You would think nearly two weeks is enough time to prepare for a trip. ANY trip. But for me, procrastination is undoubtedly my flaw so my last 2 weeks in the US felt like a whirlwind of goodbyes, appointments, and checklists. Then there was the packing. Oh the packing. Up until 7:59 pm, one minute before we had to leave for the airport, I was cramming things into every crevice I had available. Now, I’d love to sit here and tell you how wonderful and important it is to pack light, but I would not be practicing what I preach. Maybe I’ll revisit this topic when I actually discover all the senseless crap I packed and didn’t need/use at all. I checked a 50 lb bag, a smaller 40 lb bag, and had to take on board a duffle filled with the miscellaneous items that would not fit in aforementioned bags. Additionally, I had a tote with all things near and dear to my heart: camera, laptop, passport, etc. There may or may not be a bikini in there as well. Goodbyes at the airport were far from easy- but after all the anticipation leading up to this moment I can honestly say I did feel ready. I’m hoping my tears going forward will be reserved for nothing but sad movies.
I HIGHLY recommend Emirates as an airline. I lucked out- not only did I have an aisle seat for my first 12 hour leg (so clutch- there’s nothing less fun than poking your sleeping neighbors awake because you have to pee) but I had two empty seats next to me as well. I was very much the token white girl on this flight headed for Dubai- but I should probably start getting used to that. We took off at 11:15 pm, which was perfect for passing out after a long, emotional day. I watched ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, popped two Tylenol PM’s, had a midnight ‘’dinner’’ of lamb, potatoes, veggies, and chocolate torte, then went nuh nights. When I awoke it was time for breakfast- a cheese omelette and some fresh fruit. This was particularly bizarre because 2 hours later I landed in Dubai where the local time was around 7 pm. Time travel is real, people. I was hoping for a window seat and views of Dubai upon landing…as well as views from the airport….but failed on both accounts. My arrival gate was quite close to my next departure date and my bags aren’t light- so I found myself a nice reclining chair (why aren't these at Logan!?) and parked it. The flight to Dubai went fairly quickly - it was a HUGE double decker plane that greeted you with a grand staircase when you entered the cabin (what?!) and before I knew it, it was 8 am and I was landing in Bangkok, Thailand.
After finagling my 100+ lbs of luggage onto a cart, I made my way to the exit where I was to be greeted by an XploreAsia rep. I’ve always wanted my name on one of those little fancy signs at the airport. After a slight anxiety attack and some meandering around, I found a tiny Thai woman with the sign and quite literally galloped towards her. Upon seeing my GINORMOUS smile, she said ‘’Lauren?!’’. I was also elated to find two other names on my sign, Sara and Stephanie, who had also arrived. I subsequently attacked them with hugs of relief. Our shuttle came to bring us to our hotel where we’d all be staying for a few days. This ride was my first chance to observe my surroundings and I’m pretty sure my eyes were the size of my head as I tried to process the sensory overload that is this city. Pretty sure traffic laws are nonexistent- motorbikes zig zag through traffic at high-speed. One of the first super comforting sights I witnessed was a man down and out in the middle of the street - suggestion being that he had just been in a motorbike accident (surprise, surprise). He was attended to with a pillow below his head and several men waving a fan at his face. I knew to expect a general uncleanliness from Bangkok, but, WHOA. The range of buildings is unreal- high rises over here and dilapidated buildings over there. I also knew street food was prevalent but these people are truly set up every few feet. I’ve seen stray cats and dogs, who albeit it dirty, appear to be quite well fed. 7 Eleven and Starbucks do exist- so that’s happy news. I’m still trying to get used to the smell here. As with any foreign country I suppose, it is so different from anything I’ve ever experienced that it really takes a hit to the senses. You’ll be walking and suddenly it smells like you’re in a landfill. But worse. A few steps more and the air is infused with rice and cooking. Walk along a little further and there’s relief in the form of beautifully scented flowers.
When I arrived at my hotel, the moment I’d been waiting two months for was finally here: meeting Hillary! Hillary and I have spoken every single day since connecting via our travel company’s Facebook group, and she is my roommate here in Bangkok and going forward. Most people have two twin beds in their rooms but Hillary and I must be super special because we have a King! Butttt wait. (And perhaps this can be attributed to a nation of relatively small people) our King turned out to be no bigger than a Queen at best. It’s a good thing I feel like I’ve known her for ages. So, because I arrived so early, 5 of us girls did some exploring and exchanged our American money to Thai baht. We were starving and discovered a stand-out restaurant near our hotel. I could tell it was fancy just by looking at it- but for our first meal in Bangkok we felt we deserved a splurge. The restaurant was also a cooking school and called ‘’The Blue Elephant’’. The people were lovely and the decor was beautiful. We all ordered beers and cocktails (I got a ‘’Thai Orchid’’ which came accessorized, as you may expect, with an orchid) and ordered some food. Everything was delicious.
It took us about an hour to pay the bill, given our complete lack of experience with baht and having to divide it up 5 ways. But, eventually we delivered our money to the waiter in small, glass elephants and went on our merry way. At this point, a nap was very much in order. I awoke around 9 pm to find Hillary getting ready. She was going to meet some new arrivals and grab dinner. My body fought me but I dragged my ass out of bed. I’m glad I did, because I met some more great people. A group of about 10 of us hung out on our hotel’s patio before making a group trip to 7 Eleven and grabbing various snacks/beer. We all hit it off so quickly and I imagine it’s because we’re such like-minded individuals. This isn’t something everyone does, and even though we’re different ages and from all over the country- at the root of it all we have this crazy experience in common. I couldn’t be happier to have them all along for the ride.