“Where’s Trailing Rachel been?” I hear you screaming. Or maybe not. Either way, I owe you an explanation
I guess according to my mother.
I’ve been freelancing. You know, to keep this traveling lifestyle going. You didn’t think the original budget for 10 to 12 months would last when the trip got extended to 2+ years did you? Anyway, I’ve been writing a lot of online content and my list of clients has grown kind of a lot, so I stay pretty busy during the weekdays – and even some weekends, shocking I know! Of course, I still get to go on walks and take breaks and sleep when I feel like it. Duh, this isn’t an office job.
I’ve also been moving around quite a bit more than I would at home when I’d just get back to my apartment after work and blog for the hell of it. And hey, while I’m living abroad, why wouldn’t I wanna
have beers outside go exploring after I finally get off my laptop? When you’re writing all day to get paid, it’s not exactly the first thing you want to do with your free time. (My girl Anna feels me on this!) Plus, sometimes I like kicking back with a book after I take my eyes off the screen – I’m reading this 1100-page monster right now, in case you’re curious! (And yes, it’s fantastic.)
Maybe I’ll get my blogging momentum back. Maybe not. Maybe I should set an alarm and make myself blog for like 15 minutes a day or something? Any tactics you’ve got for staying motivated are welcome in the comments below!
So what have I been up to for the past few months? What did I get into during the summer of 2017?
Here’s literally everything.
If you’re not personally getting enough from the blog, follow me on Instagram and watch my stories! That’s where I post my day-to-day goings on, random musings, the foods I eat, and generally the photos that aren’t good enough to actually post on the ‘gram.
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The Ultimate Housesitting Experience in New Zealand
Marko and I graduated to the big leagues on this one. Can I just say how amazing housesitting is one more time?
After hitting the rest of our must-do stops in New Zealand – Milford Sound, Queenstown, Wanaka, Dunedin, the Catlins – and a few more weeks of camping as we moved from housesit to housesit, we made our way back to one of the sunniest parts of the country. Thank God. By some miracle of the Internets, we managed to snag three housesits in a row in the Tasman area of the South Island, moving from Richmond to Motueka to Upper Moutere with little lag time in between.
An awesome area of the country with lots of little breweries, beaches, and great weather, we made friends with the owners (who even let us stay a few extra nights when we needed them). We joke that our best friends in NZ were a couple in their 70s, but it’s probably true! Anyway, we got really into playing tennis, working, dog walking, and attending the weekly pub quiz (ah that’s “trivia night” in America) at Sprig & Fern in Motueka and even made a couple more friends (like the British bartender) there too. And no, we never won.
We said we were going to do things, get out and explore some, while we were here… and really, we were totally gonna do that! But then we got all cozy having pets and kitchens and not sleeping in a tent in the cold, and we just lived. Like normal people. It was lovely. And cheap.
Actually, we did take a day trip to Golden Bay because everyone said we had to… and yeah, it was worth the hype. Beautiful beaches, lots of them, all surprisingly close to the mountains. We strolled Wharariki Beach with its ridiculous rock formations – while I constantly thought about how awesome it would be if it were sunny and warm here – and we picnicked on another nearby beach.
Golden Bay is a beaut. I’d love to hang out on Wharariki Beach in the summertime! Got a little misty-eyed on our last exploratory outing in New Zealand (well maybe, unless we hike Mount Arthur). Seems like just yesterday we were sleeping in a not-so-good-smelling tent on the North Island and now it’s almost time to leave… (prepare for an offloading of photos) #whararikibeach #goldenbay #farewellsplit #farewellNZ #headingtowarmerweather #newzealand #travel
But yeah, back to my first point, our last housesit was incredible. A big modern house on a hill with views of the mountains and the sea, two well-trained collies who liked to take walks up and down their mile-long driveway multiple times a day, a yoga room, a steam room, and a great modern kitchen. Oh yeah, and we were there for over a month!
Needless to say, we got comfortable. It was the perfect place to hunker down when the weather got colder, get work done, and of course, cook ridiculous things like homemade pasta and laborious stuff I’d never bother with otherwise. Plus the owners were the nicest couple – they cooked for us, hung out with us, had wine with us, and even took us to the airport on our final day in New Zealand. Kiwis are the best.
Next Stop: One Month in Thailand, Just Because!
I got my sights set on spending another month in Southeast Asia before we had to head to back to Europe. (I know, “had to head back to Europe” sounds so terrible right?) Anyway, we’d planned to meet some of Marko’s good friends in SEA somewhere and while I had my sights set on a return to the Philippines, it didn’t pan out. Let’s just say a month on El Nido isn’t really conducive to getting any work done… But I could almost taste the Red Horse.
Because I’m such a fan of Bangkok and because apartments (with great wifi) there are super reasonable, I convinced Marko to head back. He didn’t love it his first time when he started his own round-the-world trip, but I figured I could take him around and teach him some things… namely, what to eat.
Anyway, it was a rousing success! We booked a place in the up-and-coming expat neighborhood of On Nut, which is a little further out but still on the BTS Skytrain line. Since we weren’t really there to sightsee, it was perfect. We found an absolute plethora of street food, authentic local restaurants, great modern accommodation, and cheap massages all over this neighborhood. I hiiiighly recommend On Nut for people looking at long-term rentals in BKK.
Check out my Bangkok apartments here and here, both located in The Base, Sukhumvit 77 in On Nut. We paid around $12 to $14 each per night for a place with a pool, gym, laundry, and 7/11 inside. If you’ve never stayed in an Airbnb, get on it with $40 off your first trip from me!
Despite a sweaty, stressful beginning to our arrival in the Big Mango – sleeping in the Madrid airport, getting an Uber without data upon our arrival in Bangkok, waiting all day for the wifi in our apartment to work, and forcing ourselves to go out and get Thai SIM cards, we were back in Asia! I still f’n love all the chaos and noise and smells of Bangkok, and it was great to return to that amazing sprawling mess of a city.
So we worked, made use of the gym, read at the pool, and dodged rain storms as we tried out all the food recommendations I could find for On Nut. There was an outdoor market and beer garden with international and Thai food stalls – and some solid live jams – near our place. And we also discovered Sukhumvit 77/1, a street filled with “takeaway” options like pork skewers, spicy salads, curries, pastries, and lots of fresh fruit. They also had a couple of shophouses serving quickly fried hot dishes like noodles and pad kra pow too. (Yeah, we visited like every other day to pick up something new.)
This place was a mecca for cheap Thai food. I love it when I stumble upon greatness by accident. At the bottom of this post, I’ve included a detailed list of everywhere you should eat in On Nut, Bangkok.
I also dragged Marko to Lat Mayom Floating Market, a much more local market than the other floating markets around the city. It is HUGE – almost too big to decide what you want even if you do buy tons of things to split. There are plenty of stalls and vendors, fun boat rides through the canals, and lots of tables for communal eating… but man, decisions, decisions.
We also paid a visit to the always-overwhelming and sweltering Chatuchak Market. After five months living in one of the most expensive countries in the world, we had to pick up some necessities at this outrageously huge market of cheap stuff. I needed a dress, a cover-up, an iPhone cable, and Marko needed, well, a lot of new clothes. It was a successful, only somewhat hectic journey. Chatuchak is the place for all the needs you didn’t know you had.
In other, more practical news, I found a laid back hidden gem of a bar on the Bangkok riverfront sidled up next to big hotels like the Shangri-La. Jack’s Bar might have some slightly overpriced food, but you can’t beat the views, ambience, and prices of those big beers RIGHT on the riverfront. Oh, and Marko found the Lions Tour (rugby) at the Kiwi Sports Pub – yes, we did this exploring separately.
After two weeks of livin’ the Bangkok lifestyle, we finally met up with Marko’s friend, Steve, who flew in from London to meet up with us. We relocated to the more touristy, more central, more skeezy area of Nana to await his arrival with Chang beers in hand. We whisked him off to some street food destinations and gave him a DIY night tour that involved traipsing all over Chinatown for the best meals and hitting the infamous Khao San Road for buckets and ridiculousness later that night. I remember most of it… but all I can say is drunkenly cruising around Bangkok in a tuk-tuk eating pad thai will never get old.
Oh, and I took my third cooking class in Thailand – this time with Go! Thai Cooking School – because ya know, I had to, Steve was there, and when friends come ya gotta show ’em around, right? Yeah, I might have a problem…
Then we packed up for an eventful all-day Uber-van-bus-ferry connection to my favorite Thai island of Koh Tao. Because seriously, we wanted Steve to have a good time. What kind of friends do you think we are? Also, I was in serious need of some beach time after finally encountering winter in New Zealand. And I couldn’t wait to come back here.
After a week of fire dancers, pub crawling, beaching it, sunburns, muay thai fights, massaman curries, and excellent Scuba diving – I finally went to Sail Rock! – the general consensus was…
“Yeah, we should just come straight here next time we’re in Thailand and get an apartment!” Sounds like such a great idea in theory – we could work, eat, beach, and maybe not drink quite so many buckets of Sangsom and Red Bull…
Upon our reluctant return to BKK from the islands, we made sure Steve got the full tourist experience by dragging him to my (still favorite) floating market, Taling Chan, and along to Chatuchak (again). I loaded up on a top and four pairs of sunglasses for 39 baht (about $1.17) each, because well, I seem to keep losing and breaking every pair I have (er, had)…
left fled, Marko and I bashed out as much work as possible, while cramming in our favorite khao soi, minimal gym time, and maximum pool time. And then, finally, we boarded our flight to Europe.
Having visited Thailand four separate times now, I have to say, it never gets old.
And I guess because this post is so damn long, I’ll be drafting a Summer Recap, Part 2. Fine, mom, you win…
Where to Eat and Drink in Motueka, New Zealand: Um, head to the Countdown and buy groceries because you can’t afford to eat out in New Zealand! I’m only sort of kidding, but check out The Smoking Barrel for great meats, burgers, ceviche, apps, and (apparently) doughnuts with local beers and occasional live music. Sprig & Fern is the bomb for having their own craft beers, cider, and the most well-run trivia night I’ve ever come across. Their fries (excuse me, “chips”) with garlic aioli ain’t half bad either. For a little treat and good coffee by the harbor – it’s really beautiful – check out Samaritas By The Sea.
Where to Stay in On Nut, Bangkok: I can only recommend the one place I stayed, The Base 77. This apartment or this one. Super new, all the facilities, and the price is great at $24-28 per night for the apartment on airbnb! They’re small one bedroom places, but fine for a couple – sometimes Booking.com even has a couple available (check here and here). Trust me, you’ll be eating out every meal anyway…
Where to Eat in On Nut, Bangkok: Across from The Base 77, our host recommended Bansuan Somtum, which was tasty and had all the Thai basics, though somtimes a bit hit or miss. Try their somtum (spicy papaya salad), beef larb, and green curry were great, plus beers were cheap. A bit more Chinese-Thai and slightly more expensive, Kao Tom Yao Wrat was a couple doors down. Fab Tom Yum, fried pork balls, prawn and mushroom, and spicy curry fried chicken dishes were delicious. We also checked Miss Tam Chiak’s tips for the area, including Khiang Aroi and its moo tod, rad na, and a little something like char kway teow, as well as the Pig Trotter Rice on Sukhumvit 77. And for a little something crazy, head to Best Beef, which is an insanely huge restaurant where you cook your own food over a hot grill at your table. You can opt for the all-you-can-eat-and-drink-beers option (like us) and you’ll have two hours to stuff yourself with beef, pork, shrimp, scallops, vegetables, side dishes, and even a little soft serve ice cream at the end. The service is super efficient and all of that (plus a tip) came to around 500 baht per person ($15 USD). Don’t miss the New On Nut Market for a good evening hang out or street food on Sukhumvit 77/1 either! And for a little of that Khao Soi we’d been missing since Chiang Mai, we found it in On Nut at this indoor food market – on the map, it’s somewhere around here and it’s incredible! There’s also a good sushi lunch deal in the Habito Mall just off of Sukhumvit 77. Man, we ate a lot!
Where I Stayed in Koh Tao: Man, this was a tough one. We booked our first 4 to 5 nights at GoodTime Beach Hostel which looked amazing with its beachfront bar, daily activities, and close proximity to the ever-happenin’ Fishbowl, but the social scene just wasn’t there. I’m sure it’s amazing with the right crowd – and the pub quiz was excellent! – but after moving to Taco Shack (the Sairee Beach one, of course), I’d recommend the latter all the way! Clean, good wifi, plenty of activities decent food, and good atmosphere.
Scuba Diving Info, Koh Tao: As soon as you get to Koh Tao, start looking up trips to Sail Rock! I got my advanced certification here a year ago and I finally made it to the best dive site around this time. We did sign up for two fun dives beforehand since we hadn’t been diving in a year – yeah, we needed the refresher. Trips include an hour or so journey out there, lunch, and two dives. I went with Mojo Divers and have no complaints – super well-run! We loved hanging out with our divemaster, Katia, afterwards too.
And as always, while in Koh Tao, you must eat at Samosa.