My thoughts on traveling….

As I sit by the pool today I’m reminiscing on all my travels thus far, and the few remaining days I have left. I have also been thinking about my previous trips and adventures and how they have brought me here.

I enjoy the solitude of traveling on my own. No pressure, no compromise, just go where my feet go and take it in. At the same time, traveling with others has taken me to places I would have never gone on my own, from countries to cities to museums.

I also am reminded about the realities that have hit while I’ve been far away from home. My step Dad diagnosed with prostate cancer while I was backpacking through Europe on my own. While in Egypt, 29 people were killed during the Arab Spring, luckily we were hours away, but that did little to settle the fear of family and friends back home. While boarding the ship for Antartica, my aunt was supposed to be coming out of surgery, anxious to hear the news I was attempting to reach any family member who knew anything, and right before we left the service area I heard she had made it out and she was doing well. Last year I was in Ireland when my step dad broke his femur. Upon arrival back to the states my real dad had a prostate biopsy that confirmed cancer. And on this trip my youngest step brother passed tragically. It’s a real world reminder why I can’t leave the state. My dreams to live abroad and travel for a living are real. And one day, I will reach that goal, but for now I am (for the most part) content in my yearly adventures and my time with my family and friends in the states. While there will never be the “right time” I know right now it is the wrong time. When the opportunity presents itself to set off on an extended leave from the US, I will embrace It, enjoy it, allow myself to be consumed by it.

I’ll just continue to work hard at the job I love, spend time with those I love, spoil my dog who is my true love, and be thankful for all I have.

I finished reading the Elizabeth Smart book and she is and was wise beyond her years. She chose to move on immediately after her ordeal, giving Mitchell no power over her after she was rescued. I wish I could be like her, give the negativity no power in my life. But this is something I struggle with in daily life. When I am away and traveling, the anxiety, the fear and the depression (for the most part) are gone. I feel truly free and myself when I am in a foreign place. Maybe because I am forced so far out of my comfort zone I become comfortable, but I really think it’s my desire to just take it all in, learn, see, Love. Travelers are not as judgemental, we are all on a journey of our own, crossing paths of others in far away lands, And continuing our own journey.

If traveling has taught me one thing in life – take nothing for granted, and take it all in.

My day ended with street food and a foot massage. But of course it couldn’t be easy going. I left my phone at the hotel to get some much desired away time. I need to learn to just not pick up the phone and always have it with me.

1. My dinner was by far the best I had had yet on this trip and also the cheapest. I got chicken pad Thai and spring rolls (ya know, the usual) and went to the mini mart for a sprite. Best pad Thai yet!! Perfect spicy level, great meat to noodle ratio- ugh so yummy!! And I got no picture. But it was good. The place was right on their little board walk area, across the street from the water. Perfect way to end my last night.

2. After dinner I walked back to the mini mart to get cash from one of their atms (there is rarely, if ever just one bank atm). One girl was using the blue one so I went to the yellow one. I put my card in, agreed to the fee (I did the math today and realized it’s like a $7 fee for the cash, glad my bank reimburses me for those). My money came, the receipt came and then the card, well it only sorta came. Like I could see it and touch it but fat fingers could not retrieve the card. In all my attempts (with another card for leverage, pinky to pinky) nothing worked. And boom the machine ate my card. First of all I am glad I brought my other atm card, for emergencies like this. But I was so upset (as in, damn it now I’m going to have international fees, upset). I walked into the mini mart and asked if they could call. Bit of a language barrier – but they finally figured out what I was asking. One of the girls walls outside with me, looks at me, looks at the machine, looks back at me, and pries the machine from its case and gets my card. I couldn’t believe it. I also couldn’t figure out why more of these machines aren’t robbed. But I was so thankful.

3. My massage was great. Relaxing, allowing me to read my new book on the Vietnam war. I was in a Zen state, I was constantly having to reread a passage. Mainly because it was hitting me that my dad had been on the front lines of the Vietnam war in this horrendous weather!! Like, I who had access to cold water, air conditioning and a real bed; now I felt guilty and gratitude. I feel shameful for complaining about the heat, And the uncomfortable beds. So while I was relaxing I was also feeling guilty.

4. Tomorrow morning is going to come so early. Time zone change, country change, life change!! Woohoo!!

Relaxing day 2

Another slow morning, it’s very odd because even at home I don’t stay in bed late. But I’m forcing myself to relax before I venture on to Malaysia and Singapore.

Today I hung out at the pool. I really realized how bad my back was burned this morning so I borrowed some scissors from the front desk and cut the sleeves off one of my shirts. I realized I didn’t need to have a farmers tan, I just needed to protect my back. So I did. I took the now tank shirt off to swim, only for about 30 minutes at s time. Swimming just feels so good. The pool is cooler than the air, but nice and warm, not hot.

I finished my book, Hidden Figures, I highly recommend the book. Goes in way more detail and history on the girls. Even the epilogue is good!! Now I’ve moved on to the Elizabeth Smart book. I actually got about halfway through it down at the pool.

When I got back upstairs I realized I needed to do some laundry or I would run out of clean clothes in Malaysia. Since this hotel offers laundry I took them up on it. Turns out I could save myself more than half if I did it myself. So for 200 baht I washed and dried my own clothes, they even gave me the soap and fabric softener.

While the clothes were in the wash I decided to try the ear spa. My friend Dana and I had heard about these ear massages so I figured this must be it. The picture shows ear candling, but I figured for 500 baht (roughly $17) I must get a massage. Nope just ear candling. Bummer!!

I switched my laundry and headed out for dinner. I decided to try a place right on the water since the sun was about to start setting. Food was good, views were great.

After dinner I went back to my usual massage house and got a foot massage. They use menthol cream and oil on your feet and legs. I can never get enough though. When you get a foot massage at this place, they finish with a mini neck and head massage. It may be my favorite part.

After my massage, back to the hotel to grab my laundry and head up to blog. It’s been so nice and relaxing, I see why lots of people vacation here. The vibe is just relaxing.

Chiang Mai Adventure

My, hotel is amazing. I slept super well, even though I woke up at 4am  I lounged around until about 830 then got ready for the day. I get a buffet breakfast here and it was huge. Both Asian and western breakfast was served  I can’t fathom eating stir fry for breakfast again so I went with the western breakfast of mini pancakes and corn flakes. Their orange juice almost tastes like tang and orange juice mixed together but it’s just their yummy oranges!!

I looked up the Doi Suthep trek and from my hotel it was about 8.5 km. I started walking with the intention of hiking up and riding a cab down, but about 2km into my walk through town I was so hot. I decided to attempt one of the red truck rides. It’s a low riding truck that has a cover and benches in the back. Usually its about 30 baht ($1) for a ride. I was going to call for one on the Grab (uber) app and while it was loading one pulled up honked it’s horn and asked where I was going. I told him and he said ok. I got in back and there were two girls already in there. They were from Slovenia. We were going to somewhat the same place. Katarina and Ania were awesome.

We decided to venture together and threw both our original plans out the window for the random fact we were now doing it together. We road another red truck to the top of Doi Suthep to the temple. We followed the group of tourists up a couple stairs, turned right and saw a WHOLE LOT MORE STAIRS. The only way to see anything was up, so up we went. Tourists have to pay 30 baht to get in so we paid and headed in, after catching our breathe first.

Temple was usual for most I’ve been to now, but it’s about 1100 meters above Chiang Mai so the view could be good. One of the girls at the elephant park told me it was a hazy view though. And she was right  we got to the lookout point and couldn’t see the actual city, disappointing for sure. We did this thing where there are sticks in a cup and you shake it around until just a single stick falls out. What that stick means is your fortune. I got a great one.

We hung around for a bit longer, Katarina did a handstand in the middle of this wooden awning thing. We decided to go find the waterfalls. I read I needed to download an app called maps.me to help with the trail. Great idea because in the end it was a savior. Where the app told us to go, there was a Do Not Enter sign with “contact park staff” below.  So we went to find the information booth. Told them where we wanted to go and they sent us back to where we came from,  clearly that was a waste of time sign.

The hike was 95% down hill and jungleous!! Exactly what I was looking for. The map showed 2 water falls, for about a 4km total trip down. We had to climb over fallen trees, under some branches, it was great.

And it was all in the shade, protecting us from the extra heat of the sun. We found this random awesome tree and made a picture stop. As we were leaving a lady approached me and asked if we were going to the water falls and if she and her son could follow, so they did.

We made it to the first set of falls and ran into another two guys (Tamas and Danny) who were also heading the same way we were. We chatted for a bit, took some pictures and then it started to rain.

Since I had the app, and we were all trying to go the same place, everyone stayed together and followed what the map said.

We ran into a small waterfall and Katarina decided to get in the water for a picture. By the time she got out it was raining significantly more so we continued on our way down. We started seeing placards with information on them and knew for sure we were going the right way. We made it to the “entrance” of the hike, but the way we came was from the “do not enter” sign. So we don’t know where the actual park trail takes you!!

The final water fall was great, and it was pouring at that point. We took a group selfie and continued down. The walk to the start of the park was another 4km away, but at least it was paved. We saw a red truck and asked if he’d take us down, at first he said no, but came back a minute later with 100 baht per person. We decided to walk  because we knew we were getting ripped off. As we were walking a truck approached us from behind and offered to let us sit in the bed for the ride to the end of the park. We were so happy!! We all jumped in. They let us out at the park entrance and I gave the guy 20 baht. He tried to give it back to me, but it was so nice to have that 3 minute ride down. He and his wife then said they were going into Chiang Mai and offered us another ride!!We had about a 10 minute ride in the back of a truck down to the red truck stop. We were all so grateful!! We thanked them and then all hopped into a red truck to head to our hotels.

We decided to meet up again for the night market. We met at 7 pm at the Hard Rock (I had no idea they had a Hard Rock). All of us may back up and had some dinner at the street market and then walked around the night market. They have some pretty good knock offs so Katarina was trying to haggle for me (she’s a pro she says). It didn’t work on the lady so we left, but Tamas and Danny went back and got her down to almost half!! I am now the proud owner of a knock off Supreme Louis V wallet, in red.

We hit up the Irish pub after and had drinks (even I did!!) and chatted for a long while. We were all looking pretty tired so I said let’s go get foot massages. We tried to haggle the price since there were 6 of us, but no one budged. We struggled to find 6 chairs together anyway so we went to two massage parlors next to each other and all got them at the same time. They all loved it!! We hit another bar across the street before it closed at midnight, parted ways (half went one way, half went the other), hit up 7-11 (Thailand is obsessed with them) and all went back to our hotels to crash. We are all going to be down in the Phuket/Phi Phi/Krabi area so we will attempt to meet up again.

Best day, by far, in a long long while. This, my friends, is why I travel, to meet people from all over the world, who like me, want to go all over the world.