Culinary Adventures: Green Tea Cupcakes with Lychee Frosting

Culinary Adventures: Green Tea Cupcakes with Lychee Frosting. Asian-inspired cupcakes with subtle green tea flavor for the Lunar New Year.

 

Some friends of ours were having a Vietnamese Lunar New Year dinner and I wanted to bring something fun to contribute. I found this green tea cupcakes recipe on a baking blog called Sprigandflours.com created by baker Connie Choi. I’m not talented enough to make up my own baking recipes, and hers looked like a great one to try out.

In retrospect, I wish I would have doubled the recipe. It only made 11 cupcakes, and the dinner party we were going to was larger than 11 people. Fortunately the host had a cake as well, and we stopped and picked up some Chinese almond cookies at the Asian market on the way just to make sure we were bringing enough treats. If you are making this for an event, double the cupcake recipe. The frosting recipe portion makes a good batch of frosting, more than needed for the cupcake portion. (I do now notice that Connie’s recipe says “serves 12”)

I went to a local Asian market (our neighborhood is blessed with many lovely Asian markets) and picked up the matcha green tea powder and a can of lychees. If you don’t have an Asian market near you, you might try a Whole Foods or health food store for the matcha, and they may have lychees as well. Or you can always order on Amazon.

green tea cupcakes
Matcha green tea powder, green tea, and lychees from the local Asian market

Green Tea Cupcakes with Lychee Buttercream Frosting

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Author: Connie Choi http://www.sprigandflours.com/
Serves: 12
Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
  • ⅔ cup boiling water
  • 1 green tea bag
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons matcha green tea powder
For the frosting:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoon lychee juice
 
Instructions:
For the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line one 12-cup muffin pan with baking cups.
  2. In a small cup, combine the water and tea bag. Let it steep for 5 minutes, then remove the tea bag. Put in the refrigerator to cool.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar.
  4. Add in the vanilla extract then the eggs, one at a time.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and green tea powder. Stir together.
  6. Slowly add the dry mixture and the green tea to the wet mixture.
  7. Pour the batter into 12 cupcake tins about ⅔ filled.
  8. Bake for about 18-20 minutes. Allow it to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

The matcha powder turns the cupcakes a subtle  but pretty mossy green color.

green tea cupcakes

For the frosting:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the butter, lychee juice, and powdered sugar with an electric mixer on low speed — one cup of sugar and one tablespoon of juice at a time.
  2. When the ingredients are incorporated, increase the speed to medium and mix for another 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
  3. Spread or pipe the frosting on top of cooled cupcakes.

I didn’t completely follow the exact frosting recipe, because I always just make frosting to taste. I used 1.5 sticks of butter and about 1/3 of a bag of powdered sugar, and poured the lychee juice out of the can into the mix a little at a time until the right consistency was reached. The lychee juice was really sweet, so I added a pinch of salt (in addition to the salted butter) to even it out a bit.

Aside from the recipe making a smaller batch of green tea cupcakes than I’d wanted (my fault for not reading the yield on the recipe), they turned out great. Everyone seemed to like them. I thought the green tea was a nice subtle but identifiable flavor, and the lychee frosting was a nice compliment to it without overpowering the green tea. The two flavors worked well together.

green-tea-cupcakes-with-lychee-frosting (3)

green tea cupcakes with lychee frosting

Lunar New Year in Seattle’s International District

Lunar New Year in Seattle’s International District: dragon and lion dances, martial arts performances, firecrackers, and a chance to sample a lot of great food on the $3 food walk

 

Every year, Seattle celebrates the Asian Lunar New Year that is widely celebrated across Asia. Many people refer to it as Chinese New Year, but many other Asian countries besides China celebrate it. The Lunar New Year is based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar, which is an astrological calendar revolving the month beginnings and endings around the cycles of the moon.

This year I am a liason for a Chinese exchange student through AFS, and have been learning a bit more about Chinese culture. We never really knew much about the Lunar New Year festivities or even that there was much of a celebration in Seattle at all, but this year we read up on it and decided to check it out.

Seattle’s “Chinatown” is pretty small compared to most large cities’ Chinatowns. It is officially called the International District, as the neighborhood includes Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Filipino, Japanese, and other international restaurants and shops.

seattle chinatown international district lunar new year
Seattle’s Chinatown and International District

seattle chinatown international district lunar new year

We read up on the Seattle Chinatown International District website that the event schedule was from 11 AM to 3 PM on Saturday February 13th. The lunar New Year is never on the same day, as it coincides with the cycle of the new moon. It is usually sometime in late January to mid February.

We arrived in the International District at 10:30, and everything was just getting set up. Crowds were gathering around the stage at Hing Hay Park on S King Street. Paddy hadn’t eaten breakfast and was starving, so we ducked into busy Mike’s Noodle House which was open serving noodle soup and congee (Chinese savory breakfast rice porridge) and he ordered some soup. Most everything on the menu was between $6-$8, and he said the soup was great. Note: Mike’s Noodle House is cash only.

Paddy wasn’t quite finished with his soup when we heard drums and cymbals across the street, signaling that the the lion and dragon dances were starting at Hing Hay Park. He told me to go ahead and he’d catch up with me.

I was able to catch a dragon dance circling the crowd before trying to squeeze my way in for the lion dances.

Chinese dragon dance, Lunar New Year in Seattle
Chinese dragon dance, Lunar New Year in Seattle
Chinese dragon dance, Lunar New Year in Seattle
Chinese dragon dance, Lunar New Year in Seattle

The crowd was tightly packed, but I caught a bit of the first round of lion dances as I slowly squeezed my way forward.

Hing Hay Park Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Hing Hay Park Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Lion Dances Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Lion Dances at Hing Hay Park

The performance was put on by a local martial arts troupe, who also put on a martial arts performance after the lion dances. There were people of all ages performing and it was pretty impressive.

Martial arts performance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Martial arts performance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Martial arts performance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Martial arts performance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Martial arts performance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Martial arts performance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Martial arts performance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Martial arts performance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Martial arts performance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Martial arts performance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration

This tough little guy was my favorite:

Martial arts performance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Martial arts performance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration

Paddy found me in the crowd during the martial arts performances, and we both had a better view finally for the next lion dance, which was pretty fantastic.

It takes two people to comprise the lion, one person to be the back legs and one to be the front legs and operate the head, which has blinking eyes and an opening and closing mouth. It was really amazing how much they could make the lion appear like an excited kitty cat dancing and prancing around. Most impressive was when the person in the back lifted the front person to make the lion rear up or stand up.

Lion Dance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Lion Dance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Lion Dance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Lion Dance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Lion Dance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Lion Dance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Lion Dance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Lion Dance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Lion Dance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration
Lion Dance at Seattle Lunar New Year celebration

At the end of the dance the lion “drank wine” out of a large gold container and became drunk, staggering about. It was entertaining.

Once the lion dance was over we picked up a map from the information booth of the $3 food walk. The food walk is a chance to walk around the neighborhood and sample a small portion of a dish from quite a few participating restaurants. It is a great way to get to know the food in the area without committing to one particular restaurant or meal.  There was also a tear off “passport” section of our food walk map that we could get stamped and fill out to enter to win a trip from Delta Airlines at the end.

Seattle Lunar New Year Food Walk
Seattle Lunar New Year Food Walk

**Note: Everything is cash only for the food walk, and there are not a lot of ATMs in the International District. Bring cash, or you can find a couple ATMs near/in Uwajimaya shopping center or at the Bank of America on 6th and Jackson.

We looked at our map and decided to start with the dim sum sampler at Dim Sum King on Jackson Street. The line was long but moved quickly as a lady at a table collected money, another stamped food walk cards, and a third filled the table with dim sum samplers as fast as they were being taken.

We got a sampler with a custard bun, a coconut bun, and two pot stickers. The pot stickers were average, but the pastries were phenomenal. My favorite was the coconut bun, which had a buttery sweet coconut paste on the inside. The custard bun was creamy with a nice crust. We will be back to this place for sure.

lunar new year seattle Coconut bun and custard bun at Dim Sum King
Coconut bun and custard bun at Dim Sum King

Next stop was Asia Bar-B-Que on Jackson for some honey pork and Singapore noodles. The Singapore noodles were good but a little bland, but the honey pork was moist, tender, and flavorful. The two together were a great combo.

lunar new year seattle asia bbq
Asia BBQ on Jackson St
lunar new year seattle food walk
Singapore noodles and honey pork from Asia Bar-B-Que on Jackson Street

We didn’t want to limit ourselves to Chinese food on the food walk, so we walked a few blocks further east on Jackson Street to Than Vi to sample some Vietnamese cuisine. We sampled their fried chicken wings with Sriracha, which were really good and so fresh from the fryer that we had to wait a bit to eat them because they were so hot.

Near Than Vi we saw another lion dance going on on the side of the street, and in a parking lot a block up the hill on Jackson we could hear a massive amount of firecrackers going off for about ten solid minutes.

lion dances seattle lunar new year

lion dances seattle lunar new year
Lion dances on the street

It was about 1:00 PM and we were starting to lose steam, so we headed back to Uwajimaya to sample the Japanese Takoyaki at Tako Kyuuban Takoyaki. Takoyaki is one of my new favorite things. It is octopus in dough fried in special fryers that are full of round indents. The cook pours the takoyaki batter into the fryer, and then when the takoyakis are just about cooked on the bottom, they are transferred one by one to the other identical side of the fryer with picks and turned and shaped with the picks while cooking until they are delicious little fried balls of awesomeness. They are then taken out of the fryer and squirted with a couple kinds of sauces, smoked dried bonito fish, and dried seaweed. Here is a diagram from their website:

takoyaki
Image from http://takokyuuban.com/
seattle lunar new year takoyaki food walk
Cooking takoyaki
seattle lunar new year food walk
Takoyaki

We decided to do one more food walk sample before we headed home, and Paddy wanted to end with something sweet. In the same Uwajimaya food court as the takoyaki stand was UniCone Crepes, also participating in the $3 food walk with strawberry banana crepes. They were tasty.

We dropped our stamped food walk passport off at the info booth to enter the Delta Airlines contest, and called it a day. That evening we went to our friends’ annual Chinese New Year party complete with karaoke.

Seattle’s Lunar New Year celebration was a great day, and we can’t wait to go back to some of the restaurants and have some full meals. There is a lot of great authentic food in the International District and the Lunar New Year celebration is a perfect opportunity to sample it and learn a bit about Asian cultures.

Happy New year!

seattle lunar new year
Paddy the karaoke rockstar

The Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

The Phi Phi Islands, Thailand: Tonsai Village, Long Beach, Maya Bay, Bamboo Island, and a lot of drunk European college kids.

 

We went to the Phi Phi Islands (pronounced “pee-pee”) while on a two and a half week trip around Thailand in March 2014. The Phi Phi Islands are beautiful, albeit heavily visited by hoards of tourists hoping to visit the infamous Maya Bay from the movie The Beach. I think we were there during European college spring break, and there were drunk twentysomething European tourists everywhere whooping it up in Tonsai Village and Loh Dalum Bay. February might be a better time to visit, but I couldn’t say for sure. We do highly recommend an accommodation a good distance away from Loh Dalum Bay for some peace and quiet at night. Our hotel fortunately fit the bill.

 

(Excerpt from original post http://childfreelifeadventures.com/thailand-2014-phi-phi-islands-bangkok-chanthaburi-kao-laem-national-park/)

Day 1:

We caught the early 7:30 AM flight from Bangkok to Krabi, packed in like sardines onto a small Air Asia commuter plane, which was about an hour and a half plane ride.

Once in Krabi, we got a taxi to the Klong Jilard Pier on the outskirts of Krabi town, and had a little time to grab some sandwiches at a food stall before the 10:30 AM ferry. When you walk in to the terminal, you are greeted by a tourist guide selling tickets, who we purchased tickets from. When we went to get on the boat, we passed a ticket window around the corner where some locals were buying tickets from and realized that was the real ticket window. Our tickets were valid, but more expensive. I think we overpaid about $10.00 total. Oh well, live and learn.

We boarded the boat and were instructed to put our large backpacks in a pile on the boat deck. The boat was air conditioned, and there is a deck where you can sit in the sun if you want to. The sun was too hot even in the breeze, so we sat down below.

ferry to Phi Phi Don Thailand
ferry photo by Heather Smith
Phi Phi ferry ride Thailand
Phi Phi ferry

**Note: I read that in the spring and summer the southern Islands have rougher weather and sea, so the best time to visit the islands in the Southern part of Thailand is November through March.

We arrived Phi Phi Don at noon, and a man from our hotel was waiting at the ferry to show us the way there. He grabbed a big metal hand cart off the side of the road and instructed us to put our bags in it, and we followed him through a maze of little streets in Tonsai Village to the JJ Bungalow, which we booked through Booking.com.

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Tonsai Village

JJ Bungalow had decent enough reviews, and was about $75.00 a night. The attraction here was that it had AC, a pool, and was reported to be far away from the party scene on Phi Phi, so a quiet night could be expected.

The downside to JJ Bungalow, was the three flights of stairs up the hillside to the bungalows and pool. In the stifling afternoon heat, this wasn’t so pleasant. Fortunately, our super in-shape and used-to-the-heat bag carrier carried my backpack up for me. I was super thankful.

JJ Bungalow Phi Phi Don Thailand 436
JJ Bungalow

There was a fridge with bottled waters in it, and a little convenience store in the office downstairs that sold more beverages until late at night, which was very convenient. We cranked up the AC in our rooms and waited to cool down.

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JJ Bungalow
JJ Bungalow Phi Phi Don Thailand 433
JJ Bungalow

After a little while, I went and took a dip in the pool near our rooms, which had some nice shady areas and no one in it.

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JJ Bungalow pool

After a rest and a cool-down, we were getting hungry. We walked a short ways down the road from our hotel, and took a right down a beach road to Loh Dalum Bay beach. We were starving, and the beach was nice and quiet this late in the afternoon, so we just sat down at the first place we saw, Woody’s. There was barely anyone there, and after ordering some food we realized that we were in a popular nighttime party spot. There was a giant wood penis sticking out of the sand in front of the place, and next to it was another bar called the Slinky Bar, which also had a giant penis sticking out of the sand, although theirs was more….realistic. The food wasn’t bad, my pad see ew was actually really tasty. It’s always a little dicey eating somewhere that isn’t known for its food, though.

Below: Loh Dalum Bay

Loh Dalum Bay Phi Phi Don Thailand 437
Loh Dalum Bay
Loh Dalum Bay Phi Phi Don Thailand 438
Loh Dalum Bay
Loh Dalum Bay Phi Phi Don Thailand 439
Loh Dalum Bay

After some food, we did a little walking around, and then went back to rest a little more. The jet lag was catching up with us.

graffiti Phi Phi Don Thailand 435
Interesting graffiti on the street near our hotel

Below: a typical Thai clusterfuck of low-hanging power lines.

power line clusterfuck Phi Phi Don Thailand 440

Later that evening, Heather was tired, but Stephen, Paddy, and I were curious about the nightlife. We decided to walk back to the beach and check it out. On the way we grabbed some snacks from a stand selling all kinds of barbequed meats on skewers. Paddy got a chicken skewer and Stephen and I ordered squid. It was tasty.

night market food stand Phi Phi Don Thailand 441

chicken satay night market Phi Phi Don Thailand 442

night market grill Phi Phi Don Thailand 443

When we got to the beach, Woody’s and the Slinky Bar were having competing fire shows with equally competing loud techno music. It was entertaining for about 15 minutes. At Woody’s, one of the fire jugglers seemed to be an 8 year old boy. I wonder how his mother feels about his profession.

Woody's fire show Phi Phi Don Thailand 445
Woody’s fire show Phi Phi
Woody's fire show Phi Phi Thailand 446
Woody’s fire show Phi Phi
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Woody’s fire show Phi Phi
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Slinky Bar fire show Phi Phi
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Slinky Bar Phi Phi

The crowd was growing on the beach and in the streets of the village. Mostly Europeans and Australians wearing next to nothing and looking to party. Street stands were selling “buckets” which were comprised of some sort of do-it-yourself cocktail. It was all a little obnoxious. Maybe we’re just old.

buckets cocktails Phi Phi Don Thailand 504

We wanted to get another snack before we ended our evening, and I’d read great things about Papaya Restaurant in Tonsai Village. We found it, a little place at the end of a short alley next to a Middle Eastern restaurant, with a few tables inside and outside.

We decided not to let the pregnant cat lounging on the counter of the restaurant next door discourage us, and ordered up some noodles. Stephen ordered their signature papaya salad. He said it was one of the best things he’s ever eaten. Our noodles were mediocre. Definitely come here for the papaya salad. It tends to be served nuclear spicy, so ask for not spicy if you want it milder.

cat at restaurant Phi Phi Island Thailand 453

Papaya salad at Papaya Restaurant Phi Phi Thailand 456
Best papaya salad on Phi Phi

Day 2:

The next day we were anxious to check out the beach. We weren’t so keen on the party beach (Loh Dalum Bay), and our guidebook recommended a beach just a 10 minute long tail boat ride away called Long Beach. We packed up our gear and headed into the village for breakfast at Anna’s Restaurant, as also recommended by our guidebook. It was a European owned place and the breakfast was probably the best one we had in Thailand. It tends to open late for the hangover crowd, and the next two days we tried going there and it wasn’t open yet.

After breakfast, we easily located a longtail driver waiting to be hired. For 100 Baht each ($3.00) he drove us over to Long Beach.

Long Beach has several accommodations, and would be a good choice for people wanting to stay far away from the party scene in Tonsai. There is one resort restaurant and bar there on the beach, and one ATM. The beach itself was gorgeous, and offered great views of Phi Phi Leh, the neighboring national park island where where the movie The Beach was filmed.

My guidebook told us there was great snorkeling just off the beach, but there wasn’t a ton of coral (good for swimming, however).  I saw a few fish and a big squishy sea cucumber. Not the best snorkeling, but there is a little to see. Maybe I wasn’t in the right spot.

Long Beach Phi Phi Don Thailand

sea cucumber Long Beach Phi Phi Don Thailand
Sea cucumber

Heather and Stephen had lunch at the Phi Phi Paradise Pearl Resort restaurant on the beach. Paddy and I weren’t hungry, so we enjoyed the beach and read for awhile. When we were all ready to go, we easily located a longtail driver again to take us back to town.

We went back to our bungalows to shower and clean up. The stairs and the midday heat got to me when we reached our bungalow, I was overheated and trying to get my wet bathing suit top over my head so I could jump in the cold shower and cool down. I got stuck and had a small over-heated freakout moment that resulted in a bathing suit top being violently flung across the room. The AC kicked on, and eventually all was well again.

After we’d cooled down and got dressed, Paddy and I went into the village by ourselves to get a light lunch and do a little souvenir shopping. We went back to Papaya and had the papaya salad and some spring rolls. We then walked around a little bit and haggled with a few vendors over some souvenirs. Paddy bought a pair of sunglasses that didn’t disintegrate like the ones he bought off of a street vendor in Bangkok.

market in Tonsai Village Phi Phi Thailand 455

Tonsai Village Phi Phi Thailand 460

Above: Fruit stands in Tonsai Village

We ended the afternoon with hour long foot massages at a little place near Loh Dahlum beach for $8.00 each. They were nice. They also included some stretching and bending of the neck at weird angles at the end. I’m not sure if that was good for me or not…but “buy the ticket take the ride,” right? Our feet sure did feel better though.

Below: Loh Dalum Bay at sunset

Loh Dalum Beach sunset Phi Phi Thailand 459

Loh Dalum Beach sunset Phi Ph Thailand 458

Loh Dalum Beach sunset Phi Phi Thailand 457

We split up from Heather and Stephen and did our own thing for dinner that night. Our guidebook raved about Tonsai Seafood down on the beach near the ferry, so we decided to check it out. I don’t know what the guidebook was talking about. I recently looked it up on Tripadvisor and it sounds like we were lucky not to get food poisoning.

it is on the beach, and the seafood looks really fresh, on ice right near the sidewalk and you can see the cooks working in the open air kitchen.

Tonsai Seafood Phi Phi Don Thailand 461
Tonsai Seafood

While the location was nice, the plastic tables and chairs were dirty, the cocktails mediocre and expensive, and the service was terrible. Paddy ordered a steak, which he said was alright. I ordered a seafood salad-not too spicy. I got a tasty seafood salad but it was nuclear and I couldn’t finish it. My whole fried fish was chosen out of the fresh fish on ice, and it was okay. Not great. We made it out without food poisoning (it sounds like some others weren’t so lucky) but not the best dining experience. Skip this place.

Tonsai Seafood Phi Phi Don Thailand 462
Tonsai Seafood
Tonsai Seafood Phi Phi Don Thailand 463
Tonsai Seafood

Day 3:

We wanted to see the famous Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh, the beach made famous by the 2000 movie The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio. We were also well aware that every other tourist in the Andaman Sea island area has the same agenda. Therefore, we wanted to get up early and try and get there before the crowds.

We got up and headed into Tonsai Village around 7:30, and found some breakfast at a European style cafe called Capu Latte, which serves espresso, baked goods to go, and a full breakfast menu.

Our plan was to go negotiate a day tour with a longtail driver down on the beach, but we ended up going with a tour operator who booked us a full day with a driver including a fried rice and fresh pineapple lunch for $100 total. We might have gotten a better deal without lunch on our own, but $100 for a personal boat driver for the day with lunch was a reasonable price so we went with it. We were able to rent snorkel fins for $2.00 from a man around the corner from the tour desk.

Longtail boats Phi Phi Don Thailand 464

Longtail boats Phi Phi Don Thailand 465
Longtail boats waiting for hire in the morning

We found our driver and boat and set off to our first stop on Phi Phi Leh.

Longtail boat to Phi Phi Leh Thailand 042

I had taken a Dramamine, but the channel between the two islands was pretty rough and when we arrived I was beginning to doubt my ability to make it to the other locations on our agenda. I doubled up with another motion sickness medication called Bonine when we got to the beach, hoping that would work.

Phi Phi Leh is a national park protected island with no inhabitants or accommodations. We arrived at around 9:30 AM and the beach was already busy. The amount of tourism the island receives each day hasn’t had a great impact on the environment, and it’s unfortunate. Blame Hollywood.

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Maya Bay, Phi Phi Leh
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Maya Bay, Phi Phi Leh

Maya Bay Phi Phi Leh Thailand 466

All that being said, Maya Bay really is a spectacular site to see.

Maya Bay Phi Phi Leh Thailand 479

The crowds were growing, so after an hour we got back in the boat and moved on north towards Phi Phi Don. The sea wasn’t so rough after we got past the channel to the west side of Phi Phi Don.

Our next stop was Monkey Beach. We had read some disturbing things about Monkey Beach: Monkeys being fed potato chips, candy, and soda by tourists, monkeys chasing and attacking tourists, tourists being bit by monkeys and having to get rabies shots. So we were all a bit wary of visiting this beach.

We arrived at monkey beach and there were several other tour groups there….but not one monkey in site. It was kind of a let down.

Monkey Beach, Koh Phi Phi Thailand 045
Monkey Beach, Koh Phi Phi

Also a let down was the disgusting amount of garbage left on the beach by tourists. I can’t believe people. Why would anyone think that it is okay to leave your trash on a beach? Tourism really saddens me sometimes.

Trash piles and rabid monkeys in hiding aside, it was a really beautiful beach. If you go here, don’t get close to monkeys, (maybe they’re around in the afternoon only?) don’t feed them, and keep all of your belongings on your person. They steal stuff, and you don’t want to try to get your camera back from a monkey. Also, pack it in, pack it out. Littering is a seriously shitty thing to do.

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Monkey Beach
Monkey Beach, Koh Phi Phi Thailand 046
Monkey Beach
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Monkey Beach, Koh Phi Phi

After monkey beach, Heather and Stephen decided they had enough for the day and we dropped them off at nearby Loh Dalum Bay.

We were stoked on snorkeling and seeing our final destination, Bamboo Island, so we continued on with our driver.

longtail boat ride Phi Phi Thailand 054

After a few minutes, our driver pulled into a small cove with a few other boats and told us that this was the best snorkeling spot. He was right–the water was deep and clear and like swimming in an aquarium. The fish were beautiful and we were having a great time for about 10 minutes.

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snorkeling koh phi phi Thailand 051

snorkeling koh phi phi Thailand 050

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Then I saw a huge white jellyfish the size of a trashcan lid. I quickly paddled back towards the boat, hoping that was the only one. We snorkeled for a minute in the other direction, and then I saw another jellyfish the size of a basketball. There were a lot of other people snorkeling and no one seemed to be getting stung by anything, but we weren’t going to chance it. We got out of the water and ate our packed veggie fried rice and fresh pineapple in the boat with our guide. It was kind of a bummer, because the snorkeling was really amazing.

Moving on, we headed north to Bamboo Island, a small national park island off the north coast of Phi Phi Don. There were tour groups here as well, but the island was large and the tourists were fewer. It was beautiful, and definitely worth the trip.

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Bamboo Island
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Bamboo Island

There was a little stand selling beers so we had a couple cold Singhas on the beach and then went for a swim. It was nice.

Finally, we headed back to Tonsai Bay and went back to the hotel to cool down and relax for a few.

For dinner we had read great things about Le Grand Bleu, a French-Thai fusion restaurant in Tonsai near the ferry pier, so we checked it out. The atmosphere and food were outstanding, as well as the service. It was a little more expensive than many other restaurants on Phi Phi, but worth the splurge. Don’t miss this place.

After dinner, we were all tired except Paddy, who really wanted to go see some live rock music advertised at the Rolling Stoned bar in Tonsai Village. He went out and had a crazy evening involving a hilarious massage parlor experience, partying with some guys from Spain, and getting up on stage singing AC/DC songs with the Thai cover band at the Rolling Stoned Bar. His story is best told by him over a few beers. Maybe if you have some beers with us sometime, he’ll tell it to you.

Day 4:

We had one last day on Phi Phi, and in retrospect I think we would have had a better time going back to Krabi instead of staying our fourth night in Phi Phi. Three nights of European spring break was plenty. Paddy was having some stomach issues so he decided that he was fine spending a day in the room reading in the air conditioning. Heather and Stephen were doing some shopping, and I felt like I should go to the beach at least one more time.

I went down to Loh Dalum Bay with a book, and paid $5.00 for a beach chair in front of Woody’s with an umbrella. The sun was scorching hot, and when I tried to walk on the sand without sandals, it burned my feet. The tide was out really far, so to cool off I had to walk way out there (in sandals) to get to knee deep water where I could try to dunk myself.

Loh Dalum Bay Phi Phi Don Thailand 065

Loh Dalum Bay Phi Phi Don Thailand 066

I went back to my beach chair to read a book in the shade. Two British girls in their early 20’s sat down in the chairs behind me, and were so hungover that one of them was vomiting bile into a puddle in the sand next to her chair. Then she got on Skype on her tablet and began chatting with some dude in London about all the partying they were doing. And that was enough beach for me.

That evening, Paddy wasn’t feeling so great, so Heather, Stephen and I went out without him. We went to Banana Sombrero, a Mexican restaurant in Tonsai Village. We ordered some ceviche, which wasn’t bad…but it wasn’t ceviche. I think it had a little mayonnaise in it. After we ate we climbed the precarious spiral staircase to the Banana Bar on the roof, which was a laid back little hippie bar with lots of lounge seating and wafting marijuana smoke in the air.

Banana Bar Phi Phi Don Thailand 501
Banana Sombrero

Another climb up a ladder to a higher platform gets you to a viewing deck and more seating. The view isn’t great, but it’s worth a peak.

view from Banana Bar Phi Phi DonThailand 498
View from Banana Sombrero bar
view from Banana Bar Phi Phi Don Thailand 497
View from Banana Sombrero bar

We sat at the bar and had some drinks. I had a very tasty mango daiquiri.

Banana Bar Phi Phi Don Thailand 500
Banana Bar

Banana Bar Phi Phi Don Thailand 499

They were clearly setting up for a party that night, and we decided to move on. We went down to the waterfront near the ferry and sat in an open air bar and restaurant for another drink. The service was terrible, and 20 minutes after ordering our drinks and not receiving them we were getting up to leave, but a waiter rushed over and told us our drinks were on the way and told us to sit back down. We eventually got our drinks.

**Tip: Don’t order a bloody mary in Thailand. Just don’t.

Overall, I’d recommend avoiding all open-air tourist restaurants on the beach on Phi Phi. The food and service is much better in the village.

 

The next day we took the ferry back to Krabi for a night before heading back to Bangkok and continuing our travels around Thailand. I think if we went back to Phi Phi Island, we’d like to see some of the rest of the island, but most of it involves being shuttled to and from Tonsai Bay in a longtail boat when you stay at the more remote locations and resorts. The islands are gorgeous and well worth the trip, but we could do without the drunk spring breakers.

I think our hotel was a good option for being away from the action but still in walking distance to everything in Tonsai Village, which is what we wanted. If we were to go back to Phi Phi a second time, we might try one of the more remote places I was looking at such as Vikings Nature Resort near Long Beach, or Zeavola Resort (super swanky) up near the northern tip of the island.

Why it is Important to Have Adventure in a Relationship

Why it is important to have adventure in a relationship: Learning, discovery, and fun are the antithesis of boredom and essential to growing your bond. And you don’t have to go to Morocco to do it.

Adventure in a relationship is essential. Not to downplay the necessity of those nights on the couch with Netflix and popcorn (those are essential to our sanity), but you don’t want to get stuck in a rut. Learning is what keeps the brain fresh, and adventure is about learning, discovery, and creativity.

Sharing an adventure with your partner strengthens the bond between you, and helps you grow as a couple and individuals. If you have a good time or share something exciting together, you will associate that experience with your partner.

Adventure in a relationship
Hiking near Mt Rainier, Washington

Travel is the ultimate great adventure, but you don’t have to travel to have adventure in a relationship. An adventure can simply be trying something new. Go try Ethiopian food. Try a new hiking trail. Learn how to brew beer. Spend a day in a neighborhood you never go to. You don’t have to spend money, you just have to make some time and be adventurous. Take turns picking what you do on your next “adventure date.”

Here are some ideas:

Camping

Learn to make pickles

Explore a nearby town you’ve never spent time in

Wine tasting

Snowshoeing

River tubing

Snow tubing

Bike riding

Do a fun home improvement project, like a tile back splash in your kitchen

Take a cooking class

Take a swing dancing class

Volunteer

Go to a show and check out a new band

adventure in a relationship
Wine tasting in Chelan, Washington

You can also out festivals in your city or nearby cities/towns and attend an event. Summertime is full of these. Whatever adventures you embark on, just make sure you do something new together at least every couple months. Don’t get too bogged down with life and end up stuck in a TV rut. Adventure in a relationship is essential, it keeps your relationship growing.