It was the first week of 2013 when I bought a one way ticket to Thailand. The idea of escaping my life and wondering around the other side of the world for a while really suited me at that time. My heart had just been broken by my boyfriend and my best friend, and my life was in pieces, so really, what other viable option did I have? Over the course of a couple facebook messages my dear friend from Australia let me know she was traveling all over South East Asia for a year with her boyfriend and I should come. She bait the hook and I got caught on the idea of being a gypsy exploring the unknown and roughing it for a while. Afterall, in their eyes I was that crazy American girl who worked way to much and needed to live a little. I thought about the food, the colors, the new friends. I had that feeling you get when you meet someone amazing for the first time, and your stomach is in knots and your palms get sweaty. What was I getting myself into? I was so excited at the possiblities!
By the time mid June rolled around I realized that I needed to tell my boss I was leaving in two weeks and not sure when I was coming back. Basically, I was quitting. I mulled over the possible senarios of how the conversation would go and practiced it over and over in my head and out loud with as many people as possible. One night, I was out with a small group of my girlfriends, having wine and laughing hysterically when I realized that my life wasn’t really in shambles like it was 6 months prior. I was slowly moving on from the heart break of being dumped before the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve, and from being robbed by someone I loved and called my best friend. Slowly, all those broken pieces were starting to come together to form into something much stronger then they were before. I had a good job, and good friends who were there for me, supporting me as I grew right before their eyes.
Why was I running away? And honestly, that is exactly how I viewed it at this point. Quitting my job to be a gypsy and spend all the money I had worked so hard to save no longer occurred to me as an adventure. It seemed more like giving up the life I had and the thought of leaving it all behind seemed less and less like the right thing to do. But I still had that ticket and I still very much planned to get on that damn plane to eat as much Thai food as possible. I ended up asking for a month off which basically made my boss laugh so hard milk would have come out his nose, and with rosey cheeks told me I could take two weeks. In Australia, a month vacation is standard, so my friends couldn’t believe I could only come along for 12 days, but it was better than nothing.
I flew into Bangkok and met up with my friend and her boyfriend at an insanely cheap hotel on Khao San Road, which is like a year round spring break party spot filled with young travelers, cheap beer and all kinds of debauchery. I immediately meet a cute British guy while I was walking around and we hit it off. He had a thing for California girls. The four of us spent the next 2 days together exploring temples and getting completely lost while riding in the back of Tuk Tuks. We saw the sleeping Buddha, drank coconut shakes with rum and enjoyed the humid blanket of warmth that Thailand is known for.
After two short days together, my aussie friends were off on a different adventure and I decided to tag along with the Brit to the island of Koh Tao to learn how to scuba dive with Roctopus Dive. We took an overnight train filled with other travelers that we shared beers and good laughs with until the wee hours of the morning when we had to get on a boat for a 4 hour cruise to the island. It was overcast yet warm and I was seated near the front, dangling my feet over the side of the boat, and leaning on the railing. This is something that would not be allowed on a boat ride in the highly regulated country of America. “I am a lawsuit waiting to happen” I kept thinking to myself. This was a very freeing and eye opening moment for me, I will never forget it.
We had the day to relax before going in the next morning for our first lesson in scuba diving. Thailand might be the most affordable place to get certified and with its crystal clear blue waters also one of the prettiest. We had the most spunky, sweet and beautiful instructor whose passion for diving was engrossing. She was younger than I and had moved to Thailand after a holiday, foregoing college to live at the beach and be a scuba instructor. She was from Sweden and immediately fell for the Brit I was with. She had a thing for British boys. The three of us got along swimmingly, and decided to go on an extra dive trip to Sail Rock after our three day course. I ended up meeting some cool cats from San Francisco on the trip who shared my love of Burning Man, green juice and vegan food. We are still friends on facebook and I always like their photos from Bay to Breakers each year.
After the dive at Sail Rock, the Brit decided to stay with the Swed and I was ready to head north to Chaing Mai. I made a reservation months in advanced to stay at my very first 5 star hotel, and take a cooking class at Alot of Thai Cooking with Yui, who is a well known chef worldwide. The class was a full day and included a trip to the market where we got to meet the farmers and explore local produce. This portion of the trip I was solo the entire time and it was nice. On the first night, I ordered a bottle of wine to my room, and chuckling at the fact that it was imported from California. Here I was at the ripe age of 24, ordering a bottle of wine in Thailand from California, in a 5 star hotel. Granted I was in Thailand and it was about the same price as the Best Western, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment and gratitude.
Chaing Mai was bustling and crowded, filled with people from all over the world exploring the different Temples or Wats as they are called. Its a very green and lush place with tree lines that stretch as far as the eye can see. My favorite place was the enterance to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. It is a temple at the top of the highest mountain in Chaing Mai. Its intimidating and exciting with stairs that seem to go on forever. The Santa Monica stiars seem like an ant hill after standing at the foot of these.
Once I reached the top, I participated in prayer ceremonies, and left the names of those I wanted blessed on roofing tiles, which was something they were offering to guests. It is custom to remove your shoes before entering and I still remember how concerned I was about the possibility of my shoes being stolen. Luckily there were still there hours later after I exited.
After spending the day at the temple, I wondered around to find a place to eat and pulled out my Travel Thailand book to figure out where the Night Markets or Night Bazaar as there are called were. They are one of the things that Chaing Mai is known for and I was in the mood to shop. There are loads of them filled with everything you can imagine from cheap electronics from China, dried foods and spices, clothing, lugguage and of course food. Loads and loads of food. The amount of action that goes on at night in these cities surpasses what I would consider normal anywhere in American, except maybe New York City. It was at the Night Bazaar that I had my very first avocado shake. It was literally 4 ingredients: avocado, ice, sugar, condensed milk. Man, do the Thai like their things sweet. This was to the point of being saccharin.
On the morning before I departed back to America, I had breakfast in another fancy hotel in the city that served up the best cup of coffee I had on the entire trip. Actually, it might be the only decent cup of jo I had the whole time. Quality coffee is not easy to find in Thailand, or atleast I didn’t find it. There were families scattered all over the resturant, with kids coloring and making noise; I sat there watching for hours. Where did these people come from, why did they pick Thailand, why Bangkok? I know how and why I got here, I thought, as I sat there pondering the lives of those around me. Eventually, the staff asked me to leave so they could close up and reset up for lunch. I grabbed a cab and headed to the airport. It was time to head home.
Thailand is a magical, mystical and colorful place filled with flavor, full of life and the perfect place to go as a young traveler. It was my own little Eat, Pray, Love journey and I will never forget it.
I hope you liked this post and page from my travel diary!