Month Thirty Seven was an expensive one – but it was so chock full of travel highlights that I don’t even care.
I started the month in Thailand on the island of Koh Pha Ngan, where I spent the next five days either relaxing on the most beautiful beach on the island – Thong Nai Pan Noi – or exploring more of the island by scooter.
I ended up completely loving Koh Pha Ngan – there is so much more to it than Full Moon Parties, and my experience there couldn’t have been more far removed from the young backpacker party scene.
From Koh Pha Ngan, I traveled by taxi, boat, bus, plane and train to Ayutthaya, which is known for its ruined temples. I spent a day in the searing heat exploring a number of the temples by bike and was pleasantly surprised by this small city that is largely off the tourist trail.
My last two nights in Thailand were spent back in Bangkok where I hit up a few more of the tourist sites that I had so far missed – Chatuchak Market, Temple of the Golden Mount and Wat Arun – as well as meeting a former expat online who showed me some of her favorite haunts – places I never would have known about otherwise. Bangkok just gets better and better!
And then after a long journey from Thailand, I was back on US soil with my love.
We had a housesit in Aurora for the first five nights, looking after two gorgeous kitties and two sweet-natured dogs. Our time there wasn’t terribly exciting as we had lots of errands to run – including doing stuff for our wedding reception in September, but we managed to go to a family birthday party, hung out at the communal pool and spa at our housesit, visited Olde Town Arvada, and threw a small Engagement/Wedding party with family at Epic Brewery in RiNo, Denver.
You may be asking – a wedding party? I thought you were getting married in September?
Well… we are, but we actually got officially married this month!
After our housesit ended, we went and had our engagement photos taken at Red Rocks, hung out in Golden for a couple of hours, then went to the Denver Office of the Clerk and Recorder to get our marriage licence.
So now we are officially married – but the celebrations are still to come in September.
We spent a few nights at Toby’s Mum’s place (my new Mother in Law!) in Brighton, Colorado where we mostly just got caught up on work, sorted out our stuff and loaded the van, but we did fit a fun day out in Boulder into the schedule.
And then it was time to go further into my beloved Colorado Rocky Mountains – to our housesit in Eagle.
There were two parts of this housesit, with the first part being for three nights, during which we explored the small town of Eagle, and spent an evening in Glenwood Springs eating at a Brew Pub and soaking at the excellent Iron Mountain Hot Springs.
Then we had a five night break before we had to return so we hit the road for a Colorado Road Trip – the best kind of road trip!
I really enjoyed our road trip which was a mix of new and old favorite places, including the small town of Palisade, the larger college town of Grand Junction, the red rock splendor of Colorado National Monument, the cute mountain town of Crested Butte and the surrounding wilderness, the summer-only Kebler Pass which we drove over the mountains, a day soaking at the natural Penny Hot Springs, and an evening sampling the food and beer scene in Carbondale.
We did have a few things go wrong on our trip, but I loved it just the same.
The last couple of days of the month were spent back at our housesit in Eagle, where I had a nasty surprise on my first morning back (see lowlights below) and where we just chilled out, catching up on work and hanging out with the dogs.
Now onto the Stats!
Countries Visited: Thailand, USA
- Thailand: Koh Pha Ngan, Ayutthaya, Bangkok
- USA: Denver, Brighton, Boulder, Eagle, Gypsum, Glenwood Springs, Palisade, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Crested Butte, Carbondale, Marble
National Parks and Monuments Visited: Colorado National Monument
Islands Visited: Koh Pha Ngan in Thailand.
Best Meal: So much good food last month – especially because I spent the first week and a half in the foodie paradise of Thailand. On Koh Pha Ngan, I loved the Thai Banana pancakes from a street vendor in Thong Nai Pan Noi, the gorgonzola ravioli from That’s Amore in Thong Nai Pan Noi, and the vegan cooked breakfast from Green Gallery in Srithanu. In Ayutthaya, I loved the Chocolate Chip Egg Waffle from the Night Market. Back in Colorado, I loved the Persian Chickpea Kufteh at the Boulder Dusanbe Teahouse, the mini donuts (especially the Strawberry Cheesecake flavor) from Niky’s Mini Donuts in Crested Butte, the bean and cheese breakfast burrito from Camp 4 Coffee in Crested Butte, and the Nonya Shrimp and Pineapple Curry from Phat Thai in Carbondale.
Worst Meal: Nothing too terrible last month but I wasn’t a fan of the Vegetable chili from the Eagle Diner in Eagle – it wasn’t really chili at all, but rather a couple of beans and vegetables floating in a gluggy white paste: That ain’t chili.
Best Craft Beer: Everything I had for our Engagement/Wedding Party at Epic Brewery in Denver, including their classic Brainless Raspberry Wheat and the Sour Apple Saison.
- Royal Arch Trail from Chautauqua Park in Boulder, Colorado 3 miles/5km return
- Clear Creek Trail in Wheat Ridge, Colorado 3 miles/5km return
- Monument Canyon and Wedding Canyon loop trail in Colorado National Monument 5 miles/8km
- Brush Creek Trail near Crested Butte, Colorado 4.5 miles/7km return
- Gothic Mountain False Summit near Crested Butte, Colorado 9.5 miles/16km
‘The Expected One’ by Kathleen McGowan. This book is in the vein of the Da Vinci Code – the protagonist Maureen starts having visions that lead her into an ancient mystery where the expected one will find the sacred scrolls of Mary Magdalene that will uncover the truth: That Mary and Jesus were married and that they had children. I am not a religious person but I found it really interesting, and what is more interesting is that the author believes that she is a descendant of Mary and Jesus. Whether it is true or not, it was a gripping read.
Season Two of Glow on Netflix. I almost loved the second season about a TV show of female wrestlers in the 80’s as much as the first. I also finally saw ‘The Shape of Water’ on the plane to the US and I absolutely loved this quirky romance, where a mute woman falls in love with a fish/man creature who is being experimented on in the lab that she cleans. One of the best movies I have seen in a while.
Loving Thong Nai Pan Noi on Koh Pha Ngan
I did a fair bit of research to find the perfect spot to base myself for my six nights on Koh Pha Ngan, and after seeing most other places I could have stayed on the island – I am so glad that I decided to stay in Thong Nai Pan Yai and Thong Nai Pan Noi! I split my time between both chilled beach towns – a half hour walk over a hill apart – and I really enjoyed both, although Thong Nai Pan Noi was my favorite. Both beaches were pristine white sand with super clear water, and backed by jungled mountains.
Due to it being low season, the tide was really far out at some of the more beautiful west coast beaches like Haad Salad – where I was originally going to stay – but it wasn’t as much of a problem at the Thong Nai Pan beaches. There were also a number of great little spots to eat at. I couldn’t have asked for a better location to spend a beach vacation.
Scootering Around Koh Pha Ngan
Although I loved Thong Nai Pan Noi, I wanted to see more of Koh Pha Ngan while I was there and the best way to do that was to hire a scooter. I ended up spending two full days scootering all over the island and I absolutely loved it! There is nothing quite like zooming through beautiful scenery with the wind on your face.
Koh Pha Ngan is a beautiful green island with lots of stunning white sand beaches – my favorite spots were Haad Salad beach, Chalok Lam beach, and the hippy village of Srithanu – but just the act of scootering around this stunning island was the real highlight.
Exploring the Under the Radar Temples of Ayutthaya
After loving the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, I knew that I wanted to add a visit to Thailand’s equivalent at Ayutthaya during my Thai travels – and they didn’t disappoint. The temples at Ayutthaya are from the Kingdom of Siam. The city was founded around 1350 AD and destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th Century.
I hired a bike from my hostel and spent the day biking around the temple complexes and was really struck by how few people were there compared to Angkor Wat.
The temples weren’t quite as impressive but I enjoyed my time there none-the-less, and having some of the temples almost completely to myself was something special.
Being Introduced to the Hidden Gems of Bangkok
In last month’s round up I told you that I had finally fallen for Bangkok after exploring more of the everyday attractions of the city – well after returning there for the last two nights of my time in Thailand, I fell for it even more.
I met up with fellow Digital Nomad Girl Holly, and over two nights we hit up a few spots that she had discovered when she was an expat in Bangkok or had heard about from friends that still live there (she now lives in Singapore), like the W Outdoor Food Market in Phra Khanong, the excellent Barefood Bangkok which is home to delicious vegan cheeses, the magical Iron Fairies bar, WTF Gallery and Cafe – a cool Expat Haunt, the Speakeasy rooftop bar at the Hotel Muse and the rooftop bar at the SO Sofitel. I really feel like I got a great local’s tour of Bangkok!
I also did a couple of touristy things – I took a river boat to the intricately decorated Wat Arun, shopped at the famous Chatuchak Market – one of the largest markets in the world, and hiked up a hill to the beautiful and serene Temple of the Golden Mount. Bangkok – I am really starting to love you.
Reuniting with Toby and my Colorado Family
After four months apart – our longest stretch yet – Toby and I were finally reunited when I returned to the US last month and it was so wonderful to be back together! I got to reunite with a lot of the family a few days later, firstly at a birthday party, then at our own little celebration to celebrate our actual wedding. It was a really fun weekend and I am so happy to be back!
Because of visa requirements – I am on a three month K-1 Fiance Visa and we have to get married and submit the paperwork for my Green card within the three months – we got married within a week of my return to the US so we could start the paperwork, and so I would get my Green card sooner rather than later. I have heard that the process is currently taking around a year, and I won’t be allowed to leave the US until I get it so the sooner we get the paperwork in, the better.
Colorado is a ridiculously easy place to get married – we just had to take our IDs into the Denver Office of the Clerk and Recorder, sign some paperwork, and then we were married! We didn’t need any witnesses and we got our marriage certificate on the spot. Earlier that day we had our engagement photos taken at Red Rocks and had hung out in Golden by the river. It was a pretty great day.
An Awesome Day Out in Boulder
I’m a big fan of Boulder. Unlike Denver, Boulder is actually in the mountains and there is some great hiking in the area, not to mention the cool shops and restaurants. We spent a day in Boulder last month and it was the perfect mix of all of the things that I love about this mountain city. We started the day by meeting up with my new friend Jen that lives in Denver – I met her in Cambodia! – to hike to Royal Arch from Chautauqua Park. At the top we were rewarded with a stunning view and there were lots of wildflowers at the start of the trail.
After saying goodbye to Jen, Toby and I went to the Dushanbe Teahouse for lunch. The Dushanbe Teahouse was taken from Tajikistan piece by piece and reassembled here, and it is a beautiful sight with colorful, hand-painted panels.
The food there was incredible too – we will definitely go back! We rounded off our perfect Boulder day with a shopping excursion on Pearl Street, where I picked up some beautiful patterned bowls to plant succulents in for our wedding reception in September. Another perfect day in Boulder.
Finally Getting to Explore Colorado National Monument
I have been all over Colorado now but still, Colorado National Monument in the far west of the state had eluded me – until last month. We finally made it out to explore Colorado National Monument and I was very pleasantly surprised by the quietness of this red rock wonderland. We spent a night there, enjoying our campground with spectacular views and a stellar sunset. The next day we did a beautiful five mile loop hike of Wedding Canyon and Monument Canyon past red rock formations and hardly any other people. I thought the scenery held its own against the big South West hitters of Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon, and I will definitely return to explore more of Colorado National Monument.
Getting to Know Crested Butte Better
After a short stay when we hiked from Aspen to Crested Butte, I had been wanting to return to this vibrant little mountain town ever since. We spent three nights in Crested Butte on our short road trip between housesits, hiking in the wildflower filled mountains around the town, sampling the great food scene, trying some local brews, chilling in parks and chatting to friendly locals – and it was great!
Telluride has long been my favorite mountain town in Colorado but I’m not so sure anymore – Crested Butte may just take the cake.
Summiting a Mountain!
It’s been a while since I have hiked a proper mountain so after a local guy was showing us pictures of the hike to the Mount Gothic False Summit, I decided it was about time that I bagged one again. With the extra 2.5 miles return from where we had to park the car after the rough road got too rough for little Casper to pass, I ended up hiking 9.5 miles, and the actual ascent of Mount Gothic was really tough – but I absolutely loved it!
There was only one other couple coming down the mountain when I was about halfway through my ascent, so I had the top to myself. It was really steep and slippery with loose gravel, but the wild flowers and views once I got above the tree line more than made up for it. I can’t wait till my next summit – which will hopefully be soon.
Spending a Day at Penny Hot Springs
I love a good hot springs, especially a natural one, and Penny Hot Springs near Carbondale is now one of my favorites in Colorado. It is a series of small pools that sit on the side of a pristine river, with just a couple of small rock walls separating them from the cold water of the river. We spent a few hours there chatting to our fellow soakers, taking dips in the cold river to cool down, and generally just enjoying the hot water and the relaxing vibe of this magical place.
A Long Journey Back to the US
From Bangkok I had a hellish journey ahead of me to LA: A late flight to Manila, arriving at 3.30am and with an eight hour stopover, followed by a 13 hour flight to LA, a 3.5 hour stopover then the 2.5 hour flight to Denver. I won’t lie – it was really rough – even more so because the time difference was 11 hours so the jetlag hit me harder than usual, but I was so happy to be back on US soil, and to be reunited with Toby and the family.
Looking After a Naughty Puppy
We have generally had really good experiences housesitting and I wouldn’t say our housesit in Eagle was terrible, but it definitely turned out to be more than we bargained for. One of the dogs was a complete sweetheart (although she woke us up at 5am every morning), but the other dog was still only a puppy – a really, really big puppy that seemed to have had very little training.
On my first night back to the housesit, the puppy was in and out of the room all night, and when I went to let them out the next morning, I discovered that he had pooped all over the carpet in the lounge – and I mean ALL over: There was diarrhoea everywhere. So yeah, cleaning diarrhoea off carpet at 6am was not ideal.
Walking the puppy was also a bit of a nightmare as he would pull on his leash constantly, try chasing other dogs and jump all over the other dog. I don’t think I will look after a large breed puppy again unless I am paid to do so – it is so much work.
Two Flat Tires in Three Days
Our time in Crested Butte would have almost been perfect – would it not have been for the fact that we got two flat tires, only a couple of days apart. We had actually been talking about getting new tires soon because our tires were getting near the end of their lives, when we woke up on our first morning free-camping in the mountains near town with a very flat tire. Toby went to get our spare tire and realised that was also partially flat because it hadn’t been fixed properly months earlier.
Luckily a photographer pulled up not too long after and very kindly helped us out – lending us his bike pump to get the spare to a drivable state. Unfortunately the tire shop in town didn’t stock our tires so we had to pump up the spare every few hours to keep it going.
Then, after tackling the dodgy dirt roads around Crested Butte again, we woke up with another flat! This wasn’t a complete puncture like the first flat so we managed to still drive on it as long as we pumped it up every few hours too.
Once we got to Carbondale on our last night though, we came out from dinner and it was totally flat. We were saved again, this time by the bartender at the local brew bar who called her flatmate who had a pressure pump to come save us. We spent the night in the parking lot of the tire shop in town then used a temporary puncture fix spray to get to Denver to replace the tires – an expensive adventure. At least we have a three year warranty on our new tires incase we have any more problems.
So Many Errands
There were so many fun things I wanted to do once I got back to Denver – and I did get to do some fun stuff – but I felt like so much of my time in the first week and a half back was spent running errands and doing life admin and wedding stuff online. Everything seemed to take longer than usual too, I blame the jetlag for that. Adulting sucks sometimes.
SO high this month – and I didn’t even include the money that I spent on getting my wedding dress altered ($600 – ouch) but this does include nearly $500 of vehicle costs. I will have over $1300 in visa costs coming out next month but my everyday spending should be a lot lower.
My paid accommodation this month consisted of five nights in basic private bungalows on Koh Pha Ngan, two nights in a hostel dorm in Ayutthaya, two nights in a hostel dorm in Bangkok, a night (well – 6 hours from 4am) in a small private room at a hotel in Manila, and one night camping at Colorado National Monument. We also spent eleven nights housesitting between two housesits in Denver and Eagle, four nights free camping, and four nights staying with family.
Food and Drink $729
Whoops – this is way too high and I really need to rein in my spending on food and drink in the coming months. My only excuse is that I was on the road pretty much the whole month so I did very minimal cooking. We have a few housesits coming up and we will definitely be aiming to eat at home more rather than eating out all the time.
I also spent quite a lot in Bangkok over a couple of nights at fancy rooftop bars and nice restaurants – it was a bit of a treat to myself as I won’t be able to travel internationally for a year or so once I enter the US.
- Birkenstock Sandals $28.50
- Colorado Singlet $22
- Colorado Hat $27
- Crested Butte Singlet $33
Just a few little purchases this month on clothing and shoes that were mostly all planned. SO happy with my amazing deal for Birkenstocks – purchased at the famous Chatuchak Market in Bangkok.
- Scooter Hire and Gas on Koh Pha Ngan $22.50
- Flight from Surat Thani to Bangkok $30.50
- Bus and Boat Package to Surat Thani Airport from Koh Pha Ngan $14
- Taxi from Thong Nai Pan Noi to Thong Sala on Koh Pha Ngan $18
- Train from Don Muang to Ayutthaya $0.50 (yes, really!)
- Boats across river in Ayutthaya $0.50
- Push bike rental in Ayutthaya $1.50
- Train from Ayutthaya to Bangkok $0.50
- Public Transport in Bangkok $12.50
- Taxis in Bangkok $3.50
- River Boat in Bangkok $3
- Taxi from Hostel to Airport in Bangkok $10
- Flight from LA to Denver $82
- Petrol in the US $55
I don’t include International Flights in my Round Up Costs
- Temple Entrance Fees in Ayutthaya $4.50
- Thai Massage in Bangkok $6
- Entrance to Wat Arun in Bangkok $1.50
- Entrance to Temple of the Golden Mount in Bangkok $1.50
- Day Pass to Elitch Gardens Theme Park in Denver $35
- The Big Lebowski at Film on the Rocks at Red Rocks, Denver $18
- Entrance to Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs, Colorado $25
Lots of fun activities in Thailand and the US.
- Phone Credit $45
- Toiletries $7
- Bracelet $6.50
- Coin purses and hanky $1
- Makeup Brush $3
- Reusable Water Bottle $16
- Passport Photos, Copying, and Printing Fees $21.50
- Bank Fees $2.50
- Shower in Crested Butte $10
- Colorado Stickers $6
- New sheets and Airbed $15
- E Books $7
Vehicle Costs $489
- Van Registration $75
- Van Repairs $75
- Wood for Van interior build $18
- Five New Tires and Realignment $321
We spent so much on our van this month – this is just my half of the costs! – that I created a whole new category for it. Fingers crossed that next month there will be little to no additional costs.
What’s in Store for Next Month
Month Thirty Eight will start with another week housesitting in Eagle, where we plan to head into nearby Vail for some hiking, as well as doing some hiking around town as well.
From Eagle we will be heading down to New Mexico for a few days to stay with Toby’s Dad and to visit one of my favorite cities, Santa Fe, before heading back into Colorado to do a weekend housesit in another one of my favorites: Manitou Springs.
We want to stop at Valley View Hot Springs on the way back up to Manitou Springs, and once we are in Manitou I want to perfect my skeeball at the arcade in town, eat at the Fondue Restaurant we missed last time we were in Manitou, and to visit the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, which will be a new place for both of us.
Then it’s back to Denver for a week where we will catch up with friends and family, run some wedding errands, and hopefully get some tubing and hiking in Golden squeezed into the agenda.
For the last ten days of the month, I will be hitting the road again, while Toby goes off to work an event in California for the week.
My friend Dani is meeting me in Nashville for a week long road trip from Nashville to Asheville via Knoxville, Chattanooga and Smoky Mountain National Park – I can’t wait!
I decided to drive down there rather than flying so I am taking three nights to get there, with stops planned for Hays in Kansas, Kansas City in Missouri, and St Louis in Missouri.
It will be my first time in the Mid West (not counting Chicago) as well as the South, and I will be traveling to five new to me states: Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.
If I can’t travel internationally, I am going to make sure I see as much as the US as possible.
Month Thirty Eight is already shaping up to be pretty amazing!
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here