Literal and Figurative Warm Hearts in Bangkok

After being in Vietnam for three months, I had to leave the country to update my visa so a booked a flight to Bangkok. I wouldn’t say that I was excited about going to Bangkok because my only knowledge of it was from the Hangover, but it was the quickest/ cheapest option that didn’t require a visa and I figured it would be an adventure regardless. It was a good excuse to leave the country because I probably would have been afraid to ask for class coverage if I hadn’t had the visa issue. And man I’m so glad I went.

Before I left, I had my own perfect storm of busyness. My pal Rachel flew into Hanoi Wednesday night, we spent Thursday wandering the city and I taught that night, I had an all day teacher workshop on Friday then taught until 9pm, and Saturday I woke up at 5:45 to catch a plane! If I had flown to Thailand from the US, I would have spent days laying out clothes to wear, triple checking all my visa paper work, and researching everything I should know before I arrive in a new country. But the version of me in Vietnam was throwing outfits in backpacks and filling out the visa application 7 hours before I left for the airport.

I was a little nervous to tackle this city while sleep deprived but after a 2 hour flight with a few quality head bobs and the adrenaline of landing in a new city, I was just fine. Being able to travel solo is a skill that I’m working on and that I value greatly. That being said, there are times when I know that it would be beneficial to have someone else to help problem solve. Me finding my way from the airport to my hostel was one of those times. I plugged the address into google maps and hopped on a bus trusting that google would show me the way. Google maps has been my personal god since I arrived in Vietnam. When it works it’s a beautiful and magical tool. When it doesn’t I feel like it’s a devastating betrayal. I went from bus to train then hoped for another bus. After waiting at the bus stop for 30 minutes, I declared google maps was wrong and took off walking. Over an hour later I arrived at my hostel dripping in sweat. Not ideal but I made it.

I typically associate hostels with rowdy people and uncomfortable beds. This was not the case in Bangkok. The bed was the comfiest I had slept in since arriving in Southeast Asia. I shared a room for two nights with a middle aged Thai woman who was in town to pay her respects to the Thai king who recently died. One night she gave me a little Thai history lesson. I wish I had a picture because it was just the two of us and I was sitting on the floor while she was standing and talking so passionately about how the country loved their king. An experience I wasn’t intending to have when I booked the hostel.

That 3 mile trek to the hostel was just a prelude to my travel-by-foot experience. I walked 43 miles in 5 days (source: iPhone health app) and in my chacos that I have been in denial of being too big since I got them. I’m pretty proud of those 43 miles because it’s a reflection of how much I did during my 5 day trip. I visited cool temples, I was blessed by a monk, I haggled with a street vendor and won, I had a few beers on the infamous Khao San Road, and I ate more pad thai and mango sticky rice than I’d like to admit.

I was able to check all of those activities off my to do list but there was so much more value in my trip. I figured out how to ask people to take a photo of me without having a minor panic attack. The trick is to find someone taking selfies and ask if you can do a trade: I’ll take one of you, you take one of me kind of deal.

I took risks jumping on different forms of public transportation (i.e. water taxis). Southeast Asia is a good place to make public transportation mistakes because if you go the wrong direction, you don’t break the bank correcting the mistake.

There was a moment when I was walking down the street and I genuinely got a little emotional because I was just impressed with everything I was able to do. There were no tears or anything, my heart just got a little warm.

Moral of my story is: I thought Bangkok was awesome. I’m writing this the day after I returned to Hanoi and with the hopes that I don’t forget the feeling that I had while roaming the streets.

If you read through all that, you deserve a gold star. And if you just can’t get enough, here’s an amature video I made with my iPhone.

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