Posts tagged Thailand

Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market: Sights, Sounds, and Smells.

Everything sizzles and pops around you. Steam floats into the night sky like aromatic clouds carrying scrumptious smells of marvelous treats like various meats, or grilled vegetables, or spicy soups — all to the song from a lute; cracked leather-like fingers pluck the instrument, that long necked worn cherry-colored lute called the sueng, releasing a melody of ting-tang-tong-tang-ting to add sweet soundtracks amongst the chitter-chatter of the throngs.

Here and there and everywhere  is food porn galore. From spicy papaya salad to buttered garlic bread, pork balls and chicken balls (not testes) to kababs with zesty yogurt — everything your tantalized taste buds can salivate over.

Needle and thread dive in and out of colorful fabrics with a delicate urgency under soft yellow light as young and old create intricate gifts before your eyes. Maybe you’re looking for a poncho, or a scarf, or a hat — whatever it may be, it can be found as far as the eye can see.

This is the Sunday walking street market in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Once you enter Ratchadamnoen Road; near Thapae Gate cutting through the center of Old Town, you are lost in the ebb and flow of the Thai and tourist slow moving river. And there is almost no turning back — though you probably won’t want to anyway.

Do what I call the Chiang Mai Market Shuffle: right foot slides forward two inches, left foot slides forward two inches, rock your body one way to glance at trinkets, rock the other way to fiend over drool-worthy food, and repeat. It’s packed in the market so you’ll have to do a little shuffle.

The Chiang Mai night market is a place bursting with people, but this river of buying and selling is a treasure trove of Thai and exotic street food and hand-made arts and crafts.  Much of it that is rarely found cheaper or of better quality than here. There is a reason why even Thai people fight the current of bodies to shop here.

Photo of crowds in the Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market in Thailand.

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Thai curry Chiang Mai Night Market

Police officer playing guitar Chiang Mai Night Market

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The Chiang Mai Sunday night walking street is definitely a busy place, but one of my favorite things in the city to do each weekend.

HOW TO GET THERE

The Sunday night walking street market is located directly across the from the Thapae gate on the eastern side of Chiang Mai, the entry into the old town. The stands begin to pop up in late afternoon and around dusk, and begins to get overly packed around 7:00pm to 9:00pm.

WHAT TO BRING

Make sure to come on an empty stomach and with smaller bills — many of the vendors cannot break 500 baht and 1000 baht notes. You will also be walking for quite a bit so wear comfortable shoes. Since the market is teeming with people, bring a back that has secure zippers and straps so you can keep your belongings safe.

WHERE TO STAY

Since the walking street market is in the heart of old town, most of the available hostels in hotels are close by and within walking distance. During peak season, Chiang Mai accommodation can fill up fast so make sure to book your hotel or hostel a few days in advance.

Have you ever been to the Chiang Mai Night Market? 

 

The most beautiful landscapes from around the world

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This week’s #Frifotos theme on Twitter is the subject of landscapes. And even though I’ve just began traveling, I’ve had the opportunity to gaze upon some absolutely jaw dropping scenery from North America to Canada, Haiti to Thailand, and Cambodia. And now, as I begin traveling through Europe, I have finally been able to take in some landscapes in Italy as well.

Here are my picks, in no certain order, from my own photos of the most beautiful landscapes from around the world that I have visited.

CAMBODIA 

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Angkor Wat pokes above the tree tops in the distance as the sun sets.

 

NEW ZEALAND

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Lake Tekapo glistens in the sunlight, golden grass sways in the wind, the smell of fresh mountain air and pines fill your nose.

Check out more from New Zealand

 

HAITI

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High atop the mountain fortress of La Citadel the land drops 3,000ft into a lush and green valley below.

Check out more from Haiti

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The morning sun climbs over the hilltops above Belly Beach, nearly untouched paradise surrounded by the crystal clear Caribbean.

Check out more from Haiti

 

 THAILAND

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The valley of Pai fills with orange and gold as the sun descends behind the mountains.

Check out more from Thailand

 

ITALY

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Aqueducts from ancient Rome climb out of the landscape in the countryside outside of Rome, still defying time and the elements.

Check out more from Italy

 

CANADA

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A fiord splits the mountain range past a dark lake on a cloudy day in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, Canada.

Check out more from Canada

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Amongst the pine trees and thick hills outside of Gros Morne National Park, a wood-plank trail disappears into the distance.

Check out more from Canada

 

UNITED STATES

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Everything was wiped away in this once-upon-a-time resort getaway — the Salton Sea was created by man, but nature denied the reward. It is the contrast to an era long gone; the silence, the desolation, the salt-crusted land and inhabitable lake, the dead fish, the seagulls squawking, and the skeletons of houses leftover that makes this oddly beautiful in its demise.

Check out more from the United States

 

What was your favorite landscape from above? And what is your favorite landscape from around the world?

 

How New Visa Regulations in Thailand forced me to leave, and why I may not return.

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There is still a bad taste in my mouth. No, it isn’t from the beef on a stick which turned out to be liver that I had eaten for lunch in the market in Mae Sai this day. That bad taste in my mouth was from an experience that happened on my recent visa run in Thailand. An experience that may have very well tainted the country for me and my desire to return to teach English.

Confusion spun in my head, which eventually began to boil into anger. I was standing inside the passport control office in the great blue building — the exit gate of Thailand into Myanmar — and I was being yelled at for no reason obvious to me. The small Thai lady behind the counter had taken my passport, given a quick glance at it, and returned it to me with a stern “No”.

I had no clue why she was barring me from exiting into Myanmar which I had done numerous times before, so of course I asked why.

Because you no leave. Go!”and she shooed me away with her hand.

So again I pressed for information, politely of course, stating that I had done this previously with no issues.

New regulations, you no leave. Speak with my boss” she said, while waving over the next person in line. But I wasn’t going to just turn away and retreat without some clear answer as to why I couldn’t do the visa run.

Okay, where is your boss?” I asked.

Bangkok. You go speak to him.” she said without even looking up at me.

What is his phone number?” I asked.

And that is when I got pissed off. After asking for the phone number to her supervisor, a different officer behind her laughed at me. The woman I had been speaking to shook head and said, “No, leave.

I took a deep breath and a step back so I could see if there would be an issue with anyone else in the line. The next person to approach was a girl from Canada come to find out later. After she handed the same border guard her passport and the woman looked at it, she said the same thing as she did to me.

No, cannot, new regulations.

Obviously the girl was just as confused as I was, so she began questioning the reasoning behind this refusal as well. And she had the same luck I did. At this point, a crowd of failed attempts from foreigners trying to either cross into Myanmar or to do a visa run was gathering outside the gate. I was the only United States dude; there were also two Germans, one French, two Dominican Republic, and someone from the United Kingdom. And that Canadian girl now.

They denied me as well” seemed to be the tune of the morning for everyone, and nobody had any information on why we couldn’t cross the border.

So with a dying phone I began scouring forums and Thailand groups on Facebook with a desperate message of something around the lines of “What the fuck is going on?!” In one group, comments began flooding in about some sort of sudden visa regulation changes that had dropped that very morning without notice.

Apparently the only information was in the form of an article posted in the newspaper, but otherwise there was no prior warning. Rumor and speculation flooded the forums, but it seemed as though visa runs (crossing the border and coming back in for an extension of time) were being axed for people with three previous Thailand stamps in their passport.

As I was giving updates to the group outside the gate, it caused even more confusion. Granted I had done 5 visa runs already, the girl who had approached after me had just flown into Thailand and had never received an exit stamp so that wouldn’t apply. Others were on their first or second stamp as well and were being denied.

Knowing that my bus was going to be leaving in the next hour and that my visa was expiring that very day, I was desperate to figure out the issue. I approached the window again behind an older Quebecois woman who was just being denied through as well. The Thai woman in the window gave her as much explanation as me, so when the woman started complaining about them not telling us more information, a male Thai guard came to the window and with a raised voice said, “No! Go! No visa runs, no visas for you!

The Quebecois woman was pissed, and responded by saying, “I don’t want to stay anymore, I just want to leave Thailand now because of you, you are being very rude!

Then the guard got aggressive and got within inches of her face.

Ok. Thailand not your country. You go back to your country!” he shouted at her. I was shocked, never seeing Thai people be so adamantly rude and unhelpful.

You wont let me leave!” she retorted, and stormed of after flashing a middle finger.

Knowing that things were getting heated and becoming angry would help nothing, I approached the window sincerely apologizing for the woman’s reaction (though slightly warranted I feel) and pleaded for them to help or explain the situation.

And they ignored me. They wouldn’t even look up at me. Most of the guards in the office were now chatting amongst each other, snickering, and occasionally glancing our way with a smirk.

Fuck this shit” I said to myself and pushed my way back through the line and out into the gate. Everyone was still gathered outside venting about the whole situation, but it was clear this visa run wasn’t happening for anyone today.

Frustrated beyond belief, I gave up and decided to return to the bus station.

What was the reasoning for this? Why were the border guards, who are normally friendly, being so rude? What the fuck do I do about my visa expiring today?!

Even more so I was pissed at myself for not going with my friend on his border run the day prior — right before this random regulation was placed. But there was no way I could have known these shenanigans were going to take place.

The fact that I had taken the bus 5 hours there, sat at the gate for 2 hours confused, and had to return 5 hours back to Chiang Mai empty-handed added to the frustration of the day as well. I messaged my friend who was living in Thailand with me and told him everything that had happened that day.

I’m leaving Thailand now. As soon as possible.” I told him.

Don’t blame ya’ after that, I figured you would.

My phone died, so I sat for the next 5 hours trying to figure out a plan of execution while fuming with anger.

I had planned on crossing over that day for an extension just until the end of the month, and then I had to leave Thailand to attend a friend’s wedding in Slovakia. I just needed of. And I wouldn’t get it.

What really did it in for me was that since they unexpectedly dropped this new regulation on a Saturday morning, the immigration office was closed until Monday. So even if I was to go get an extension, paying 1,900 baht at the immigration office, I would already owe another 1,000 baht in fines for an overstay.

 

It seemed to me like it was a planned slight.

Imagine hundreds of people needing to cross for their visa extension that day, just doing something that had been normal to do each month for the past few years, and then being denied. That is at least 1,000 baht per person before they can scramble over to a neighboring country to apply for a visa or apply for an extension at the immigrations office.

All that passed through my head was that, “those fuckers did this on purpose for a quick dollar.

I can’t personally come up with any justifiable reason why they would drop a swift new regulation without warning on a weekend.

As more information surfaced later that night, it seemed as though the regulations would get even stricter. Soon, starting later that August, they would be barring flying out of the country and back in without acquiring a visa for Thailand in another country preemptively. Making it harder to stay long-term in a country many love.

I spoke to many, many travelers later that night about the slight at hand — about being screwed over last-minute. Some were in the same situation as I was. A small amount of others objected to or dismay, mostly uppity ones on forums who combated everyone’s panic and complaining with thanks and praises for a regulation that would “force out the teachers and freelancers exploiting Thailand’s loopholes“.

Older expats who had Thai wives and had been living there for 10+ years were ridiculing would-be teachers and freelancers for “living off Thailand’s easily avoided immigrant laws” — as if they didn’t fucking come to the country to exploit loopholes. How old was your wife when you found “love” for one another? How many times had you done visa runs?

I didn’t come to exploit anything, but clearly much of the older crowd making this argument had.

 

A country should accommodate my needs?

Hell no.

Some spoke of tightening regulations for entering the country as just enforcement for long-standing laws. Sure, the standard was that after 3 visa entries you would have to acquire a different type of visa. But what about those forced away while I was there that only had one? And though these regulations, in some form, may have been in place — the norm embraced by Thailand, travelers, Thai merchants, Thai companies, expats, teachers, and the like was the visa run.

Most people living in Thailand and doing visa runs are, from my experience, people who want to stay in Thailand because they love the culture and people. And they spend their money in the country. Freelancers being paid by other countries spend their money IN THAILAND. English teachers, who aren’t talking jobs from Thai people, are spending their paychecks IN THAILAND.

Sure, you might just say, “stop complaining and go the proper route to get a visa” but that isn’t why everyone was pissed. Or why I was pissed. I don’t think for one moment that a country should bend rules or accommodate rules just so I am comfortable. But when I arrived, the regular thing to do was to take visa runs until you got your work permit from a school you are teaching at, or do visa runs while exploring the country until you find a place you would like to settle. Then you can head on over to Laos and try to get a 90 day visa which takes a few days at least.

The reason everyone was pissed was because they established this new regulation without warning, without information, without explanation, and on a weekend while immigration offices were close.

 

It’s not only foreigners complaining…

Think travelers were the only ones complaining? The Thai apartment building owner my friend rented from saw a mass exodus of travelers who had been renting a room the following day.

I don’t know what I’ll do…everyone is leaving. I won’t have a business.

Sure, Thailand businesses may do okay during busy season, but we were entering the slow rainy season, one where most of these businesses are helped by spending from expats, teachers, freelancers or slow travelers staying longer.

How about all of those businesses that relied on the daily flow of packed buses full of travelers on visa runs? Those companies specifically offering visa runs are done for. Also, the shops those vans force you to stop at on visa runs rely on daily flow of backpackers for business.

I even heard about new protests in Bangkok solely about this new regulation. Whether that is true or not, I heard it from a Thai person.

Trust me, it isn’t just “freeloading” backpackers complaining if you decided to call it that, it was a vast majority of Thai people I spoke with confused and angry as well.

Again, I have no worry ever about going through the proper methods to enter and stay in a country, but the way this was executed without warning was something that will leave a mark on me, many travelers in Thailand, and Thai businesses as well.

 

So, was I really forced out of Thailand?

Yes and no. I was forced to make a quick decision that in no way made it plausible to stay in Thailand. I’m sure whoever “they” are would have loved for me to stay longer and pay more in fines.

I had just over two weeks left in the country before I had to leave. For me to jump over to another country like Laos and apply for a visa would take a few days in addition to costs of the application, transportation, and accommodation. I would have already been at a loss of 1,000 baht ($30 which is a lot for a backpacker) and I would be paying for a 90 day visa only to return to the country for a couple of weeks. It didn’t make sense to me.

I know that the gate I was attempting to cross through was a trading post and not actually a border crossing. From there, without being able to re-enter Thailand, you would be stuck. It is basically for good and Visa runs. But I had heard this was the story at most borders around Thailand, be it one for visa runs or not.

And the longer I stayed, the more money I’d be fined.

 

Why not move on to another Southeast Asian country?

According to the border guards, I had to fly out since my visa expires and the regulation restricted me from crossing by land. So, to spend $50-$100 on a last-minute flight to another country close by, then to spend $700-$800 last minute to fly to Slovakia, would be a waste of money on flights.

Instead, I decided it was just my time to leave Thailand and Southeast Asia (for now) and just take an earlier flight into Europe. My accommodation and daily living costs may be more expensive, but at this point I just wanted to get away from Thailand unfortunately. And though I had been planning to go to Slovakia, the plans changed again.

Knowing each day I stayed in Thailand would be another $15 tacked on to my fine, I took the next bus down to Bangkok to fly out the following day. I switched my plan to fly to Slovakia because I found a cheaper flight last-minute to Italy ($500) and I also had a voucher worth $250 with a flight booking company that I could use. Taking that cheaper flight to Italy, I could finally live out a childhood dream as well, and then take a budget flight for $50 to Slovakia for the wedding at a later date.

Expenses wise, it would obviously be more expensive in Italy than it would be to stay in Southeast Asia, but with the turn of events and how it played out with flights, it seemed as though the travel Gods were telling me it was finally time to visit the country I always yearned to see. Fernweh was pulling me — that longing for a place you have never been — and it was pulling me to Italy.

I had spent 6 months in Thailand setting up roots for myself to teach English after the wedding…roots that would have given me the proper visa to stay long-term, but the experience at the border and the way the new regulations were handled really pushed me away. And it is a shame. I really love Thailand. But seriously, from my local friends, Thai merchants and business owners I know, and backpackers around the Land of Smiles — someone fucked up with this.

 

Will I ever return?

I think there is a good possibility that I could return. After all, I never did explore much of the southern islands. But to live long-term and teach English there after this experience? Before flying out I had to pay 2,000 baht ($60) in fines to someone at the airport that had a quick chuckle after saying, “oooh, overstayed? Not good”.  I can’t say for sure, but it Thailand isn’t on my radar anymore to live in.

*UPDATE* I have heard whisperings that Thailand has returned the policy back to the way it was. Still hasn’t changed how I feel about the experience.

 

The Earthquake that shook Thailand

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Something felt off. Well, I felt off. But I could have never guessed what would come later, possibly in connection with the way I had felt the entire day after arriving in Chiang Mai.

And then I looked up from my sandwich in a Subway in Chiang Mai to see the glass before me shaking violently and the concrete walls of the building I was in shift back and forth.

What the fuck?” I said with a mouthful of chicken teriyaki.

I looked up and it seemed as though the world was warping, as if I was staring into a funhouse mirror as the events played out around me.

Everyone from the top floor and base floor scurried out of the building quickly, snatching up all of their belonging in a mad panic and fleeing into the streets.

Me? I just sat there completely confused and feeling on the verge of vomiting. And once the shaking stopped, it dawned on me that I had just idiotically sat inside a building while an earthquake rattled the city.

I think the reason I hadn’t gotten up to run outside like everyone else was because of that exact feeling that I had bothering me all day. And right before the earthquake it, I felt faint and near collapse — thinking I hadn’t eaten enough that day. Thinking at the beginning it was just me.

Earlier that morning I had driven back 3 hours from the northern town of Pai, through the 762+ turns up and down the mountains without stopping. I just wanted to make it back to Chiang Mai as soon as possible.

Right as I got back I started feeling a little off. I figured I had slight jitters because I only ate a small breakfast and chugged a coffee to get the blood flowing before hitting the road. But I made sure to drink plenty of water on the return route, and even after going to the café and eating an entire sandwich…nothing changed.

All day I stood or sat slamming down keys for a post on the blog, and gradually throughout the day I felt worse. It began with just a slight drowsiness or lightheadedness. and then my arms began to tingle. I felt weak. My head slowly began to give me the feeling of the spins, and my forehead felt hot.

Eventually, it got too much to bear. I packed up all of my belongings and decided to head home for the day and lay down, hoping that feeling would subside. But it didn’t.

It was about 5 minutes before the earthquake hit that I felt on the verge of vomiting. I thought I might collapse and so I hobbled down the stairs and decided that I’d try to down some more food just to see if it helped. Then, right before everything began shaking, I felt like I’d faint. My vision became a little blurry, my dizziness took hold, and I was preparing to run to the bathroom in case I had to hurl.

And then it hit. At first I thought it was me. My shoulders tingled down to my arms and into my fingertips. I thought, “Yep, stay seated Ryan, you are going to faint”

Things started slow. The windows vibrated and the walls moved and I grabbed my head with both hands to steady myself. That’s when everybody began running outside. It worsened. The glass wobbled and bent as though it’s explode and I could literally see the building dancing before me. Yet I couldn’t get up. I was disoriented and still couldn’t get my legs under me to work. I watched as the lights shook and pictures slide.

I’m sure if I began seeing things breaking or cracking I’d be able to get the energy to run outside.

After it stopped, I could see the hundreds of Thai people massing in the streets on their phone, seemingly tweeting or lining or snapping freak outs about what just happened.

And I sat there and finished my sandwich.

Not more than 5-10 minutes after the earthquake, that intense ill feeling seemed to wash out of my body. I was still a tad bit off, but I didn’t feel nearly as bad as I did hours before.

The earthquake registered a 6.3 at its epicenter near Chiang Rai north of Chiang Mai, and seemed to crawl all across Thailand down to Bangkok and into neighboring Myanmar. As I checked Twitter, immediately the social network was flooded with tweets about it. Luckily, everyone I knew weren’t injured. Just really freaked out or confused.

Throughout the night and into the next morning, my house vibrated with aftershocks. I spoke to my roommate the next morning about how ill I felt and she mentioned the exact same symptoms, telling me that she thought it was a large thunderstorm coming that caused her to feel that way.

Maybe I have “Spidey senses” one of my close friends quipped after telling her about the incident since it seemed to dissipate after the earthquake came and went.

I’ve now been through my share of earthquakes; plenty of aftershocks in Christchurch that made it feel like I slept on a water bed, and the annual occurrences in California. Hell, I was even giving an iPad class in Washington DC at my Apple Store when one hit — of course I stood there as everyone else crawled under tables.

Even though none compared to ones that have rocked Asia before, or Christchurch in New Zealand, or caused the destruction in Haiti that I observed even 2 years after, it is still pretty nerve wrecking.

I do not like the ground feeling like Jell-O beneath me.

Have you ever been through an earthquake? Ever have symptoms like mine hours before?

Weekly Photo: The Grand Canyon of Thailand in Pai

Pai is a small town in the far north of Thailand and a place I escape to nearly every month from Chiang Mai. Besides being a hippy enclave, there are outdoor activities abound; surrounded by mountains on most sides, waterfalls everywhere you look, and more than a handful of different geothermal hot pools. Another “hidden” piece of Pai that makes it amazing is Pai Canyon, considered to be the Grand Canyon of Thailand.

The canyon itself isn’t nearly as vast as the world wonder in Arizona, but it is quite impressive. Rock formations trail outward like spiderwebs — treacherously narrow with 100 foot drops in some places and fine sand that makes it even more dangerous. For the adventurous (and stupid) like myself, this is what makes the canyon so amazing — you can hike on these narrow rock formations all the way through the canyon and be almost completely alone.

If you want to spread some travel mojo, share this photo below!

 

Weekly Photo Mojo is about stimulating your cortex with retina rupturing and awe-inspiring photos from around the world to help you reach Terminal Vicariosity (The point where the mind reaches maximum capacity from living vicariously through someone else, and chooses to start actually living.)

What feeling does this photo evoke for you?

In Photos: The Most Beautiful Coastlines around the World

Whether it be watching gentle waves roll softly in on a beach, or admiring a sunset that glistens across a silver ocean like a million diamonds, or being awe-struck at the fierce and frothing water crashing relentlessly against cliffs after a storm — there is something mystifying about a coastline. It’s as if you stand at the edge of the world staring out into an infinite expanse of blue.

I scoured my hard-drives for for the most beautiful coastlines around the world from my travels including images from Thailand, Haiti, Canada, and the United States.

Enjoy!

THAILAND

Me on Koh Phi Phi looking out at Loh Dalum Bay.

Koh Phi Phi Le and the location of “The Beach” from just over the crest of our longtail boat.

Loh Dalum Bay at low-tide.

Want to see more of Thailand? Head over here!

CANADA

A lonely pony swing looking out over the coast of Norfolk County.

The inlet coast of St. John’s Newfoundland as the sun sets.

Looking out over dark green pines at the Atlantic ocean from a trek new Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland.

Cape Spear lighthouse keeping a watchful eye for sailors on the coast of Newfoundland near St. John’s.

View from the Skyline trail in Nova Scotia.

Pastel sunset and the silhouette of Rocky Harbor lighthouse in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland.

Want to see more of Canada? Head over here!

NEW ZEALAND

Doubtless Bay and Cooper’s Beach in the far north of New Zealand.

The rocky coastline around Wellington.

Looking out over Christchurch on the South Island.

Bright blue water seen from Mt. Maunganui, Tauranga.

The small town of Bay of Islands in the north of New Zealand.

The waring coastline of Cape Reinga in the Northland, where the sea and ocean me, clashing for all of time.

Weiheke Island outside of Auckland, the island of wine.

Want to see more of New Zealand? Head over here!

HAITI

Jagged coastline before reaching Labadee.

A friend meditates before the bright ocean at Belly Beach, Labadee, Haiti.

A warm morning sun radiates over the mountains near Belly Beach, Labadee.

Want to see more of Haiti on the blog? Head over here!

 

UNITED STATES

A cream-sickle colored sunset and a yogi on the cliffs outside of San Diego.

From the train pulling into northern California at dusk.

Want to see more of the United States on the blog? Head over here!

Love being on the coast? Which photo was your favorite?