Cambodia pt. 1 – Koh Rong Island

Good Morning!

We’re back from Cambodia! Taylor and I had some more time to kill before heading back to work after the Chinese New Year. This place was high on Tay’s list of places to go in southeast Asia, so we set off for one week! IMG_73411We caught an early flight from Shanghai to Phnom Penh two Mondays ago. Our plane landed at 2:30pm, but we had to apply for a visa upon arrival. Getting a visa upon arrival was very straightforward and took little to no time. I would imagine it’s much busier in the summer so keep that in mind. You will need a small passport photo, but if you don’t bring one they will just copy your passport photo for $5. Once we were done, we took a 15-minute Tuk Tuk to our hotel. After checking in, we dropped our stuff off and headed into the city for some exploration. We decided to have some drinks in front of the Tonlé Sap river while the sun set.IMG_7321IMG_7326 If you’re traveling to Cambodia, your trip will be made easier if you download the Grab app. It’s their version of Uber. Not only is it cheaper, but you don’t have to worry about negotiating with a driver, you can pay through your credit card, AND their vehicle (even Tuk Tuks) are registered. **if you’re wondering what a Tuk Tuk is, it’s the vehicle in the righthand photo below. 2Taylor really wanted to eat at the F.C.C, so that’s where we headed next. Thankfully, it was just right across the street. F. C. C. stands for Foreign Correspondents club and holds a very special place in history. This was the hotel/restaurant that all the journalists from the Vietnam war would stay and write their stories. They had old black and white photos from the war covering the walls, along with various news articles. Oh, if walls could talk…IMG_7328The next day, we had an unexpected long day of travel. At 9:30am we took a van from Phnom Penh to the coast of Sihanoukville. What was supposed to take 4 hours, ended up taking 6. There was a lot of traffic and we stopped twice. We had a ferry reservation at 3 and we missed it. The last ferry of the day left at 4:30pm and we’re super lucky we made it in time for that one. While Sihanoukville is right along the coast, it’s very undeveloped and not the greatest. We sat on the beach while we waited for the ferry.IMG_7352.jpgWe were headed to Koh Rong Island for 3 nights! It’s a bummer that we missed a whole afternoon on the island, but oh well what can you do? Our speed ferry took 45 minutes! IMG_7367IMG_7365IMG_7372.jpgOnce we arrived, we walked down the beach to White Beach, which was an assortment of tropical bungalows that we’d be staying in for one night.4.jpgIMG_7408Untitled designIMG_7374IMG_7407.jpgKoh Rong is a total backpacker island. I was actually shocked to see how many backpackers were there. It would be really difficult to visit Koh Rhong if you weren’t willing to backpack. We saw a few travelers with their big suitcases, and they were struggling to get them up and down the sand. The island is still pretty raw and new, so you have to be willing to “rough it” while here. It’s not for everyone. There are an abundance of hostels to stay in (starting at $6 a night), and also various bungalows! Even though we stayed in bungalows the whole time, there’s not much to them. The electricity on the island goes out two hours a day, there’s no hot water, and AC is rare. Nonetheless, it’s a cool place to stay if you’re up for the beautiful views and the adventure!IMG_7497.jpgIMG_7496IMG_1134IMG_11362The appeal of Koh Rong is how affordable it is. As I said above, hostiles start at $6 a night and bungalows range between $30-$100 a night depending on the place. Not only are the accommodations affordable, but so are food and drink! Fresh fruit smoothies go for $1/$2 and meals vary between $5-$10. This is why the island is a prime location for backpackers who are traveling for several weeks at a time. Their travel funds can stretch far here. IMG_7411783EF95FD-9C13-425C-9A73-9405B23E3998.JPGIMG_7528.jpgUntitled design-3Our second and third nights were spent at the Treehouse Bungalows, which was just a short walk down the beach from White Beaches. We wanted to stay here the whole time, but they were booked during our first night. Our treehouse was simple like the previous bungalow, but situated directly over the water. We had the best view of the sunset, and could hear the ocean waves throughout the night.IMG_7421.jpgIMG_7420.jpgIMG_7419.jpgUntitled design-257179497943__B4C0D4ED-B49A-4A3E-B5AB-8FFF0FC966FE.jpgIt was snowing in Nanjing when we left, so it felt great to be in the sun for a few days! This is considered their dry season, so the temperature is hot. Some of the locals told us that the summers are miserable here. It’s hot AND humid and the bug population only increases (make sure you pack bug spray)! I couldn’t imagine being here with no AC during the summer months.3IMG_7540.jpgIMG_7537.jpgUntitled design-4One day, we decided to take a boat tour. This tour was only $10 a person and lasted 7 hours, so if you’re on a budget, this would be great! We snorkeled, fished, swam, were fed snacks and dinner, and got to swim with the sea plankton. This is a fantastic way to meet people from all over the world. If you get motion sickness easily, avoid this tour at all costs.IMG_7510.jpg13 nights in Koh Rong was the perfect amount of time for us! We were able to soak up some sun and beat the winter blues. When we booked our trip before we left, we booked a return speed ferry back to Sihanoukville at 4pm. We realized that the ferries ran behind on the way over, so we changed our reservation for 1pm instead. I’m so glad we did this because not only was our ferry running behind by an hour, but it dropped us off at a different port because of rough waves. We had a flight to catch to Siem Reap, so this was a wise move!! IMG_7616My next post will be about visiting Siem Reap and Angkor Wat!

xoxo

The Grand Palace

While we were in Bangkok, we really wanted to visit the Grand Palace. Our hotel offered a free ferry ride that took us across the river to the central pier where we would catch a connecting riverboat. The ride was a short 10 minutes.

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When we got off at our stop, the locals kept telling us that the Grand Palace was closed. They did this when Ash and I were here, so I did some research and apparently the locals like to lie to get tourists to leave. We also made the mistake of asking someone where the entrance was and they sent us around the ENTIRE palace when we could’ve just turned the corner and been there. While we were walking, they kept stopping us since Kendall was wearing shorts and telling him that he wouldn’t be allowed in. They would also try and convince us to buy pants from them.

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Lucky for us, we knew they rented pants in the palace for FREE. All you had to do was pay a 200baht down payment that would be fully returned when you gave back the pants. So, if you’re ever trying to find the Grand Palace and people keep telling you that it’s closed, you’re going the wrong way, or telling you to buy their pants ignore them.

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When we finally got to the entrance, Kendall rented a pair of pants for FREE and we went to the ticket counter to purchase our tickets for 500 baht a piece. This was pretty expensive for an attraction in Thailand, but it’s worth it to do it once.

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We spent several hours walking around looking at different temples, throne rooms, and artifacts. The only places we couldn’t wear shoes or take pictures was in the throne rooms and at the emerald Buddha.

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After walking, it was super hot so we returned Kendall’s pants and we flagged down a tuk tuk driver who offered to take us to the Standing Buddha and back to the grand palace for 20 baht altogether if we would go into 2 tuxedo shops that he was an ambassador for. The standing Buddha is a 20ft, golden Buddah and we’re glad we saw it. It was also really nice to ride around town and sightsee.

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When we got back to the Grand Palace, we hopped on the sky train and went to pick up our custom suits that we order at the beginning of the trip. We both tried them on and they made some minor last minute alterations. They did an incredible job and really paid attention to details. I’m very satisfied with the outcome and cannot wait to wear it.

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When we were done, we headed back to our hotel where we could clean up and get ready for dinner. We rode the ferry to Asiatique, which is a really nice area on the water with a ton of different shops and restaurants to choose from.

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There was an excellent Italian restaurant we decided to try out and we really enjoyed it! We ordered 2 personal pizzas that were both delicious.

Afterwards, we headed straight back to our hotel so we could get some sleep. We would have an exhausting day flying back to the states the next day.

Thank you so much for following us along on our journey through Thailand! 🙂

 

 

Tiger Kingdom

For our last full day in Phuket, we decided to sleep in and visit Tiger Kingdom. As soon as we woke up, we got our things together and took a short drive to the attraction. When we arrived, it was completely different from the Tiger Temple Ash and I visited back in December. This place was definitely more touristy and westernized. We did enjoy our time here and would suggest this as a fun activity if you’re in the area. It was very well organized and clean.

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Once you walk in, they have several computer kiosks where you select what you want to do that day. You can pick between interacting with their smallest, small, medium, and largest tigers. Each selection allows you 10 minutes of playtime with the selected tiger. You can also select different packages that offer a variety, which reduces the price. They also offer café access, a personal photographer, or feeding during certain hours.

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We decided to play with the small group of tigers. We picked the small because the smallest was very crowded and the lady at the desk told us that the smallest tigers were almost the size of the small. It was 900 baht per person. This is a pretty big attraction, so they take cash and credit cards, which is great for traveling!

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Once you show your ticket, you enter to an area where all the tigers are. There is a walkway that you can take to see all the different sized tigers. We decided to walk around before we went in to play.

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When we found the way to our play area, we showed them our tickets and were given a person to guide us within the cage. There were 6 small tigers with a pool, grassy area, and nap area. During our time, we were able to pet them, rub their tummies, and give them snacks.These tigers have grown up around people and were very warm and friendly.

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After enjoying our time with the tigers, we went for an afternoon drive and then ate a small lunch of chicken and rice and chicken sauté.

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Before sunset, we stopped for ice cream at a small stand. I ordered vanilla with Nutella and cookie pieces. Kendall got chocolate with cookie pieces.

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We decided we wanted to drive around and watch the sunset before getting dinner and heading back to our hotel. The next day we would be traveling back to Bangkok.

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It was a great day!

 

Phi Phi Island

Wow. I wish I had the best words to describe how incredible visiting the island of Phi Phi was! Kendall and I had a blast spending our day exploring and soaking up the sun.

It was exhausting waking up early in the morning, driving through traffic to the pier, paying for a 600 baht one-way ticket, and riding on a boat for 2 hours but it was SO WORTH IT.

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Let me give you a little more information regarding the transportation to-and-from the island before I just drool over Phi Phi some more:

There are several ways to get to Phi Phi. You could take a speed boat, which would cost you for the luxury and time saved. Another option would be signing up for a tour group. This includes transportation to your hotel, a meal on the island, activities such as snorkeling, and round trip on a larger boat. We decided to take the third option, which was a 2 hour ferry ride for 600 baht.

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Since we would be cruising for a while, we purchased two smoothies to enjoy on the boat.

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Even though it was a long 2 hours, we had great seats with air condition and a view.

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After the boat got going, we went up to the sun deck to relax.

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Then, we moved to the front of the ship for the rest of the ride.

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I have one complaint about the entire day. The first ferry was scheduled to leave at 8:30am (which left late) and it takes at least 2 hours to get to the island. The final ferry leaves at 3:30pm, which didn’t give us a lot of time. If I do this again, I will not make it a day trip. Instead, I would like to stay on the island for at least one night. The island is filled with hostiles and guest houses, but if I could have spent one night out there, it would make this absolutely perfect.

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Trust me when I say that we made the best of our time while we were there! The first thing we did when we arrived was eat at a Thai restaurant. I ordered the chicken fried rice and it was delicious!

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Then, we made a beeline for the beach! It was paradise! The soft sand, crystal clear water, and beauty of cliffs surrounding the beach were amazing!

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We swam, sat in the sun, talked to other travelers, and enjoyed the day! When we needed a break from the sun we walked straight off the beach into this sandy little beach hut for some refreshments.

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Before we left Phi Phi, we were told that we needed to climb to the top of the hill to see an amazing view of the island. Apparently, to reach the very tippy top you needed to pay 30 baht, which isn’t a lot at all, but we declined and just soaked in the view from where we were at.We needed to hurry back to catch the last ferry anyway.

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After our hike, we grabbed a slice of pizza and some water then hopped on the boat to head home.

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We boarded our ferry at 3:30 and relaxed on the way back to the pier.

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When we finally got back to our apartment we quickly showered and called it a night. Being in the sun all day can be exhausting!

Make sure you’re following our blog to keep receiving updates!

 

 

 

 

Phuket!

Phuket!! Whew we finally made it to somewhere we can unpack and relax a little bit! It feels like we’ve been going non-stop since we began our trip. After spending a day in Bangkok, we have arrived on Phuket, which is a huge island in the southern part of Thailand. We decided to stay at an air bnb in the small town of Kathu! It is beautiful here with mountains everywhere and very tropical.

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First, let me give a little spill about this Air BnB. It is a beautiful, almost brand new apartment with the longest swimming pool I’ve ever seen. When we stumbled upon this rental online, we were immediately drawn to the location but more importantly, a motor bike came with it. We are responsible for refueling the bike, but it cost about 1 American dollar to fill up. We have saved an unimaginable amount of money through being able to transport ourselves and not relying on public transportation.

Sorry the room is a mess! There was no time to take pictures when we were as tired as we were.

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Like I mentioned earlier, Phuket is a massive island (576 km² or 358 square miles!) so having transportation to get to the many little beach communities has been very helpful. Biggest tip I can give you is to drive on the left side of the road (not in Kansas anymore) and have your head on a swivel.

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Our first full day on the island was focused on getting to the beach as quickly as possible. We woke up early, threw on our bathing suits, packed a small backpack of valuables, and hopped on the moped to find Patong Beach. This is one of the most popular and crowded beach areas in Phuket. Before we got to the beach, we grabbed a bite to eat at a place located beside our Air Bnb called, Only Cheese. It was a fondue-style restaurant and we shared a chicken and cheese plate.

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After lunch, we found the beach safely and parked our bike right next to the  entrance. We didn’t pack towels, so we stopped in a beach shop to buy two. This was a mistake on our part because the cheapest towels we bought still cost us between 6-7 American dollars.

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When we settled down in the sand, we headed straight for the water!

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Annoying people are all over the beach selling every touristy thing you can think of such as glasses, drinks, and beach activates. We avoided all but one that roped us into buying some of his peanuts that were covered in some sweet sugar glaze. After trying them, I agreed to buy a small bag.

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After lying around for a few hours, we decided to walk around the beach front area for a snack and some tropical drinks. We landed at this little hut right off the beach that offered free WiFi.

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After our drinks, we went back out to the beach for a little and then headed back to our place to get ready for dinner and a night downtown.

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While driving back into the city, we saw a pizza place that caught our (mostly my) attention, so we stopped and had a good pizza with stuffed crust. We walked around to look at everything and then headed in for the night.

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The next morning we woke up and decided to get a massage! It was perfect after all the traveling and lugging our backpacks around. It was a solid hour and I felt like I could go right back to sleep. After, we decided we would check out the pool and relax! The chairs alongside the pool were really comfortable and the pool was really refreshing for the hot day that it was.

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When we were done at the pool, we decided to go for a long ride around the island for about 3-4 hours. Along the way we found old town Phuket, a nice park, a soccer game, and the pier we needed to leave from the next day!

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Along our long ride we found an absolutely amazing Italian restaurant named Da Sandro! I highly recommend this place based on the staff being very friendly and the food being out of this world delicious. We both got salads, an appetizer, and gnocchi!

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Dinner stuffed us and we decided to go on a night ride to see the Kathu waterfall. Unfortunately, it was closed for the night, but it was still a fun ride up the mountain.

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We had to be up extra early the following day in order to leave our apartment by 7am to catch the ferry heading to Phi Phi Island. When we arrived back at our place, we called it a night.

Stay tuned for more updates about our trip!

Taylor & Kendall take Thailand

Our journey to Thailand began early Tuesday morning when we left Kendall’s apartment at 3:00am, making our way to the Atlanta airport. We traveled with Spirit Airlines for our flight from Atlanta to Chicago. Spirit is a super affordable airline, however the company adds prices to everything such as bags (carry-on and checked), printing your boarding pass upon arrival (make sure you do that the night before), and having smaller seats that don’t recline in attempt to carry more passengers. All of this cost cutting allows them to offer airfare at a reasonable price. In order to keep our flight cost low, we decided to purchase one 40lb checked bag. We took a massive duffle bag and shoved both of our backpacks into it for the price of one checked bag. Score!

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Hi Chicago!

After a short flight to Chicago, we landed, grabbed our bag, and headed towards the international terminal…because we were were flying to Tokyo…where else would we go? Wrong! United Airlines was operating our flight and apparently they have their own terminal, so we got back on the airport train and went to terminal 1. Thankfully, we weren’t pressed for time because I structured our flight from Atlanta to be early enough to give us leeway. After making our way to our gate, we decided to grab lunch at Chilis to savor our last bites of American food.

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You’ll notice in the pictures below that our flight to Tokyo was smooth because I slept well over half the flight (perks to that early start we had). In the hours I was awake, I was able to watch two movies, eat an awesome pasta meal, and read. Kendall was less fortunate than me due to him not being able to sleep at all, picking the dish that wasn’t as good, and having the beverage cart ram his leg. So he felt that entire 13+ hour flight.

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After a 13 hour flight…Hello Tokyo! We had a 3 hour layover that was non-eventful except for some nice artwork and Kendall passing out on this couch.

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As we boarded our next flight to Bangkok, I explained to Kendall the importance of staying awake because we would be landing at 11pm local time. If you fall asleep, you won’t be able to sleep during the night. You’ll notice in the pictures below that he did not heed my advice (luckily he also slept when we got there). The flight was a long 6 hours.

Landing in Bangkok was exciting! I prepped Kendall on how Ashley and I were stuck in the customs line forever last time, so we had a plan to rush off the plane and beat everyone to the line. We probably looked like madmen fast walking through the terminal on our way off the plane. We turned the corner to customs and there was absolutely no line… so we didn’t take but 5 minutes to get through customs. So much for my worry, but that was nice because we snagged our bag, went to the ATM, and caught a cab to the hotel.

Our hotel was maybe 10 min from the airport and I would highly recommend it for if you are trying to stay out near the BKK airport. It was called the Dwella. It was very clean, the beds were comfy, and a they had a nice staff. We were supposed to check out at 12pm but we may have over slept and woken up to a phone call from the front desk at about 11:50am. The front desk was really understanding and I told them we would be down shortly after we packed our things.

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After thanking the desk upon check out we got a taxi to take us to the near by Skytrain station to head downtown.

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If you don’t know Kendall this may not strike you as funny, but as soon as we got off the train there was a sunglass stand and he bought a pair not even 5 seconds into our time being in the city.

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After that, we walked a couple blocks and took in all the sights, sounds, and smells. All the scents of food lead to us to the restaurant Salt and Pepper. It was located in the Center World Mall (larger than Mall of America and one of the 10 biggest in the world).

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Salt and Pepper was a really nice restaurant! The menu was large with a great variety of food. We both started with a fruit smoothie that was fantastic. Then for food Kendall ordered a slab of pork ribs and I ordered a half chicken (so much for chilies being our last American cuisine).

 

 

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After we ate, we decided to walk around some more and see what we would stumble upon. After taking a rather sketchy turn down an alley, the next street we came to had a tailor shop. We struck up a conversation with the owner outside and he noticed our youth and said he would cut us a deal (in my head I am thinking yeah right we aren’t getting a deal).

He told us his shop had been around for 25 years unlike many shops in the area that pop up and disappear within the year. I verified that by checking out all the photos he had on his back wall that were very old and were all taken in the shop we were standing in. I began to trust him a little more at this point.

He said “every young man should have a nice suit so I’ll sell you one for 5,500 baht each including the materials.” I was a little taken aback by that because that is still a lot of money when converted to American dollars. He assured me it was a great price because he usually sold them for 7,000+. He brought out his receipt book and started showing us all of his recent transactions for the month and also flipping to pages at random. He was selling them for about 8000-7000 baht each. This made me more comfortable with him.

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He let us pick any fabric we wanted and he showed us the projects he was working on currently. They were well done and the craftsmanship was fantastic! His seams were flawless and he did all the work in house. We were still iffy on the price and were getting cold feet and he said, “Okay, I will take 500 baht off for you, but I cant do anything lower than that.”

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So we thought hard and decided, lets do it! So we each got suits for 5,000 baht and he took all of our measurements and said to come back in 4-5 days to try it on so that he could make adjustments. We decided this would be a gift that we could keep and use forever.

After that, we stopped to order some Crepes!

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The day ended with hoping on another flight to Phuket!

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Here we are sneaking into the second row…

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After a long day exploring and a short flight, we retrieved our bags and took a cab to our airbnb. We got to our place around midnight!!

Keep Checking back in for updates!!