Bangkok to Los Angeles

The next morning, we woke up and wandered downstairs for breakfast.  I cannot say that anyone was really in good shape but we were all still alive and that was all that really mattered at this point. We sat with our friends, reminisced about the evening and then decided that we wanted a brief moment alone with the bride.  Her husband had already made it downstairs for breakfast and so we knew that she was alone.  So we ran upstairs and bombarded her room to say hello and tell her how happy we were that she was married. It was one of the only moments we really had alone with her and it was  amazing.

Finally it was time to say our goodbyes to the group. It’s interesting because I do not see myself as an exceptionally emotional person but for whatever reason, having to say goodbye to the group this time was pretty rough.  I think part of it was because I wasn’t going back to Seattle where most of them would be going and the other part is that we all live in such different places that seeing each other isn’t a common thing anymore.  I cried slightly, partially because I am a contagious crier and the other reason was because I knew that I was saying good bye for the foreseeable future. We loaded into the vans and our group headed off to the Bangkok Airport.

We arrived and it ended up being too early to check into our flights so we sat on the floor of the airport and finally started to decompress from the trip.  It was one of those moments where we could finally just sit and relax which we hadn’t done for awhile.  Finally, it was time for us to check in and we made our way through the airport to the lounges.  We didn’t get a chance to use the lounges on the way to Asia and this time we could finally use it for our trip which was fantastic.  We got some food, hung out for a bit, charged all of our electronics and then boarded our flight to Taiwan.  The connecting time in Taipei was short and we ended up landing late so we ran through the Taoyuan Airport to our gate with just enough time to make a bathroom stop before boarding the plane again for the 14 hours home.

I was asleep for most of the flight home and that really helped passed the time.  When we finally landed in LA, made it through customs and made it home, I finally had time to reflect on the experiences over the duration of the trip. As I settled into my bed and sleep started to take over, I realized just how sad I was to be home.  This was by far one of the best trips I have ever had and one of the best experiences I have ever had.  I’m not sure if it was because I got to hang out with elephants and cross a few things off of my bucket list or if it had to do with the fact that I had just spent time with some of my favorite people. But whatever it was, I was more sad than normal to have landed back at home and go back to real life. Usually, I am ready for my bed and ready to go back to reality but this time, this was not the case. Even with that realization and being sad that the trip was finally over, I am so happy that I am left with the memories of the journey that I had and the experiences I had on this trip.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Dance parties in Sattahip, Thailand

One thing that I love about weddings would be the dance party and the fact that it is a pure celebration of happiness.  There is no part of it that is sad.  It is a few hours where nothing else in the world exists except for that pure bliss that you see radiating from the happy couple. This celebration was exactly that except that it wasn’t just a few hours but rather hours upon hours of celebrating.  We danced to all sorts of music that ranged from American music to French music, a little something for everyone.  We spent the evening and nighttime rolling around in the sand, wandering through the Gulf of Thailand, tracking sand into the infinity pool and celebrating the happy couple.

At midnight, we decided it was time to set off Chinese lanterns to celebrate the events of the evening.  It was the perfect way to end the evening, or at least pretend to end the evening.  We brought out boxes and boxes of the lanterns, lighters and set them up.  When you get them, you have to unfold them and take the flammable portion and attach it to the lantern with the wires and then find a way to light it.  It’s a difficult feat when you’re tired and hot and your arms start to get tired (like me.)  I got mine lit and then I stood at the edge of the water and waited patiently for the flame to generate enough heat to fill up the lantern and lift into the air. It definitely took quite some time to get to that point where it was ready to fly up into the area.  And while I stood there, I watched the people around me laughing and celebrating as we all tried to get our lanterns to light and fly up into the world.  It was a strangely peaceful moment.

Finally, my lantern had enough heat that it finally lifted out of my hands and floated off into the abyss of the night sky.  The sky above us and above the water became speckled with little orange lights as the lanterns floated away.  It was wonderful until… the cops came.  Apparently lighting lanterns during this time was a type of celebration that was against the law because the country was still in mourning.  So for those people who hadn’t lit their lanterns or let them go, we had to put them out and clean up all the left over lanterns to save for a later date.

We continued our dance party and around 2AM, I gave up.  I couldn’t do it anymore.  We hadn’t really had much sleep the entire trip and this was our last night in Thailand before heading back to the U.S.  I was at that point where I was too tired to fully function and I needed to go to bed.  My eyelids were heavy and we had been celebrating for so long that I needed to go to bed.  So I went back to the room, showered (which was the best feeling in the entire world) and then climbed into bed to read for a bit.  I read about a page and a half before I fell asleep with my Kindle on my chest.  I woke up a few hours later to the lights on so I put everything away and immediately fell back asleep. It was officially the end of our trip.

Sattahip, Thailand

After checking into the hotel, I wandered up to my room and set my stuff down.  It felt good to put my feet on stable ground.  I opened up the blinds and at that moment I knew that this would be the best end to the trip.  Right outside of my window was a private beach and the Gulf of Thailand.  It was unreal to say the least.  As I looked out over the water, we watched them set up for the private wedding that we would be having on the private beach at sunset. I have to admit that for this trip, I didn’t do much of the planning and I didn’t pay as much attention to our plans as I probably should have.  I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on.  In fact, at one point, I was a terrible person and texted the bride to make sure I had a room at the hotel because I couldn’t remember if I had actually RSVP’ed to the wedding.  I knew that I had sent a message to her months in advance to say that I had purchased an airplane ticket and that was all I had done. Luckily, she took that to mean that I would be attending the wedding.

So standing there staring out over the Gulf of Thailand, I was shocked at what I was seeing.  I didn’t expect a private beach wedding and, in all reality, I didn’t know what to expect.  I wasn’t even entirely sure that we were going to be there for a wedding because I thought that it was just the reception/party aspect that we would actually be attending.  I was only half right.  We wandered downstairs to meet up with everyone else because we were told that we had to be downstairs by 5PM.  There we enjoyed some drinks and a view of the Gulf of Thailand with palm trees reflecting off of the infinity pool.

When it was time, we ventured out to the sand and took our seats to watch our friend get married.  There’s something inherently heart warming and amazing about seeing two people so in love.  It was great to see my friends during this ceremony because it was the perfect ceremony for them from the setting to the way the vows were expressed to the random commentary they would throw out.  When the ceremony was over, it was time for some pictures followed by dinner.

When it was time to finally settle in for the meal, we were all starving by then and the food couldn’t have come at a better time. The spread was unbelievable to say the least.  We had a buffet line with noodles, rice, vegetables and various other dishes. And then to the side we had a freshly made to order papaya salad complete with spices and all the toppings. I have to admit that this specific salad bested my tolerance of spicy foods and I struggled to finish it but regardless it was delicious.  Just to the right of the papaya salad table was the freshly grilled fish and then just past that was the freshly roasted pork.  We could have eaten all night long but my stomach can only handle so much food before the food coma set in.

After the food comas started to settle in, we moved onto our talent show.  Yes, we had a talent show.  It’s not often that you get to experience a talent show at a wedding but it happened.  And the best part was that we had such a melting pot of talents.  People sang in French, rapped in French, sang in Chinese, danced, did impressions/stand up, taught dances and sang in English.  It was quite the talent show and one of the more entertaining things that I’ve seen in awhile.  Afterwards, it was time for the dance party and the rest of the events of the evening to transpire…

 

Bangkok – Wishbeer and Weddings

The next morning, we woke up early and repacked all of our belongings.  We had to get prepared for the long day we had ahead of us that would involve a lunch time reception, a wedding ceremony and an evening reception. We all met in the lobby of our hotel with everything we owned and made our way down the street to a local brewery called “Wishbeer” which is a local beer company in Sukhumvit, Bangkok.  Our friends were actually partnered with them and provide the food for the company.

It’s a great little location that is kind of hidden.  You can find signs for the company along the main road but you have to walk down a side road and there is a small sign that shows where the front door of the business.  When you walk in, there is a little hallway that opens up to a warehouse time location that is very modern and it was beautifully decorated for the reception.  We started off our morning with some freshly brewed coffee, beverages and short photo shoots with pictures of the couple.  Then they played the engagement video which was adorable.  Immediately following the engagement video, the lovely couple walked out of one of the hallways and it was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip at that moment.

I had met the groom two years ago in France for the first time and now I was seeing him celebrate his wedding to my friend in Bangkok.  And seeing my friend whom I’ve known for years standing in her wedding dress with the biggest smile on her face was by far one of the best things I could have ever seen.  She saw our friend group from school and walked over to say hello. It was at that moment that I knew that I was truly a very lucky person. Seeing my friend for the first time in two years and feeling like no time had passed was by far one of the most wonderful experiences.  There’s a lot to be said about the fact that I was surrounded by people from all over the world and we were all there to celebrate the same thing.  The union of two people that we loved immensely.

After all the hello’s we sat down at our tables and enjoyed our lunch.  It was a perfect opportunity to catch up with everyone because you can really only catch up so much at the bars.  Plus, we had added a few people to our group who had arrived the night before.  When we finished our lunches, it was time for everyone to find all of their belongings and begin our two hour journey to Sattahip.  We loaded into the various vans that were booked for our drive and after a bit of confusion, we finally were on our way to Satthip.

This was a relatively uneventful drive out there. If you’ve ever driving out to Pattaya or Sattahip from Bangkok, you know that it’s not the most entertaining or enthralling of drives out there so if you have a chance to take a nap, I would highly recommend it.  Once we arrived in Sattahip, we started driving down the coastline toward what we thought was the hotel only to realize that we were driving in the wrong direction and were going to be late getting to the hotel.  Our driver decided that he was going to make up for the time by flying down the main roads to get us back to our hotel.  It was terrifying because driving in a taller van makes you feel like you’re driving a lot faster than you would feel in a sedan.  After a relatively eventful 10 minute drive back toward the correct hotel, we arrived, unloaded our belongings and checked into our rooms.

24 Hours in Oslo, Norway

I have to admit that my views and experiences in Oslo, Norway are a little skewed since I was there on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  That means that the entire city was quiet and predominantly closed but here are a few things that I think you should do if you’re there.

  • Check out the main shopping street in city center.  There’s a road that is lined with stores and great little restaurants and coffee shops.  When I was there, I walked by multiple buskers and performers.  In addition, during the holidays there are great holiday lights strung between all the buildings.  It is beautiful and a great place to take a walk.
  • Check out the Vigeland Sculpture Park. It is about a 20 minute walk from city center but totally worth it.  It’s great to be able to see the rest of the city on your way over to the park and to check out what the city has to offer.  If you aren’t interested in walking, you can definitely take the tram over there or the buses.  The park has over 200 sculptures and a coffee shop plus a museum (which is closed during the holidays).  It’s a rather large park so you could spend quite a bit of time there to check out everything there.
  • Go to the Munch Museum to check out the Scream painting.  This is literally across town and a small building just outside of a major park that is home to multiple museums.  It is worth it to check out this area if you like museums.  If you don’t like museums, then check out the park.  It’ll take you awhile to walk through the park and it is a great little leisurely stroll.
  • Check out the Royal Palace over near the water.  There is a great walking path up to the Palace and a beautiful park near by that you can sit and relax.  As you can tell Oslo has lots of parks that you can check out and  relax in.
  • Go to the water front.  If the weather is nice and the water is warm, there are diving boards off the docks that you can use to jump in the water.  If it’s not warm, it’s still worth it to stand on the docks and see the beauty of the coastline.  It’s super peaceful and serene over there.  You can also check out the museums and the restaurants along the docks while you’re over there.
  • If you’re looking for some food for on the go, I would recommend checking out some of the deli’s around city center.  They have great options for to go food for a decent price.  If you’re looking for a good coffee shop, I would recommend the Espresso House or a coffee shop around the city center.
  • Take a walk around the business district of Oslo.  There’s a lot of shopping and a lot to see around there.  There are some great stores and things to check out plus there’s a lot more going on in that area.  It’s an interesting contrast to the rest of the city because it is significantly more modern than the rest of the city.  The architecture is a nice contrast to the older buildings near the city center and the water front.

I would recommend staying in Oslo longer than just a day if you can, and avoid the holidays there since everything shuts down.  But if you find yourself there for only 24 hours, these are just a few suggestions to make full use of your time.

Bangkok – Adult activities

We broke up into smaller groups to load into cabs so that we could all go to a place called Nana Plaza.  You would have thought that at this point, we would have separated into different groups who didn’t want to go to Nana Plaza and would go home but for whatever reason, all 14 of us went to this area together.  I’m not going to go into incredible detail about Nana but let’s just say that it is an adult area.  I remember the first time I went to Thailand, one of my friends had actually booked a hotel for us near her place and for a decent price which ended up being just down the street from Nana Plaza.  We didn’t visit there the first time I showed up in Bangkok but driving by there on a Friday night at 1AM in the morning after a long journey, it is definitely an eye opener.

We settled down at a bar in the very center of the area where it was an open bar that you could see everything around you from the walk ways to all the bar options all around us.  We sat here because then people could go off and explore and check things out while having a “homebase” and we would be able to keep an eye on everyone.  We would know where everyone went and for the most part, one of us had a view of the main walk way out at all times. We ordered our beverages and the night continued on from there.

Finally, it hit a point where we were no longer interested in being out and we had an early morning the next day.  The main reason we had all flown to Thailand was the wedding happening the next day.  So the girls split off and left to go grab a cab.

We had looked at Uber and found that we could grab an Uber for 100 Baht to get back to our hotel and so we knew that we could barter with the taxi cabs on the way home.  Grabbing a taxi instead of an Uber was preferred in this situation because the Uber’s were about 12 minutes away and there are taxi cabs that line the streets outside of the adult areas in Bangkok, especially during this time of night. So we crossed the street to the direction we needed to grab our taxi on and tried to find someone who would take us back down the street.  One thing to keep in mind when it comes to grab taxi’s in Bangkok is that it is recommended to be on the right side of the street if you’re heading down the main roads, especially if it’s the roads with the metro stations because if you catch it and have to make a U-turn, it can be rough.  Those lanes are about 3 to 4 lanes deep in one direction and can be a bit rough to make turns, especially when there is heavy traffic.

We started out trying to find a taxi and I have to preface this experience with a short note.  I have a friend who loves to barter and she’s fantastic at it.  In fact, I don’t think she’s ever paid full price for anything from a street vendor or a taxi cab. So we let her lead the charge to get us a cab. Rather than sticking with the 100 Baht, she started low, really low and asked for a cab ride for 50 Baht.  After about 5 cabs telling us no, we finally got a cab for 100 Baht and made our way back to the hotel. We went our separate ways to our rooms and settled in for the night.  The next day would be jam packed and the chances of getting any sleep would be slim to none.

Bangkok dinner and a roof top bar

There is nothing more satisfying than getting off of a metro train after being in the heat all day, being tired and realizing that you are just steps away from being able crawl into bed for a few short minutes.  Especially a bed in an air conditioned room.  When it was time, we got off the train at our metro stop and walked the three blocks to our hotel, took the elevators up to our rooms and crashed.  I think the sugar rush from everything we had consumed all day had finally hit us and we were crashing.  We needed to lay down, re-hydrate and change out of our excessively sweaty clothing.  Each of us relaxed in our rooms for about an hour and this consisted of showering, napping, doing some laundry and just staring blankly at the wall trying to process the day and process the sugar crash. Finally, it was time to regroup and go get dinner.  We were feeling a little lazy and our hotel had given us free drink tickets so we went downstairs to the restaurant and got ourselves some dinner.

I resorted to a nice bowl of noodles and my free drink which ended up being a green smoothie with mint. It was definitely delicious and incredibly refreshing even though when we first showed up, we thought that drinks meant something a little bit more adult but unfortunately not so much.  We ordered our food, sat and enjoyed some good conversation followed by dessert.  One of my friends had actually been keeping a thing of mango sticky rice in his room from the night before because one of our friends living in Bangkok had told him that this hawker stall had the best mango sticky rice in town. So the night before, they purchased some and had some left over to share with us at dinner that night which was amazing.  It came with multiple types of rice and fresh mangoes.  If you have never had mango sticky rice, go find some now. In fact, stop reading and go find some now.  It is one of my favorite dishes and I could eat it all day every day. It is one of those dishes that is the perfect blend of flavors with coconut milk, mangoes and rice.  I could have finished the entire portion to myself and I have to admit that I was sad that we had to share it.  But I am a good person and was not excessively selfish.

When we were finally full and done eating everything in front of us, we left the hotel and caught the train to the JW Marriott just a few stops down.  The JW Marriot has a rooftop bar called the Octave Bar which looks out over Bangkok.  We were going to meet up with all of our friends at the hotel and spend the evening catching up while overlooking the entire city. We arrived, found ourselves a table and sat down while taking in the view of the city.  Even though it was my third time in this city, this is the first time that I had a chance to see the city from this perspective and it is truly something to see. I’ve never really realized just how expansive the city is and how many people live there.  I always know that there’s going to be people everywhere and you can’t avoid that. There will always be traffic and you will always hit some form of congestion but standing at the roof top bar and looking out over Bangkok, it really put everything in perspective. I would highly recommend checking this bar out and plus the drinks are fairly decently priced.

As we sat at this table right by the entrance, we began to collect our friends and eventually our small group of 5 turned into a group of 14 people from all over the world. We had people from Seattle, Los Angeles, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Bangkok all meeting up at this bar. It was both eye opening and heart warming.  There’s something to be said about being able to meet up with people you adore halfway across the world and still be able to pick up right where you left off years ago.  The last time I had seen some of this group was 2 years ago in Thailand. I definitely had one of those moments where I became eternally grateful that I have met so many fantastic people in my life. When we had finally collected our entire group, we spent an hour or two more at the bar and then decided that since we had some Thailand newbies with us, it was time to go show them Bangkok nightlife. To be honest, this idea was instigated by the boys and for the boys but we decided to keep the entire group together. It was time for the second half of our nightlife adventure.

Travel – Eating alone

When I am at home, I hate the idea of eating alone. I will admit that I am one of those people that will carry a book with them or their phone if I know that I’m going to have to eat alone.  At work, if I have no one to eat lunch with, I will eat at my desk and check what’s going on in the news or on social media.  But to be 100% honest, I try to avoid eating alone at all costs.  Even when I am ordering food to go or ordering delivery, I absolutely dread it.  I don’t know what it is but I really don’t like having to order food to my home or having to go pick it up for myself.  There are those days that I will do it because I am that lazy and don’t want to cook food or I have absolutely no food in my home.  But I actually avoid it as much as possible.  The only place I feel absolutely okay actually eating alone would be in the safety of my own home.

But, when I travel, it is a whole different story especially because I travel alone and if you don’t like eating alone…. then it can pose to be a problem. I have to admit it, I’ve learned to be okay with it when I travel but it is purely out of necessity. If I had a choice, I would still avoid eating alone if possible.  But here are a few ways that I’ve learned to deal with it:

  • I always bring a book or my Kindle just in case I feel like I need to pretend I have better things to do than make conversations with people
  • I walk into the restaurant with a purpose looking like I don’t want to be messed with so that people think I am eating alone out of choice and not because I am alone/friendless in this situation
  • I try to eat as quickly as I possibly can so that I can speed through my meals and lessen the amount of time that I spend sitting alone
  • On the days that I’m feeling excessively brave, I will stare out the window at people or just people watch in general to see what they’re eating and doing
  • I always try to position myself the furthest from the door, closest to a wall and surrounded by people so that it seems less obvious that I am eating alone
  • I embrace the fact that I am eating alone and just enjoy it.  It really is a character building activity to learn to be okay with being by yourself.

Most people would probably say that I should try making friends or approaching other people but when I solo travel, it is my time to just think and decompress.  If I meet anyone interesting that’s great, but I have to admit that I don’t actively go looking for it.  I think that it is because I am usually lost in my own thoughts and day dreams that noticing other people is not something I excel at. One thing that I have noticed is that I do find myself staring off into space without actually processing what I’m seeing and I think that also makes me less approachable because it comes off as slightly creepy and awkward.

Even though I’ve learned to eat alone and have done this in over 8 countries, I still only reserve this activity for travel.  It is something I will still try to avoid with all my power when I am home.  And to be honest, I’m not sure why.  But it is interesting to see how solo travel builds your character and breaks some of your habits.  It is definitely something I appreciate about solo travel and has taught me that I can step outside of my comfort zone and try new things.

Hello Kitty House – Bangkok, Thailand

We arrived in the Siam neighborhood of Bangkok and walked to the large shopping mall in the center near the train station and went to the Hello Kitty House.  I’ve heard rumors that there’s a huge Hello Kitty Cafe in Malaysia that is supposed to be huge compared to the one in Bangkok but regardless, this was pretty impressive.  I have to admit that I’m not a huge Hello Kitty fan but one of our friends is and so we had to make sure we had a chance to stop by and check out the Hello Kitty themed cafe. You walk in and it is not as overwhelming as the Unicorn Cafe but it is still overwhelming.  The first floor is pink with a restaurant that you can sit at and get coffee, food, etc.  Then in the back of the first floor is a set of stairs that take you downstairs to the store which has everything you could image for Hello Kitty.  There’s even a giant car you can sit in and even some memorabilia for other characters such as Hello Kitty’s friends.

It was overwhelming and a little too much for me but we hung out there for a bit and then I started to go crazy. They were only playing one song the entire time we were there and I thought that my head was going to explode.  I don’t remember the song now and for that I am thankful. We ordered some food, took some pictures and hung out for a little bit before we were finally over it.

I would say that if you like Hello Kitty, this is definitely somewhere you should check out. If you don’t want to go there, just around the corner is a Dog Cafe.  Yes a dog cafe.  It is a cafe that you can pay about 150 Baht for two hours with some adorable dogs and a beverage.  When we were there, they had a golden retriever, a corgi and a beagle who seemed to not care about people was just laying on the floor.  It was by far one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen.  We walked over there after the Hello Kitty House and stood outside for a bit just staring at the dogs trying to decide if we should go in and get some dog cuddles.  Unfortunately, since we were running low on time and needed to get some dinner and then get ready for the evening, we decided that we would grab the subway back to the hotel.

We went, purchased our tickets on the subway and then squeezed onto the trains to head back to the hotel.  One thing that’s great about the Bangkok public transportation is that the train is high above the city and so it does not need to worry about the main rules of traffic which is nice.  Granted, it is always very crowded there so be prepared for that.  In addition, make sure you keep your ticket so you can get through the gates when you arrive at the stations.  Otherwise, the metro system in Bangkok is super easy to navigate and I would recommend it if you know what stations you need to get to.