Monday, February 3, 2014

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble

Let's say one day, in a flurry of activity, you decide to rid yourself of anything and everything that still tied you to the person that done fucked your shit up real good. But speaking of good, that's you now. In the real, every day, walk home from work with a smile way (unless, it's like the 10th week in a row of sub zero temperatures in which case you pull your hat down and wonder if four winters in New England have made you hard enough to thrive somewhere like Mexico City). You know that to hold on to this stuff would just be a waste of space. And, you realize, resources. So you put them on eBay. And by "them" I mean your wedding dress -- and DAMN that was a beautiful dress, but that's besides the point -- and your engagement ring. Because once those things are gone, you will be fully, 100 percent rid of anything that reminds you of that time you done got your shit fucked up real good. And -- BONUS -- you're broke as shit so if you could sell some high price items there's no telling what you could do. Like … say … go on that dream vacation you've been fantasizing about forever …

Now let's say that person was me because, people mom, I just had the single most amazing vacation I could have ever dreamed of. Okay, in my dreams I definitely left out the Southeast Asian super bug that was living in my intestines for a few weeks, but that was hardly a regard as I trekked my way through Thailand for two glorious, sun-filled weeks with the guy of my dreams. JIGGA WHAT? If you had told me a year ago that THAT would be happening this winter, I probably would have laughed you out of my dark, drunken presence and thrown an empty wine bottle at your head on your way out.

But it was a nice thought. And, as those eBay bids actually rolled in late last summer, one I realized could actually be a reality. Because, god damnit, after the year I had I NEEDED this vacation. There was the heartbreak and the surgeries and the Boston Marathon bombing and the move and the dog and, and, AND. And what better way to fund it? No, seriously, tell me, there is literally no other better way to have paid for those plane tickets. In the world. Ever. The end.

Travel has always been something really important to me. Exploration, new places, different languages, foreign cultures, stepping out of the comfort zone. And unfortunately it wasn't the highest priority for the person I was with for a while. And now, this was my ultimate way of being me again. The moment I started making this trip happen, I. Was. Back. And I. Was. Psyched.

And it just so happened, that I was now dating someone who put travel up there on the list of things that are Really Freaking Important, just like me. So when the word "Thailand" started to get bounced around in a "no, seriously" way, he was all in. And suddenly, after what seemed like a lot of talking but relatively little planning all things considered, there was I at JKF Airport two days after Christmas boarding a plane with Boyfriend that would take us to Hong Kong, and ultimately, Bangkok, Thailand.

Since I've been back, I've had a hard time figuring out how to articulate this trip. Was it fun? Holy hell yes. But that doesn't cut it. Puppies are also fun. Prank calling your grandparents is fun. Tacos are fun. Thailand was AH-MAY-ZING. Like tacos times infinity.

We spent the first week living as backpackers, ducking in and out of our guest house on Bangkok's (in)famous Khao San Road. Eating street food off of vendors nestled in between stalls of t-shirts, cheap knock offs, and beer.

We visited the Chatuchak market. I may or may not have thrown up my fruit smoothie on the side of the road next to a woman plucking chicken. One night in Bangkok makes a tough guy tumble. We visited the Grand Palace. We walked pathways and climbed stairs that were hundreds of years old, resplendent in centuries of tradition, religion, and royalty. We stayed out until 2, 3, 4 in the morning because time is lost on the streets that never stop playing music or hawking beers or dishing up the best Pad Thai and spring rolls I'd ever tasted.

Then we traveled up north into the jungles to what was my favorite city, Chiang Mai. We spent our days exploring the town, passing through the old city walls and visiting sacred temples. Monks, young and old, wrapped in orange hustled to prepare for the New Year's celebrations. We took respite from the heat anywhere that had free wifi and cold beer.

On New Year's Eve we sat at a table on the street, drinking large bottles of Chang as we watched the fireworks explode above us and around us and once, under my chair. We strolled through the bustling outdoor market, sampling different foods and haggling over the price of embroidered pillow cases and scarves. As midnight rolled past, we released a prayer lantern and with it our hopes and dreams for 2014. We got friendly with other tourists from around the world and toasted to health and happiness.

The next morning we boarded a crowded van and left the city for a day of hiking through the mountains, zip lining through the jungle canopy, riding an elephant, and relaxing on a lazy ride down river on a bamboo raft. Elephants. Sigh. Just elephants.

Back in Chiang Mai, I was charmed by the bustle of the outdoor markets, where fish were scooped from plastic pools, gutted, then wrapped in newspaper in front of eager shoppers' eyes. Bags of nuts and spices stretched down the aisles across from rows of fruits and vegetables and filets of fish I had never seen before. I was charmed by the small town feel, open air everything, and the dogs that sauntered down the dusty roads, dressed in t-shirts by the monks for the "cold" winter season -- a frigid 85 degrees up north to the typical 115 degrees of the summer months. The dogs delicately slipped the meat off of plates of alms left out for dead relatives, deftly leaving the rice and incense burning next to it.

In a whirl, we were back in Bangkok for a few more days. At this point in our journey, my daily Singha swilling and fried rice chowing was suddenly interrupted by a wee bit 'o the Asian stomach bug. And thank the almighty gods of travel, this perfectly corresponded with the first and only two nights we stayed in an actual hotel. There was full bathroom. With TOILET PAPER. And a bed with sheets that weren't just washed by hand in a tub on the roof. And also toilet paper. And a shower that wasn't over the toilet. Because the toilet paper. And pillows so comfortable I swore it seemed as if I'd never slept in a proper bed before. And a TV. And best of all? Toilet paper. So when we got back to the room after a days of exploring the Sukhumvit neighborhood -- side note: holy sex tourism, you guys! I haven't seen that many dildos for sale on the side of the road since that one time in college … never mind -- I collapsed into that bed as if I was Scrooge McDuck doing a belly flop into a pool of gold coins.

Luckily, dildos weren't the only thing easy to pick up in Sukhumvit, because I walked into a pharmacy, mimicked my symptoms to the pharmacist, and walked out with a bag of antibiotics and a gallon of electrolyte drink. VIOLA!

Which was good before then we were on the road again to Krabi. From Krabi Town, we climbed into rickety, long-tail boats powered by what looked like car engines that would take us around the limestone cliffs to Railay Beach. Railay was like stepping into paradise. Every day was sun and mid-90s temperatures. The turquoise ocean felt like bath water, and we spent more time in the water than out.

There was kayaking and hiking and climbing and every day, large beers as we sat on the beach and watched the sun set. In the afternoons, we'd stroll under the canopy of trees and caves as monkeys swung in the limbs above us and dropped down at our feet to watch expectantly if we had any food in our hands. Have you ever seen a monkey eat a can of Pringles? Because I have and it is HILARIOUS.

At night, we walked the narrow walkway that abutted the water to fire shows and live music and Muai Thai fights and lots and lots of beer. We sat on mats at bamboo tables six inches off the ground and sipped our drinks and enjoyed our food and talked about what our first American meal would be after weeks of eating Thai and days of intestinal rumbling.

After six blissful days of this, we reluctantly boarded a long-tail boat back to the town. As if a sign from the gods, our boat ride back was spent clutching the benches beneath us as wind and waves reared up, soaking us and our bags to the core. As I watched Railay disappear around the bend, I took every splash in the face as a sign: DON'T LEAVE, STAY, IT'S ALWAYS SUMMER HERE, YOU'RE GOING BACK TO WINTER, YOU FOOL! STAY HERE AND EAT RICE AND LIE ON THE BEACH AND NEVER BE COLD AGAIN.

And then, after one last whirlwind night in Bangkok that ended with a 4 a.m. impromptu stop at McDonald's because CHEESEBURGER, we were back on a plane to America. And now here I am. It's winter. I'm cold. It's snowing. Again. My tan is fading. And I haven't had a bite of proper Pad Thai in weeks.


So yes, this was the perfect trip. A whirlwind of adventure and relaxation and exploration and culture and fun. I loved every second. And, perhaps best of all, after 16 days of pure togetherness in some of the most extreme conditions, Boyfriend and I determined that we make rather ideal travel companions. And we have a long list of places we'd like to go.

And as with every great travel adventure, I also learned a few new things about myself. Like, for example, I LOVE toilet paper.


Anonymous said...

B - Sounds like an amazing & soulfulfilling adventure...I am inspired by your written word and your spirit. You go girl!! :) Deb M.

Deidre said...

I'm so happy for you - travelling is just, as you put it, 100 x better than tacos (although travelling to somewhere with tacos does seem quite important as well).

This sounds like the best adventure and makes me want to go to Thailand and Vietnam even more now!

Bren said...

Thanks for the most vicious wave of nostalgia of all time. Whenever I talk Thailand people are like, why did you leave, and I'm (still) like, I DON"T KNOW.

Well traveled, well told. Loved it.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin