Halfway Around the World: Part 1

Week 1 – Old City, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Man, it’s been a weird week. It’s almost too hard to start this blog post so I’ve been putting it off- which is stupid. There are so many wonderful things to share. Which is why I separated this post into 2 parts. It’s a lot. So, let’s get right into it.

May 24 – May 26

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My trip started at 1pm on Tuesday. I landed in JFK and had a wonderful layover dinner with my friends. It was a very special meet-up in a random sports bar in Queens, especially because a buddy I haven’t seen in ages showed up and my brother Patrick was able to meet my friends. I was also able to give him a birthday present in person–something I haven’t been able to do in about 10 years. At 2am Wednesday morning my China Eastern plane shot into the air for a 15-hour flight to Shanghai.

After a sleeping pill, several bathroom breaks, 2 microwaved plane meals and countless annoying neck pillow adjustments, I awoke to find it was Thursday. It’s weird to skip an entire day. I’m still catching up. I don’t have jet leg, but something worse, my body somehow refuses to believe it’s 12-hours ahead of my real life.

So anyways, Shanghai to Chiang Mai was seamless and before I knew it I was checking into 99 The Gallery Hotel. I felt great, it was some time in the afternoon, the sun was high and hot, and I’d made a friend on my flight. Scott. We taxi’d to our respective hotels together and exchanged phone numbers on Whatsapp.

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Old City, CM. Top green box – Great Chaingmai Hostel. More central green box, 99 Gallery Hotel

 

99hotelbedThe hotel was beautiful and located in an amazing location. I didn’t wander around right off the bat. Scott and I had plans to meet up for dinner and explore together so I showered, sat in my room and just digested everything. It was like walking around in a dream. I wanted to lie down but the bed was rock hard. For example, when you lay down on your yoga mat at the start of class… that hard.Apparently this is just the Thai way, and I’ll have to get used to it. I decided I needed a walk.

 

The moment I realized I was in Thailand was the first turn I took out of my hotel. There, in front of me, was a big, beautiful temple. Wat Pha Bong, constucted around 1345, stood there in the crowds of workers, amongst pharmacies and buses and students in uniforms. Gold and shimmering and absolutely stunning. I couldn’t read any signage around it and I suddenly became unbelievably aware that I had no idea how to navigate this journey.

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Sight-seeing, Friend-making

Scott is a 28-year-old on vacation from Los Angeles, California, in town for an Egress gaming convention (no I’ve never heard of it either. It’s like the Amazing Race I think). We walked around town and went to the big street food market for dinner on our first night and tried our hands at Chang and Pad Se Ew. It helped that we were both so confused and new. It made it easier to assimilate into the new culture.Scott

For the next few days Scott and I did pretty much everything together. We explored Old City, ate meals, tried to learn Thai pleasantries and with the help of Scott’s rented motorbike we scouted hostels. Motorbikes are scary AF. Driving in Old City is scary AF. Crossing the street safely is a Hail Mary. All my years in Manhattan traffic paid off. There are pretty much no rules when it comes to driving in CM. For a 2,000 Baht (฿) deposit (we’ll get to money later), any idiot can rent a motorbike and scoot around the world.

Anyways, in our travels we discovered a pristine park with the world’s most complicated bathrooms, a back-alley bar that I’m pretty sure is just someone’s garage and a rad blues club, Boy Blues Bar, on top of the Sunday Night Bazaar next door to Ladyboy central. It’s because of his friendship I assimilated so quickly and easily into traveling solo. But then he had to go play with his other friends…

Things To Do

After moving into my new home at Great ChiangMai Hostel  and sort of understanding the layout of the city better, I started a bit of a routine. Still unable to figure out what

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Bed and Locker. Pretty nice and has privacy curtain!

day or time it was, I’d get up at like 7am and just go do stuff. There are things no blogs tell you about Chiang Mai and hopefully Thailand in general; the iced coffee is a drink from the Gods and smoothies (made with just fruit and ice) are A-MAZ-ING. Like indescribable. For 60฿ and 30฿ respectively you can enjoy the freshest most flavorful drink combo in the world. The fruit here is outstanding. It’s rich and filling and I’d be skinny if it tasted like this in the states.

 

 

 

Next, I figure out where to take my beverages. One of my favorite things to do so far was a self-guided walking tour of the Wats around Old City. I followed this awesome, downloadable map from Big Boy Travel. I put in my earbuds, turned on some happy jams and let Google tell me where to turn, what to look for. Technology is amazing. Old City is small enough to walk around, so stopping into shops, or getting a bite to eat is super easy.

The wats are outstanding. (I’m putting together a photo gallery, but it’s WIP) They’re meticulously taken care of and the respect shown around them is admirable. I found myself alone, wandering the grounds at times, removing my shoes, covering my shoulders and going in to stare in awe at the statues and Buddha. Although the wats all have similar qualities, they are each different. I’d kneel on the floor and just wait. I’m not necessarily a religious person, but it’s easy to feel moved and spiritual in a place of worship that has sheltered centuries of believers.

It’s possible to make donations and pray to the Buddha. But I don’t know how to pray or what to say. I’d just sit and wait. Sometimes I guess it’s ok to feel small and insignificant. It’s honestly a great representation of my current position in life-small and insignificant but knowing there’s more, a bigger plan is in motion. Whoa, heavy stuff!

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Less heavy stuff in Part 2, coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 9 – Love and Family

Going on Year 3
Going on Year 3

A casual night out at a friendly Astoria bar, our MO if you will. That’s how we met and that’s how we’ll say our last goodbyes. Over the course of our courtship, Jameson has brought us together and torn us apart.

N has introduced me to The Saw Doctors (great music, check them out) and what it means to really love someone. This post is a little tribute to that relationship I guess. One thing I’ve certainly learned is that you can’t be with someone until you’re ok with being with yourself. That thought definitely transpires into this project.

I’m not running from anything. That’s not why I’m leaving. Technically, I’m looking for something… I’m not sure what but I’m pretty sure it’s not love. I have love. I used to think man met woman, they fell in love, argued over where to live, got married, had kids, hated kids, loved older-aged kids, died.

That’s not how we’ve been. We do it our own way, and it’s a little backward and it may not make sense to outsiders, but whether or not we “make it” isn’t measurable up to this point. It’s what happens after this. We’re not gonna play the long-distance game. No one wins in that game. The motions of the universe brought us together, and it will do what it wants between now and…forever. I don’t believe in fate though, I believe in coffee, kindness and keeping it simple.

N may have played an integral role in the last 3 years, but he has nothing to do with the next chapter in my life. Sorry, N, but at 35 years old, I think he’s still searching for what he wants to. This will be good for both of us.

Anyways, you know what’s great? Looking back on all the fun and fiascos you’ve shared with your friends, and tonight I plan on doing that with a couple girlfriends. A little Spanish tapas dinner action, followed by some rump shakin’ in some basement club. Girls’ nights out are always a blast. Shameless flirting, gossiping and those late nights are always followed by drinks for breakfast, known to New Yorker’s everywhere as brunch.

Nowadays, those late nights are also followed by the worst pain in my knees, lower back and feet. It’s funny that as you age the more money you have to spend to go out, but you just wanna couch it because even though 30 may be the new 20, your joints do not give a fuck.

And now, I’m going to meet my little brother (who is actually almost 24, not so little). We haven’t always been the best of friends, but we’re working on that. I’m attributing that openness to this project of redefining what I find most important in my life. Family is tops. It takes a lot to heal deep and painful wounds, but it’s worth it. This life is all about stepping outside your comfort zone, is it not?