Long before Ubers or before I could even fathom paying a hefty taxi fare, there was one way and one way only to get to and from the airport – via my dad’s unreliable, smelly and stuffed pickup truck (all of which were of various ages and models, but possessed the same decidedly unsatisfactory qualities).
Even though my dad frequently missed the Newark Airport exit and cursed out traffic – coupled alongside my bag’s unavoidable soaking from the storm that always seemed to be happen on the day it was loaded into the pickup – I could never really imagine another, if not more uneventful, way to depart and come from my latest journey.
When I worked as an advertising account manager in 2013 and 2014 (thank god that’s over) my main job duty was to pretty much call every business in Morris County and solicit them for advertising. I always got interesting – sometimes rude and sometimes surprisingly receptive – answers from whoever had the misfortune of picking up my bored call. However, I still remember what the busy employee at Pub 199 said to me when I called them on one fateful day.
When New Jersey culinary legend Andrea “Andy” Clurfeld – 30-year food journalist, former James Beard Awards Committee member and Pulitzer Prize finalist – tells you that you just have to check out a new restaurant, you go.
Tahiti, Bora Bora and the group known as the Society Islands can best be summed up as the definition of tropical paradise.
To get there, we flew across the United States to Los Angeles and then the next day, we took Air Tahiti Nui to Tahiti. Upon arrival we were taken immediately to our cruise ship, The Paul Gaugin. This was rated the best cruise in the world and after spending a week on the boat, I have to agree.
My name is Dr. Donato Soranno (otherwise known as Dr. Dan) and I have known Jenna for a long time as a patient and friend. She has visited my office monthly and I would tell her of my world travels.
I have been to the top of Machu Picchu, swam with sharks around Bora Bora and the Great Whites off the tip of Africa. I have been on the Amazon River to observe pink dolphins. I am very fond of Italy swell as many other European countries.
The next morning, we get to wake up late since the bus doesn’t depart from Pattaya until 10 a.m., but after a long week of early mornings, there is no amount of enough sleep and even waking up at 9 a.m. feels too early. After a big breakfast, we board the bus and head back to Bangkok, where everyone is excited for a big night out on Khao San Road again before our free and final day in the city.
After we arrive in Bangkok that afternoon, our group of eight gets together and we split up in cabs and head to Khao San Road. Since it’s early when we get there, only around 8 p.m. or so, the bars aren’t in full swing yet so we spend our time cruising the food stands, buying cheap tourist souvenirs, eating bugs of every variety as well as scorpion on a stick.
The next day, we wake up bright and early to load onto a rickety speed boat from our hotel, Long Beach Garden Hotel and Spa, to Coral Island, a small island that takes about 20 minutes to get to by boat. Mike and I sit on the ledge on the back on the boat to catch some wind and we get drenched by the waves long before we ever hit Coral Island.
Ken, our other tour guide, tells us in his broken English and an elephant camp t-shirt that the island gets very busy with tourists around 10 or 11 a.m., which was why we he had us wake up early to get on the boat by 7:30 a.m. After a few hours sitting on the seemingly abandoned, quiet beach, we see that he is right – more and more boats are being docked nearby and the once-silent beach is filling up. Still, we’re glad we got the morning alone before lunchtime, when Ken calls all of us over for a meal of whole fish, prawns, mussels and fried shellfish.
Finally, we are almost in Pattaya, the beach destination of the trip. Everyone is exhausted and sick of temples and ready to sit on a beach and explore the city, which is known for its debauchery, drinking and commercial sex trade that overtakes the entire place.
Before we check into the hotel, though, we stop at Gems Gallery Pattaya, the world’s biggest jewelry store, which everyone is not only disinterested in but wholly against visiting. After lunch, where we chug some Changs, this riot only grows with many of the guys planning on taking a cab to the nearby hotel as soon as we get to the gem factory.
Somehow though, this plan disintegrates and everyone is convinced to at least walk into the gem factory once we find out we only have to stay for 45 minutes. Once inside, we relish in the air conditioning and our lunchtime buzzes and we walk through to see Thai people in booths creating jewelry, which is pretty cool, and very quickly make our way to the buying section. We don’t stay in there too long once we see the prices – most pieces are well over $500 and even we are not drunk enough to casually buy a piece of jewelry for he nothing. After drinking another Chang, we get back on the bus well before the 45-minute mark and wait for everyone else to hop on.
Although our very jungle-esque hotel Felix River Kwai Resort is beautiful on the outside, I’m happy to leave the next morning and escape from the ants and mosquitoes that fill the room after a long sleep following our day on the backs of elephants and bamboo rafts. Centara Grand, our five-star resort that we stayed at in Bangkok equipped with beautiful meals, a poll and waterfall shower, seems very far away.