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Taking A Chalkboard Around The World
Taking A Chalkboard Around The World
A trip around the world has always been on my bucket list. I still can’t believe that Jeff and I finally did it. We’ve just returned home to our sunny island home of Phuket, Thailand and finally have a moment to look back on our amazing journey around the world.
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Before we started this trip, I knew that we wouldn’t have the space in our luggage for souvenirs as we were going to nearly 30 different countries. Even though we have been told we packed light, I can assure you that our bags were anything but light. This inspired me to think a little outside the box for souvenir ideas.
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My favorite part about traveling is looking back on my photos long after the trip. It is a great way to put you right back to where you were and bring back memories you had long forgotten about. I wanted to do something fun and different with my photos. So I thought, “Why not bring a chalkboard?” I decided to have a photo taken of myself  holding a chalkboard with the name of the country I was in. I wanted a way to visually see each country while having a reminder of myself in that place during that time. Even if I may have been up all night, had not showered in days or was only in a country for a few hours, I wanted to remember all of it.
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Now, 28 images later, I have a fun collection of pictures that for me, sums up our 159 day, 32,281 mile trip around the world!
Taking A Chalkboard Around The World
CANADA:
Even though Canada isn’t too far from my home county, it was still really exciting to go visit! Two days in Vancouver and I was in love! Canada is a great country and Vancouver is a beautiful city!
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Chalkboard around the world
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ENGLAND:
Since we only had two rainy days in London, and as it was my first time to England I knew I wanted the cliché photo with a red phone booth!

 

Chalkboard around the world

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BELGIUM:
Brussels was a beautiful city and I was surprised at how modern of a city it was. We had one of our favorite meals of the entire trip in Brussels, an absolutely amazing beef stew. This photo was taken at the bus station before we boarded to Amsterdam.
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Chalkboard around the world
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ISRAEL:
With so much history in Israel, I had a hard time deciding where would be best to take a photo here. While we were driving with a guide through the desert we went to this cliff where you could see a beautiful monastery in the hillside. I thought that this would be a great reflection of this historical importance of Israel.

 

Chalkboard around the world
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IRELAND:
Green! I knew I wanted this photo to be green, but I struck it rich when we just happened to get some sunshine since it was gloomy and raining during most of our stay. Ireland may have been our first stop, but it was also one of our favorites. Read our “Complete Guide to Ireland” for our best recommendations!
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Chalkboard around the world

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MOROCCO:
Oh Morocco! We were here for just a few hours while stopping during a cruise we took early in the year. I had always imaged Morocco as a colorful place, however Casablanca was not what I imaged. This is at the Hassan II Mosque which is the 7th largest mosque in the world.

 

Chalkboard around the world

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AUSTRIA:
Innsbruck, Austria is a beautiful little ski town nestled in the mountains. We were lucky enough to stay with some wonderful friends here for 2 weeks!
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Chalkboard around the world

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SPAIN:
We were lucky enough to be in Barcelona on my birthday in January! Once again, this was a quick stop during our cruise so I can’t wait to get back to explore more!
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Chalkboard around the world

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CZECH REPUBLIC:
We met some great friends in Prague and had an amazing time exploring this beautiful old city. While Europe has some of the best beer in the world, I’d bet most of it can be found in Prague, and at a cheap price too!
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Chalkboard around the world

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EGYPT:
Egypt just may have been my favorite place on this trip! Not only did I fulfill a childhood dream of visiting the pyramids, but we also got to spend great time with some new friends!
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Chalkboard around the world

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HUNGARY:
Budapest is one of the most enchanting cities in Europe. It is a great city where history meets a modern twist. I would live here in a heartbeat! This was the first time we have used AirBNB and found ourselves in this old apartment complex trying to find which apartment was ours!

 

Chalkboard around the world

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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:
Even though we spent most of our time in Dubai, we were still able to get out and see the beautiful desert! Jeff and I were both really impressed with Dubai and can’t wait to get back to explore more.

 

Chalkboard around the world

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ESTONIA:
Tallinn, Estonia is a quant little old city and has so much culture and lots to see. We were only here for one night but enjoyed walking around the old town watching the snow fall.
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Chalkboard around the world

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FINLAND:
Finland is also on the top of my favorite places we’ve been to this year! Helsinki is a great design oriented town that is hip and embraces its rich history, although I had to take this photo while up in Lapland exploring the arctic circle and seeing snow fall for the first time in my life!
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Chalkboard around the world
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ITALY:
We went to many places in Italy, but it was in Venice during Carnival that I wanted to take this photo. Carnival was such a unique and beautiful way to explore all that Venice has to offer.
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Chalkboard around the world
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NORTHERN IRELAND:
While in Dublin, we decided why not take the 3 hour drive with some friends up to Northern Ireland to see the Giant’s Causeway and while we got there right after sunset we were able to catch some light for this photo!
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Chalkboard around the world
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GERMANY:
Germany has always been on the top of my list of places to visit in Europe and this year it finally happened! Although we only had 2 days in Berlin, it was great to learn more about Germany’s vast history and how the city has transformed to a modern city with tons of artistic expression.
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Chalkboard around the world
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HOLLAND:
I didn’t know if I should write Holland or The Netherlands but in the end it didn’t matter since we had such a great time in Amsterdam exploring the canals!

 

Chalkboard around the world

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PORTUGAL:
This photo is in Lisbon near the port while it was pouring rain. We had to be quick since the rain just kept washing the chalk off the board, but it made for a fun experience!
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Chalkboard around the world

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TURKEY:
Although Istanbul has so much history and culture, it was this pop of color while walking around that caught my eye. I wanted to show a different side to such an old city.
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Chalkboard around the world

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SWEDEN:
Since we spent an entire night at the airport in Stockholm we though it would be fun to take photos in the nearly abandoned airport at 2 in the morning.

 

Chalkboard around the world

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VATICAN:
The Vatican is such a beautiful place and it was very surreal to see all the paintings and murals in the museum, but it was here that meant the most to me. It really is amazing to stand here and thing about all the people that come here to see the pope.
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Chalkboard around the world

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MALDIVES:
Holy blue ocean! The Maldives are such a beautiful place. There are 1,190 different islands so it is hard to pick just one. We stayed in Maafushi which is a local island, but as you can see we still had a resort like beach to spend our time.
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Chalkboard around the world
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FRANCE:
Paris is a place that every girl longs to go to at least once in her life and I was no exception, I absolutely fell in love with Paris. We had an amazing 5 days here with a good friend who was kind enough to show us around this memorizing city. I can’t wait to get back and eat some more macaroons!

Chalkboard around the world

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SINGAPORE:
While it was not my first time in Singapore, it was great to be back and see how much this city has grown. Singapore is a beautiful city which great people and beautiful architecture.
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Thailand
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THAILAND:
Phuket will always be a second home to me and it is where we began and ended our around the world trip. Living here has really opened my eyes and taking this photo was really important. This photo was taken in a little lagoon in Koh Phi Phi Ley near where the majestic beach from the movie The Beach was filmed. You can see another hidden beach in the background that we could swim to. Taking a long tail boat out to this preserved island and spending the day snorkeling and soaking up the sun is my favorite thing to do in Thailand.
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MEXICO:
Growing up, my family always spent at least once if not twice a year in Mexico. This year I was fortunate enough to get the change to travel to a new place in Baja called Loreto. It is a great little fishing town located right on the Sea of Cortez.
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SRI LANKA:
Sri Lanka is a beautiful island nation located just southeast of India and visiting was a great treat for me. There are many elephants, beautiful landscapes and beaches. If you ever get the chance to visit this beautiful country, take it!
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Bio Photo Marina 150x150 My First Time: Taking a Cruise Marina Dominguez is the co-founder of Latitude 34 Travel Blog as well as a photographer and documentary film maker.

As a maturing women, Marina has dedicated her life to travel and new experiences. After working a 9-5 cubical lifestyle, Marina sold everything she owned, left her job and begun a new life with her boyfriend and travel companion, Jeff Johns. Together they relocated to Phuket, Thailand and founded Latitude 34 in which they seek to share their alternative lifestyle with the world. 

Marina is a Visual Journalism graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography where she studied photography, videography and ultimately caught the travel bug. Through creating several international documentaries, Marina realized there was more to the world than work and wanted something more. 

Top Destinations for Cheaper Dental Care Around the World

Top Destinations for Cheaper Dental Care Around the World

Of all the travel articles to immerse yourself in, one involving dental care is about as must-read as the new terms and conditions on your smart phone’s latest software update.

But, if you’ve ever suffered the misery of oral pain, you’ll know dental problems don’t wait, striking anytime, anyplace, anywhere – demanding you take action. Irritating as it may be, this is when you used to book an appointment to see your local dentist. But times, they are a-changin’, and for many varied reasons this isn’t always an option.

Apart from the odd blip-or-two caused by the recession in the late 2000’s, international tourism continues to grow. No longer satisfied by just an annual 2 weeks’ jolly in the sun, most of us think nothing of going abroad numerous times a year, cramming in a winter ski-ing trip and several weekend city breaks into our holiday entitlement.

 

Who wants dental care overseas?

However, travel is not just about holiday visitors: people travel for business, during gap years and the trend for upping sticks and living overseas seems set to continue as supporting ourselves by working remotely requires little more than a decent internet connection and a laptop.

Notwithstanding all these groups of international travelers who may get caught up in a dental emergency and require the services of a decent dentist, there is another section who travel abroad specifically for dental treatments, who actively plan their holiday around their oral health needs. You may wonder why, but the simple fact is that dental care for populations from English-speaking countries is just too darned expensive, and faced with a huge dental bill they can’t afford, pain and possibly tooth loss, jetting off for cheaper dental care elsewhere in the world is by far the lesser of two evils.

So, where are the top destinations for cheaper dental care?

You’ll be surprised just where you can find top quality dental care overseas, in clinics that are generally well-equipped and in some cases far superior to some you’d find at home.

The Americas

Mexico is one of the most popular destinations in terms of dental travel. It is, of course, a vast country with plenty to offer visitors, attracting sun-worshippers, culture vultures, day-trippers and party-animals to a myriad of appealing locations.

Top Destinations for Cheaper Dental Care Around the World

From the glorious coastal white sands and turquoise water of resorts such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo san Lucas, to the off-the-beaten-track Pueblos Magicos offering unique history, culture or natural beauty; and from the exceptional biodiversity of its flora and fauna, to the relics of ancient civilizations found throughout the country, Mexico is a smorgasbord of inimitable experiences just waiting to be explored by regular visitors and dental tourists alike.

Americans from the southern states have long taken advantage of the cheaper prices south of Border, with many regularly making the trip to see a Mexico dentist where they generally make savings of around 70%.

Europe

Hungary’s land-locked borders and its position practically in the center of Europe has made it a convenient destination for near neighbors. However, the sleepy town of Mosonmagyaróvár, on the Austrian border, is a surprising hot-spot for dentistry, with the highest number of dentists in relation to population in the world. Traditionally popular with Austrians, it now welcomes visitors from much further afield, including America and Greenland.

Top Destinations for Cheaper Dental Care Around the World

The Capital, Budapest, is also another favorite destination. Said to be one of the prettiest cities in the world, its stunning historic architecture nestling along the banks of the River Danube and hot, open-air springs offer a relaxing experience to soothe away dental woes, at a fraction of the cost of its more expensive European neighbors.

 

 

Asia

Thailand remains the most popular modern medical and dental tourism destination, providing contemporary, world-class facilities that cater exactly for foreign visitors’ expectations and budgets.

Top Destinations for Cheaper Dental Care Around the World

From the excitement of Bangkok to the calm of Chiang Mai and the rowdiness of Pattaya to the relative tranquility of uninhabited island’s in Phuket’s Phang Nga Bay, you’ll find a Thailand dentist nearby who’ll cater for all your dental needs – from a simple check-up to a full mouth makeover – and all for around 60% less than you’d pay at home – and in some cases as much as 90%.

So – next time you’re having a business lunch in Poland, or negotiating white-water rapids in Costa Rica, or even sitting at home planning your next jaunt, bear in mind there are top destinations for cheaper dental care around the world where your money will go much further, leaving more in your pocket to spend on seeing the world.


 

Header photo by Charles Clegg


 

Amanda DuffyAmanda Duffy is an expert in the field of dental tourism and has been writing on the subject for a number of years. She is currently a key figure in the editorial team at Dental Departures, a company specializing in dental tourism that help patients save money on their dental care by matching them up with the right clinic.

 

How The Tsunami Changed My Life (For The Better)

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Ten years ago right now I was sitting in the Chicago O’Hare international terminal waiting to board a flight to Dublin. It was the day after Christmas and I remember being freezing cold, sitting on hard metal chairs, watching the constant barrage of horrible images coming in on CNN from across SE Asia – Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia. I was watching in awe, never having seen such devastation, at least not on this level.

I began to feel helpless, useless, like nothing I was doing that day, that week, that year mattered anymore. In a matter of minutes hundreds of thousands had lost their lives and millions had theirs changed forever. I couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of such a disaster. I knew nothing about South East Asia, nothing about the cultures affected, the region, languages or food but knew I couldn’t help unless I was there. My thoughts were simple, “I have two good hands and they could be helping”, that was all. It was a message more clear in my head than anything in my life and I could not ignore it.

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“It showed me that even while dealing with unending pain and heartache, we all possess the power to rise above it…”

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A few days later I had informed my college I would be taking some time off from school and a couple weeks after that I was standing alone in LAX, boarding a flight to the other side of the world, not really knowing why but feeling like I needed to. I’ll never forget arriving to Phuket, not knowing the first thing about where I was. I tried to get money out of the ATM but had no idea what the exchange was. I clutched tightly to a small piece of paper I had written down the name of a small village on and reluctantly handed it to a tuk-tuk driver, hoping he’d know where to take me.

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How The Tsunami Changed My Life (For The Better)

 

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What followed was the most impactful and full-filling period of my life up to that point. I met travelers from all over the world, all who came to Phuket drawn by the same feeling – to help strangers in need. I learned about the beautiful Thai culture, the gentle people and the unimaginable suffering they were going through. For the first time in my 20 years on Earth I felt a calling to tell stories, witnessed the power that visuals can have to share emotion and ultimately decided to return to the states and pursue visual journalism as a career.

Upon returning home I switched schools, obtained a photo journalism and documentary filmmaking degree, set off around the world to tell stories, continued to volunteer around the world after natural disasters and have yet to stop chasing the feeling of being in the unknown, exploring the mysterious and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

Ten years later I have visited 70 countries on 6 continents, seen things I could only ever dream of, traveled with some of my best friends and met people I will never forget.

Ten years later I have a love for people and places I have yet to visit, but will some day.

Ten years later I have a respect for the world around me I never thought I would.

Ten years later I have a desire to keep going, keep exploring, no matter the cost.

Ten years later I know myself so much deeper because of the travels I have taken.

Ten years later I have stories I hold more tightly than any possessions I own.

Ten years later I have memories of people and places I may never see again, who made me who I am today.

Ten years later I cannot be more thankful I listened to my heart and followed a feeling.

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How The Tsunami Changed My Life (For The Better)

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I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason, and I am yet to know why traveling, exploring and documenting the world around me has been what I have been called to do, but I will continue none the less. If you asked me when I was growing up where I would be at 30, I never would have believed I’d be sitting in Madrid, Spain writing this post with my family, flown in from Ecuador and Boston, days before I return to Dubai, where I now live. I never would have believed I could have had such amazing experiences, meet such beautiful people or have made such truly unforgettable memories.

The tsunami destroyed a lot of lives, took a lot of lives too soon and altered the paths of many but it also brought together countries, communities and people from all over the world who otherwise never would have met. As I try and struggle to find my small piece in all of that I try and take comfort in the unending good that has come from the relationships formed since then and how they have helped to make the world a better place – one small deed at a time, one person at a time.

The tsunami changed my life, it changed my life for the better. That single wave changed the course of my entire life, changed the way I think, changed the way I act and showed me what mattered in the world, who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live. It showed me life is short, to go after my passions, to follow my feelings, to take a leap and trust in where I would land. It showed me that even while dealing with unending pain and heartache, we all possess the power to rise above it. And above all, the tsunami taught me that we are all the same. We all want to be happy, healthy and loved, no matter our path in life.

Sitting here 10 years later I cannot imagine my life any different than it is now. Not a month goes by I don’t meet someone I can never imagine not knowing, whether in Dubai, Finland, Santiago or Chicago and I owe it all to the moment I was sitting on that cold metal chair in Chicago, glued to the TV, knowing I had to do something. So follow that voice, trust where it leads and take a leap, we only live once and who knows where you could end up, just know the world will make it matter, I promise.

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How The Tsunami Changed My Life (For The Better)

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast! 

Hotel Review: Phuket Arcadia Hilton

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There are many beautiful places around the world and after visiting many of them, Phuket, Thailand will always be one of my favorites. Nothing beats the beautiful ocean and island lifestyle you can find in Phuket, not to mention the amazing Thai food, one of Jeff and my favorites. And just because we lived in Phuket, doesn’t mean we didn’t also enjoy some of the best hotels the island had to offer. I will always treasure the days that we would spend poolside at the Phuket Arcadia Hilton.

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The Spa treatment Villa

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If you’re looking for a 5 star resort experience, look no further. The Phuket Arcadia Hilton is located in the beautiful town of Karon Beach in Phuket. Karon is a great family city in Phuket full of shopping, great restaurants and a gorgeous beach. It is very centrally located to many of the other popular beaches so you can just jump on a motorbike and drive down to Kata or Rawai in the south or head north for a nigh out on the town in Patong.

My favorite part of the Phuket Arcadia Hilton is the Ocean Beach Club Pool, which has the beautiful Andaman Sea as a backdrop. While you’re laying poolside drinking a Piña Colada you can oversea the beautiful ocean in Karon Beach. The pool chairs are extremely comfortable and there are umbrellas just in case it gets too hot. Some of the pool chairs are even in the sand or you can relax in a private cabana and watch the sun set. They play lots of fun music and it’s a perfect place to relax or get ready for a night out!

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King Deluxe Plus Garden

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If you’re looking for something more family oriented, don’t worry the Phuket Arcadia Hilton has something for everyone! They have three pools all together and the Garden Pool is perfect for families to have some fun and even has a great water slide! The third pool is the Seafarer Pool, which is a calmer pool for those looking to just sit back and relax. You can order food or drinks at any of the three pools.

If you’re looking for something else don’t worry there is plenty to do at the Phuket Arcadia Hilton! There is a golf course, a great fitness center, a spa, a jogging track, playground and plenty of activates you can join in on.

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Marquee Lawn

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After a long day of events and swimming, your guest room or suite will not leave you disappointed. Each room has either a ocean view or garden view and have everything you would need for your home away from home. They even have laundry services, childcare and cribs available for the little ones.

Phuket is a great place to visit and after living there for the past two years I have fallen in love with this little tropical island. Phuket is very diverse and really does have something for everyone and staying at the Phuket Arcadia Hilton will only make your experience better. The hotel has everything you would ever need and is located in the great little town of Karon, our home away from home.

Book your room now, as there are currently great rates across Asia Pacific with Hilton Hotels from as low as £28!

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Dinner at Ocean Beach Club

 

 

Hide & Chic Boutique: The Rise of the Boutique Hotel

Hide & Chic Boutique: The Rise of the Boutique Hotel

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The rise of the boutique hotel started in the late eighties and has gradually been gaining momentum for the past couple of decades before interest exploded in the past five years. With quirky design features and off beat offers along with stylish furnishings and an often enviable location in the heart of fashionable or up and coming areas there is no wonder that these independently owned hotels have gained a loyal following. Now these boutique accommodations are spreading their wings and opening up at the top of mountains, in the deepest of countryside’s and in the remotest of area.

Marina and I are are huge fans of a good boutique hotel and will often go out of our way to stay at a fun and funky boutique hotel over a traditional and dull seeming hotel, I mean why not?

But besides their urban locations what exactly have these new boutiques got to offer?

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Hide & Chic Boutique: The Rise of the Boutique Hotel

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Location, Location, Location

The most obvious thing that sets these boutiques apart from their city centre rivals is of course their location. Where once the whole appeal of the  boutique hotel was that it was a stone’s throw away from the action, these new retreat like boutiques pride themselves on their almost secret locations. From renovated farms in England to beachside villas in Bahia, boutique accommodations of all sorts can now be found dotted across cities and countryside’s worldwide alike. While the old farmhouse bed and breakfast used to be nice, and is still enjoyed by some, many travelers want to maintain a personal boundary between them and the proprietor. Who wants to walk down the hall and be scared they are going to wake up the lovely couple that runs the bed and breakfast when they go for a wee at 2am?

The appeal is of course a retreat from city life; perhaps as a romantic break for two or simply as a spiritual getaway to soothe the soul, and these new breed of boutique hotels offer just right right amount of personal space, convenience and retreat to satisfy a large number of todays travelers. Many of the newer boutique hotels are theme based, like the Foto Hotel in Phuket, one of our all time favorite hotels.

The real appeal of boutique for us comes by finding a place to lay our heads which has the corporate hotel feel striped out of the experience while offering services above and beyond a traditional hotel, or at least unique or new age ways of housing guests without feeling cliche or tacky. Bright lit entrances, modern art, touch screens, etc are all being worked into some of the best new boutique hotels.

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Hide & Chic Boutique: The Rise of the Boutique Hotel

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Case Study

Castello Banfi il Borgo is a boutique accommodation located on a winery in Tuscany which boasts fourteen individually decorated suites all designed by the prestigious Italian designer Federico Forquet. Each of the suites offers slightly different accommodations but they include kind size beds, queen size sofas, large rain showers, freestanding bath tubs and a whole host of luxury products to enjoy during your stay. There is an ever-helpful concierge presence who can arrange wine tasting, vineyard tours, cookery classes and Ferrari driving amongst a whole host of other engaging activities.

The focus here of course is enjoyment of hobbies and maximising the most of the time that is yours and doesn’t belong to your career.

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Hide & Chic Boutique: The Rise of the Boutique Hotel

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City Versus Country

When deciding whether to head a bit off the beaten track as with Castello Banfil il Borgo or staying closer to the traditional boutique model and searching in city centres, the main question to ask yourself is around atmosphere. Are you wanting to be surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city or do you want a calmer environment for your break? One of our favorite city boutique hotels is the Qbic chain, with locations in both London and Amsterdam. The Qbic experience is like none we have ever had as their “cube” concept for their rooms is not only revolutionary but extremely fun and fresh.

Photos provided via Flickr via leyla.aPierre Lesage, onbhotel and Turismo Bahia

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

About the time the monkey stole my GoPro... (WITH VIDEO!)
About the time the monkey stole my GoPro… (WITH VIDEO!)
I’ll start off by saying I half expected this to happen – and took steps to prevent it. I learned that it only takes a split second for things to go from ‘under your control’ to ‘not under your control – especially with an adept and agile creature. If you came for the video, here it is:
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The destination is Kosamphi Forest Park (AKA Kosamphi Monkey Park), located in Maha Sarakham, northeastern Thailand. It’s about a 40km ride from Khon Kaen, the largest city in the region. The park itself is free to enter, but you’ll definitely want to purchase a bag or two of bananas near the entrance at a nominal fee. Once inside, you have no shortage of monkeys to feed, photograph, video, or simply enjoy being around. Plenty of them hang out around the entrance, smartly realizing that being close to the food source makes you more likely to get the grub.
About the time the monkey stole my GoPro... (WITH VIDEO!)A bit further in, you’re faced with a choice – do you stick close to the road or venture a bit into the forest? You’ll see plenty of monkeys either way, and we started off exploring towards the trees a bit. I set my GoPro and pole down just behind a banana, hoping to get some video of the close-up variety. The monkeys, quite aware of my presence, cautiously grabbed the fruit and ran off… D’oh!
Then we came across a picnic bench further from the road, the sort of place where monkeys had the home-field advantage. Approaching the picnic table meant distancing ourselves from our rented scooter. Since the last thing I wanted to do was pay for damages caused by monkeys, I scared them off – naturally, they jumped back on the bike as soon as I was gone.
But no matter – they weren’t going to do much damage to the bike, I hoped. I planted the camera and pole on the picnic table, angling the lens up to catch more of the approachers and less of the table. No bananas this time – they were already approaching out of curiosity, or perhaps the blinking red light.
Just then, the unmistakable plunk! of a helmet hitting the road rang out by my bike. It had been hanging on the mirror, which of course the monkeys had knocked off. One of them looked like they were trying to chew their way to the styrofoam inside the helmet, which caused me to run over and scare them off…
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In the few seconds I was away, one monkey managed to grab the pole, climb up a nearby tree, and get to a branch maybe 12 meters off the ground. The red light was still blinking – it’s still getting video! – so I held out hope for some interesting video from a monkey’s point of view. The monkey seemed more interested in the orange rubber tip on the pole (which helps keep the GoPro in the plastic frame). Chewing on that eventually dislodged the camera and sent it tumbling towards the earth. See the very end of the video (if you haven’t yet) to see what happens!
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About the time the monkey stole my GoPro... (WITH VIDEO!)With the camera safely retrieved, I wanted my pole back, too. At first I threw some bananas, hoping he’d let go of the pole while catching a banana. My throws weren’t all that accurate, and before long I had worked my way through a bag and a half of bananas. The monkey, still on the same branch as before, seemed to realize he was a bit trapped – he wasn’t nearly as agile while carrying a meter-long pole, but didn’t want to give up his new possession. I happened across a beer bottle, and after a couple tries hit the branch. Seconds later, we saw the pole drop… into an area of thick brush and a steep hill. It was near impossible to reach, and after a half an hour of looking in the area we gave up.
And so, the lesson was learned – get a bigger pole, and anchor it to something!
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About the time the monkey stole my GoPro... (WITH VIDEO!)Chris Backe is the travel blogger behind One Weird Globe. He’s authored over a dozen books and itineraries about Korea and Thailand, and is currently working on a book about Thailand’s offbeat and bizarre destinations. He currently lives in Khon Kaen, Thailand with his wife, Laura. Find him onFacebook and Twitter.

Bangkok Book Of Secrets

Bangkok Book Of Secrets

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Travelling to really far flung and exotic locations has it’s obvious advantages, such as the exploration of a totally different culture from your own, experiencing new food, hearing new music and a different language and seeing monuments you may have previously only dreamt of being near after seeing them in films or photographs. After all, the world is a big place, but as soon as you start to travel a bit, it only takes a few experiences to understand how small it really is. That being said, being comfortable, to a certain degree, is of utmost importance to many people.

There is a price to pay for all of this “exoticness” and life changing experiences and that is that you can never really know what this far flung place is like until you get there and you have to trust that you will know what to do, where to go, how to avoid potential pitfalls and make sure you don’t miss those fantastic off the beaten track spots.

Marina and I have lived in Thailand for quite some time now and have loved exploring Bangkok, both the obvious tourist spots and the not so often seen unique spots you can’t miss.

Read on for the Bangkok book of secrets to help you plan the trip of a lifetime and not miss out on anything that this amazing Thai city has to offer.

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Bangkok Book Of Secrets

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Summary

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and is vastly more populated than other Thai locations. Bangkok has a daytime population of 9 million people, nearly that of Los Angeles, and the madness shows as well as being named the most visited city in the world in 2013.  It is famous for its Royal and Buddhist temples and museums as much as it’s shopping and nightlife so really is a city with something for everyone. Bangkok might sound like an intimidating city to many, and while it is easy to be overwhelmed in many cities, Bangkok (or BKK) as the Thai’s call it, really is able to keep people of all different persuasions entertained, young, old, adventurous and thoughtful.

Dating back to the 15th century, Bangkok was built around the might  Chao Phraya River which winds its way through the heart of the city to this day. While Bangkok has vastly different neighborhoods, it is, in many regards, still a quant city along the river. With the explosion of a metropolitan and hip younger generation, the city is as vibrant as ever, still holding on to its deeply religious and cultural roots while boasting some of the fastest growing trendy neighborhoods, clubs, bars and a happening music scene.

 

Accommodation

Accommodation offers are varied and range from very simple beach huts through to luxury stays at five star hotels such as the Siam Kempinski Hotel. When deciding on your accommodation consider how much time you will spend at your hotel. Is your break mainly about relaxing in a luxurious retreat with generous spa facilities and grounds for relaxation? Or is your break mainly about exploring, using your accommodation only as a base?

Finding the right accommodation will take so much stress out of your trip that it really is of great importance. Luckily Bangkok might have the widest range of accommodation options of any city we have ever been to. If you feel like saving your pennies, there are loads of hostels across the city to house the massive backpacking population that travels through Thailand. Want to step it up a bit but not break the bank? Search for boutique hotels in the Sukhumvit or downtown areas, away from the madness of Khao San Road but still close enough to everything. There are even some amazing 4 star hotels right on the banks of the river, with rooms for as little as $30 a night.

 

Bangkok Book Of Secrets Sights

Damnoen Saduak is the original floating market and despite it’s increasingly touristy vibe is still not one to be missed. While it doesn’t have the charm you might expect from the postcards you have seen, visiting a floating market is a great experience and there is no better place than Bangkok. Chatuchak is another landmark market with over 8,000 stalls trading in a diverse range of merchandise attracting over 200,000 visitors every weekend.

To regain a bit of balance, visit the calming temples of Wat Arun or Wat Po, opposite each other on the river. Both are massively popular to tourists but try to plan and visit them either very early in the morning or in the later afternoon, not only will the crowds have died down but the light will be beautiful and the temperature less intense. Just remember to bring bug spray as the mossies like to bite around sunset!

A trip to the reclining Buddha and Grand Palace cannot be missed either, but remember to cover your legs, both men and woman, and to arrive before 3:30pm, when they stop allowing visitors in. Tickets to the reclining Buddha (Wat Po) are cheap, around 100 baht, and Wat Arun even cheaper, around 60 baht, but be ready to pay 500 baht to visit the Grand Palace, and while the most expensive temple/palace to visit it is well worth it.

Getting across the river is easy as ferry boats cross regularly about every 5 minutes and only cost 3 baht one way, so don’t be stressed about catching the ferry as there are tons of great food and gift stalls around the pier to keep you entertained while you wait. We recommend getting a bowl of 30 baht noodle soup, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Bangkok Book Of SecretsFood & Drink

Tom Yum soup is the one that can’t be missed, a fiery broth like curry topped with kaffir lime leaves that is bound to get the tongue tingling. Thai street food has got a deservedly fantastic reputation and from the stalls it is Pad Thai fried noodles that draws the most interest. For the more adventurous how about eating live Shrimp? If you fancy giving it a bash then ask for Goong Ten, a strangely writhing salad that delivers a salty crunch when you bite. You should even try you hand at a Thai cooking class if you are really interested in bringing home the skills of a Thai chef with your from your holiday!

One thing you will notice in Bangkok are the endless street stalls of a vast variety of foods for every palate. One of our favorites is fresh coconut ice cream, found around many of the Thai temples. For the SUPER adventurous eaters out there, you can always try eating bugs, which you will undoubtedly find at many of the markets or popular food stalls. While not the most appetizing option for many tourists, insects are a long time favorite of many Thai’s and provide a delicious and crunchy snack for those willing to give the crickets, grasshoppers and maggots a try. Sure sounds gross but it really isn’t that bad.

 

Nightlife

If there is one thing Bangkok does well it is nightlife. Whether you are looking for the most insane night of your entire life or a quiet wine bar to sip a glass of red with your spouse, the city provides endless opportunities to get out and relax. The up and coming Sukhumvit area has some of the most trendy new bars, such as Above Eleven, a cool and relaxing bar 32 floors above the streets, and Bourbon Street, the most well known American bar in the city. For the adventurous, there is a Paris themed Absinthe bar hidden inside Sukhimvit 11’s most well known bars, but we’ll let you discover it for yourself, the journey is half the fun with this one, but when you find it and step inside the secret door you will be amazed you are even in Asia.

For the backpackers and college kids, head straight to Khao San Road, made famous by the movie “The Beach” this never ending party street is chalk full of the cheapest bars, hostels, restaurants and night clubs a kid could ever ask for. While it might not be your cup of tea, it sure is entertaining enough to visit, just leave before nightfall if you want to remain sane.

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Bangkok Book Of Secrets

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Transportation

So, “Should I rent a motorbike in Asia” is a common thought we hear from tourists, and a valid question to ask yourself when coming to this part of the world. While not all people feel comfortable driving a motorbike, especially on the wild streets of Bangkok, it really is the preferred and easiest way to get around. If with a family, children or the elderly, you might want to think about renting a car during your holiday, however in Bangkok the tuk-tuks are an especially authentic and cheap way to get around the city. While you might not fit the entire family in one tuk-tuk, there is little less exciting than running around the big city with your friends in tuk-tuks if you have never experienced this exciting Thai way of traveling. For the more traditional you can always hire a car or take the more than accommodating MRT, or metro system which weaves its way through most of the city. But seriously, rent a motorbike, they are great fun and give you a special sense of freedom and excitement.

 

**Extras**

If you really want to have an unforgettable time in Thailand and want to head home with a more permanent memory, head just 30km outside of the Bangkok city limits to Wat Bang Phra Temple famous for its Yak Sant tattoos given by monks in the traditional thai bamboo style. These tattoos are a sacred symbol in the Buddhist religion and many temple goers do not even know the tattoo they are going to receive until it is completed. Definitely for the bold, a yak sant bamboo tattoo is a special way to remember your time in the land of smiles.

Photos provided in part via Flickr and Prachanart Viriyaraks

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

The Complete Guide to Phi Phi Island, Thailand

Last year over 10 million tourists flocked to Phuket, Thailand in search of the perfect beach, delicious food and the perfect exotic vacation. And while Phuket has the beaches, the food and the feel of paradise, it has also developed tremendously fast in the past few years and is struggling the keep up with the constant horde of visitors it receives.

Only a two hour ferry ride off the east coast of Phuket lays the Phi Phi Islands. Made up of Phi Phi Don (the main island) and Phi Phi Lay (a smaller national park), they boast some of the more iconic Thai scenes anyone could imagine. Littered with gorgeous white sand beaches, the water is always that extra bright shade of blue and the snorkeling; diving and water activities are top notch.

In our “Complete Guide to Phi Phi Island” we will give you all the information you need for a complete trip to the islands  and all you need to know to maximize your time in paradise.

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The Complete Guide to Phi Phi Island, Thailand

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How to Get There:

First things first you will need to get transportation from Phuket or Krabi out to Phi Phi Don. Boats leave daily from Phuket, most days at 9am and 2:30pm. A one way ticket will cost you just 250 baht, which a round trip ticket costing 400baht (around $13USD). Tickets are sold on almost every single corner in Phuket and you will have no problem purchasing one. Any hotel will be able to get you one, or any street stand selling tourist activities, as trips to Phi Phi are among the most desired. Your ticket will include a transfer via mini bus from your hotel to the Rassada Pier.

Make sure to buy your ferry tickets BEFORE you arrive at the ferry. If you wait until you arrive at the pier to buy your ticket, you will pay 1,000 baht round trip, almost double what it would cost to get a round trip ticket and transfer to and from your hotel. We got burned by this once, it stings.

The ferry ride itself can vary from day to day as there are about 10 ferries of differing shapes and sizes that sail daily. Some have complete mini bars, comfortable inside seats and generally comfortable accommodations. Others are more bare bones and while they will still get you there, offer less inside seating, no chairs on the deck and less than desirable toilets.  But not to worry, the ride is only about 2 hours and then you are there.

TIP: Stop by one of the many pharmacies around Phuket and ask for Dramamine, or any other pill for motion sickness. A blister pack of 10 pills will cost you around 150B and often really help with the varying degrees of rough seas. Remember to ask for the non-drowsy kind, learn from our mistakes! 

Once you have landed at the pier in Phi Phi Don you will be required to pay a 20baht island tax. This money is collected by the local government to keep Phi Phi clean and beautiful and is hardly a hassle to keep the islands looking as beautiful as they do. Does the money actually go to keeping the islands beautiful – who knows.

The latitude 34 complete guide to phi phi, thailand

Where to Stay:

As you walk down the pier you will undoubtedly be bombarded by Thai locals displaying laminated signs showing pictures of every type of accommodation from high scale resorts (there are only a few) to simple island bungalows (there are tons). A simple fan room can go for as little as 400baht with a private double room with AC for around 900baht. If traveling with a group of friends, try finding a dorm room option. These rooms generally offer between 4-8 beds and can cost as little as 250baht per person (around $10USD).  If you are searching for a nicer hotel, you can find a handful of “luxury options” on the island complete with swimming pools, room service and a gym.

TIP: There are no roads or cars on the Phi Phi Islands so wherever you stay just remember you will have to walk there. The lack of cars make the island experience much more enjoyable and bicycles are available everywhere. However, Phi Phi is small enough to walk anywhere, just remember you will have to carry your luggage or stay in a place that will wheel it around for you. 

For budget accommodations Latitude 34 suggests either Marine House or Ban Thai Guest House.  Both can be easily found off of the main walkway when you enter the island.

Marine House offers a quiet environment with private rooms and dorm rooms available. The kindly provide beach towels, which is super helpful when you forget yours and don’t want to spend the 300baht to buy one on the island. The staff is friendly, helpful and can do your laundry overnight if dropped off by 11am. Just remember to ask for bug spray for your room, sometimes a mosquito or two will find their way in.

Ban Thai is a very popular backpacker guest house run by Miss Lee, an energetic woman who will remember your name from the second you meet her until the minute you leave. Offering more rooms than Marine House, Miss Lee’s Ban Thai Guesthouse is a great place to stay with a group of friends as she has an abundance of twin rooms and is quite used to groups of young friends staying with here. Miss Lee has a row of computers available for those traveling light and without internet connection from day to day. 1 baht per minute.

Miss Lee is also very knowledgeable about all the local tours that are offered around the island. Whether you are looking to visit Maya Bay on Phi Phi Lay (the same beach made famous in the movie “The Beach”), take a day snorkeling trip on a long tail boat, an overnight scuba trip or a day long fishing trip, Miss Lee can set it up, reserve you a spot and make the planning effortless.

Our Recommendation: Both Phi Phi Charlie and Phi Phi Princess are owned by the same people and offer the perfect mix of location, comfort and amenities. While nothing fancy, their rooms are comfortable, have free wifi and aircon. An average double room will cost about $50 a night and adding an extra bed will cost you around $15. They also offer a family room which can sleep 4 people comfortably. Easily the best bonus to staying here is their amazing infinity pool looking out over the amazing Tonsai bay. Many chose to spend their hungover mornings and rowdy afternoons in the pool by the swim up bar, easily the best pool on the island and a great place to mingle with other travelers. The cost of the room includes a great breakfast buffet, thai and western food and both sets of rooms (Charlie and Princess) are a short 1 minute walk down the beach from Slinky Bar and Woodies, where you will most likely be ending you night.

TIP: Unless you are staying at a high-end hotel make sure to bring soap and shampoo with you, as many of the budget options do not provide them.

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Thanksgiving in Thailand, What We Are Thankful For

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What to Do:

As for activities and things to do on Phi Phi Don in the sun, the list is pretty endless. There are gorgeous beaches all over the place and its up to you how far you want to walk to find your perfect spot in the sand.  The twin beaches at the heart of Phi Phi Don are pretty spectacular but are always crowded with tourists from sun up to sun down. We suggest paying 100baht for a short 5 minute trip on a local long tail boat to drop you off at Long Beach, one of our favorite beaches on the world. Just as beautiful as the rest, Long Beach boasts way less tourists than many of the other beaches and is well worth the time to get there. You can walk to Long Beach from the main drag, but it will take about 20 minutes and is very hilly.

TIP: If you go to Long Beach visit the small restaurant on the sand and try their Penang Curry sandwich, its delicious!

The majority of visitors to Phi Phi are young backpackers and many are inspired to visit Phi Phi to visit Maya Bay and say they have been to “The Beach”. Speedboats and longtails make the trip all day long and you can rent them by the hour. The longtail boats seat about 6 comfortably and can be had for 1,000Baht an hour. The speed boats vary in size and how many people the can hold, and can go for up to 5,000baht an hour.

TIP: Bring snacks with you on any day trip to Phi Phi Lay. Remember, it is a national park and almost completely undeveloped. There is nothing more than a small set of bathrooms and a shack that sells overpriced canned beer and potato chips. Stop in one of the many mini marts before you leave and grab a back of goodies for the day.

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The Complete Guide to Phi Phi Island, Thailand

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If you want to maximize your time, or only have an afternoon to fit in all you can, we suggest taking an afternoon trip which will include a boat out to Phi Phi Lay for afternoon snorkeling (fins and masks included), a trip past the famous Viking Caves, a sunset trip to Maya Bay (so much nicer once all the tourists have left), a complete Thai meal on the boat and some include night snorkeling with phosphorescent plankton.  We recommend making sure it is NOT a full moon if you want to do the plankton snorkeling as the light, even at night, makes them almost impossible to see.

Many half and full day trips like this are available all over the island and range in price from 400b for a half day to 1,2000b for the plankton version.

Once the sun sets on the island, everything gets a bit more exciting. The volume gets turned up, and the main area of the island becomes the ultimate party playground. But before you go too crazy you’ve got to eat, and we have a couple places we would suggest to fill your stomach before you enjoy too many buckets on the beach.

Where to Eat:

Consistently rated number one is a small restaurant called Anna’s. It is located up the first side street off the main drag you find yourself on when you walk off the pier. Anyone who has been on the island more than 10 minutes will be able to show you the way. Despite its popularity, it is a small place, maybe 10 tables or so, and remains authentic, friendly and offers delicious western and Thai food. Free internet, delicious shakes and a wonderfully knowledgeable staff make this a great place for a quick bite to eat or a place to hang out for hours and relax.

The latitude 34 complete guide to phi phi, thailand

Breakers is as close as you are going to get to a true sports pub. Located next to the world famous Reggae Bar (which we’ll talk about next), they offer large comfortable wooden tables, an open atmosphere for anyone walking up off the street and have a wide selection of beers on tap. Their food is both delicious and fairly priced and an excellent place to meet friends, hang out and people watch or catch a game on TV.

TIP: Along with the sit down restaurants are endless rows of stalls selling all varieties of street food and no trip to Thailand would be complete without trying a few random things.  Meat on sticks is a great way to go, whether you are trying fried fish balls, spicy beef, chicken, pork, who knows, but it all tastes delicious. The kebabs and samosas are amazing as are the banana pancakes. Trust us, after a couple drinks you will try some street food, no matter how much of a stomach ache you think it will give you.

At this point we have covered getting to Phi Phi, where to stay, what to do in the sun and where to eat, so now comes the most exciting part… what to do at night!

 

Night Life:

Phi Phi is a constant party when the sun goes down, 7 days a week 365 days a year, and even if you are not a big partier, some things are not to be missed.

Most people coming to Phi Phi have come from Phuket, where the idea of going to a bar swarming with bar girls and lady boys has lost its charm (if it ever had any).  Phi Phi provides a much needed relief as there are no lady bars, bar girls or stripper poles in sight while offering some awesomely entertaining events in their place.

Before you head down to the beach for the real fun, make sure you stop into Reggae Bar, located right next door to Breakers. Offering anyone who wants to the chance to Muay Thai fight, you are sign up to fight a friend, your grandpa (yes, we’ve seen this), or a complete stranger. If you put your life on the line and enter the ring you are given the necessary safety equipment (headwear, gloves, shorts) and you will be given a free bucket of booze upon the completion of your 3 rounds in the ring. Buckets at Reggae Bar are 2 for 1, and are 400b each.

TIP: Buckets are popular all over Thailand as the fun and exciting way to drink your alcohol. The literally take a bucket, the kind you built sandcastles with on the beach when you were a kid, and load them up with an abundance of the alcohol and mixers of your choosing. Complete with multiple straws, it’s a fun way to share a drink with friends, but be warned, they are strong, you are drinking a literal bucket of alcohol after all.

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The latitude 34 complete guide to phi phi, thailand

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It’s wildly entertaining to watch two liquored up backpackers go at it in the ring, with rarely any idea what they are doing between them. Every 5 fights or so real muay thai fighters enter the ring and show off some amazing moves. Part acting and part real boxing it is some of the most entertaining muay thai we have seen as it is as hard hitting as the real thing with added excitement. We have seen muay thai fighters get thrown out of the ring as well as the poor ref getting a swift kick to the nuts.

When you have seen all there is to see at Reggae Bar, follow the crowds down to the beach and find yourself a seat on the sand in front of one of the many, many beach lined bars, each displaying their own fire show. “Poi” reigns king of late night activities and it is never boring to watch people play with fire. We recommend “Slinky Bar”, directly to your left as you walk on to the beach. Music pounding from all the bars, the stakes are quite high as performers juggle flaming torches, spin sparkling spools soaked in petrol and even balance on wires balancing flaming wheels on their heads. The shows start each night, 7 days a week, around 8:30pm and last late, late into the night.

If watching the performers isn’t entertaining enough for you, just wait until they bust out the flaming jump rope and flaming limbo pole, both designed for crowd participation. Those brave enough are welcome to try their hand at jumping a flaming jump rope and the super brave can even try the double flaming jump rope, or try going doubles with another brave friend.

The latitude 34 complete guide to phi phi, thailand

After the crowd has gotten their thrills from the jump rope of death, they will bring out the flaming hoop and flaming limbo pole. If you are sensing a theme here, its high stakes drinking.

Egged on by friends and a free shot for attempting either, sit back and relax watching dozens and dozens of wobbling kids jump, swerve, stumble, fall and fling themselves through the burning obstacles and dance the night away.

TIP: Once the tide goes out, it goes OUT. When you arrive at the beach past dark you will not be able to see the water at all as it has gone out sometimes up to 100 yards. (if you aren’t American and speak in meters, that’s the length of a football field… real football, American football.) Take a stroll out as far as you can walk, enjoy the striated beach below your feet and watch the pulsing lights and listen to the conflagration of music from way out in the wet sand, it’s a very cool experience.

So that’s it! You’ve got all you need to know for a complete trip to Phi Phi. You know how to get there, where to stay, places to eat and how best to enjoy yourself. If you find yourself in Phuket or are planning a trip to Thailand in the future, we highly suggest taking a trip to Phi Phi and enjoying one of the coolest beach communities we have come across. Whether you want to party til the sun comes up, relax at a quiet beach or finally conquer your fear of scuba diving, Phi Phi offers it all, all while preserving that perfect image of paradise you’ve had in your head for years.

So have fun, be safe, bring your sunscreen and take the leap!

Cheers!


Carnevale in Venice, Italy (PHOTOS)

The Best Festivals Around the World

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Each year we try and keep an eye out for the best festivals in the world and how many, if any, we can experience. While some festivals are well known and popular to visit, there are many which are less known but equally entertaining. Festivals bring people together, celebrate special times of the year, push out the old, bring in the new and give everyone the chance to relax, celebrate and let loose, so here is out list of the best festivals around the world, starting of course, with our hometown favorite, Songkran in Thailand.

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The Best Festivals Around the World

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Songkran (Thailand)

Officially the celebration marking the Thai new year, Songkran has evolved into one of the most fun and memorable festivals around the world. What was once celebrated by marking each other with water to bring in the new year and cleanse oneself, Songkran has become a nation wide water fight all across Thailand and one of the most fun days of the entire year. From the North in Chiangmai, where they celebrate the hardest, down to the South, in Phuket, the entire country erupts into laughter during the April festival as no one is safe and nothing is off limits. Police line the streets, their radios wrapped in plastic, as they are often a big target. Business men wearing suits are just asking for it and you wouldn’t dare sit outside a cafe and drink a cup of coffee without looking over your shoulder. Thais and westerners celebrate alike, by either setting up roadside stations with buckets and water hoses to soak those passing by or by loading up the bed of a truck, filling large trashcans with water and throwing water on all who pass. One of the most light hearted festivals in the world, Songkran is one of our favorite days of the year.

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The Best Festivals Around the World

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Carnival (Venice, Italy)

Celebrated on three different continents, Carnival is hands down one of the best festivals around the world. While New Orleans in the USA and Rio in Brazil have their own versions which are a massive hit, our favorite is the classic Carnival in Venice, Italy. Visiting Venice during this iconic festival has been on the top of our travel list for years, so when we got the chance this year we leaped at it. We were not sure what to expect when we arrived, and were quickly swept off our feet into the magical feeling of the festival. Gondola’s slowly passing by our window, beautiful Italian songs heard on every street and mysterious masked revelers appearing around each corner made our experience of Carnival one of our favorites of the year and something we will never forget. Venice is also a great  destination to combine with other European travel and there are lots of rail itineraries like this which can help you to maximize your holiday.

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The Best Festivals Around the World

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Burning Man (Nevada, USA)

Maybe one of the most unique and, errr, odd festivals in the world, Burning Man brings in an eclectic crowd from all over the world to celebrate art, music, dance and general weirdness in the middle of the Nevada desert each August. What started as a small annual festival has boomed into one of the biggest festivals in the USA each year. Tickets sell out almost instantly for the bizarre event and bring in partygoers from all over the planet. Built up to hold hundreds of thousands, the entirety of “Black Rock City” is then completely removed at the close of the festival. Volunteers work hard to make sure not a single trace is left in the desert each year. A mecca for individuality, Burning Man boasts some of the most impressive works of modern art in the world, brought in and build just for the festival. Burning Man might be a bit extreme for many, but it is certainly one of the best festivals around the world.

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The Best Festivals Around the World

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Oktoberfest (Munich, Germany)

Europe has some of the oldest and well known festivals in the world and Oktoberfest might just be the top of them all. Who doesn’t love beer, suspenders and beautiful women? While it technically starts at the end of September each year, Oktoberfest officially ushers in the start of the harvesting season and is celebrated by beer drinkers and party goers world wide who descend on the southern German city of Munich each fall to join in the fun. Not much needs to be said for one of the best festivals around the world, so book your ticket, prepare to drink gigantic amounts of beer and wash it all down with delicious German pretzels and meats, a true mans festivals if there ever was one, which is not to say the women love it too.

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The Best Festivals Around the World

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San Fermin Festival (Pamplona, Spain)

Known by many as the running of the bulls festival, the San Fermin festival takes place each July in the Spanish city of Pamplona. While the running of the bulls is actually the last event, the two week festival holds some of the most entertaining events of any festival in the world. Both running with the bulls and a gigantic tomato fight are events in the festival which started to honor San Fermin, the patron saint of Navarra. The festival has gotten larger and more popular over the years, now a top destination for thrill seekers world wide who want to enjoy the thrills of running in mass, dressed in red and white, away from charging bulls. While we have never been to Pamplona for the running of the bulls, we have it marked in the calendar for this summer and cannot wait for the chance to run for our lives!

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The Best Festivals Around the World

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Yi Peng (Chiangmai, Thailand)

The name might not ring a bell but the images of this amazing festival sure will. Known as the lantern festival to many, the Thai festival is celebrated mainly in the northern city of Chiangmai where once a year, in the month of November, thousands and thousands of people gather to send off their bad habits, sorrows and negative thoughts up into the air in beautiful paper lanterns which light up the sky for days. A magical feeling falls over the city each November as visitors stream in from each corner of the world to release their own lanterns in one of the most picturesque moments of the year. While lanterns will be found floating in the air for days, there is a particular moment when everyone releases lanterns together which completely takes over the night sky in one of the most awe inspiring sights you can witness. Chiangmai is not one of the most visited cities in Thailand behind Bangkok and Phuket, but it has some of the most beautiful scenery and magical festivals, including Yi Peng each autumn.

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The Best Festivals Around the World

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Holi (India)

How could we make a list of the best festivals around the world without mentioning India? While India seems to almost have a festival for each week of the year, no festival has spread across the world quite like Holi, or the color festival as it is known to many. Colleges all over the world celebrate Holi each year, many students having no idea where in the world it came from. In the US, there are organized “color runs”, which while may have not come directly from Holi, are certainly strongly influenced by images of the festival seen around the world. Officially celebrated to mark goods victory over evil, Holi, much like Songkran in Thailand, is simply a happy time for many Indians, one of the happiest of the year. While nothing could be more special than celebrating Holi in India, if you don’t find yourself on that side of the world, just ask around and you will surely find a group of people celebrating in some form wherever you are. Celebrated in March each year at the passing of the full moon, Holi is by far one of the best festivals around the world.

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Photos provided via Flickr from Wyndham HollisInfrogmationWilliam NeuheiselAaron “tango” Tang and Sukanto Debnath

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

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Going on a trip around the world has always been a fantasy for me, and while I have been lucky enough to see much of the world through my travels, Marina and I were thrilled to finally plan an entire trip around the world, starting and ending in Phuket, Thailand, our adopted home. We would start by heading back to the states via South Korea and then, over the course of five months, make our way across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and into Asia before returning to Thailand, a complete trip around the world.

We packed up our two little carry on suitcases, filled to the brim, and jetted off for the the most intense, longest and adventurous plan yet. Five months later we are hours away from our return to Thailand and looking back over an amazing five months on the road. While we have months of writing ahead of us and are beyond excited to share all of our experiences with you, good and bad, here is a look at some of the numbers from our trip, the statistics behind a trip around the world, from the grandiose to the minute.

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32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

32, 281 Miles

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Since leaving Phuket on December 4, we have traveled a shocking 32,281 miles (51,951 km). The circumference of the world around the equator is just 25,000 miles which means we meandered a bit during our travels. Starting from Washington, DC in January, we jumped to Ireland and then spent the next two months circling Europe in no sensical way whatsoever. But what can we say, there is so much of Europe to see that we couldn’t help but head in every direction possible! From the southern point of Spain in the Mediterranean to the Arctic Circle in Northern Finland, we experienced all extremes and everything in between. The distance we’ve traveled would have been enough to walk the entire Great Wall of China over four times, or to drive from New York to Los Angeles over eleven times.

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32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

159 Days

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A lot can happen in 159 days, and boy has it flown by. While we started our journey in Phuket, we were quickly hit with the fact that it was the middle of winter most other places in the world. We were first hit with the cold in Ireland, where the damp and gloomy climate chilled us to the bones, thank goodness for friends with warm fireplaces and electric blankets! Marina saw snow fall for the first time in her entire life in the north of Finland, and we even camped in the middle of the Lappish wilderness after ice swimming and fishing. During the last 159 days we have traveled by plane, car, boat, bicycle, ferry, bus and by foot over bridges, through tunnels, fields, cities, deserts and deep, dark woods. A lot can happen in 159 days, and it will take us months to process all we have been through.

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32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

27 Countries

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Since we departed on our adventure we have stepped foot in 27 countries all over the world and when we arrived in Singapore, our last stop, Marina stepped on her 34th country, ironically enough. Through the rainy days we spent in London to the delicious food of Rome, magic in Venice, falling in love with Paris, wilderness in Finland, mysteries in Cairo and decadence in Dubai, we have tried to take in as much as we can and take pictures of everything else along the way. It was amazing to experience countries like Finland and enchanting cities like Budapest, which we had never dreamed of visiting and ended up falling in love with as well as fulfilling life long dreams of visiting the Great Pyramids in Egypt and experiencing Carnivale in Venice, Italy. While 27 countries is quite a lot, it is shockingly only just above 12% of the countries on Earth, so we’ve got our work cut out for us going forward!

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32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

18 Airlines

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While we’ve heard of people making it around the world without the use of a single airplane, we didn’t have years to spend and while we took ferries, busses and trains to many locations, we turned to flight to take us most of the way. It is hard to travel the world without hearing horror stories of low cost budget airlines creating nightmare travel situations for many travelers, so we were prepped for the worst. We’ve always loved Asian airlines, and started off the trip aboard Asiana, a Korean airline which has never disappointed us. Through the US, we traveled on the American staples of American Airlines, United and Continental and through Europe we held our breath and tried out budget airlines Ryan Air, Easy Jet and Wizz Air, none of which proved as awful as we planned (although I did show up to the Dublin airport wearing four pairs of pants before boarding a Ryan Air flight). 18 airlines means 18 different baggage policies, 18 different weight restrictions and 18 different in flight meals (if you can call them that). Off the top of our heads our favorite was definitely Finnair, which provided us with a first class experience in economy, as they do every traveler, a welcome relief in the ever dwindling world of in-flight comforts.

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32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

12 Friends

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One of the greatest gifts that travel has given us are friendships all over the world and while it is hard to be away from good friends at home, there is nothing better than seeing a familiar smiling face in an unknown city. To put it simply, we never would have been able to accomplish a trip of this magnitude without the unending kindness and support of our friends and family living all over the globe from Ireland to Israel. We’ve had friends give us their own beds, plan entire walking tours, lend us everything they had, cook meals and open up their homes and hearts to us, something we can only ever try to repay as long as we live. The wonderful thing about traveling friends is that many have been shown the same kindness while on the road and know how much it means to find a comfortable couch to sleep on or to have the use of free wifi or a washing machine after long weeks on the road. We could never have done this trip without our friends and will be eternally grateful.

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32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

4 Continents

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The world is a big place, a giant place, filled with the vast deserts of Africa, the bustling cities of Europe, the history of Asia and the excitement of the Americas. Through Asia, North America, Europe and Africa we were lucky enough to witness humanity on the grandest of scales, from the small street side cafe’s in Paris to the kindness of the locals in Estonia to the strangers we met in Egypt and the amazing family we got to spend Passover with in Israel, one of the highlights of our journey. Through four continents we were able to see life lived endless ways, life from many angles, life from many directions, life from many perspectives. Being able to be in someone’s shoes and see the world as they do is a blessing in itself, but to be able and experience this in vastly different parts of the world was truly amazing.

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32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

0 Regrets

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Through it all we have remained strong and took on each new day with the best of our abilities. We have laughed, cried, bled and changed through it all. Exhausted as we may be, we take none of it for granted and tried to dive as deep as we could into each culture. Connecting the dots of the humanity around us is one of the greatest blessings we could have ever been given and the more we travel the more the dots of the world around us are connected. Meeting strangers who become best friends, tasting a bizarre food for the first time and falling in love with it and proving our pre conceived notions of an entire people or culture wrong is what makes travel worth it and more addictive than any drug imaginable.

And so thus concludes our journey around the world, which will surely be one of the most memorable experiences of our entire lives. An adventure which has taught us endless life lessons we are excited to pass down to those who come after us, to learn from the mistakes we have made the the triumphs we have experienced. We haven’t experienced it all, but we have experienced a lot. We haven’t seen it all, but we have seen enough to know there is a whole lot more life to be lived and a whole lot of mistakes left to make, which we are only looking forward to learning from.

So head out there, get lost, meet strangers, try everything, say yes, smile, and travel like you mean it – the world will take care of you.

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

Finally coming Home to Thailand

Finally coming Home to Thailand

In a couple weeks it will be 5 months since we left our little apartment in Thailand and headed for a trip around the world. Now, 137 days and 23 countries later, we are just a couple weeks away from finally coming home to Thailand. While Phuket is our adopted home, we still get excited when we get back to Thailand and this time we have a ton of cities to visit, islands to explore and villages to get lost in. So from Phuket in the South to Chiang Mai in the North, these are the places we are looking forward to visiting in the next couple months.

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Finally coming Home to Thailand

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While we live in Phuket and always enjoy spending days exploring the island, there are loads of smaller islands close to Phuket which are are excited to explore. While we love spending a holiday in Phi Phi every couple months, we have been hearing only amazing things about other, smaller islands in the south of Thailand like Kho Chang and Kho Tao, both of which we plan to visit once we return to Thailand. While we love partying in Phi Phi every now and then, we are excited to visit some more laid back islands and enjoy a weekend relaxing in the sun and not dancing the night away on the beach with college students on a gay year to find themselves. (Note: This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan a gap year, you have to!) We are also looking forward to simply enjoying parts of Phuket we rarely visit like Bangtao beach in the North of the island and getting to know Phuket Town a lot better, where we are planning to move when we get back. We are particularly to enjoy a weekend at the Foto Hotel in Phuket, one of the coolest hotels we have ever stayed at, but considering it is a photography themed hotel, anyone who knows us is probably not surprised.

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“Sukhumvit Soi 11 is an especially popular street and there is even a Paris themed bar hidden in the back of a club which only serves Absinthe cocktails!”

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While the south of Thailand is a beautiful part of the country, we also have a blast in Bangkok and never feel like we have explored all the city has to offer. While we have explored the zoo, Grand Palace and all the don’t miss temples in Bangkok, we are very excited to next explore the up and coming Sukhimvit area during our next visit. Sukhumvit is a hip neighborhood which has transformed from its slightly seedier past, to a new urban city center with hip, fresh and exciting restaurants, clubs and bars. Sukhumvit Soi 11 is an especially popular street and there is even a Paris themed bar hidden in the back of a club which only serves Absinthe cocktails! The last time we visited Bangkok we took the 14 hours bus from Phuket, which proved to be a completely terrible choice, as flight to Bangkok from Phuket can be as low as $35 US if you book in advance, and even under $60 if you book the day of sometimes. For this trip we are excited to book Bangkok hotels with Webjet, a website we have used many times but now offer great deals via their Twitter and Facebook pages, you know us, always up to date with our social media trends and channels.

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Finally coming Home to Thailand

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While the majority of visitors to Thailand will be visiting Phuket or Bangkok, Chiang Mai in the north of the country remains one of our favorite cities in all of SE Asia. Chiangmai lacks the beaches of the south and the big city feeling of Bangkok, but what it lacks in size it sure makes up for in character. Chiangmai has the laid back feeling of a college town but with so much more character. The thai life seems more relaxed, care free and open in Chiangmai, a feeling much welcomed after a busy weekend in Bangkok or the busy beaches of Phuket. Not only is Chiangmai a quieter and in some ways, authentic, it is quite a bit cheaper too. We loved our quick weekend in Chiangmai last year and enjoyed a wonderful Thai cooking class as well as an exciting trip to Tiger Kingdom just outside of the city where we got to play with tigers!

So, while we are sad to see our trip around the world come to an end, we are bubbling with excitement about all the great adventures we have left in Thailand and the memories we have yet to make!

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

365 Days of Travel - Our One Year Travelversary!

365 Days of Travel – Our One Year Travelversary!

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We are happy to say that today marks our 365th day of travel since we boarded an Asiana flight headed towards Thailand and the unknown! Since our arrival in Phuket one year ago, we have made life long friends, made everlasting memories, tried things we never thought we would and never regretted a second of it. We had no idea what to expect when we stepped foot on that airplane and the last 12 months have been nothing we could have planned. There is an amazing feeling of freedom and terror when you sell all your belongings, move out of your house and leave all you know behind in hopes that the unknown provides the adventure and satisfaction that you are craving.

While we had absolutely no idea what we were getting into (and no idea where we were going to live!) we faced every challenge with a smile on our faces (most of the time…) and took every opportunity we had to try something new, do something that scared us or take one step further out of our comfort zone and into the unknown.

Below are some of the highlights of the last 365 days of travel, from the good to the bad, the hysterical to the mysterious. We have loved sharing our journey with you all this last year and so thrilled to be able to see so many of our friends along the road the last few months as well as make so many more life long friends during our travels.

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1 – Landing in Phuket with no idea where we were going to live

2 – Playing with tigers, elephants and monkeys all across Thailand

3 – Jeff getting dengue fever on his birthday and laughing the whole way through it!

4 – Visiting Kuala Lumpur and the Patronas Towers with Jeff’s sister

5 – Filming a documentary about Malaria on the border between Thailand and Burma

6 – Meeting an amazing group of expats from all over the world in Phuket (we can’t wait to get back!)

7 – Visiting our friends in Ireland and being shown the best of the Emerald Isle with true friends.

8 – Snorkeling in Phi Phi with our friends and seeing some of the most colorful sea life imaginable.

9 – Taking a thai cooking class and learning how to make some of our favorite dishes.

10 – Falling in love with Paris!

11 – Taking our first cruise through Italy, Portugal, Spain and Morocco.

12 – Sledding in the Alps of Austria with childhood friends

13 – Visiting Jeff’s sister Julia in Boston and visiting the Sam Adam’s Brewery

14 – Being able to see friends and family in California for the holidays

15 – Visiting Finland for the first time and discovering it to be one of our favorite countries!

16 – Driving our motorbike in the pouring rain through Phuket.

17 – Watching Marina experience her first snowfall in the Arctic Circle

18 – Experiencing the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket, the craziest on Earth!

19 – Finally experiencing Carnevale in Venice, Italy

20 –  Visiting 18 countries on 5 continents (Australia we are coming for you!)Driving our motorbike in the pouring rain through Phuket.

21 – Jeff waking up at 3am every Monday morning to watch the Redskins lose.

22 – Driving our trusty motorbike all across Phuket and only pay $3 to fill it up

23 – Riding snowmobiles to the Russian border on a frozen lake and eating snow to stay hydrated

24 – Eating the creepy, crawly fried insects

25 – Taking pictures every day and documenting our wild adventures

26 – Being able to experience the world together as best friends and truly live the life we dreamed about back in California

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I do not believe in luck, I think people create their own paths and therefor make happen what they wish, but I will say that we are very happy and blessed to be able to chase our dreams and see the world together the way we dreamed of, but in no way how we planned. I never would have believed 365 days ago that I would be writing this post while sitting in a hotel room in downtown Helsinki, but I could not be happier at how our path has unfolded. We have remained happy, maintained our love for adventure and reinforced our strong belief in the amazing benefits of world travel and leaving your shell, comfort zone and familiar surroundings. We cannot remember life before we jumped on the road and what it was like without the amazing friendships we have made and maintained.

Travel has given us so much and we absolutely love sharing all of our mishaps, victories, funny stories and wild experiences with you all. So heres to another 365 days and the unknown adventures it will bring us, we only hope you will join us and we will cross paths somewhere along the road.

 

Cheers and travel like you mean it!

 

Jeff & Marina

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365 Days of Travel - Our One Year Travelversary!

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

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