Island edition: Koh Lanta and Koh Mook

I just arrived back to Bangkok from the islands near Trang. I spent 8 days at beaches of Koh Lanta and Koh Mook. I really didn’t know what to expect because I’ve never been before at islands and I don’t even remember the last time I had a beach holiday. I was afraid that I would get bored and miss action. The truth is that I relaxed 110% and I’ve never been as lazy as I was in Koh Mook and Koh Lanta. I got lazier every day and basically my 8 days consisted of this: eating, sleeping, sunbathing, swimming in the sea and one day I rented a scooter and one I day I walked around the island for couple of hours (and that wore me down hehe). In the last few days I have been sleeping quite well and long but still I’ve been very tired all the time. In conclusion I enjoyed the islands a lot!

I travelled with a friend who came from Finland. We met in Bangkok and flew together to Trang Town. As I mentioned above we decided to visit Koh Lanta and Ko Mook. Our aim was to find peaceful beaches that aren’t too touristic, if that is possible here anymore. So no full moon parties this time.

We stayed the first night in Trang Town because we arrived so late so we couldn’t take a ferry or a minibus to Koh Lanta anymore. Trang seems to be very small and sympathetic town but not very interesting. We went twice to the night market which surprisingly was one of the best I’ve visited so far. It doesn’t have much stuff that I want to buy but it was full of food that I wanted to taste.

After Trang we took a minibus to Koh Lanta which was quite affordable, only 280 bahts (7 eur). We stayed there around 3,5 days which was quite enough. The island is nice and quite quiet but it was full of Swedes, Finns and Germans. In Lanta we rented scooters and cruised around the island to see the other beaches. I have never driven a scooter before but I definitely wanted to do it because the traffic was relaxed compared to the other cities’ traffic where I‘ve been. Also the left-hand traffic didn’t feel bad because I got used to it in Japan. I wonder how the Finnish right-hand traffic will feel like when I return.

In Lanta we found very nice restaurant right next to our hotel. I don’t know the name of it because it had only one sign that said “Drink and foods” :-D. The food was really tasty and quite cheap! Also one of my favorite things on the island was a pancake that one lady made on the street from her “moped street kitchen”. I went there twice to have a banana & pineapple pancake with vanilla/chocolate sauce. It was only 30 bahts (0,75 eur) which was just ridiculous!! It was soooo good..

Also what was a bit surprising is that majority of the people living in Koh Lanta are Muslims. They also had Muslim women driving the tuk tuks which was great but when you are not used to the view it can seem a bit strange. I’ve seen nowhere else women driving a tuk tuk and here the women drove it with the Muslim scarf. Which is great!! I hope every woman all over the world can do what the men do if they want to.

After Koh Lanta we headed to Koh Mook which blew my mind right from the beginning. The Had Farang beach looks amazing! Very peaceful and quiet, amazing scenery, crystal clear water, affordable food and only few restaurants. I am amazed how untouched the island seems to be. One thing though probably scarred me for life. Our bungalow was quite near to the jungle and I saw twice monkeys eat anything they found from the yards. But on the second time the monkeys weren’t so nice because the assholes tried to attack me. They were stalking under our bungalow and in the bushes. I thought that I could still pass them and go to MY bungalow because I had passed them earlier but this time all of the monkeys went nuts and one of them almost assaulted me. It made awful noises and ran a bit after me aggressively. I screamed like crazy and I can just remember the teeth that looked surprisingly sharp and big. I will forever hate monkeys. I had also other encounters with fauna of the islands. One small gecko was sitting on my shoulder blade, a small jellyfish burnt my skin and a bird pooped on my back. I was waiting that a snake would also bite me but luckily at least that didn’t happen.

Few words about the accommodation:

Guest House in Trang: Yamawa

  • not far from the Railway Station
  • very basic facilities but it was ok
  • very sweet and helpful owners
  • free towel and water
  • nice and hard beds (good for your back) but a bit shaky
  • no breakfast
  • 13 eur per night in a twin room

Hotel in Koh Lanta: Lemonade Inn

  • very good location, very near to the Klong Dao beach
  • nice and helpful staff
  • new looking rooms and facilities
  • free towel and water
  • no breakfast
  • 950 bahts (about 24 eur) per night in a double room

Bungalow in Koh Mook: Had Farang

  • very basic bungalow (washroom, twin bed, a chair and small table, a terrace with two chairs)
  • like a children’s playhouse :-D
  • the beds were ok but not great
  • internet only in the “lobby”/restaurant
  • near to the best beach of the island
  • small monkey problem
  • One night around 14 euros per night

Trang Hotel in Trang Town

  • I don’t really recommend this. Yamawa was better experience.
  • Breakfast should had been included but it was hard to get an answer that what part of the breakfast is free because I didn’t have a common language with the waiters
  • Internet worked only in the lobby
  • Gloomy rooms even though the whole building was very colourful.
  • Looked like it was stuck in the 60’s
  • I think it was around 14 euros per night

PS: I would recommend the Nok Air airline company! We flew with it from Bangkok to Trang Town and back to Bangkok, and everything went smoothly. We paid around 55 euros per tickets, and a small snack (a pastry and a small cup of water) on a flight was included. The Nok Air has airplanes that look pretty new and they are branded in an interesting way. Lots of colours and the planes look like birds haha! They look so cute!

Tomorrow will be my last day abroad. My flight will leave in midnight so this will be also my last post abroad.. I will still write few posts but here is my last greeting physically from overseas. I can tell already that I’ve had an amazing trip!

Yello!

Let’s talk about my favourite topic: FOOD!

I love food! I love talking about, I love eating it and I love watching cooking shows (especially MasterChef hehe). I don’t love to cook myself but it’s fun too, sometimes. As some of you know, I don’t eat red or white meat, which means e.g. beef, pork, chicken and turkey. I do eat seafood and I love especially fish.

Before coming to Japan I heard that I might have hard time in finding vegetarian food and it has been partly true. Although I thought it would be even harder than it has been. In Finland I am quite used to find at least one option from the menu that doesn’t include meat, here it has been harder to find restaurants that would have that kind of an option. There are restaurants that are clearly meat-oriented but luckily there are also restaurants that have atleast a seafood option. I have to say that the vegetarian dishes that I have eaten here have been some of the best vegetarian meals I have ever eaten! Sometimes it has been really hard to find something I can eat (and enjoy at the same time) and I can tell you, don’t let me get too hungry.. :-D that is not a pretty view to look at!

The first times I went to the supermarket, I just wanted to run away and start eating fast food. The supermarkets can be overwhelming. All the sounds, packages with cryptic language and the unidentified food can make you want to crawl back to your home depressed. Somehow I got over this and was able to find some recognizable ingredients and cook at home. I’ve made so many shopping failures and thrown money straight to garbage that I’ve lost my interest to buy anything new lately. But this is how my healthy food basket looks like:

Food basket

Basically I’ve tried to keep my diet versitile but it hasn’t been easy. I’ve eaten lots of eggs, tofu (there are many kinds of tofu), salmon and shrimps in order to get some protein, and vegetables, potato and rice to get healthy carbs. For snacks I’ve been eating lots of nuts, “bulgarian yogurt” (I have actully no idea what it is but the taste is similar) and some bread and “cheese”. I reaaallly miss the Finnish bread because the variety is so much bigger. Here one can find only white bread, and the cheese for bread is like processed cheese slices (yuck). Luckily we have a small grill which makes the sandwich eatable. It was also hard to find what to eat in the mornings but I found a killer brekkie: cereal (unsweetened), milk and a banana. It was also surprisingly hard to find cereal that is unsweetened.. and just couple of weeks ago I realized that the milk that I have been drinking here (the cheapest hehe) is as “fatty” as the fattiest milk sold in Finland. And I really like it! Maybe I have to believe my grandmother and continue drinking the fatty milk. :-)

I’ve noticed that the Japanese eat lots of tempura fried food, and also usually there are some nice looking fishes that one can buy from the supermarkets. Also very specific to all kinds of stores that sell groceries is that there are lots of different kinds of snacks. I mean like quite a few shelves of only sweet and salty (and some undefined tastes) snacks!

I have no ideas what these fishes are but they look delicious. Nice colours!

I have no idea what these fishes are but they look delicious. Nice colours!

Lots of tempura fried delicacies!

Lots of tempura fried delicacies!

Here are some pics of foods that I’ve been enjoying (sorry they might already exist in some posts):

Some things that I really miss are proper bread, real cheese, quark, oatmeal, Finnish Karelian pie and dry apple cider. I haven’t had a real oven here so I also miss food that is cooked in the oven. But soonish I’ll be able to eat all these delicacies! I also miss making smoothies!

I also bought my personal chopsticks. Cool, ne? I engraved one of my life philosophies to the chopsticks: “Hyvä ruoka, parempi mieli” which means basically “Good food, better mood”. They didn’t have the Finnish ä letter so I had to make a small change to the phrase and put oishii in stead of hyvä. Oishii means delicious or tasty in Japanese.

My personal hashi (chopsticks)

Second last week of the year 2014

Yeyy finally my holiday started. Of course it doesn’t feel same as if I would be in working life and my holiday would start, but I am happy to have a break from school.

I started my holiday by getting a hair cut because my hair needed that really badly. My friend asked if I’d like to go to a hair dresser with her and of course I said yes. She knew a good place and most importantly she was able to help me to express my hair cut wishes. Most of the people working at the hair salon didn’t speak much English except the owner surprised me with his good English language skills. My Japanese hasn’t improved much but maybe I could had been able to get a some sort of a hair cut if I went to a hair dresser alone but I am very greatful that my friend took me to that place. The staff were really nice and getting the hair cut was a nice and interesting experience. Most interesting was that I suppose in Japanese hair salons there is one person washing your hair, one person doing the hair cut and in this specific hair salon the owner was checking once a while what the hair dresser was doing. In the end when my hair was being dried, there were two people blow-drying my hair hehe. While getting the haircut we were chit chatting in Japanese and English. That was fun!

This week I also spent my first Christmas abroad and I actually liked it. Although I missed my family and friends. On Christmas Eve there was a dormitory Christmas party, but on Christmas Day we had with our little group a “Christmas meal” during the day and in the evening we had a little get-together where also Santa came to visit us. We decided to go out for a Christmas meal because it would be too challenging to cook Christmas feast here for almost 10 people. So of course we went to have the feast to our favourite restaurant in Seta – Indian / Nepali restaurant Taj Mahal. That food is so heavenly good. In the evening we had lots of snacks and sweets. I also made Finnish rice porridge that is a traditional Christmas dish. Of course with almonds ;-)

During the weekend I ate takoyaki, and yesterday we went to party to Kyoto. It was my second time that I tried takoyaki and it actually is yummy. I just have a small issue with octopus that takoyaki usually consists. Takoyaki itself is really tasty but I can’t say I enjoy the chunk of octopus that is hiding inside the tasty ball. It is also possible to ask takoyaki without octopus but I wanted to try the original version. Bravely I ate all octopus. The flavour of octopus is not bad but just the looks and the texture… Later I tried takoyaki also without octopus.

Yesterday we went out to party in Kyoto. It was a good night even though we didn’t find a club with a proper dance floor. I really wanted to dance (even though I am a poor dancer) but it is almost impossible to find a club with dance floor that is open late (like until 3-5am). We tried Luca because we’ve been there once before but suddenly they had only one area open which doesn’t have the dance floor. Apparently there is a club called King Amila that is open late, and I also googled a club called Metro. The first doesn’t sound to be a good place and no one has ever mentioned about Metro. So now I officially give up for the search of a all-nighter good party place in Kyoto. Every person and every internet forum says that if one wants to party one should go to Osaka (if living in or near Kyoto). We had still a blast and one of the highlights were our selfies :-D

 

Couple of my friends from Finland are coming to visit me so I might not write anything here for two weeks. So Happy New Year!! :-)

Becoming Santa

We almost stayed at home yesterday on Saturday night because the weather had been gloomy the whole day. It was raining hard but as soon as we decided we would still go to Kyoto the rain suddenly stopped! A miracle!

We started the evening by eating ramen in Ippudo. They have also vegetarian ramen which is heavenly good! Also my meat-lover friends have confirmed that the meat ramens are also extremely tasty. So if you don’t have time to search for the best ramen in Kyoto you can just go directly to Ippudo. I guarantee you will be satisfied. If only they would have also vegetarian dumplings.

After ramen we wanted to have drinks and explore the Kyoto’s nightlife district. We went to look for places in Pontocho (very symphatetic street) and Kiyamachi, and we found a few really cool pubs. First we went to this cute and cozy bar called Ishimaru Shoten. I loved the interior and the relaxed atmosphere they had. I will definitely go there again! After that we had drinks in Hamid’s Kebab Shop which was also cute and quarky. The name didn’t quite match with the bar which makes it hilarious. They were playing reggae music and yeah later I saw that they had kebab behind the counter. The bartender gave me his christmas hat as a present :-D I guess I was talking a bit too loud that I want to buy a christmas hat haha. Of course I had to wear it the rest of the night. After that I started getting comments from strangers like “Santa Claus” and “Santa-san”. Hilarious!

We finished the night in Kyoto by having the last drinks in Zaza pub (because all the other places were so full). It is said to be a good place for meeting new people.. That was a bizarre place! They played dance music, showed football on TV, and you were able to play darts and smoke shisha. I am not sure if I want to go there again..

Tokyo the Heartbreaker

I was in Tokyo last weekend and that trip was just perfect. I anticipated that trip sooo much and now it is over. Sigh. I fell in love with Tokyo! I have never been in a city like that before – extremely hectic and crowded. I have seen the traditional side of Japan in Kyoto and in Tokyo I saw the modern side. I love both but because of the big contrast trip to Tokyo was rousing.

After screening all the different options how to get to Tokyo we decided to fly there. There are night buses that cost around 5000-6000 yen (price depends on your luck) one-way and the travel time is 9 hrs. There are also different Shinkansen trains (bullet trains) and the cheapest one-way ticket is around 10 000 yen and the travel time is around 3,5 hrs. We decided to fly and the total cost (two ways) was around  15 500 yen (110 euros) and the one-way travel time is around maybe 6 hrs (if there are no hinderance).

We were in Tokyo from Friday to Monday which was enough for me. The city is so busy and even though we tried to take it easy the city wore us down. Surprisingly though the distances are actually quite tolerable. Districts that we visited were Roppongi, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Tsukiji, Odaiba and Akihabara.

On Friday we went first to Roppongi, and visited the Mori Art Museum and Tokyo City View Tower. The area is very modern and it is also known for its nightlife. In the Mori Art Museum we were able to visit the normal museum and with some extra fee we were able to also see a Tim Burton exhibition. One of the themes in the museum was relational art which was so nice. There were pieces of art from an artist, Lee Mingwei, who involves ordinary people in his art. For example his piece of art “Moving Garden” wants people to take a flower and give it to someone who they don’t know. I took a flower and gave it later to an older lady who was seemingly surprised and glad after receiving the flower. We also went to see the city view from the top of the roof (open space), and also from the inside of the Tokyo City View. Ahh.. The open space, cool breeze and the amazing view.. I want to go back.. Then we found a mexican restaurant where I ate a tasty nacho platter and thinking of it now makes my mouth water. Because I haven’t been eating much (or enough hehe) nachos, cheese or other spicy stuff the restaurant made the day just perfect.

On Saturday we went to the Shibuya area where I was finally able to meet my furry hero, Hachiko. That has been one of my highlights during my stay in Japan :-D Hachiko is situated next to the Shibuya metro station. Also Tokyo’s busiest square, “Time Square”, is in Shibuya. I’ve read that hundreds of thousands of people cross that one intersection every day. Later we continued to Shinjuku district and specially to the Harajuku area which is known for its crazy fashion people. Sadly we saw only few extreme fashionistas. We also visited the “red light district” which is called Kabukicho. That was so lame hehe! Maybe we were too early there because we were there around 6pm and didn’t see anything special. Just many “gentlemen clubs” and also places for women. Unfortunately the pictures and advertisement (pics of men) for women didn’t attract me.. I know I am picky..

On Saturday night we had a girls’ night out and decided to head to the famous nightlife area which is Roppongi. We took the last subway to that area and planned to party until morning and we were quite successful. I think the bar was called Muse and we stayed there until we decided to get something to eat and head back home.. Muse was very entertaining haha. I think that bar is called a “meat market”. I’ve never seen Japanese people show so much interest in us than there. And just in general we noticed that Japanese people in Tokyo are more eager to have contact with us and are not afraid to speak in English. Anyway that night we met lots of people and people who were interested to talk with us. Perfect night!

On Sunday we went to the “nerd district” which is called Akihabara and we just strolled around the streets and visited the consumer electronic stores. This might sound strange but we also visited a sex shop :-D it had many storeys and it was very inviting hehe. That was a strange visit.. I will not say anything more except if you find something similar just go in… After the nerd district we went to see the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba. The way to Odaiba with monorail was amazing! Very mesmerizing view!

On Monday I was the only one who fought strongly enough and woke up early to go to the Tsukiji market. Although I didn’t see the tuna auction the visit was interesting. I’ve read that one should go really early there because everything is over after 9am but when I tried to enter the fish market at 8:30am a guard was running after me saying that I am not allowed to enter… I was confused.. I tried to put my cutest smile on and ask kindly that where is the fish market and he pointed the direction I was trying to go.. then I asked that when can I go there and he said that after 9am. So I was very confused! Later when I went there I saw many signs that said that a visitor shouldn’t be inside the market area before 9am. Anyway I seemed to be almost the only foreigner inside, and it was very fascinating to watch the workers’ and the customers’ trading, and the fresh and living sea creatures were also interesting. I am surprised that I didn’t find myself under a forklift because they were driving around wildly.

Aahhh.. I just want to go back.. the atmosphere in Tokyo was mesmerizing and I definitely want to go back. Here are Tokyo’s pros and cons in a nutshell:

Pros of Tokyo

  • More relaxed Japanese people (superficial insight)
  • Modern buildings
  • Lots of buzz everywhere
  • One can just go and stroll around and be spontaneous
  • Big variety of clubs and bars
  • Many interesting museums (that I didn’t have time to visit)
  • Many interesting districts
  • English-speaking people!
  • People watching!
  • Metro system was easy to use

Cons of Tokyo

  • The streets are so lively and full of interesting stuff that it is hard to find places
  • Sometimes there are too many people in one place
  • A bit expensive restaurants (but not more expensive though than in Finland)

Some pictures:

I also recommend our hostel to people who like budget accommodation. Aizuya-Inn was very affordable and convenient!

So in conclusion, I loved Tokyo :-)

Internet makes life easier – or not?

I don’t know why but I’ve been thinking about how studying abroad would be without Internet. I remember I started using Internet when I was maybe 10 years old.. which means 17 years ago! Back then I used it just for playing some online games and chatting with random people (Finns, remember the KissFM chat? :-D). Nowadays I use Internet for so many things. It has become even more important communication mean to me than my mobile phone.

I can chat with my friends almost any time I want, and skype whenever we find time for it. The time difference is making skyping harder than technology. Although I am physically far, I don’t feel that I am mentally that far from my friends because of the easiness of communication. This makes me wonder that how hard was it to stay in touch with your friends and family before the era of Internet when one was living abroad. You were writing letters and postcards and trying to call to your family when you thought they might be available? And you paid a lot for your phone calls?

Staying in touch might had been hard back in the days but you were more free, right? Isn’t that nowadays something what we want too? I guess people going abroad want that nowadays too but there are more distractions than before, thanks to Internet. You want to be at the same time cut out from the “normal world” but then again stay in touch with your people.. right?

Before my takeoff from Finland I was a bit sick of Internet. Being honest, I think it had taken control over me and people around me. It was everywhere! In my phone wherever I went, in my friends’ phones, at home in my computer and at work in the work computer. It is too easy “to just check something quickly” from the Internet and then stay surfing there for hours.

When I arrived to Japan I thought that I’d get Internet on my phone – of course. I would have wanted also a Japanese phone number but when I noticed that the only option was to just get Internet, I started thinking that do I really need it. Maybe this can be my chance to learn out of the habit of checking everything from the internet, and actually look around me and try to connect more with the environment. Sometimes there are moments when I’d like to have Internet on my phone but most of the time I feel relieved that I do not have it. I am more relaxed.

Back to the main topic. How cool and more exciting could this exchange experience be without the newest communication technology? How different would this experience be if I weren’t so easily connected to my home country? I would love to hear stories of people who went to study abroad before the Internet existed.

Anyways.. Guess what I am missing a lot and I can’t get it..

.. Karelian pies and Finnish buns!

http://www.kotikokki.net/reseptit/nayta/19676/Karjalanpiirakka/

Karelian pies, I miss you.

Finnish buns, I miss you too.

I am a big fan of food so I made a list of the things I reeeally miss and can’t get (too expensive or can’t find) here:

  • Karelian pie
  • Finnish style bun
  • All kinds of cheese
  • Oatmeal
  • Dry Apple Cider
  • Quark

But I will survive :-D Going grocery shopping isn’t so awful anymore! Although buying cheese makes me sad quite often. It is possible to find some special cheese but they are usually very expensive. The only cheese that is affordable is the “processed cheese slices” (in Finnish: sulatejuustoviipale) which I can’t normally stand. Thank god we have a sandwich grill…