There’s a Thai tourist slogan that applies to nearly everything. The catch phrase Same Same But Different can be seen on t-shirts and other items in any souvenir store. We even stayed near a restaurant named after the saying on Koh Phangan. While I haven’t actually heard it spoken yet, it’s clearly part of the culture, at least in tourist areas. The idea is that they have whatever you’re looking for, but it might be just a little different. You want a Louis Vuitton bag? They have those. Is it authentic? Yes, same same but different. (So that means no, but it’s a good fake and you can’t tell. Plus, it’s priced right.)
In contrast to our activity packed days in Bangkok, living on Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand was highlighted mostly by relaxation. I might even go so far as to call it a bit boring. Not that I’m bothered by that. I enjoy the idea of having nothing to do nor anyone to answer to. In fact, I’m getting really, really good at the leisurely breakfast. I have been waking up around 8:00am and putting on a baseball game from the night before. (Sometimes this baseball game from the night before is happening live. Time zones are weird.) During the game I drink a few cups of tea and eat some amazing fresh fruit. It’s a pretty stellar way to start the day and I highly recommend it.
We just spent two weeks in Bangkok, Thailand to kick off our early retirement travels. The plan was to spend 15 nights, but our flights were delayed due to weather in the US, so we arrived a day late. Nevertheless, we did a lot of exploring around the city, including seeing many markets, neighborhoods, temples, and parks. Below I’ll share the highlights of our time there, where we stayed, and how much money we spent.
Bangkok is a great place to visit, but you’ll rarely forget you’re in a city. The expansive urban area doesn’t have a whole lot of green space. There’s hardly even a bench for when you need a break from walking in the heat. One exception to that is Lumphini Park. This 142 acre park a little east of downtown provides a pleasant oasis from the hectic city. There are running and biking paths, cardio and weight lifting machines for public use, tons of benches and places to sit, and lots of wildlife. The highlight is the giant monitor lizards that can be found everywhere.
I’ve always enjoyed going to markets. Whether that’s a local farmers market or a sprawling flea market, they are always interesting experiences. It’s one of the main reasons that I enjoy travel so much. Markets put all of the differences in culture into one concentrated exhibit. So when I learned that Bangkok is home to the self-proclaimed World’s Largest Weekend Market, I immediately moved it to the top of my list of places to visit. According to their website, the Chatuchak Market has “over 15,000 stalls which are spread across 35 acres and 26 sections which range from Food, Art, Antiques, Fashion and much more.” And I don’t want to sound hyperbolic, but it’s the best market I’ve ever been to.
Just a quick note before beginning. Bonus Nachos is embracing this new social media image-sharing company called Instagram and we now have an account up and running. We’re cutting edge! You can find us by clicking on the Instagram icon just to the right if you’re on a desktop or at the bottom of this post if you’re on a phone or tablet. You can also search for Bonus Nachos Blog to find us as well. I know it’s quite odd for a travel blog to have an Instagram account, but we’re going to try it anyway. 🙂 Now back to your regularly scheduled program.
As Americans, everyone knows that our healthcare system is so fucked that you’d have to be insane to go without insurance for even a single day. Pricing is seemingly arbitrary and has little relation to the cost of the care. After all, we’re the land of $100,000 emergency room bills even with insurance. And unlike other industries, the cash price for any procedure can be more than the negotiated insurance rate. Despite the fact that prices for medical treatment in the rest of the world are ridiculously cheap by comparison, it’s hard to embrace the idea that going without coverage is an option. So while I’m not 100% convinced it’s necessary, I found myself shopping for insurance that has worldwide coverage.
After leaving Colorado behind, we drove north through the very eastern half of Wyoming to reach South Dakota. The weather was still uncooperative, and constant cold rain meant that we were definitely staying in a motel instead of camping. But we needed to go through South Dakota as opposed to taking a more southern route for two reasons. The first was that I had never been to South Dakota before, and Katie wanted to show me some of the highlights of her childhood vacations. The second was that South Dakota has very liberal residency requirements combined with zero income taxes, so we were there to become official residents.
Having lived in the upper Midwest for the first three decades of my life, I’m no stranger to bad weather. I’m used to freezing winters, pop up storms, and general unpredictability. In Michigan we had the “unique” saying that if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. I later learned that they say this just about everywhere, but at the time it seemed apt. However, I think living in California for the last decade has really warped my viewpoint. In Silicon Valley, May is basically summer (if it didn’t already start in April). While I’m aware that’s not the case in most places, I really thought that it would at least be spring and we would be able to enjoy ourselves outside, even at elevation or higher latitudes. As you may suspect, this turned out to be extremely naive, at least outside of Utah.
With the car fixed and back on the road, our cross-country camping adventure was finally back on track. Until this point it hardly felt like a camping adventure at all, as we had stayed only two nights in a tent compared to six in a motel. And due to the popularity of Zion, the two nights camping were closer to sleeping in a crowded parking lot than a campground. While we were making the best of it, we were ready for more nature. We decided to head east towards Moab for use as a jumping off point for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Both of the parks, and Moab in general, turned out to be absolutely spectacular.
A few weeks ago, The Karate Kid marked its 35 year anniversary. To celebrate, the studio decided to have a special re-release in select movie theaters nationwide. Considering that it’s quite possibly Katie’s favorite movie of all time, we decided to break our multi-year theater fast and head to the cinema two towns over. Knowing that this would be a popular event, we purchased advanced tickets for a Sunday matinee.