qatar was offering a complimentary tour of Doha, but only for their direct customers. If you are planning a trip to Asia with Qatar, make sure you buy the tickets from them, so you don’t have to pay a tremendous amount of money on WiFi or meals.

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In Thailand a visa is required; make sure you verify before the trip what are the options you can take, the Romanian citizens can choose the VOA (Visa on Arrival) it costs 70$ and you can stay for a period of maximum 15 days. The things you will need are: one photo of the required format(4×6), 70$ at some entry points you can pay in dollars or euro, but in some you will be required to give them in Bath, the local currency and last you will have to have 400$(350euro) in cash to show the agent that you have enough money to live for 2 weeks. Usually, the paperwork takes around 15-20 minutes in Krabi.

For the time that we had there, we decided to split is as follows: 2 nights in Phi Phi Island, 1 night in Ao Nang prior to the flight to Bangkok, 2 nights in the capital and 8 nights back to Ao Nang. From the airport we took the bus and ferry to Phi Phi, make sure you ask your hotel if it is reachable by foot or by boat, we ended up walking through the jungle and getting lost in the forest a couple of times before arriving at Tokko Beach Resort.

 

We chose the bamboo bungalow and had an amazing time at their resort. The fact that it is isolated allows you to get separated from the hustle, from the main part of the island. You can go for a swim, eat at the local restaurant, have a drink on the private beach and really enjoy the nature. Totally recommend the location, you will not be disappointed. Every morning there are boats that will take you to the main part of the island and in the afternoon they will take you back, so you don’t have to worry about taking taxi boats and bargain with the drivers.

Due to the fact that we had our plane in the morning from Krabi International airport, we had to take a night in Ao Nang and take a cab in the morning. The fight to Bangkok was around 1.5 h long and from the airport to downtown we took the bus. Most of the people understand English and are eager to help you, but please keep in mind that in Bangkok there are a lot of pickpockets and not all have honorable intentions.

 

We chose an accommodation near Kao San road in order for us to walk to The Palace of Emerald Buddha, at night time to Kao San and also to the ferry. Make sure you chose a location that is accessible for what you want to do. The price of the Tuk Tuk depends on the time of the day and on your negotiation skills. If you plan on doing some shopping you should definitely do it while in Bangkok.

 

Although it has some amazing temples, I have to say that the city wasn’t my piece of cake, dirty, smelly and really crowded, it gave me the impression that it is frozen in time and somehow deserted with buildings about to crash.

From Bangkok, we went back to Ao Nang where we spent 9 more days on a hotel next to the beach. When choosing the accommodation make sure you pick something close to the beach and in the center of the place since there are a lot of constructions going on and the roads are messy and crowded. If you choose to rent a scooter make sure your driving license is international and accepted in Thailand, FWY they drive on the left side of the road and the traffic is pretty harsh.

Ao Nang is one of the best places to take boat trips to the near islands, all around the place you will find agency’s that are offering you deals for the full day or half-day trips, we went on 3: Hong Island, Tiger Cave, and 4 Islands. You will be offered the transfer and transport either by boat or by car, lunch and snorkeling equipment if on the boat. There was a fourth trip that we skipped, the one that included the Phi Phi Island since we already stayed there.

 

A couple of more activities that you should check while you are here:

  • renting a canoe and visiting the nearby bays
  • going to a Thai massage, careful with this since the traditional one can be a bit rough, we chose the foot reflexology and it was heaven
  • eating the famous PadThai, again here be careful from where you buy it, it is made with eggs and these are kept in the sun all day since there are no refrigerators
  • drink smoothies, they have a huge variety of fruits from where you can choose my favorites were: Coconut, Mango and Dragon Fruit
  • fresh Coconut juice and coconut ice-cream
  • fried rice, sticky rice, and rice noodles
  • snorkeling in the reef, please be considerate of the reef health and never touch it, also it is illegal in Thailand to take any reef parts from their territory
  • drink the local bear Chang
  • ride the speedboat

 

Thailand is a destination that you should definitely check at least once in a lifetime. Asia is a part of the world with an amazing history and culture, and the best part is that they keep it alive. In the 14 days that I stayed there, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscapes and the amazing food. This is a destination that I would love to visit again, it is indeed a place where screensavers come from.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

I hope this day finds you happy and in love, first with yourself, but not in a narcissistic way, and lastly with someone special. If that special someone hasn’t yet appeared don’t panic and don’t start to hate the day, just count on your best friends and celebrate, because no special occasion should be missed.

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I know that the internet is full of the signification of today but bear with me and allow me to tell you the legend of the Priest Valentine. In the Ancient Rome, there was an emperor named Claudiu II, who was a great fighter and wanted a powerful army, unfortunately for him, Roman men didn’t want to go to war, but to stay home with their wife’s and loved ones. So Claudiu decided to forbid marriage and hoped that men will now want to focus only on fighting.

Valentin, a young priest believed that marriage is a gift from God and that all people should be allowed to do it and so he married people stealthily until the emperor caught him. He was offered the option to give up God and join the army but he declined and was sentenced to death. He was executed on the 14th of February and up until the last day he sent his friends goodbye letters telling them not to forget “their Valentine”.

Even if the legend is a sad one, people have turned it into a happy event that should be celebrated with the loved ones: friends, family or significant other. So don’t be a Grinch, pick up that glass of wine and toast for love, the purest energy from the Universe.

Happy Valentine’s Everyone!

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Feels Good to be Home

I love traveling and the feeling I get when I go on a new adventure, but sometimes it feels amazing to be back home. I admire those who can live on the road, but I just cannot be one of them. Sometimes the need for a vacation at home after a vacation abroad is much needed.

For those of you who don’t know it yet, I have been in Thailand in the last 14 days and only recently got back to my home place in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.  It was an amazing experience and I will give you plenty of details in the articles to come, but I just have to tell you about the comforting feeling that I got when I entered my home, had access to my trusted closet and had my favorite type of coffee.

There are a few moments when you are traveling, when you are actually relaxing. Since it is a new place and you are out of your comfort zone, relaxation is not among the sensations you would get. Even if in this 2 and a half weeks that I was out, I had plenty of days doing nothing and sleeping 12 hours a night, there is no replacement for my own bed. I even started to miss the cold weather and my work, not to mention the blog. 😀

Just like after the summer break you are actually looking forward to going back to school, after this very long vacation I was happy to go back to the office. Also, there is no better place than home to have a long bath and some pampering.

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Book Review: Don’t Worry, Life is Easy by Agnès Martin-Lugand

If you read and liked Agnès’s first book, Happy People Read and Drink coffee, the review can be found here, then you would definitely want to know what happened to Diane after her return to Paris. Beware, the review contains major spoilers, especially from the previews book.

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Back in Paris, our beloved character resurrected the literary café with the help from Felix, also she managed to buy the place from her parents that never trusted her with being able to take care of herself or of the coffee shop. As time passes she even forgets about her time in Mulranny and about Edward, with whom she didn’t have contact in almost a year.

As days go by a new costumer catches her eyes and her heart, Oliver, a kind man that makes his way towards Diane’s heart with a warm and comfortable approach. As their connection becomes more serious and they think about moving in together, they have a very odd encounter at a photography exposition with nonother than Edward. After begging him to visit her at the cafe, he comes and brings bad news from Ireland, where Abby the landlord of her former home and Edwards aunt is severely ill, leaving their whole family devastated.

When hearing the news, Diane finally builds up her courage and calls her Irish family. Abby asks one last favor, for her to come and see her in Ireland. After placing the coffee shop in the hands of Felix with supervision from Oliver, the little french, as they used to call her, finds herself on the plane to Mulranny to relive the feelings she once had for that place.

Abby is suffering from a terminal phase of heart disease, but her spirit is left untouched, Jake is by her side and is helping her go through this. Edward finds out he has a 5-year-old son, whose mother passed away a few months ago and only told him about his existence before her death. The parent life took him by surprise and he doesn’t quite know how to handle the new role and how to ease up the pain little Declan is feeling after losing his mother. All of these news makes Diane relive what she felt when she lost her own daughter and husband.

Thorn between the normal and easy life she has in Paris alongside Oliver and the comfort from Mulranny with Edward, Diane will soon face a difficult decision. Will Abby’s passing away finally make Diane decide to give her new family a chance and come back to Ireland, this time for good? Or will she choose to stay in Paris? To find the answer you need to put your hands on Agnès’s book.

The theme of the last book is still present in the story even if the names change. Dealing with death is one of the lives most difficult moments and the way Agnès Martin-Lugand explains the human feelings will make you live the drama alongside her characters. Once the story starts you will not be able to let it go until you find out how it ends. The only thing that I can tell you, is that it’s a happy end, so live it with Diane.

 

 

List of Topics You Should Always Avoid

A few years ago I’ve dated a guy from Israel, who told me that in his country there are 3 topics that people always avoided: money, politics and religion. His words stuck with me and I ended up thinking he was completely right.

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Even if you are surrounded by close friends or if you are at a family gathering you should avoid this subjects that usually start a dispute. Furthermore, if you know that your companions have strong opinions, this can easy degenerate into a fight. Apart from the possibility of starting a dispute, those subjects are not accepted in a polite and classy discussion.

Why did this topic pop into my mind these days? An ex-colleague called me a few weeks ago to talk to me about her appraisal discussion that she had coming and to ask me how much do I earn in order for her to know how much should she ask for. WTF???

You can imagine my surprise when I heard this question. This is definitely not a topic that should be debated, not to mention this is illegal since we both have a clause in our contracts that states that salaries are confidential. I ended up evading the question and telling her an average number from the past, but still the conversation left me with a sore taste. The fact that we work in the same domain is not a mandatory condition for us to gain the same amount of money. Nonetheless, the fact that we are not friends or confidants, this type of discussion should never be raised, everyone should know their own value and not have to create a debate on this matter.

There is a good reason why these 3 topic are to be keep private, maybe discussed only between really close friends, but even so with certain bounders. As for the other 2 topics, religion and politics, I don’t think I have to defend the case, when didn’t this topics start an intense dispute?

My friendship with the Israeli guy long ended, but his words are still very much present in my mind and they became part on my “religion”, even more after having to block my ex-colleagues number.

The Era of the Cool Anxiety and Depression

Every day when I browse the internet on the break from work, I come across some funny memes about life with anxiety and depression. From 9gag to Buzzfeed, there is almost always on of these Twitter feeds or funny images with the topic of mental illness pictured as something completely normal, even hilarious. Unfortunately, this type of attitude made our generation one of the most unstable ones and it got me thinking that maybe it is because we made our suffering a cool thing.

IMG_5036Many people confuse the state of sadness with a real chronic diseases, some youngsters will exaggerate the magnitude of these feelings and transform themselves into victims to get some attention. But in a world filled with statues like “my anxiety got anxiety” and “my depression is depressed” how do we tell the difference from an attention-whore and a cry for help? It is as if we will all call the 911 service with false alarm and there would be no punishment to this.

Getting around with a mental issue is not an easy thing to do, also there are many that will see this fashionable trend and think they don’t actually need to look for help since this is a normal state to be in. But is it like that? Do all of these people really know the struggle or is just marketing for a few more likes?

For some of us that had or still have to struggle with a form of mental instability, not to mention a chronic one, seeing all of this publicity out there is a form of disrespect. Not to mention the impact this is having on the people that should be looking for a treatment, but instead decide to stick to the emo phase and suffer, because this looks like the normal state to be in.

Mental health is not something that we can fool around with. There is nothing glamorous about suffering, as there is nothing fashionable about the overwhelming feelings that are dragging you down. This trend of seeking attention using some funny statuses about anxiety and depression needs to stop. Our society made enough victims as it is, we don’t need to add up to that number with our ignorance.