March Madness Final Round: America takes Thailand

It was such an awesome feeling returning “home” to Thailand. I really shouldn’t put that in quotes… this has been my home for the past 6 months and a wonderful one at that. It felt so great to be able to speak Thai again (no matter how little I actually speak), use baht, and feel comfortable with my surroundings. Not only was I home in Thailand but 3 short days later five of my closest friends from college were coming to visit me from America! Although I could not contain my excitement I also felt like my body just had been hit by an 18-wheeler. Over a month of backpacking will do that to ya. Luckily, I had two days to go back home to my quiet town of Suphanburi to unpack, do laundry, sleep, exercise and repack just to head right back out the door. Those two detox days were crucial to my survival for the rest of the trip. Not only did I have over two weeks left, I also had to play tour guide for 5 people who had never been to Thailand before! I needed to be on my game!

Waiting for them at the airport was one of the most nerve-racking, exciting sensations I have had in a while, and with all of my experiences lately, that is saying a lot. I knew their flight was delayed but when I got to the airport I had no way of contacting them. The flight board wasn’t updated yet when I got there and was on the opposite side as the arrival gate. Even when they landed their phones wouldn’t work internationally, so I just had to good old fashion wait. I made a little paper sign with an inside joke from college, “Wake up it’s Thailand time to pawty!”.

There was a seating area near the gate but you couldn’t see the people as they came off the plane, so I stood for a while then would sit and rush back over when another plane of people started pouring in. I kept tearing up as I waited. I kept thinking about one of my favorite movies, Love Actually, where they talk about the waiting gates at airports and how there is so much love present there. It’s true. One man was there with a bouquet of at least 50 red roses. His face of anticipation was priceless. There were so many signs, anxious faces, and hopeful hearts standing there. I felt lucky to have so many people I love to wait for. Not just anyone, but my sisters and best friends for life. After about an hour of waiting I finally saw them round the corner and I was so excited waving my sign! They looked confused and then yelled, “It’s upside down”! TYPICAL Susie, I had an hour to wait and I couldn’t check if my damn sign was right side up? Anyway, we all squeezed each other tight and then just like that the adventure began. “As soon as I saw you I knew an adventure would begin” 

Personally from my own experience, I know that Bangkok is very overwhelming when you first arrive is SE Asia because it is SO big and SO different from home. But who comes to Thailand and doesn’t at least see Bangkok? No one. So we set out for our hostel, Cheq-Inn Hostel, which was by far the cleanest and nicest hostel I have ever stayed in anywhere! We went for celebratory expresso martinis and some authentic street Thai food. Then we had a tuk-tuk driver approach us for a tour of the city. Bangkok is huge and although I have been several times, I had never been to the area we stayed in, so I went in blind. The tuk-tuk proceeded to take us to a tailor/suit shop, a temple/monk school, and a commercial jewelry store. Basically it was so random and we had no idea what was going on. Welcome to Thailand! We went out for a great dinner on Soi 11 and proceeded to Above 11, an awesome rooftop bar overlooking Bangkok. As soon as we got our 200 baht cocktails, it started to rain and we had to retreat to the covered level. Then we hopped into cabs and headed to Khaosan Road. For those of you who don’t know Khaosan Road is one of the main night life tourist spots in Bangkok. It is a road completely blocked off and chalk full of everything touristy to do in Bangkok including shopping, pingpong shows, massage places, hostels, tattoo places, lady boys, tons and tons of bars, street food, bugs to eat and much, much more. It is sensory overload, but a huge party so I knew my friends would love it. We woke up and everyone agreed it was an amazing first night. “Bangkok’s got you now hunnaaay”.

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We spent the day roaming the Chatachak Market, one of the largest markets in Thailand. We shopped, ate, drank and soaked up Thailand. They were ready for round 2 so we got dinner and then headed to the other party spot in Bangkok, RCA & Route 66. Chaos ensued and Alex and Alyssa stayed up all night and woke us up at 7 am to leave for Ko Samet. Thank god they did because it was a journey & a half. First the Sky train, then the bus, then the ferry all while my friends thought they were going to die from how crazy the driving was.(Unfortunately I’m used to it by now).By about 4 pm we reached the island and we all felt like we were going to collapse. We ate dinner and then went back to room to shower but slowly but surely everyone fell asleep… at about 6 pm…for the entire night! Jet lag finally caught up to them! “It’s like tomato, but with a p, potato” 

The next two days were spent on the beach literally all day and night. We ate well, drank well, (Thanks for the wine PAL), frolicked in the ocean and laid out in the sun. We were in the sun a little too long and all got some pretty bad sunburn, but it didn’t stop us from waking up and doing it all over again. It was so refreshing to have people who had never seen Thailand before because they were so eager to wake up every morning and do and see as much as they could. No matter where you live, it’s easy to get used to it and take it for granted, and they reminded me just how truly lucky I am to call this my home. It was also so nice to share with them all the quirky and ridiculous things about Thailand that you simply cannot understand unless you see it yourself.  Not to mention the fact that every second I spent with these girls felt like I hadn’t been away from home for one moment, we picked up right where we left off. That is when you know you have met friends and sisters for life!“50 baht, special price for you”.

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Next stop: Chiang Mai. My favorite place in Thailand so far! After nearly missing our flight, everything else about our first day in Chiang Mai went well. We headed straight for… you guessed it MEXICAN. Seriously, who doesn’t like Mexican. No one. (Oh, that’s right…JACKIE lol). From the moment we got there I knew how much they were going to love Chiang Mai because being there reminded me how much I love it. It’s a city with an aura about it, like New York or Boston. You feel good energy when you are there, you feel alive, and you feel excited. We did so much in Chiang Mai pampering, shopping at the night bazaar and walking street, temples, and testing out all the restaurants. Then we had an action packed adventure day in the mountains and went white water rafting, bamboo rafting, trekking, rode elephants, went to the long neck village, the Poo Poo Paper Park and the Tiger Kingdom. ” Konnichiwa, bitches!” 

Sadly, they were leaving for America the day that Songkran (Thai New Year) started so we thought they were going to miss it. But two days before, when we were on our way to the elephant camp, little Thai kids absolutely soaked our songtaew with buckets of water. Three different times. We were so confused at first, but then I did a little research and figured out that Songkran was changed to five days instead of three. A five day, all out country wide water fight… Absolute insanity. The next day (April 12th) was still technically the day before Songkran, so we thought we were safe venturing to breakfast. Absolutely wrong. We got drenched from head to toe and realized that there was no fighting it. We fueled up with a big breakfast, bought our waterproof satchels, buckets and supersoaker 5,000’s and went back to the guesthouse to put on our bathing suits. Team America, comin at ya. From there on out it was a full-fledged water fight from about 11 am until the sun went down. It was incredibly entertaining the first day, and then I woke up and the crew had to go back to America. Luckily we had met back up with my Thailand traveling crew and all got to spend a night out in Chiang Mai together. I cried when they left squeezing each one as tight as I could. They dressed in their ponchos and hopped on a songtaew and just like that they were gone! It went by so fast, in some ways it still feels like a dream. I am so grateful for you all for traveling across the world to see me! I don’t think you truly know how much it means to me!I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! I hope you had as much fun as I did! ☺“Chiang Mai, is that like a beer?” 

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After WVU DG & Drew crew left I still had 3 days of Songkran to face and conquer. Luckily, I was reuniting with TONS of my teacher friends I met at orientation in October, some whom I hadn’t seen in months. Many of my friends only had six-month contracts and were leaving soon after Songkran, so this was our last big American teeccha celebration. It was epic. Songkran by day, Zoe’s and Tacos Bell by night. Mix that in with lots of Singha, shopping, eating and tons of heart to hearts and tears and you get our New Year.I’m not sure if I will ever experience a New Years quite like that ever again but it was sure fun while it lasted. Amazing Thailand, always amazing. For New Years in America people always make New Year’s Resolutions, and although it is not a custom in Thai culture I have a few I would like to make for myself for the Thai New Year :

1. Give more when you feel like giving less

2. Never be jaded or take life for granted, GRATITUDE is KEY

3. Dream BIGGER! Never settle

I can’t believe how many amazing friends I have met here. These are people I will know for the rest of my life. There is something about traveling together that binds you in a way that nothing else will. It’s similar to college friends, but the feelings are intensified because you are in such a vulnerable and unfamiliar world. You can’t hide anything from them even if you tried. “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles”. If that is the case, I have had the most incredible journey in the world. Friends old and new, friends I lived with and friends I only got to see a few times, some friends only lasted for a few nights when we shared a hostel, or one good quality conversation at the bar, but each person has left a mark on my life and I am a better person because of it. I am especially thankful for my Suphan crew and my incredible HG, I can’t believe the five of us aren’t sharing one hostel room anymore. I love you so much and I seriously could not have had half the experience I have had without you. Thank you for making me laugh, cry, take tequila shots, buy Converse, and watch good TV series. Thanks for the memories, some we wish to always remember and some we wish to quickly forget. Thanks most of all for being you! ❤ “It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right… I hope you had the time of your life” 

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Mai Pen Rai! Cheers mates! ❤ xoxo

 

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