Things I’ve learned about Thailand

In true Laura style, I didn’t do a whole lot of research before I set out to Thailand. In fact, the only reason I had a hotel in Bangkok long before I arrived is because a friend had told me about the Elephant Nature Park and how it gets booked up quickly, so I had to book that and the nights before that adventure to ensure I could get there on time.

My flight was to Bangkok. When I pictured  Bangkok, I pictured a warm climate, tuk tuks and lots of people. Everything else was unimaginable to me. I’ve been to big cities before: New York, London, Rome, Cairo. None of them are comparable to Bangkok. Cairo would be closest, but mainly for the weather.

1. Bangkok is dirty. It is hot. It stinks. And it is not all that exciting. If anyone is thinking of a holiday in Thailand, don’t plan on spending a lot of time in Bangkok. It’s a sprawling city. I stayed in an area that was recommended on a blog, and it’s just plain disappointing. I stayed along the river, which was supposed to be beautiful, but it smelled and was full of plastic trash. It was a 3 mile walk to any of the big sites, I should have stayed near the palace.

It is a tourist trap and things are over priced for what you get compared to other Thai cities. The biggest scam is the long boat tour. It falls on so many lists of ” things to do” but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. You voyage down a tiny water way covered in trash in a loud boat. And then their friends in canoes try to get you to buy your driver a beer. My advice, don’t waste your time or money, if you want to see the water take a water taxi for less than $0.50. I spent over $100 a day there in the two days I was there. I got to town around 11am and left the next day at 5pm….rip off.

2. Chiang Mai is the place to hang out. There are many day trips from Chiang Mai, prices are more reasonable, hotels are nicer, food is better, and it feels more like a happy town. They have street food vendors at the night market, hiking trails, some beautiful temples, and happier people.

3. You really can afford a massage on the daily. Even in Bangkok they are cheap. But outside of Bangkok I’ve only spent about $30 a day including 1 meal, a mid afternoon snack and a massage. I paid 300 baht for a Thai massage at the fanciest place I’ve seen since I’ve been here. That’s $10. For an hour. Dinner is usually the same price.

4. Thai people are so friendly. If you don’t know what to do – smile. That was something I read. And no joke it works. They smile back, they thank you. If you want or need something they will do what is best for you. I need a ride to the airport early for my flight, they offer a van, but since it’s so early and it’s just me, they said a taxi would be cheaper. And since I’m leaving early they will give me a water, fruit and muffin for my trip. And no cost. This is not abnormal.

5. They take feet very seriously. In Buddhism feet are seen as the dirtiest part of the body. You should never point your feet towards Bush’s, you should always take off your shoes when entering a temple (or room, or massage house, or some restaurants). When you get a massage, wait until they wash your feet before you put them on the clean towel. Don’t cross your legs and point your toes at anyone. Don’t put your feet on things that aren’t made for feet (tables, chairs, etc).

6. They LOVE plastic. In a very, very earth-is-in-trouble kind of way. No matter what drink you buy (water, pop, beer, juice) they give you a straw. And most of the time try to put your beverage container in a plastic bag. Even if you got it in a cup. They even have these plastic things that fit over the cups with handles on them so you can carry it by plastic bag handles. If you are an eco friendly traveler, don’t take the straw or bring your own. I always have a backpack with me so I never take the bag and I don’t care for straws so I deny those as well.

7. Thai food is good. It’s served in much smaller portions than in the states, And it’s the perfect size. Without someone to eat my leftovers I feel bad leaving food on the table, but here the portions are smaller and more reasonable so if I don’t finish It, it isn’t much at all.

8. Maybe the most random. They LOVE 7-11. Like LOVE. They are everywhere. And they are 24/7. They have these crispy things. People said to try them. My understand is that they are basically a panini. And since I don’t like them in the states, I’m not sure a 7-11 panini will change my mind. So I stuck to yellow Gatorade, water and my daily ice cream fill.

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.

Oh Phuket…

My last morning in Chiang Mai was a very relaxing one. I’ve been looking forward to sitting on the beach and my mind was already there this morning.

I woke up early and did some reading before getting ready for the day. I had some cereal and banana bread for breakfast with two glasses of orange juice (I just LOVE it!!). After breakfast I headed out to the pool to read and relax until I had to pack up and head to the airport. I think I was dehydrated though and only lasted about an hour before giving into the headache.

I went upstairs, took some Tylenol and packed my suitcase. I then layed down in the AC until I had to go to the airport.

On this flight I had a “hot seat,” meaning one of the first five rows. The leg room is no more, you just get a red seat instead of black and get to board first. I had a middle seat, but their seats are wider and I like the middle more than the aisle (I hate getting hit by people and trolleys).

Two hour flight down to Phuket (pronounced Poo-quet), I used Grab to get a cab and headed to my resort.

This resort is right on the water, with ocean views in every room. It’s beautiful.

Makes me a bit sad I’m not staying longer, but tomorrow I will take a ferry to Ao Nang for 4 nights at a resort there. I was going to stop at Phi Phi island, but I heard it’s crazy busy there – and I’m not in the mood to deal with crazy beach goers. So if the Jungle Group from yesterday meets at PhiPhi I’ll go, otherwise I’m not gonna hit it.

When I arrived I was greated with flower tea (I think it’s hibiscus or their version of it) and a cool wet towel for my face. The room is fabulous on the first floor with a nice water view. I immediately through on my suit and headed to the beach!! The water is so warm!! I swam for a bit before giving into the 400 baht massage on the beach. I wanted more stretching, but this was more like a regular massage. In the end it was worth it – one hour for around $20.

It was 6pm when I got back up to my room and got ready to go to dinner. The resort is about a 10 minute walk from the beginning of town and I needed to do some walking today, since I was so lazy this morning. I found a nice little restaurant on the side of the road and had some pad Thai and chicken spring rolls. I need to branch out, I know, it’s just so good!! The freshly fried spring rolls with fresh veggies inside are just so flavorful.

I stopped at 7-11 for some water for my ferry ride tomorrow and then headed back to the hotel. I’m looking forward to getting the boat ride over tomorrow, got my Dramamine so I’m ready!!

I can hear the waves crashing into the beach – this is what I’ve been looking for!!