A Travellerspoint blog

Rock-climbing in Railey


As I traveled to Railey, the center of rock-climbing in Thailand, it was pissing it down. Yes, I’m going to use the British expression on this one because it couldn’t be better put. Well, I guess that’s what I get for visiting Thailand during monsoon season! It was raining so hard that no boats were going out from Ao Nang. Boats were leaving from the other side of the peninsula, as no roads can go directly to Railey. So I found the one boat who was willing to take people, and by people I mean me, because no one else was crazy enough to make the trip out on a boat on the open ocean in a thunderstorm :p So I arrived in Railey, met some random travelers who were going to Thon Sai, the beach right next to Railey that I had been recommended to stay. Apparently it’s a little more low-key than Railey and has more of a fun backpacking and rock-climbing culture because it lacks the larger resorts that Railey has.

So off we went walking to Thon Sai, which was apparently just around the corner. Unfortunately, we had to go through the woods and up a mountain to get there. Carrying all of my luggage (in flip-flops mind you), I began the slip-and-slide trek up the mountain, dodging live electrical wires that swung down from branches as the sky opened up and the rain started again and darkness fell. Sounds like an ideal situation, right? Haha—talk about my personal hell! After 30 minutes of that, I finally arrived at Ton Sai, and checked into a bungalow to stay in.

The first day at Tonsai, I rented a kayak with another girl, and we explored the area around Railey and Tonsai. It was absolutely gorgeous kayaking!


We were able to spot some climbers hundreds of meters high, who were doing a multi-pitch climb. It was insane that they climbed from level to level to reach all the way up to the length of multiple football fields piled on top of each other.


The following day, I met some guys from Idaho and took my own stab at rockclimbing.


I soon realized what they had known for a while, as evidenced by their trip, staying a month in Tonsai rockclimbing: it’s addicting. Its really an addicting sport—I hadn’t sweat that much since the last time I played a three-set match in tennis. It’s such a mentally and physically challenging sport, which makes the view at the top that much sweeter…


Posted by kendallwallace 09:37 Archived in Thailand Tagged railey Comments (0)

Emerald Cave

Koh Lanta


I arrived on Koh Lanta to dive the majestic “Cathedral” at Ko Haa divesite. According to a dive master I had met in the Gili Islands, this was supposed to be one of the best dive sites in Thailand when the Similan Islands (which are closed 6 months out of the year to rebuild the coral) are shut. So I booked my dive, but the one dive company that was operating on the island (it was low season), wasn’t going to go for another day, so I took a 4-island tour in the meantime. We went to the renowned Emerald Cave—a cave where we had to swim in the complete pitch black for 5 minutes before reaching a beach inside the island.


The beautiful green color coming out of the cave into the sunlight at the beach gives the cave its name.


The secret beach in the middle of the island....


After some snorkeling and lunching on a beautiful beach, we returned to Koh Lanta....


For the best sunset of my trip thus far....


I was so excited to do the majestic dive the next day; however, mother nature had other plans, so a mix of a downpour of rain and the closings of scuba operations for the next couple of days due to the end of Ramadan resulted in me leaving Koh Lanta early, moving onto to more fun activities than waiting for the rain to stop :p

Posted by kendallwallace 09:12 Archived in Thailand Tagged koh lanta Comments (0)

"The Beach"

Koh Phi Phi


After arriving in Phi Phi, I caught the 24-bug that had been going around the islands. Once I was back feeling 100%, I took a day tour in a long-tail boat to a few of the surrounding islands, including “The Beach” aka Phi Phi Ley, made infamous by Leonardo Dicaprio in the movie, “The Beach.” You should know before reading this post that Phi Phi and its surrounding islands were some of the most affected by the 2004 Tsunami. You could see evidence of this everywhere, in the damage that still exists as well as the tsunami warnings everywhere. On our trip to Bamboo Island, there was a sign posting showing us how high the wave was when it impacted the island: a full 4 meters from the top of this stick!


Then, we went to Monkey Beach, which was filled with monkeys. I wasn’t overly enthused about this beach since the monkeys steal people’s cameras and belongings, and a few days earlier, a girl had been bit by one and had to be rushed to the hospital to make sure she didn’t contract rabies.


The crowning glory of the trip was Leonardo’s “The Beach,” which served as a relaxing afternoon when the motorboats carrying tourists to and fro disappeared...


A view of Phi Phi Ley from afar...


After Phi Phi, I was off to Koh Lanta to do some diving.

Posted by kendallwallace 08:41 Archived in Thailand Tagged phi Comments (0)

Overnight Slave Ship

No seriously, it was a slave ship...

In leaving Koh Tao to go to the island of Phi Phi, I had to take a boat to the mainland, traverse the country to the other side, and take another boat to Phi Phi. This journey, which took a whopping 20 hours in total began with the least comfortable part of the journey that resembled almost exactly a slave ship. It was unreal! They oversold the boat, so there were not enough beds for the number of people on the boat. Since I was one of the people who had not been given a bed number, I was one of the last people to get on the boat and it was basically a free-for-all to find a seat. Since all of the beds were taken by this point, I positioned myself between the stairs and some Irish boys' beds (this spot was where they were keeping their shoes, but it made for an okay position for the night).


Something tells me anyone that is reading this blog may find that sleeping situation appalling if they were in my shoes, but I just had to make do. And so, I felt like I was being transported on a slave ship as the upper and lower decks resembled the schematics of slave ships that we learned about in grade school. But all in all, it was an experience I (nor my back) will never forget.

Posted by kendallwallace 08:38 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Koh Tao

"Same Same But Different"


Following the mayhem that was the Full Moon Party, I left Koh Phagnan to go to its neighboring island, the petite Koh Tao. While this island is renowned for people to get their scuba certification for cheap, since I already have my scuba certification, I just relaxed and could dive one of the many sites around the island. The first day that my friends were in their course, my friend Siobhan and I rented a motorbike and used it to explore the island, wanting to snorkel at one of the many pristine bays. However, on our way, we slipped on the dirt and had a little accident. Note to self: never drive a motorbike on anything other than a concrete service :p After dealing with the repercussions of that (including a few minor stitches), we took it easy for the next couple of days....with the exception of witnessing the amazing fire shows that went on each night, including fire jump-rope....


fire dancing....


and fire signs...


However, one night at 2am, I was on a mission to see the {American) Women’s National Team win the gold medal in soccer. It was quite a redemption from the previous summer when we lost the World Cup Final to Japan! And, as one of the few Americans on the island, I was so happy to have witnessed that moment—it was a momentary connection to being back home ☺

The following day, I dove the Pinnacles dive, a dive off the coast of Koh Tao. It was a decent enough dive--I got to see some amazing giant grouper. Then, I was off again to my next destination!


Posted by kendallwallace 08:23 Archived in Thailand Tagged koh tao Comments (0)


Glow sticks, Body Paint, All-Night Dancing....yes, please!


So I flew to Thailand, arrived in Phuket for the night and then off to Koh Phagnan I went to enjoy the Full Moon Party. There I met up with a great group of English girls and we palled around together for the whole time. Here's all of us piled in the back of a tuk-tuk on our way to the Pool Party.


Two days before the Full Moon Party, there was the Pool Party (a mass of thousands of people crowded together in a pool reminiscent of Cancun).


The day before the Full Moon Party, there was the Jungle Party.


And then, there was the Full Moon Party—also known as neon shirts, body paint, buckets of libations, and dancing all night under a mix of UV lights and the stars until the sun came up.


Here's a picture of us body-painting with UV paint to get ready for the festivities of the night!


And all of the stalls to buy buckets of adult libations for the evening...


Here are the buckets...


My group of girls....


The meyhem that ensued....


Hi Mom!


The Slide of Fire! And yes, I went down that... :)


Partying til the Sun Came Up--now that's a party!!


Posted by kendallwallace 08:07 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)


Eat, Pray, Love Style


I arrived in Kuta, Bali, and met a few Swiss, and we toured Kuta for the day and then rented motorbikes to go to really cool beaches in the Jimbaran Peninsula.

We went to a “secret beach” because we followed locals on motorbikes instead of tour buses and found an incredible beach—apparently great for wedding photos and you can see why.


The next day, I left to go to Ubud. I arrived and walked around the magnificent rice paddies—total Eat, Pray, Love-style. I found this completely organic farm and decided to have an organic lunch there.


The next day, after a yoga lesson (where this yogi was doing some of the most difficult positions I’ve ever seen) in a beautifully serene setting, I rented a motorbike and went to the rice paddies of Tellagalang, set into terraced hillsides.


Before I left Ubud, I rented a taxi that took me to the temple of Lake Bratan, one of the most famous temples in Bali, set on a lake.


We went to the hot springs as well. It was amazing watching the water come out of these ornate spouts.

I left Ubud on the day that there was going to be a huge funeral procession to celebrate the life of one of the Indonesian royal family, who had just died. I headed straight to the Gili Islands for some R&R.


By the way, yes, there is a boat halfway under water from where a boat was in the process of sinking. It just started taking on water and was kind of hilarious to watch the fisherman bail it out not 100 yards from the beach. Just another day in Indonesia!

Because it was Ramadan, all of the bars had to turn off their music at 11pm. But that didn't stop us! They handed out headphones to all of us at one of the bars. It was so hilarious to watch from afar--people dancing in silence! large_DSC00207.jpg

On the island of Gili T, I laid on the beach, partied well into the night, and saw some amazing turtles. There was a turtle sanctuary there where the locals nurtured the baby turtles before releasing them into the wild. And what a great program it is! I appreciated it on my first dive on Meno Slope there, where we met a few of the beautiful turtles up close and personal.


While on the island, I met up with Carlotta and Sylvia, two Italians living in NYC and London, respectively, and we had a great time hanging out together.


Then I headed back to Bali for one night before flying out. To treat myself, I went to Ayana for the sunset. This sunset spot is one of the top 5 places in the world to watch the sunset. I chatted with a French family in front of me when I started laughing at their French jokes, and they invited me to join them. They were from the 16 arrondissement of Paris. It was a lovely time watching the sun go down from this incredible spot, particularly at a Five Star Resort. It was quite a treat and a heck of a way to end my trip in Bali.


Posted by kendallwallace 05:55 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali Comments (0)

Welcome Back!

Living in Sydney for 7 months...


Hey Guys!

Welcome Back to the Blog! Please excuse the 8-month absence, but I was no longer traveling during that time, and since this is a travel blog, I took a break. Once I got to Sydney for New Year’s Eve, I decided to stick around for a while. During the month of January, I chilled out with some of my friends from the Kiwi Experience who were still in town. Then I went to Melbourne for 7 days, 6 of which I spent at the Aussie Open, watching amazing matches, from Tsonga and Wozniaki to Donald Young and the Bryan Brothers and everything in between. From open to close, I was glued to the tennis, kind of like those English boys had been during the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, but then again, tennis is my sport, so I reveled in the opportunity to be at the Australian Open for the first time.


February and March, I looked for a job. Since March was the month of birthdays (literally every weekend night had a different birthday celebration (mine included)), it was a good thing that for my birthday, I got a paycheck!


I started working at Macquarie Bank at the beginning of April. I worked in their Sales Team selling their cash and other financial products. And it’s when I started to work that my time in Sydney really started to pick up. I made some incredible friends at work. Everyday, it was a joy to go to work because my colleagues, namely the hilarious Brit Anna Feeney, the Dirty Dutch Lady, Nikki De Vet, and the always thoughtful, always intriguing Alex Perchard, made it so entertaining. More than our hilarious conversations that got me through the day, I learned what it was like to have a great group of people to work with. There was so much positivity and encouragement among the group and people genuinely enjoyed each others’ company, which was a breath of fresh air.

From team trivia night to laser tag night and company events in between, I really enjoyed my time with such a great team at Macquarie. The friends I made there became my Sydney family.


Slowly, however, the winter came (American summer), and my time at Macquarie, although great, came to a close. It was time to move on and pursue one of the main purposes of this whole trip in the first place—working in India for a firm that invests in businesses with a social and/or environmental benefit—that’s the career path that I want to go down and getting that experience is essential to making that dream career path a reality. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to get that experience working in the Cash Team, so it was time. Nevertheless, my time at Macquarie taught me a lot about collaborating cross-culturally on a project and about the dynamics and incentives essential to get a team to work together in a positive way.

As I knew my time in Sydney was coming to a close, those final weeks were jam-packed with exciting activities. I waited for one of my best friends from university, Abyan, to move to town, and we had 2 weeks of so much fun. This was a real treasure since she was one of my closest friends from university, and I hadn’t seen her in nearly 3 years (since I sat next to her on the Lawn at Graduation to be exact ☺


One of the fun things we did was going to Bondi Beach for the winter festival—we had mulled wine and watched the ice-skaters skating on the ice rink placed overtop the sand.

Alex, Nikki, and I had our own celebration of Christmas in July, a tradition in Australia, since it’s the coldest month of the year, and the closest the Aussies will come to a real wintry Christmas. Each of us made a Christmas dish from our respective countries. It was really fascinating watching them try to dip my homemade sweet potato biscuits in tea :p No, biscuits are not cookies, my English brethren ☺


A fellow Southerner, Blair, had just moved to Sydney to be there for a year, and she and I planned a day out on the Harbour sailing with all our friends the weekend before I had to leave. What made it even more spectacular was seeing a whale who had just given birth in the Harbour. She even helped me make North Carolina style BBQ for my team, as a goodbye thank-you (Southern style) for an epic experience with them all.


Needless to say, I’ll always treasure my time in Sydney. It was time to move on, and so I did, to a number of intriguing places en route to India.

Posted by kendallwallace 23:48 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney Comments (1)

Perth & Fremantle


My first day in the Perth area, I hung out on Cottlesloe Beach, a beautiful beach with lots of fun water activities....oh, and yeah, I forgot to mention--a person was eaten at that beach last month. Hence, my time in the water was VERY limited.


Apparently that WA (aka Western Australia) doesn't have shark nets like the east coast, so the Great White Sharks can just come and go as they please. This new knowledge is one of the reasons I decided to not scuba dive at Rocknest Island, where a scuba diver was eaten by a great white a few months ago. Granted he was spearfishing in a seal colony--not exactly the brightest idea--but nonetheless, I was just as happy taking another kitesurfing lesson from a very attractive french-speaking Belgian.


I stayed in Fremantle for the entire rest of the week after the initial two days. Fremantle is a bit smaller than Perth with a lot of character. It has a much more historical feel than anywhere else I had been on this trip, with some buildings having balconies and reminding me of the architecture in New Orleans. It worked out great, because the World Championships of Sailing were occurring in Fremantle at the same time. For three-fourths of the competitors, this competition determines if they can get into the 2012 Olympics in London. I made the acquaintance of the South African sailing team, and they took me out on their boat for a sail. It was so great! You know those times when you are so happy or having such a good time that all you can do is laugh--it was one of those times. What fun we had! And as you can tell, I didn't expect to be getting completely soaked!


Later on that day, I took a motorized boat and checked out some of the races from the spectator boat.


Then I checked out my last sunset on the West Coast before heading to Sydney to meet my parents for Christmas.


Posted by kendallwallace 22:52 Archived in Australia Tagged perth Comments (0)

Diving the Great Barrier Reef

....inside the world's largest aquarium....


After I arrived in Cairns on the overnight bus from Airlie Beach, I dropped my stuff and quickly jetted to the port, where I hopped on a dive boat headed to 2 dive sites on the Great Barrier Reef. I thought the diving in the Whitsundays aka the lower Great Barrier Reef was great, but the 2 dive sites we went to were even better! The visibility was just amazing, which is what makes or breaks a dive in my opinion. The visibility was great and I finally was getting really comfortable with the Scuba equipment, having taken the course 6 years ago and taking my first dives since only on this trip. We saw a shark, my first sting ray under water, a giant fish named Walle, NEMO, who played in the anemene (which by the way, is really sticky to the touch), etc.


We also saw coral where if you touched it, it changed colors. The trigger fish we saw also changed color as they passed different backgrounds. It was truly like being in an aquarium. I decided that for me, the really cool thing about scuba (and why it’s better than snorkeling) is the simple ability to be amongst the fish and to be able to look up and see coral cliffs above you (instead of always looking down). It was truly a great experience and I’m ready for my next dive: Rocknest Island here I come!


Posted by kendallwallace 22:42 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Whitsunday Wonder

Sailing the Whitsundays....


I arrived in Airlie Beach, the jumping off point for exploring the Whitsunday islands, and immediately booked my trip. I booked a 2-day, 1 night trip aboard Siska. The first day, we sailed to Whitehaven Beach, famous for its silica white sand and clear waters (check out the pictures below). Then we sailed to our "parking" spot for the night. I made quick friends with a family from Wisconsin among others. That evening, while we were chatting above deck, we heard a big thud, as a squid jumped from the water onto the boat. The skipper said that he had to have been chased by something big to want to jump on the boat. Later on, we heard the splashes of large tuna. The next day, I went scuba-diving on the Blue Pearl Reef, right behind Hayman Island. The coral was really pretty, and we finished up the day sailing back to Airlie Beach.


Randomly, while I was in Airlie Beach, I ran into two of my good mates from the Kiwi Experience: Megan and Jake! We had an awesome reunion for 2 days where we hung out at the lagoon all day, and then I headed up to Cairns.


Posted by kendallwallace 22:32 Archived in Australia Tagged whitsundays Comments (0)

Brisbane, Surfer’s Paradise, & Byron Bay


I arrived in Brisbane and headed straight away to Surfer’s Paradise in the Gold Coast. I took a few surfing lessons for the first few days. While I was there, however, the entire Gold Coast was infested (yes infested) with 17-year-olds aka "Schoolies." They were like little ants everywhere. Apparently, all of the kids had just finished high school and were headed to the Gold Coast to celebrate. And. they. were. so. hyper. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember being like that when I was that age. In any case, it was quite a cultural experience to see groups of 17-18-year-olds walking around in packs. I hadn’t seen that since I was a first year at UVA :) Take a look at some of the decorations for the Schoolies around town:


Then, I headed down to Byron Bay, a really cool town on the coast that is full of backpackers. I took a walk to the lighthouse there--the easternmost point of Australia--and checked out some surfers, met some cool Aussies from Melbourne, and saw dolphins surfing the waves along the way.


Posted by kendallwallace 20:24 Archived in Australia Tagged coast bay brisbane gold byron Comments (1)

Relaxing at the Le Meredien Ile des Pins

Tres Classe


thank you UVA....

When I worked for UVA, I traveled a lot. We always stayed in hotels and as long as you stayed within the government rate for each town, you could stay wherever you wanted. So naturally, I used this policy to my benefit just like the rest of the consultant and travelling business-person world. I accrued a ton of Starwood Points (the best brand out there for business travel in my opinion), and signed up for a killer promotion in June that afforded me 3 free nights at 1 of 200 luxury starwood properties in the world.


Below is the view from my balcony ever night. My room had its own balcony, which may seem normal to most people, but after several months only staying at backpacker hostels, this feature was a great luxury. So every night, I at in my Le Meridien white bath robe on my balcony overlooking the pool and ate my saussison, Pont Leveque fromage, and vin rouge. It. was. phenomenal.



One day, I went for a ride on la pirogue, aka an outrigger, on Baie d'Upi. We sailed around and it was a blast!


Then I journeyed to La Piscine Naturelle, a natural pool where the coral walls close in the water. We snorkeled all around--it was great!


For lunch that day, I sat beachside and had delicious grilled lobster.


Check out my beachside view! It was the most turquoise water I'd ever seen!


Posted by kendallwallace 17:38 Archived in New Caledonia Tagged des ile pins Comments (2)

Nouvelle Caledonie

Relaxing in Noumea



Whenever I tell people that I went to New Caledonia aka Nouvelle Caledonie, people always ask, “Where’s that?” I’ve gotten questions asking if it is in Europe or in North America. So to clear the air, it’s an island in between Australia and Fiji owned by the French. Although it’s owned by the French, I expected a very Pacific kind of culture, much like that that I experienced in Fiji. To my surprise, it was very European! The greatest (and happiest) surprise of them all came when I saw a Casino, a brand of grocery store very commonplace in France. And inside, I found saussison, fromage, vin rouge, etc. all from France. Oh....for those that don’t speak french, to translate, I found saussison (delicious dried sausage), french cheese, and french wine. Oh, I was in heaven! And to speak french again--it was a dream!


The first few nights, I stayed with a lovely french couple. When we had our aperatif of saussison, fromage, and vin on the plage-(beach)--the first night, I knew I had hit the jackpot! The next day, their friend Patrice, who owns a boat, took us sailing to the Ile des Maitres, an island off the coast of Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia. We went snorkeling and laid on the beach. Since there is so much wind in New Caledonia, it is the perfect place to do wind-related sports. I saw kite-surfing for the first time in my life and became so fascinated with trying to learn it. Patrice even let me have a go with his kite, but when I started to fly away, we both agreed I should probably do a lesson with a professional.


The following day, I hung out at the local beach and watched the wind-surfers fly past me.

Update: While in Perth, I hope to enroll in a kite-surfing school for a few days to begin learning the sport.

Posted by kendallwallace 00:03 Archived in New Caledonia Tagged noumea Comments (0)

Milford Track & Milford Sound

hiking "the most beautiful track in the world"...



And so I left Queenstown to begin “the greatest walk in the world.” I took transport the 4 1/2 hours to the beginning of the track, and began walking with a father-daughter Kiwi team. The girl was 25 and her dad in his 60s. It was so fun, I started and ended the track with the two of them, and seeing them do it together reminded me of times together with my dad. The first part of the walk, I was fascinated by the greenery, as you can see below..


The first day was fairly easy--an 1 1/2 walk to the hut where we stayed the night. The second day, I met an Australian couple and a Japanese couple along the way, both on their honeymoons! I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I get married, I’m going to be on a beautiful beach relaxing, not trekking with a 40 pound bag on my back! But to each his own! This day, we actually began to see the beauty of the area as we traveled through a valley for 6 long hours, past beautiful mountain peaks and waterfalls tumbling down.


The third day was amazing! Due to avalanche danger, we couldn’t travel up McKinnon Pass, so instead we took a helicopter flight up to the summit, and hiked down. Although we missed 3 hours of the hike, the rest of the day, amazing as it was, did. me. in.


We helicoptered up the majestic mountains. The flight alone was worth the views. Once we arrived on top, we began our walk through the clouds. It cleared rather quickly and we walked past peaks on an even eye-level before our descent down.



We took the emergency track since the normal one was closed due to avalanche danger. After 6 hours of walking, I walked an additional 1 1/2 hours to view the Sutherland Falls, roughly 1/2 a kilometer high.


The last day, I was already done before I began, so it dragged on a bit. By that time, my new hiking boots had been broken in, but then again, so had my feet, as I had the blisters to prove it.



Once we finished the 18km day-hike to the finish line, I enjoyed a lovely quick boatride across the Milford Sound to the Milford Sound Lodge (and a warm shower).


That evening, relaxed, having accomplished a great deal over the past couple of days, I joined an awesome group that had adopted me for a wonderful dinner to celebrate my new friend Cheryl’s 50th birthday. Her sister, Sandy, had flown in from Minneapolis, her husband from Sydney, and the rest of her friends from Australia had all joined in for the trek. They were a fun group--since I was a first timer on the hiking trails and they hiking veterans, they never ceased to tease me for bringing so much heavy food in my bag; apparently celery, carrots, apples, (basically anything with water), and the wine bottle along with the wine make not great things to bring along for a hiking trip. Oh well! You live and learn! That night, after dinner, we walked home under the stars and you could see Mitre Peak clearly outlined by the light of the moon (apparently, it isn’t that common to see Mitre Peak without any clouds around, so we were lucky).


The next day, I took a kayaking tour around the Milford Sound and saw some seals (and penguins).


I returned “home” to Queenstown with bites galore from the sandflies, some seriously gross blisters, but some of the most amazing memories shared with great people in breathtaking places.


Posted by kendallwallace 04:30 Archived in New Zealand Tagged track sound milford Comments (0)

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