It’s difficult to imagine that a little more than 24 hours ago; I was relaxing in the warm waters of the Andaman Sea off of the Phi Phi Islands. I didn’t realize how much I missed a sunny blue sky, or the white cotton clouds that are a rarity here in China until I saw them both again in Thailand.
My first day in Bangkok was a bit shaky. Two of my traveling companions were under the weather, while the other two were in a conference. However, we decided to go to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Think of about 1,000 flea markets in one place selling everything from shoes, wood carvings, tee-shirts, jewelry, food – it was fantastic. So as we headed into the jungle of stalls, people, and goods, I was a bargaining fool. I used to feel bad about bargaining but since moving to China, I realized that vendors will not sell it to me if the price is too low for them. I ended up with a vintage tee-shirt, a Buddha mask as well as a carving of a Buddha praying. The Buddahs are very peaceful and are now a part of my home. After a while though, I think the heat and the crowds were getting to my friends. They wanted to go back to the hotel room for a nap but I simply wasn’t tired. Maybe it was the blue sky or the rhythm of the city, but I wanted more.
Now, the location of my hotel seemed to be right in the middle of things. Even the night before when the five of us arrived at 1:00am, Bangkok was alive; the streets were simply jam packed with people. A friend of mine likened this city to the bar scene in Star Wars. He was so right. This place has life bursting out of every nook and cranny.
Out on my own, I didn’t have a map and I wasn’t sure where to start. As I headed down a busy sidewalk passing little hole in the wall restaurants, vendors, and people from all walks of life, a man approached me for a ride in a tuk-tuk. He said for 20 baht, he would take me to the Happy Buddha and then another temple that I can’t remember the name of. Part of me wanted to jump right in, but then I was also hesitant. I thought… this could end very well or very badly. So I crossed my fingers and got in. Now these tuk-tuks are essentially motorized rickshaws that buzz through the city ferrying people around. There is a lot of traffic in the streets and a ton of motorbikes. It’s great because in the tuk-tuk you can really get a feel for the city instead of being in a car behind some glass.
The Happy Buddha was this little temple that didn’t look like much but it was one of my favorite places. I met this Thai man who told me all about the place. He said that whatever I prayed for at this temple would come true. So I said my prayers and then we were off to the other temple where I heard the monks chanting with the sun setting in the distance. Magical.
Later that night, I didn’t really want to go out. I had an incredible first day and the idea of getting ready was unappealing at best but I rallied. I am so glad I did because there I met the other people in our group of traveling friends.
One of these people turned out to be a great traveling buddy. His name is Bobby Lee and he is originally from Tennessee – East Tennessee to be exact. He recently began his own clothing line that he manufactures in Bangkok and sells in small boutiques in San Francisco, his adopted home.
The next morning, he called and suggested we all go out to see the Golden Palace. No one else wanted to go, so we met up and it turned out that he liked photography as well. How great to have someone who enjoys looking at the different angles or taking the time to get the right shot. For lack of a better word, it was really fun.
Afterwards, we decided to go on a boat ride on the canal, and while on this rickety old boat, I felt such a sense of peace in my heart. It was one of those small moments of pure joy. There I was in Thailand with a cool breeze, some juicy pineapple purchased in a bustling local market, floating down a river; it was a dream come true. Then we headed off to the Reclining Buddha – that was something to see. We got there around sunset and the light was very soft and reflected off the gold on the temples so beautifully; it was like looking at an ancient poem.
The next day, we boarded another plane and headed down to Phuket where we stayed at the most beautiful villa. It really was something out of a magazine – infinity pool included. The first day was all about relaxation and getting some sun. But I still had the adventure bug so while the girls relaxed, I called Bobby Lee and his friends, but we seemed to be the only people who wanted to be tourists. So we rented a scooter, headed out, and explored the island of Phuket. We saw temples, Buddhist monks, loads of traffic, ate at a couple of hole in the wall restaurants, and he introduced me to the most delicious drink in the world. Imagine if God in heaven came down and handed you an icy coffee treat called a Café Yen, and then you know how good it tasted. It literally ruined me for any other mochas in the world. Heaven.
The thing about Bobby Lee and why I enjoyed his company so much, he is incredibly open and in a sense seems to just drink in the world around him. It was also interesting watching the people react to him. He spoke some Thai and really made an effort to communicate with each and every person we encountered. To give you an example, one of the roadside restaurants that we ate at was delectable and we went back there later to purchase some string beans for a delicious dinner that he wanted to make for everyone. The ladies actually offered to come to the villa and make us all dinner. I appreciated his creativity and sense of adventure as we made our way around town. It was really refreshing and he was like a breath of fresh air. Plus, he is really funny – always a good quality in any friend.
I think the highlight of the trip would have to be when we went to the Phi Phi Islands. Again, no one else wanted to go so we booked our tickets, got up very early, and ventured out. Phi Phi Islands is the same place where the movie The Beach was shot as well as one of the James Bond movies. It is paradise. We had a bunch of plans to kayak and explore, but once we got there, we decided to just hang out at the beach and enjoy the day.
My photos do not do this place justice and my words will fall ridiculously short of just how gorgeous this place is. The water is this blue green color that looks like a swimming pool – it’s that clear. Next to the white sandy beaches, it’s spectacular. Now, the best part of the day was being in the water. I felt enveloped in pure happiness as I floated in the warm sea, felt the sun on my skin, and a cool breeze that washed over me time and time again. I literally felt like I was radiating bliss.
When it was time to go, we hiked over some black rocks to the ferry but it turns out we were a tad behind schedule. We began running to the pier as we watched our ferry pull away. You need to understand that if we missed this ferry, we would miss our flight back to Bangkok, and that meant I would most definitely miss my flight to Hong Kong in the morning. The thing of it was, I was so happy and relaxed, I almost didn’t care. I was that content. Much to our relief however, the ferry driver came back for us and let us jump on. Bobby Lee just looked at me and said, “We are making some memories.” I thought that was an understatement.
I still can’t believe that ferry driver did that. But when I look back at my trip to Thailand, it makes sense. While there, I met some wonderful people who were always willing to lend a hand and very quick to smile. I will always remember the kindness of the Thai people.
I hope you enjoy the photos below. There is no way they could convey the beauty of this land or what a wonderful vacation I had but I tried my best. Thailand is amazing and I can’t wait to go back.
What a wonderful vacation! I feel like I was there with you.
beautiful photos! i knew you’d love it there..
You made me get out my scrapbook and look at my pictures again, something I haven’t done for several years. As I read each word, I could totally picture what you were saying. There is something very enchanting about Thailand. Now you’ve enticed me to want to go back. Thank you for your pictures and your words.
It sounds wonderful! Your pictures are amazing… and it is nice to see pictures of you included!
OMG Claire !…you are quite the writer!..and enjoyed reading the blog ! Pics are great! Memories are great ! Life is grand!
I am glad your soul made it to this planet!
I second Bobby. I am so glad your soul made it on this planet, Claire. Your description and stories about Thailand were fascinating. They brought me right back there. Are you already thinking about visit #2? Let me know!