A Travellerspoint blog

Dance your cares away

Worry's for another day

sunny 88 °F

On whatever day it was, I headed out with two of my friends for Koh Tao, a tiny little island north of where I was. It is also called turtle island, both because turtles used to live there in droves, and also because supposedly the island looks like a turtle. But, if we're being fair, doesn't every island technically look like a turtle? A blob, basically? A turtle shaped blob.

Anyway, I decided to splurge with some of my own money for a couple of nights and got an amazing deal on a fancy pantsy hotel up on the hill. The room miiiight have been bigger than my entire apartment in Seattle, and had a jacuzzi tub. There was an infinity pool right out the door with views of the beachfront. The tissues had little cupcakes on them and smelled like baby powder. It was basically glorious and I'm so glad I did it. I get rooms to myself every couple of weeks (mostly to do my laundry in peace), but I probably won't be able to afford a fancy hotel in a beautiful location anywhere else, so I just went for it.
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Included in the room was a book about the basics of Buddhism, apparently the Buddhist version of the Gideon bible, provided for free in hotel rooms. I actually spent a lot of time reading it, and I can appreciate a lot of the things I learned. For example, in Buddhism, men and women are equally capable of spiritual merit and attainment. There is also no intention of you just accepting things blindly, the point is to question and to learn for yourself. I really liked this paragraph about taking refuge:

"Life is full of difficulties, and never free from pain or at least its possibility. Feeling unsafe and in a chronic state of lack, human beings crave a sense of safety and security. Many seek it through the adoption of a belief system or the comfort of rituals. Equally popular is the path of distraction: pursuing sense pleasures, wealth, fame, power and status. In the Buddhist view none of these strategies achieves its aim. Sensuality and worldly success cannot satisfy the deepest human needs. Faith in dogmas and ritual observances cannot provide a true refuge. As long as human beings lack clear understanding of their lives, and continue to commit unwise actions, they can never be secure."

I also liked this bit about happiness:
The Buddha taught that all living beings are born with an instinctive wish to avoid suffering and to experience happiness. The problem is that lacking wisdom, we both continually act in ways that create the conditions for suffering, and also neglect acting in ways that create the conditions for happiness. We seek happiness in things that inevitably disappoint us; we avoid things that would lead to our long-term welfare. In short, we are our own worst enemy."

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about these things in the context of myself and the people in my life. With some of the people in my life, I'm just happy to be with them, regardless of what we're doing or how it's going. I think that's a good thing, I can be pretty content to just be. I feel a certain pressure with this trip to be having SO MUCH FUN all the time, like everyone thinks that this trip should make me so happy and every moment should be blowing my mind. In truth, there are a LOT of uncomfortable and unhappy moments. And when you try to talk about these things because you're trying to learn something from them, people try to explain them away and tell you why you're not allowed to be unhappy about them. Because how dare you not appreciate this amazing thing you have. You think that getting to travel is going to bring you happiness, until you are doing it alone and at length. I do have to be fair, that the thought of working 8 to 5 right now sounds terrible, that I really did need a break from this in my life. But I've replaced it with something that for ME is almost more challenging. It's just different is all. But it's not this constant sunshine and butterflies perfection that people visualize when they think of this.

I also think about other people, people who I adore who are smiley and funny and wonderful...but who I worry about in different ways. Some people avoid things that could "lead to their long-term welfare" for sure, without an obvious reason why. Some of them accept things they maybe shouldn't, and convince themselves that they wanted those things anyway. Some people refuse to allow any happiness in their life. Some people are always looking for something more, bigger, better. None of this is my business except that I care about these people, but I still think about it. Especially when I have little else to do and I'm far away from them all.
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I don't know how to transition from deep thoughts, so here are things I found in my room: a worm (I think?). A tiny lizard. A huge monster spider.
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I trekked down the hill to meet my friends who were also on the island, and we went and got lunch at a place called the Blue Chair. The chairs were indeed blue. After lunch we walked out to a viewpoint (Nang Yuan Terrace) where you can see these tiny little islands. Basically you pay a fee to have access to a restaurant that has the viewpoint, but at least you get a free soda out of it.
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After this my friends snagged a taxi and we said our goodbyes. It was so nice to spend a few days with the same people and have them with me for my travels. Back to the solo life... *sigh*

Also, let it be known that on this day (whatever day it was), I paid 18 freaking dollars for a 3 oz bottle of sunscreen, the cheapest that the pharmacy had. I've found the one place on earth where it's a disadvantage to be white. Seems fair.

I also grabbed some sort of delicious blueberry bread looking item and trudged my way back up the hill to my hotel. They would have called me a taxi for 150 baht, but I didn't see the point of this since I was going to take a cold shower when I arrived either way. That night I swam in the infinity pool, watched the gorgeous sunset, read a book, took a bath with a cup of tea and some netflix, watched some silly cartoons I didn't understand, and packed up my things.
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The next morning I woke up naturally at about 5 AM, and slowly got moving. I had discovered a viewpoint called Fraggle Rock (!!) on a small map in a random guidebook, and was determined to go visit before I left the island. I was out the door by 6 and trekking my way up the steep hills while the island slept. Turns out, Fraggle Rock is literally a giant boulder, and the views at the top are amazing. You can see both sides of the island, and it was around this time I remembered my struggles with vertigo. I spent some time soaking it all in alone before heading back. I did not see any doozers, but I did see lots of squirrels that I assumed were giant rabid monkeys every time they moved a branch near me. I'm not so good at hiking alone, it turns out.
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Now back to my regularly scheduled budget.
Let the music play.

Posted by NinjaLlama 22:46 Archived in Thailand Tagged deep_thoughts adventure_time Comments (0)

Life is not a wishing concert

I stayed so long I got a tshirt

sunny 89 °F

After V left with his apartment-sized suitcase, the next day brought an influx of new arrivals to the hostel. This included a gangly, silly fella from the UK (we'll call him...C1), and a nice guy from Germany (at the risk of this becoming an algebra equation we'll call him C2), among others. I was trying to get a group together to rent a car since this wasn't the place to learn to ride a motorbike and I was feeling a little restless not being able to explore the island. Everyone said they were interested but they were all being very slow about making decisions and I got impatient. I heard a random new group talking about getting a car right then, and asked if I could join. C1 came along as well, and all of 15 minutes later we were on our way, which wasn't how I expected the day to go, so I was pleasantly surprised.

First thing in the car we had to go get gas from a super reliable gas station...
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Then we were off to explore the waterfalls that had been recommended to us, specifically Namueng Waterfall 2 and 3. It was quite a trek to get to the waterfall, but it was so pretty! We dunked our sweaty feet in the cool water and took a few minutes to relax. Then we climbed up the barely-marked path up the side of the waterfall, which consisted mostly of hauling yourself up steep rocks with a rope installed sometime in the last 100 years. At the top of the waterfall there was a little pooled area where everyone was hanging out in the water. The views were awesome and we spent some time here just chatting and sitting in the nice refreshing water. At one point a guy showed up with a huge gash above his eyebrow. He was escorted by some other random guy who had heard him crying for help somewhere and came to his rescue. He was off climbing things he shouldn't by himself and totally fell, and was so lucky he just had a gash and some scratches. He was pretty dazed, so someone called the first aid people from down below and they came up to check him out. I swear I've seen so many injuries here -- I'm not sure why people go on a trip somewhere else and suddenly forget that physics exists and do all the stupid things they can think up. I'm feeling pretty lucky that I haven't really had any food poisoning (knock on wood) or injuries yet. Just lots of mosquito bites in awkward places.
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After our time at the waterfall we drove up to a restaurant at the top of the island that had been recommended to us, as it had an infinity pool with good views. We ate lunch at the restaurant, which sadly didn't taste that great, and the infinity pool was underwhelming (despite looking good in pictures), so we ended up not staying. Don't despair, though! There were no less than 6 adorable dogs and cats up here that made the entire trip worth it for me. Oh, also a giant pig.
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The next day was a beach day. A group of us pooled our money for a taxi up to Silver Beach, which was absolutely gorgeous. After approximately 23 layers of sunscreen I ventured out into the crystal clear water. You could walk SO far out and the water would only be to your hips, so you just sort of bobbed around in the water. It was awesome. C2 taught us some German expressions, including one that I can't possibly pronounce, but it directly translates to "Life is not a wishing concert," aka you don't always get what you want. It's my new favorite thing and I plan to use it as much as possible.
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After some lunch we went in search of a viewpoint marked on maps.me as "secret wooden lookout tower." Basically we walked for 30 minutes in the scorching sun to discover...nothing. There was nothing there. Either that or this secret tower was super secret. Undeterred, we wandered down to the beach and basically walked all the way back to the hostel over the course of the afternoon along the waterfront. We stopped at one point so one of the girls could say to her friends that randomly happened to be there. I started chatting with another German guy in our group, a sweet shy guy who was probably like 8 years old, I'm not sure. Maybe 22. I'm not good with these things. At one point he asked how old I was and I said "how old do you THINK I am?" This pleasantly made him really uncomfortable and he said "24?" Hahahahahahaha. I laughed and said "Nope! I'm 26!" And he said "wow you really don't look that old!"

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

My new life plan is to just tell everyone I'm 2 years older than whatever they guess my age to be. The only people I have to tell the truth are police officers, really. What the hell, why not be 26 this year? I like it.

After a brief 7-eleven stop for a random delicious snack of unknown ingredients, we found our way back to the hostel, and spent the night chatting and petting the three dogs that live there. Good day.
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Another day...the next day? The day after? Again, I don't remember anything about days and dates. Anyway, the next thing I did was a day trip with a great and slightly different group of folks to Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park. This park consists of 40ish islands, and apparently inspired a book called "The Beach." We started the day off nice and early, taking a shuttle to a big boat. An obnoxious, drunk group of German boys graced us with their presence and loudness, but otherwise the boat was really chill and quiet. Our first stop was an island with a crazy steep set of stairs that went on forever up to a glorious viewpoint. We swung by the bathrooms first, and I encountered my first pour flush toilet. Luckily the first thing I did when I was planning this trip was to study different types of toilets I would encounter....because I'm a weirdo.
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We made it up to the viewpoint, but it was ROUGH. I've never had so much sweat screaming out of my body, and I started to worry that my full water bottle wasn't going to get me to the top. The views were so epic at the end that it was totally worth it, though.
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Our next stop was a different island with another set of steep but different stairs that led up to an emerald lagoon, which was pretty cool but also completely impossible to get a good picture of, so just go ahead and use your imagination to make it look like 30% neater than the picture.
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After this we had some down time on the beach to snorkel and swim. The water was pretty murky, and I'm reasonably certain I saw more corals and fish standing above them looking down than anyone did with their face down in the water. After a little while it was time for some of us to set off for kayaking! I was with a group of 5, and 2 people didn't want to go kayaking, mostly just because of fear. I *almost* joined them in sitting on the beach instead, but when we were booking our tickets I just said "I want to do it!" and that was that. And I did it! C2 joined me as my kayak buddy, and we developed a really good rhythm. We got to go around the edges of the island, exploring little cave areas and such, which was so awesome. A little further out and the water was more clear, and we could see corals and fish below us. We were such a good team that we were the second boat to arrive to our destination. I went kayaking and I didn't die! If you know my water phobias you should know this was a big win for me.
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It was time to head home then, and the boat was racing this big epic rainstorm to get back to shore. We lost, and rain pelted us through every opening on the boat. I went from wanting a nice cold shower to wishing for a nice hot one instead. It was a long, hot, adventurous day of many little victories and laughs with a great group of people. Success.
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That night we all got cleaned up and ate dinner together, sharing trip photos and contact info. I got a tshirt for staying at the hostel for so long, and they asked if I was sure I wanted to leave as I booked my ferry to Koh Tao for the next day. Oops.

Posted by NinjaLlama 21:44 Archived in Thailand Tagged adventure_time Comments (0)

Reggae and boxing

Peanut butter lessons

sunny 87 °F

Holy crap, I haven't posted in a week and I have so much regret because now I have to try and remember every glorious detail. SO MUCH has happened. I have zero memory of which days I did which things, so I will just be making that part up, because let's be honest you don't really care and you're mostly here to watch me do stupid things anyway.

So, after my new awesome friend left (sad face sad face sad face), the only other person in my dorm was a guy my same age from Israel. Let's call him... "V." He brought a huge f&*(ing suitcase that would fit three of me inside for his two week trip to Thailand, and he was nice but very opinionated. Anyway, he wanted to go check out Lamai one night, and invited me along. I said sure, but then after thinking about wandering around with this dude at night suggested that we invite the only other solo person at the hostel, who happened to be a tall confident fella from France who would never shut up about the other islands and which beaches are the best. I heard the same three lectures like 50 times over the next couple of days, BUT he was also very nice and has a girlfriend so there was no weirdness, and I'm very glad he was with us.

We set off and walked down to the Rock Bar, a restaurant/bar essentially built in different levels on top of the rocks right by the water. It supposedly is a reggae bar, but I'm pretty sure they were playing jazz music the entire time we were there. The "waiter" forgot one of our orders, and spent the entire time playing a game of pool on his phone. The big draw of this place is that you can order a "special" shake or get some mushrooms if you ask the right questions. Our tiny group had no interest in this, so perhaps that explains why we weren't completely blown away by this place. The view was good, though. We chatted about all sorts of things, and V grilled me about how many times I had been to NYC. He put on his super judgy face that he has been there for probably two months of total time in the last decade and I've only been there for two weeks ever, and I LIVE in the US. I've never been measured by this sort of yard stick before, and I couldn't quite muster the energy to point out any of the 27 obvious rebuttals to this obnoxious and ignorant commentary. Maybe he just wanted a cookie, I don't know.

After we finished up here V wanted to head into Lamai and check out the market and maybe see some Thai boxing. We had fun wandering the market area, and the guy from France bought his girlfriend some "very nice" pants for "only" 6 dollars, which he thought was such a good deal. I didn't have the heart to tell him that everyone gets those pants and I paid 3 dollars in Cambodia for them...I just told him that was great.
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Squid or octopus of some sort on a stick
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Always a McDonalds...
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Sure they are...
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For the life of me I can't figure out what this is supposed to say

There was an hour or so before the boxing began, so we wandered into a bar with shitty live music covers of American hits, and the boys played pool. I was kind of exhausted at this point and declined the offer to play. The guy from France said "OK!" and moved on, but V lost his f^&*ing mind trying to force me to play. You might not be shocked to hear that this is the worst possible way to get me to do something, and he was met with zero success, so then he promptly threw a tiny hissy fit like a man baby. More than anything I didn't want there to be any opportunity for that "here, let me show you" move where someone leans over you trying to teach you how to hit the ball right. I had already mentioned my boyfriend like 12 times, and I got the feeling this guy wanted to test the boundaries of what that meant (blech). After no success forcing me to play pool, he started to grill me about everything. I didn't mind too much until he said "Is your boyfriend OK with you traveling?"

What the F^&%. Yes, he gave me a signed permission slip, asshole.

Moving on.

Finally the boxing started, so we got seats near the ring. You basically buy a drink or pay for a chair. A drink costs 100 baht (~3 dollars), and a seat costs ~500 baht (you can do it), so it was pretty much a no-brainer. I bought some gross juice and immediately put the cup on the ground and didn't touch it again. I didn't realize that the first boxing round was just little boys. It was so brutal to watch, and I just wanted to hug the little guy that lost, he looked so awful and was flat on the ground and had to be carried out of the ring. Good lord. Next up was a match with two women. The lady who won completely destroyed the other woman, and she had to be helped up off the ground. The men's matches were just as gruesome. It was really interesting, albeit pretty difficult to see. It's such a physical contact activity, I had no idea the extent of it. They took a break in the middle and invited people up from the audience without telling them why. After they got a full ring of spectators, they tied balloons to their ankles, and they had to play a game where you try to pop everyone else's balloons but keep yours intact. It was hilarious to see people aggressively hopping around on one foot, trying to protect their balloon at all costs. During this time the fighters from the last three rounds walked around with necklaces made of money, asking for donations for "luck." Mmmhmm. We stayed just long enough to see the fighter one of the boys bet on lose miserably, and then headed on our way.
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We stopped to get a "pancake" (aka a crepe-like thing) from a street cart with the tiniest, adorable little old lady. V couldn't have any dairy products since he had eaten meat earlier, so I suggested he get peanut butter and banana instead of Nutella and banana. He looked me straight in the face and said condescendingly, "Peanut BUTTER. It has butter in it." At this point my inner devil steepled her fingers and prepared to take this dude down for his low-key bullshit all night. He rose predictably to the debate after I pressed it, and after much discussion and reviewing the ingredients on the jar, I was, obviously, proven right that peanut butter is just friggin peanuts and not in fact a dairy product. The pancake and my victory were both delicious.

At this point it was pretty late, and the boys wanted to take a taxi home instead of walking, so we negotiated a fare for a songthaew, which is basically a pickup truck fitted with seats in the bed of the truck. The next morning I said goodbye to the guy from Israel, wishing him safe travels home, but did not offer any means to stay in touch. It's an interesting experience, spending a whole evening sharing new experiences with someone, but being OK with never really seeing them again.

Posted by NinjaLlama 21:37 Archived in Thailand Tagged adventure_time Comments (0)

Island life

All the naps

semi-overcast 89 °F

How long have I been in Thailand? I don't even know. I don't know what day of the week it is. Is it June yet? Travel does strange things to you. I do know that I tried some chicken panaeng and it was delicious.

Much of my time so far has been spent napping, reading, writing, and generally laying low. And it's freaking amazing. There's no guilt, there's no to-do list awaiting me, there's no 'returning to reality' to be had. I've never experienced this before. I wish everyone could at some point in their life. I have spent a lot of time thinking and exploring as well. Unfortunately I spent much of my time so far wearing yoga pants, which was a terrible idea as mosquitos aren't even phased by them and I had no idea, so I'm now the proud owner of three huge mosquito bites on my butt. This in itself isn't that bad, except that now I'm that random tourist wandering around scratching my butt all the time. Oh well, at least I'll never see these people again.

I met a nice guy from Michigan and we chatted about all kinds of things. He made me feel so much better about not knowing how to ride a motorbike, as he doesn't know either (that's one of the main ways to see things on the island, so it can feel a little like you can't get yourself around). We both love to walk and bicycle places instead, so we set off for a day of walking around to explore what was close by, though we wandered off separately.

The first stop on this tour for me was something I just randomly stumbled across. First was Wat Sila Ngu, which was stunningly gorgeous and so intricate and amazing. I also had this entire area to myself the whole time, which was lovely.
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After that was Racha Thammaram Temple (snake stone pagoda), which was equally beautiful. I loved the snakes hand rails on the stairs and the pretty yellow.
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My next stop was Hin Ta and Hin Yai, or Grandma and Grandpa rocks. Basically, these are wildly inappropriate and everyone loves to take pictures with them. Personally it all seemed a little silly to me, but I love that everyone loved it. The water was a beautiful turquoise and took my breath away. I didn't realize water could really look like this!
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After my stop there I paused to buy some coconut ice cream served in half a coconut. It was adorable and so were the ladies selling it. I regret nothing, as it was delicious and worth all 50 baht ($1.46). I pulled out one of the flowers and stuck it in my hair for the rest of the day.
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My next stop was the Family Mart just to look around (and take a breather in the air conditioned interior). Here I randomly found some handy items I wasn't expecting to buy but totally needed. First, some of the cards I bought in Cambodia don't seal?? So I needed some tape, and found a roll here. Second, I bought a postcard in Cambodia and they put it inside a plain letter envelope for me. I've been storing all my ticket stubs and items for scrap booking in this miracle envelope, and I realized this is the BEST way to store these things. When I finish a country, I'm going to seal up that envelope and mail it home! If it arrives, sweeeeet it's ready for scrap booking and I know what country everything was from and I didn't have to carry all that paper with me, and if it never arrives, well.... meh. So anyway, I bought a pack of this simple perfection for like 60 cents. Fab.

Lastly, I've been meaning to get some tiger balm, as they swear by it in Southeast Asia, but it was $$$ in the states. So I picked up a tiny container for like a dollar and a half. It's supposed to be good for bug bites, and sure enough a few moments after putting it on my worst offenders they immediately stopped itching! Yessssss. It's the little things.

After this I wandered my way over to the Lamai Viewpoint and ran into my new friend as he was leaving the same spot. We agreed to meet in an hour for lunch on the beach. Yay friends!

I was the only one here, which was crazy, because the whole place was pretty awesome. There was a cute little park and pond at the base, including the Valentine's stone. I have no idea why it was called that but it was cute. There were some fish in the pond, but more on that later...

You do a steep but short hike to get up to the viewpoint, which is a feat in hot humid weather. They have posted little motivational signs along the way to encourage you to keep going, which were lovely and also super annoying in the moment. Also no, I have no idea what those little statue things are supposed to be??
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Eventually you find your way to the viewpoint at the top, which is totally worth it. There's a little bar up there so you can get a refreshing shake or drink if you desire, and fun chairs so you can sit and catch your breath and enjoy the scenery. Wonderful.
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After I made my way back down I stopped by the pond with the fish because I heard that if you stick your feet in the water these little fishes will nibble at the skin on your feet and clean them. The fish see you coming and swarm over to wherever you are, which is kind of cute and kind of disgusting. I know what you're thinking, and yes, I definitely tried it. Also yes, it has scarred me for life and I will never forget the feeling of tiny little fish mouths on my toes. *shudder*

After that traumatizing experience, I got lost trying to find my way to the restaurant where I was meeting my friend. Fortunately all roads here lead to the beach, so I just wandered down the beach until I found the right place. I ate some fish at this restaurant (called The Black Pearl...I mostly picked it because of the name), which seemed appropriate for the coast and also was yummo. We chatted about life and watched the waves come in. After lunch we walked back to the hostel along the beach, and then I took a nice cold shower to clean off the seven layers of sunscreen and bug spray that were weighing down my body. Unfortunately I still got a tiny bit of a sunburn from this day of adventure, but I applied some aloe and it seems to have settled back down now. I could care less about getting a tan, but I reallllly don't want an epic burn...

After that I met a new girl at the hostel from Atlanta, and we hit it off immediately and went to dinner down the road together. Sadly she left this morning for a 4-day scuba diving class on another island, but I hope I run into her again! We had a nice time chatting about anything and everything, as she is also on a solo trip for 3 months around Southeast Asia. Yay more new friends!

Today has mostly been a day of chilling, napping, and catching up on a hundred blogs and photos and etc. etc. In the next couple of days I'm hoping to tour around the island (somehow....) and take a tour of the national park nearby, which is basically a bunch of different islands. Other than that I'm looking forward to more chill time for planning and thinking and dreaming and reading and learning Spanish, the new task I've added to my life. I feel like I have to be learning something, and suspect that Spanish is going to be the most useful thing I can learn in the next couple of months, so Central America will be less challenging when I get there.

That's all for now, folks!

PS Yes I know about recent terrorism in Indonesia and Thailand. Believe me, I'm keeping my eyes on the news every day. Worry not...

Posted by NinjaLlama 02:05 Archived in Thailand Tagged adventure_time Comments (0)

Lizard alarm clock and a rainbow welcome

The transition from Cambodia to Thailand

semi-overcast 91 °F

I'm in Thailand now. The transition here was interesting, and I've finally had some time to reflect and regroup my thoughts.

My last day in Phnom Penh was fine, but lonely. Whoever said "Oh you'll meet people everywhere and you'll never be alone" has obviously never traveled in the low season. LIES. In a way Cambodia has been the worst place to start but also the best because I've truly gotten the experience of solitude, which is very different from just traveling solo but always being around other people). It's only up from here.

I finished up my stay at the delightful hostel that saved me from a bed bug nightmare. They have an adorable little lounge area with orchids everywhere and it's just beautiful and peaceful. They also have a communal kitchen if you want to buy your own groceries. If only I was here long enough for that to matter. My dorm room is nice and clean and peaceful, however all of my roommates are Chinese and don't really speak English. It's a weird thing to be in a room where you sleep with three other people and still feel very alone because no one will talk to you. They all seemed nice enough, but they also all brought HUGE suitcases with them. I feel like a jerk, but I've gotten so judgmental about how much luggage anyone carries with them now. Yes, I'll take my total hypocrite card now, thanks.
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My last day in Phnom Penh I walked down to the riverfront/royal palace area. I wanted to go to a pharmacy to find some shampoo/conditioner because the little sheets I bought work fine for a few days but really need supplementation from proper products. I've been forced into a bun for the last several weeks and I miss being able to run my fingers through my hair. The pharmacy I went to didn't have what I was looking for, but they did fascinatingly have many Bath and Body Works products, as well as Victoria's Secret lotions. They also had a plethora of face- and skin-whitening products, which bummed me out. So people here try to lighten their skin, people back home try to darken their skin, and no one ever seems happy with what they have? We're funny little creatures, humans.

After the pharmacy I wandered into a few shops nearby, including a silk shop. Everything they had was absolutely gorgeous, but of course very tourist prices so out of my range. Truly beautiful crafts(wo)manship. My ultimate destination today was the Daughters of Cambodia cafe, where I ate a late breakfast. This organization supports those who have escaped a life of sex-exploitation and trafficking, offering them opportunities for employment and recovery. It is a faith-based organization, which always makes me a little hesitant, but it does seem to be very locally-driven from what I can tell (so not just a bunch of white people patting themselves on the back). They have a cafe, a small spa/salon, and a cute little gift shop down on the waterfront. My time walking through the gift shop was the first time I've really had to fight my urge to buy buy buy all the souvenirs. Everything they had was adorable and wonderful and well-made, and eventually I settled on buying some cute greeting cards instead of getting everyone I know an inspirational and very soft tshirt. Then I went up to the cafe and had a yummy eggs Benedict and some iced jasmine tea with passion fruit coulis while I wrote letters to some folks. It was a really peaceful morning and I loved it.
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I returned to the hostel to figure out my flight to Thailand, my ride to the airport, and to charge all my electronics and redistribute my liquids in my luggage so I'd be ready for a day of flying. I also spent a few glorious hours down in the lobby area planning out things to do in Central America, New Zealand, etc. Planning that maybe should have happened before I left for my trip, but I have no regrets about focusing on logistics and responsible things during that time instead. An epic afternoon rainstorm came through, and after it cleared I returned to the Connecting Hands cafe for my final meal in Cambodia. I realize that makes it sound a little like I am on death row, but it felt like the opposite, like I was about to be free. When I walked into the cafe, the girl behind the counter said "Hi! Nice to see you again!" Uh oh. Hopefully this isn't about how dramatically I enjoyed my veggie wrap yesterday. I had a pot of chamomile tea and some fresh spring rolls, and took my time enjoying the rainstorms that kept passing through while I ate. They have a quote on the wall here that says "Kindness is like coffee, it awakens your senses and improves your day!" While I wish they told the rest of Phnom Penh this, this happy little cafe made my stone cold heart soften a fractional amount for this city. I still don't love you, Phnom Penh, but I'm starting to at least understand why you are the way you are.

The next morning I got up super early to make it to the airport for my flight to Thailand. I was worried about getting there early enough so I told the front desk my flight was 30 minutes earlier than it actually was, the socially anxious person's way of gaming the system without having to admit a concern. This would turn out to be a moronic idea, but we'll get to that in a minute. My tuktuk driver showed up early (good chap) and we headed off. While I was in the tuktuk I realized it's part of an app that exists that's basically like the uber of tuktuks, where you order a trusted tuktuk to come get you for a pre-arranged price. Of course I only discovered this genius option on my way OUT of the country. Damnit.

As we rolled through the city I observed all the things passing me by, and reflected on some of the things I discovered and thought about here in Cambodia (especially things that I haven't remembered to tell you all about yet). Little kiddos on bicycles rode to school on the same streets as all the crazy city traffic of cars, motorbikes, and tuktuks. So many old white western men walked around with too-young-looking asian women, which made me throw up a little. High waisted denim shorts are apparently making a comeback globally among young fashionable women, which makes the 80s kid in me laugh out loud. I watched young people in their 20s pick through days old trash, looking for I dont know what. I had no idea what to do with myself. I've been woken up by a rooster, and a gecko more times than I remember now. A lizard alarm clock is surprisingly unobtrusive. Every time I rented a room to myself I somehow managed to immediately spill coffee on the bed, and then awkwardly tried to clean it before remembering that they just bleach everything anyway. I still feel guilty about that, though. Cambodia is a really interesting place. The landscape is naturally beautiful. The history has the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The people that remain after the Khmer Rouge are all so young. Some of them are filled with hope and joy and kindness, and some of them are just looking for any opportunity to gain something, no matter how they have to get it. The children, beautifully, are just like children everywhere. Hopeful, happy, and always excited to say hello and explore. Overall I'd say my time here was good but challenging. I'd like to come back some day and see how things have changed. I was looking at historical photos of Phnom Penh, and it was amazing how much different it was before its destruction. Beautiful French-style buildings lined the streets, with big wide sidewalks. People were walking around everywhere, looking happy and healthy. It's crazy how much can change in just a couple of decades if some cold hearts find their way to power.

My tuktuk driver dropped me off right at the front of the airport, and I went inside to check in for my flight. Only to discover that that is definitely not how it works here. There are about 20 check-in counters, and one giant reader board in front of them. This announces which flights are open for check-in, and at what counters. Seemingly all the airlines share all the counters, so you can't even wait relatively close to the right spot, and the few seats that are in this area are so far away you can't see the reader board. I basically memorized where on the board my flight was, and then kept squinting at it for hours until they added check-in lanes. They didn't open check in until like an hour and a half before the flight, which not unexpectedly caused me some significant angst. To pass some time I wandered to try and find the 24-hour post office, only to discover that it was definitely closed. The currency exchange was open, but I had brilliantly managed to spend the very last of my riels the night before, and mentally high fived myself for this. After they FINALLY opened the flight for check-in, I was the first in line and headed off to customs and security. I'm not 100% on this, but I'm PRETTTTTTTY sure that the customs agent didn't even glance at me or my paperwork, and just stamped me as leaving. So much for that half hour of intense concentration as I filled out all my information. Security was pretty breezy as well, and I found my gate with an hour and some odd minutes left. I thought about buying some breakfast, but I've gotten really stubborn about these things and knew that they would offer us food on the flight and I wanted to get my money's worth. By the time I got on the plane I was so ravenous I ate literally everything on the plate of food they passed out to us.

We landed in Bangkok and I had a 4 hour layover. After some significant wandering I managed to find an ATM, and get a moderately depressing $8 lunch. I found my gate and then wandered around looking at the airport. There were beautiful orchids everywhere, and gorgeous paintings on the wall that no one was stopping to observe. A security guard was rolling around on a Segway trying to look busy, and I went back and forth on the moving sidewalks like 6 times just because I could. Eventually we boarded the flight to Koh Samui, and I had randomly been placed in a window seat in the first row of the plane, which as awesome for the leg room. The clouds over the water were stunning, and at one point I couldn't tell where the sky ended and the sea began, and it was amazing. Then I got yelled at for using my phone during landing. Oops.
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After landing you take a tiny little shuttle bus that looks like a trolley from the plane over to the main airport terminal, which is all open air and seemingly has zero security. Tiny little cartoon planes are everywhere, which is adorable. The baggage claim area had some sort of tropical bird chirping up a storm, and the guy next to me stared as I unzipped the straps of my backpack from their holding pouch. I could tell he wanted to ask about it because it was awesome, but he never said anything. REI for the win. I finally snagged my bag and headed out to find the taxi that my hostel had arranged for me. Riding through the streets on the island I could tell immediately that this place was so much different. People seemed well fed, dogs seemed happy and loved, there were a lot more cars. As we left the city to skirt the coastline toward my destination, I shit you not a gorgeous rainbow peeked out from the clouds and the water! Well thank you Thailand, I needed a welcome like this! I wonder how I would have felt about my first month of travel if I had started here.
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I arrived at the hostel and got all checked in. The place is great, and there's a beautiful view of the ocean just a handful of steps from the door of my dorm room. It's owned by an adorable little family, and there are three cute fluffy dogs running around. This will be a good break, indeed.
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Posted by NinjaLlama 21:28 Archived in Cambodia Tagged deep_thoughts adventure_time Comments (0)

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