WIN Laundry Detergent

Product Review: WIN Laundry Detergent

I don’t particularly pay that much attention to my laundry detergent, but one thing I do notice is when the sweat stank doesn’t really leave my clothes. I was pretty excited when I got to try WIN detergent and found that I no longer have this issue!

WIN Laundry Detergent

WIN Laundry Detergent Really Wins

The reason I really wanted to try WIN detergent was the lofty claims of getting the sweaty smell out of workout clothes. Well, being the multi-sport athlete that I am, spending more days sweating than not sweating, and living in a van where things can stink up reeeaaallllll quick, I knew I could for sure put these claims to the test.

As I originally said, I never really notice the smell of my clothes after I wash them which means whatever detergent I happen to buy must be doing its job. Except for synthetics. All of my synthetic activewear just STINKS. No matter how many times I wash it, no matter how much soap I use, air dry, dryer sheets…doesn’t matter. It stinks.

After you sweat in synthetic clothing once, they’re basically ruined forever.

Or so I thought.

Summer Testing

Mountain Biking Slick Rock Trail

I received my WIN in June right before I went on a 10-week road trip and spent the summer traveling, hiking, mountain biking, and climbing almost every single day. Most of the clothes I word everyday were synthetic, moisture wicking t-shirts, socks, shorts, and even underbritches. In some places, the temperature rose well above 100 degrees.

Regardless, every time I left the laundromat, my clothes smelt great.

Winter Testing

Snowboarding Mammoth Mountain

This was the big test. My base layers [obviously] cover me from head to toe, and even though it’s cold out, I still sweat like a wildebeest when hiking or biking in the snow and while snowboarding. There’s more material than my summer clothing and it’s also thicker and heavier. I thought, “no way.”

I grabbed my base layers out of the dryer and could barely believe my nose. The usual “sweat stink trapped inside synthetic material” was no longer there. Like, WHAT?!

The Feelgood Part

WIN laundry detergent does NOT test any of their products on animals; they have a dye-free, fragrance-free version; it’s made and shipped in the U.S.A.; and it’s probably, most likely hypoallergenic (though they admit they have not specifically tested it against every single possible allergen_).

WIN Detergent VanLife

I received this product from DeepCreek PR for the sole reason of this review. I do not receive any financial benefit from DeepCreek or WIN Laundry Detergent. Thoughts are my own.

Tonsai Longtail

How to Avoid Traveler’s Diarrhea and Tonsai Tummy in Thailand

Food poisoning, Tonsai tummy, Montezuma’s Revenge, E. Coli, Salmonella, whatever you want to call it, Traveler’s Diarrhea is a surefire way to ruin your trip. With climbers and tourists flocking to tropical locations during the coming winter months, there’s a whole lot of people about to experience explosive diarrhea and vomiting. You probably won’t die but you might end up in the hospital with dehydration, and I’m here to help you avoid it.

Bangkok Food Cart
That cleaver could easily be used against you if you’re an asshat.

 

Tips for avoiding Traveler’s Diarrhea

I spent 3.5 months traveling Thailand and nearly escaped without getting Traveler’s Diarrhea, eating street food almost exclusively. (It’s the cheapest and most authentic!) It wasn’t until the last 2 weeks when it finally got me and forced me to postpone my SCUBA diving certification for a day.

Get the Immunizations on the U.S. CDC Travel Website

Go to the CDC Travel website, and then navigate to the country you’re visiting. They’ll have all the recommended immunizations to help keep you healthy abroad. For Thailand, they currently list:

  • All routine immunizations for here in the U.S.
  • Hepatitis A
  • Typhoid
  • And I’d throw Hep B in there for good measure if you need a booster. Hey, shit happens when you travel and party.

Start Eating more Variety now

Thai Street Food

Different vegetables, different fruits, different meats, different cooking methods.

If you eat a relatively strict diet, your body will react poorly no matter what you eat, even in your own home. If you’re a good citizen of the Midwest, you probably eat a healthy dose of corn, carrots, and potatoes. But if that’s all you ever eat and never mix in any type of leafy greens, you’ll likely end up having a toilet explosion the first time you try. Better to do it from the comfort of your own bathroom (though, bum guns are AWESOME!).

This is because our body adapts to everything we do, including the things we eat. If we never eat kale or spinach or chard, our body will stop producing the enzymes needed to digest those foods. Same goes for fruits, other vegetables, meat, cooking methods, and different types of seasonings and spices.

Bonus Education: This is also why some people claim gluten intolerance. If you stop eating gluten long enough, and then reintroduce back into your diet, of course you’re going to explode out your butt. Thus reinforcing the belief you have a gluten intolerance.

Find Authentic Restaurants in your Area

Rice with Pha-Loa
This is rice with pha loa. I was hoping it would be a version of the Vietnamese dish: Thit Kho Trung, but sadly it was not.

This goes along with more variety, but specifically the types of food you’ll encounter on your trip. It’s still not going to be the same, but it will be better.

Strengthen your Guts

That is, make sure your gut flora is as healthy, built-up, and strong as possible. Foods with active, live bacteria really help in this area. Anything fermented (like sauerkraut and kimchi), raw milk, some yogurts, kombucha, and kefir are good places to start.

Start Practicing Slightly Unsafe Food Handling Practices

Thailand Street Vendor Doing Dishes

This one will be the most controversial (and probably most difficult to get past mentally), but take it from someone that lives in a van: food is a lot more stable for a lot longer time than you currently believe.

Leave cooked food out a little longer before putting it in the fridge. Leave raw food out a little longer before cooking. Eat leftovers that are a week old (or more). Expose your gut to all sorts of bacteria, but start slow and give your body time to adapt. Use common sense. i.e. Probably don’t leave raw chicken out for 4 days and only partially cook it.

Next, you’ll probably think this is gross but…..wash your hands LESS. I don’t want to give examples of when and why, you’ll get the ida, but again….bacteria and adaptation.

Politically Correct, Boring, Safe Advice

You’ll be told this at the travel clinic, but also use common sense while traveling. Avoid uncooked food (but don’t, you’ll miss out), make sure the restaurant is clean (even though you can’t ensure that anyways, plus street food is the fucking bomb), and make sure your drinking water is safe.

What to do if you get Traveler’s Diarrhea

HQ Hostel Private Bathroom
This will be your favorite room, and the bum gun will be your favorite thing ever. Way better than toilet paper under these circumstances.

And if you get traveler’s diarrhea anyways? Come armed with prescribed Traveler’s Diarrhea antibiotics, Pepto Bismol, Imodium AD, and Dramamine. Accept how much it sucks. Treat yourself to a private room with AirCon for the day. Drink as many fluids as you can keep down.

Before I realized I had Tonsai Tummy, I was in a room without A/C. Once I figured out what was happening, I all but crawled to the front desk to change rooms (it was a whopping $15 upgrade for the night). I then spent the better part of a day curled up in the fetal position on the bed, making trips to the toilet about every 10 minutes. I took Pepto Bismol and Immodium AD to try calm my stomach and guts at the suggested dosage intervals, and I took Dramamine to try suppress the anxiety and relax.

If you know anyone traveling to some far off country this year, feel free to share this article with them!

Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie

2016 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie – Initial Thoughts

I’ve always claimed that mountain biking was my 3rd favorite outdoor sport, but I don’t know, man. My new 2016 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie might be changing that. My previous bike, a Giant Anthem-X 29’er, was stolen a few weeks ago, and while I loved that bike too, the Stumpy has already blown that thing out of the water.

2016 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie

This bike retails for $3,500 so it’s positioned right at that more than a casual rider, but still just a ‘weekend warrior’ price point. The 2016 models were released in late 2015 so I actually bought my bike as a used rental from the local bike shop. It was meticulously cared for and other than the scrapes and scratches you’d expect on the pedal arms and bottom bracket, you could barely tell it was used. I got one helluva price on it, which really helped since I was working within my insurance claim budget. What a great way to get more bang for your buck!

Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie singletrack
The Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie’s oversized tires allow more traction and therefore, higher speeds on the downhills and increased handling around corners. It’s bomber!

650B, Plus-Sized (Fattie) tires

The first thing I noticed about this bike was the fatty 3″ wide tires. They’re much wider than a standard tire (typically 2.1-2.25 inches wide), but still narrower than a typical fat tire (that start around 4″). That does add a little weight to the bike, but mine is running tubeless tires, which helps, and there is at least one other weight savings (coming later).

The advantage of plus-sized tires is simply more surface area on the ground for increased traction. I can tell you, I have never gone faster and felt more comfortable and in control while screaming downhill with my hair on fire.

Another concern of mine was downsizing from 29″ tires to 27.5″ tires (650B). My first bike was the old standard 26″ tire and after upgrading to the 29’er, I really enjoyed the ability to roll over virtually anything. I was still able to roll over everything on the moderate trail I rode, and I think the plus-sized tires helped, but I did notice that it wasn’t quite as smooth and efficient as the 29’er. I highly doubt that’s going to drive me away from enjoying this bike, but it is noticeable.

Fox FLOAT Performance DPS and Fox 34 Plus Performance Suspension

At the tail-end of my ownership of the Giant, I found an affinity for dropping off stuff.

A video posted by David Sandel (@davidsandel) on

The Anthem is a true cross country bike and the front fork only had 100mm – 110mm of travel. While that was great for 95% of the trails I rode, I still wanted something that could handle bigger things more frequently.

The Fox 34 Plus Performance has 150mm of travel, and I’ve already bottomed it out. It felt so good! But when you’re not hucking off drops and jumping off rocks, there’s a 3-way tension setting for more moderate trails or completely locked out on the rare paved trail.

The same is true for the Fox FLOAT in regards to the 3-way setting. One for hucking, one for moderate trails and climbing, and completely locked out. The 135mm of travel also provides a nice, soft cushy landing.

SRAM XG-1150 Drivetrain

As I mentioned earlier, the other noticeable weight saving to this bike is the 1×11 drivetrain. My first bike was a 3x front cassette and the Anthem was a 2x front cassette. In both cases, the larger ring just ended up being an expensive bash guard. On the Giant, I rarely used my granny gear, but there were times. Which was my only hesitation with 1x, but I was already considering that anyways. It’s just going to make me a strong rider I thought.

Anyways, I did find myself on a very long, though not steep nor technical, climb, and I was very pleased with the low-end. On the way down, I didn’t even hit the highest gear for maintaining momentum up slight inclines before another down.

Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie Drivetrain
Catching some rays to highlight the 1×11 drivetrain on the 6Fattie

Dropper Seat Post

Man, what an unnecessary invention. And now I can never own another mountain bike without it.

I’m going to assume you’re like me, and don’t know what a dropper seat post is. Otherwise this section just isn’t worth it. Basically, instead of a solid, fixed seat post that is only adjusted to one height and then locked down, this one is designed more like a shock with with a sleeve and seal. No, your seat post is not actually a shock that will allow you to bounce on a cushion of air as you ride down the trail, but it does allow you to adjust the height when you’re climbing and when you’re in downhill mode, which is where it really shines.

There’s a control on your left handlebar where the shifter used to be (because remember, this is only 1×11; there’s no need to shift the front ring), and all you do is push it in while sitting on the seat to lower it and when you want to raise it back up, just stand on your pedals, depress the lever again, and the seat automagically raises back up.

So, since the trail I was on climbs 1,000′ ft. before you get any downhill action, I started out with it all the way up in the locked out position. Once I started downhill, I didn’t even consider adjusting it. What for? Fixed seat posts have been a thing since forever.

But then I found that the trail builders added some fun little jumps in the middle of the trail on the way down (probably to slow down the less daring and less experienced riders), and every time I’d go over one and catch air, it’d feel like I was going to go ass over tea kettle because the high seat post kept my center of gravity up higher. Then I remembered the dropper and lowered my seat about 6″. Wow. I could keep my center of gravity so much lower now, which allowed me to go faster, which allowed me to get some sweet little air time over these jumps, and still maintain perfect control. You need this in your life.

Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie
My 2016 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie posing at the scenic overlook at Heil Ranch

My Initial Reaction for the Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie

Well, if you can’t guess how I feel about this thing yet, I’m going to make it very obvious for you:

I. Love. This. Bike.

It’s true, the trail I took it on is very moderate, if not beginner, so there is still time to find something that could be improved, but in terms of downhill, imagining more technical terrain, I don’t think there’s anything this bike can’t handle.

But now imagining more technical flat sections and climbs, I will be interested to see how it performs on tight switchbacks, rolling over steeper obstacles, and just steeper climbs in general. The added friction due to the added surface area could pose a challenge. But then again, maybe I’ll just get stronger because of it.

The Scrubba Wash Bag

The Scrubba Wash Bag – A washing machine for VanLife and traveling

I received this product from DeepCreek PR for the sole reason of this review. I do not receive any financial benefit from DeepCreek, Scrubba, EarthEasy, or affiliate links. Thoughts are my own.

The Scrubba Wash Bag: Laundry on the go

Let me tell you something about VanLife. After a day of hiking, biking, climbing, snowboarding, or some combination of all 4, your clothes stink. And it’s not like I can just throw them in the laundry room or conveniently wash them while binge watch Stranger Things. Since those things are my entire life, as well as wrestling my friend’s dogs, I need to do laundry pretty frequently so it doesn’t stink up the van, and I can’t fit a wash machine in there. So, The Scrubba Wash Bag filled an essential need since I haven’t found a laundromat in the middle of the desert/alpine/Narnia. Yet.

Van and Travel Friendly

Scrubba Wash Bag packs small
The Scrubba Wash Bag plays nicely with the rest of my laundry accessories in the van.

The Scrubba Wash Bag folds down to about 6″ x 2.5″ x 2.5″ and only weighs 5oz. Space is a premium in the van as well as my suitcase, but I can find some empty corner to shove it in. If I would have had this a year ago, it would have definitely found it’s way to Thailand and Mexico with me. Sink laundry in some of the sketchy sinks I saw just didn’t seem…..sanitary.

In terms of usable size, it can hold 3 gallons (11.4 L), but it does best when you only use 1/3rd of that volume. That’s approximately a day’s worth of summer clothes or your baselayers and a couple pairs wool socks in the winter.

The Results

So, those are the reasons I was interested in reviewing The Scrubba Wash Bag, but how did it work?

Scrubba Wash Bag Nodules
Scrub your stains on this surface and the Wash Bag does the rest.

First, I have to say my days of rolling around in the dirt and mud are pretty few and far between. I don’t get a lot of visible dirt or stains on my clothes. When I do, it’s pretty light. Like, a few mud splashes from riding or walking through a wet trail, or maybe the hot sauce dripping out of a delicious burrito. For this use, the Wash Bag worked well enough. There’s a textured surface with hundreds of nodules on the inside of the bag so if you can kind of guess where the stain is, you can work it out pretty easily. It gets a little tricky when you have a few pieces of clothing in there.

When my clothes aren’t really all that dirty, but are more stanky, I fill the Wash Bag to a little over half. I don’t really use the textured surface that much and just really need to work the detergent through the clothes thoroughly to get the smells out.

When you’re done, responsibly dispose of the dirty water, rinse a couple times, and then hang them out to dry.

All in all, this is a great addition to my van.

Scrubba Wash Bag in Van

Walker Ranch Loop Valley

Walker Ranch Loop: Maybe the only Boulder mountain biking trail I never want to return to

I haven’t ridden every single mountain biking trail in Boulder yet, much less the entire front range, but I have ridden quite a few. And several of them multiple times. While I’m not a front range expert, I can say that I don’t really want to return to Walker Ranch Loop.

Walker Ranch Loop River Bridge
The end of the first forgettable downhill section at Walker Ranch is a bridge over some rapids.

Continue reading

Scuba Diving Koh Tao Fish

Learn to Dive in Koh Tao, Thailand

**Disclaimer: I received this Open Water dive package for free through a partnership with Go Beyond Asia. I enjoyed myself so much that I paid for the Advanced Open Water Certification with my own money and received no additional discount beyond the usual offer from Coral Grand Divers.

Scuba Diving in Thailand

We all know I went to Thailand for the primary reason to climb my face off. That happened. Multiple times.

But what you may not know, or forgot, but probably just didn’t know/care, is that I also went there with the intent of getting my PADI scuba diving certification. I dove one time for 40 minutes the last time I was in Cozumel, Mexico, and I was hooked. I’ve been a water baby my entire life and being able to stay underwater for 40 minutes at a time, 100 feet underwater is f*cking AWESOME!

Before I get into the diving, we have to back up to the month I lived in Chiang Mai.

Go Beyond Asia

While living in Chiang Mai, I did what I always do: work from a coffee shop. On this particular day, at this particular coffee shop, it was particularly busy. Unlike most places in the U.S., people started sharing tables, and I happened to get seated next to Berit Bonde of Go Beyond Asia.

Go Beyond is an adventure tourism company that coordinates adventure tour packages going off the beaten path that bajillions of tourists have traveled before. They have tour packages in just about every SE Asian country and include scuba diving (duh), city tours, jungle trekking, zip lining, private cabins in Myanmar, and off-road quads, motorcycles, and mountain biking. Oh how relevant to my interests!

One thing led to another, and we were able to work out an agreement that I’d be able to get my dive cert when I visited Koh Tao. YASSSSS!!

Open Water PADI Dive Certification

Coral Grand Divers PropertyI got my certification at the 5-Star PADI Dive resort of Coral Grand Divers. The certification itself includes 4 days of classroom, pool, and ocean diving. The package offered through Go Beyond also comes with basic lodging.

On Day 1, you meet with a dive instructor, get a brief overview of the course, and they hand you a tablet loaded with all the course work. You watch a few movies, bullshit a little, and leave the room with 3 chapters to review and pass the tests.

Day 2 consists of classroom review and your first pool session. (Pro tip: there is a swimming test and treading water test.)

On Day 3, you finally get in the ocean for your first two dives! And another pool session. Which order you do them in just depends on the weather, number of students, and how well you’ve mastered the classroom material and your first pool session.

Day 4, the last day, you get two more open water dives and have to take the final test for your certification.

Throughout the whole process, you have the same dive instructor and group sizes range anywhere from 1-on-1 (which is what I had) and up to 4 people. That’s critically important to develop a relationship with your instructor so he can get a feel for the type of diver you are, your strengths and weaknesses, and what your favorite beer and shots are when you’re done for the day. Gosh, divers like to party. Who am I to say no?

(I say that jokingly, but it’s never ok to dive under the influence or extremely hungover. We’d just have a few drinks and call it a night.)

The atmosphere is generally relaxed, people are always smiling, and you instantly bond with your fellow students from around the globe. You are all there for the same reason after all.

Night Diving Koh Tao Thailand

Dive Skills

Scuba Diving Koh Tao ThailandSome of the skills you learn are quite intimidating at first. Taking the regulator out of your mouth underwater while continuing to breathe out might be a little scary if you’re not incredibly confident in your breath holding skills. From there, you advance to taking the entire mask off your face while still breathing through the regulator, but you’re not allowed to plug your nose. I can tell you, it’s kind of a mind fuck to do that and probably the trickiest thing I experienced.

The last skill that’s a little different, is breathing through half your regulator. You do this to simulate your regulator being stuck wide open and it dumping air into your lungs at the max rate. There’s no way you can keep your regulator in and breathe normally if that were a real world scenario. So, what you do, is just put half the regulator in your mouth and you’re basically just breathing bubbles. It’s bizarre, man!

You also learn how to read a dive computer, monitor your oxygen, adjust your buoyancy, equalize the pressure in your head, and get a brief intro to orienteering and navigating underwater with a compass.

Advanced Open Water PADI Diver

As I mentioned, I had such an amazing time with everyone at the resort and the dive instructors I decided to stay 3 extra days and get my advanced open water PADI diver certification with my own cash. Why wouldn’t I? I got to go diving 5 more times!

Here, you have a little leeway on what areas of specialty you’d like to learn. There’s advanced buoyancy, navigation, marine life identification, photography, deep dive, night diving, wreck diving, and propelled vehicle operation (just going off the top of my head).

I opted for advanced buoyancy (because floating completely inverted is fun), deep diving (because it’s an unreal feeling to be 100′ underwater, and I was hoping to get hypoxia), wreck diving, navigation (because ‘eff getting lost underwater), and night diving.

At this point, you’ll have your same instructor for 9 dives, and they should be comfortable with your skills. These dives are a lot less about ‘not dying underwater,’ and more about leading dives and enjoying yourself with what you’ve already learned. And oh the things you’ll see.

Above and Beyond the Package Price

I would be remiss to tell a story about the resort staff at Coral Grand Divers. On the day I showed up, I didn’t realize it until later, but I was beginning a 24 hours of hell in the form of food poisoning. I was originally in a fan-only room per the package with Go Beyond, but once the food poisoning got out of control, I couldn’t stand to be in a fan-only room in 90 degree weather.

At one point, I couldn’t even walk and was about one more trip to the bathroom away from going to the clinic. Right before that, I managed to stagger to the front desk and tell them what was going on. I asked them to upgrade me to an air conditioned room, regardless of cost. They saw the state I was in, upgraded me for free, and allowed me to leave my luggage in the old room until I was well enough to collect it myself.

I am not some hot shot famous person, and I’m not entirely sure they knew of why I was there and what I was doing for them from a business agreement standpoint. That leads me to believe they would have done this for ANY  of their guests. I cannot thank them enough for this because I did NOT want to go to a clinic for an IV of fluids.

Tonsai Longtail

The Gripping Fear of Reality

Escape to Thailand

When I left for Thailand, I made no secret about the fact it was a one-way trip with no end date in mind. That wasn’t meant to say that I was going to stay here forever, though I think some people thought that.

Who am I kidding? That’s what I thought too.

Fire Wall Tonsai

My social media updates and conversations with friends made it seem that way. I truly thought I could.

But I think I just wanted to live the lie that I could do this for as long as I wanted, no questions asked.

When I first set out, I had ideas of lasting a year+ while traveling. Plans and timelines changed at least 17 different times during my trip. My original statement, “no end date in mind,” was still correct. It’s just that my hypothetical end date far into the future is now a real date and approaching much sooner than I intended.

The Original Escape

When I quit my job, I also somewhat jokingly would pass off comments of how long I could live on my own just in the U.S. without the security of a real job. I’d say, “yeah, I’ve got enough for a year [lol].” As if that lol was meant to mean, “sure, I could do nothing and live for a year, but I know I’m going to be successful so it doesn’t really matter.”

That was another lie I wanted to live.

VanLife Roadtrip

Lies Don’t Last Forever

I’ve lived below my means here in Thailand, but I’ve not done the hardcore budget backpacker thing. I save money when I can and when it’s easy, but I don’t skimp on things that are going to make my life much easier while here. Coupled with ongoing expenses like health insurance, student loans, software packages, and a little credit card debt, and my savings aren’t going to keep me afloat forever.

I have picked up some nice freelance writing gigs while here, but they would still only be a nice little side income if you already had a full-time job. Even as cheap as this place is, and as cheap as VanLife will be, that’s not enough to sustain me. Along those same lines, I haven’t had any time to devote to building my freelance marketing portfolio. That is, gaining more clients.

No Regrets

Despite my lies cashing in all at once I still have no regrets about my decisions. How many people in the U.S. can say they went on a 4 month vacation, and for the most part, “lived” in another country? There is no way I can look back on this time and think of it in anything but an extremely positive light.

Chiang Mai Grand Canyon Jump

The Last Stand

I have decided to cut my trip short and return on Sept. 23. But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up. I have enough savings to keep me afloat until 2016, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up and only relying on that. I still have money coming in, albeit small, and other opportunities that have presented themselves, so I’m not giving up without a fight.

I’m coming back because I need to be in a place where I can focus and have the resources (internet) available to capitalize on the things that can prolong my time of freedom. I need to re-focus on freelancing. I need to make my final push in making this life of mine sustainable for the long-term. Because the fear of going back to Corporate America is much greater than the fear of failure at any one of the things happening for me currently. And that’s no lie.

Singapore's Gardens By the Bay

Quick Visa Run to Singapore

It’s hard to believe I’ve been here for two months already. My original 30-day tourist exemption is long over, and I extended that an additional 30 days by renewing at the Chiang Mai Immigration Office. I certainly could have done a border run and got renewed for another 30-days for free, but here are a few reasons I didn’t:

  1. At midnight when trying to fly to Thailand from the U.S., Delta Airlines forced me to buy a budget ticket out of Thailand or they would refuse to allow me to board the plane. So on June 17th, I bought a ticket from Bangkok to Singapore on August 12th.
  2. Doing a border run by land only buys you another 30 days until you have to do another border run. If you have too many 30-day tourist stamps, they start to get suspicious and may deny you entry on any random attempt.
  3. I knew I was staying in Thailand longer than 30 days. With an actual tourist visa that you get at a Thai Embassy while outside of the country, you’re good for 60 days without having to do a border run, and you can extend that for another 30 days by visiting an immigration office and paying a fee.

I decided that Option #3 was the best, and I already had a ticket purchased to get out of the country thanks to #1. As complete, random luck would have it, within my first two months of staying in Thailand, a friend from Boulder moved to Singapore and was gracious enough to let me sleep on the couch. Looks like I’m heading to Singapore!

Bangkok to Singapore

As with all statements about Bangkok transportation, it was easy. Since I have now spent more than a month in Bangkok, I learned the best way to get to and from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport is not necessarily the best way that I mentioned previously. Though, I’d rank what I’m about to tell you as #1a and the previous way on the BTS and #1b. It just depends on where you happen to be within the city that will dictate which one you choose.

For me, staying in Silom, the MRT (subway) is the better option even though the BTS (train) interchange are both just steps apart.

Taking the MRT to Suvarnabhumi Airport from Silom is SO EASY.

Simply get on the MRT at the Si Lom station, change trains to the Airport Rail Link (SA City Line) at the Phetchaburi station, and get off when you can’t go any further. That’s the airport.

Once in Singapore…

I Googled directions to my friend’s place and since I wasn’t intimately familiar with Singapore’s MRT system, it seemed like taking the bus with just one transfer was going to be easier than using the MRT with 3 different transfers.

I was wrong. But that’s only in hindsight.

It was almost annoying though, that the bus drivers assumed I had absolutely no clue what I was doing and I needed to have a 5 minute conversation of broken English, smiling, pointing, and cell phone-showing just to convince them I knew where I was going and that I was in fact on the right bus…for each bus. I do not think they realize how powerful The Google and Them Internets are.

No Same Same

Singapore ice cream shop flowersSingapore is not the same as Thailand. Singapore is basically America with a lot less white people.

Gone were the hoards of scooters. Gone were endless rows of street vendors. Gone was cheap food. Gone were the feelings of the Wild Wild West. I couldn’t even find coffee in this neighborhood. You can’t spit in Thailand and miss a coffee stand. I wandered into an ice cream shop, thinking I could have an ice cream and hang out for a couple hours on their wifi. Nope. Singapore isn’t a huge fan of widely available wifi either. So I hung out (and ate — barf) in McDonalds where it is available.

But I did find out that with high enough contrast between your subject and the background and a slightly longer exposure, you can almost create a white room effect without distorting the subject. That was accidental and probably useless knowledge.

I eventually made it to Allison’s and met her rambunctious young daughter. I also found Singapore’s version of cheap street food….which was still four times as expensive as Thailand’s.

Goodnight, Singapore.

Singapore Skyline at Night

The Next Two Days

I didn’t do much of anything. I worked all day the next day, and the following, which was Friday, I made my first trip to the Thai Embassy about 5 minutes before they closed.

You see, Thai websites aren’t always a definitive source of information. Even when it’s something official that could stand to land you a big fine or jailed if misinterpreted. Because Asia. — Adopted saying from fellow SE Asia traveler and climbing homie Elizabeth Bandy.

During these two days, I became intimately familiar with Allison’s dining room table. But then Saturday and Sunday happened.

Gardens By The Bay

Before visiting…wait, no….even after visiting….when I would hear the word Singapore, I would think of an ultra-modern, ultra-chic city with crazy architecture. Kind of like UAE’s younger cousin. The features that most stick out in my mind are from Gardens by the Bay. And I finally got to visit them.

Singapore's Gardens By the Bay

You also walk by the incredibly famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

And take in the sight of the Singapore Flyer:

Gardens By the Bay-3

And eventually, walk past those crazy tree looking things.

Once you step foot inside the Flower Dome, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the visual stimulus.

 

Gardens By the Bay Flower Dome

The roof is art in and of itself.

Flower Dome Roof

But then realize, it’s time to bust out the macro lens.

They even had flowers that weren’t actually flowers.

Break time!!!

Gardens By the Bay

And then off to my favorite part of the day — Cloud Forest.

Walk in and be greeted by a towering, multi-level waterfall.

I particularly liked feeding time.

Cloud Forest Watering

But the rest of the structure was pretty equally as impressive.

Once down from the very top, you’re greeted with a video that predicts what the world will be like 100 years from now if the global temperature continues to rise. *IF* what they predict is accurate, a temperature rise of just 5°C is quite scary.

But one of use was more interested in the Splash Park. I guess the view was ok while waiting.

Gardens By the Bay Splash Park

On the way out, I couldn’t help but feel like we were being watched.

Gardens By the Bay

And we caught one last glimpse of the skyline before heading down to the MRT.

Singapore Skyline

The sun was setting on the day,

Singapore Sunset

But there was just one more picture I had to take. Goodnight.

Singapore Night Photography

Treetop Walk

When I landed in Singapore, I grabbed a magazine from the airplane that had “50 Things to do in Singapore.” Everything we did the day before was listed, but I was going to do those regardless. On Sunday we chose one from the list — The Treetop Walk in MacRitchie Reservoir.

I had visions of monkeys swinging to and fro and walking on endless suspension bridges from treehouse to treehouse. It was a whimsical good time!! In my head.

The reality, is that it’s quite a long hike. On the ground. In incredibly dead air. And the monkeys we saw were either semi-aggressive or just sitting on their asses.

There was one cute guy. But he was just as boring to watch after 30 sec.

Singapore Treetop Walk Monkey

There was one, *A*, singular suspension bridge.

Singapore Treetop Walk

And it put you out in the open with just the canopy to see…which looks like any other green canopy I’ve ever seen.

Singapore Treetop Walk canopy

Perhaps you can’t tell, but I was unenthused with the day…..to one’s fault except the damn magazine I grabbed. Karma?

Singapore Treetop Walk

Once done with the hike, which was about 10km, we were all pretty spent. The only cure was air conditioning and the pool. So back to the apartment we went.

Thai Visa in Singapore

Now it’s Monday, and I can finally go back to the Thai Embassy to apply for my Visa. My last visit at 5 minutes to close wasn’t a complete waste. I’ve heard stories of getting a new visa without having an outbound trip within 60 days already booked, but I also heard the Thai Embassy in Singapore is super strict. When I showed up the first time, I was definitely going to try get my visa without a plane ticket out of the country.

No dice.

They absolutely required you to have your flight itineraries printed out for coming back into Thailand as well as leaving Thailand.

That kind of sucks for me because who the fuck knows where I’ll be in 30, 60, or 90 days from now? I ended up buying a plane ticket to Vietnam and spent the extra money so I can change dates without penalty.

So, what you need to get your Thai Visa at the Thai Embassy in Singapore:

  • Passport
  • A new passport picture taken within the last 6 months
  • A filled out visa form
    • Have the address of your first stop in Thailand available
  • Flight itineraries for in and out of Thailand
    • The flight out has to be 60 days or less from the day you come in
    • You can still renew for another 30 days at the end (for a total of 90 days) but since it’s not guaranteed you’ll be granted the extension, they still need to see that you’re able to get out of the country by the time you absolutely need to.
  • 50 SGD (Singaporean dollars) — about $35.50.

Anticlimactic Ending is Anticlimactic

Sorry, nothing profound to share. I only came to Singapore for one reason, and I accomplished that. I wasn’t looking for worldly enlightenment, but I’m glad I came.

Despite not being my scene, I still got another stamp on my passport and got to exchange Asian experiences with Allison and her daughter. I saw just about all the country has to offer in just 2 days. Anything else there is to see…you can see the exact same thing in the U.S.

I grabbed my visa on Tuesday and on a plane back to Bangkok by Wednesday amidst the edginess of another bomb going off somewhere in the city.

Like I said, it’s the Wild Wild West.

And I love every bit of it. Except the bombings.