At exactly this time last year I was in Bangkok, Thailand, attending the wedding of one of my cousins. Looking back on it now, it was an experience that I needed to have at this point in my life. I find it funny that people advertise college as an introduction to the world when it really isn’t. I needed to literally separate myself from the little bubble that was my education life to see the real world.
The weeks leading up to my trip to Thailand were spent mostly in disbelief that it was actually happening. It started out as a little popcorn kernel from when my cousin and family came to visit us in the States for a few weeks in the winter and then popped into a big old piece of popcorn when I finally boarded the plane. I remember landing in Bangkok and walking out to our taxi to be met by a wave of humidity which seemed so weird at the time that it could be so hot and raining at the same time. The start of my trip was strange because we arrived quite late and were due to leave early in the morning to catch our flight to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is an absolutely beautiful city that is riddled with the ruins from the old fortress. The first stop after being dropped at our little hotel; coconuts. The young coconuts that people were selling all over the place were both cheap and incredibly sweet which made for a welcome thirst quencher from the heat. You must be asking yourself what did we do on our first day after landing in Chiang Mai around 2pm? The only reasonable thing to do was to take a Thai cooking class. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical at first but as our chef taught us to make various dishes such as Green curry, Pad Thai, and Spring Rolls I rapidly changed my mind. I went to bed that night happily in a food coma which was good because the next day we started early to make our way out to see elephants and tigers. Here is where I advise you to use your discretion when looking to the elephant camps. There are many that are based on tourism only where the elephants live horrible lives. If you really want to be up close and see an Elephant go to the Elephant Nature Park where you get to walk with the elephants, give them a bath, and really become friends which is much better instead of riding an elephant. After checking out the elephants, we made our way to the Tiger Kingdom where my sister and I were surrounded by about 6 adolescent tigers that we were able to pet. This part was a bit nerve wracking but definitely a cool experience. How did we top petting tigers? With a visit to an orchid garden of course. Thailand receives an incredible amount of rainfall so everything is luscious, green, and blooming. The next day we went to see the Wat on the mountain top which has 300 stairs leading up to a gorgeous Buddhist temple. The views from this point were incredible, I looked at and was able to see the entirety of the city of Chiang Mai. Although we only had a few days in Chiang Mai, we were able to hit the hotspots but when I go back I definitely want to see things off the beaten path away from all the tourists.
After a fun Chiang Mai adventure, it was time to board a plane and head back to Bangkok to prepare for the wedding. Arriving back in Bangkok a second time was a little different because this time we had time to actually explore the city. But first, it was time to have a huge family dinner with all those that had arrived in Bangkok which meant taking the BTS which is an incredible transportation system that snakes its way through the city of Bangkok. The thing about Bangkok is that it can be busy in the day but absolutely buzzing at night. The city is always humming, there is always something going on. I guess that’s life in a big city. Dinner with family and friends is always fun, it gives you time to catch up as well as feast on delicious food. The next day we set out on a day of exploring with my 2 little cousins and aunt and uncle. First stop: the Floating Market. It’s always funny when you hire a driver because he knows where to take tourists so we were driven to a “floating market” in the middle of nowhere that was made to be a tiny little thing, not the actual floating market. However, our boat driver did eventually take us to the actual floating market where it was a classic scene of absolute chaos mixed with people trying to sell things as well as make their way down the river. It was absolute madness, we were in boat to boat traffic which was a new one for me. We did manage to snag a few things such as mango and sticky rice as well as a few coconuts here and there. A highlight for me here was we stopped a little dock with a shop attached to it where I was able to climb a coconut tree which was something I didn’t know that I had on my bucket list until I had done it. After our very interesting trip to the floating market we decided to check out the King’s palace which if we had previously known closed earlier in the day we would have gone to first. That was a mistake but not the end of the world. Our driver took us to a place called the Golden Mount which is this impressive golden structure at the top of a temple. We climbed the steps up to the top where we were met with an incredible 360 degree view of Bangkok. We purchased these bells where we etched in our names and birthdays that were meant to give you good luck and then hung them around the golden mount. The Wats that are scattered throughout the city are amazing because they are all quite unique in design and structure. You could have one right across the street from another and it could look completely different. The next day we made our way over to the King’s palace early to make sure that we could get in. There were so many people from all over that journey to see this. It was like being at Disneyland but with no rides so you just have tons of people standing all over the place looking at the various buildings and statues. The architecture and colors here are quite incredible because there are these bright golds as well as multicolored jewel patterns on the various buildings. The palace itself is a magnificent structure that is quite massive and the grounds surrounding it are all maintained so well that it was a crime to step on the grass. Following our tour of the palace, we took Tuk Tuk’s to see the extensive Bangkok market. Here you can find anything and everything from a knockoff Versace purse to a knockoff pair of Raybans as well as pick up some Thailand apparel. That night was the beginning of the wedding which was quite exciting. Everybody had arrived and the festivities were off to a great start with the welcoming of the groom’s side of the family. The whole wedding side of my Thailand experience only added to the overall effect of the entire trip because I was surrounded by family. I danced, ate, and had the time of my life just being present.
After the wedding was over, a bunch of the wedding party took a flight down to Phuket for a few days. This was definitely somewhere I had never been before which was an island paradise. The Katathani resort was right on the beach side which was absolutely amazing. The water was a crisp and clear blue and was so warm which was different from the chilly Pacific Ocean that I am used to. The best way to see Phuket is from above so I took to the skies via parasail. This was definitely something that I had on my bucket list. Basically we spent our first days just unwinding from the wedding which meant relaxing and getting foot massages every night. Thai foot massages are out of this world, we were spoiled because we used to get them almost every day and when they were no longer an option it was disappointing. Something funny was we used to eat at a little family owned restaurant a short walk from our resort called the Orchid Restaurant that served a mixture of Thai food, Sea food, and American food. One night I ordered a pizza that was quite good if I must say so myself. The next day the wedding party group of about 30 people rented out a boat for ourselves to go snorkeling and check out the infamous Phi Phi islands. Our day out on the water was absolutely beautiful. The water was crystal clear so you could literally just look down from the boat and see schools of fish swimming around the different reefs. The water was incredibly warm, the whole experience was just amazing.
All in all, looking back on my trip a year later really shows me how much I’ve changed as a person because of the experience I had. I will make my way back to Thailand soon and see the things off the beaten path. That is a promise I have made to myself and I intend to keep it.