This past March I decided to be adventurous and do what is typically out of the element for me. As someone who has been an introvert their entire life, I took a risk and chose to embark on a solo travel to Asia. I ultimately decided to go alone because I felt it would help me break out of my comfort zone and I would get to have a profound life experience like they advertise in movies. H
ow cliche. I didn’t quite get the Julia Roberts experience in Eat, Pray, Love, but I believe I came dangerously close.
I chose a tour that traveled to 3 different countries in Asia over a course of 13 days.
(Hell of a lot of traveling. I know). I found a tour through Contiki that fit my time off as well as my budget. The best thing about traveling through Contiki is that there tours are geared towards individuals aged 18 to 35. Knowing that I was going to be traveling with others my own age is what made me really comfortable with my decision to go solo. Ok so back to the countries I went to… In 13 days I managed to go to Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. I will be detailing the Do’s and Don’ts of Asia… basically all the shit I wish I knew, as well as the unforgettable times mixed in with some pretty amazing people.
Day 0: For weeks on end I was preparing for this moment (way too much shopping, definitely a lot overpacking, hairs, nails, etc). The day was finally here and I was leaving on an afternoon flight from New York to Tokyo; internally I was losing it (Fear coupled with loads of excitement). With my all around good luck, mother nature decided that LEAK WEEK should start earlier than expected. It’s horrifying enough to have your period while away in a foreign country,but even more frightening to have it when you have 21 hours worth of flying ahead of you. I vigorously prepared for the inevitable hoping to stay one step ahead and beat mother nature with every new ruse she planned.
- Motrin? √
- Tylenol? √
- Pads? √
- Tampons? √
So you want to know when this story took a turn for the worst? After going to the bathroom every hour on the hour I managed to squeeze in a nap before landing in Tokyo. I was excited the worst was finally over and in about 7 hours I was going to be in Bangkok. After getting off the flight it was about a 15 minute walk to my new gate and I still had about 45 minutes until my next flight was boarding. In the midst of that 15 minute walk I bypassed hundreds of people. I’m almost certain you see where I’m going with this. I decide to take an impromptu bathroom break only to discover that
MOTHER NATURE had indeed won the battle. I won’t go into details but mortified doesn’t even begin to describe the emotions that were running though me. I would love to thank the hundreds of people in the airport that let me walk around like a prepubescent adolescent with absolutely no real life experience, because of you I’m a stronger person today.
Day 1: Contiki gives you the option to have a roommate or your own room. I opted for a roommate being that I didn’t want to isolate myself from the group when I’d be spending the next 13 days with them. Prior to the trip I was able to communicate with others that were going on the tour before it even began. A few of us decided to meet up that day and do a little bit of exploring before we had to meet with our tour manager. We explored Khao San Road which is basically a backpackers paradise. If you’re into fake designer clothing then this is the place to be. Just come prepared to haggle for prices which for me can be a tad overwhelming. I bought a couple of scarves and got the hell out of there before I was convinced to buy more than what I need. From there we decided to get some Thai massages… because WHEN IN THAILAND! That experience was just WOW. I basically paid someone 10 dollars to beat me up. I had to laugh just to stifle the tears that so badly wanted to come out. From there we enjoyed all that Khao San Road had to offer; cheap food and drinks. More and more of us meet up, which equals more introductions and even more SHOTS! Finally the time comes where we all met our Tour manager and received a synopsis of what was to come. After many more introductions we had our first family dinner at an outdoor restaurant on Khao San Road. During dinner we made our plans for that evening and we were off to a Ping Pong Show. Some of you may have heard of that before, but this was all new to me. We got into a tuk tuk and began our first night in Bangkok. We arrived in the Red Light District to a dark building with no windows. We got on the line to enter and paid our entrance fee which also got us 1 free drink. I walk through the curtain and look towards the stage to see there’s a man and a woman having sex. I wish I could say that was the most shocking thing I saw there but it was not. The show basically consisted of women using there pelvic muscles to hold, eject, or blow out objects with their vagina. I real deal witnessed women blow bubbles, shoot darts, smoke cigarettes, craft artwork, and open a beer bottle with their vagina. That is talent like I’ve never seen it. So ladies practice at home and don’t mess it up. At this point it was getting late most of the group decided to go back to the hotel and prepare for the next day but a few of us decided to keep it going and head back to Khao San road and party being that it was our only time to enjoy Bangkok nightlife. We had a few drinks and decided to ask one of the locals where there was a nightclub nearby. He told us to follow him and he took us through some really sketchy alleys. At this point all I could think was this is exactly how I’m going to die, he setting us up to get kidnapped and someones going to harvest my organs for the black market. Clearly none of that happened or I wouldn’t be able to blog to all 10 of you that will be reading this ( HI MOM). But back to my night… It was incredible. Great deal of alcohol, dancing, and laughs.
Day 2: Our first exploration was a trip to the Grand Palace. Our tour manager let us know the night before that we need to wear temple dress to be able to enter. Temple dress means your clothing has to be below the knee as well not being form-fitting and your shoulders also can not be exposed. The Grand Palace was even more strict being that your clothing had to be down to your ankles. During the time I was in Asia it was the dry season, meaning it was ridiculously hot and humid. With all the overpacking I did, not many of the clothes I packed were comfortable temple wear. So in 100 degree weather I was wearing a jean jacket. We took a boat to the Grand Palace which is what they basically use as public transportation. We arrived at the Grand Palace and it was extremely overwhelming. There was thousands of people from all over the world there to visit the temple. The temple is so popular that they receive approximately 8 millions visitors a year. As soon as we entered I was amazed by the intricate detail and all the gold that adorned each building. I WAS BLOWN AWAY. Partly because it was so exquisite, and partly because I was dressed for a snowstorm during a heat wave. We left the Grand Palace and went on a boat cruise that took us through the rivers around Bangkok. Later on that day our time in Bangkok ended and we left on an overnight train going north to Chiang Mai.
Day 3: After spending 14 hours on a train at last we arrived in Chiang Mai and headed straight towards the hotel. From there we had the option to go zip-lining or go to a temple at the top of a mountain. I opted for the less popular option, the temple; it felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity. About 8 of us took a drive up the winding mountain to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple. It is one of the most sacred temples in Northern Thailand. To get to the temple we had to walk up a 300 step naga staircase composed of a mosaic serpent. From the bottom of the steps you could hear the monks chanting in prayer. Once at the top everything was embellished in gold. The view of the Golden Pagoda was unquestionably jaw dropping. We took off our shoes to explore the temple and purchased flowers to circumambulate the temple also known as Pradakshina. We walked around the Golden Pagoda clockwise 5 times while making wishes for our future and our loved ones. A monk then blessed each of us individually and we explored what the rest of the temple had to offer.
The Lord is the centre, source and essence of our lives. We acknowledge this by performing Pradakshina recognizing him as the focal point in our lives and go about doing our daily chores. This is the significance of Pradakshina.
That evening we took an optional trip and went to a Thai cooking class. I wasn’t thrilled about this but eventually agreed to go being that I was only one of the few that would’ve stayed behind. I am so happy that I decided to go because it turned out to be a really fun experience and it might have been the only time I cooked something and genuinely enjoyed it. We were given our own cookbooks filled with all the recipes of the meals we just created. Eventually when I got back home I tried to cook it again being that the first time was so amazing, but in true Nalita fashion it was barely edible.
Day 4: On our last full day in Thailand we head further north to Chiang Rai. We took a visit to Wat Rong Khun also known as the White Temple. In order to reach the White temple you have to cross the bridge of “the cycle of rebirth” which has hundreds of outreaching hands that symbolize unrestrained desire. The bridge proclaims that the way to happiness is by foregoing temptation, greed, and desire.
We then headed back to our hotel and went to the night markets to prepare for our shit shirt party. The night markets had an abundance of shitty shirts but some just not worth the price being that it would probably be something we never wore again. A few of the girls and I chose to coordinate and get the same shirts that literally said SAME SAME on them *irony*. We went to a local bar that our entire group filled up and had yet another great night out. I wish I had more pictures just to show how shitty some of the group was dressed, but when you can get a bucket of tequila for 100 BAHT everything else seems not to matter anymore.
Another day, another hangover. GOODBYE THAILAND, HELLO LAOS!