Two and a half weeks later, and I haven’t actually left my last destination. I came to Chiang Rai to visit, and I stayed to teach…that’s the beauty of solo travel, and a one-way ticket. Taking a job as a kindergarten teacher was a great decision- difficult, but extremely gratifying. I have been able to settle in to a routine in this very Thai city, which I have noticed provides a comfort zone for me in my travels. I get my ass kicked by Thai lessons three times a week, and stick out like sore thumb being one of few westerners around. But I love it… I make friends with the locals and partake Thai celebrations (Loy Krathong). I battle mosquitoes in a never ending war, and begin to bargain for prices in Thai. I learn the customs and traditions of the northern Thai (Lanna) culture, and develop an extreme patience as I work on a reciprocal understanding with my kindergarteners (to whom English is a second language). So, I stop my travels here to learn a thing or two about life.
Chiang Rai is a very culturally Thai city. Foreigners (or “farangs” in Thai) are rarely seen, and almost no one speaks English. It’s amazing to be immersed in this. At the market today, I wanted to buy some potatoes, but I couldn’t figure out how to ask in Thai. One Thai lady approached me, who didn’t much English, but knew the word for potato in Thai. All the little old ladies working the food stalls broke out in laughter as she pointed me towards the potatoes. Turns out the word for potato is “man farang.”
I write from Phuket, in a minor state of shock, overwhelmed with electricity, wifi, air conditioning, blankets, and a warm shower. After a one month rock climbing adventure and escape from reality, I begin the next leg of my travels up to the north of Thailand. However, leaving the Tonsai circus was not an easy task. I feel that if I wrote about my days in Tonsai, most, if not all, would simply mesh together. To put it simply, it was easy, and mentally stimulating living in Tonsai- climbing, slack lining, learning puzzles, and drinking chai tea over conversations with the most interesting and talented people. As we climbed the beautiful limestone cliffs on the beaches and over water, I found myself truly climbing between the crevasses of adventure and self discovery.
Koh Phangan, as we discovered by motorbike, is an island of beautiful beaches that encompass a lavish jungle. Natalie and I explored the outer beaches- essentially paradise: white sand and clear water that stretched on and on. We got Thai massages on the shore from women too strong to be women (see: ladyboys). Taking the roads inland, we found towering green trees, played bongos at a friends artist warehouse- a work in progress, and spotted a lone “homemade ice cream” joint that we vowed to return. We hiked up to Dom Sila viewpoint, and laughed over our deteriorating English. We found the yoga resort we had long been searching for, but ended up opting for Thai food and a beautiful sunset instead. We stopped for the ice cream on the way home.
Our arrival on Koh Phangan was celebrated even more after having nearly missed the boat over. We had one motive on the island. The much anticipated Full Moon Party had lived up to its expectations. It was, truly and wonderfully ridiculous. I invite a google search for those inquiring details.
I finished my time in Bangkok by a night out on Khao San road, ending up in a street wide congo line of backpackers. The night of silly continued when a friend lost 100 baht to an 8 year old playing rock paper scissors, and I ate a cricket.
We awoke sleepless the next day to visit Bang Kwang prison, but arrived 5 minutes too late for visiting hours with the inmates. Alas, we bummed around northern Bangkok eyeing foods I’d never seen. I slowly made my way back for the overnight train down south. I write here now from the beaches of Koh Tao, an island on the eastern side of Thailand’s peninsula. As scuba diving is the Koh Tao norm, I marched right off the ferry to the dive shop. It is now two days, five dives, and one more certification later. On the last dive, a wreck, I sat on the bow of the HTMS Sattakut and drank a can of Coke upside down through a straw. Sitting there I thought to myself, I think I’ll be here for some time…
After two days of temple visiting, tuk tuk driving, pad thai, and becoming a skilled bargainer, I’d had enough… enough that I decided to stay another day. Like discovering the intricacies in the large temples, I found the hidden gems of Bangkok after befriending a silly Dutch familiar to the area, and employing him as my tour guide for the day. Traveling to downtown Bangkok by canal, we were the only foreigners on the boat. After getting caught in multiple sudden rainstorms, we quickly realized that the best solution was to embrace it. While the warm and humid weather seemed daunting, it was well balanced by dancing in the rain.
Currently, I am anxiously awaiting my flight… what a tease. Who thought it would be a good idea to give myself a few days in Los Angeles before I actually leave for Thailand? Oh wait, I did. Not to worry. After finding familiarity in my hometown for a few days, I’ll head for Bangkok on Sunday. With my trusty climbing gear, and a one-way ticket in hand, I’ll leave with an open mind.
I’ve been asked often what my plan is, or why I’m going, and I can’t give a straight answer. Yes, I’ll be rock climbing for some time… but my guess is that the real answer won’t come until my return. I’m going to explore and discover- what, however, I’m not exactly sure. I’ll try my best to keep this updated with my adventures, though be warned, I have a slight feeling they may sound more like crazy partying and days spent lying on the beach than philosophical finds.