Thrilling Thailand

My partner Renzo and I basically live on YouTube these days as our thirst for learning grows, there is always something to watch and to learn about. About a year ago, Renzo asked if I’d ever heard of “digital nomads” and my answer was “of course”, as it was something I’d been dabbling in for years as a travel photographer. It was quite a coincidence that he asked me it that day because I too had been watching some videos about digital nomads recently trying to get ideas of ways to make money while on the road. We both had been watching a lot of same people posting from Chiang Mai, Thailand and videos about the upcoming 4th annual Nomad Summit there. We watched a few things together that day, and kind of half-jokingly said we’d go someday. I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I’d visit Thailand eventually, but it wasn’t on top of any of my lists.

A few months later I received notice that I would be traveling to India for my third assignment for Photographers Without Borders in late January 2018. I anxiously got on my laptop to research the organization I was assigned to photograph in India and to look at maps of India and Southeast Asia. To my surprise, Thailand seemed close to India, or at least in the same part of the world. Quickly my online research led me to the Nomad Summit website where I found out it too was in January. I thought to myself, could I make it happen?

Once my travel dates for India were set, and things at home were lined up, I realized it was a real possibility to attend the summit, and with a little convincing, Renzo was onboard too! Before we knew it we were boarding our Emirates flight from Fort Lauderdale to Bangkok, via Dubai. The service on our flight was excellent, and the time we spent in Dubai on the layover was filled with lots of exciting things as well. After nearly 40 hours of traveling, we were arriving in an Uber in the Silom neighborhood of Bangkok to our hotel Park Saladaeng, where the rooms were nicely furnished, comfortable (but small), and a perfect place to catch up on our sleep before exploring the world’s most visited city.

On our first day in Bangkok, we were pleasantly surprised by how inexpensive things were there. The Uber ride from the airport was under $5, most of the hour and a half massages we got were under $15 (and they are literally on every street corner), large portions of fried rice or delicious pad thai are priced between $2 to $4! The people were all gracious and friendly, the streets were clean and well organized, and the must-see sites around the city were fantastic, making it a traveler’s dream destination.

We visited many of sites, such as the Wat Pho with The Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Arun, and the Royal Palace. We also enjoyed a small boat ride to gain a deeper understanding of life beyond the capital as we explored the floating markets of Damnoen Saduak. January is summer and high-season for tourists, so be prepared to be among lots of visitors from all around the world, which I saw as a bonus!

After three days and two nights in the capital city, it was time to continue north. Our first stop was in Ayutthaya, the once capital city of The Ayutthayan Empire from 1351 to 1767. It is about 80 kilometers from Bangkok, which was a short hour and a half train ride which costs less than $5. We stayed at a reasonably priced hotel in the center of the city and enjoyed walking through the local day market and of course getting a massage on our first day.

We woke up early on our second day to try and make it to the Wat Chaiwatthanaram before sunrise. Although it officially doesn’t open until 8 AM, we were able to shoot some photos and video clips from outside. The Khmer-style temples were beautiful and constructed in 1630 by King Prasat Thong to honor his mother. All of the famous sites are all situated within the city of Ayutthaya, which is actually an island. Among the places we visited were: Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Ratchaburana, and Wat Phra Si Sanphet. There weren’t nearly as many tourists there as there were in Bangkok, so I recommend visiting this amazing city while in Thailand.

After a full day of site-seeing, it was time to return to our hotel to pack up for our overnight train ride to Chiang Mai. We hadn’t planned any of our trip ahead of time and were just doing things at the moment. I read online that two over-night trains had sleeper cars and that the tickets were less expensive if you buy them at the train station instead of online. But, once we arrived at the station we were advised that both of those trains were full in all classes! The only train that was available was a midnight train (which was 7 hours later) and the seats were all third class. It indeed was not the train ride that I had romantically envisioned, but sitting up awake on the uncomfortable hard seats for 13 hours with the locals is a great memory I took away from Thailand with me. The views from the large windows of the train through the small towns and vast mountains were impressive and enough to keep me awake for the entire ride. Needless to say, once we arrived in Chiang Mai at noon, it was straight to our hotel, The RCN Court and Inn in the center of the Old City for a good night’s rest. The hotel was again very comfortable with everything we needed at a right price of $35 a night!

Our first full day in Chiang Mai was the Nomad Summit, which started promptly at 9 AM at Le Meridien Hotel. The day was full of guest speakers with different knowledge and ideas about being a digital nomad. The speakers included:
Virginia Campo – From Startup Intrapreneur to Online Entrepreneur
J Keitsu – Making $2 Million a Month in Sales with Drop Shipping
Derek Pankaew – From Bootstrapping to Millionaire Mindset
Viola Eva Schenkel -Six Figure Service-Based Business from Scratch
Matt Bowles – Selling Turnkey Physical Real Estate
Nick Nimmin – Youtube for Brand Building
Mike LaRosa – Finding Accelerated Serendipity
Johnny FD – Creating Real Income by Creating Real Value

After a whole day of knowledge gathering and doing some serious business planning, the day’s events concluded with the after-party on the roof of The Maya Mall, which had terrific views of the city. The party was a great place to network with the speakers, attendees, and meet some of the digital nomads we had been watching on YouTube, such as Riley from Living That Life. It was so awesome to have been a home just a few months prior watching videos about being a digital nomad, then to be right there in the middle of Chiang Mai with so many of the people who we look up to!

We had a few more days in Chiang Mai and the surrounding areas before we had to leave. Besides getting our daily massages, we enjoyed walking the streets of the Old City site-seeing, meeting people, and eating fantastic meals. One highlight of the trip was going to Chiangmai Mountain Sanctuary where we learned about elephants, feed them, walked with them, and Renzo even bathed with them! The experience was truly once in a life time.

The trip was crowned by a visit to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which was situated on top of a nearby mountain with breathtaking views of Chiang Mai. The 309 steps up the side of the hill were worth the energy! The incredible part of the being there was where the monks chant at sunset.

All I can now say is that Thailand should be on top of everyone’s list of places to visit!