The last weeks…

This past year in Asia, I was attempting to be more flexible with my travel plans, to see where the world would take me depending on who I met or how I was feeling or what I had heard about. The effort brought me to some amazing places on this Earth and in my heart.

The past three weeks, I’ve made more concrete plans to be in certain cities during certain times to stay with friends that I’ve met during the last year or so of travelling. I dare say, things couldn’t have turned out any better. Nothing in this world is perfect, but I couldn’t have imagined or conjured up a better way to end all these months of travelling.

It’s been such a welcome change to spend time with people who have come to matter to me, and not just do the hostel thing and exchange the obligatory pleasantries and travel questions (e.g., where are you from? how long are you travelling? where have you been? where are you going? how was [this city]? how was [that country]? oh yeah, what’s your name?)

Sean, who I met in Armenia, and later again in Georgia and Japan – dekuji for hosting me in Brno! Sally, who I met in Georgia, and later again in Armenia and Turkey – shukran for hosting me in Hamburg! Bernard, who I met in Nicaragua – bedankt for hosting me in Amsterdam! Philipp, who I met in Thailand – danke schön for hosting me here in Berlin!

It’s been my pleasure to have all those whimsical conversations with you where others would think I’m crazy, it’s been my privilege to see and reconnect with you again, it’s been a blessing to share more meals with you, and it’s an honour to call you my friends. ☮

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Curiosity at a cafe

I was walking back to my hostel in Shkodër, Albania when a couple of men at a cafe made a gesture of hello and stopped me, then insisted I go inside to buy a drink and join them.

During times like these, instead of asking myself, “Why?”, I find that it’s often better to ask, “Why the hell not?”

So I bought an ayran (a salted liquid yoghurt drink) and sat with them. They spoke absolutely no English and my Albanian is limited to a mispronounced “thank you.” But I was able to introduce myself and tell them my background and nationality. Beyond that, they talked a lot and I couldn’t decipher any of it. It was a lot of fun but no less sufficiently awkward.

Isn’t it great, though, to have these interactions with people with whom you can barely communicate but who are so welcoming and curious to know a bit about you and why you’re in their country? That’s such a great part about travelling that too often gets lost in the scuffle when you’re principally concerned about just getting somewhere…

My time in Thailand

I was supposed to be in Thailand for just 2 weeks, but have ended up staying 29 days. In Koh Samui, I struck a piece of coral and ended up having to get stitches on my right foot which affected my mobility and influenced my travel plans. Instead of going to Myanmar as planned, I forfeited the flight ticket and instead chose to recover in Thailand. And yet, life operates in the incredible fashion that it does, and things happen the way they are supposed to – in the sense that opportunities always exist in every situation, and when one door closes there’s at least another one that opens up.

Here’s a somewhat vague and disorganized rundown of my past month. I had intended Thailand to primarily be a stepping stone to get to other countries in Southeast Asia, but it has turned out to be quite the highlight. To be honest, it’s not because of the landscape or the food; it’s because of the company I’ve had the privilege of keeping. Travelling really is all about the amazing people you meet, and the past month I have lived is proof of that.

1
flight, Manila, walking, Silom, haircut, visa photos, taxi, turn the metre on, Chinatown, dinner, Luke, Wales, Jerry, US

2
application, embassy, Myanmar visa, food stalls, Grand Palace, Wat Pho, dinner, Oshiya, university, Spanish

30 April 2014

3
Wat Arun, MBK mall, $13 beer, most epensive beer ever, pay for the view, Sky Bar, cashews, Luke, Wales, Dan, Scotland, Sarah, Chris, Pasha, Philipp, Germany, bar-hopping, Silom, suggestion

Sky Bar

4
train station (intended to buy ticket to Chiang Mai, instead bought ticket to Koh Samui), Sukhumvit; failed sushi, failed pizza, street food, movie night, Siam Paragon, Transcendence

5
Chatuchak weekend market, rambutans, shopping, shorts, scarf, bloom, expansive, hot, KFC, train, Surat Thani, Lonely Planet, seats, fan, no AC

6
bus, ferry, Charlie, England, backpacker, jeep, Koh Samui, 20-hour journey, pool, sunset

ferry to Koh Samui

7
motorbikes, accelerate, traffic, waterfalls, hiking, beach time, finally, sunset, Felix, Germany, Melissa, England, restless, midnight swim, coral, blood, hole in foot, pain, cleanse, pain

getting ready for sunset

getting ready for sunset

8
pain, painkillers, Jessica, Quebec, nurse, advice, hospital, stitches, embarrassed, free coffee at least, grateful, hopping, defeated, dealing with change

9
goodbye, forced rest, forced relaxation, frustration, blessed, messages, around the world, English girls, card games, Uno

10
medical follow-up, hospital, taxi, ferry, bus, Nakhon Si Thammarat, plane, sunset, wow, Bangkok, realizations

NSM to DMK

11
walking, shopping, Silom, self-pity, new eyeglasses, 7-11 beer, Dan, outside Le Meridien, endless conversation

12
another follow-up, hospital, need to go somewhere, ferry, heat, sun, contemplation, Chao Phraya River, fortress, canal, water monitors

water monitor

13
day trip, Ayutthaya, Dan, Sharon, US, tuk tuk, temples, more temples, fluctuation, Thai face = free admission, birthday beers, 25 for the 4th time

Ayutthaya

14
decision day, stay in Thailand, flight (to Chiang Rai booked 5 hours before departure), at airport (with 2 flights to my name, still wondering which one to check into), takeoff, mountains, landing

15
bicycle, iced coffee, caves, temples, more temples, noodle soup, sweat, bike on highway to another temple?, no, thank you

Chiang Rai

16
day trip, Mae Sai, border town, hike up hill, construction zone, Myanmar (seen from across a river, slightly lamenting that I didn’t make it there yet)

17
bus, Chiang Mai, tuk tuk, confusion, bicycle, temples, more temples, computer time

18
bicycle, hospital, stitches, removal, Philipp, catch up, biking, temples, more temples, Ping River, iced cappuccino, rest, good company, sunset, night market, kebab, rotee, shopping

Chiang Mai

19
motorbike, Doi Suthep, temple on mountain, corn, gasoline (bought in used glass bottle at the local market, which I had filled the tank of the motorbike with), palace, not paying, Hmong village, waterfall, mutant butterfly, attack of the flies, spicy fried noodles, muay Thai, Zoe’s, drinking, dancing

20
morning walk, espresso, Jessica, Hong Kong, Felipe, Brazil, Philipp, brunch, support, lunch, failed massage, night market, saffron shirt, fried chicken, walking pharmacy

21
pancake, goodbye Chiang Mai, crazy pick up, minibus, curves, Pai, taxi, resort, trees, bugs, dinner, curry, drinks

22
motorbike, Pai Canyon, hike, flip flops, extreme, climbing, dirty, dusty, beautiful, mountains, panorama, bridge, scarecrow, waterfall, cool down, coconut cheesecake, relax by pool, rain, more rain, rainy season rain, dinner at resort, invite by staff, fried fish, herbs, shellfish, rum, awkward (We were hanging out at the common lounge area of the hotel, relaxing before intending to head into town for dinner. It started to rain, then it started to pour, and it didn’t stop. The staff were about to have dinner and they warmly invited us to join in. It was a delicious if not slightly awkward affair).

Pai

23
hunt for bacon, bacon, future plans, motorbike, waterfall, Chinese village, viewpoint, mountains, human-powered ferris wheel, letdown, hammock, fell off, sunset, mojitos, English couple, beer, more beer, rotee, late night snack, resort, leaves, peanuts, herbs, fresh

Pai sunset

24
bacon, motorbike, 4 hours, Pai, Chiang Mai, sore muscles, straciatella ice cream, Mr. Kai, tom yam soup, Loco Elvis, live music, coup, curfew, garden bar, stay until closing time, cookies (couldn’t open pack)

25
women’s prison massage, twist, stretch, crack, cafe, lazy lunch, peanut butter banana smoothie, chess, lost (but close), train, rice wine and salmon chips = dinner, sleeper seats, AC, summer plans

26
arrival, Ayutthaya, sunrise, motorbike, temples, deserted, ruins, exploration, only ones, feeling of discovery, bats, snake, more temples, local market, pigs’ heads, KFC, more temples, hiking up temples, train, Bangkok, 7-11 beers, lazy night

Ayutthaya 2

27
spring rolls, movie day, X-Men, donuts, sneaking in, taxi, Khao San, scorpions, dragon fruit, maggots, grasshoppers, beer, coming to an end, shared understanding, beer, pushing curfew, sleep

28
malls, AC, tako katsu, shopping, impulse shopping, reunions, fitting, coming to an end, again, goodbye, impulse shopping

29
writing, blogging, …Myanmar!