After a short flight from Dubai (about 1 hour), we landed in Muscat, the capital of Oman, around 00:15. Our first adventure was to rent a car at the airport. At this time of year (March), on a Friday evening and without a credit card (credit) but a credit card (debit), no company wanted to accept us! Welcome! This credit card problem is very annoying and is clearly not adapted for all nationalities! We had already faced this problem in the United States. Be careful if you want to rent a car at the airport. If you don’t have a famous credit card, you will need to find a plan B, and I can assure you that it can take a long time.
Anyway after 2 long hours, we finally met a person who knew a person and so on…and we managed to rent a car for 6 days to a local company with a cash payment. We were not very comfortable but… The price was right, the car in good condition and we had a contract. We were tired, it was the middle of the night but we preferred to wait on the spot and find a solution rather than take a taxi and pay a scandalous price for a 13-minute ride ($100) to our hotel. With calm and patience, everything turned out well and we were able to return to our hotel.
The next day after a short night, we started our journey with the fort of Nakhal (1 hour from Muscat), a completely different environment since the beginning of our trip. We continued with the Mutrah souk, the most touristic spot in the capital located near the “corniche”. At night, the atmosphere is very local, you will find many incense shops, jewelry, and souvenirs… There is life, locals, tourists, all that gives a positive “vibe”. However, the restaurant offer is disappointing! Having tested several of them, the best one is the corniche restaurant located at the top of the stairs of the main entrance of the souk. This first day in this new country was positive. We felt a great change of scenery after our Asian getaway and that’s what we were looking for!
The rest of our road trip continued towards Nizwa about 1h45 by road southwest of Muscat. The trip allows you to go inland and discover beautiful mountains and an exotic scenery. For information, we only spent one day discovering this region because in the evening we had to return to Muscat where our accommodation was. Our first stop of the day was the discovery of the fort of the city of Bahla, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This fort is bigger than the one in Nakhal but it is neither better nor worse! Unless you are passionate about the subject, a visit to a single Omani fort is enough to immerse yourself in the local architecture and atmosphere. Then we headed back to the city of Nizwa (formerly the capital of Oman) and visited its historical part and souk. I had read on various blogs that it was a must-see place, but honestly, we didn’t find anything exceptional there.
For information between Bahla Fort and Nizwa, you will have the opportunity to make a stop to visit Jibreen Castle. We have decided to ignore it, but apparently this one is very beautiful. On the way back to Muscat, we stopped at Birkat Al Mawz, a mysterious and abandoned village built in the lower part of Jebel Akhdar Mountain, nicknamed the “Green Mountain”. Nearby (about 1 km), you will also find a sublime palm grove.
From memory, a 4 x 4 type adapted vehicle is necessary if you want to get lost in the mountains. If you are not equipped, don’t panic, some locals will be waiting for you to offer you a ride.
Back in Muscat to spend our last night there, we continued our discovery of the country the next day heading southeast towards the small coastal town of Sur. On the way, a swim break was imposed on the Bimmah Sinkhole, a 40-metre wide rocky basin filled with turquoise water. The spot is very nice and as a bonus you will be entitled to a “free fish pedicure”. We then took the car back for a lunch break in a very local atmosphere just a stone’s throw from the start of the Wadi Shab.
After a short boat trip, departure for a 45-minute sumptuous walk to reach the Wadi. Rock, palm trees, turquoise waters, the scenery is grandiose and exotic… Then, inevitably, there will be people at the Wadi for swimming but honestly the spot is nice! After this busy day we reached the city of Sur.
We finished our road trip to Sur where we spent 2 days to rest before flying to Europe and reach Amsterdam. The city of Sur does not offer many activities but the “corniche” is pleasant to walk and admire the fishermen at work. Depending on the season, you will have the opportunity to admire turtles at dawn on a nearby beach. The area also offers 4×4 outings in the desert with the possibility of spending the night there.
Oman sounds a bit like the new trendy destination! The country offers diverse landscapes: desert, mountain, wadi, sea… and this is clearly a major asset. On the other hand, exchanges with local people are not so simple. Having never travelled in this part of the world, the experience was exotic and interesting, especially after Asia, but I will not classify this trip as a favorite.
Hope this article will help to organize your next travel.
1. Can you introduce yourself and briefly describe your background before arriving in the US?
« I grew up in Normandy, then in Paris’s suburbs before moving to Paris’s 17th arrondissement at the age of 15. After my high school diploma, I started a law school, not by passion, but because it was the “classic” way to prepare for the police commissioner exam, the profession I wanted to pursue at this time. Once my masterdegree in public law was validated, I started to “cram” into this “famous exam”. As English is part of the written tests, I decided to go to the United States in order to improve it and to live a new experience abroad ».
A little anecdote:
« Before I flew to the United States, I went for a drink with a friend who asked me a question to test my “language skills” ».
He asked me: « How do you say in English?: Il fait beau = the weather is nice ».
I proudly replied: « The time is good! »
« My friend laughed a lot! All that to tell you that my level was at its lowest, English was clearly not won! »
2. In which context did you arrive in the United States?
« I arrived in mid-December 1985, at the age of 23, at the home of the son of a “Russian-Lebanese” couple of friends of my parents who had offered me a free room for three months in his apartment in Los Angeles. I remember my first day in the US as if it was yesterday. My flight from Paris to LA via Minneapolis was a hell of a mess. I was late, I couldn’t find the “domestic flight” inside the airport. I didn’t speak a word of English, it was snowing, I was freezing with my little French “Lacoste” jacket and I was stupefied to discover “cowboys” instead of policeman. One thing led to another, I finally landed in LA. My first night was relatively calm but when I woke up alone in the apartment, it was a panic call. My first thought was to say to myself, “What am I doing here?”.
As I explained earlier, the goal of my trip to the United States was to improve my English “quickly” to be able to go back to France to pass the police commissioner’s exam. At that time, I thought that a few months was enough to learn a foreign language.
To finance this project, I did some “small jobs” and a student credit. I arrived in the United States with $2,000 in my pocket, enough to pay for my life there, but not for housing or buy a car (at that time 10 francs was equivalent to 1 dollar) ».
3. What has been your experience in the United States?
STEP 1:« Shortly after my arrival and some research, I quickly found a school in Downtown LA offering English courses for immigrants. The 25 cts registration fee did not make me hesitate too long to integrate it. It was with the Latin and Asian communities that I started learning this new language.
After 3 months at school, I still didn’t speak English and it was hard to imagine returning to France. Luckily, one of my Nicaraguan classmates offered me to stay with him and his whole family in the Latin Quarter of LA. I was there for six months! I kept going to school and spent the rest of my days in “Downtown” with my painters and creators friends that I met at school ».
« I was always travelling by bus, no driver understood me when I gave the name of the stop where I wanted to get off ».
« One surprise I had in my language school in LA was that the teachers were very positive and encouraging, they told me: “Very good! Good work! ” I was not accustomed to this kind of speech during my studies in France ».
STEP 2:« Thanks to my father’s connections, I found a job in Irvine in the international department of the company “Allergan” (specialized in medical products for the eyes). I spent a year in the “Market Research” pole before returning to France to do my army. I stayed there for 3 months before being reformed after a car accident I had had in the United States. After this stage, I stayed about six months in France doing “small jobs” with the only wish of returning to the US ».
STEP 3:« In 1989, a period of recession in France, I decided to return to the United States where I started a new job as a “Graphic Designer” for a manufacturer of “dishes” in the food industry. New job, new challenge and learning new skills! I have been working and evolving in this same company for thirty years now.
My “leit motiv” has always been to work hard in order to evolve and access better positions.
For 20 years, I have been part of the international division. Our sales volume is fifty times higher than when I started. We have more than seven factories worldwide and more than 1 200 employees. Thanks to my position as “Director of International Market Development”, I am now involved in various departments: “Sales, Marketing and Logistics”.
In parallel to this career, I have developed with some friends a language school offering French courses for locals looking to learn Molière’s language! I also created several “businesses” offering translation services, graphics, software export, import of ovens from a French company… In this set of experiences, some worked, others did not!
When you live in the United States, you always keep in mind the possibility of creating a business; you are constantly looking for potential ideas. It’s a nice feeling to know that anything is possible, but you have to be willing to spend time on it ».
4. What were the positive points and difficulties you faced related to your “expatriation”?
« The freedom to do what you want and to leave the classic French course: “Street smart Vs Book smart! »
« A country of sellers, if you know how to sell you can do anything! »
« If you want to grow and work hard, you can! »
Work hard, 10 hours a day and achieve your goals! Don’t ask for a day off or an extra holiday day, just WORK! Add value to the company, challenge your boss, solicit him, be proactive. Don’t wait to be promoted! The formula is simple to evolve in the US, at least there are possibilities.
The difficulties encountered:
« The difficulty of creating friendly relationships ».
« The culture clash: at the time, 30 years ago, the United States was a very rich and powerful country! The Americans had a very limited interest in what was going on outside, actually they didn’t care! There were their ways or none. With an “Anglo-Saxon” culture, Americans are less “sensitive” than people with a “Latin background”. They are “strong, hard and know that they are the best” so as a Frenchman, you have to learn to “deal” with this type of temperament clearly differently from ours ».
5. Have you experienced any moments when you wanted to go back to France?
« Yes, a lot during my first year (hard times, the language barrier, the change of scenery, a police control that had really cooled me down, and of course the lack of my family. At that time there was neither mobile phone nor internet, the cabin phone was extremely expensive (there was a real business selling phone cards on the street). I was able to contact my parents about twice a month ».
6. What are your next projects?
« Continue to develop the Chinese market for the company where I work with two priority axes; train the sales team to a level of excellence and increase the notoriety of our company ».
« Decide where I will retire. When you have been an “expat” for so long you no longer belong to one country. We may have to find another one ».
« Consulting for companies that would like to develop their international business ».
« Enjoy life and stay “healthy”! These are two very important projects ».
« Visit countries in Asia and Europe that I don’t know yet ».
7. You spent more years in the US than in your home country, if you had the choice would you do it again? If so, what would you do differently?
« Yes, without any hesitation, leaving was the best decision. The United States has given me the opportunity to undertake, evolve and realize many personal and professional projects. I have the “certitude” that I would not have been able to accomplish as much or at least have the same possibilities in France. Today, I have a job that I love, which allows me to travel all over the world, I am financially stable and I enjoy the Californian sun every morning… I have a very good quality of life that I share with my family and friends ».
What I would do differently:
« Get an MBA and learn how to sell. Being a salesperson in the United States is the gateway to higher jobs».
« Further develop my networking ».
« Today I would recommend that young people who want to travel to learn English should go to Asia. Hong Kong or Singapore where it is easily possible to obtain working visas for 1 year ».
A huge thank you to Benoit Courcelle: “Director of International Market Development” at Cambro Manufacturing, for his feedback, his time and his confidence.
From the vibrant streets of Bangkok to the heavenly beaches of Koh Lanta, from historic cities such as Ayutthaya and Sukhothai to the prodigious temples of Phetchaboun and Chiang Rai, from the luxuriant jungle around Chiang Mai to the golden triangle, from “Pad Thai” to “Hot Pot”, from bus to hitch-hike, from city dweller to villager… Thailand was the first stage of our road trip and in all sincerity we spent a month full of emotions vagabonding with our backpacks from South to North. For us Thailand is a crush! Mythical capital, diversity of landscapes and consequently of activities, gastronomy, “easy” to travel, friendly locals, “safe country”, affordable prices, many positive points come to my mind when I think about this trip… One thing is certain, we recommend this country to any traveller.
In this article, you’ll find our itinerary, advice, good addresses and anecdotes to help you plan your future trip to Thailand.
You do not need a “tourist visa” for a stay of less than 30 days in Thailand.
To avoid any surprises, check carefully the suggested time to travel (it would be a waste to fall in the middle of the rainy season).
Download “Maps.me” application on your phone, then the maps you need. Once downloaded, you can consult them offline.
For those who want unlimited internet access (get a sim card at the airport; about $25 for 1 month).
For all visits to “sacred places” (temples, large palaces…) it is mandatory to have an appropriate outfit: legs covered for the bottom = minimum length below the knees; for the top the shoulders must be covered = at least a T-shirt, tank tops prohibited.
If you wish to travel “freely”, in other words without bookings, Thailand offers many possibilities of accommodation, means of transport and activities (you can book everything from one day to the next). That’s what we did in the high season (January) and we did not have any problems.
Thais are calm people, so be discreet.
The feet are characterized by “impure”, you should remove your shoes regularly and avoid exposing them.
A detail but there are no small savings: ) It is preferable to buy your sunscreen in your country of origin because the price charged on site is very expensive (about $20 for a “Nivea” spray).
For any trip, I advise to get an insurance before leaving in case of health problems. For years, I have subscribed to AVI International’s offers but I have never received a discount despite an overuse of their services : )
Below, via our interactive map, you will find our one-month itinerary in Thailand (from south to north), with a short description of each spot we discovered.
When we talk about Bangkok with other travelers, opinions are always very disparate. Some hate it and others love it, I am in the 2nd category, for me Bangkok is an absolutely mythical capital. I have heard the arguments “against” and I understand them, it is true that agitation, heat, traffic, pollution, the crowd, scooters etc. can be scary, annoying after a long flight and a “jet lag” still very present but… Bangkok is so exotic and offers so many possibilities of activities, authenticity, beauty that for me its little annoyances do not take over on its positive points. If you don’t want to “arrive” in the excitement of this great city, I advise you to discover Bangkok at the end of your stay, just before leaving for home.
After our 3 days of craziness in Bangkok, we flew to Krabi in the south to reach the city of Ao Nang where Morgan had booked a very nice hotel as my birthday gift. A little out of the center in a park full of flowers and perfectly maintained, the Fiore Resort was a very comfortable place, and obviously very different from a hostel. Even though I’m not a fan of this type of resort, it must be said that for a short time, the comfort is very appreciable.
Beyond the hotel, Ao Nang was a big disappointment. When we got off the tuk tuk in the middle of the city, we looked at each other and immediately said, “Oh, yeah, okay, we’re in Huntington Beach”, the city where we lived in the United States. Although we love our old American city, we didn’t expect to find ourselves in the same setting in southern Thailand. Mac Do, Starbucks, Pubs, KFC, all-purpose shops, restaurants… The city has no “soul” except its nightly food market. An important thing to know also is that the beach of Ao Nang is far from being paradisiac, the water troubled by the gas of the multiple “speed boat” and “long tail boat” clearly does not make you want to take a swim.
The only advantage of this city is its central position to access the many surrounding islands. You will also find a multitude of tourist agencies offering day trips. On our side, we opted for Hong Islands by speed boat! What a disappointment! The place is of course magnificent, but the incalculable number of boats and consequently of tourists deposited on “small beach benches” completely ruins the celebration. It’s “Disney Island”, with troubled water! If you are tempted to try a day trip, we recommend to choose a “private long tail boat or in a small group” as you will have the possibility to choose your stops.
After describing negative points, I will end on a positive note by telling you about Railay. We reached it by long tail boat from Ao Nang (only 15 min for 100 baths = $3.22 / person). Swimming, cave, hike, tour of the island, our early day was peaceful until we decided to head into the “viewpoint hike” and extend it to the lagoon by a prohibited access (subject to a fine). The lagoon is of course a great reward but I don’t encourage anyone (except climbers) to embark on this extremely dangerous adventure. This is completely irresponsible and the slightest mistake can have dramatic consequences. I can assure you that I will remember this hike for the rest of my life!
3. Koh Lanta
Bungalow on the beach, fresh coconut feet in the sand, fire show, palm trees, turquoise waters, “national park”… Koh Lanta is an island that we loved to explore for a few days. Its undeniable advantage is its size, you will not have the impression of suffocating in the middle of a crowd of tourists, you can even find almost desert beaches. Less known than Koh Samui, Koh Phi phi or Koh Tao…. we recommend this island to all travelers looking for “tranquility”.
From Koh Lanta, we reached Krabi Town by ferry (about 2h30). Krabi Town was a transit city for us, we spent only one day and one evening there waiting to catch our flight to Bangkok and then head north of Thailand. This little stop was relaxing, we stayed at Chanchalay Hip Hostel, a hotel with a very satisfying quality/price ratio. In the evening we ate a feast at the night market, the atmosphere between locals and tourists was very friendly. I don’t think Krabi Town offers many possibilities of activities for a long stay but this authentic city will satisfy you for a quick passage.
We flew from Krabi Town to “Bangkok Don Mueang Airport” (about 1 hour flight, $90 / person), then we reached the railway station by walk (about 10 min) to take a train to Ayutthaya (frequent departures, 1 hour trip, 11 baths / person = $0.35).
Founded around 1350, Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothaï. It was destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century. Its remains, characterized by prangs, or reticular towers, and by monasteries of gigantic proportions, give an idea of its past splendor. [unesco.org credit]
We recommend to stop and visit this ancient capital by bike, 1 day will be enough before continuing your journey to the North or South. We stayed 2 nights at the hostel 1301, a peaceful spot on the banks of the river. In the evening, you can eat at the night market or just across the street from the corner at Took Took and his friend restaurant.
After our 2 nights in Ayutthaya, we chose to travel by train to the northern city of Phitsanulok. On the way, we made a 3-hour stop in Lopburi,“the city of monkeys” (1 hour by train from Ayutthaya, 20 baths / person = $0.64). We don’t regret it, it’s amazing, it’s clearly an invasion! If you make a stop, be careful with your smartphone, camera, food… These little animals are of a disconcerting agility. For the record, it cost Morgan his coffee :). Our 3 hours in Lopburi were more than enough for us, especially since we didn’t want to visit the city’s museum. We preferred to take a walk and have a drink at the Nom Cup D, a coffee with a very neat and original décor. We then reached the station and took our train to Phitsanulok (3h trip, 480 baths / person = $15.32). In Thailand, different “classes” of trains are possible: “classic” and “top of the range”. For this trip we opted for the “top of the range” faster by 2 hours, and very comfortable (air conditioning, meal trays included, toilets), in short, happiness.
7. Phitsanulok – Phetchabun
Phitsanulok is not a popular city for travelers, the majority of them join Chiang Mai directly due to lack of time or simply knowledge about the possibilities offered by this city. What a pity! Phitsanulok is typical, ancient and deserted by tourists. The “streetfood”, “nights” and activities (cooking classes, yoga…) are at unbeatable prices, the cheapest so far on our road trip. And the most important point, Phitsanulok offers 1h30 bus access to the absolutely amazing temples of Petchabun: Wat Phan Sorn Kaew and Wat Phra That PhaSon (a Guell park Thai version). For the return to Phitsanulok, “hitch-hiking” is a very nice option. I may repeat myself, but the Thais are really incredibly kind.
We spent two nights at the “Karma Home Hostel“, where Mark the manager did everything possible to make sure we had a good stay.
From Phitsanulok, we reached Sukhothai by bus (1 hour trip, 48 baths / person = $1.53). Sukhothai looks a lot like Ayutthaya. There are not 50,000 activities except to discover its historical park and its countryside by bike. For sunset, we recommend that you stay inside the historic park, you will also find a small market where you can eat. The atmosphere is calm and relaxing. We had a very nice day in Sukhothai and we recommend the detour. Between Ayutthaya and Sukhothai for us is Sukhothai!
We spent two nights in a very comfortable guest house, the “old city guest house”, at the entrance of the historic park with bicycles at your disposal.
9. Chiang Mai
From Sukhotai, we reached the famous Chiang Mai by bus (5h30 trip, 207 baths / person = $6.61). You must book the bus one day in advance, and we advise you to cover yourself because the air conditioning is freezing. We were very lucky because we arrived in Chiang Mai on a Saturday for a night market day and during the flower festival, an annual event very important for the city. In Chiang Mai, you walk to discover the city and its temples, taste a Khao Soi, the local speciality and you will find many activities to do in the surroundings (cooking classes, yoga, meditation, jungle excursion with elephants…)
On our side, we booked 3 days of excursion with Chi Jungle Man company including a day of trekking, waterfalls and overnight stay in a Karen village (a tribe), a day with the elephants (food, walking and swimming with the pachyderms) and finally the last day with the elephants again and a trip on a bamboo rafting. We will remember these 3 days for life, the highlights of the stay were the second day with the elephants and our informative exchanges with our guide Saïan. For the night at the Karen village in the jungle, we think that the organization is not yet ready to receive tourists. There is a lack of “minimum comfort”, at least mattresses in the “cabins”, sleeping bags worthy of the name, pillows, an activity to do on site and above all a list of things to take with you because the nights are excessively cold and humid. As it is, I think that the experience is really not accessible to everyone (young children, the elderly, people with back problems…) What is certain is that you will remember your night! We stayed two nights and we’re still alive, lol! Beyond a more than basic comfort, we will remember many good moments: these good meals around the fire, this view on this sublime valley, this good bottle of “happy water”, our exceptional guide Saïan and of course the smiles of this Karen family. To conclude on this experience, not everything was perfect, it is an organization sometimes very disjointed in a Thai way but at the end the overall result remains very positive and above all memorable. One last extremely important point is also that we really felt that Chi Jungle Man elephants were treated “ethically” and not as circus animals. We met other companies on the way, especially at the river where elephants are fairy animals, making movements like robots, and surrounded by I don’t know how many tourists. A heartbreak.
Back to civilization in Chiang Mai and after recovering from our emotions, we decided to do a 1/2 day cooking class. There are many possible formulas! We chose the company “Smile Organic Farm Cooking School”, and honestly it was great (small group, organic farm, organization to perfection, a delight), we had a very good time with the chef “Nathalie”. Not sure we will be able to reproduce our recipes in France, but the experience was very positive from start to finish.
When you travel with a backpack from hostel to hostel, you meet a lot of people and it is very easy to share about the good tips and must-see things of everyone. Backpackers generally do the same routes and are looking for similar activities, they are mostly young, or even very young (under 25 years old). As an anecdote, the thought of a 19-year-old German girl telling me “it’s good that you still do that (a backpack trip) at your age hurt me! lol
All this to get to the fact that we didn’t like Paï! Most of the very young backpackers advised us to do so, but we didn’t appreciate this “ultra-tourist hippie” city located 3 hours drive from Chiang Mai. We had a remake of our feeling of Ao Nang Beach without the Americanized version, i. e. “Ah that’s it?”. For us Pai is an overrated city that the Thais have deserted. The countryside is pretty there, but the small town with its “all is allowed junkie” vibe clearly didn’t make us vibrate. Some will love it, others will have the same feeling as us. Go ahead if you want to make up your own mind, but for us it is clearly not a must-see spot.
11. Chiang Rai
4 hours by bus from Chiang Mai, we are in the city of Chiang Rai, our last Thai stop before reaching Laos. Chiang Rai is a pleasant city where you will find sumptuous temples (the white temple, the blue temple and the big buddha). For us, these are the most beautiful temples in Thailand, as well as those in Bangkok and Phetchabun. You will also have the possibility to access the golden triangle from where you can observe the Burmese and Laotian coasts (1h15 by scooter from the centre of Chiang Rai, the highway type road is not the most pleasant but it is doable). The Chiang Rai night market is also very attractive, you will find many shops and stands of Hot Pot, the local specialty which is once again a delight. We also enjoyed the Hill Tribe Museum. Our only failure was the visit to Singha Park on the first day of the balloon festival. Nothing was ready, no one was able to tell us what to do in the park or give us a plan. Honestly, apart from a very beautiful field of flowers, we found that the park was not exceptional.
So much for an overview of our road trip in Thailand, we then continued our adventures in Laos (article to come).
I hope this article will help you plan your trip, feel free to leave your comments.
We met Mark by chance by booking a night at his youth hostel: “Karma Home Hostel”based in Phitsanulok, three hours by train north of Ayutthaya.
Mark has lived in Thailand for 17 years, he speaks, reads Thai, and his “cool attitude” and “hospitality” is kind of disconcerting. He welcomes each traveller, takes the time to present all the things to do in the surroundings and proposes every evening to the members of the hostel to dine in a typical spot of the city. All this creates a very warm atmosphere. The hostel is “relatively” small which gives it an intimate feel, its roof top is arranged with hammocks, a cozy corner to relax after a day of exploration. Mark operates on a “trust” principle, “food and drinks” are available, you make the payment by putting money in his “donation box”. Similar to the way of New Zealanders work, I find this system based on trust “brilliant”! Difficult to project it in France.
A few words about Phitsanulok
Phitsanulok is not a popular city for travellers, the majority of them join Chiang Mai directly due to lack of time or simply knowledge about the possibilities offered by this city. What a pity! Phitsanulok is typical,ancient and deserted by tourists. The “streetfood”, “accomodation” and activities (cooking classes, yoga…) are at unbeatable prices, the cheapest so far on our road trip. And the most important point, Phitsanulok offers at 1h30 by bus an access to the absolutely amazing temples of Petchabun:Wat Phan Sorn Kaew and Wat Phra That Pha Son (a Guell Thai version park). For the return to Phitsanulok, “hitchhiking” is a very nice option. I may repeat myself, but the Thais are really incredibly kind.
She’s 83 years old, watching her makes you feel tender and gives you a hell of a slap because she’s full of “energy” and positive vibes! This is Janine, a globetrotter grandma!
It was in Krabi in southern Thailand that we had the chance to meet the sublime mother-daughter pair “Janine and Françoise”. Coming from a family of travelers, the two partners have chosen this year to travel in Thailand for a month. Landing in Bangkok, they randomly join their “son and grandson” on the road in Asia. What they like about traveling is the discovery in the widest sense: encounters, plants, cooking, scuba diving for Françoise and “snorkeling” for Janine who loves being in the water and admiring the small fish.
She also tells us that she had no problem last year jumping off the boat in Guadeloupe.
It’s hard not to be impressed!
For Francoise, an ex-nursing assistant, she tells us that traveling allows her mother to maintain a good health. “This allows her to move physically and not to be sit, inactive, next to the fireplace in winter.”
Timidly, I asked Françoise if this type of trip was not difficult for her and here is her answer:
“The worst pain is losing someone you love and having regrets about what you could have done with or for her. The moments to share are precious! I will continue to accompany my mother in her dreams of travel as long as we can. Next year we will go to India. “
We wish this beautiful pair many more trips around the world and especially to continue to share and enjoy those precious moments.
You don’t know which island to choose between Koh Phi Phi, Phuket, Railay or Koh Lanta? It is true that the possibilities are multiple in the south of Thailand and that it is difficult to make a choice with all these Koh… Everything depends on what you are looking for, (celebration, relaxation, diving, authenticity, comfort, isolation…) I advise to do some research well before making your selection.
On our side, after a 3-day stop in Aonang Beach, with trips to Railay Island and Hong Islands, our choice turned to Koh Lanta.The size of the island gave us a glimpse of a certain tranquility and a destination less “mass tourism” than the islands of Phuket, Koh Phi Phi or near Aonang Beach. The positive opinions of travellers’ blogs have also confirmed our choice.
In all honesty, we did not regret this decision for a moment and we even decided to extend our stay at the “Lanta Family Resort”, a small piece of paradise on Klong Khong Beach in the middle of the West Coast.
Tips and ideas for activities to enjoy your stay in Koh Lanta:
We recommend that you choose accommodation on the West Coast of the island(between Long Beach and the National Park located at the southern tip). On this section, the beaches are beautiful, clean and you will find many possibilities to eat, drink and have fun at nightfall (especially on Klong Khong beach).
Rent scooters to explore the island: the roads are in good condition and traffic is not too heavy.
East Coast: take a tour of Old Town (many small shops) and go down to Pirates Bay Point (a very friendly bar/hotel located next to an almost desert “rocky and wild” beach. However, beware of small jellyfish.
West Coast: go down to the National Park (200 baht / person = $6.35), don’t ask yourself any questions, it’s worth it! The view is magnificent, you also have access to two beaches (rocky and sandy) and a small trail of about 1.7 km (open your eyes to spot reptiles). Leaving the park, on the opposite path, you will have many stops to make to discover the most beautiful beaches of the island including Mai Thai (Bamboo) Beach and Aonoui Beach. Stop for a drink at the Phu Pha view Restaurant and enjoy the view! In the evening Klong Khong Beach offers many restaurants on the beach offering freshly caught fish, and lively bars (we loved Babylon and its very reggae atmosphere.)
Booked a day trip to explore a nearby island.
Don’t waste a minute of the sunset.
Don’t forget your sunscreen and mosquito repellent
Our itinerary in 4 nights / 5 days:
Our first day is called “relaxation”, we enjoyed the beauty of the place offered by the “Lanta Family Resort”, the beach and its breathtaking sunset. In the evening we leave with a French couple we met for dinner in one of the many restaurants on Klong Khong beach. Many options are possible, a very “reggae” atmosphere reigns on the beach, and fire shows take place.
The next two days were devoted to discovering the island by scooter, making stops mentioned in the list above. The evenings were dedicated to Klong Khong.
For the fourth day, we decided to book an excursion to the 4 Islands in a long tail boat. Snorkeling, swimming through a cave in the dark to discover a paradisiacal lagoon, a dream beach… We couldn’t see the 4th island because the sea was too rough. I won’t give you the details of this chaotic comeback. One thing for sure, we’ll remember that! In the evening again and again we were in Klong Khong.
We clearly loved our stay on the island of Koh Lanta and could have easily stayed a few more days. We hope you will like it as much as we did.
After a week in Thailand wandering between Bangkok and Krabi province, we were looking for a “wild” island and less frequented by mass tourism than the ones we had experienced so far. Our dream, a “bit utopian” was to find a “bungalow on the edge of a heavenly beach”. Some internet research and discussions with travellers we met along the way led us to the “Lanta Family Resort” located on Klong Khong Beach in the centre of the west coast of Koh Lanta Island.
After a 2-hour ferry ride from Aonang Beach and 25 minutes by tuk-tuk, we arrived at the “Lanta Family Resort”.Uraï, the director of the place, welcomes us with an overwhelming kindness. From its counter, the turquoise water beach is just a stone’s throw away, the colourful bungalows are behind us, a straw hut as a restaurant, a hammock, deckchairs in the sand, a massage area on stilts… It’s paradise, we can’t contain our excitement.
The Lanta Family Resortis a family history, it was created about 20 years before the Tsunami by Uraï’s parents. Today, at the age of 30, she is the one who has taken over the company and manages about ten people, all members of her family.Lanta Family Resortoffers a park of 25 bungalows divided into two categories: bungalows with air conditioning and hot water ($32 / night) and others slightly more basic with fan and cold water ($22 / night). We opted for the second option, corresponding to the comfort we were looking for. The fan cools you sufficiently at night and I guarantee you that hot water is not necessary to shower. At Lanta Family Resort,you will find a restaurant offering all the traditional Thai dishes “without pork” and aperitifs “with or without alcohol” (the island is mainly Muslim), a massage area, a relaxation area with terrace on stilts and hammocks, a postcard beach, a laundry service, scooter rental and last but not least a very attractive “tourism” agency. Uraï, helps you in the organization of everything you want to do (transport, excursions, activities…)
We had an incredible stay in this paradise, our two days turned into five! We thank Uraï and her family for their kindness and the quality of their services. We wish them a very nice continuation, the construction of a swimming pool and full of happiness with her family and with their customers from all over the world.
We recommend this place to any traveller passing through the island of Koh Lanta.
Like a guardian, Mama stands in front of her “typical” restaurant in Bangkok’s Silom district. She calls you out, she’s direct! If you decide not to sit at one of her tables by the street, you can read her disappointment on her face then you retrace your steps, let yourself be tempted and taste one of her meals. Magic happens, it’s a delight, it’s typical, it’s simple, it’s at “Mama Mia”!
Sumptuous temples, street food, markets, crazy nightlife, friendly places, tuk tuk, Chao Phraya river, massages, Chinatown… Bangkok, the capital of Thailand is a vibrant city mixing authenticity and modernity. A real crush!
In this article you will find the must-see in Bangkok and some tips to help you make the most of your stay in this fabulous “royal” megalopolis.
ACCOMODATION: if you are in a “rush” situation, I suggest you to stay north of Bangkok near the touristic district of Kho San Road in order to be close to the main temples and the “Grand Palace”. For your information: we stayed at the Lub D Silomhostel(south of the city) where we had a very good stay in a private room (about 18 euros per night). Good atmosphere, nice design and impeccable common sanitary facilities.
TRANSPORT:tuk tuk for short distances (negotiable prices) and for longer distances, I recommend the “sky line” and boat shuttles on the Chao Phraya river to avoid hallucinating traffic and exhaust pipes. You can also opt for a taxi in “off-peak hours” (cheaper than a tuk tuk); ask to activate the “meter” to have a price corresponding to the distance covered and not to your kind tourist head.
FOOD: if you are a fan of street food, the streets of Bangkok are a paradise! Special mention for Chinatown (go there in the evening), Kho San Road and finally Silom with the typical restaurant “Mama Mia” in Silom Road street: Soi Silom 20, Silom Road, Bangkok 10500, Thailand +66 94 552 4226. The “boss” is a little woman who catches you on the street, makes you sit at one of her tables and makes sure that your experience is excellent.
NIGHT LIFE: very touristy and popular with backpackers but I have to admit that Kho San Road is crazy (don’t be afraid of crowds and decibels).
WHAT TO DO IN BANGKOK?
The “Royal Palace” and the “Wat Phra Kaew”
The “Wat Pho”: golden elongated Buddha over 40 meters long
The “Wat Arun”: at the end of the day to admire a mythical sunset
The “Royal barges” museum: located to the north of the city, you will discover these boats, more than 20 meters, meticulously prepared for special occasions.
Jim Thompson’s House: A collection of “Thai” statues and works of art owned by JT, an American entrepreneur and collector, expatriate and Thailand lover, who worked in the silk market and mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia in 1967.
The market of Chatuchak (weekends): clothes and objects of all kinds
Chinatown: very lively in the evening, perfect for all street food lovers
Kho San Road: the tourist district = street food, street shops, many bars, restaurants, massages…
Have a drink on a rooftop: Vertigo Bar, Skybar, Octave Rooftop Bar, Mode Sathorn Hotel).
Attend a Thai boxing match (all week long)
For all visits to “sacred places” (temples, large palaces…) it is mandatory to have an appropriate outfit: legs covered for the bottom = minimum length below the knees / for the top the shoulders must be covered = at least a T-shirt, tank tops prohibited.
Don’t let yourself be trapped by a “canal tour” excursion in the south of the Chao Phraya River with a so-called floating market, fish farm… It’s clearly a scam! Well, we’ve been screwed, so I’d rather warn you. On the other hand, some taxi drivers will try to convince you to make this type of excursion at 1h30 from Bangkok, don’t let yourself be fooled!
Following my first article describing my academic and professional career since obtaining my high school diploma in 2006 until my arrival in California in July 2016, I would like to share with you my feedback on these 2.5 years spent in the United States.
I arrived in the United States in July 2016 because I chose to follow my partner, now husband, who has obtained a working visa renewal to return at his company’s headquarters in Huntington Beach, Southern California. A dream come true on his side, a cold shower on mine because it was impossible to do Annecy (France) – Los Angeles every weekend. Back in France since 2 years, after a one year break abroad, I had an exciting job, I was surrounded by my family and closest friends and I had just bought and renovated an apartment in which I finally thought I would let my suitcases for a few years. All this to say that a trip to the US was not on my agenda, but my partner’s visa confirmation decided differently. It was inconceivable not to try this adventure.
BEFORE DEPARTURE: ADMINISTRATIVE MATTERS
The first major difficulty for the person who follows his/her partner or husband/wife to the United States and who also wants to work is “administrative”, of course I’m talking about visas. If you are not married, you are not attached to your partner’s visa, which means that you will have no choice to go for either a tourist visa (maximum 90 days authorized in the territory), an F-1 student visa (obligation to follow a full-time training), a J-1 or OPT (internship) or an E-2 visa (investor). The last two visas mentioned will be your only options if you wish to work legally on the territory. If you think to find a company “sponsor” directly on the spot, be aware that very few of them engage this type of procedure. If you are married, you will be able to work legally in the territory if the type of visa issued to your spouse allows you to do it. If it’s the case, you will have to follow the work permit application procedure when you arrive in the United States and wait between 3 and 6 months to receive your card and your SSN (social security number). Once this card has been received, you will be able to work officially and legally in the country, for all type of companies, until the expiration date of your authorization (attached to your spouse’s visa).
For my part, not being married and after a lot of research, the wisest solution was to opt for a student visa. Full of ignorance, I searched for potential training courses in line with my background. I quickly became scared when I discovered the cost of university studies for an MBA (between $45,000 and $85,000 OOO for one year). As a result, my research took a new direction and I turned to an ESL (English as a second language) training in a private language school. My strategy was clear, improve my English in a few months to quickly find a sponsor company or an internship on the spot to switch to a J-1 visa. I was the one who “followed” her partner’s dream and I had to appropriate it to myself by setting goals beyond a couple’s project, a personal meaning to this decision. It was imperative for me to be able to carry out a school or professional project over there. I think that this point is the key to a successful “expatriation” for a couple.
BEFORE DEPARTURE: THE PROJECTION
Before I arrived in the US, I had already roamed with my backpack in Europe, Asia and Oceania, spent a year with a working holiday visa in Wellington, New Zealand, but I had never come on the American territory. Except New York, the US was not part of my top list of destinations to visit imperatively in the coming years. You can imagine that I had even less thought nor dreaming of living there one day. The “basic and cliché” idea I had was that it was a gigantic country, rich, powerful, influential, free, full of international superstars of all categories, king of “entertainment”, excess and of course where it is easily possible to undertake and live the AMERICAN DREAM! Although California is in the US, I had a specific feeling (once again very cliché) that resonated more in my head like a relaxing place (sun, beach, palm trees, sillicon valley, hollywood, 2 pac, baywatch), clearly a positive and attractive vibe. I warned you, my thinking was very basic, because I’ve never been there!
In any big change of life, emotions waver like a roller coaster, the unknown both attracts and frightens. Apart from the fruit of my imagination fed by Wikipedia research, Google Images and descriptions from my partner (who was between the US and France since he was 18 years old), I didn’t really know what to expect but I remained very enthusiastic about the idea of living this adventure. One thing was certain, I had never worried about my integration and experiencing a culture shock. However, adapting to this new country was not so simple.
THE ARRIVAL AT LOS ANGELES AIRPORT AND FIRST FEELINGS ABOUT ORANGE COUNTY:
Freshly arrived at LAX, less than an hour by car separated me from Huntington Beach, my future adopted city. Under a bright sun, I discovered with surprise the highway (the equivalent of the French highway but free) with these six car lanes for the same direction, 12 lanes of traffic in both directions, massive cars and huge advertising signs. No doubt, I was in the US! Before I started school, I took the opportunity to discover the Orange County area and honestly, my first feelings were quite mixed. The first unavoidable point is this feeling of “XXL dimension”, cafes, shops, cars, roads, sports facilities… Everything is huge here. Ideal weather, the Pacific Ocean, the immense beaches bordered by cycle paths and very “friendly” people are very attractive. My concern was more oriented towards lifestyle and the organization of the urbanism (I must also say that I loved Annecy, my hometown, which offers a quite exceptional living environment between lake and mountains). Unlike European cities, public transportation is almost non-existent, everything is done by car, you can eat, drink and withdraw money almost every 50 meters, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without getting out of your car. The aspect I found most disturbing was that I did not find the notion of “city center”, a space where you can do everything by walking, stroll in front of the windows of small shops, terraces of cafés, restaurants or a market. In Laguna Beach (25,000 inhabitants) and Huntington Beach (190,000 inhabitants), you can find this lifestyle a little bit, but it is true that the “main street” is small compared to the size of the city. In Orange County, cities are mainly organized around roads. Consequently, shops and “living spaces” are grouped together in commercial zones or malls along the roadside in large, modern and new buildings. It is quite amazing to discover the number of chain stores for everything. I made the point to myself when we were looking for some kind of storage (like boxes, lockers) for our apartment; well after a little Google research we went to a huge store dedicated to the storage paradise. If you have any or rare need, here you will always find a shop nearby to sell it. That’s pretty impressive! Due to a very modern and standardized architecture (and I admit it of a bad sense of direction), it took me a lot of time to find my way around because I found that everything was similar, I couldn’t even notice that I was moving from one city to another when I was driving. I was also amazed to discover bars with 15 TV screens broadcasting many sports games and attention in the US between baseball, basketball, hockey, fighting sports… The sport on TV is all year round and every day. A big surprise was also to discover that night life stops at 2am, not 2:01am, here there is no endless French-style negotiation, people respect the rules “more easily”. Depending on the people, their country of origin, the “context and conditions of arrival”, the time of adaptation in Orange County or somewhere else belongs to everyone. I just wanted to share with you honestly the first significant differences that caught my attention when I arrived. Although the area has some very positive aspects, I found it lacked of charm and authenticity. In short, it was not an immediate love at first sight.
MY FIRST YEAR IN THE US IN ORANGE COUNTY: BACK TO SCHOOL
Three weeks after arriving in Orange County, I joined a linguistic school based in Costa Mesa. As I explained earlier, to obtain the F-1 visa you must be considered a full-time student (at least 18 hours of classes per week) in an “accredited” school. My school offered courses from Monday to Friday from 8:15 am to 2:30 pm per level (from beginner to advanced), but also specific training to prepare for the TOEFL exam. The training time depended on each student and his or her personal project. There were no limits imposed by the school. Some students could be there for a short period of time (for example, during school holidays) and others for a long period of time in order to obtain a certain TOEFL score required to integrate an American university. On the first day of school, we took a general English test that guided you to your class level (from 1 to 6). The majority of the students came from the Middle East, Asia and South America (I think I met four Europeans in five months). All ages and nationalities were mixed, which sometimes gave very lively lessons when the subjects slipped on our cultural differences. This melting pot was the most attractive part of the school. Beyond English, I learned a lot about each other’s cultures and found our convictions and personalities exciting and inspiring. We all came from very different countries in their functioning but at one point we found ourselves in this place on an equal footing, learning English and facing similar difficulties. This type of experience was incredible and brought me a lot on a personal level and in terms of open mind. The other huge advantage was that the school allowed me to meet new people very quickly and have a dynamic social life. These friendly relationships were the same nature as when you travelling, short and intense because no one was there for the same time.
In addition to school, I subscribed to a gym center with many classes. I went there every day after school to train and in the hope of creating a group of local friends. I had given enormous importance to the search of American social interactions and “friends”. This point was for me one of the key factors of a successful integration. I tried to avoid all types of French connections because I already spoke my native language with my partner at home (we tried many times to speak only in English but it never lasted very long). With my school friends, in an international context, I felt comfortable, we spoke “the same English” but in a local context it was not the same story. I understood the overall meaning of one interlocutor’s comments, but to talk was a different matter. At first, I couldn’t find the words, my accent was difficult to understand and I also had uncontrollable anxiety when I wanted to express myself. You know that little constant nervous laugh that comes after each sentence and makes you look very “stupid”. I dreamed of exchanging but I was blocked because I knew that my ability to answer would be limited and futile; and then when you have to repeat your basic words 3 times if not more before being understood, sometimes you get discouraged and close yourself up. A little anecdote, no one ever instantly understood my first name (Kathleen) when I introduced myself. People was like, oh Jacqueline? Katherine? and I kept repeating myself no: “Kat like a cat like the animal, you know Miaou Miaou and then Leen, KATHLEEN”. In short, I still had some way to go before I could master English in a “local and not international” environment.
After a few months spent on the territory, feeling a little more comfortable with English, I started looking for internships in parallel of my studies. As a result, I had my first professional interviews. Maximum stress level! The intermediate step of the phone interview was never validated. The only chance I had, was to go directly to a face-to-face interview and find a company interested in a bilingual French/English profile. Unfortunately, this type of requirement is rare in the area. Companies are more attracted by bilingual profiles in Chinese, Korean and Spanish than French. Another point is that my French diplomas and professional references were not “recognized”. Companies are interested in what you have done in the US and not in your home country. In addition, they are frigid to engage in visa procedures (even for an internship) when they are not familiar with the administrative procedure. They will accept and engaged in the visa procedures more easily if you have “exceptional” technical skills. In other words, generalist profiles such as mine in Marketing and Communication do not fall into the category of rare skills. At that time, the only opportunity I could have “pushed” was a potential position based in North Los Angeles (about 3 to 3.5 hours driving per day with traffic), the project was clearly not viable for an “intern” status. I wasn’t desperate, but I was well aware that finding a company was going to be a tedious task.
After 8 months in the US, my “status” as a partner has changed to a spouse one. This change allowed me to be attached to my husband’s L-1 visa and by chance to apply for a “work permit on the territory”. My card and SSN (social security number) were issued to me after three months. During this waiting period, I took the opportunity to explore the West Coast and its many national parks. And I might tell you that it was the moment that I fell in love with the country (that’s another story). My work permit and my SSN in my pocket marked the beginning of a new turn. I was no longer looking for an internship but a job.