My trip with We Are Bamboo has concluded as of a few days ago. So before I start to write about the experience, I think it's best to share some pre-travel advice for anyone considering this experience or travel to Thailand in general.
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and roaming wifi
PACKING: PACK LIGHT!
Depending on the time of year, you will experience a variety of weather situations. Most importantly it's probably going to be hot and humid so if you aren't accustomed to being sticky this may take some getting used to. Consider that transportation may not be like it is at home. In our case we were transported most often in traditional truck taxi which means climbing into the bed of a truck while your luggage is either on top of the cab or inside at your feet. You or possible the driver or tour staff will have to lift your items for these situations.
We also transferred by ferry boat and by walking. It's important to realize that streets can be uneven including cracks and sidewalks can be high from the street almost up to 1.5 feet in some cases. Additionally, piers are made of wood slats that aren't always even. If you have a giant wheeled suitcase it may be challenging to navigate these unforeseen obstacles. We had a domestic flight from Chiang Mai to a small airport in order to get a bus, then a ferry to Koh Samui. The bus we dropped off our bags into the hidden compartment and had to climb a steep and narrow staircase. By the time we got to the ferry drop off, we had to collect our bags, walk through crowds, up stairs or a ramp to the ticket office seating area and then when getting to the ferry walk back down all those obstacles, over the parking lot, over the lowered gate of the ferry and up extremely steep metal steps up to the people part of the boat. Getting back down those stairs was so cumbersome.
Staying in Thailand a few days after the bamboo trip ended, I booked a mini-van to travel a few hours to another destination. That was very precarious as all of the bags were loaded on the front seat. The website for one company says you have to buy an extra seat for your luggage if it's bigger than the backpack size. Make sure you keep in mind all of the obstacles and possible extra charges not only on your flights but literally lugging around your belongings.
I highly recommend a well constructed backpack that has a waist belt that lifts the weight off of your shoulders. This allows you to be hands free and not get caught on all the uneven ground surfaces. Bring a smaller backpack as a carry-on and possibly a collapsible tote for any purchases or items you may also want on the plane. Then you have at least one hand free while you are walking around.
It's quite possible you will experience different plumbing situation from your home while traveling. You may not think about doing research as to the bathrooms, but it will help you from being shocked or inconsiderate. There were some signs, but not always about not throwing paper into toilets due to the delicate nature of pipes that can get clogged. You may also want to bring hand soap or alternative as that may not often be supplied as well as something to dry your hands. In Thailand you may find the traditional squat toilet in the ground or a standard western toilet.
One of the most interesting aspect of the toilet scenario is the 'bum gun' as a sort of bidet.
Sunscreen. Whether you think you need this item or not, please consider using this item especially if you are going to be spending all day out on the water snorkeling or other activities. I have a very strong memory of being a lobster as a child on a plane moving from Okinawa to Florida with several layovers. My brother and I had played in the pool all day and boy did we regret that. I had my first case of Basal Cell Carcinoma at the age of 25 so I'm very concerned about protecting my skin as I've had maybe 15 spots removed since then.
Not naming names, but several of the people on the trip had a day of snorkeling and came back with pink skin reminiscent of that old advertisement of a baby losing it's bottom suit for a particular sunscreen. Protect your skin! And make sure you aren't uncomfortable in all possible transit that happens after that fun day on the water.
I am a big advocate of being disconnected to be able to fully immerse and experience what we are doing in the moment. I've traveled weeks at a time in Japan for example without having wifi except for while I'm at an accommodation or an occasional shop. I spent a few weeks in Italy and realized I needed wifi to make sure that I could navigate while driving so I rented a roaming device. After that, the next few times I've traveled in Japan I've opted to rent the roaming device.
I love this because it keeps your connection secure and consistent. You don't have to constantly log in to new accounts. And in the moments that you really need a map to figure out where you are going, to look up transportation, or to find a restaurant that's open late these devices are worth the daily rental. They are super easy too as you book them and they'll be at your first accommodation or pick up at the airport and mail back the day you depart.
I opted to rent one of these for half of my 30 day trip in Thailand. I found #ThaiSims to have the best website of the options I came across. The offer #4G #unlimited #wifi #internet in #thailand so I decided to try it out. One of the motivations was knowing there were several days when we would have long transit such as an 8-hour bus ride. I also knew that I wanted to be able to post my photographs to social media and get online for blogging purposes which I didn't have enough time to actually get to. In addition, although this was set up as a vacation for me it turned into a working vacation as I needed to be able to log into my email and many other accounts.
What I discovered in Thailand is an unreliable network. Some places promote free wifi but it is likely unsecured. The times without using this roaming device I found signals that dropped on a regular basis. And now that I have returned the device I'm regretting not keeping it another week. The hotel where I stayed in the Khaosan area had three different wifi options and none of them were reliable. Then I transferred via a mini-van from Bangkok to Pattaya to stay at an airbnb. I didn't realize until a few days ago that the airbnb host had to pick me up to provide me the key and instructions.
Not having the wifi roaming router was a nightmare. I had to message him while standing outside the hotel that the van was late. Once I was in the van I had no other options but to wait until I got dumped into the new town an hour later than I told the person. There is a free wifi in this city so as a relief I could stand on the street and try to get a connection to communicate with the host. My map wasn't loading and it in general was a challenging situation that we've all come to expect with having smart phones and data plans.
Unfortunately, it's very difficult to unlock your U.S. phone to get a sim card from another country for many of the service providers. I also don't need my phone for making phone calls really just the wifi. So plan ahead and book your roaming device before your trip. I won't ever travel without it again. Here's the ThaiSims website! If you are neurotic and desperately need your social media feeds, your email or other internet connected apps you prefer get a roaming wifi router - take to the beach, on the bus, to the mountains, etc. As I said, for me it was great to have to work on the road.