Railay Beach, Thailand a.k.a Paradise

I checked off a list of cities to visit while backpacking Thailand, and Krabi was number 3.


Although Railay is not an island, you still have to take a boat over because the location of the mountains blocks off any possible land route. The boat ride is only about 15 minutes, cost 400 Baht, and leaves every hour from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

I debated on a day trip to Railay versus staying there for a few days, and I know now that even if I had planned a day trip I would have stayed anyway.

Because how can you not stay in a place like this:

Railay Beach just after sunset


AND I haven’t yet mentioned the world renowned rock climbing… Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert to try it out! Many people of different skill levels were there, they have everything from beginner to expert routes.



Another hidden gem of this area is the viewpoint lookout and the lagoon.

  • The viewpoint – Took us about 15 minutes to get to, and it’s not a simple climb for most people.
  • The lagoon – Took us about about 20 minutes to reach, and we are faster hikers.

Many people didn’t trek to the lagoon as they found it to be too far. I had read up that there was a rope at the end but it was still extremely difficult to get down to, so we were going to just check it out and see, however my update is that they actually have put in ladders to get down, so it’s really not that bad!

The lagoon – WORTH THE HIKE!

We climbed it barefoot because we didn’t want to ruin our sneakers. Everyone we passed thought we were crazy! The funny thing is we actually enjoyed the climb a lot more with no shoes – the rocks and roots we were climbing up were very smooth, so being able to grip with our whole foot made it easier, I would not have wanted shoes on!

The lagoon was completely EMPTY when we got there, it was such an incredible sight, and the fact that no one was around made it extra special. We got in the water and we yelled to hear our voices echo throughout.

We couldn’t believe no one was here


We finally trekked back up to the viewpoint, which was relatively easy after the lagoon, and signs pointed us in the right direction. The viewpoint was also no disappointment.



I plan to go back and spend more of my time rock climbing. And overall, I’m so happy I took a chance on Railay!



Because we had an early flight out and wanted to visit the Emerald Pool, Hot Springs, and Tiger Cave Temple, we wanted to get to Ao Nang. In hindsight, Krabi Town would have been a better base as a place to stay.

We hired a driver for the day, as we felt it would be too far for us to scooter. We decided on the following day trip:

  1. Emerald Pool first – we wanted to get there early because we heard it gets quite crowded in the afternoons
  2. Hot springs second – we wanted to experience these before climbing up to the temple, as we didn’t think we’d want a hot bath after the climb
  3. Tiger Cave Temple – a 1,237 step climb (or so they say, it was ACTUALLY 1,260)…


Emerald Pool was this stunning clear, cool, turquoise, water, I have never seen anything like it!

Picture to come!

The hot springs were REALLY hot, especially on our poor burnt skin. We still got in and after a minute or so it was enjoyable to sit in.

Water flows over the smooth rocks


Finally, the last stop! We suffered up 1,260 steps. Two stray dogs climbed just in front of us and they would stop and wait for us every so often, they were much better climbers.

One of the peaks at Tiger Cave Temple



I will DEFINITELY revisit Railay Beach!

I’m glad I went to Ao Nang, but I will likely not revisit.

If I had to have chosen one of the two, I would have chosen Railay Beach.






Two Days in Bangkok

What do you do if you only have two days in Bangkok?

Monastic living

YSJ –> YYZ: 2 Hours

YYZ –> PEK: 13 Hours

PEK –> BKK: 4 Hours

Time Change: 11 Hours

And so worth it! Especially since I had slept 10 hours on the second haul…

After a 45 minute cab ride and some twisting and turning down little side streets, we found our hostel, and it was time to get some sleep.

DAY 1:

Woke up nice and early for a free breakfast, which was delicious! The orange juice was smooth and sweet, and the fruit was freshly cut.

Floating Markets

Cooking delicious chicken satay

We wandered around to find our way back through the side roads, through little restaurants and markets, and finally emerged out onto a main road, where we hailed a cab.

I had read about a many different floating markets we could visit, some sounded quite touristy, and others were quite far away, so we decided on Talin Chan, which was only about 10km away.

Once we pulled up we noticed there was actually a very large local market we could walk through before getting to the floating market, which was an added bonus! The smell of spices filled the air as we walked through the main entrance.

After slowly sauntering towards the other side, we found tons of boats lined up cooking incredible food!

Everyone was very friendly!


Cooking up a storm!

After exploring, grabbing some snacks, and taking some photos, it was time to head to our next destination.

Grand Palace & Wat Pho

There was no doubt in our mind that we were in the right place. High white walls surround the entire palace, officers stand guard on all sides, and a huge crowd funneled at the main entrance.

As most know, you can’t visit a temple with your knees or shoulders exposed, so I was wearing a long skirt and had a scarf to place around my shoulders, and Nick had long shorts and a t-shirt on. Despite this, we were denied more than once…

Attempt Number 1: Nick’s knees were exposed, so we had go to purchase pants.

Attempt Number 2: My scarf covering my shoulders was not acceptable, off to buy a shirt.

Attempt Number 3: Success!

Chakri Maha Prasat

The funny thing is that all the vendors nearby sell elephant pants and shirts, so EVERYONE inside the palace was decked out in elephant clothing – I have to say it was one of my favorite parts.

All of the elephant gear…..

As soon as we got in, we were amazed by the detail and time it must have taken to build such a temple consisting of not only one masterpiece, but many.

The view as soon as you get through the main doors
Inside one of the temples at Wat Pho

End of Day 1 – We grabbed some ice cream and headed to find some supper, still jet lagged, it was time to get some rest!

DAY 2:

4 a.m = RISE AND SHINE!! – Not actually, but it was difficult to sleep still being on Atlantic Canada time so I was wide awake, but I tried to force myself to go back to sleep for a bit.

Today we really wanted to get lost! The perfect place to get lost in Bangkok is in the small side streets of China Town.

Our first sights of Chinatown!

China town was amazing, there was lots to see and buy! We also took our first tuktuk here. I highly recommend it if you want to stay around town.

Tuk Tuk Taxi!

Oh, and I almost forgot – on our way over, we accidentally stumbled through the amulet market, which a was pretty cool mistake!


We were very satisfied with our two days, especially with the tiredness we weer experiencing mid-afternoon.

Our flight out to Phuket was at 7 p.m., so unfortunately, we had to head to the airport!

For Next Time:

We agreed that if we had more time we would have likely ventured outside the main city. If we had one more evening, we would have gone to check out the sky-bar.


Financing Travel

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is how I can afford to travel, so I have decided to field that one in a post, and it’s a bit lengthy.

For starters, I am a minimalist. I truly believe that having more ‘stuff’ only complicates my life, so plain and simple, I don’t buy things that I don’t need.

Really, it all comes down to opportunity cost, if you want to go on a trip, you need to give something else up to save for it, which comes easier to a minimalist that isn’t buying much in the first place.

Here’s what I have done over the past few years to improve my financial situation:


You Can’t Afford That Car!

Sure, you can afford to make payments of $400 a month for six or seven years, but who in their right mind would do that?!

This one is a big one for me. I don’t have a car payment.

This one is about finding a happy medium. You don’t want to throw away money on an old used car that isn’t in great shape to try and save a ton of money upfront, but fail inspection every year with hundreds of dollars in repairs. That being said, you also don’t need a top of the line new vehicle with an added sports package either.

My car is a base model, I bought it used, and I have paid it off. It’s a 2008 and I plan on driving it until it starts costing me more yearly than it would to make payments on something newer. When I do NEED something new, I’ll try and find something off a lease, only a few years old, low kms, and try and get lucky with some warranty left. I’ll make sure that I can pay it off within two years of the purchase.

Personally, I think if you can’t afford to pay your vehicle off in less than 3 years, then you simply can not afford the vehicle.

Say you find a car for $12,000, and you plan to drive the car for 6 years but pay it off in three – there’s your travel money.

Bottom line. Stop wasting money on depreciating assets that you can’t afford in the first place.


Investments That Count.

I realize not everyone is a finance guru, so I’m not talking stocks and bonds here.

Three years ago I installed a ductless heat pump in my home and got rid of my old oil tank. I have been saving money monthly ever since. Sure, there was an upfront cost to buy and install of about $2,000, but it paid itself off within a year and I continue to save hundreds in heating costs each month. Another great benefit is my house is actually warm all winter because I don’t have to constantly worry about my heating bill! Not to mention this is a great selling feature when the time comes.

Ask around and look on government websites for any tax breaks or cash rebate programs before you make any changes to your home. I learned of a provincially sponsored program that paid me back for installing insulation in my basement, the program paid the entire cost of installing an even higher grade insulation than I had originally planned, and I’m still saving from it!

Ask yourself before spending, is this an investment or an expense? If it’s an expense, ensure it’s a required expense before moving forward.


Consolidate Debt.

Are you paying on student loans at 5%+, a line of credit, credit cards, and/or any other form of debt?

Take a look at your options, because having multiple debt sources at varying rates is rarely an intelligent financial move. If you don’t understand financial jargon, have a finance professional look at your situation and help you identify where you can save money. Your best bet is finding a relative or friend who knows someone in the industry to find you a contact that you can TRUST. I very rarely recommend going to the commercial banks unless you have a trusted contact that will act in YOUR best interest, and not for their commission.

I refinanced my student loan and my student line of credit into the equity I had built in my mortgage at a new lower interest rate – and I’m paying LESS interest on the new total loan than I was on ONLY my house before! Understanding amortization is important before agreeing  any sort of refinance. It could work out to be more expensive if you don’t act with a healthy skepticism and read all of the fine print.

I read every word in every contract and I ask lots of questions about anything vague before signing. I have sat in banks and read every word of 30+ page documents before signing.

You have a right to read, ask questions, and understand what you’re signing!


Small Purchases Matter.

Latte every morning? I wish!

Buy a cheaper coffee every morning? Nope! Even a $2 coffee equates to $60 a month!

I wait until the k-cups at my favorite coffee spot go on sale (once every few months) and I stock up! I keep them in my desk drawer and use the coffee machine at work. Okay, okay, once in a while I splurge and get a latte… but at 0.35 cents a coffee on a regular day, I don’t mind once in a while!

I pay $10.5 for coffee per month. I only drink one a day, and if I start drinking two, I ween myself back to one – for both health and cost reasons I don’t think I need more than one per day.

Look at your monthly expenses, take a run through bank and credit card statements and add up what you spend on food, entertainment, coffee, etc. and see where you can reduce costs.

Other items:

  • I call and get new insurance quotes for car and house insurance about once per year and I switch or get my current company to match if I find a better rate. I also call and argue ANY increases.
  • Fight your property tax bill! If you haven’t completed any renovations and they’ve increased your bill more than a percent or two, call them up and ask them to come assess your property.
  • Cable – I realize that the “whole package” is only about $20 more a month than if you only have internet, but I still cut cable and home phone anyway, because that’s $20 a month that I can save!
  • Set an entertainment budget – we all want to enjoy a meal out or an event once in a while, just budget for it so you’re prepared, if you don’t spend your budget then that’s a bonus.
  • Girls, stop wasting so much money on makeup! I wear it myself, but I just don’t go crazy.
  • Going over the top at Christmas time. I realize this is a time for giving, and I am guilty of overspending in the past, but set a spending limit and keep to it.
  • Take advantage of bank accounts/credit cards/combinations of the two that give you benefits. I received a $350 rebate to switch banks, and having my type of account reduces my $120/yr fee credit card to a $0 credit card.


Thinking long term is key to saving for trips. It’s all about getting your finances in order, as boring as that may be!

Then of course there is travelling on your budget, which I will save for another day.


What have you done, or what do you plan to do, to improve your financial situation?








Life in a Bubble

Nope, not figuratively!

I’ve noticed 5 million star hotels popping up all over the place lately and decided to try one out. Just outside of Reykjavik, our accommodations for the night were simply a giant plastic bubble. How incredible is that?

The bubble structure is kept inflated by a slight over-pressure from a noiseless ventilation system. It renews the air inside 2-7 times the volume per hour to prevent humidity, and the system has heating elements with a thermostat so the bubble stays warm – even in the middle of winter!

We pulled up to an adorable little house to meet the host. After following her down the road and off into the trees, she led us to our bubble. We were so excited we didn’t listen to a word she said as we ran around it taking pictures and poking it.

We grabbed all of our stuff from the car and piled it up next to the entrance.

Now, how do we get in this thing without letting all of the air out?

We unzipped the front, and the entire entrance way collapsed onto us and all of our stuff as we fell to the floor laughing, but also somewhat concerned we had just deflated the entire thing.

While fumbling around on the floor underneath all of the collapsed plastic, we found the zipper that allowed us to get into the bubble. Before unzipping it, taking into consideration what had just happened, we zipped up the outside zipper before undoing the inside zipper – and there we had it! The entrance filled back up with air and we were INSIDE!

So to summarize:

Step 1: Unzip entrance zipper

Step 2: Step inside the deflated part

Step 3: Zip up the outside zipper

Step 4: Unzip the inside zipper

Naturally, after figuring all of this out, we had a photo shoot.


The bubble created a serene feeling that nothing is between you and the rest of nature. I highly recommend this experience to anyone that enjoys outdoor exploring.

Unfortunately, there is no aurora borealis in the summer months in Iceland, and therefore we did not get that experience. It is now something I plan to go back in the winter months for.









Wandering is the Way We Discover the World

There I was, stranded in the middle of no where.

The solution to my problem was right there in my hands, but I still couldn’t solve it. Oh, the frustration. I bumbled through each item.

Some patches, a small piece of sandpaper, a long tube, a random stick with a handle on the end, and rubber solution – what the hell do I do with all of this stuff? I can’t believe this happened.

Continue reading

Toronto Transportation

Toronto is a big city.

They must have a very intricate subway system.

I won’t do any research on this and assume that I’ll be able to take the subway everywhere I go.

Lessons were learned.

It’s not that Toronto’s subway system isn’t reasonable considering the population size and downtown core traffic; it’s more so the fact that I didn’t prepare myself properly. As an East Coaster, I figured all large cities had elaborate subway systems that you could get almost anywhere on. New York does, so all big cities must!

Mistake Number 1:

The subway will be available from the airport to downtown.

Turns out, the subway lines don’t go all the way to the airport. They do however, end at a point that you can catch a bus to get the rest of the way. The bus is called the “Airport Rocket”, and I can assure you the name is misleading – it travels at far less than rocket speed.


Mistake Number 2:

All of the street cars and/or buses I need to take will be up and running on the days that I need them. 

So, Toronto has a lot of construction… The street car I needed to get to the main subway station was down, making the transport there much more difficult.

Mistake Number 3:

We’ll call an Uber! 

This one’s actually not a bad idea! Uber is pretty inexpensive, and when you’re new you can get some free ride credits. Our mistake was on the first call we accidentally ordered an “Uber Select” car instead of an UberX so it ended up being more expensive.

Mistake Number 4:

Following website instructions to figure out what bus or street car to take.

Only do this if you’re on the official website of the Toronto City Transit, otherwise your information may not be up to date. I found myself looking for a bus that didn’t exist anymore!


Luckily, none of these led to any serious problems. We weren’t in a rush to get anywhere since we were mostly touring around, and where’s the fun when you don’t get lost a few times?!

What mistakes have you made while touring around?






Scrambling Mountain Tops

Summit seeking is a passion of mine.

Recently, I went on what has become a popular annual trip with friends to climb Mount Katahdin in Maine, USA and whitewater raft the Penobscot class 5 rapids! However, the rafting story is for another post, another day.

So Mount Katahdin is the centerpiece of Baxter State Park with an elevation of 5,267ft (1,606m), and it has a very interesting intimidating feature – a tail called “Knife’s edge”. I assure you, the name is NOT misleading.

This specific trail is not for the faint of heart as portions of it span no more than a foot from side to side with steep drops on each edge. The 1.1 mile scramble starts from the summit and stretches over to Pamola Peak.

The views are indescribable the entire way across. Katahdin has a bowl-like shape that you can really appreciate as you slowly make (crawl) your way from peak to peak, however you may need to briefly pause here and there to truly appreciate it and not fall off the edge…

Should you decide to make this great climb

I learned the hard way that a parking pass is required, and you must show up by 7a.m. or they will give it away to someone that showed up on time! We arrived at 7 on the dot, which I certainly don’t recommend trying to do. They only allow 35 cars into Roaring Brook parking lot, so purchasing your pass online 14 days ahead of time is your best bet to ensure you don’t miss your day of climbing!

My favorite route on the mountain starts on Chimney Pond Trail. It’s a relatively easy trail that leads up to the base of the mountain, as you can see below:

The end of chimney pond trail brings you out here!


Next up – Cathedral Trail! This is a relatively shorter trail at 1.5 miles, but don’t let that fool you. It’s pretty much a straight shot from the base of the mountain to Baxter Peak, and it’s very much a scramble. This trail isn’t sheltered by any trees so pack some sun screen if you’re heading up on a nice day.

After some lunch at the summit, the moment we have all been waiting for, it’s time to embark onto Knife Edge trail. CAUTION: If it’s rainy and windy, this is a trail you should avoid, as it becomes an extremely dangerous trail in which several people have died or been seriously injured attempting it in inclement weather.

Here’s an idea of what I’m trying to explain:

A quick glance at the rest of the Knife Edge trek
Yes there are people in there somewhere!


Finally, after a quick stopover at Pamola Peak, it’s time to head down. At this point it has already been a long day, but it’s not over yet.

It’s quite a ways down, but eventually you hit the beginning of Chimney Pond again and you know you’ve completed the loop. Congratulations!!

I recommend visiting Mount Katahdin to any regular hiker. There are many different trails to suit your needs, and Chimney Pond never fails as a beautiful less strenuous family hike if you’re short on time or not ready to climb to the peak. They also offer lean-to camping, which I haven’t experienced personally, but I’m certain it would be a beautiful spot to camp out before a big climb.

We stayed at Big Moose Inn Cabins – which is only 8 miles from the gate, and it is the last available accommodations that offer electricity and plumbing before you get to Katahdin, so we opted for the luxury “camping” this time :).


Things to bring in your day pack

  • Long sleeve/wind breaker for the summit
  • Flashlight
  • Small medical kit (bandaids, blister relief, etc.)
  • Whistle
  • At least 2.5 liters of water
  • Lunch and snacks that include protein
  • Camera
  • A beer for the top!


Trail Summary of my favourite route

  • Chimney Pond Trail (3.3 Miles – easy/moderate hike)
  • Cathedral Trail (1.5 Miles  – Strenuous)
  • Knife Edge Trail (1.1 Miles – Very Strenuous)
  • Helon Taylor Trail (3.2 Miles – Strenuous)


For additional information please visit: Baxter State Park – Hiking Mount Katahdin



Bali Belly


Many travelers experience the aches and pains of an upset stomach, and not only in Bali.

When your body experiences a change in diet, it may react negatively, and you could end up bedridden for a few days. Although curable, it’s extremely unfortunate having to waste a few days in bed when you’re traveling. It will put you behind on plans or cause you to miss some sights you’ve traveled far and wide to see.

Chicken Satay’s, Nusa Lembongan
Morning Cappuccino on Gili T

Precautionary Measure Are Key:

  • Dukoral – an oral vaccine that usually does not require a prescription most, it will help prevent an upset stomach due to E. coli.
  • Wash your hands – Always. Especially after handling money and before meals.
  • Hand sanitize – Keep some on you at all times in case there is no where to wash up.
  • Avoid food and beverages that are more likely to be contaminated, such as:
    • Peeled fruit
    • Under cooked meat
    • Tap water – Always ICE OUT! A lot of places use tap water to make their ice
  • Food and beverages to stick to:
    • Anything boiled or deep fried
    • Fruit that you peel yourself
    • Bottled Water
  • Choosing a spot to eat:
    • Ask other tourists at your hostel where they ate
    • Walk around and look for a busy spot, chances are they have good food and it’s fresh
    • Don’t purchase meat from street vendors. I rarely purchase from street vendors, but when I do I ensure they’re cooking it right in front of me
    • If it doesn’t taste right, don’t eat it! It’s not worth saving a buck if it’s going to make you sick, find something else.
  • Protein Bars – Bring some with you for when you can’t find somewhere to eat right away, or you end up with a meal you don’t feel comfortable eating. It will hold you over until you find other food.

You could take all of the precautions and still end up with Bali Belly. I was SO CAREFUL in what I chose to eat, but I still ended up in bed for a full day. I was completely drained.

Eating breakfast at Sunrise Huts, Bali

If You Get Sick:

  • Go to the doctor right away – even if they don’t speak English, you can hold your stomach and they’ll understand what to give you. I ended up with tablets I had to take twice a day for 3 days.
  • Get hydrated – drink tons of bottled water and put hydration tablets in it (I always bring hydration tablets when traveling)
  • Rest up – It’s unfortunate to miss time out and about, but at least take some time to get a solid sleep in. I drank as much water as I could, took a Gravol, and slept for a solid 14 hours before I felt any better. I would have felt sick a lot longer if I tried to push through it.
  • Imodium – 2 tablets right away and one in the morning if you can’t get to a doctor.

If you’re traveling for more than a month, slowly introducing your body to more and more local food should help your adjustment without getting you sick. Avoiding anything that might make you sick is worth it if you’re only traveling for a few weeks.

Enjoy your travels, and I hope you don’t experience Bali Belly, or something of the like!













Traveling With Camera Gear

There’s no way around it, this isn’t an efficient thing to do.

But it’s so worth it.

Bringing along the right amount of gear is a challenge, especially when you’re backpacking. I am an amateur photographer that is gradually learning along the way.

Below is a list of what I generally take along in my camera bag:

  • Travel Tripod – Long exposure and fun group shots
    Goofing around with our timer
    Practicing long exposure by the camp fire


  • Zoom Lens (I bring 55mm-250mm) – Close up shots


  • Extra lens cap – I lose mine ALL the time
  • Extra charged battery
  • Extra SD cards – I’d prefer to have two 32G cards than one 64G card
  • Charger


I limit myself to two lenses and I find even that can be bulky. I’ve seen people traveling with some pretty heavy duty looking gear, including drones.

What do you bring with you for camera gear, if any, when you travel?

















Hiking the Great Wall

“Go on and do it! People will say no, and I’ll tell you why they say no, it’s not to hurt you it’s not to stifle your dream, it’s that from where they see it, it’s too scary.” – JD Lewis


One of the most memorable days of my life was the day I set out to hike the Great Wall of China.

Words can not express how beautiful it was at HuangHua Cheng (“The Wall of the Yellow Flowers”), and I would highly recommend it to anyone planning a visit, here’s why:


  • No Crowds – This section of The Wall was shut down to the public several years ago, however locals have ‘opened’ up a few routes. This section stretched several kilometers and not a single other person was in sight.
  • Not Too Dangerous – Although some parts of The Wall do not have railings, you are not required to hike across any parts that are damaged and very dangerous. In my picture, I am crossing to get to a view spot (which was kind of sketchy) but that is not required on this hike. I do recommend some solid footwear such as sneakers/hikers! Some parts are quite steep slopes with no stairs, they could be slippery and tough to climb up on a rainy day.
  • Incredible View – From the water down below to the mountain ranges you can see The Wall stretch across your entire view! I can not describe how much appreciation I have for how breathtaking it was.
  • Inexpensive – Our day trip from Beijing cost approximately $45 USD each. It was about an hour each way. Our driver spoke great English and told us some amazing facts on our way. He hiked up to the beginning of The Wall with us to show us where to go, then left us to meet him at the end. We hiked for about 4 hours, but a lot of the time we were taking pictures and sitting enjoying the view.


If you’re planning a visit to the Great Wall, don’t aimlessly wander over to the most touristy spot. Take some time to plan out an alternate route, find a less popular spot to visit – you will not regret it!