Reflections on My First Time in Southeast Asia

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All in all, I have to say that my first trip to Asia was absolutely incredible.  I completely fell in love with Thailand.  There is something for everyone here — culture, architecture, beaches, adventure and activities galore.  I know this won’t be my last trip to this incredible country — I already look forward to the day when I get to go back.  The trip has also instilled in me a large desire to go back and explore the rest of this region of the world.  In fact, I’m already trying to figure out how to go back and visit Vietnam at the holidays.

The Thai people are incredibly friendly and I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe walking around, even as a female on my own. I was surprised that nearly everyone spoke at least a bit of English.  I think I only really encountered one cab driver who I had trouble communicating with and eventually we figured it out.  English is everywhere.  It is on the street signs and the restaurant menus.  And as a result, Thailand felt like a very easy country to travel through.  In fact, I actually would have liked for it to be a little bit more of a challenge!  But as a first timer in Asia, easy probably isn’t a bad thing.

The food is to die for.  From red curry to pad krapow and sticky rice with mango, my palette was utterly in heaven at each and every meal.  Unfortunately my appetite was a bit curbed due to the heat — it was in the 90s for much of my trip — but I thoroughly enjoyed everything I tried.  I even took a Thai cooking class and got to learn how to make some of my favorite dishes!  But more about that later.  I am very into spicy foods and can’t usually find dishes in the US to satiate this predilection.  But a large majority of the dishes in Thailand are very spicy, so I was in luck!  I’ve always been a bit of a creature of habit.  When in Paris, I would eat a croissant every morning for breakfast and a croque monsieur every afternoon for lunch.  Thailand is funny in that they don’t really have breakfast foods…you’ll see people eating a beef dish and that’s not out the ordinary.  But for myself, I opted for a smoothie each morning.  My favorite — banana, passion fruit, pineapple — Mmmmmm!!  Afternoon I usually went with the papaya salad which is extremely mouth watering and deliciously spicy.  And for dinner I usually alternated between chicken krapow, chicken with cashew nuts, or a curry.

I was shocked by how little I spent after two weeks of travel.  I did every activity I wanted to do, got a massage nearly every day, stayed in private rooms (and frequently booked two guesthouses when I decided I didn’t like the first one), and bought lots of souvenirs.  Thailand is remarkably cheap.  It’s funny because you’d find yourself haggling with the cab driver over what virtually amounts to $2 US dollars (or very often less) — until I realize that it’s still a 10th of the cost it would be in LA and shrug it off.  I realized that after all was said and done, I really only spent about $500 more than I would have spent if I had been in LA!  Which is kind of crazy to think about.

My favorite city was Chiang Mai — it had a nice vibe to it and didn’t feel quite as dirty and rushed as Bangkok.  I could walk to many of the sites and bars which was great too.  It is a great launching pad for trekking and all sorts of adventure activities.  The scenery nearby is beautiful as well and it’s full of wats and temples.  I was also there during Songkran, when the entire city turns into a water fight for 3 days, which was quite exciting.  Also loved the little town of Pai, just a few hours away.  It had an incredibly hippie vibe and stunning scenery.

It was cool because right from the beginning I met people in Bangkok, many of whom were on a similar itinerary as myself.  So I’d then meet up with them again throughout my travels.  I was lucky to meet a lot of really fun, awesome people throughout my trip.  You never know where life takes you and I very much hope to see some of them again someday!  I have a feeling I will 🙂

I finished off my travels with a quick trip in to Singapore to see my friend Selina.  It was a nice way to end my time away.  Singapore was drastically different than Thailand…clean, organized, and modern.  It felt like the sort of place that one could easily live.  There really aren’t many sites to see, but I wasn’t really wanting to site see after 2 weeks of intensity on that front.  So it was perfect.

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