Convincing other people I know what I'm doing
6/20/17 - 6/21/17 92 °F
I landed in Bangkok and felt like I knew what I was doing. I heard a rumor that there was a new shuttle bus that cost only 3-4 dollars and drops you off at a famous street not that far from my hostel, so I wandered the taxi area until I found their desk. I booked a ticket, and the guy next to me was staring at his phone and looking super lost. I offered to help him look something up and he explained that he was trying to decide how to get to his hostel. I looked at the location and told him he should take this shuttle, and then take a taxi from there, since he wouldn't be able to get there for less in just a taxi, especially once you pay the highway tolls. He responded "I take it this isn't your first time here?" Ha! Maybe I'm not so bad at this travel thing after all. Like that time I went to NYC thinking I would be overwhelmed, only to discover I had a knack for the city and the subways, and strangers were asking me for directions by my second day there, as if I was the only friendly looking local they could find.
Once the bus dropped us off, I threw my bags on and started the 15 minute walk to my hostel, going down Khao San Road, this area that was a market in the past, and has slowly turned into a crazy tourist trap. I was offered a taxi or tuktuk ride about 47 times, and I just smiled and said I knew where I was going. I didn't know where I was going. But I still found my way there, and checked into my hostel. The hostel itself is super cute, and has a slide! You can slide from the dorm floor down to the lobby. Nice.
I knew I needed some food, so I headed out to find a 7-eleven for a juice while I looked for food. It was dark and I was solo, and I didn't even think twice about wandering around checking out menus and looking at street food carts. Who even am I? A little old man sitting on the street smiled and laughed at me when I went by, sucking on my juice box like a child. I struck out on the restaurant front, not really finding what I wanted but knowing that I desperately needed vegetables in my life after too many toasties from 7-eleven. I headed back towards the hostel, and finally found a place with good reviews and a good looking menu, and just went right in. It wasn't until I was all the way to my table that I realized I was terribly underdressed. This place was FANCY. A live band was playing, including a violin and a triangle, and a woman dressed in a fancy gown sang famous American songs such as "My Heart Will Go On." My waiter was wearing what I can only assume was a navy sailor uniform? I ordered a slushy and some chicken and veggies in my hiking pants and sandals and called it good. Oops.
The next day I spent the entire morning trying to plan my next country, and my last two days in Thailand. I knew I wanted to go to a special location for a special gift purchase, and also knew the best way to get there would be to take the Skytrain, an above-ground light rail, essentially. I booked a taxi to the station, and went in armed with all my random coins. I managed to get a ticket (people who make youtube videos showing you how a transit system works are wonderful humans), and find my way to the right train. I took the train 10 stops, left from Exit 5, and after 10 minutes of walking found my destination. Some creative problem solving and a few hours later, I had purchased just the perfect thing (to be determined, technically, but I think it'll be good). I took the train back to the original station, and went in search of a thing or two that I needed. I'm not going to lie to you. I bought a pair of jeans. I couldn't take it any more! Jeans are the perfect thing, and are so comfortable. A good pair of fitted jeans is for my comfort what a thunder jacket is to a nervous dog. It makes me feel like a superhero, without worries. I know I'm going to sweat my brains out. I know it. You don't have to tell me. I don't care. Plus, I've realized that all of the countries I'm going to are so conservative that most people just suffer through by wearing full long pants, and I'm tired of appearing an obvious tourist and worrying that I'm offending people with my shorts that end just at my knees. I wore my jeans today and felt amazing, and it was 92 degrees ("feels like" 105, according to the internet). Plus, don't be mad, but I've lost 10 pounds since I started traveling. I said don't be mad. I feel great! Walking everywhere does wonders.
This morning I spent several hours booking flights and accommodation for the next week. It's time to go to Laos! I can't even believe it. I could spend another month in Thailand easily. I'm a little worried that Laos will feel more like Cambodia did. I booked a super well rated hostel in Vientiane, and only plan to spend three days there. Then I will fly to Luang Prabang (instead of taking the 10 hour bumpy, slightly dangerous bus ride), where I will spend my first 5 nights staying at a guest house run by Americans who have three dogs and a kitty cat. As of right now, I'm planning to spend most of my time in Laos in this one city. I realized that although I've been traveling slowly compared to other travelers, I really haven't stayed longer than a week anywhere, and I'm craving a chance to slow down even more and really dig into a place and make it feel like home for awhile. We'll see! It feels good to know what my next week looks like, so I might try to start planning a little further ahead than a day or two, which stresses me out. One of the girls I met in Thailand might come travel with me for a little while in Vietnam too! Such a relief, to imagine not being solo for a bit.
Anyway, my next stop was the Rattanakosin exhibition hall, where I got my tour for free because I had my student card with me! Nice. This history museum is about the old city of Bangkok and its establishment. I wanted to learn a little bit of history rather than just bounce around from main site to main site (also I didn't want to spend money on attractions), and this was perfect. Here are some of the neat things I learned:
-There were slaves in Thailand?! They were officially declared free in 1939. The museum said that America was the first country in the world to declare slavery illegal? Is that true????
-Thailand has Boy Scouts! Adorable
-The country was originally called Siam, and the name was changed to Thailand in 1939. That explains why all the shops and stores are called Siam something here.
-Banknotes were first created in Thailand in 1969.
-The Emerald Buddha has different "outfits" for each season, and there is a celebration each time the outfit is changed. Love it!
-There is a thing called Khon dance -- a traditional dance that combines many different art forms, but my understanding is that you can use it to communicate different concepts non-verbally. We watched dance moves that mean to convey love, anger, happiness, etc.
-The king who just passed last year was the first king to marry a commoner. Aww, I really like him and I understand why everyone is sad that he passed away. It was the first time someone openly talked all about him (at the museum), and I soaked up every word, very curious to learn more about him.
After my time here I got a muffin and some coffee and hung out in the coffee shop area next to a sunny window because air conditioning is insane and I was freezing. And I just... sat there. I didn't have anything to plan at that moment. I didn't have a book with me. I didn't have a bill to pay or a note to write myself or some other thing to worry about. I realized that this, more than anything else, is the beauty of what this opportunity affords me. Just enough time and space and distance to have moments where I genuinely don't have to worry about my to do list for a hot second.
After I stayed here for an unknown amount of time, I wandered over to my other destination for the day - a tiny, locally-owned book store. It was so cute!! I picked out some super cheap postcards, and a short story written by a Thai author that was recommended by the shop keeper. It has a thai, English, and french version, so I can read the English version, and then maybe study the french and thai written languages a little bit, which I'm keen to do. Then I wandered over to a cute little coffee shop a few doors down, where I spent the last few hours writing those postcards and this blog while sipping on some tea. There's currently a proper monsoon outside, so I'm going to be here for the immediate future. Luck has it that there is an art gallery upstairs, and the current exhibition is called "Animals." You know no one can keep me away from that.
I did it! I'm caught up! Tomorrow I will fly to Laos and proceed to get behind on all my blogs again, but I'll keep trying my best. It takes about 2 hours to write about what I've done in a given day if it was full of activities, so you can see why I struggle. I know I'll be happy to read them later, and I know I have a couple folks who are reading every single one, so that will help keep me motivated. Thanks for the gentle texts when I fall behind, guys! See you in Laos