Now that Anthony and I have been on our journey for just under a week I’ve found myself getting even more excited for the next year. While walking by The Grand Palace in Bangkok on one of our first afternoons in Thailand it finally hit me: we are really doing this and we don’t have to go back until we’re ready. I felt so much peace in that one moment in spite of the sweltering heat because seeing the world truly is something I’ve always wanted to do, and now I’m actually doing it. I keep getting ahead of myself and thinking of the next step, the next town, the next country, but I’m trying to remember to be present in the moment we’re in currently. Those adventures will come when it’s time. Right now we’re in Thailand and so far I’m loving it. Flashback to a few days ago when we made our initial arrival in Bangkok: jet lagged, dressed in clothes not appropriate for the intense tropical heat, and one of us sick as a dog. Going through customs as well as the taxi ride into the city are a blur due to both me being severely overtired, and trying to be hyper focused on Anthony to hopefully intercept any more projectile vomit. Unfortunately my Red Sox hat had to be sacrificed (it was that or let him puke all over his hands), and the taxi driver was giggling incessantly at Anthony the entire ride, but we eventually made it to the hostel in one piece. We had about five drama free minutes until Anthony realized he had left his phone in the cab, and panic set in. Luckily at the airport in Bangkok they give you slips at the taxi kiosk with all of your driver’s information so after setting my road weary travel partner up on a little bit of concrete next to our backpacks, I called the driver. Luckily the promise of money is a language spoken by all, and he promptly returned the phone for 500 baht (about $15). Our journey had officially started.
Bangkok itself is one of the most bustling hectic cities I’ve ever visited. The whole city smells like heat, delicious Thai street food, and that unmistakable metallic scent that all cities have. It’s fast paced and crowded, but full of culture, friendly people, and of course, absolutely amazing food. The street food itself is enough to make anyone drool, but thanks to my dad we had the chance to try an amazing restaurant on the Chao Phraya River that would normally have been out of our backpacker budget. As luck would have it my dad’s freshman year college roommate is from Thailand and works just outside of Bangkok so he made the trip into the city to take me and Anthony to lunch at a place called Savoey. First of all, Chai is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and spending lunch with him is my favorite memory of Bangkok. I love that I got to connect with him for so many reasons, but mostly because I know how excited my dad was that we made it happen. Chai’s full name is Paiboon Panuwattanawong, and one of my proudest accomplishments is that fact that I said it right on the first try…something that took my dad many more tries than one. We spent a few hours eating the most delicious food and chatting about Thai culture while watching the ferries on the river make their trips back and forth. Chai informed us that “Savoey” is the official royal word for “eat” in Thailand, and that the royal family has it’s own dialect of the Thai language that only they are allowed to use. In my opinion the restaurant was aptly named…everything we had was fit to be served to any king or queen. Luckily Chai offered to order for us, and we ended up with a smorgasbord of traditional Thai fare. Everything from spicy and sour seafood soup, to giant river prawns, to crab curry. It was all just out of this world. After lunch we parted ways with Chai and walked along the river for awhile taking in the sights and sounds of Bangkok. We caught glimpses of three of the major temples located in the city: The Temple of the Dawn (Wat Arun) across the river, The Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho), and The Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), but decided to leave them for our next trip through Bangkok. Why do everything at once? We have a whole year after all.
One part of SEA backpacking culture I’ve very much been looking forward to is finally getting my hands on a pair of elephant pants. For anyone not familiar with these glorious things, they are literally the most comfortable article of clothing I’ve ever owned. They’re swishy harem style pants that come in every color imaginable, all with varying elephant motifs. I love elephants and I’ve been dying for a pair, but after a lot of research I knew I would have to haggle. Luckily for me, I learned how to haggle from my dad and even though I was a little rusty, I still managed to get the lady on Khao San Road down from 300 baht to 120. I’ve worn them constantly since picking up a pair, and plan on slowing disposing of everything else I own to make room for as many pairs as possible. They also make elephant shorts, and it won’t be long before I’ve added those to my wardrobe as well.
After a few days in Bangkok it was time to move on to start a few weeks of island hopping, and while I was very much ready to get out of the heat of the city, it was still hard to say goodbye to our first stop in Asia. Luckily the port town of Krabi has made for a very easy transition. Flying in all you can see is dense green jungle which is exactly what my Thailand dreams have been made of and the town itself is studded with beach bars, hostels, and that unmistakable relaxed beach vibe. If this is just the port town, I can’t wait to see what the actual islands look like. We got in yesterday evening just in time to watch the sun set as we rode the bus from the airport into Krabi Town. I don’t know what it is about being anywhere but the states that makes the sun just look so much more magnificent, but this was no exception. A brilliant orange ball clashing with the deep green of the jungle while our bus rushed along the road to our next stop. We’re only here for three nights, but after doing a little research about Krabi I knew what I wanted to do first: The Tiger Cave Temple.
The Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tham Suea) is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in Krabi Province and gets its name from the legend that tigers used to live and roam the grounds that the temple now resides on. It is also famous for the 1,237 steps that lead up to the temple complete with a giant golden Buddha as well as panoramic views of Krabi. Now, Anthony and I are not in the best of shape in spite of us both working jobs that require us to be on our feet for 10+ hours at a time so I knew going in that this was going to be a challenge. However, after doing some googling and seeing a few pictures there was no way I was letting a few measly steps come between me and this beautiful temple. Getting to the Tiger Cave Temple from our hostel was incredibly easy. You can either take a taxi or rent a scooter, and since Anthony has been in mourning for his Buddy since he sold it a few weeks ago we obviously chose the scooter. It took about 15 minutes to get there, and even though it was still only 9 am it was already at least 85 degrees with what felt like 100% humidity. The grounds of the temple actually have a lot more going on besides the steps, but we made our way straight for the climb. At first it was somewhat pleasant. Monkeys run all over the lower part of the climb, and although I had read warnings of them being aggressive we didn’t have any problems. They are definitely totally used to humans though and we were definitely more apprehensive about walking by them than they were about walking by us. The monkeys were soon out of sight, however, and the sun was beating down. Every 100 steps or so there are markers letting you know how far you’ve come, and every time I saw anything lower than 800 I wanted to run back the other way, but we pressed on. The steps are incredibly steep and as we got closer to the top I stopped using the railing for balance and started using it as a way to pull myself along. Finally we managed to ascend the final 17 steps and what met us was more than I could have hoped for. The views are absolutely breathtaking, in part because of their beauty and in part because you’re out of breath from that godforsaken climb, and the Buddha is just as stunning. I forgot about the sweat dripping from every part of my body and the ache in my feet and legs…it was all so worth it. I could write twenty pages about how gorgeous this temple truly is, but I’ll leave you with this: if you’re in Krabi, GO. Don’t worry about the difficulty or the fact that you’re going to hate your life for about 40 minutes, just make the climb and remember that it is totally worth it. That being said, go in the morning or early evening once the sun has gone to the other side of the mountain. As we made our way down the sun was so powerful, and there were tons more climbers than our trip up, and I just felt so bad for all of them. It was hot enough at 9, but by 11:30 it was starting to veer towards miserable. All I could do was smile and tell every weary looking climber that it really was worth it…something everyone seemed to understand regardless of what language they were speaking.