My Travels

My Travels
Koh Phangan, Thailand

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

 My Thailand Trip- Landing and Arriving in Bangkok- Leg 1

Yes, it has been ages since my last post. I do apologize and I promise I will not forget my first blog and will stay faithful to my first, though I have others now....:) 

 I am now teaching in Taiwan, after a busy summer working at camp in the states, I am glad to be overseas again! I know I disappeared for a bit and it may have not the best idea not to update for so long,  especially since leaving to Thailand was my one of last posts. How worry-causing of me to let readers think I disappeared in Thailand or never made it past customs from China ;) (I did write another post, I know, but still!)

Anyway, this post on Thailand was much overdue, I know, especially after seeing how many readers it attracted. I know that even though it's ages later, I still need to share my awesome trip to Thailand with you, my dear readers! 

Coming off the plane 

I went through customs fine even though I had been scared about not having the return/outbound ticket- so was happy I got through fine- I had thought there would be a problem. I was a little unsure, as one of the guys in front of me did not have an outbound ticket either, and they told him to step aside for a moment, so I got worried. But it turned out fine for both of us and we both got through.

Getting a taxi from the airport was a little confusing at first. I had to stand on a line and show my ticket from the plane and then I was handed over to a taxi driver waiting in line.  I tried to bargain the price down caused it seemed high, but then figured that’s the airport price and it was quite far- plus a lot of traffic.

I saw kids walking through the traffic and on the sidewalk in between the highway selling flowers to passerby. It reminded me of reading about this- how some kids in Thailand are made to sell flowers all day on the street, no matter the weather and some parents will even make them stand out in the rain all day or until they sell a certain amount. But I didn’t see any one with these kids. I don't know what's the best way to help these kids. I wish I could do something for them. But you hear how giving them money will not actually help them- it just continues the cycle. What can you actually do to help them? Here are some ideas.

I stayed at the Rainbow Hostel on the famous Khao San Road in Bangkok. I had reserved this one- it was owned by people from India.  Unfortunately I was on the third floor- it was very hot and carrying my heavy suitcase up three flights of stairs was not fun!

I went to the market, bought some sandals, then got some dinner at the hostel- cheese naan. It reminded me of the time I had Indian food with my brother who lives in New York City, in Manhattan.

I met a guy from Germany and a guy around my age from Japan. We went to the night market together.

I met some people from Israel- one of them was smoking hookah at the table outside the hostel. They talked about how they were going to Seoul for Passover.

The night market is a very exciting place. It has a carnival-like atmosphere, there are so many brights lights and different things to see, that you feel like a little kid again trying to take it all in. It had lots of different cheap food and tons of clothes, shoes, accessories, movies, souvenirs and even tattoo artists.  

I was going to go to bed early. But then I met a couple of guys and we went out on the town. The next day we hung out and talked about going to see Muay Thai boxing, but went to Chinatown first and lingered there drinking coconut milk from straws in the shade, so we didn’t make it. 

I also got to see some temples on my own. It was quite the experience. I liked how they did their chants, it was quite peaceful. Temples were on every other corner in Bangkok. 

We also looked at water guns for the Thai New year that had been coming up at the time. One of the guys, Brett, brought his Thai girlfriend along. I talked with her and we had fun together hanging out. Thai New Year, called Songrakan is a big holiday event that takes place all over Thailand- it’s basically like an all out water fight with everyone you see when you go out. But water fights would not be the first fight I would see here.

The Break-Up: or what to do when getting threatened by an angry Thai girl

We had Thai and western pizza for dinner. Brett's girlfriend had hung out with us during the day and dinner. But he decided it was time to break up with her—she wouldn’t leave his place and said she had nowhere to go. He wanted us there for support because he knew she would not take it well. She put up quite a fight- asking why he had a problem with her and yelled at his friend when he said something... he asked us what to do and we suggested he try to give her her stuff so she could leave and not drag it out. This was not cool with her and she literally held onto him when he tried to get up and wouldn’t let him leave. He had given her an option- she could stay at the room for the night, but he would be going out or she could leave now. She didn’t like either choice. I left the room as the guys tried to get her to leave. Brett's friend had to help pull him out because she wouldn’t let go of him as he tried to leave the room to go.

(Don’t try this at home or anywhere for that matter this is merely a description of events and is not meant to be advice in any way. You may not want to turn and walk away- especially if there are any beer bottles or heavy/glass/sharp/throw able objects around. I had heard warnings about this- about getting hit in the back of the head with a bottle if you make someone angry.  Is there witness protection in Thailand?) 

After we all went outside, we were waiting in front of the hostel. Brett was trying to get a taxi for her, which he paid for. I got out of the way and sat at  one of the tables, away from the girl, as she was quite angry. She had lashed out and yelled at me in the hostel when they all came out of the room, accusing me of being the reason he was leaving her. I had nothing to do with it and was not overly friendly to Brett in any way. But she said that she knew how "you teachers" are. I left after this so she could cool down.  

I was at the table and the other guys joined me. Then she came charging behind me with a bottle, which I didn't see. Brett thought she was going for me. He got up and went to intervene. But she wasn't going for me. She was going for Brett. She almost hit him, but the bottle fell and he tried to subdue her. After that, I went inside to stay clear of her. She finally left in the cab with no further damage. 

We went for dinner and talked about changing hostels. Brett didn't know if he should just change rooms, but then he said she had said something about her cousin being one of the workers there. So maybe it would be best to leave the place... go to a different climate perhaps?

I longed to get to the islands, myself, so I planned to leave the next morning. I did not want any trouble with this girl trying to get revenge or her telling her cousin there anything. I was not afraid, but knew I should be careful. I decided it was a good time as any to get out of there.

After all, I had come to Thailand to get to the islands and see the beautiful ocean. Not to deal with this drama in Bangkok and get a crash course in how not to date the locals. It was too hot and humid here anyway. With visions of palm trees, walking barefoot in the cool sand and waves rushing at me as I swam, I took a cab to the bus station the next morning and was ready for island paradise. 

Stay tuned for the next part of my Thailand travels series: Getting to the Islands! 

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Beaches, Mountains or Desert?

 (Don't Just Pick a Card Country, Any Card Country?)

I am down to the final three choices in deciding where I will go to teach next for this fall: 

Georgia (the Eurasian country!) Located between Turkey and Russia: Land of Mountains, Hills, Black Sea beaches



I wanted to go here before I went to Korea to teach. I was so exhilarated when I found out I had the opportunity to go here- partly because I was so excited that this was becoming a reality- being able to go on an overseas adventure to teach, I was thrilled, no matter where it was! I did research on the country and my enthusiasm remained and now that it's an option again, it has even increased! It sounds like it would be an amazing place to teach, it would only be 3 months and I'll be back home for Christmas and then off on my next adventure! It would be a unique experience, learning the language of Georgian and/or Russian, living with a host family and exploring the beautiful country that has a vibrant culture and interesting history.

Taiwan: Beautiful Island, Beaches nearby, Land of Tigers and Lions



I was originally going to teach here once I decided on Asia. Pause for a moment as I reflect on how different my experiences would have been in a completely different country with different people, different events, different opportunities, different doors and windows! I visited here on my New Year's break while I was teaching in Korea and it was a place I fell in love with - see my post here for more info on that! I knew I wanted to go back. I got the opportunity to visit the YWAM base in Taipei and knew I wanted to return to be in this amazingly awesome outreach missions training adventure program!

 Now I have the opportunity to go and teach in a missions school and then I could look at my options of being in YWAM afterward. The school year would be September to June and then I would be able to do YWAM the following September or March.

 It is an island, so there is the danger of flooding. I would not be right near the coast, but near enough that my area could still be at risk, though they do have a Flood Prevention Pumping station located nearby.

It sounds like a great community to be in and a great opportunity to develop more professionally as well as have great opportunities to reach out to the community here and learn more about the culture and language of Mandarin Chinese- which I would love to start learning!

 The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Desert or Oasis?

 I did research on this country and learned that despite its challenges (wearing an abaya-learn more about it here from a Saudi girl's blog, strict rules and limited movement, no religious freedoms, etc.) It can be an amazing place as well to explore, you can go scuba diving, wind surfing and sailing and explore other countries as well. Getting experience as a university instructor (at an all female university) would be invaluable and would open up the door to other great opportunities as well. This would be a year contract and would allow me to pay off my loans, plus save some money, allowing me to pursue some of my other goals right after. It could be a dangerous location and would not have a lot of freedom, but would be excited for this opportunity and unique learning and teaching experience, as it is not a place traditionally open for tourists. It would also be a great time to write my book and devote time to that!

Got a bit of the travel bug yourself? Learn how you can work overseas too! 

Or See how you can teach and travel the world like I am doing!

I would love to hear about you, my dear readers, wherever in the world you are- tell me, where you are from and where you would want to travel- for vacation and where you would like to live and work for a year or so?

Which of the three countries above would you choose? Would you recommend your home country to travel to or work in? Where have you traveled or worked in- and would you recommend it? Please tell me in the comments below!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What is the next adventure?

Deck of Cards: Choose a Country

I am so excited as I think about what is ahead! It is really cool to be able to have this awesome opportunity to teach and travel. I never imagined that I would be able to choose virtually any country I'd like to teach in and spend a year or so there, very thankful to God for this awesomeness!

A close friend of mine recently told me that she had a vision of me choosing where I would go next and having so many options to choose from. She saw a deck of cards in front of me, each card being a different country. I hope to be used by God where ever I go, to learn all I can while I am there, to make new friends and broaden my perspective. I love learning about different cultures and want to leave a mark for the positive on those I come in contact with. 

Where to next? I have several choices now that I am seriously considering and am looking forward to the next year- I will be starting somewhere in the fall in a few short weeks and it is so cool to think that I could be in another new country shortly, even though I don't know where that is right now. 

How about you? If you had the choice to go anywhere for a year to live and work, where would it be?

"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream."
C. S. Lewis

Don't let anything stop you-whatever your dream is, whatever your goal is, now is the time to start to make it happen! What do you really want? What do you want to accomplish? What is the dream you wish to pursue? You can make it happen!

"With the possible exception of the equator, everything begins somewhere." C.S. Lewis

More to come, this is just a short update- next posting will be more about the different countries I am considering- or maybe the one I have decided on! 

Countries in the running: (Which one would you vote for?)

South Korea
Saudi Arabia
Czech Republic
The Journey continues- which boat to take? This is a photo I took of my travels in Thailand: on the beach where I stayed on Koh Phangan

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Feel the Anticipation- my going to Thailand journal entry!

While I am off exploring Bangkok on my first full day here, I thought I would share with you my feelings (random musings included) with going to this oft-talked about city and country of Thailand. Here, for your viewing and reading pleasure is my journal entry (with slight editing and enhancements) written on the plane to Bangkok. I traveled from Seoul to Guangzhou, China and then to Bangkok. The total flight time was 6 hours 50 minutes. Ten hours, fifteen minutes if you count the layovers (I do) :

I am on my way to Thailand! I will be there in less than two hours if I have the time difference down right- it is 6:27pm according to my computer which is still in Korea time. (Thai time is 2 hours ahead of Korea, 11 hours ahead of New York.) Find out the time difference between Bangkok and your city here

I was having lunch with my friend before I left and was telling her how I don’t think it has kicked in yet that I am actually going to be going to Thailand- it’s like a dream, I don’t believe it yet. When we were getting ready for take off, though, I felt a burst of excitement. I then was amused with a foreign guy's antics (or lack thereof-foreign meaning non Asian. Since I had moved to Korea, I started using the term 'foreigner' to describe myself and other non natives of the country, sometimes this confuses/amuses my friends when I refer to myself as a foreigner. In Thailand, foreigners are called 'farangs' which is used mostly in the same way foreigner is and rarely used in a negative sense.) So anyway, this foreigner sat with the two Thai girls in front of me, only to shortly later get kicked out, because it was not his assigned seat. His smile in response to this was cheesy in my book, but to him I think it must have been an award winning cute, oh-look-you-caught-me smile, as he turned around and flashed his pearly whites to the girls who looked at each other and giggled (nervously?).  He cheerily explained to his bouncer, the Asian guy who owned the seat, that he thought the seat was empty. He then moved forward to his rightful throne seat in front of them.

New Experiences: free as a bird or learning why the caged bird sings?

As I sit watching this take place, more serious concerns fill my mind. I might not even be allowed in the country, as I don’t have what is apparently required: a return or outward ticket anywhere. So I thought I would go online at the airport or on the plane when I realized this and buy a cheap bus ticket or train ticket online to the nearest country. It’s not meant to be though. No internet. The airline attendant didn’t understand me at first when I asked about it. Some flights do have internet, so I thought it was a sure bet. It’s international from China, after all. I hope this doesn't mean I will end up in some type of tourist jail.

The attendant checking my bags in Seoul told me that China might give me some problems, so it would be up to me to solve it if they let me through. China didn’t give me any problems. (Did she mean the airline or the country?) The country didn't give me any problems anyway, Thank God!
But the Thailand entry cards they handed out hint to me that it’s a rather serious matter. They ask for your entry and return information- down to the flight (“or other vehicle: number).

A loudspeaker announces they are giving us the option to buy things while in the air. We can’t use internet to get a way out of the country, but sure we will let you shop in the sky. How do people get what they buy? I was wondering that on the first flight to China- and figured they wouldn’t keep everything on board. But my seat mate just ordered cigarettes. So maybe they do have some stuff available. I was thinking about the big and fancy items that you could buy from a plane. Now my seat mate is singing in quite a funny way, I must say, in a scratchy voice and a weird tune, as if he’s singing some mix of punk, and sad romance song. Not sure if I am into it. Followed by a phlegmy cough and a not so discreet spit into the airline barf bag. Maybe he shouldn’t have those cigarettes?

Okay, so I really can’t wait to get off the plan and into Thailand! Maybe I can make a run for it? Doubtful, as my luggage is way too heavy. Not to mention the heat. I really must pack lighter. Maybe some training would help too.

On the flight to China, we got off the plane and went down the stairs to go outside, which threw me off a little (along with no sleep the night before) as I don't think I had ever done that before in my limited flight experience (which consists of about ten planes to get to the jungles of Brazil and almost 30 hours total to get to Korea by 3 planes. Although on second thought, I may have. All those planes and switch overs in the Brazil jungles kind of blur together).

I don’t know if they had the cigarettes for my seatmate, I must be in luck. Not so for my seatmate? At least he will live longer?

I am scared about the heat, so I put shorts on underneath. It’s the hottest time of the year now in Thailand and it doesn’t get any cooler in the evenings. I booked a hostel for the first night in Bangkok.

I was thinking before how I felt a bit like the crew in Lost on the plane when they had to get rid of stuff to get the plane lighter as it was running out of fuel. I felt like that myself, having to take most of my stuff from my apartment with me, so it was very heavy and awkward to carry, which definitely will not bode well with the heat.

Here's to some trekking of my own- maybe a jungle trek?

So I was thinking of what I don’t need and was slowly trying to get rid of it. Left my umbrella at the airport bus stop- it was pouring out so someone will need it and I already got my use out of it- going straight to the airport so didn't need it anymore. Then I left my book that I was planning on giving away on BookCrossing- great site for readers/travelers on a bench in the airport- I know I know, that will not help me get into China if they suspect me of suspicious activity at the airport. But the fuel was running out and I had to drop things fast.

I changed the coins I had into bills since the banks apparently closed by 4pm  or so, which caused me to lug all the coins with my already packed luggage and carry-on. Not so good. Especially when it broke the paper bag it was in, sending all my stuff crashing to the floor of the bus as I was getting off. At least I was the last person on the bus. The bus driver was kind and tried to find a bag for me but only found a little plastic baggie type one. It worked for a few things, the rest I shoved into other bags.

 Now I am numbering off the items I will get rid of, looking forward to a lighter bag, even it if it a slow process- item by item , bit by bit, kind of like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs. I had brought stuff I might take home, stuff I might use to volunteer and/or donate in Thailand as well as stuff I would need in Taiwan to teach and live there. But I must have the mindset of the Lost crew- if you are running out of fuel- what can go?

And believe me when I say carrying almost 20 pounds on each arm and on your back definitely makes you run out of fuel fast.

It makes me look at those massage chairs at the airport with a new sense of wonder and curiosity, that I might actually try one.
So looking forward to the beaches and the island and meeting the locals and learning the language and the full moon party and the Thai New Year (Songrakan) big water fight blow out!

I have been learning a little about the culture, and I'm ready to jump into the water with both feet. to dive into the water. to go deep sea diving. To get my diving instructor license!

But really, I would love to see if teaching here would definitely be something I want to do in the future! Right now, maybe not, because of finances. But definitely once I get those finances in order!  Imagine living and teaching on this beautiful country of islands and beaches and jungles? I can only imagine this and cannot wait! And I may just have to get that diving instructor certification while I'm at it!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Place to fall in Love with: Taiwan

Happy New Year! from Taiwan: On spending the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012 in another country and returning having learned much about travel, beauty, new friends, and places I want to return to

Three Things Taiwan Taught me

 1.) I learned what it means to make a friend in a foreign country that you have never been to before.

On the subway on the way to the New Year’s Eve celebration at Taipei 101, I was not sure of the exact route to get there. I went over to look at the map of the different stops, which two girls were sitting by. I asked them if a certain stop was the right one to get where I wanted to go. The stops had also been changed due to the crowds that night. They told me the stop and said that they were also going, so I could go with them. I happily went with them and we started talking, as much as we could with the language barrier. I do not know Mandarin Chinese and they spoke a little English (they understood more than they could speak, which seems to be common) But we communicated well enough for the most part. We hung out together for the New Year’s Eve party and played cards on the stone floor of the balcony outside of a building across from Taipei 101 where everyone gathered to watch the fireworks. It was very crowded and we squeezed in between different groups so we could get a spot to sit down. As we played cards, I tried to learn whatever Chinese I could, and learned (or heard at least) the words for 'Happy New Year', 'two', 'liar', 'yes', 'ask',  'him/her' and 'your welcome', among others.

 My two new friends went out of their way to show me around, help me have a good time and make sure I had a place to stay for the night. The people in Taiwan in general are very welcoming and extremely helpful, not giving a second thought to helping someone they don’t know or just met get where they have to go or helping them, not concerned about going out of their way, but happy to help all they can. This is similar to how people in Korea interact as well.

We had a great time together watching the fireworks, as well as playing with sparklers afterwards. I was looking at the sparklers glowing in the dark, then was surprised when my new friends got some for us to play with! I ended up burning my finger and palm a bit, but nothing serious. I still have the mark on my palm, though. I was happy to have a "battle scar" or 'memory mark' of my time in Taiwan!

We then got tea from a street vendor. There was a big stand set up by the area of the crowds. There were several young guys who were trying to sell the last of it, so they were having a friendly competition with each other. Since they each had a different flavor, they gave us samples and cheered when we chose their tea, which was quite amusing and added to the celebratory air of the new year and the chaotic crowds. I said 'Happy New Year' to them in Mandarin and one of the guys joked that my tea would be free. I chose the berry flavored tea, which was quite strong and thick, kind of like a juice or wine.

2.)  I learned what it means to go with the flow to make your adventures even more fun!

I did not go to Taiwan with a detailed itinerary, or with a very strict one. In fact, you could say I did not go with much of one at all. Because of not knowing too far in advance what days I would have off and not deciding on the location until a few days before (it was Taiwan or Japan) I did not do much in the way of planning an itinerary. I like to go with the flow for the most part and am not a big planner usually. By taking opportunities as they came, I was able to make new friends, explore and learn more and have an awesome and fun time!

3.) I learned what it means to trust God.

Since I went without an itinerary or plans on where to stay other than the first night of my 3 night trip, I prayed before I went and trusted God to provide me a place to stay. I stayed at a hostel the first night, which was booked the other 2 nights, before New Year’s. God amazingly provided a place for me to stay the last 2 nights, through the new friends I made, as well as an awesome itinerary full of new adventures and experiences!

For this trip, I had a goal of exploring what I could and seeing the beauty of the country. I had one contact that I wanted to meet while I was there: the YWAM team of Taiwan. YWAM is a group with bases around the world that has the mission of sharing God’s love with the world around them. I had heard good things about it before from several people who had been in it. To learn more about YWAM, click on the YWAM link or to learn about Taipei, Taiwan's YWAM, click here. Read on for my ocean adventures and future travel plans!

I wanted to learn more about the program firsthand as I am considering being a part of one of their classes/outreaches/adventures (that is to say, being part of DTS- Discipleship Training School, which is the first adventure/discipleship program you can take in YWAM)

Talking about adventures and seeing the beauty of the country, I was very happy that I got to see the ocean while on the island of Taiwan. It was off season, obviously, but that did not stop me from getting to the coast and going in the water! (Okay, I put a foot in the water…then got soaked from a wave crashing onto the shore, as the high tide was coming in! J It was a blast though and the water was not very cold at all, aside from the shock of getting wet without expecting it!

 Once I was “baptized” by the water, (Ask me about this!) I then made my way back to the capital city of Taipei to get there in time for the New Year. I almost did not want to leave the spot I was at, as it was so beautiful and peaceful. That is what I love about the ocean and why I want to live there one day. Now, with my new travel plans of going around the world, back-packer style, anywhere can be my home and I can certainly live by the ocean- this year, in fact! This is the first step of the new year in my many travels and adventures to come!

I would like to hear what countries you have traveled to that you loved. Where do you want to travel?
Where would you want to celebrate the New Year? Please answer in the comments!

Stay tuned to hear more about my time in Taiwan as well as my plans to travel and where I may go next- just click to follow on the righthand side of the page or sign up for email updates.