I spent just a quick weekend in Bangkok in August 2014. I was there on a layover before heading over to Cambodia and Vietnam for the next four months. I spent the weekend walking through the streets and hopping around with no real goal in mind. Unfortunately, my bag was lost and of course I was mad at myself for not having packed extra clothes or a toothbrush in my carry on – so I felt a bit helpless. I stayed at a hostel across the street from the train station. I was planning on going the budget route and would take a 7 hour train ride from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet for 48 baht – which is about the equivalent to $1.30. Then I would cross the border and take a bus the rest of the way to Siem Reap. I was a bit nervous as I would have to wake up at around 4am, head to the train station, hope that I would actually get on the right train, and make the border crossing. As soon as I arrived at the train station I met a Dutch girl about my age who was making the same trek. It’s always nice to meet someone who can watch your bags when you gotta pee. The third class train was such an experience. It was slow, uncomfortable, and very beautiful.
My first big trip out of Korea was to Chiang Mai, Thailand. I wanted to see northern Thailand and explore the countryside nearby. I went for a week right after Christmas 2012. It was my first REAL time traveling completely solo and I was both nervous and excited.
The night that I arrived I took a taxi to my hostel. I made the mistake of sitting down in the driver seat because I didn’t realize that they drive on the left side of the road. I showed up pretty late to Eco Resort where I would be staying. In the lobby I found a note saying which room I would be sleeping in. I walked on over and knocked on the door. It was locked and no one was answering. I wandered around looking for signs of life and there was NOTHING. I pounded on the door again a bit frustrated that I didn’t have a place to sleep. STILL NOTHING. I laid down in the hall and dozed near my backpack. Eventually I tried knocking a third time and an older woman finally answered the door. She didn’t speak any English but I saw a spare bed and passed out.
I was out and about all day every day. I played with tigers, which I now completely understand is very controversial and I still feel a bit guilty about it. I also went to an elephant sanctuary, built a river raft with a German family, and spent a day up north in Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle. From there I went to Laos for about an hour to buy some fake ray bans. I went to many different villages and felt the western $guilt$ seeping in and bought all of the Thai pants.
Continuing on this go-go-go adventure, I also went mountain biking. Now, about mountain biking, I was like, “Yeah, duh I can ride a bike.” And then, “Why are you making me wear knee pads, shin guards, face pads, elbow pads, WTF?!” It was horrible. Horrible AND beautiful. I fell at least five times and it was one of the scariest and most difficult things I could have signed up for. Yet, we biked all over the mountains that surrounded the outskirts of Chiang Mai and went to different coffee plantations along the way. It was BEAUTIFUL. The picnic lunch and beers on a hidden lake at the end of the day were a treat, as well.
I was also able to meet some of my parents’ college friends who live there. I spent a day going on a trip to some different waterfalls with their kids Lynda and Patrick -who were about my age. In the evening they taught me how to make the delicious Thai corn fritters. They made me feel at home in a place I had never been to.
I love Thailand.