Careening up a narrow mountain path in the open back of a red pick-up truck was not how I imagined my first day of volunteering with Art Relief International in Thailand. Nonetheless, this city girl took it in stride when we found out, moments after arrival at a dusty, mountainside, primary school campus, that instead of the planned art workshops we were supposed to be facilitating in conjunction with students from an American university study abroad program, today was “Scout’s Day” at Wat Prachakasem Hill Tribe School. (more…)
The one promise I made to myself before going to Southeast Asia was that I wouldn’t get on a motorbike. After reading posts about it from some of my favorite bloggers, like this one by Audrey Bergner, I knew it wasn’t in the cards for me and I wasn’t worried about disobeying myself – I’m not one to risk physical harm and besides, I don’t even know how to ride a bicycle or drive a car! Nonetheless, on my first full day in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I hopped on the back of a motorbike. The day was packed – I took my first motorbike ride, went to the Chiang Mai Art in Paradise 3D Art Museum, and had my first Pad Thai at my first Night Market – Sunday Walking Street. (more…)
I arrived in Chiang Mai on a Saturday afternoon in January to a sweltering, tropical climate. My pasty skin was in shock coming from frigid New York! The assistant director and the driver from my volunteer program picked me up from the airport and told me all about Chiang Mai and what to expect in the next few days as we headed toward the volunteer home. Exhausted from my journey, I tried to ask good questions and show my enthusiasm, but I couldn’t help getting lost staring out the program van’s window and absorbing my first sights of THAILAND. I made it! (more…)
Even after sixteen hours of not sleeping, entering the bright and sleek Hong Kong airport felt like waking up. At the Hong Kong airport I thought I’d have 4.5 hours to spare until my connecting flight to Chiang Mai, but after frantically trying and failing to get the wi-fi to work on my phone and not knowing I was supposed to fill out a form for Hong Kong Customs – thereby getting cut in the customs line by a giant group of tourists – by the time I checked in for the connecting flight I had only a little over 3 hours to spare.
While waiting to board my 16 hour flight to Hong Kong, I was thinking more about my past than about the amazing things to come in the next 70 days. After hugging my parents goodbye and painlessly making my way to the gate, I drafted thank you notes to my former coworkers and bosses that I planned to write on stationery from Thailand, and berated myself for once again, as on every flight, forgetting my earphones and needing to buy new ones from the overpriced airport store. I didn’t even try to imagine what my life would be like after flying halfway around the world.
When I first started to plan my Southeast Asia trip, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be packing all my stuff in a backpack. Midway through planning the trip, before booking my volunteer placement and plane tickets, I was sure I’d be using a rolling backpack. By the time everything was booked, and after reading about 8 million travel blogs, I knew that a real backpack for Southeast Asia was the only way to go. (more…)
In the frenzy of packing and getting prepared for my trip, I didn’t get the chance to blog as much as I would have liked about my proposed itinerary for my next 10 weeks in Southeast Asia. When I plan a trip, I usually try to opt for planned spontaneity rather than a strict itinerary. This means that I research a ton of options in each place I hope to go, and then can pick what to do when I feel like it once I’m already in each place. Southeast Asia makes it particularly easy to do this, with its low cost travel options and guesthouses. Now that I have a spare minute in my volunteer placement’s guest house in Chiang Mai, I can let you know what I’ve got planned, loosely, for the next 10 weeks: