Thai time flew by and before I knew it, I was leaving behind the beautiful greenery of the mountains, riding through the jungle with elephants, leisurely breakfasts at Bamboo Bee’s, and it was time to say goodbye to the Thailand wolf pack I had met in Bangkok and ventured around Thailand with.
There were some things I didn’t mind saying goodbye to such as the chaos of the city of Bangkok and tuk tuk drivers that were determined to take you to their “gem shops” so you would be persuaded into buying something you have absolutely no desire or need for let alone the space to carry it around the world in your backpack. But there were several things I was going to miss upon my departure for my next adventure which would take place in Cambodia. But part of contentment is realizing that we can’t hold on to something wonderful and in return bypass other moments of happiness and new experiences. Instead, we can recognize our appreciation and gratitude for those moments that did bring joy and growth into our lives.
In lieu of Thanksgiving, I had planned on feasting and giving thanks with my Thailand wolf pack and write all the things I was thankful for that Thailand brought into my life. But after 2 months of being in countries known for making foreigners worship the porcelain Gods, I finally had it coming and spent my Thanksgiving in bed and giving thanks for the moment where I could go 10 minutes without running from my bed to the toilet. TMI? The first thing I’m grateful for on my list is finally being rested enough and not throwing up all over my keyboard as I write my list of thanks for my journey in Thailand.
The first thing I have to say I’m thankful for are all the Buddhas I prayed to on my first day in Bangkok. I’d had a bit of a rough start to my trip when I arrived in Thailand. My first night I helped a sweet older woman cross the street who spoke very little english. She was darling dressed up in her Sunday best with a floral dress, long pearls, bright lips, and curled black hair. After crossing the street, I told her that I hoped I didn’t scare her as any touch or display of affection is not a norm in the Asian culture. After I realized she had no idea what I was saying I went to part separate ways but she had different plans as she took my arm and led me down the street to this wild spot by the night markets with a truck that had been turned into “Joe’s Bar”. She sat me down, placed a drink menu in front of me as she pointed at it then at me, and walked off and started talking to all the workers who kept calling her “Mama”. Okay, what do to now? It wasn’t as if I had other plans or anywhere to go, but I had no idea what was going on! She came back, ordered a Mai Thai then pointed at me again as I proceeded to order a mojito and she walked off again this time beckoning the passerbys on the street to come in. This continued while I started to get to know the manager of the bar who told me “Joe” was her son and Joe’s Bar had been around for 25 years and a hot spot for the locals. He asked me what I was doing in Bangkok and offered to pick me up the next morning to go to the floating market and JJ’s Market. Stranger danger or trust my gut and accept this as a kind guessture? I decided to trust my gut and waited the next morning to see if my new friend would show up to show me around the city. A tuk tuk driver approached me while I was waiting and told me if my friend didn’t show up in half an hour he would take me wherever I wanted to go. Two things you should know about tuk tuk drivers.
1. A tuk tuk is a little carriage that makes very loud obnoxious noises and is more rickety than the broke down beamer your grandparents have stored in their garage. During a night ride in Bangkok, we had 4 people in the back and the driver proceeded to pop a wheelie with us right in the back. Safe? No. But the shrieks of laughter that came from it was enough to take the fear right out of us!
2. Tuk tuk drivers like to try and scam you by taking you to “gem” shops which are really shops owned by their sponsors who pay them if they take you to their shops so that they can bargain with you do buy something you completely do not need.
This was when my time in Bangkok started to go downhill. Not only did my new friend not show up, but I agreed to let the tuk tuk drive me to the ferry where he then tried to scam me into purchasing an overpriced ferry ride package and then wouldn’t take me back leaving me in an unfamiliar area where I had no idea how to get back to my hostel. Upset and overwhelmed, I started walking in the direction I thought the palace was only to be stopped by a man who asked me where I was going and if his tuk tuk could take me. Oh no, I was done with tuk tuk’s so I kept walking. He then stopped me again and told me a young woman should not be walking alone in this part of town and asked me again if his tuk tuk could take me to the palace where I would be back among tourists. I put my best mom face on and told him I would not be going to any “gem” shops and strictly wanted to just go to the palace. He agreed as I looked at him again with the stern look I learned from my mom and said “I’m trusting you. No gem shop, just palace.” He nodded and I hopped in.
The first place he took me to was a Wat that I realized was private once I got out and the priest asked me how I found the place and said it was closed for a private ceremony. I don’t know if it was my nerves or if he could tell I just needed a quiet spot to sit down, but he then asked me “Are you traveling alone?” and beckoned me to come inside when I nodded my head. (I typically don’t tell people I’m traveling alone fyi). He then pointed at the Buddha and told me to take a few minutes to kneel and pray to the Buddha for safety and guidance on my journey which was quite comforting at the time. Maybe everything was going to be okay and Bangkok wasn’t so bad. After teaching me a bit about the basic customs of the Thailand culture such as not shaking hands to introduce myself and some common phrases, I said goodbye and hopped back in the tuk tuk to go to the palace.
Instead of heading towards the palace, we started driving down a little alley and I began to get angry that I was deceived again. “I thought you said no gem shops!” I said to my driver who then turned around with this pleading look of desperation on his face. “Just look for free. No buy. Just free look, please?” I later found out this was one of the main ways tuk tuk drivers make their money is by taking you to these shops. I could tell by the look on his face that he needed this and agreed as I cautiously stepped out of the tuk tuk and walked into a little tucked away shop. The driver was right, I only did have to “look for free” as it was a men’s suit shop with custom made suits that I had no need for and the owner didn’t persuade me to buy. After making small talk I went back in the tuk tuk who took me to the Palace just as we agreed.
I walked around admiring the different Wat’s and wondered what my experience in Thailand was going to be like. Traveling alone was far different than I was expecting and it was a little lonely rather than as liberating as I felt it would be. There was no one to enjoy dinner with, laugh about uncomfortable moments with tuk tuk drivers and helping old ladies cross the street, and I was having to take an awful lot of selfies. At that moment, I was stopped in the middle of one of the busiest intersections in Bangkok by two men who asked me if I was staying at Lub D Hostel because they had recognized me from that morning. They were from North Carolina and after mingling in the middle of the street and sharing tuk tuk stories, we decided to meet up later that night to watch the Bangkok Symphony in the park. At that moment, little did we know but our wolf pack was about to form to take on Thailand and I began my moments of thanks for my Thai time.
The next thing I’m grateful for is my crazy and adventurous wolf pack that I traveled with all over Thailand. From the states, England, Australia, France, and a little bit of everything in between, my Thai experience wouldn’t have been the same without you all.
That wasn’t nearly as exciting as when I got to feed, bath, and ride elephants through the jungle in Chiang Mai. Makelle and I fell in love, despite the fact she kept hitting Steve with branches while she was eating. And I’ve learned that baby elephant kisses are some of the best kisses in the world! Definitely a highlight during my Thailand trip.
I’m thankful for leisurely morning breakfasts with BB at Bamboo Bee where I introduced the boys to their appreciation for delicious vegetarian food. The secret ingredient, it’s made with l-o-v-e! We had a feast nearly every morning with her amazing banana pancakes, vegetarian spring rolls, smoothies, and whatever else she felt like cooking up that day. Our first time there we were a little concerned when she was gone for 20 minutes after we ordered, only to find out she had gone to the market to get all her produce fresh, specifically for what each of us had ordered. We love BB! Mork- Fa Waterfall. We were able to visit this stunning waterfall after a full day of playing and taking care of elephants. Though the water was freezing, it felt amazing to wash off the elephant drool and dirt we had accumulated that day.
Another highlight was being able to spend a day climbing Crazy Horse, one of the best international climbing spots in Thailand.
Boi belayed me throughout the day and after my first run to the top I could hear him yell out, “Good job, Gen! Now admire my beautiful country!” What a beautiful view it was and what an incredible day we all had as we all walked away physically exhausted and only a few minor bruises and scrapes. We won’t mention the stomach bug that one of us caught that day…
Spontaneous nights like these were my favorite. Whether it was going to listen to a local jazz night, hitting up the night market and trying bugs for the first time, or taking over Loco Elvis during karaoke night and watching a little boy whoop all of us in arm wrestling, these are some of the many memories I am so thankful to be able to treasure from our time in Thailand.
Hiking up to the top of the Wat Palad to catch the sunrise over Chiang Mai and stumbling upon the most beautiful view of Thailand I have ever seen at Doi Sithep. Not to mention having stayed up the entire night before for our karaoke jam session didn’t make it any easier. At least we had BB’s pancakes to look forward to afterwards!
Thai food! How can one not be thankful for Pad Thai, curry, and chicken cashew. This was from the night we decided to take the cooking into our own hands during Korean BBQ. Though quite the experience, we decided to leave the cooking to the pros.
But not before having a go at it ourselves and taking a Thai Cooking Class at Sammy’s Organic Farm. And no, the cooking didn’t take place in the washroom, I was instructed to not come back without taking a picture in his famous outdoor toilet because of how beautiful it was!
Learning about Thai food at the market and preparing curry, pumpkin custard, spring rolls, and an array of Thai dishes is exhausting. Sammy was smart to designate an entire hour for laying out in the hammocks by his rice fields. I know what I’ll be cooking for my friends and family when I get back to the states!Overnight trains and buses. We sure had some great times playing Black Jack with the train crew and being woke up by a cute little smile peering through your curtain whispering “Orange juice? No? Coffee? Time to wake up!” You won’t get the best night’s sleep, or enjoy the best meals while on them, but nothing beats going to bed and waking up in a new place the next day.
It’s not every day you stumble upon a monk village and are invited into a monk’s home where you get to spend time with them and walk away with a bracelet that they wrapped around your wrist for good luck on your voyage. Even if Chob did tell us we needed to walk to Chiang Mai and Siem Reap from Bangkok. An afternoon well spent and I still have managed to not have my bracelet come off, and it has brought quite the good luck if I do say so myself.
Making it past the 762 windy turns during a 3 1/2 hour drive so we could spend a day in Pai. My stomach may not have been too happy with me, but it was beyond worth it to be able to enjoy this beautiful hippy town tucked away in the mountains.
I’m very thankful that we all decided to turn our brains on when we decided against renting mopeds and riding up to watch the sunset at Pai Canyon. After watching several tourists walk through town with bandages and wrapped ligaments, we decided we would pass even if being all wrapped up was almost a right of passage for the town of Pai.
Besides, we would have missed out on enjoying the best bottle of wine we’d all had in a long time and this stunning view with the sunset. There are some views where pictures just don’t do it any justice.
After riding in a cramped van for 3 1/2 hours up 762 turns to Pai and back down again to Chiang Mai the next day only to hop in another overnight bus to sleep in an ice chamber for 10 hours to Bangkok then hop on an hour flight, I am incredibly thankful to have made it to Cambodia. As a common theme, there are no good bye’s, only until next time. Keep spreading that Thai love and lesgo Cambo!