Alaska Local Expert: Nealinthailand
Neal is quite possibly, TravelPod’s most controversial member. He’s always stirring up lots of debate on Thai culture in the forums, talking about relationships, immigration and more. Right now, he rests his head in this lovely southeast Asian country, but he calls home Alaska. He knows a lot about the northern state, and he’s always dishing out great information about his hometown.
Why did you become a Local Expert?
I became a local expert because I love to help people who have never travelled somewhere that I am very familiar with. I’m the guy who if you come visit my home city, will take you on the 3 day extended tour just because it’s fun to show people things they would otherwise have missed. Also, at the time, no one had signed up for Alaska and thought that was a shame because Alaska is just one of the most amazing places on earth and if I could answer peoples questions and encourage them to come out to the wilderness then even better.
What’s the best thing about living in Thailand?
I think the best thing about living in Thailand is just the freedom to do whatever you want. The cost of living out here allows for a comfortable lifestyle and the cost of travel within Asia allows you to see a huge chunk of the world for very little money. a whole side of the planet opens up to you just because of your location and exchange rate. The beaches are beautiful and the people are pretty laid back usually (once you get off Khao San Road) and if i had to add one more thing it would be the food…..I love Thai food….and I don’t mean from the Thai restaurant down the street in New York City but actual Thai food.
What’s the worst thing about living in Thailand?
Living in Thailand is awesome but there are a few things that kind of wear on you after awhile. First the obvious…being removed from family and friends and all the things that you grew to love over the years. Eating a deep dish pizza, watching the football game Sunday morning with my Dad, the Christmas season in Chicago with all the lights. I suppose it’s just like being a little homesick but when you have been away for four years, it’s amplified a bit. As for the bad side of Thailand specifically….its hard to explain but Thai’s really do view the world and approach daily situations differently and this accounts for many miscommunications or false perceptions that begin to really annoy after awhile.
What’s the best thing about living in Alaska?
For those of you who dont know me, I actually live for 9 months a year in Thailand and 3 months a year in Alaska so I guess I get two entries 🙂 . The best part of Alaska is just the natural beauty that you see every day. It sounds lame and cliche I know, but the mountains and glaciers and rivers are just so abundant it’s hard not to have your breath taken away while looking out your bedroom window. The landscape is truly beautiful and if any of you are outdoors people then this is a MUST destination for you because it really is some of the last wilderness on the planet.
What’s the worst thing about living in Alaska?
Other then working 16 hours a day for 6-7 days a week I would have to say the worst thing about Alaska is the price. Everything is so expensive and overpriced it’s enough to drive you crazy sometimes. It’s a great vacation spot for the well-heeled but for the backpacker, I would say that working your way through the state or maybe just camping your way through will be more advisable. Trying to do the upscale thing here is idiotic since you are there for the outdoors so there is no need to get an expensive room. Go outside, go climb up on a glacier and look out for moose.
5 BEST THINGS TO DO IN THAILAND:
Of course these lists are personal and I’m sure to leave out something that someone else thought was amazing but hey, its just an opinion so relax.
1. Going on a liveaboard and diving the Similan islands. A bit pricey but its 4 days of underwater bliss. Some of the best diving in the world while on your off time you are living on an airconditioned yaht where you are pampered.
2. Wandering Bangkok and seeing all that it has to offer. Yes, if you have been to Bangkok 40 or 50 times then it can be a very trying place and you grow tired of it in hours but if you are a new arrival there is so much to see and do that you should not be off put by all the backpackers telling you how bad Bangkok sucks. Go see the palace…go to the weekend market….check out the night flower market….reclining Buddha….there is a lot to see for a newcomer.
3. Getting away from the backpacker trail and wandering around up north. Yes i know this is sorta vague but to really appreciate Thailand you need to get away from all the god damn farang. I thought I had experienced most of thailand until i went up to my ex girlfriend’s village and that was a whole new experience. It’s not exciting perse but its different and rural and gives you a more accurate insight into Thai culture
4. Sitting in a hammock for a month on Ko Phagnan. Not literally a month but this is just to say that it is nice to find a nice little beach and a little bungalow and just live the good lazy life sometimes. To lounge and read a book is a much looked over past time.
5. I think the most beautiful area that I have been in as far as Thailand goes is Krabi. The limestone cliffs rising out of the crystal clear water is just beautiful. There are lots of things to do here, ocean kayaking or kayaking in a mangrove forest with the monkeys. Elephant riding. Rock climbing, beach bumming, snorkeling, scuba diving. It’s a great place and if you go to Thailand you should definitely make time for it.
5 BEST THINGS TO DO IN ALASKA:
Well Alaska is a pretty damn big place (8x the size of Germany) so I’m only going to cover a few things here so please dont take this as the end all be all tour advice.
1. Going for a hike in the wilderness. There are so many trails with such a varying degree of difficulty that you will be able to find something for everyone. Get out into nature and see the beauty and smell the unpolluted air. Of course bring mosquito spray because the little bastards are viscious and always beware of bears.
2. Bear viewing in Katmai national park. The park is only accessible by bush plane and is really remote. It DOES have the largest population of brown bears in the world and this will probably be your only chance to see them in the wild doing purely bear things….such as eating, playing, pooping, sleeping. It’s an amazing experience and should be enjoyed by everyone in the family.
3. Ocean kayaking out of Whittier. This kayaking trip will bring you up against some of the most beautiful glaciers while they are calving into the ocean. you can hear the creaking and cracking of the ice as it splinters off and forms icebergs in the water below. Groups of sea otters often keep you company, so once again there is always wildlife present.
4. Denali National park. One of the most spectacular national parks in the american park system with a huge abundance of wildlife including elk, moose, bears, wolves, dali sheep, eagles. Also home to Mt. McKinley which is the highest mountain peak in north america (20,000 feet). Most of the park is closed during winter but is very popular in the summer…..again, be careful of the mosquitos.
5. Go for a scenic drive. The drive from Anchorage to Homer is absolutely beautiful and has many pull offs and trails right off the road. Adventure and beauty are never far away in Alaska and very often are found right there on the road. If driving at dusk, be careful of moose in the road. A sure way to trash your car but also not a bad way to get some fresh meat for the freezer.
BEST TRAVEL EXPERIENCES:
I think one of my best experiences was while I was in Nepal and went on an eight day trek completely by myself. The trail was fairly well used and I saw people everyday but I did not have a guide or a porter but instead was alone up in the Himalayan mountains. The scenery was absolutely amazing and the quiet and solititude let me relax and reflect upon where I was in my life. The villages and the people that I encountered were amazing and straight out of National Geographic. If you ever find yourself in Nepal, go and do the “Jomsom trek” and you will see what i mean.
Another amazing experience was when I was India I visited Varanaasi which is the holy city where people come to die and be creamated on the banks of the Ganges river. It sounds a bit morbid I suppose but an absolutely amazing experience among a totally different culture. The entire experince makes you sit and contemplate mortality and life and what happens after, which is an interesting way to spend your holiday. Varanasi is one of the oldest “living cities” and the twisting and winding corridors that make up their network of streets is just surreal to walk through. It feels as if you have traveled in time hundreds if not thousands of years.
WORST TRAVEL EXPERIENCE:
Traveling India by train in 4th class. Enough said
MY PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT:
I would have to say my proudest accomplishment would be going back and finishing university after having been arrested and put in prison while studying. Three years in prison is enough to discourage anyone but I somehow got out and went back and obtained my degree in zoology.
I am travelling to Indonesia in March for the first time and hope to hit up Java and the Gili islands along with Bali and Lombok. Also I am currently just starting the planning for my around the world trip in September where I hope to go to Europe for the first time and then down to South Africa for diving with the great whites and a safari. I would love to backpack through southern Africa a bit so I will try my best to work that in there and see as much of the wildlife as I can. After Africa it is back to India to go to the desert province and do a camel safari out into the desert and then off to Bangkok once again. I hope it all works out.
WHAT DO I DO WITH MOST OF MY TIME:
When I am not working as a divemaster I spend most of my time relaxing and going to the beach. I hike around a bit and see the sights but I have been in thailand for so long now that I have seen most of the sights, especially on the island that i live on. I occasionally work on the book that i am writing and then maybe a nap. All in all life is not too hard over here.