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So I’ve finally collated all my photos and thoughts about the trip. I actually returned to Singapore on June 4, but the tidal wave of random things to attend to swept me up for the past weeks. I really miss the slow, steady lifestyle that Thailand offers.

Nevertheless, here are the highlights of the rest of my trip – from various parts of Krabi, finally ending at Phuket.

 

Krabi, Ao Nang: Sleepy old town

We arrived at Ao Nang in the wee hours of the night, and checked in at Aree Tara Resort. We headed out for some local food at NaNa Restaurant, which was highly recommended on TripAdvisor. The tomyum soup certainly did not disappoint.

krabi ao nang food

krabi ao nang food

Now, while the room at Aree Tara Resort was not exactly fantastic, it was at least fairly comfortable and clean. IMO, I thought staying at Amar’s for 3 nights spoiled me in terms of expectations for accommodation, but Ao Nang would be the turning point for all my expectations in general. 

The elephant towels were cute, though. Check it out.

krabi ao nang accommodation
Seems that Thais have great towel origami skills

No matter – a room is just a place for sleeping, right? What matters is what is out there to explore, right? Well, we were in for a rude shock the following morning.

 

The 4 Island Tour: Railay, Poda Island, Chicken Island, and Tub Island

krabi ao nang

We had planned to hire a private longtail boat to head out to the surrounding islands (Poda Island, Chicken Island etc). A few minutes after we had handed over money for the boat, though, torrents of rain began to fall. The raining season had just begun.

krabi ao nang

And so we waited for the skies to clear a bit. Finally, it slowed to a drizzle, and we were off. Not exactly the best start to the day.

krabi ao nang

On the bright side (ha, ha), it made for good photo opportunities. The rest of the day was an unending game of hide-and-seek between the sun and rain.

longtail boat thailand
As you can see, ominous overcast skies on the right, with bright skies on the left

I thoroughly enjoyed the longtail boat rides. The drivers were as much skillful as they were reckless, which made for an exhilarating ride every time.

longtail boat thailand

The churning of the motor, however, was extremely loud. Take care not to sit at the back of the boat if you value your sense of hearing.

longtail boat thailand

In any case, our first stop was a brief unguided 30 mins photo tour of Railay. It was slightly amusing, because we already had plans to stay on Railay the week after. However, the boatman insisted on dropped us off there for a while (“Good photos! Must take!”). Who were we to argue with the local guide?

He was not wrong, though. The sights were amazing.

railay beach

railay beach

Crystal clear waters, fine golden sand, and the signature limestone cliffs. It was a scene right out from my imagination.

railay beach

railay beach

I only realised afterwards that there was a spot of rain on my camera lens throughout these shots, probably picked up while I was happily snapping away on the boat (see if you can spot the spot!). It did little to spoil the scenery, though.

Next stop: Poda Island!

longtail boat thailand

tsunami warning

Poda Island turned out to be the best island for relaxing in the entire trip. It was relatively uncrowded, the skies were clear for the hour or so that we were there (thank God!), and the scenery was fantastic. From where I lay, this was my exact view:

poda island

Again, a scene right out of my imagination. We spent a good hour just lazing around, catching up on some light reading, and generally soaking in the island vibes.

poda island

poda island

Our next “stop” was Chicken Island, which wasn’t really a stop because there wasn’t any place to stop off at. The boatman did, however, urgently call us to snap some photos of the chicken head. We obliged.

It does look like a chicken head, doesn't it? God sure has a sense of humor.
It does look like a chicken head, doesn’t it? God sure has a sense of humor.

Then the rain swept in again, with renewed vigor.

heavy rain krabi

After a rocky ride (with the boatman cursing and swearing the whole way. I assume he was cursing and swearing, but I wouldn’t really know, because he was speaking in Thai), we found refuge on our last island, Tub Island. After a brief, uneventful lunch, the rain decided to let up. 

tub island

The coolest part about the island was probably the stretch of sand in between the island where opposing waves met. It was a strange sight, and as the tide came in, it became really difficult to trudge across in slippers. I decided to take mine off.

Before the tide came in:

tub island

And after:

tub island

At this point, the rain made a third appearance, and we decided to call it a day and head back to sleepy old Ao Nang Town.

The sound of crashing waves and picturesque sights, however, are forever etched in my memories. On hindsight, while the rain did interrupt moments in our trip, I felt it added an element of nature, that cannot be controlled or pre-determined, to the sights and sounds. It was certainly an exciting experience, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

This closes the chapter for Ao Nang – stay tuned for the remaining islands!

So Bangkok has been as expected so far – a simple, uncomplicated time of endless shopping, amazing food, and breathtaking massages. Here’s a quick recap of the highlights so far.

 

Accommodation: Amar’s Apartment through AirBnB

So we booked our first stay through AirBnB, and found this quaint but superbly equipped apartment owned by a French gentleman named Amar.

airbnb bangkok apartment

Strong wifi signal, speakers in every room (with an iOS dock in the living room), air-conditioned throughout, and comfy, clean beds.

airbnb bangkok room

Add on a fridge and cupboards stocked with noodles, bottled water, eggs, and so on. In short, it was hard to leave the apartment each day. Highly recommended. Thanks for the excellent hospitality, Amar!

airbnb bangkok apartment

For those who are interested, the link for this place is here. Price: USD$56 per night.

Shopping: Chatuchak Weekend Market

We visited some of the premium shopping malls in the heart of Bangkok (Terminal 21, MBK, Siam Paragon, and so on), but I have to say that I enjoyed the Chatuchak Weekend Market the best.

chatuchak weekend market

chatuchak weekend market

Nothing beats the truly Thai experience of haggling over the already minute prices, sweating buckets, and browsing endless aisles of clothing, souvenirs, and stuff you never thought you needed till you saw it.

chatuchak weekend market

For example, I chanced over these pleasant smelling soaps and couldn’t resist purchasing a few of them. They’re not for me though – I don’t use bar soaps. Still, a pretty sweet (-smelling) buy.

souvenir thailand

IMO, forget the big shopping malls – hit the markets on the streets for the real deal. Here’s more information on Chatuchak Weekend Market.

(Swedish) Massage: Pimmalai

A trip to Bangkok, or Thailand for that matter, is incomplete without one of their signature massages. We chanced across this rustic-looking massage place called Pimmalai when we couldn’t find our apartment on the first day (chance again!).

thai massage

Admittedly, I fear the twisting and bone-crunching (I’m exaggerating, a bit) that Thai massages involve, so I opted for a Swedish massage instead. Best decision of my life – it was so comfortable that I literally fell asleep two to three times throughout the one hour, and was so tempted to opt for another hour. Highly, highly recommended.

thai massage

Here’s the web address, for those who are interested in the best massage ever.

Food: MK Restaurant

To be honest, all the food on the streets of Thailand is fantastic. Some might border on uncooked, though, so be careful of that.

bangkok street food

I think that, due to the highly competitive nature of the street trade, hawkers are forced to become excellent in their craft – and foodies like myself benefit greatly from that. 

There is one particular restaurant that stood out above all the other food that we consumed so far on this trip: MK Restaurant.

mk restaurant

mk restaurant

Apparently, they’ve been around forever – I vaguely remember eating at MK’s when I first came to Bangkok in my primary school days. Perhaps their many years in this trade has allowed them to hone their craft as well. In particular, the duck and shrimp wanton green noodles was outstanding.

mk restaurant

If you’re tired of street food (which might, uh, be unlikely), MK Restaurant is the place to chill and have superb steamboat food.

 

So now we’re preparing for our flight down to Krabi, Ao Nang. We initially wanted to take the sleeper train, but alas! it was completely booked out. So we scrambled for a last minute flight down to Krabi, and thankfully secured one just yesterday. 

More in a few days’ time!

I’ve been going off my rocker getting all my preparations done for this trip, which explains why I haven’t been able to update this page in the past few weeks (that, and my final examinations ever in college, of course). Here’s a brief overview of what has gone down since:

1) Inter-regional flights in Philippines turned out to be too costly for us poor folk (that would be me, actually). Plan changed to a 3 weeks tourney through the Land of Smiles.

2) Touchdown in Bangkok > Sleeper train down to Krabi, Ao Nang (transit through Surat Thani) > Final stop: Ko Samui / Ko Tao

3) Here’s my packing list. I don’t believe I have ever traveled this light before!

– 3 sets of clothes (3 tees, 3 shorts)

– 7 underwear (why skimp on the essentials, right?)

– A pair of running shoes

– A pair of sandals

– Toiletries: Toothbrush, toothpaste, contact lens solution

– 100ml tube of sunblock

– 100ml tube of mosquito repellent

– 100ml tube of Febreeze

– A few packets of dry and wet tissue

– Electric shaver

– Medication box: Charcoal pills, Panadol, Po Chai Yin, Plasters, Clarityn

– Daypack

– Swimming shorts and goggles

– Universal adapter and chargers

– Netbook (Acer Aspire One)

– Camera (Panasonic Lx3)

– Waistbelt

– Several ziplock bags

– Essentials pouch: Passport and wallet

 

More on the trip as I go along. Stay tuned!

Freelancing might be on the rise among this generation. However, to many (especially in Asia), freelancing is either something that you do after you retire, or as a last resort when you are unable to secure a full-time job. Hardly would anyone aspire to become a full-time freelancer – not a chance!

Some state perceived instability as a reason not to freelance – CPF contributions, insurance, promotions, free coffee are seen as part of the stability that a full-time job offers. Others fear being looked down upon – being a freelancer seems to lack a certain prestige in our circles.

All these being said, the question remains: Why on earth would anyone (read: 7 million on Freelancer.com) still want to be a freelancer?! Adding to that point, why would anyone in his or her right mind even start a site like Freelancer.com that creates a marketplace for freelance jobs, knowing well that freelancing is a dead end?!

The short answer: Perhaps freelancing isn’t all cracked up as people make it out to be. 

After an interview with the International Director of Freelancer.com, Adam Byrnes, it occurred to me that the real picture of the freelancing world is far from what we perceive it to be. Here’s what you should know about freelancing before taking the plunge. (italics are mine)

 

adam byrnes freelancer.com 

1) How did Freelancer.com come about?

Actually, Freelancer.com was started by our CEO Matt Barrie, when he bought and rebranded the website getafreelancer.com in 2009. Matt had just left his previous startup, and was looking for The Next Big Thing. While attempting to get some basic tasks done online, he realised that one day, buying services on the internet would be just as big as buying goods on the internet – that is, he realised that very soon, there will be an Amazon or eBay of services – a multi-billion-dollar marketplace for jobs. Matt wanted to be the guy that built it.

 

2) What are the demographics of the current freelancing scene like?

Freelancer.com’s 7 million users come from a huge variety of places – we have users in 240 countries and regions, including the Antarctic and Vatican! Our most popular project types are website design and development, and graphic design, but we’ve seen projects in literally anything – from astrophysics to chinese rap songs.

Our typical employer comes from an economically stable country, and is an entrepreneur or SME looking for a cost-effective way to get their business off the ground. Our typical freelancer comes from a second or third-world country, and uses Freelancer to make a living. This is in no way exclusive though – we have numerous full-time freelancers in the US, and our second biggest source of employers is India!

 

3) Do you think that there is any stigma attached to the concept of freelancing today?

I don’t believe so, no. Entrepreneurship, freelancing and innovation go hand-in-hand, and are increasingly being celebrated around the world, from Silicon Valley to Dhaka. The startup movement is transcending borders and revolutionising the economies of many countries – people are getting out and creating wealth, rather than consuming it. Freelancing, and hiring freelancers, is the epitome of this global shift.

Also, as the world embraces globalisation, companies in the USA are becoming increasingly comfortable with hiring freelancers from abroad in countries they’ve never visited. A company owner in Australia can get their logo developed by a designer in Buenos Aires, their website from a developer in Islamabad, and their content from a copywriter in Prague – all in a safe and affordable manner.

 

4) In your opinion, what are the greatest/worst points for/against freelancing?

The best part of freelancing is the independence. You are no longer tied down in a restrictive and boring day job. You make your own destiny. You work wherever you like, whenever you like, on your terms. You sail your own ship. There’s endless possibilities for wealth and success in freelancing.

However, therein lies the issue. Freelancing is not always easy. It requires work – lots of it, and an ability to be self-motivated. Not everyone has these qualities, but for those who do, a revolutionary lifestyle awaits as a freelancer.

 

5) Give some advice to a freelancer who is just starting out on his career.

Reputation is king. It is the single most important quantity for any freelancer. Always go above and beyond for the customer – they will reward you by hiring you again or telling their friends about you.

Finally, stay motivated. Freelancing isn’t an easy ride – it requires hard work and lots of it – and there will almost certainly be setbacks. But, if you continue to go above and beyond the call of duty for your employers, the rewards will come.

 

6) Any predictions about the future for freelancers?

As of today, roughly 2.3 billion people have internet access around the world. That means there’s another 5 billion people who have never connected. Most of these people are located in emerging markets. When someone from these countries first connects to the internet, the first thing they do is look for an education. Today, they can find a quality education, online, for free. Coursera, Udacity, Khan Academy – its never been easier to learn a trade or skill.

The next thing they do is find a job. Many of these people are not lucky enough to live in a place where jobs are common, and those that do exist pay on average $1/day. So they do the only thing left to them – become a freelancer. At the same time, employers in first world countries are facing rising costs and barriers-to-entry to creating a business. They need a source of quality, cost-effective and flexible labor – and nobody suits this description better than a freelancer.

In 10 years time, my prediction is that hiring freelancers will be commonplace. If I have an idea tomorrow, and think I can make a business out of it, I know what I’ll be doing. The first thing I’ll need is a logo – and why pay thousands of dollars for a logo, when I can crowdsource 300 unique, quality designs using a Freelancer.com contest, for just a few hundred dollars? I’ll also need a website (after all, its 2013 – every business is a software business) – and rather than get into tens of thousands of dollars of debt getting a website built locally, I’ll jump online to Freelancer.com and post a project, and get it done for a tenth of the cost. Ditto copy, SEO, marketing, etc. Freelancer.com provides that essential edge for entrepreneurs who want to get their business started without millions of dollars of VC investment.

 

7) What are some resources you would highly recommend for new freelancers?

There’s a number of great freelancing blogs out there. Take a look at our guide for new freelancers on our website, and check out our blog too. Up-skill through free, online education. And above all else, use our platform to start your career. With over 4500 new projects posted every day, its easy to get started, and once you’ve built up your reputation, you’ll be well on your way to freelancing success.

 

Still think that freelancing is for the dogs? Let me know what you think in the comments below!