As we boarded the plane in Paris and waved auv revoir to Europe, we excitedly awaited the moment we were going to be reunited with our best friends in Thailand. We thought about what it would be like to see them, hug them, and begin this crazy 5 month adventure in Southeast Asia through jungles, big cities, beaches, small villages, and every little space in between. As the heat rolled into the airport, we stripped down to our “summer clothes” that have been in hiding for the last 4 months and gave our sad, white feet some much needed love by reuniting them with our sandals once more. We hopped into a taxi and as the city passed by us, we did our best to take it in but we really only had one thing on our minds – GET US TO OUR FRIENDS! Let’s just say….the reunion was wonderful. Hugs, tears, and lots of smiles is how we began this new adventure and the second chapter to our year long journey. However, I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t a little bit nervous to move on from Europe to a completely different ballgame: Southeast Asia. There were parts that totally thrilled me but there were also parts that filled me with loads of anxiety. What are the people going to be like? How will we get by with the language barrier? What kind of food will we eat? How many snakes will I see? What type of accommodation will we find? Exactly how big are the bugs? And, will there be coffee?!?! (Don’t judge me!).
All of those questions are still questions in some way or another because we have only been at this for a month, but so far…we have survived the transition! We began our second chapter in Thailand. A country I dreamt up to have turquoise blue waters, swaying palm trees, coconuts that fall straight from the tree and into my hands (with a straw already in it, of course), and endless beach days. Well, I am still patiently waiting for those wonderful things which will come later in our trip when we descend to the south of Thailand but where we began our trip was inland and in the North of Thailand. So far, the landscape we have experienced has been a mix of concrete jungle (Bangkok), jungle bungalows (Mae Wang Jungle), hippie villages (Pai), and cities that lie in between those hippie vibes and big city dreams (Chiang Mai).
One major thing I have noticed to be completely different thus far has been the fact that we are much more “backpacker like” in Southeast Asia. You might be surprised to know this, but we didn’t stay in a single hostel the entire time we were in Europe. Zip. Zilch. Nada! We stayed in all AirBnb’s and in the homes of our Workaway hosts so without the experience of hostel life and the craziness of the Eurorail, we just felt like a couple of normal travelers that held the fake persona of bad a$$ backpackers. However, a few weeks of sweating bullets in 100 degree weather, hand-washing all of our clothes with bar soap in a tiny sink, jumping off a moving bus and a night spent in a sleeper train made us feel like a backpacker in no time! I am doing my best to embrace the rustic charm of this lifestyle and just enjoy the fact that we are young and wild and free (actually, I think I am too old to say that) but I do think it will take a little adjusting. Side note: did you know that a majority of the bathrooms in Asia are a toilet, shower, sink combo? Not like the normal kind – like there are no partitions between any of them. So if you REALLY wanted to, you could shower while going to the bathroom while washing your hair all at the same time. Interesting, huh?
With all of that being said, our accommodation thus far has been pretty wonderful. I have a new found love for the word bungalow because #1. It just sounds lovely and #2. Because most of the “bungalows” we have stayed in have been nestled in a jungle setting and surrounded by nature. And in nature is exactly where we wanted to be – minus Bangkok because that is a full blown New York meets Asia type of city. But elsewhere, we found ourselves falling asleep to the sounds of bugs (or staying awake depending on the size of the bug!), appreciating the falling leaves, marveling at the random waterfalls or streams we came across, and taking in the different shades of green that surround us. This type of nature makes us feel small and in awe of the world that God gave us. I just hope we don’t lose this sense of “smallness” as we continue to see more and more beautiful sites.
At this point into our trip, we are all feeling a little iffy in the stomach region because of the food but I will say, Thai food is definitely delicious! We have had all forms – street food (so flippin’ cheap!), restaurant food and homemade food prepared for us by locals. There have been a few moments where we thought we might not make it out alive due to the spicy Thai chilies that they put in e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g but obviously, we survived…barely. But, I will say that we miss breakfast. There really is no differentiation between meals here and it’s basically Thai food all day, every day. Where my pancakes at? How about some eggs bene? Or just some good ol’ cereal? Oh well, I guess we will just appreciate them more when we get home!
Going back to the backpacker subject: the travelers here are different. We are meeting people from all walks of life as we move from one city to the next and there has been a very common theme…or should I say question/statement that most people have asked/told us: “Huh, you’re from the states? We haven’t met very many Americans traveling around long term!” And, it’s true. We haven’t met very many American’s either…even in Europe! We have met mainly British and Australian travelers with a dose of Europeans and elsewhere so that leads me to believe that it just isn’t preached to us enough to travel the world, get lost, find yourself, meet others and experience all the wonderful places that our earth is full of. However, we hope to begin to break that mold and prove that 2 weeks vacation time just really isn’t long enough! We had the opportunity to spend a few days with a couple from Israel and another couple from California (reppin’ American travelers with us!) and we had such a blast with them. Our personalities melded together and it was as if we had all known each other for years. However, riding scooters on a windy mountain road for a few hours with a few questionable turns might bring you closer to just about anyone but we were really thankful for our fun bunch!
This chapter of our journey thus far has been full of surprises – some good, some not the best. But at the end of the day, we are traveling together AND with our best friends in beautiful countries that are so unique and rich in culture so with that being said, what more could I ever ask for?! I am excited to continue through Southeast Asia, and Thailand was a wonderful beginning.