Cultural Tips for Thailand

“Chang, Chang, Chang,” we all sing, our shoulders tucked into our noses and our one arm hanging to depict an elephant trunk.

It’s nighttime, and Jack and Chai have called us up to the conference room to teach us about Thai culture and the Thai language.

The first thing that sticks in my head? Elephant in Thai is “Chang.” Just like the beer I have grown to love with the white elephant against the forest green background.

But, there’s more we learn. Much more.

Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist culture, therefore it differs greatly from what most Westerners are used to.

Going up those stairs? Take your shoes off.

What’s it called when you put your hands together in front of your face? And, what does it mean?

The Wai is this prayer-like gesture you see everywhere in Thailand, accompanied by a bow of the head. It is done as a sign of respect to royalty, monks, elders, family, employers and those socially equal or greater than the person who is doing the Wai-ing. But, it’s more complicated than that. There are a few variations of the Wai based on the level of respect to show a person. Jack explains there are four levels of the Wai — thumbs at the bridge of the nose for royalty and  monks; thumbs at the tip of the nose for respected elders; the most common, thumbs at the chin for an employer or person of greater social status; and thumbs at chest level for friends and those on the same social level. However, should someone Wai you, the response is the last variation — chest level. The Wai is used to say in greeting, departure and as a “thank you.” Get all of that?

Don’t use your feet to point. Seriously.

In Thai culture, feet are considered dirty and pointing with your feet is disrespectful.

I was standing with Chai after we had our Thai culture class and was horrified when, in coversation, there was something on the ground, and I pointed at it with my foot (which was in a shoe). The lesson from the night before replayed in my mind, and I ducked my head in embarassment, offering a quiet apology for my faux paux.

If you’re in a Buddhist temple/sitting in front of a statute or with Buddhist monks, sit in the mermaid position with your feet pointing away from them.

This goes back to the belief that the feet are the dirtiest part of the body. Sit with your knees tucked to your side and the soles of your feet pointing away from the statue or monk. When I was being blessed by the shaman and was sitting in a permanent Wai during my time, the mermaid position became very uncomfortable. If you can lean your weight on your arms a bit, it shouldn’t be as bad. But, keep this in mind should you want to be blessed during a longer ceremony.

Don't wear your bathing suit in the water.

Keep your clothes on …

The first time we went to bathe elephants, Jack asked us to please respect Thai culture, which is to not show skin. So, for the week, we bathed elephants wearing clothing.

I was shocked when I got a massage one evening and an older couple came up to the room to receive massages, too. The recipients of the massages were all laying on mats, fully-clothed. The woman took off her pants as she sat down, showing her underwear to the entire woman. The woman from the nearby village who were giving us our massages giggled nervously when she laid down, ready for her treatment. It got even worse when the man took off his shirt, explaining it was too constrictive for him and “this” was better.

It was all I could do not to pop up from my relaxed state and throw their clothing back at them and explain to them they needed to keep their clothing on.

But take your shoes off.

Feet are dirty (so be sure to keep them clean), but shoes are even dirtier. Remove them when going into homes, schools, small shops and more. A general rule of thumb? If you are about to enter somewhere and there are shoes outside of the door, follow the leader and take yours off, too.

Don’t get too into touching.

Kissing and hugging aren’t the norm in Thailand. You will see people holding hands — couples, friends of the same and opposite sex — just don’t get too touchy. It can make people uncomfortable. Also, never touch a Thai person’s head. And, if you are a woman, do not touch a monk. Ever.

Be polite.

This is a good rule to follow, regardless of where you are. Always put your best foot forward and be a glowing representative of your country. Thai people are charmingly polite and seem to always have a smile on their face.

What other Thai culture tips can you provide? Have you ever accidentally done one of these things? Share your stories!

Planning a trip to Thailand? There are plenty of options, including your very own Thailand rental to enjoy all the country has to offer. For more information about this option, click here.


Asia Blog Thailand Travel Travel Tips

Escape of the Week: London’s Big Ben

London’s Big Ben is recognized the world over. Located within the historic Palace of Westminster grounds, Big Ben is the name for the bell of the clock, but is also used to refer to the entire tower.

Did you know it is the largest four-faced chiming clock and the third-tallest free-standing clock tower in the world (according to Wikipedia)?

At more than 150 years old, Big Ben is one of the must-visits while staying in London.

If you’re a resident of the UK, lucky you —  you’re able to climb the 330-plus steps inside the tower to the top! For the rest of us, we get to take photos and imagine (or ask our UK buddies) what the interior of this iconic tower looks like.

Have you visited Big Ben? Have you been inside?

 

Destinations Travel Tips

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue’s Ass

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue's Ass

//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

There was a time a little more than a year ago, when I hated traveling.

After doing it for more than five months, being sick for what seemed like the millionth time, being cramped into a dorm room in blistering heat with no air-conditioning, fearing for my life in Turkey and nearly falling to my death, I was pretty over it as I sat in an outdoor cafe in Varna, Bulgaria.

At that moment, I wanted to be done.

It hurt me deeply to admit that to myself. This trip was supposed to be amazing. An experience of a lifetime. And, instead of planning my next steps, I found my mind wandering to the comforts of my bed in Maryland.  To not having my backpacking weighing me down. To a home-c0oked meal. To breathing in private.

To make things worse, I hated myself for hating traveling.

I was so mad. So disappointed in myself for even letting that awful thought cross my mind. I was embarassed. This funk had embraced me, sucked me deep into the recesses of my mind I didn’t want to touch, and left me feeling cold, alone and sad.

Oh, Travel Fatigue.

When I was going through it, it was the worst thing in the world. I felt like no one knew what it was like. I felt like no one could be of any assistance in pulling me out of it.

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue's Ass

A sign of Travel Fatigue: feeling depressed.

I was wrong. Entirely.

After being home and having relationships with other people who are/were on the road, I know this Travel Fatigue awfulness wasn’t exclusive to me. It happens to the best of us. And, fortunately, only lasts for a brief period of time.

It took a few things in my life to help snap me out of this funk.

Are you experiencing Travel Fatigue? Here are some steps to help kick it’s ugly ass and get back in the game.

1. Communicate your misery

No, don’t have a huge pity party (no one likes those), but talk to someone you trust about it. Someone you know can make you feel all better. For me, I was messaging with my lovely Anthony, who wrote words that were oh-so true: You’ve got to have the funk to have the fun. That was the start of my recovery.

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue's Ass

Sometimes you just need to change your perspective.

2. Change your scenery

Nothing can quite snap you out of a rut like waking up somewhere new. There’s just a feeling of possibility that wasn’t there before. It can revitalize you. Abby and I had been seaside of nearly two weeks, so the mountains was a nice change of pace. And totally different and beautiful scenery.

3. Get comfortable

I was tired. I was hot. I wanted to not drip sweat every night after I had showered. Abby and I found an adorable hostel in the hillside town of Veliko Tarnovo. It had gorgeous air-con and a remote so we could make it as cool as we liked. That first night, we both slept with thick blankets on us. In the dead of summer. It was awesome. Naturally, the next day, the remote disappeared from our room. I can still remember the cool air kissing my face that blissful night.

4. Stay put

Even after Abby left VK, I stayed. And stayed. And stayed.

5. Relax

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue's Ass

How can you not relax with a view like this?

When I was back in the solo realm of travel and feeling better, I treated myself to doing absolutely nothing. I would wake up in the morning, pad  upstairs to the kitchen and enjoy the complimentary breakfast, then head outside to the little balcony overlooking the ravine of green trees across the street. I would chat with the hostel owner, the other guests, and just ease into my morning. Then, when I got hot, I would go to the room, open my computer and write. Not because I felt I had to, but because it felt good. And, I would read. Then, a little nap in the cool room. At night, I would go with the other travelers to dinner, then back to my room for some more reading and then sleep. I did this for three days.

6. Don’t plan until you have to

On the third day of doing nearly nothing, I decided I was almost ready to head out and continue with my trip. Almost. I pondered my next steps. I spent a good deal of time looking at the giant colorful map of Eastern Europe on the wall in the common room. I consulted my guide book. I did research.

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue's Ass

Take off your shoes, kick your feet in the H20 and BREATHE. Deeply.

7. Go somewhere you really want to go

Not somewhere along the way. I was planning on going to Budva, Montenegro. The long route would take me through a few cities of interest along the way. So, I had to make some decisions. Head to Sophia, Bulgaria? Stop in Belgrade, Serbia for a few nights? Finally, I let my heart win this one instead of my mind, which was saying “heya, Buddy, go to all three cities because you can!” I was craving the sun and the Adriatic. I knew deep down that the sea would help me feel better. So, instead of doing the stops for a few nights in these cities, I plowed through them, getting me to my ultimate goal — Budva.

8. Get out of your shell

When I arrived to Montenegro, I was exhausted. But, there was the Adriatic. The sea I had spoken of for almost a year to anyone who would listen. Just knowing it was there made me smile. And, put me in a better mood. The first day of being in Budva, I sat outside, under grape vines, and was social. I met a group of other solo travelers and we instantly formed a bond.

9. Remember what it is like to Adventure

When I was with these new friends, we planned a day trip together to the gorgeous little sea town of Sveti Stefan. Well, one guy planned it. The rest of us nodded our heads in agreement and walked down to the bus stop with him. It was so warming to be with other people again, to go somewhere. Then, the next day, myself and one of the guys from the group took our adventuring even further and got on another bus and headed to the stunning town of Kotor. It was not planned. It was fun. It brought a smile to my face. It had been a long time since I had done day trips instead of moving, moving, moving.

10. Find some new, non-Travel Fatigue-y friends

After Montenegro, I decided to go to Sarajevo. Another game-time decision. But, it ended up changing the entire rest of my trip … and my life today. When I was in Sarajevo, I met Katie. We spent a few days together in Sarajevo, and then met up with each other a few days later in Mostar. We planned a trip to Croatia together. When I was in Mostar, I met Dave. Together, the three of us embarked on a week-plus adventure, spending time in Brela, Split and our island paradise of Solta together. The two of them were blissfully happy in their adventures. They woke up every day and embraced their trip, and in turn, made me embrace mine. [Katie came to visit me in Las Vegas in June, and I am visiting her in September in Thailand … see … meet friends!!]

Have you experienced Travel Fatigue? Where were you? How did you overcome its grasp?

Bosnia/Hercegovina Bulgaria Croatia Europe Montenegro Travel Travel Tips Turkey

Drink your water … and other tips to survive a Vegas Vacation

Editors Note: This post was not intended for my site. I wrote it because I accepted a bid on TextBrokers.com, a site which unites writers with those who need writing. I submitted it, was paid for it, and then saw someone else had actually taken credit for my words. Now, I am fine with ghost writing, but this was not stated as such an assignment. The person who posted the job, and later my writing, took credit for the article completely and even posted a bio at the end about her experience as a writer. I reached out to the author (who never responded to me), as well as TextBrokers.com who handled the situation courtesoly and professionally, and within days had worked with the author to remove the post. I’m not one to let writing go to waste, so, here ya go. A fun little piece on Vegas.

Heading to Las Vegas? It’s easy to get sucked in to the bright lights, the pulsing nightlife, the simply gorgeous culinary creations awaiting diners in every casino …

Before you head to the desert, here are some simple rules to enhance your Las Vegas experience:

Tip 6: Know where the exit signs are in case of fire. Fortunately, all guests at the Monte Carlo during the infamous fire in 2008 escaped unharmed.

1. Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. As cliche as it may sound, this is one of the most important rules to keep in mind. Set a budget if gambling, and stick to it. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the idea of taking home a small fortune. Remember — Las Vegas wasn’t built on winners.

2. Plan ahead. Want to try that new Michelin rated restaurant? So does everyone else. Make reservations for that special meal before leaving home. Otherwise, that dream dinner will be just that, a dream.

3. Behave. Well, at least a little bit. Clubs don’t look kindly on overly drunken behavior. And, escorts are  not prostitutes. Paying for any sort of sexual anything is illegal in Clark County.

4. Not everything in Las Vegas costs money. A good time can be had without spending anything. At night, head to the Bellagio fountains. Play a game (a real game) at one of Cosmopolitan’s lounges. Plus,  there are plenty of opportunities to people watch everywhere in town.

5. Drink water. It is a desert. Being outside in the summer requires water consumption. It also helps quell the wicked hangover the next morning.


Americas Nevada Travel Travel Tips

Travel and a Trainer: Skinny Jean Rules to Live By

This is a guest post by Kristin Weiland, a certified personal trainer. This is the first in a series of articles about staying healthy/keeping in shape while traveling. Have fitness question? Send it over to me, dtravelsround [at] gmail [dot] com, and maybe Kristin can answer it in an upcoming post!

Ahhh, vacations! While they are great and needed, these trips away from the norm can completely sabotage your diet and workout plan –if you are not careful. Time spent away is fun, exciting, and interesting since you get to visit new places and meet new people, but it can quickly turn into havoc for the seams and buttons on your jeans. Vacations typically mean you are spending time consuming more wine (or other refreshing alcoholic beverages while watching the sunset over the beach or mountains or … ) and dining out frequently (how can you say “no” to the local cheese plate?).

It’s easy to fall into the same trap as everyone else when it comes to food — you know how it goes — you tell yourself, “as long as I work out regularly a glass of wine or a hamburger won’t hurt me.”

Right.

Unfortunately, one glass turns into two or three and once you do the math, you find out you actually consumed close to 3/4 of your daily caloric intake in one meal. Each glass of wine is approximately 280 calories and a hamburger, even a plain one, is more than 450 calories. We tend not to keep track of what we are eating and drinking when we are on vacation, and that is a sure fire way to sabotage all the hard work you put in prior to your trip.
It is important to remember that 60-70 percent of your weight-loss results come from managing your diet. I am not saying you should deprive yourself, because if you do you will eventually crack and binge eat – and instead of eating a few bites of that cheesecake, you end up eating three slices of it! It is possible to go out with friends or go out for a nice evening with a special someone without completely blowing your diet.

If you want to have a drink with dinner try to limit it to one or pick a drink that won’t make you feel guilty. There are several low calorie options to alcohol such as the “skinny girl margarita.” If you wish to have a drink with friends, there is a great Web site for concocting your own low-cal cocktails to sip while vacationing.

But, you are on vacation, so going out to eat is only natural. When you go out to eat, follow some simple rules to help keep you from consuming too many calories:
1. Have the waiter bring a to-go box when he or she brings out the meal. After your meal arrives at the table immediately place half of it in the to-go box to eat the following day (assuming you have a place to properly store it, if not, take the remainder to go and give it someone who looks like they could use a good meal). Most meals served in restaurants are entirely too large. If you get half the meal out of your sight immediately you won’t feel like you need to finish it. The old philosophy our parents had of “you have to finish everything on your plate” no longer applies.

2. Choose baked or grilled over fried. You can still have the chicken breast or the shrimp – just have it prepared differently. Skipping the fried foods will help keep you in those skinny jeans or micro mini you were finally brave enough to purchase, let alone wear on your trip.

3. When it comes to sides, skip the fries. Now this is a tough one for me because anyone who knows me, knows that I love fries. Not only do I love them, I salt them before I even try them – which is a terrible habit! Always try the food before adding additional salt – nine times out of 10 you won’t even need to add anything to it. Instead of fries try to get the seasonal vegetables or the sweet potato without the caramel and marshmallows.

4. Just because it is a salad doesn’t mean it is low-calorie. I have seen people load up their plates with salad at the salad bar and then pile on bacon bites, egg, croutons, and dressing. Well congratulations, you are about to consume your entire daily caloric intake in one sitting! Remember proper portions are also important when it comes to salad. Yes, green leafy veggies in general are GREAT for you, but they are no longer healthy if they are drowned in bacon, egg, and ranch dressing. Always get the dressing on the side and dip the tip of your fork in the dressing first, then grab a bite of food — this will keep you from eating all of those empty calories, but still get the taste of the dressing.

Remember these tips next time you pack your bags. Your jeans and your body will thank you! Especially when you return from your holiday.

——-

Kristin Weiland is a personal fitness trainer certified through the International Sports Sciences Association. She has worked in the health and fitness industry for more than five years as a personal trainer. She also served in the United States Air Force as a meteorologist and physical training leader for eight years. She specializes in pre and postnatal training, weight loss, strength training, and speed and agility training. For more information on how to get healthy, visit her site., K.Weiland Fitness.

Travel Travel Tips

The Adventures of D — A Retrospect

Oh, my little blog. It’s been around since before I decided to take my career break and travel. It’s been around since I one sleepless October night in Atlanta when, around midnight, the words to the start of my story I wanted to share just popped into my head. Then, I was up. Out of bed. Laptop open. WordPress blog created.

And the rest is history.

Now, nearly two years later, I certainly have shared. At times, I’ve shared too much. At times, I haven’t shared enough.

Regardless, this ride has been the highlight of my life, taking me through moments, through happy, through sad, that have left me wanting more … and ready to start the next chapter in “The Adventures of D.”

So, when Jason from Jason’s Travels, asked if he could nominate me for this fun little project, My 7 Links, put on by Trip Base, of course I said “yes.” I mean … I get to relive some of my favorite posts!

Without further adieu, My 7 Links:

The Most Beautiful Post:

I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers

It’s not a beautiful photo essay. But it is an example of the beauty and generosity that still exists in this world. It is also one of the many reasons I fell in love with Croatia.

The Most Popular Post:

How to barter like a pro

I spent a good amount of time in Turkey during my trip, where negotiating is a part of the package. It constantly awed me that people could go in to a restaurant and negotiate the cost of their meal. While that wasn’t for me so much, it was fun to go back and forth with the shopkeepers at the Grand Bazaar and elsewhere.

The Most Controversial Post:

My 30-Life-Crisis … Solved?

It wasn’t controversial in the sense it started a heated debate, but to my family and friends, this post was controversial because I was throwing away a comfortable life for the unknown. I was … LIVING instead of deciding to just go through the motions.

The Most Helpful Post:

Airport Sleeping 101

Oh, the beauty of backpacking and being on a budget. There were a few times when I had stop-overs that, while they were 12 or so hours, were overnight. Rather then haul my 40 kilo backpack and my tired self to a hostel in the city, I opted to just crash out on the floor … or a bench … in the airport. This post gives tips on how to make the best of airport sleeping.

The Post Whose Success Surprised Me:

Dude, don’t be a Hostel Dick

Yes, it’s meant to be funny. I just didn’t realize this post with these tips would be one of my most popular posts of all time. In all seriousness though, every backpacker who stays in hostels should read this.

The Post That Didn’t Get the Attention I Feel it Deserved:

The Best of … Madrid

It’s got some pretty good tips in the post and in the comments for anyone headed to Madrid.

The Post I Am Most Proud Of:

Love, Life and Loss … on the Road

By far, this was the hardest post I have ever written. It took every ounce of me to pull myself together to write this.

****

And now comes the fun part. Here are the five bloggers I want to do this on their site, too. These folks are some of the best out there! Be sure to check their sites for the My 7 Links project soon!

Adam from The Travels of Adam

Anna from Frill Seeker Diary

Candice from Candice Does the World

Lindsay AKA Hogga from The Traveller

Margo from The Travel Belles

30 Life Crisis Africa Americas Blog Croatia Morocco Rwanda Spain Travel Travel Tips Turkey

How to have a Travel Adventure without Adventure Travel

 

 

Adventure. It’s a pretty hefty word with a lot behind it.

To me, adventure is more than just jumping out of airplanes … more than climbing a mountain. I’m so not that girl. In my world adventure is about taking risks. Going off my beaten path to experience something new.

As a traveler, each day is an adventure. Whether it is getting off a bus before check-in time at a hostel and trying to find something to do, or kayaking in the Mediterranean.

I tried to be adventurous each day on my trip. And, unlike the time I fell off the cliff while embracing adventure/sports, I normally was met with pretty great results.

So, how can someone have an adventure without raising your pulse?

Well …

1. Don’t plan. Well, plan a little. But, don’t feel the need to always stick to the plan. There were plenty of times when I would wake up in the morning and decide I wanted a different view, so would ask around to other people in the hostel, find out where they were going/coming from, and then make a game-time decision as to where  I would go later that day. To ensure I wasn’t bed-less for the night, I would book a room, but that’s it.

Really, I’m a Planner

2. Book a hostel, not a hotel. Hostels are much more social than hotels. At hostels, you are much more likely to meet like-minded people who want to check out A, B or C. Some of my closest friends today have come from hostels. Just be sure you follow hostel protocol during your stay. Nothing sucks worse than being That Guy/Girl at a hostel.

Dude, don’t be a hostel dick

3. Try the local cuisine. I didn’t really venture anywhere with cuisine that was too out of my comfort zone, but I can assure you eating bugs AND snake are both on my list when I hit Asia this year.

Para morirse — food to die for in Valencia

4. Get lost. Within reason. Pop on some good music, grab the camera and wander. Take note — don’t be ignorant about wandering. Find out the safe places to go before you leave your room. Ladies, keep your purses under your arms. And don’t broadcast your riches.

Being Jewish in the Krakow Jewish District

5. Hit the local markets. It’s easy to get lost in the maze of fresh fruits, veggies, flowers and crafts. Super easy. And, most times you can actually purchase items at these markets without spending a lot of money.

6. Rent an apartment for a little. If you want to spend more than a night or two in a city, rent an apartment. All over the world, there are apartments to rent for a few nights to months or longer. When I traveled, I rented a gorgeous little place on the Adriatic for a few nights with some friends. It was amazing.

Living in Technicolor

7. Talk to the locals. Nothing can make an experience in a foreign place better than having a local’s insight. The more locals you meet, the more opportunities you have to really get the flavor of a place.

A week of Spanish

8. Volunteer. There are plenty of options for short-term volunteer work all over the world. Plus, volunteering opens you up to meet other travelers and locals. And, its totally good karma.

The only English-speaking town in Spain

9. Take a class. Learn how to make sushi or prepare Thai dishes. Or do a language exchange.

10. Rent a car. This may be a little bit risky, but it lets you travel places you might not normally see.

Steering wheel death grips and driving in Romania

11. Go camping. Get a cheap tent and fork out the few bucks to camp instead of stay at a hostel.

12. Use a squat toilet. Seriously. You haven’t lived until you use one.

13. Go to a nudie beach. Or a topless beach. If necessary, grab some tall boys before hitting the surf. Just make sure you do it. And use sunscreen to prevent burning of the bits.

To be or not to be … topless

14. Find a festival or event that sounds good and go. Like La Tomatina in Spain, or Exit Festival in Serbia. Or Fringe in Scotland. This would require a little planning, but still. Go.

15. Don’t book a return ticket. Until you have to.

What do you think makes for a travel adventure?

This post was sponsored by InsureandGo Travel Insurance.

Africa Europe Travel Travel Tips