24-hour voyage from Boston to Bangkok. Stopped at Norway for some time. I did feel heavy moments of restlessness or claustrophobia here and there, but they went away. Overall it was a very manageable. Shout out to Norwegian air.
At one point during the flight I looked out of my window and the plane was just rolling on an endless white road under a clear soft blue ceiling. I felt like I was in a giant’s room, not from this planet.
As we descended into Bangkok, I could see all of the underdeveloped structures and rectangular pools of water, which I later came to find out were man made pools for fish and shrimp. It felt so familiar: “oh just another city”. That’s when the “why did I come to the other side of the world to see the same life in different form” feeling came up. All this time I thought I knew why I was traveling. And at that moment I realized I had absolutely no idea why I truly chose to do this. It was a thick layer of fear, of doubt. But I was here; I was doing this. And I was happy to be doing this, the fear was just lurking in the background and would pop to the foreground of my mind momentarily like an anxious friend stating his worry.
I took the subway then a run-down cab that inconsistently jolted me forward to this area where I knew had many hostels. I chose the NapPark hostel .
More expensive than the other hostels, but I had read about this place in my LonelyPlanet book and craved some stability among all this crazyness. So I went with the decision I previously made in my plan.
The Hostel is on Khao San road. Backpacker city! And like every city there are a handful of stores that are recycled throughout the area. Here the stores are: Currency exchange, thai massage, bars, eateries, tattoo shops, and stands that sell Hawaiian shirts and flowy elephant pants.
I arrived to the hostel, locked up my bag and headed outdoors. Not because I was excited to explore, but because I wanted some fresh air. As I walked around I was approached by a Thai man who spoke English and I could tell was friendly, but was skeptical. He said he would show me around; I wasn’t scared of him so I went for it. He took me to a ten story high Buddha statue made of gold and then I headed back to home base (Khao San road) because I was bored of his company.
I kept walking around the streets and just catching my balance really. I AM ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD. Nothing I hold close to my heart is physically near me. And I could truly feel that.
Perhaps not the most healthy forms of comfort, but one I knew well; I went and got a beer and some cigarettes.
I stumbled upon bar with live music. Thai man playing guitar number one, his son playing guitar number two, and his wife singing. All American tunes. They were a Bluesy funk band. I was sitting very close and watching the Father closely. He held a cigarette in his mouth for the entire song as he played his guitar flawlessly with so much soul. Music heals all.
I pull a cigarette out for my own and see that I don’t have a light… of course. So I lean over to the guy on my left and ask for his. He passes it to me and we start talking. Doing me a simple favor of passing me a light being the ice breaker for both of us.
As the conversation develops I tell him that this is actually the first day of my adventure. He tells me how lucky I am and that this was his last day of his 7 month adventure. Conversation continues a little more excitedly from our serendipitous meeting. He then asks me for my name: Adrian. Staring at me with a smirk and open eyes… “you’re kidding, my name is Adrien too” and proceeds to show me his French license. We then hit it off. Hopping from bar to bar speaking about what I want to do on this adventure and what he did do. Transforming the lurking energy in the background from fear to excitement. They are one in the same.
The party scene was crazy there! Thousands of backpackers partying. From buckets of rum, to ping pong shows (not your average ping pong shows), to balloons filled with laughing gas being sold for 3 American dollars or 100 baht. And when in Rome…
The next day I went to go visit the Grand Palace, which is a “must see” here in Bangkok. Took a tuk-tuk to the location. Tuk-Tuk: a motorbike with a carriage built in that zips in and out of traffic like a kid riding his bike through his well known neighborhood. Safe… maybe, cheap… if you bargain right.
Yes, the Grand Palace was magnificent, but it was full of tourists! I felt rushed the whole time and didn’t really get a chance to connect with the architecture or have a chance to sit and feel the energy of this magnificent creation.
I quickly grew tired of this place. I felt I needed to carry onward. So I do a quick search of yoga centers with retreats going on and I find one I like. I am off to PakSong. Moving to the south of Thailand.
Just like that… all of my weeks of planning were now just a crumbled piece of paper. Once here at the travel destination I realized I was here to explore and move as Pacha Mama wanted me to; like a bird knows when it is time… I too can learn to feel when it is time. So, from now on. That is how I plan to travel and with practice I will become more sensitive to that flavor. The “its time to move” spice.
Bought a bus ticket for 30 dollars a.k.a 1000 baht. They said they would give me a lift to the bus station, so I show up with my huge bag and sat down waiting for my ride. A few moments later a guy shows up… with a moped. This is what I am here for, so I wobble on and he zips me through the busy streets of Bangkok to a hot sweaty minivan. Then to the bus terminal. Twelve hours of a sleepless bus ride, I got to a small town in the middle of nowhere at 5:30 am. I was now in Ranong!
Ok. I am here. Now… to get to Eco-Logic (a yoga center). I ask the very few people around and realize that we are no longer in Bangkok. English no longer being a communication tool. After many failed attempts I proceed to go sit on a curb and mope. I turn around to some people sitting on a bench and an English speaking Thai guy asks me where I am headed with that giant bag. “Eco-logic, some yoga center close to here”, I say. “Oh, I know that place… I work there” Lan says with his bright cheek to cheek grin. Oh the way Pacha Mama moves.
I arrive at my destination. A village in the rainforest!! Ta mah cha a.k.a Natural. Coconut, Papaya, and banana trees, dirt with stones laying over top to make them paths, homes made from dried clay, flowers, horses, dogs, insects, birds, I even saw monkeys! A big difference that I noticed, besides everything, is that everything here can get wet. Getting wet is no longer a taboo.
Lucky for me I arrived on the day of the Thai New year, which means I got to attend the Songkram festival of the village. Songkram: The Thai new year celebrated throughout Thailand with water as the cleanser and new start. Water is being thrown at everyone by watergun, hose, bucket, whatever! Chalk mixed with water being stroked onto the faces of passerbys. Very fun and meaningful celebration.
I hop on this pick up truck with seats in the back along with a handful of other travelers my age, some staff, and Lan. As we ride over to the village gathering spot, the driver slows down so the people on the side of the road can toss buckets of water at us! Dripping, we arrive at the village gathering. Stands set up by local families with drinks and food, a center stage with locals performing music and dancing. This was authentic Thailand culture. It was what I wanted.
Not to say that now Khao San is not a part of Thailand. It very much is and areas like Phuket are just like it. Designed for tourists and encompassing backpackers from all over looking for a great party.
What I learned from Khao San road is to let go of my plans. That travelling in a backpacker country is a giant networking event. Where you go, you will meet people who have been other places and you connect, intake, and decide if you want to go anywhere they have communicated. And also the pure attention of a fellow backpacker. Because backpackers are timeless. No agenda, no plans, just time. Time allows for the pure attention we seek. And lastly, that communicating with people foreign to English is nice because they do not tell you every thought they have, but merely try to relay this message coming from the heart. What they want to get across they piece together before your eyes with English words.
Now, to explore this jungle community!!!