I get the feeling that I will be starting each post the same way… by apologizing for how long it’s taken me to update. Here I am writing a post about Thailand… a month and a half after leaving the country. Sorry Mom.
The thing is, there are so many changes occurring within me in addition to new and exciting things going on all the time that I’m finding it very difficult to set aside enough time to reflect on it all through writing. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, and it doesn’t help that I’ve never been too great with time management.
Thailand was a whirlwind. Unexpectedly, I spent the majority of my time in Bangkok. The city is strangely intoxicating and frustrating all at once. I only expected to stay a few days, but managed to stay several weeks. Don’t ask me how I did it. But I’m glad I did, because I met some amazing people and gained some very insightful knowledge which lent a strong hand to getting my anxiety under control.
After almost 2 weeks in Bangkok I moved south to Krabi and Koh Lanta, where I made some wonderful memories such as… seeing the limestone cliffs jutting out of crystal blue waters, swimming in a cove on a private beach, interacting with monkeys in the wild for the first time, spending my first Thanksgiving away from home, exploring Koh Lanta island by motorbike with a new friend, seeing the sea gypsies, snorkeling with tropical fish, swimming through a dark cave to find a dazzling beach hidden inside, two-stepping in a Thai bar, riding the ferry along the coast, shopping for bargains at night markets, and hiking in the jungle. (Each of these experiences warrants its own blog post but because I suck at this… you’re getting a brief summary instead. I’m sorry.) Somewhere in all of these new experiences I managed to get a firm hold on my anxiety and carry on in a much more confident manner. Things were looking up; it was like seeing the world with new eyes. (I must give considerable credit to a monk I met in Bangkok who taught me some very valuable lessons… lessons which made a huge difference on my level of comfort, confidence and ability to move forward).
As a side note I might add that as wonderful as all these experiences were, it almost felt like Thailand was a country built for tourists. It is not quite the “getaway” destination that some might imagine it to be, and getting ripped off is the norm. To me, that’s okay, I wasn’t looking to get away but rather to observe. And I learned how to deal with the situations when people were just trying to pinch out a few more dollars from me. Tourism in Thailand, a topic of its own, has both positive and harmful effects (in my opinion and based on my limited amount of knowledge). But take what I say with a grain of salt. I enjoyed every second that I spent doing “touristy stuff” and as ransacked and at times unauthentic it might have seemed, there were still very neat, original experiences to be sought out and wonderful people to meet on every corner.
That being said…. Before my Thai visa was up, I made a quick trip to Hua Hin to meet up with Dennis, a friend I made at the very beginning of my trip just after arriving in Bangkok. This experience was so special and unique to me; therefore I’m going to give a more detailed account. I had told Dennis about a cave I wanted to visit, Phraya Nakhon, and together we made the effort to find it. If we wanted to see it at the best lit time, we had to get there before 11 am. This cave was not easy to reach. From Hua Hin it was about one hour south… we took a bus to the town nearest to the cave and from there hunted for a taxi to the national park. In total it took us about 2 hours to get to the park entrance, then we had one hour of steep climbing to reach the cave… very exhausting, but doable despite my lack of physical strength. I had seen pictures of this place, and as beautiful as they were, they were still nothing compared to seeing it in person (and at the right time of day). Sitting inside this enormous cave was a small pavilion built in 1890 for the visit of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). Since his visit, many other kings have ventured to see the cave as well and left significant evidence of their visits. What makes this place so special, besides the pavilion, is that light enters the cave through a hole in the top, allowing the sun rays to shine directly on the temple and illuminate it in a magical way. The sun also allows vegetation to grow throughout the cave, so it resembles a miniature jungle. For a while we had the place all to ourselves lending to a beautiful, peaceful silence. It was breathtaking. Never before had I experienced something so enchanting.
I simply was not expecting to be in such awe, which made the difficult journey to reach this place much more rewarding. Without a doubt, I can say that it was my favorite part of Thailand… and to think I almost skipped it!
After making the hike back to the park entrance, we realized getting back to Hua Hin wasn’t going to be so easy of a task. The place was void of people. After asking around for taxi prices from the very few options there, it was clear that the drivers were asking far too much money due to the isolated location. So we decided to hitchhike. We walked over a bridge and past a small fishing village on the water before reaching the main road, where we were picked up by a family of 4 within a few minutes of walking. They were able to drive us for about 10 minutes (cramped with their 2 teenagers in the back seat) before dropping us off on the side of the road to find another ride. Once again, we were picked up almost immediately. It was a nice girl, maybe 27, who drove us the full 40 minutes back to Hua Hin. She could not speak English but before we got out of the car she managed to say, “Please enjoy my country of Thailand.” My first hitchhiking experience could not have gone better. I love bearing witness to the hospitality of others.
After Hua Hin, I made it back to Bangkok just in time to catch my outbound flight to Cambodia. Dennis and I decided to meet up again in Siem Reap and travel together for a while. I was itching with excitement to get a taste of something new, do some volunteer work, travel with a companion, and of course to see the temples of Angkor which I had been dreaming about exploring for years.
So more about that in my next post 😉