So I have been living in Thailand for almost four months now (so crazy to think), and I am just now getting around to setting up a blog. For those of you who know me, this comes as probably no surprise. Queen of procrastination here at your service. I have been meaning to get this set up long ago, but life was busy happening. However, no excuses; I am finally here!
To recap four months of time would take me so long that I would probably just stop after this post with hands that are ready to fall off. So to rewind and recap and to save yourselves from information overload, I will just write the top ten things that I have encountered in my time in Southeast Asia so far that have been my favorite and most unforgettable moments.
1. Sam’s Flock
When I say Sam’s Flock, I mean these lovely eight people above (and of course Teacher Austin.) This is the group that I completed my TESOL course with in Chiang Mai. They are the first people I had the pleasure of getting to know in Thailand, and I couldn’t be more grateful for getting placed with such an awesome group! Even though we are all over the country now, I still stay in touch with them, and I get to travel on some pretty amazing adventures with them as well. From our nights out at Zoe’s to nights in with Cards Against Humanity, there was never a dull moment with this group, and it was amazing to see everyone grow throughout our short time together. They all have such a special place in my heart.
2. Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, in general, is one of the most amazing places I have ever been in my life. If you ever land upon some money and have a thought of traveling anywhere in the world, make this place it. I only got to live here for less than a month, but it was some of the best few weeks I could have ever dreamed of having. From elephants to temples to pagodas to shopping, everything you could need is here. (Well maybe not everything because I sure as hell miss good wine and bacon.) Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was my first temple experience in Thailand, and surely will be one that will be hard to ever top off again. It was stunning, and the view overlooking the city of Chiang Mai was just the topping on the cake.
3. Doi Inthanon in Chiang Mai
So this should fall under the category of Chiang Mai, but I do what I want, and this place was so spectacular it goes in its own special place. I mean, do you see that picture?! Like something straight out of the movie Aladdin, this place was beyond magical. Situated on top of the highest mountain in Thailand, this place feels surreal. This picture was taken at Phra Mahathat Napha Methanidon and Phra Mahathat Naphaphon Phumisiri, the twin pagodas. (And no, I could never say those names even if I tried.) They were both built in honor of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit. After seeing these beauts and looking down at the city below us, we were able to go to some amazing waterfalls tucked away in Doi Inthanon National Park. Needless to say, this day was unforgettable.
^^That’s me eating a maggot from a street vendor. She was so kind she even gave us a free cricket too. As cliche as it sounds, they tasted like chicken. Really not all that bad, but when you got a cricket leg stuck in your teeth, it felt a little weird.
This place is now what I call home. I feel blessed to live here, and even more lucky to have three amazing guys who I live with that have made me want to stay in this city even longer. It never ceases to amaze me the surprises this place brings daily. Just earlier this week, I had just finished up a job interview, and I needed to head back home. The bus systems are nearly impossible to figure out, so I asked a motorbike how much it would cost for me to get back to the BTS (the train). He said it would cost 120 baht, but that he would take me all the way back to my place for 200 baht (literally on the other side of the city.) So I was totally down to make the trip, full-knowing he would be kicking himself later for ever agreeing to that. But man oh man, I was all smiles and giggles the whole ride back. For one, Bangkok traffic is no joke. Motorbikes just squeeze through cars because laws of the road do not exist in this country. So riding between cars, with my bag hitting them, and driving down the opposite side of the road is just no thang to me anymore. The ride back home allowed me to see so many different parts of town during the sunset. Was honestly one of the highlights of my week. Besides from all that, this city always has SOMETHING to do. Whether we are sipping back some beers on the roof, shopping at Chatuchak Market, hitting up a day at Lumpini Park, being tourists and exploring the city’s famous landmarks, I am always finding something new to love about this place every day.
5. Kanchanaburi, Thailand
I spent Father’s Day (the King’s birthday) in Kanchanaburi with some pretty wonderful people. We took the scenic train ride out there, which I would definitely recommend to anyone who is making travels out this way. The whole weekend was killer, despite me literally feeling like I had been killed and brought back to life on Sunday when I woke up. We managed to ride our motorbikes out to see the beautiful Erawan waterfalls and slide down some natural water slides (even ripped my shorts in the process). We ate dinner that night next to the river with a beautiful view. The night life was a blast, and including lots of buckets and riding some wrecking balls. All the fun made our adventures on Sunday a bit rough. We powered on through and were able to catch Jeath Museum and walk along Death Railway. Andrew almost bought a pet leopard. (Yes, those exist here. Welcome to Thailand.) Overall, it was a great way to spend a weekend learning about Thai history, seeing some of the most beautiful waterfalls ever, and kicking it with some locals in this cute little town.
6. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
During my Christmas vacation, I went with my friend Evy to Cambodia. While there, we went to Angkor Wat, the largest religious site in the world. This place gave me freakin goosebumps as soon as I stepped on the land. The place is HUGE, and the temples are just out of this world. The details on them, and the way they are built just astounds me to try and wrap my head around people actually building these and visiting them as a part of their daily life. Evy and I were able to climb up to the tip top of Angkor Wat itself and look down (pictured above). To be able to take in and soak up all the beauty that surrounded us was breathtaking. We had rented a tuk-tuk driver for the day who was awesome and took us all around the place. We ate dinner at this little restaurant tucked away from all tourists, and we were able to kick it and play with some little kiddos, and even managed to buy them some cookies. This part was something I will never forget. In America we are so damn greedy, always wanting things for ourselves. When we gave those children cookies, you better believe they all gathered and broke pieces off for each and every single one of them to enjoy. It was amazing. We finished off our day on top of Phnom Bakheng to watch the sunset. Happy crocodile tears this day because trying to soak up all that I witnessed was just so overwhelming.
7. Vientiane, Laos
I made this trek to the capital of Laos with Tyson and Tasha. We all had to make a visa run, so it worked out perfectly to do it together. Vientiane is probably the world’s smallest capital, and there isn’t a whole lot of nightlife, but I still had an absolutely amazing time. Laos was colonized by the French, so there’s definitely some French influence in the city, which also means awesome food! (Major plus!) We were able to check out Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan) which was so freaking cool! It’s a small park that is filled with over 200 Buddhist and Hindu sculptures. The best is this pumpkin shaped statue that has a large mythological creature with its mouth open to serve as the entrance. When you walk inside there are three levels: Hell, Earth, and Heaven. Hell is full of sculptures of the dead and evil. Earth has some statues that are good and some that are evil. The top level is Heaven that is full of the gods and goddesses. When you walk to the very tip top, you are outside looking out over the whole park. It was a really cool place. We rented bicycles and explored the rest of the city in a day, checking out some cool temples, churches, and some other neat historical sites. It was a nice little vacation for sure.
8. Overnight Meditation in Laos
So while I was in Vientiane, we were actually on our way to the rooftop bar when we walked past this temple that had string hanging everywhere. We decided to stop in to see what it was all about. We saw a bunch of monks sitting inside, so we went to pay our respects to the Buddha. A monk ended up coming over and speaking to us. His English was amazing, and he told us about the purpose of meditation, and then extended an invitation to us to join him in a very special night. It only happens about once every ten years, and everyone gathers for an overnight meditation. The string was for this special night. It spread out throughout the entire temple, outside, and into other temples. There was thousands of single pieces of string hanging down from this one large piece. The idea was to have each person have their own string so that when we meditated, we would hold onto it, connecting us all together and bringing us into consciousness as one. Tasha and I decided there was no way we could miss this, and I couldn’t be more grateful for this experience. It was a once in a lifetime experience, and it was one of the coolest things I have ever done. We made it the entire night, and we were even given a personal meditation lesson from the monk who had invited us. Everyone there extended helping hands to us that night, giving us food, coffee, tea, and explaining the process more in depth to us.
9. Ayutthaya, Thailand
So some of the lovely soul sisters I have been fortunate to come across in my time here decided we would spend a weekend up in Ayutthaya to check out the ruins of what used to be the old capital of Thailand. We all met up in Bangkok and took the train up to this island. When we arrived, we grabbed some beers before renting bicycles and driving around exploring this super cute, awesome little gem. I immediately fell in love with this town. It’s cute, has some badass places to see, all accessible by bikes, and not too many farangs (what Thais call us Western people). Elephants will be walking down the street, no big deal. We were able to meet up with some guys Evy and I met in Cambodia, and they were generous enough to let us crash with them. Overall, I had a fabulous weekend. I even came home with some plants and new trinkets for my apartment. It is weekends like these that I really think of how blessed I am to be living this amazing life of mine and getting to enjoy it with some of the best souls to walk this earth.
10. Thai People
Part of the reason I have absolutely fallen in love with this country is because of the people. Every day I take a motorbike to school, and every day I am in awe, simply because of the people who wave to me or smile in our passing. Thailand is the Land of a Thousand Smiles, and that statement is so beyond true. It is beyond rare to come across someone who is upset here. Part of the culture is to be kind. In every single one of my classes I taught, I had the students come up with classroom rules, and in every single one of my classes, they decided on a rule to smile. Seriously. Even if you are upset, you smile. It’s kind of crazy, but I absolutely love it. When I walk to the store, every person is smiling at me and saying, “Hello”, whether I know them or not. It’s something so genuine, and something that I feel like I only get to experience at music festivals back at home. How many cities can you think of where you just walked down the street, and everyone said hello? Or when you are on the train, people aren’t looking down at their phones; instead, they are looking at you, smiling? It is something I cherish so much about this place. It makes me realize how lucky I am to be in a place where even if I do have a bad day, all I need to do is walk down to the Som Tum lady because I will be greeted by Mr. Man, the Fish guy, and the children who play in the apartment lot next door, who rush over just to say hi.
So I have slacked and slacked, but here it is. I finally have a blog started, where I WILL keep you all updated weekly (hopefully) with all my adventures, travels, smiles, and any other crazy little things that come my way. Every day is different and full of something new, and I cherish these days I get to spend learning more about the culture and myself.