Annchen

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After three flights from Istanbul, most of them spent awake trying to write an essay that would be due the day after landing in Thailand, we arrived at Koh Samui’s harbour – exhausted, sticky, and on the edge of being hangry, and started our three-hour wait for the ferry that would take us to Koh Phangan. Fortunately, a hot, steamy, spicy coconut soup with shrimps and lemongrass from the little café on the docks saved the day as the chilli kicked the life back into me (or at least enough to carry on typing). Our first plates of Thai food in Thailand, and it would only get better.

We soon figured our where all the best places are to get your grub in and around Thong Sala, Koh Phangan; and even though we didn’t always go back to these same places, sometimes we wish we had.

Or first taste of the glory that is Thai coconut soup

Or first taste of the glory that is Thai coconut soup

BREAKFAST

The Fat Cat

This place turned out to be our favourite breakfast nook, BY FAR. Besides being owned and run by two wonderfully warm Portuguese people who LOVE cats (and who moved to Koh Phangan with something like 14 cats), they have the best bread probably in the whole of Thailand. Two pieces of toast at The Fat Cat is so satisfying, all I need is a cup of their strong,  black, quality coffee and I’m good to go.

Well that, and their perfectly fluffy banana pancakes, freshly squeezed orange juice, and pure, unsweetened watermelon shakes.

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Nira’s Home Bakery

Nira’s is where to go if you want your croissant fix; or if you just want perfectly crunchy, perfectly chewy, perfectly cinnamon-y french toast and a tall glass of watermelon.

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LUNCH

Jumpahom

This cute little place is known for having absolutely incredible Thai food, but also for how long it takes to be served because there’s one sweet lady making the food to order. However, having to wait a while for your food is not something that bothers you that much at Jumpahom – not when you get to lounge out on Thai cushions, sip on ice cold beers, play a game of Jenga, and then hog the fan in a hammock after a long morning  of snorkelling.

And then when the food comes, all that waiting (and playing and drinking and napping) is all so worth it. Best Tom Kha soup I had in Thailand. For sure.

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DINNER

Vintage Burgers

It’s crazy to think that some of the best burgers we have ever had was on an island in the Gulf of Thailand. But it’s true. We held off on eating here, because we felt sort of indignant that one of the top restaurant on a Thai island is a burger place, only to regret not having eaten there sooner once we caved and decided to give it a try.

Giant Mojitos. Giant, juicy, out-of-this-world-delicious burgers.

 

Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar

The setting is half the war – and Fisherman’s is an absolutely beautiful restaurant that spills onto the white sands of the beach. Low-level tables and comfy chairs stretch out towards the sea, lit up by candles and glowing fire torches, for drinks before or after your meal (for which you can book a table in one of the two beautifully decorated Thai fishing boats on the beach). It’s a gorgeous place, with beautiful food, but it’s for sure a price range above all of the other Thai restaurants.

 

Night market

The vibrant colours of plates and plates of fresh sushi lined up; Barbecued meat on skewers spitting over on the griddles; Whole squids and birds sizzling on open coals; Fruit shakes in all the most vibrant shades of the rainbow; The sound of the juiciest watermelons and coconuts being sliced open; Big, fat man-sized spring roles, stuffed with fresh veggies and dropped into the bubbling oil; The wafting smell of spice, cooking meat, and sweet and sour oyster sauce; The steam of condensation rising as the vendor lifts off the lid of a deep barrel of coconut ice cream.

By day it’s a scrappy-looking parking lot in the heart of Thong Sala, but as the afternoon passes the vendors roll in and open up their carts and stands that eventually make up the Thong Sala night market landscape. Fresh coconut, fat spring rolls, chewy pad thai, the first time being exposed to the unbelievable Thai banana pancake (with Nutella, chocolate and/or fresh coconut) (and which one should eat as often as one can), and a bowl (or coconut shell) of coconut ice cream that I wanted to fall and die in.

All of our food dreams came true at the Thong Sala night market.

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Petty’s Place

After passing Petty’s Place a bunch of times on the way to and fro Ko Ma snorkelling sessions, we finally decided to go give it a try one evening. Served by the man Petty himself (or maybe Petty was his mother whom he named the place after…?) who suggested that we try the pasta with tomato sauce – his mother’s recipe, made from imported Italian goods. It completely blew us away. The best simple red-sauce pasta dish we have ever had, ever. It took sheer self-control and will-power not to go back a bunch of times to just gorge on Petty’s pasta, reminding ourselves that we are in Thailand and should really be trying to eat as much Thai food as we can.

But dayum, Petty.

That Pasta, though.

 

COFFEE

After the excitement of the Thong Sala night market, we happened upon and stepped into Dots Shop & Coffee – the noises of the streets falling quiet behind us as we slid the door closed and let the AC wash over us. Dots is just a beautiful store that sells incredible cups of iced coffees, home-made lemonade, and hand-printed Thai design products by Ratha Handmade and others. It seems like a quiet coffee sanctuary, where you can escape the heat and the noise, but still watch the muffled island life go by through the large glass-pane walls. It also feels like Dots was tailored for remote-working, which we of course took advantage of.

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Basically, if you are down with spicy food – you can’t go be disappointed by Thai food in Thailand. But even when you’re not, Koh Phangan has all the rest of the good stuff too (like the best bread, burgers, and red sauce in the world). In the end, all you have to do is to remember to have as much pad thai as you humanly can.

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Plato believed that images, instead of being depictions of realities, are more like regimes that make true representation impossible. They are falsely authoritarian and positively deceiving – visual representation make it impossible for us to read the world correctly. On the other hand, Ludwig Wittgenstein, an Austrian-British philosopher of the 19th century, insisted that even words could never offer us real, true representations of the world; Words are conventions – something that we agree to use simply because it is necessary to somehow communicate, but which ultimately fall short. British philosopher John Locke went even further, believing that the only true image is that which we directly experience through our senses. Everything else – visual representations, words, innate ideas – are false idols of the real thing.

I am not a Platonist. Or a Wittegnsteiner or a Lockeist, or whatever their followers may call themselves. But when I think of Iceland it makes complete sense. I often feel an inevitable sense of disappointment whenever I show pictures or tell stories. Even now, reminiscing about the Glacier Lagoon on the East coast, my memories seem fictitious and inaccurate. I guess what I am trying to say is that there is nothing like the Icelandic landscapes. No photograph, no word, no imagined possibility holds up to what it really feels to be there – to stand amidst the whitest white, the blackest black, the clearest blue, breathing the icy air and listening to the distant crack of ice breaking, momentarily followed by the sound of silence that seems to fill the entire vast space. Even my own memories seem inaccurate, like nothing that I can remember will really hold up to what my senses experienced that cold morning on the banks of the Glacier Lagoon. But I take photos, and grainy videos, and patchy panoramas, in some attempt to never forget. But they are nothing like the reality of Iceland.

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Alongside all the rush of adventure, the necessary beauty of solitude, seeing new majestic and wonderful landscapes, figuring out the crazy ways of shiny new cityscapes, eating all of the new and delicious things, experiencing or witnessing absolutely different ways to life, one of the greatest joys of traveling is meeting new people.

Thailand is full of amazing people – locals, expats and foreigners alike – and we got to meet two of the best of them on our recent trip to Koh Tao, a tiny island in the gulf of Thailand.

Just off the coast of Koh Tao lies an even tinier complex of islands that appear as three hills covered by jungle canopy rising from the crystal clear, aqua blue waters, connected by strips of brilliantly white beach. The view from the top of one of the hills is famously terrific, and due to large-scale conservation projects, the beach is quiet and clean.

So, on one excruciatingly hot and fateful April 30 morning, we were excited to see the beautiful landscapes with our own eyes, void of saturated instagram filters. We hopped on a boat from Dusit Bancha Resort, where we had stayed a few nights earlier, and which is located directly opposite Koh Nang Yuan. In the boat with us were two intimidatingly-goodlooking, and strikingly cool (as we would find out later) people called Dray and Katie (and maybe there was also some other guy who is inconsequential). We were all heading over to do the same thing – hike to the top and be blown away by the view (Well, almost all of us…it turns out one of us had ulterior motives…).

We started climbing the narrow cement staircase, relieved to find that most of them were covered under the scattered shade of the green canopy. As were all lost in conversation, getting to know each other – and at least one of us were nervous AF – it felt like all of a sudden when we got to the top and out underneath the canopy, sweat running down our bodies in steady streams.

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The view turned out to be so much greater than instagram, but, if I’m gonna be honest, the awesomeness of the view was totally overshadowed by how cool our new friend Dray turned out to be.

Because he chose to PROPOSE TO KATIE AT THE TOP OF KOH NANG YUAN!

!!!!!!!!!!

Before we knew it, with Joel having to man the video camera seconds after Dray whispered ‘I’m going to propose now’ as he handed it over, Dray was down on one knee saying some sweet things and something about ‘Settlers of Catan’ (to which we were introduced later), and PULLED OUT THE RING AND KATIE SAID YES AND EVERYBODY CHEERED AND IT WAS THE BEST DAY OF OUR I MEAN THEIR LIVES!!!

I have no photos of this event because I was overcome with excitement.

And while everyone stands there, relieved, shocked, amaze, oozing all kinds of happiness, Joel – the only one thinking straight – whips out celebratory Thai beer that wasn’t confiscated with our water bottles, and offers it as the perfect refreshment after an emotionally exhausting hike up AND PROPOSAL on Koh Nang Yuan.

What even.

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The relief on Dray's face says it all.

The relief on Dray’s face says it all.

 

I would say that being part of their proposal was the highlight of our time in Koh Tao, but then we got to hang out with them the next couple of days and it turns out they are even more awesome than their gestures are grand.

So, dear Dray and Katie, thanks for letting us be part of the best event in Koh Tao yet (probably ever), and for being so fantastically funny, outrageously crazy, equally obsessed over Thai pancakes AND CATS, super cool, kind and generous. We know you guys will be happy together, and we wish you a world of adventure ahead. And for ourselves we wish we could share some adventures with you guys in the future. I vow to remove all the foreseeable spiders if you let us.

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Plus, they look super adorable and/or badass with their little scooter helmets.

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I knew I was going to like Bangkok when I woke up in this new city for the first time, but I had no idea I would love it this much. And, indeed, the only thing that I did not like about it was that we too little time to explore it before making our way home after two relaxing weeks on the islands in the gulf of Thailand. But when I woke up that morning and saw the big sprawling city stretched out in front of us, I could not contain my excitement – I love being in cities. And Bangkok is a whole lot of city.

Without wasting any time, we put on some pants (very reluctantly in the 35°C, 80% humidity weather), grabbed our cameras, and headed out, ready to make the most of our one, single, little day in Bangkok.

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TEMPLES

I’m guessing you could spend a month in Bangkok and not see all of the gorgeous Buddhist temples (and all of the gold) in Bangkok. We set our sights on three of them – Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, and Wat Arun – but our plans dissolved as soon as we managed to catch a taxi that was actually willing to take us to the temples. We were told that it was Coronation Day, and that the Grand Palace would be closed because the Thai King is there for some ceremony. And then, before we knew what was really happening, we were dropped off outside some other temple, told ‘go…beautiful inside’, and we abruptly exited the AC-zone.

The Marble Temple – Wat Benchamabophit

It would appear that we ended up at the Marble Temple, in an area called Dusit. It wasn’t one of the temples we originally wanted to go to (or knew about), but it was sort of an ‘oh well’ moment and we headed in.

With the construction having commenced in 1899, Wat Benchamapobhit is one of Bangkok’s more modern temples. It’s comparatively and beautifully simple with its blazing white, Italian marble silhouette contrasted between the three-tiered orange-and-gold roof.  The simplicity of the white shell of the temple gives way to an ornate hall inside, a large golden, seated buddha towering over everything. We were in there for just a few moments when the hall began to fill with people while a row of monks in their saffron-coloured robes took their seats in front for some ritual; we slipped out shortly after to explore courtyard, which is like a buddha museum with 50-something different buddhas exhibited – each in a different pose, carrying a different meaning.

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Temple of the Reclining Buddha – Wat Pho

As the Marble Temple was not busy at all, we weren’t able to shake our persistent taxi driver (who has been waiting for us the whole time) and as he was still insisting that the Grand Palace is closed, we had him take us to one of Bangkok’s more famous temples: Wat Pho.

We made our way through some exhibitions on the temple grounds, marvelling at all the gold leaf everywhere, sometimes even floating around the gold-plastered buddhas on a breeze, before we made our way into the main temple.

Now… I had seen photos of the grand, laid-back buddha, but really nothing could prepare me for what was inside. The enormity of this 46-meter-long reclining buddha is hard to comprehend as you slowly make your way along its gold-leafed body, your eyes frantically switching between the overwhelming monotone shade of gold and the intricate murals on the walls and delicate patterns on the ceiling . We gave up on trying to take photos after not too long, realising the impossibly of it, not even being able to see the entire thing from any point with your own eyes.

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Temple of the Emerald Buddha – Wat Phra Kaew

Located on the palace grounds, Wat Phra Kaew enshrines a smallish buddha that was carved from a single block of jade. It is housed in an enormously elaborate temple within even more elaborate palace grounds that bustles with tourists. It is a maze of intricate murals, gold spires, gilded lions and wafts of incense – our heads turned from one point to the next, hardly looking at any one thing at a time, and not even looking at each other – not saying much, because nothing we could think to say would ever describe what we were actually seeing.

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DRESSCODE:

Wearing long jeans in the sweltering heat paid off when we entered the palace grounds and noticed strict security guards sending men and women away because of their bare shoulders and legs. However, we did not get to enter the Grand Palace, as women wearing pants are not allowed inside.

FLOATING MARKET

Hot, exhausted, and on the verge of hangry, we jumped in a taxi and asked to be taken to the Taling Chan Floating Market. After negotiating a price, and assuring the taxi driver that this is the floating market we want to go to (and not the one tourists usually request), we were off.

Bangkok has many floating markets along the channels, the two most famous being enormous events with hundreds of boats about 100kms from the city centre. We opted for a much smaller one that is only about 12kms from downtown Bangkok, and it was one of our favourite experiences in Thailand and, hands-down, the best and cheapest meal we had.

What it lacks in hundreds of boats it makes up for in proximity and lack of tourists. The market was quiet and relaxed, seemed about 80% local, and had a little bit of everything. Everyone was already busy devouring grilled shellfish and slurping coconut soup and we were 100% ready to join in.

We ate green mango salad, coconut rice, chillies, noodles and freshly grilled shrimp until we couldn’t anymore, all the while shaking our heads in disbelief of how good it all is. Feeling full, relaxed and just a little bit nappy, we watched families throw chunks of bread to the hundreds of catfish swarming in the canal while a local community band played soothing thai music behind us.

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VIEW FROM THE TOP

For someone with a mild fear of heights, I really love going up towers or spires or castles or high rise anythings to see what it looks like from up there. If you want someone to climb hundreds of stairs to see some random view, any view, with you – I’m your girl. So, when a new friend we met through our open water diving certification the week before recommended a rooftop bar in Bangkok we were all over it.

And so we found ourselves on the 48th floor of the Marriott Hotel with dusk hanging over the city and the breeze finally cooling us down, looking over the lights flickering below and hearing the city soundscape from a very far distance. With every new hue the city seemed more beautiful, and more crazy as the contrast between the night sky and shimmering city intensified. We reminisced about our first and only day in Bangkok, knowing it now as an undefinable, complex place that we love and that we will undoubtedly return to.

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Bangkok, we will be back to lavish our love on you. It’s only a matter of time.

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Vík’s Black Sand Beach | A Photo Post

With our heads down, our hands clutching our jackets, and the icy wind singing in our ears we walked to Vik’s famous black beach. As it started drizzling, it was hard to believe our eyes when we started to gaze at this unreal landscape on the edge of the wild atlantic ocean.

Bizarre basalt rock formations forms the cliffs on the edge of the beach, and beyond – as solitary spires reach out from the ocean floor in the distance. The white foam of the piercing ocean pushes violently in and then tugs back out, creating, for a moment, a shade of grey on the black beach as it pulls back towards itself.

And then that black sand. Blacker than we imagined, and more pervasive, tracing Iceland’s boundaries where they aren’t marked with steep cliffs or frozen fjords. It makes the ocean seem sinister, vaster, both more alive and more desolate than before. 

Maybe its magic that grey morning may be owed to the perfectly stormy weather, but that is what the black beach was to us, and we loved it.

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