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Women’s Travel Blog

9 Oct

When I was in high school I dreamed of being a journalist or travel writer, but I quickly dismissed the thought because I didn’t think much of my writing skills. But a few weeks ago I saw a posting from the women’s travel blog, Pink Pangea, asking for travelers to send their stories about the small acts of kindness they encountered on the road. I figured I didn’t have much to lose and went ahead and put in my piece about Thailand. I received a follow-up from one of the founders asking if she could send it to the editor and for me to attach a picture of myself in Thailand. I don’t usually have “proud” moments, but I’m not going to lie, when I saw the article released today I silently congratulated myself on seeing through with an old dream. There might even be more to come because they asked me to be a foreign correspondent once I am back in Asia. So be on the lookout for new travel stuff coming your way in just a few short months!

http://pinkpangea.com/2013/10/a-small-act-of-kindness-in-thailand/

Another change of direction….Chiang Mai!

2 Aug

I left Phnom Penh on a bus headed to Bangkok with the intention of going to Phuket to start a new teaching job, or so I thought. After spending 12 hours thinking about my next move, some part of me must have decided that Phuket wasn’t going to happen, but I wasn’t aware of this just yet. When I arrived in Bangkok I hailed a moto taxi and asked to be taken to the bus station. He asked if I wanted to go to Chiang Mai and I figured that with two days before school started, why not see a new city? As I sat on the bus with my box of doughnuts (that’s right, Thailand has Krispy Kreme AND a Dunkin’ Doughnuts!) I wondered if Phuket was really what I wanted but I quickly forgot about that as I began to watch the featured film, Pee Mak (which is really fun even without the subtitles). I got to Chiang Mai with absolutely no expectations as I knew next to nothing about the city, except that my favorite waitress back home came from Chiang Mai. After settling in to my guesthouse, I set out to explore. There are plenty of trees, cute coffee shops, food stalls, temples, and nice mix of foreigners and Thais. I tried not to fall for it so quickly, but you know me. 😛

The thing I will remember most about my trip to Chiang Mai is Crema Café. It’s a coffee shop right next to the guesthouse I was staying at and is owned by two extremely kind brothers, Nat and Nop, from Bangkok. Aside from walking around the city, I spent all of my time in this café, in fact I’m sitting here as I type this (don’t judge me!). You would too if you came here because Nat and Nop go out of their way to make you feel welcome, and besides, who doesn’t like to spend their day in a café with a good book? I met a few really interesting people who, like me, became instant regulars during their stay in Chiang Mai. So, if you ever find yourself in Chiang Mai and are in need of a good cup of coffee or tea, Nat and Nop will hook you up. 😀

Alright, don’t worry I didn’t spend my WHOLE time in a café. Last week I joined in on my very first Hash run! I had heard about Hash runs in Cambodia, but never was able to make it to one (partly because of my laziness). I managed to drag myself out of my room and down the street to the Hash Pub, where a taxi truck would take those interested to wherever the run would be happening. Apparently every week a different runner sets the run and this run was set by a Thai boy by the name of None of Your Business…. Yup. It seems everyone gets a really….ummm… interesting Hash name which seems to be perverted for the most part. Can’t wait for mine! 😛  I was a bit worried about the run because everyone knows it’s a little hard to get motivated to run in Cambodia and quickly become out of shape, what with the heat and lack of traffic laws. My worries were proved to be unnecessary and it turned out to be a very beautiful run. The course ran us through small villages with kids yelling out hello, restaurants on stilts, and a lot of mountainous area. Afterwards everyone sat in a circle and went through the after run “ritual” which involved a lot of time for the newcomer(me) sitting on a huge block of ice and drinking a shot of beer after every “interrogation”. -_-  It was all in good fun though. I can’t wait for my next run!

Aside from the days spent at Crema and the Hash run, I got to do something that I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. One of the brothers at the café, Nop, told me about how anyone can stay at a few different temples in Chiang Mai and that he had done one for two days. I immediately wanted to know how I went about doing a temple stay of my own, and he agreed to take me to a temple once I had acquired a set of white clothing (which was ridiculously hard to find, because really, who wears white pants???). The first temple Nop drove me to required that you stay for 10 days and I knew that I wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment, because I haven’t been mediating for very long and not very consistently either. After a lot of driving around in circles, I was about to call it quits when Nop drove me to Wat Umong and I checked in for two days. It’s hard to describe it well but it was definitely a worthwhile experience and I am so thankful to have had it. Everyone staying there would wake up before the sun and spend the day meditating, cleaning, and having a discussion with the monk teacher. Breakfast was at 7 and lunch at 11 with no meals afterwards, but you were allowed to have a bit of milk or tea (I’ve never felt so hungry). I thought meditating for 15 minutes was hard, but holy crap, trying to meditate for hours a day is crazy intense. I felt really irritated sometimes, other times I was at peace, and sometimes I was just mentally exhausted. Although it was difficult at times I would definitely do it again and would have liked to stay longer, but I had other responsibilities waiting for me back in the “real world”. On my last day there I got to be a part of the 79th birthday celebration of the head monk at the wat and there was a lot of chanting in Pali, some kind of ritual that involved untying a white knotted string, and of course, food (hey, you would be interested in food too if you had eaten very little for two days!). All in all it was a beautiful experience and Wat Umong is an absolutely gorgeous wat nestled in a forested area.

I don’t really know what is next, to be honest. I could be in China or even back in the States for school. I know it seems like I have floated around a lot, and to be fair I have, but I have also learned a lot about myself and things that I want and don’t want. While I have surprisingly learned that I love children, I am not passionate about teaching English. I have realized that many of you were right, and it really is in my best interest to return to school and finish up my degree. Before I didn’t want to because I had no desire to study something random just for the sake of it, but being in Southeast Asia has shown me something I am passionate about, the people and culture here, and I intend to focus on this in school so that I may come back and help out in the way that I want.

Anyway, thank you all for being so supportive of me during this journey. It means so much to me and who knows maybe I’ll be seeing you soon. 😉

Cheers!

Closure.

8 Jul
Whenever we cling to negative thoughts and experiences, we create our own demons that will follow us to the ends of the earth. I know there will be difficult moments of doubt and loneliness, but I am choosing to see something beautiful in each day. Be it a smiling face, a moment of perfect stillness, or even a torrential downpour that leaves the city flooded. Every moment we breathe is beautiful and sacred.

I am happy that I had left Cambodia back in June. It opened my eyes in a way that would have been hard to do if I had stayed. Getting out for even a week gave me the different and fresh perspective that I needed. I am grateful for the strangers in Thailand who went out of their way to help me, the friends who lifted my spirits by showing me a good time, and those who helped me by making me face some hard truths about myself. I am forever thankful to you and I will never be able to express that fully.

      With that being said, I am also glad that I came back to Cambodia. I did not want to, as many of you know, because I was scared. Being back, however, has shown me that there is nothing to fear. I have been given a chance to fall in love with Cambodia all over again, and can now leave without regrets and with a light heart. Although I am ironically sad to leave, I am excited for my new opportunity in Phuket. It is always a little bittersweet to say goodbye anywhere, but that is how it will always be. I fall in love with each place I visit and always leave a little piece of me behind, but I also take a wealth of new experiences and ideas with me, so it is a fair price. I am sure that I will visit again, but now it is time to move forward. I am so lucky to have had this opportunity of closure and will always think of Cambodia fondly. Thank you for everything. ❤

        “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting(which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments)and set out on a truth-seeking journey(either externally or internally),and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all -to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself….then truth will not be withheld from you.”