Week two and finally beginning to feel like I can breathe.
The first week of my travels were chaotic- so many places, so many things happening. The second week hasn’t brought full-on relaxation, but we’re getting there.
It still feels like I’m on a holiday from work- not as though I’m at the onset of an adventure that will see me travel for a ‘to be determined’ number of weeks. Wondering when I’ll start to feel like a full-time traveller, and what that means, really.
Generally, I was excited this week to finally make it to Thailand, a country I’ve long dreamed of visiting. Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai have been every bit as magical as I envisioned them to be- spectacular temples, strong coffee, friendly locals, great eats and so affordable.
Jury is out on Bangkok for me, think I need more time to really get a feel for the vibe of the city. Right now, it’s just a very busy metropolis. After one day there, I left feeling a bit irritated with how impossible it is to get anything done because of traffic, and feeling exhausted from battling hundreds of tourists at the Grand Palace.
- Sunday, 17 March – Saturday, 23 March
- Malaysia: Kuala Lumpar
- Thailand: Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai
By the Numbers
- Flights: 4
- Passport stamps: 1
- Taxis / tuk tuks: 27
- Beds slept in: 3
- Note counting the bed in KL since that was accounted for in Week One
- Cars rented: 0
- Cups of cold brew: 10
Kuala Lumpar (Day 2) Peaks & Pits
- Watching the sun rise on the way to Batu Caves- when the sky matched the hue of the buildings highway side, it was magic. Pink light on pink paint
- Climbing to the top of Batu Caves and walking the rainbow steps that are so Instagram famous for myself was surreal. I always feel that way about places I dream about for son long and finally experience in person. I came early, but not so early there weren’t other people present, and still had a great time
- Discovering several cafes with seriously excellent cold brew, hello inspiration to make a return visit to Malaysia. One cafe was even a designated cold brew cafe, specialising in in the cool, delicious brew
- Spending a few hours at the Federal Territory Mosque, chatting with the community and learning more about Islam. The tour was free and a robe/burka was provided for me to borrow. I visited two days after the horrific terror attacks in Christchurch, so the visit was a bit emotional. I wish more visitors to KL took time to do activities like this one- they may not be as “Instagram” or “highly rated on TripAdvisor”, but my visit was personal and beautiful in a way that packaged tours simply can’t compete with
- Swimming in a rooftop pool, gazing upon the skyline of KL. First time swimming in an infinity pool, and I’ve gotta say, budget restraints aside, I could seriously get used to this lifestyle 😉
- Sound of children’s laughter while riding the giant, flashing stuffed animal scooters at the local mall
- Another early morning and late night with a very early morning flight to Bangkok means I’m still not even close to catching up on sleep or establishing a regular pattern here
- The heat, still. How many weeks does acclimation take, guys? Even waiting for Grabs felt brutal under the Malaysian sun
Bangkok Peaks & Pits
- Checking into the plushest hotel for a one night treat (courtesy of a good friend, The Banyan Tree)
- Eating avocado for the first time in nine years and actually enjoying it in a super fresh salad- lettuce, pomegranate, feta, mango and a squeeze of lime
- The majesty of the Grand Palace was incredible. But, so many people. Lesson learned: Go early to appreciate the details and wander the complex without sheer herds of tourists
- Walking beside the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, a dream I’ve held for seven years. Despite the conversations around me and constant lens snapping, somehow, I revelled in silence and admiration
- A sunset cocktail at the rooftop bar atop my hotel. Watching the sun sink below the skyline and sky light up different shades of orange, amber, yellow, pink and purple was the perfect welcome to Thailand
- Sleeping in the cosiest bed, so cosy, I moved my flight to Chiang Rai from morning to afternoon. Some seriously needed z’s
- Traffic. Yeesh. Need to figure out a better way to get around Bangkok in the heat than Grab cars
- The volume of people visiting the Grand Palace, so much pushing, shoving and screaming. Visual depiction of absolute insanity
Chiang Rai Peaks & Pits
- At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of Chiang Rai (CR), but quickly fell in love after only a day of exploring. It’s a small city, but not without lots to see, do and experience
- Visiting Wat Huay Pla Klang just after sunrise was incredible- silent and a bit mystifying, given the location overlooking the mountains of CR and temple’s grandeur. The dragon staircase felt like something out of a dream, and I’m already finding I have a hard time moving on from temple to temple because I’m so drawn in by the details of each one
- Seeing the blue temple, so unusual for Thailand, was amazing. The colours were so striking- vibrant blue set against golds and other bright colours. Walking around the temple complex and
- Discovering two riverside cafes, perfect for reading, working and relaxing while watching the river flow by, and sun set behind the horizon
- Walking amongst the infamous White Temple, a must visit (as far as I’m concerned in Thailand)
- Finding seriously good cold brew at The Roast and happily seeing it’s served in a huuuuge glass with loads of ice. Thank you Thailand, for doing cold brew right
- Trying fruit shakes for the first time, favourite combo so far: passionfruit and mango, sweet, but also tangy
- Having my first few massages in Thailand- two full body aromatherapy ones and a foot reflexology massage. I’ll say this: Thailand is going to be a difficult country to leave, if for no other reason than the massages here are ON.POINT.
- Smelling durian for the first time at the CR night market. Turned a corner, and instantly started choking and gagging- couldn’t figure out what was wrong until I spotted a few stalls selling nothing but durian. Hoping I work up the courage to try a bite while I’m in SE Asia, but need to get past the smell in some regard first
- My luggage getting locked into the hotel office an hour ahead of closing time meant I almost missed my flight. Thankfully the hotel employees rushed back, but I’m not proud of how rude I was- to be somewhat fair, it took me nearly 30 minutes just to get a hold of them. No one was answering the phone and none of their neighbours knew how to reach them. So, by the time I did track them down, I thought I was definitely missing my flight (which, cue a ripple effect, means I would have missed another flight the next morning)
- Not quite a ‘pit’, but I do wish I had more time in CR to continue relaxing and visit the Golden Triangle
Chiang Mai Peaks & Pits (first two days)
- Instantly feeling at home and at ease in this beautiful city. It’s everything I loved about CR, but a few levels up- busier, more choice, but also something still laid back
- Pausing to watch neon lanterns with gold detailing swing in the early morning air
- Temple hopping on my first day and seeing so many gorgeous complexes. Continue to be in absolute awe we’re able to walk among and experience these places of worship
- So much excellent cold brew, I could cry. And, all so affordable. Absolute heaven as far as I’m concerned
- Discovering a cute local cafe, Farm Story, and having the best pad Thai and mango sticky rice of my travels, thus far. Pad Thai noodles were perfectly sticky/cooked with the right amount of garnish/vegetables (IMO, at least). And, the sticky rice- the mango was perfectly ripe, rice cooked to the right degree of stickiness and coconut milk sweet without being overpowering. Generous servings and affordable, win win
- Relaxing in my room in the Nimman neighborhood on a Friday night with a fresh coconut and my Kindle. Sounds simple, but that’s why it was so great
- Going to a hatha yoga class and taking 90 minutes just to breathe and move my body. Using my time in SE Asia, in part, to get back into yoga and this class was a beautiful experience
- Having a massage at Fah Lanna, out of this world. Every part of the experience there feels special- from getting to select your own oil, to having a private villa for your massage/treatment. It was a splurge on my budget, but still a good price in relation to cost in the States or UK
- Stumbling upon so many adorable cafes with great drink menus. CM is the epitome of digital nomad heaven, by the second morning, I started to envision what life would be like if I lived there
- Not quite a CM pit, but happened on the way here- the ‘hotel’ I spent the night in during my 7 hour layover at DMK. Hello first instance of bugs in a bed in SE Asia. Pretty sure they weren’t actual bed bugs, but still a yikes moment
- Wishing I had more time in CM. Already, I feel like I’m trying to cram too much into my days here and wish I could slow down without feeling like I’m missing things. Unfortunately, I booked the first month of my travels before leaving, and find myself wishing I’d given myself more time in places- live and learn
Next up in Week Three: More time in Chiang Mai, another day in Bangkok and an introduction to two of the Gulf Islands- Koh Tao and Koh Samui
Have you ever taken a long trip to unfamiliar lands and places? What advice would you give to someone who is at the start of her journey?
PS. The idea for a peak and pit comes via Disasters of a Thirty Something, who inspired me with her travels through SE Asia, NZ, Aus and Africa last year. She’s a fabulous, funny Brit who you should absolutely follow on Instagram.