Chillin on the streets of Bangkok. I wanted a pic in front of this restaurant we just ate it. I had just scarfed down yet another plate of fried rice in record timing, in a desperate attempt to ward off mild hypoglycemia and weakness from waiting to eat all afternoon. I liked this location, I thought it looked cool and perfectly captured Bangkok street style. I handed Lydia my camera, she took two shots. She looked at me wanting approval, I looked at the shots and then chastised her for cutting out my Converse. “Try again, but this time get the Converse, please. I like my Converse.” She looked at me with that classic “did you just say that to my face expression,” and then said “fine, I’ll get your damn Converse,” as I handed her back the camera. We laughed like fools. She then snapped one of just my Converse alone attempting to provoke another assanine request out of me, thus over-demanding her skills as an amateur fashion photographer. But I really actually liked the shot she took. She’s got some promise.
But what a phenomenal trip the last 3 weeks have been. A true adventure. Here are some figures:
12 different hotels, 21 days, God knows how many cities, 8 flights, 1 pimped out luxury Ritz C van, approx 24 hours on the road driving, approx 20 cab drivers, about 10 orders of room service, 2 hair therapies, 4 two hour thai massages, 3 bruises on me legs from massages, 3 hour long reflexology foot massages, 3 infinity pools, 16 plates of fried rice, 6 world class hotels, 1 ultra- luxury experience at a Ritz Carlton Reserve, 1000 laughs, hundreds of jokes, a bottle of wine finished watching the sunset over the Andaman Sea in Phuket, 8 hours alone with elephants, 2 lost cab drivers for 7 hours, 2 world class rooftop bars (Sirocco at Lebua in Bangkok & Ku De Ta at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore), 2 Singapore Slings, 5 filled up compact flash cards, 2 major tropical storms caught in with my camera, 4 beautiful paintings acquired at a night market in Chiang Mai, 1 new purse, 6 new books, NOTHING but a single lens cover lost, 2 tree house stay experiences, 1 night in the jungle, 2 sleepless nights from roosters crowing, and 3 pounds of weight lost from not eating on some travel days. I can’t do most airport food.
Well, keeping a truly up to date travel blog is rather difficult, and is seriously a lot harder than just keeping a written travel journal like wanderlusts of the past centuries. Writing with a fountain pen in journal is preferable to typing on a tiny iPhone 4. There’s something more romantic about the stream of consciousness from thoughts on to paper. But it’s too stressful to write long updates on my phone. I don’t travel with a computer either so updating my blog is solely done through my iPhone4, which tends to bog down at times. But I did pretty well on blogging for the first week, although it reached a point early in our trip that we honestly experienced so much that blogging about it all would just require way too much time and effort, and we reached a few days when we were both hanging on a thread, energy wise.
It took us WEEKS to plan this trip, hours upon hours Facetiming each other which actually went absolutely flawless which was really quite a strong indication of how well Lydia and I would get along traveling. She’s always been one of my best friends, but you really get to know someone when you travel together. You may have a lot of friends in life, but there are really only a select few that you can honestly have this much fun traveling with through Asia. And I mean real fun, and also no catty female bullshit. We had more laughs along the way, more massages, and truly marched to the same exact beat. Lydia is really one of the most level headed, down to earth, good humored, and composed individuals I know.
But traveling Asia and traveling Europe or America are two totally different experiences. Europe and America are cut out for money starved college students who like to crash at hostels, catch that fancy Eurorail and then hop off without a care in the world. Often times drunk or high. Or it’s for those who love to simply experience the finest pleasures of the first world. Man I love Europe, so much of it and I can’t wait to travel it extensively. BUT it’s really a piece of cake to travel around, not much stress at all involved, and there’s a reason why Indiana Jones was never filmed on that continent, outside of Nazi Germany.
But yes, Asia. Asia is an adventure at heart and this is why I love it; but it is also why it can break you. Although I’m just talking about Asia, but I really mean every 2nd and 3rd world country. Traveling these countries forces you into so many foreign situations that test you and if you choose to take it on, the journey will amount to a marathon. It really is quite a fundamentally different experience than traveling the beautiful streets of first world Europe, and I’ve actually learned so much about myself these past two years traveling around Asia, more than I could have ever imagined. It sounds cliche, but you do have this sort of renewed perspective on life and your own capabilities once you immerse yourself into the heart of Asia. And this past trip, Lydia also made the same admission, which was something completely unexpected for her, coming from the lands of West Hollywood and Russia.
I joked a lot about this trip being “an obstacle course.” Traveling outside of the first world is harder, more stressful, very few people speak English, your shit can get stolen at any moment from a motorbike passing by, anything you eat can potentially make you sick, your drivers may end up getting lost and dropping you off in the middle of nowhere, terrorist threats are a serious problem, creatures of the rainforest, malaria, a complete lack of governmental codes and laws when it comes to food safety and driving, gem scams, tuk tuk scams, drug implantations, deet in your drinks, a lack of toilet paper in the stalls, obnoxiously unsanitary bathrooms, rabies from all those dogs wandering the streets, horrific traffic fatalities all over Thailand, and then a lack of Western doctors and first world amenities if you were to get hurt, tourist bus crashes, rampant drunk driving, experiencing tsunamis and earthquakes in countries where buildings likely have no code, contaminated tap water at your hotel and out in town, unsanitary food preparations not similar to the first world, countless taxi scams where the meter is “off,” and so much more stuff to worry about. Traveling Asia, specifically Indonesia, Central Asia, and SEA is the real deal; it takes some serious travel and cultural knowledge and self-awareness to have a good trip and it actually takes effort to stay alive. But this is also the part that I find exciting.
It seems that there are two types of travelers. 1) Those who just like to vacay and 2) Those who like adventure and the actual act of traveling. I (and Daniel) fall heavily into the 2nd type, although it gets to the point where I burn myself out and need some serious rehab afterwards. Lydia as well falls into the 2nd type, but she too soon discovered that these stresses of traveling Asia nonstop will beat you down and break you if you don’t stop and chill out. And that it’s TOTALLY ok to God forbid, acknowledge your first world nature and admit that it’s ok to splurge on nicer accommodations and beg for a Starbucks latte to revive you. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with this and I don’t care if it makes me a borderline yuppie, although I don’t have any desire to flaunt my wealth which is what a yuppie really is. But I’ve realized long ago how much I depend on my first world comforts, so why bother making yourself miserable in situations you aren’t accustomed to? And this is why we get a long so well. She’s also the type that knows her comfort zone, enjoys a good splurge, but is still rough and tough enough to step out of it and venture out into the unknown.
I have too many travel stories from this trip and others in the past, as well as jokes I’d like to share. I think it’s better reserved if I just write them all for a collection of short stories to publish in a book that I’ve been wanting to write.