The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly: First Backpacking Extravaganza

I’m back! I promised I would return to the digital world after my backpacking adventure but had little idea of what that trip had in store for me. I also underestimated how draining it is to travel consistently for 3 weeks! I am still recovering! In some ways, I wish I could have kept up with the blog along the way but I think it is extremely important to actually experience and live in the moment while traveling as opposed to trying to document every single second. It is a more authentic style of traveling. I took notes as I went with hopes of remembering funny memories, interesting people and conversations and defining moments of the journey. I took tons of photos, but I can’t count the number of times we said “Pictures just don’t do this place justice.” The pictures pale in comparison to feeling the breeze on the long tail boat, the visions of crystal clear waters all around, or the magnitude of sensations and stimulation you feel walking through a crowded temple or a popular night market. I also think about all of the people I met along the way, their stories, and all the stories in the heads and hearts of people who will never write them down.
In hindsight, I now have a different philosophy about my trip and my blog and dare I say, life, in general. The most amazing part about traveling is the sensation of vulnerability, you never know what to expect next, whether it be good or bad, you can only control so much. There was both good and bad experiences on this backpacking trip, but each and every moment and memory is apart of me forever. I want to share my experiences, my photographs and my musings of what they taught me, but I have to admit I have started to feel possessive of my experiences. I feel as though I am transforming from an American 20 something, teacher from New York into a traveler. A traveler with an interesting story, background, a loving family and friends, a bucket list and most importantly dreams of what’s to come. Being a traveler, it’s like a club that you aren’t invited to. You become a part of it and it becomes a part of you. The best part of every single city, island, hostel, resort, bar, restaurant, temple, airport, bus station or street corner we visited was the fellow travelers I met along the way. There is an inexplicable fire in their eyes when they talk about where they’ve been and where they’re going. There is a desire to move, to see, to experience; that truly is like an infection that spreads. You can recognize it in someone else and you form a friendship, an unspoken bond and respect for the good left in the world and the individuals who choose to experience it.
Travelers do not simply exist, travelers are never satisfied with staying in the same place, but always appreciative of their surroundings. Travelers do not listen to what other people have to say about why they shouldn’t visit a certain country, its “too dangerous” or “too poor”. Of course we must all utilize caution while traveling, but if you too scared to step outside of the familiar, you might as well stay home. On my three week backpacking adventure I saw more than I can possibly condense into one blog post. I figured I would give you a list of places we visited and a few highlights of each location (both good, bad and ugly) because anyone who has traveled knows that it is not all as glamorous as pictures make it look. The bad and ugly are usually quite trivial things, but at the time, they are roadblocks or moments of true vulnerability. Once you learn to embrace all aspects of traveling, it frees you to enjoy the perks and discover the beauty in the hardships.

1. Chiang Mai
The good: 1. Sammy’s Organic Cooking School-learning how to cook all of my favorite Thai dishes from a lovely Thai couple using all fresh ingredients from their farm
2. New Years Eve at the Tae Pae gate with people, lanterns, and fireworks covering every square inch of the roads
3. Meeting a monk name Aye at a temple I haphazardly stumbled upon and hearing his take on life, Buddhism and happiness (One of those “life changing” moments that happened right before my eyes)
The bad: Getting lost with Jackie the first day with no idea what street our hostel was on or how to get there (No one else knew either) Made the best of it by shopping til we dropped & finding a sacared Mexican restaurant we visited 5 times in 7 days
The ugly: 12 hour bus ride to Bangkok (a bus that we searched the whole station 4 times over for) and lots of waiting in the airport (Jackie fell asleep across 4 chairs in the “Muslim Only” section LOL)





2. Ko Phi Phi:
The good: 1. Boat cruise around the island, visit to Maya Bay (where The Beach was filmed) & breathtaking private coves & beaches
2. Beach parties- Fire shows, mojitos, hookah, and LOTS of dancing with my girlfriends
3. Our splurge bungalow – the last night we decided to treat ourselves to a beautiful room after suffering in a new hostel every night. Well worth it!
The bad: Arriving at our hostel and immediately having to cancel our reservation due to the horrid conditions. Changing rooms EVERY single night of our 4 days on the island, Jackie loosing her phone (which was returned thank god) Shitty manicures & pedicures that chipped the NEXT day, already acquired two additional bags(not including huge backpack) we deem ourselves “The Worst Backpackers Ever”
The ugly: Throwing up the whole ferry ride to Ko Lanta(not due to being sea sick) having a Thai worker rub my back






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4. Ko Lanta
The good: 1. Chill out House- Coolest hostel EVER- 3 story tree house run by a woman from California, bar. Restaurant, authentic bamboo tattoo shop within the hostel, So many genuinely interesting and friendly travelers
2. Snorkeling& trip to the Emerald Cave- awesome boat cruise to the Emerald Cave, had to swim through a dark cave and wind up in a totally enclosed beach within the island
3. Meeting up with my childhood friend- Sarah Jane, so great to see a friend who happened to be teaching yoga on the same island
The bad: Sickness for a majority of our traveling crew (4 out of 6) food poisoning, sinus infections, etc. , Boat cruise boat breaking down and having to be taxied in to shore by two other long tail boats
The ugly: Hangover of DEATH the first day in 95 degree weather in the outdoor tree house hostel… Barely saw the island the first day


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5. Tonsai Beach, Krabi

The good: 1. Looked like Jurassic Park, a less crowded, super chill beach, my favorite spot of the trip (I think) Right next door to the popular West Railay beach ( If you are reading this KEEP IT QUIET, it would be a shame to see it turn into a tourist trap)
2. Kayaking around Krabi- great day! Watched rock climbers, visited caves & a few different beaches with the pack
3. Chill Out beach bar- our home base for the entire time on the island, amazing view, cool vibe, best bartenders (two goofy Thai men in their early 20’s) fire shows, good food & drinks
4. REAL COFFEE & Fabulous veggie burgers! (Two luxuries I totally miss from America)
The bad: Beach water was about two inches at low tide and couldn’t swim, at this point our backpacks were overflowing and we couldn’t find any of our belongings, sand covering every inch of us, our clothes, our room
The ugly: Electricity only worked from 6 p.m until 6 a.m and there was only one outlet in the room (three girls, one fan, no time or ability to charge our cell phones/ woke up feeling like we were in a sauna/disconnected from the world )








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6. Ko Pha-Ngan
The good: 1. Hacienda Resort- great pool & swim up bar overlooking the ocean, fun atmosphere, and tasty restaurant two steps from our Bungalow, barely ventured off the resort the first few days
2. Jungle Party & Full Moon Party- once a lifetime experience of pure chaos on the beach, some of the weirdest and wildest parties I have ever been to
3. Amsterdam Bar- amazing spot with a very relaxed atmosphere and great view of the Gulf, great sunset with great new friends, lots of laughs
The bad: Ants everywhere in our bungalow (bathroom, bed, every place you can imagine), everything was overpriced since it was so touristy
The ugly: Lost our room key, lost/broken cellphones (not me, Thank goodness) missed our ferry, started to feel “ready to go home” & very drained





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I hate to condense the richness of the journey in a simple list especially since I have developed a new feeling of animosity toward this popular blogging format that is infiltrating social media. A few of you will probably read that and laugh because I have bitched to you about it. Guilty as charged. I simply could go on talking about it forever and I want to give my followers, friends and family at least a taste of the experience. If anyone is interested in hearing more or visiting one of these places in Thailand, please let me know! I am happy to make suggestions and help you! The greatest part of the trip was how close I grew to my friends I was traveling with, the amazing people we met and how my outlook on the world changed. Usually, it is hard to pin point defining moments of life, especially if you take away arbitrary “life changing moments” like graduation from high school and college. Of course those moments changed my path and started new chapters, but I love traveling because you feel yourself changing in each passing moment. You absorb your surroundings and you float in and out of conversations with people from all different walks of life, whether it is a monk you meet a temple of a friendly English girl you meet in your tree house hostel. You proactively grow, change and appreciate the world around you. It is inspiring and addicting. It is fulfilling and surprising. It is uncertain and extremely intimidating at times, but then again, so is life. “ We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”. Now, back to teaching and planning for the next trip (Thailand’s Summer Vacation), which is quickly approaching in March and April! Here we go again! Stay tuned! Cheers!

One thought on “The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly: First Backpacking Extravaganza

  1. Ronnie Bell (@bell444) says:

    Zuba, you gave us a great sense of your amazing 3+ week journey. The pictures are beautiful and definitely capture the flavor of your travels if not the “uncapturable” essence as you experienced it. Did I miss place #3? I couldn’t see your entry for it.

    We miss you and love you. Can’t believe you’ve been gone almost 4 months already. Your next package will be on its way around Feb 1st.

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