In Thailand, it is Monsoon season from May through October. In such a naturally beautiful country, you can’t let this put a damper on a single day. As a teacher, I met lots of awesome “foreigners” (many were American) with whom I went hiking with, camped in tree-houses with, beached with, tried strange foods with (e.g., chicken feet), got into motorbike wrecks with, salsa’ed with and traveled with, among other fun ventures. My first “visa run” was to Singapore. This was about 6 months into my life in Thailand. At this point, escaping to a first-world city was a refreshing trip, even with the familiar Asian culture there. In Singapore I stayed at a hostel in Chinatown, run by this super sweet Malaysian lady who ate breakfast with me every morning. Singapore is a sort of “melting pot” of Asia as it has strong influence and migrants from all around Asia. I met up with a friend of a friend, Darren from Singapore, and was able to explore some of the hidden gems of the city. I spent each day with a fellow traveler (here I met Lucy from France!) from the hostel and went through a laundry list of sites given by my native Singapore friend. There are several really interesting and different areas within Singapore, although the city itself is very small. I must say that while I was in Singapore I could not help the overwhelming feeling of generosity that filters through the people there. Everywhere people were giving things, helping each other and smiling. Some of my favorite memories in Singapore include the gardens, the rooftop dining, Little India and the abundant amount of chic cafes near my hostel. Thank you, Darren, for showing me around and accepting me into your home city!
Outside of traveling, learning to make Thai dishes (specifically Som Tom!) and trying out the variety of delicious soups around Phuket became superb, weekly hobbies. There were a couple of international restaurants, which us foreigners would flock to occasionally: a Mexican restaurant, Sala Mexicali, with a tasty mango avocado salsa; and The Family restaurant with incredible Mediterranean cuisine. Unique fruits that I enjoyed the most (aside from the sweet Thai mango) were the mangosteen and rombutons. A common street dessert there is Rotis – it is like a grilled crepe with bananas, nutella, butter and condensed milk. Ya, I know! While I was there, a friend of mine started up a beach boot camp to provide free exercise classes in exchange for cleaning up the beach. Aside from this and running, I did a month of muay thai training. I was the only female at a small training gym. I stopped since I got into my accidents but right before I stopped they were beginning to take off the protective gear inside of the ring. So I think the timing was perfect to stop. J
Exploring the island wasn’t the same with the fear of death taking over my daily motorbike experiences. But I knew my time here was limited, so I drove at the crawling pace of 30kph and continued to explore the island and its beaches. I made my way through a long list of small coves to explore every weekend. What an experience! There is also some interesting hiking on Phuket. I also spent many Sundays with two amazing Australian friends, Nicole and Brendan. We would enjoy a western style brunch at a local organic restaurant/market and then head home to attempt to create paintings (I am only referring to myself, as they are both super artistic and created masterpieces while I created something fun to laugh about) and enjoy the tropical setting surrounding their apartment. A lot happened in the month after I got into my motorbike accidents. I moved into a new, big two-story house (“air con” only in the upstairs bedrooms of course) and went on a 48-hour visa run to Malaysia with Andy. My French girlfriend Lucy came to visit (we went to Phi Phi islands), I went back up to Chiang Mai with my friend Sebastian and then moved into another new apartment (story coming). Moving into a two-story house on crutches… all I can say is that I am such a lucky lady to have so many amazing friends.
Because it was rainy season, I had 10 or so friends that all got into accidents around the same time in July. It is incredible how Thai kids whip around on these bikes their entire lives (I enjoyed pulling up next to some kids under 10 driving a bike to school in the mornings). One weekend, there were several of us lounging at my house with our bandages, a deck of cards (no Direct TV for us), and some of the best friends ever to pick up some delicious Italian-made pizzas. For a few weeks, I rode to school with friends (yep, on the back of motorbikes with crutches in hand). Andy was generous enough to do my laundry for me and drive me around. My dear friend, Gabe, suffered through cleaning and scraping off my scabs (sorry for the graphics) and drove me to the hospital several times for periodic bandaging. Karla let me live in her house, for the 7th time that year, in between my second house and my final apartment. I feel just as nostalgic for my friends that I met there as I do for the crystal clear water and karsts that we were graced with there.
Phi Phi islands… Have I mentioned these yet? I went to these islands so many times because they were a 300 baht (about $10) round trip ferry ride away and the karsts and sunsets provided an incredible landscape to lie by and lose yourself. The rooms were less than clean, super-cheap hostels and hotels/”resorts” but who cares? The landscape is mind-blowing. At one of the hostels, I came “home” at night to a family of bunnies to play with. What more do you need? The hostel owners took care of us. Most of the time we were on the beach or running around the little twisty town area. Phi Phi is a big hit for backpackers. There is a big collection of bars, dive shops and boutiques within the town. Several times I went with a large group of friends and we rented private long tail boats (for 1,000 baht, depending on your Thai negotiation skills) to ride around the smaller islands and beaches (e.g., Monkey beach, Maya bay, etc.) and to swim in the middle of the turquoise ocean water. If you have seen The Beach, you have a small idea of how beautiful these islands are. And then at night, we would come back to the main island and dance on the beach, listen to international music and watch fire shows. I found a little restaurant, run by a British guy, with the best breakfast sandwich I could imagine at the time. First of all, bacon doesn’t taste or smell the same in Thailand and this bacon tasted like bacon! And more, if you’ve lived in Thailand, then you understand the value of finding a quality cup of coffee and a good western breakfast. I took Diego out for “breakfast” his first morning here and we had some local stuff, which consisted of dim sums and soup! Finding a breakfast sandwich is MONEY.
I went back up to Chiang Mai with Sebastian. We found the national park there, with at least 10 waterfalls and some gorgeous hiking. We also discovered a coffee shake made with coconut water, coconut shavings, cinnamon and, of course, sugar. Delicious! We stopped by one of the larger temples and chatted with a couple of young monks for some time. We did the zip line gig with about 20 zip lines to go down and that was fun but you end up waiting behind the large group of Chinese tourists at each zip line (which is okay because you are sitting atop the trees and the views are unimaginable). We also rode on bamboo rafts! There were elephants but they were doing unnatural tricks and I didn’t feel comfortable with this. We also discovered some of the backpacker nightlife in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is full of bookstores and coffeeshops (love). The coconut cinnamon coffee and the national park became a staple in my trips to Chiang Mai.
When I got back from Chiang Mai (around 2am – ish) I went straight to bed. The next morning, I woke up and my bedroom door, which jams shut, was open as were the doors downstairs. Nothing looked different except all of the doors being unlocked. My roommate said that she woke up to a light in her eyes but thought it was a dream. It turns out that there is some Thai guy in this area that has been caught going into houses and taking pictures of women sleeping… creepy!! The next night sleeping there was impossible and so I moved, fast. Thankfully, we got our complete deposit back, a true miracle in Thailand. I know white skin means take advantage in most of Southeast Asia but every once in a while you draw your line. “Farang farang” (the term for foreignors) can be heard all around, at all times and then you try to speak some Thai to show them that you know better; it helps a little bit. I believe that there are 3 price levels in Thailand: the one that Thais pay, the one that Farangs pay, and the one that Farangs dating Thais pay. I would like to believe that the 4th price is for those of us that ordered and negotiated in Thai.
At my new apartment, I was only a few minutes drive from the school that I was teaching at! Everyday, I would go for a nice jog (although farther from the beach/hill views, these runs offered me an obstacle course of traffic, animals, food carts and wires = free warrior dash!). I did yoga after school twice a week, where I met Florencia! Florencia was planning a yoga trip to India to get a teaching certification and hence the birth of my travel plans to India (post to come!).