Tonsai Bay in Summer and in Winter – When to Visit Thailand?

My wife Olena and I may be two of the only people on Earth who have ever visited Tonsai Bay in Krabi, Thailand in both Winter and Summer. The first trip was a magical ten days full of perfect weather, daily excursions, and lots of swimming and lounging in the sun. Though it probably shouldn’t have, the atmosphere of our second venture to Tonsai really caught us off guard…

My wife Olena and I may be two of the only people on Earth who have ever visited Tonsai Bay in Krabi, Thailand in both Winter and Summer. The first trip was a magical ten days full of perfect weather, daily excursions, and lots of swimming and lounging in the sun. Though it probably shouldn’t have, the atmosphere of our second venture to Tonsai really caught us off guard…

December 2016:

Our first trip to Tonsai was during the Christmas holiday in 2016. We flew into Phuket, spent the day on the famous Patong beach, and hopped on a ferry to the much more chilled-out Tonsai Bay. The late-night party life hasn’t been our thing for years, so it was nice to head to a more secluded area. In fact, Tonsai Bay is only reachable via longtail boat from Ao Nang beach in Krabi. This makes it all the more exclusive!

There are a few ways to get to Tonsai. Most likely if you’re in the area you’ll hear that most tourists are going to the nearby Railay Beach resort area. You can get a longtail boat for around 100 THB per person from either Railay East or from the more accessible Ao Nang beach. My suggestion is to head straight for Ao Nang and, in the high season (December), there will be plenty of others willing to share a longtail boat. If there is no longtail boat available, you can walk from Railay beach, but if it’s high-tide you have to hike up and over some pretty treacherous terrain. Not recommended if you have lots of luggage.

Upon arriving, one must walk about half a kilometer up a small hill, through the forest and past hordes of thieving monkeys. After arriving at our $6 per night bungalows, we immediately felt at home. Not too crowded, very relaxed atmosphere, Bob Marley on the loudspeakers, helpful and friendly staff, and a fire show every night. The seating area at Chillout Bungalows included several hammocks, some picnic benches and even a few tree houses. Surrounding the bar area were several food stalls where anyone can find a delicious bite to eat. Chillout is located on Tonsai’s only main strip which is lined with more relaxing bars, some restaurants and a few more similar bungalows.

The bungalows themselves were incredibly basic. One bed, one shelf, one bathroom, one fan, and electricity only between 6PM and 6AM. We were officially off the grid, and it felt fantastic! Life was good. We had five full days ahead of us to relax in the sun and go on adventures.

During this trip, we spent a couple days on the beach, a few days on excursions in Krabi, and one day island-hopping, snorkeling and kayaking. It was the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure. We were sad to wave goodbye to Tonsai and longed to return someday.

July 2018:

Fast-forward 19 months to July 2018. We had a flight booked on July 27th to leave China for good and start a new life in New York City. We were going a bit crazy because I only had one day to pack between school finishing and leaving the country. Also, my birthday was coming up. After lots of back-and-forth decision making, we decided I would take an entire week, unpaid, off from work to go to Thailand for a full 9 days. After all, it was our last chance in Asia!

Olena and I are avid travelers, but we never return to the exact same place. We’ve always considered it a waste of time and money because the world is so big and want to see as much as possible. Well, with visions of our time in Tonsai at Chillout Bungalows swimming in our heads, we booked four nights at Chillout and a flight into Krabi. We were determined to repeat our experience on our last trip. It was so exciting! This time, we planned to take fewer excursions and just relax on the beach. It was going to be amazing!

I think you see where this was going. Our second trip to Tonsai was absolutely nothing like the first. For starters, the weather. No one bothered to tell us and we never bothered looking, but July is right in the middle of Thailand’s rainy season. In fact, two ships carrying tourists had capsized the day before we arrived, killing more than 50 people in the very same bay we planned to take a ferry. To the North, 12 boys had been trapped in a cave because of rapidly-rising water. When we arrived in Krabi, a torrential downpour started within minutes, right out of the sunny blue sky.

The rain was so bad that, when we arrived at Ao Nang beach, where tourists had lined up in December for a longtail boat to Tonsai, we found the beach deserted, waterlogged and devoid of any boats. We were informed that no longtail boat would go that day because of the weather.

Our spirits would not be crushed! We were determined to get to Tonsai. We grabbed a Tuktuk to Ao Nan Mao pier, got on a longtail boat to Railay Bay, walked over a kilometer in the rain to the aforementioned treacherous path, climbed up and over carrying 20kg each on our backs, and finally made it to Tonsai. The walk through the Railay area was depressing. The beach, crowded with tourists last time, was as empty as the food stalls that lined the streets. Arriving at Tonsai, waterlogged and exhausted, we still felt a spark of joy at our accomplishment. This spark, however, was quickly extinguished by the weather and the low season. Walking up the path to Chillout, no monkeys barred our way to beg for fruit, no happy locals greeted us on our way, all the bars we passed were either closed for good or completely empty, and to cap it all off, some rich guy had bought a bunch of land in the center of the area and cut down most of the trees. What had once felt like a secluded walk in the forest felt much more exposed and public.

Arriving at Chillout, we found the bar also empty and almost no one staying in the bungalows. No fire shows planned for the evening, no music on the loudspeaker, just the dreary-eyed people who ran the place during this low season. With all of this against us, the lack of electricity and comforts of home were much more noticeable. Back in our rooms, instead of an off-the-grid lifestyle and chilled-out atmosphere, we instead noticed the dirty sheets, wet bathroom and lack of light. We made the best of it, went swimming in the rain, but ended up canceling our next few nights and moving on to Phi Phi island, where our adventure took a much more positive turn.

The moral of the story:

Know the season of where you’re traveling, and never expect a journey to the same place at a different time to be the same as the first trip. In fact, I think that in life we should never seek to repeat exact experience because it lines you up for disappointment. Let every experience be its own, and try to keep your chin up! As I said, we still had five more days and ended up having a fantastic time in Phi Phi. The weather improved, our spirit was revived, and we learned a lot from the experience. Tonsai Bay, it was amazing while it lasted, but it’ll never be the same again.

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Cheap $5/Person/Night Airbnb in Ubud, Bali 2018

Please excuse the clickbait title of this blog post, there is no single cheap Airbnb in Ubud! In fact, most Airbnbs and Guest Houses have a similar price that will take your breath away. On average, a room (or in this case, mini-house) that can sleep four people in two double beds costs $15 per night for three people. At this particular place, it included a free breakfast (eggs, pancakes and/or fruit) and a steaming cup of coffee!

Please excuse the clickbait title of this blog post, there is no single cheap Airbnb in Ubud! In fact, most Airbnbs and Guest Houses have a similar price that will take your breath away. On average, a room (or in this case, mini-house) that can sleep four people in two double beds costs $15 per night for three people. At this particular place, it included a free breakfast (eggs, pancakes and/or fruit) and a steaming cup of coffee!

Check Tutde’s Place in the video below:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/ya2nxzv3
More info: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/15332469

For more tips about Bali, check out our 10-Day Bali Itinerary!

DOHA Cafe Review: Da Lat, Vietnam

The cafe has lots of seating across three floors, although the top one wasn’t being air-conditioned when I was there. However, the view of the Xuan Huong lake and Lam Vien square was worth it. They have a great selection of drinks including coffees, teas and juices. Although the prices are relatively steep for Vietnam, it’s still affordable on a Western budget. We didn’t get a chance to try any of their food although we were definitely tempted by their cakes and pastries.

DOHA Cafe is a great place to grab a coffee in Da Lat, Vietnam. It’s a modern cafe shaped like a flower bud and it’s as cool on the inside as it is on the outside. Speaking of cool – it’s also the perfect place to cool off during Vietnam’s steamy summers.

The cafe has lots of seating across three floors, although the top one wasn’t being air-conditioned when I was there but the view of the Xuan Huong lake and Lam Vien square was worth it. They gave a great selection of drinks including coffees, teas and juices. Although the prices are relatively steep for Vietnam, it’s still affordable on a Western budget. We didn’t get a chance to try any of their food although we were definitely tempted by their cakes and pastries.

 

Topside Cafe 2018: Block Island, Rhode Island

Topside Cafe is a great place to grab a coffee or enjoy a meal while waiting for the ferry. It has great prices, vegan as well as meat options and their coffee is absolutely delicious! We visited on a cold winter day and enjoyed their vegan smoothie bowl while my father-in-law munched on his pulled pork sandwich. Their chai latte was amazing and our only regret is that we didn’t get a chance to sample their lunch specials.

Check it out next time you’re on Block Island, you won’t regret it!

Da Lat Backpackers Hostel Review

We had very high expectations for this hostel because of all the raving reviews and we were not disappointed! My husband and I booked this hostel last minute after having problems with a different hostel. The staff were helpful and welcoming even before we arrived!

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Although we had originally planned on only spending two full days in Da Lat, after arriving and seeing all the cheap and exciting activities that we discovered through the hostels trip book, we decided to stay an extra night. We arrived right before dinner so we ate delicious free dinner (typical Vietnamese food, all home made) and the host even offered us homemade alcohol and took shots with us in a traditional Vietnamese way before we started the meal.

Our first night there we booked two trips, a countryside tour (250,000 Dong each) and canyoning ($45 each) while the staff recommended what company to go with and advised us on what day is better for which depending on the weather forecast. Needless to say, both trips were amazing since the hostel goes out of their way to choose good tour companies. They also didn’t push more expensive tours on us. They explained that the countryside tour, which we expected to pay almost 700,000 Dong each is possible to do with a group for cheaper and recommended a cheaper canyoning trip with a company that takes more photos.

The free breakfast was as good as dinner with several choices of baguettes with different kinds of omelette. You also get a coffee, tea or juice with your breakfast. Having two free meals a day really saved us a lot of money, especially since this hostel wasn’t more expensive than any of the others we looked at – and we stayed in a private room.

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The hostel is in a great location only a 15 minute walk to the huge lake. We took a taxi from the bus stop which only cost 70,000 Dong but we walked everywhere else because the Da Lat is small and the backstreets are fascinating. The hostel is also only about a kilometer from the famous Crazy House which is a must see.

In addition to great staff, delicious free food, great tour offers and comfortable soft beds (most hostels in Vietnam have rock-hard beds), the hostel is extremely clean and welcoming. I would definitely recommend anyone visiting Da Lat to book here! I honestly couldn’t recommend it more.

Oh, and they have very cheap and quick laundry service and return everything ironed and folded! Here’s a video of the canyoning tour that they suggested:

 

Flying with Germanwings – Europe Travel

When I decided to spend a few days of my summer vacation visiting my friend in Germany, I knew there were several different options for getting there: by car, bus or train. Looking for the cheapest one I stumbled upon Germanwings, a German airline offering roundtrip tickets for 1,500 CZK.

Flying with Germanwings was originally posted in The Bridge, a magazine belonging to the International Women’s Association of Prague. Travel in Europe has never been easier or cheaper!

When I decided to spend a few days of my summer vacation visiting my friend in Germany, I knew there were several different options for getting there: by car, bus or train. Looking for the cheapest one I stumbled upon Germanwings, a German airline offering roundtrip tickets for 1,500 CZK.

I didn’t believe it at first, but I took my chances filling in all the information, booking almost 3 months in advance and was surprised that with only hand luggage and no meal on board, the tickets did truly cost only 1,500, with an additional cost of 222 CZK for online paying; which was cheaper than any of the other options of getting all the way to Cologne/Bonn. The additional cost of bringing a suitcase or choosing the seats and a meal was also relatively cheap.

Expecting the worst sort of plane imaginable for the low price of the flight I was positively surprised by a very nice plane, looking just like a regular CSA plane, and I was even more surprised by a timely boarding and an on the dot arrival at the Cologne/Bonn airport. At my destination airport, I saw that Germanwings was indeed very popular in Germany and they had a whole section of the 1st terminal just for the Germanwings airline and they had planes taking off almost every 30 minutes. Although the boarding was delayed by 30 minutes on my way back to Prague, the plane just flew faster and reached Prague in 55 minutes, a whole 20 minutes less than it took to fly to Germany.

Most of the flights that Germanwings makes are around Europe, but you can also find flights to other continents, although only the ones around Europe are at such low prices. When I booked this flight, I also agreed to get emails about last minute offers that the airline had to offer. Although I have yet to book one of these flights, I am definitely very pleased with discovering them and will definitely use them in the future. Next time you have a trip in mind, I recommend that you check out Germanwings because they might offer just what you’re looking for at a much lower price than expected!

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.