Songkran Festival in Thailand: The World’s Largest Water Fight

Songkran Festival in Thailand: The World's Largest Water Fight

Songkran Festival in Thailand: The World’s Largest Water Fight

Sometimes when you travel you happen to get a little bit lucky.  This past April, we arrived in Thailand on April 13th which happened to coincide with the start of Songkran Festival which is celebrated in Thailand as New Year’s.  We boarded our Bangkok Airways flight from Bangkok to Koh Samui and the pilot wished everybody a happy Songkran day.  This came as a surprise to us as we had no clue it was New Year’s in this part of the world.  The airline also handed out a waterproof pouch for everyone on board the flight that day to use once they arrived in Koh Samui.

Truck full of people with water guns

Truck full of people with water guns

Songkran is often called the world’s largest water fight and this moniker is certainly appropriate.  Once we arrived in Koh Samui, we had about an hour drive from the airport to our hotel on the other side of the island.  Almost as soon as we left the airport, you could see it was not a typical day.  In the course of an hour drive from the airport to our hotel, our van was probably pelted with buckets of water at least hundred times.

People were lined up on the side of the street with buckets of water or water guns, spraying water at anything that passed by, whether it was cars, trucks, or people on motorbikes.  The whole scene was extremely festive.  You could see extreme joy that the locals and expats took in celebrating Songkran.  After an interesting hour long drive, we finally arrived at our hotel where the celebration continued.  Needless to say, after almost twenty plus hours on a plane, it was a welcome sight to experience such a unique holiday.

Roads were completely wet even though it wasn't raining

Roads were completely wet even though it wasn’t raining

Here are some other pictures from Songkran:

 

Anything goes during Songkran

Anything goes during Songkran

People also throw chalk in addition to water

People also throw powder/chalk in addition to water

 

 

Windshield pelted with chalk and water

Windshield pelted with chalk and water

 

Our Journey To Thailand

Thai Islands in the Gulf of Thailand

My wife’s spring break from school this year came in the middle of April, just in time for us to avoid a serious case of cabin fever.  After the hellacious winter that we experienced in Wisconsin, we were determined to go somewhere really warm.  For many years we contemplated making the journey to Thailand but for whatever reason had not.  Given the long flight to Thailand from the United States, I had always wanted to spend two weeks there but I didn’t foresee a time in the near future where this would be possible.  I looked up the projected weather in Thailand in April and it happened to be dry season.  Temperatures were generally in the high eighties or nineties during this part of the year which sounded pretty good to us.  Sunshine, warm weather, beaches, and new destination for us made for an easy decision to go to Thailand.

Long stretch of beach on Koh Samui

Thailand happens to be one of the top tourist destinations in the world with Bangkok being the epicenter of any traveler’s journey.  In my earlier travels, I would have never thought of not visiting Bangkok. With a solid week in Thailand, we wanted to focus on one area of the country with the possibility of returning to other areas in the future.  The idea of spending time in a crowded, hot, humid capital city with horrendous traffic after spending upwards of twenty hours on a plane held no appeal to us.  Chiang Mai, Phuket and Koh Samui all were possibilities to visit but we really wanted to be near the water so Chiang Mai would have to wait.  Ultimately, we decided to visit Koh Samui over Phuket although I have no doubt either place would have been great.   Thus, we transited through Bangkok on our way to Koh Samui without ever going into the city.  This would be considered heresy in the backpacker world but my wife and I are not backpackers and had no qualms about spending our week on the majestic island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand.  In hindsight, we did not regret our decision.

Coast Line on Koh Samui

A Weekend In Florida’s Emerald Coast: Destin, FL

Florida's Emerald Coast

Florida’s Emerald Coast

I have to say that I seriously considered moving to Florida after spending this last winter in Wisconsin.  The extreme cold seemed to never end.  Day after day of below zero temperatures and snow banks that seemed to grow higher by the week, all made for a serious case of cabin fever.  In fact, in my three plus decades, this was easily the worst winter I can remember. Luckily, I have parents who are happily retired and like to spend a couple of months each winter in Destin, Florida.

View from my parent's condo

View from my parent’s condo

As a Christmas present, my wife and I received airplane tickets to visit my parents for a long weekend at the end of February.  This long weekend came at a great time as my tolerance for the cold had reached a breaking point.  Much is written about Florida from a tourism standpoint but you never hear that much about the Emerald Coast which is perplexing to me. In the whole state of Florida, I have yet visit anywhere as pretty as the Emerald Coast and have not found a beach that remotely compares to the beaches in Destin.

Long stretch of beach in Destin

Long stretch of beach in Destin

As we arrived in Destin, the weather was very nice for the end of February.  During our three day stay, the temperatures were in the high sixties and mostly sunny.  Given that Destin is in the northern part of the Florida, temperatures can be cooler during the winter but we had a very nice weekend.  My parent’s condo was located right on the beach and their patio had a great view of the Gulf.

Empty Florida beaches in February except for a couple of fishing poles

Empty Florida beaches in February except for a couple of fishing poles

Our three days there were spent relaxing, enjoying the good weather, walking the beach, and eating some fresh seafood.  I love Destin mainly because of the amazing beaches and beautiful water.  Each morning, we took a seven mile walk on the beach.  The sand is very soft along the beach in Destin that it almost feels like powder.  There are not many sea shells that wash up on the beach so walking is very comfortable.  Combine a great beach for walking with clear emerald water and it is truly a special place.

The Crab Shack restaurant right on the beach in Destin

The Crab Shack restaurant right on the beach in Destin

Because we were there in later February, the beach was relatively deserted.  If we had come back a few weeks later in March, the spring break crowds arrive which continues into the summer months.

Harbor Walk Marina in Destin filled with shops and restaurants

Harbor Walk Marina in Destin filled with shops and restaurants

In addition to the beaches and water, Destin has some great restaurants. Specifically, we enjoyed going to Dewey Destin’s.  The jumbo shrimp are always one of my favorites.  My wife ordered the trigger fish, which was the best individual piece of seafood I have ever tasted.

Nearby Rosemary Beach

Nearby Rosemary Beach

Besides Destin, the neighboring communities along the Emerald Coast are worth visiting.  We drove east from Destin to Rosemary Beach which was a very interesting beach community.

European feel to Rosemary Beach

European feel to Rosemary Beach

Take a village in the Swiss Alps and place it on the beach along Florida’s Emerald Coast and you have a very photogenic scene.  Overall, Destin continues to delight me every time I visit.  I can’t wait to go back next winter!

Entrance to one of the beach towns close to Destin

Entrance to one of the beach towns close to Destin

Final Thoughts On French Polynesia And Our Honeymoon

The sun setting over Moorea and our honeymoon

The sun setting over Moorea and our honeymoon

Although it’s been a couple of years since our honeymoon, both my wife and I look back very fondly at those magical couple of days spent in paradise.  French Polynesia lived up to everything a honeymoon should be and more.  It was beautiful, serene, quiet, relaxing and the overwater bungalows make this one of the most unique destinations in the world.  It was expensive but you can’t put a price on an experience such as staying in an overwater bungalow.  If there was ever a place to get away from it all, French Polynesia is it.  There are destinations that one visits that are enjoyable but you don’t necessarily feel a great urge to return right away.  One of my travel mantras is that I try never to return to a place I have previously traveled to because there are so many beautiful and exciting places to visit in the world.  However, my wife and I both knew that the moment our plane took off from Papeete, we wanted to return someday.  It was during our stay on Moorea, that you have time to reflect on your life and you realize how fortunate you are to visit one of the more beautiful places in the world.  Life was so exceedingly great during those five nights that we spent on Moorea that you forget about the stresses of work and the daily grind.  To anybody who actually reads my blog, I can highly recommend a trip to French Polynesia.  The price will be high but the reward and memories will last a lifetime.

Not many views like this in the world - the beauty of French Polynesia

Not many views like this in the world – the beauty of French Polynesia

Guest Post: Review of the Hilton Moorea

Hilton Moorea

After my wife and I traveled to French Polynesia for our honeymoon, we continually raved about the overwater bungalow experience to my parents.  Eventually, they decided to plan their own trip to French Polynesia and the island of Moorea.  Here is a guest post from my mom reviewing their time at the Hilton Moorea:Wanting to do something special for our 45th wedding anniversary, we decided to visit what some consider “the most beautiful islands in the world”, French Polynesia.  We were undecided between visiting Bora Bora or Moorea.  Ultimately, we chose Moorea because we thought it would be less touristy.  We booked our trip with the help of ” Pacific For Less”, a travel agency based out of Hawaii.  They booked our flight from Los Angeles to Papeete, helped us choose our resort, arranged the reservation and took care of all our transfers.  We were very impressed with “Pacific For Less”.

Pool at the Hilton Moorea

Pool at the Hilton Moorea

We chose the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa for several reasons, mainly its location and water activities.  The Hilton is nestled between 2 bays on the heart shaped island of Moorea with a backdrop of the shark tooth mountains.  The lagoon gave the resort a relaxed ambiance.

View of the lagoon and beach at the Hilton Moorea

View of the lagoon and beach at the Hilton Moorea

We chose an overwater bungalow and it was such an intimate environment – the mountain view, clear blue water and all of the tropical fish swimming around the bungalow.  Because of the lagoon surrounding the resort, water activities were ideal.

Paddle boarding in the lagoon

My dad paddle boarding in the lagoon

Snorkeling was great and we were able to snorkel right off our deck.  In addition to snorkeling, kayaks, paddle boards and paddle boats were also available and complimentary.  The resort also had a fitness center and tennis courts.

Snorkeling off the deck of the overwater bungalow

Snorkeling off the deck of the overwater bungalow

Food was very expensive, which we knew it would be.  Our package booked through “Pacific For Less”, included a breakfast buffet which was spectacular.  We enjoyed the Beach Bar (less expensive) and the Crepe Bar, which was situated among the overwater bungalows.  If you wanted to venture off the resort, local restaurants would provide transportation to their establishments.

One of the outdoor restaurants at the Hilton Moorea

One of the outdoor restaurants at the Hilton Moorea

We had no complaints about the Hilton, the staff or their service.  We have traveled to six continents and thirty-six countries and this was by far, one of our best trips.  French Polynesia is a magical place and is deserving of a visit for a special occasion.

My parents enjoying their anniversary in Moorea

My parents enjoying their anniversary in Moorea