Ahhhh-I’m not the best at keeping up with this blogging thing! It’s been a little over a week since I last wrote and the time between entries gets a little longer each time. I’ve never been great at keeping a journal either. I’m not sure what that says about me…maybe I’m just too busy having a good ole time to record it? I’ll tell myself that at least, ha!
So…A LOT has happened since I blogged last. When I left you last, I was about the “purgate”…is that even a word? In Ayurveda, it’s a word. So thank you for the prayers because it was a success. Not what I expected, of course (is it ever?) but it was what I needed, apparently. I spent a total of 5 days at the Ayurvedic hospital and overall had a great experience. I learned a lot, felt well cared for, relaxed and rejuvenated upon leaving. The food was amazing. People were nice. And the butterflies and flowers were simply stunning.
I left Aluva for Fort Kochi on 8/27-where I would be spending the next 5 days until heading to Bangkok on 8/31. I had originally planned to travel around Kerala to the tea plantations (Munnar) and the backwaters (Alleppey) but due to the weather and prior flooding, I was advised not to. So, I booked a place in Fort Kochi that I found in Conde Nast Traveler magazine-the hotel is known for the art exhibits throughout the rooms (http://www.malabarhouse.com). I arrived in the late afternoon on 8/27 and was pleasantly surprised by both my hotel and the surrounding area. I didn’t do that much research prior to choosing this destination. In fact, I have been flying by the seat of my pants a little bit-researching and booking only the next place I’m traveling to. For some of you that have traveled this way, you probably know it’s very exciting and freeing. For those that are planners, this probably terrifies you-try it sometime! The art did not disappoint-the room had so much character and even the furniture was artistic in design.
I headed out of my hotel on foot and was bombarded with TukTuk (auto-rickshaw, a 3 wheeled vehicle that can buzz through traffic easier than a car-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto_rickshaw) drivers asking for my business. But this girl needed to move her legs-so I kindly said no (about 50 times). And off I went. I wandered aimlessly but there was plenty of signage to point me in the directions of tourist attractions. Fort Kochi is an old fishing village with deep history. There are old Chinese fishing nets which were introduced by the Chinese in the 14th century. The community history goes back as far as the 1300’s or earlier!
I found the Chinese fishing nets and watched the fishermen lower and raise the nets-only bringing in a few fish at a time. Since the nets are so close to shore, there are not many fish to be caught. So why even do it then? For one, it is a huge tourist attraction and for second, there is a large Muslim population and the fish caught this was are considered “halal”-which to my understanding means “lawful” to consume since the fish are caught in a more humane way. I saw the fishing boats come in from their day at sea with boats full of fish-grouper, tuna, snapper-all auctioned off one by one by an auctioneer.
The town has many old, beautiful churches-many of which were originally Catholic Churches when the Portuguese settled here in the 1500’s (that’s old!!).
Fort Kochi is a town that survives off tourism and therefore, there are many shoppes and restaurants around every corner. I wanted to do a tour when I arrived so I googled a few tour companies and settled on one that I found through a famous blogger “Hippie in Heels”-(https://hippie-inheels.com-who died in May this year after a heart attack at her Bachelorette party-horrifying! Her blog is amazing for anyone thinking of solo traveling! Check her out and help her memory live on…) called GoMowgli. I called the office which was located in a nearby hostel, “Happy Camper” and no one answered. I wasn’t quite sure whether or not the tour company was still operating since their website was functional but there was no active way to pay for the tour that I was attempting to book. I looked through TripAdvisor and didn’t find any recent entries so I was pretty sure they may have closed down. However, before I had much time to think about where to turn next, I received a call on my phone (on my India number) and wondered who it could possibly be. Usually I ignore such calls but was strangely curious. Sure enough, it was someone from the hostel I had called, who knew about GoMowgli, because he used to work there! He told me they were no longer in business but to come on by and he’d be happy to help. So, I headed over-just really short walk from my hotel and met Girish. He is a really nice guy, about my age, who was interested in meeting new people and clearly loves this place. He offered to take me on a bike tour through the town of Kochi the next day and I was psyched. The tour was great! The company, “Raw Adventures” (website is TBD-http://rawadventure.in/about-us/), is an up and coming tour company there-if you go to Fort Kochi, you have to check them out. We became fast friends and he showed me around the area-the best spot for coffee and cake (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g297633-d12938457-Reviews-Alice_Delices_French_Bakery-Kochi_Cochin_Ernakulam_District_Kerala.html), best chai spot (no link for this one-it was street cart!). Gotta love someone else that loves to share their good eats spots!
There was a great crew at the hotel I stayed at where I ate all my meals-I couldn’t bring myself to venture out, it was that good. The restaurant (http://www.malabarescapes.com/cuisine/) is incredible. The staff there were so kind and helpful and a lot of fun to chat with. Breakfasts were curated by them, I asked them what Keralan inspired dish I should try that day and they would pick it out for me-each one interesting, new and delicious. Shivji, the executive chef is creative and excited to make new dishes to please the palate. After night 2, he took the menu away and curated my meals night after night. I was sad to leave, to say the least. (If you are wondering, I have not gained any weight (I don’t think….and I am not eating lunch-2 meals a day is plenty! I am getting in exercise every day too!). Did you see that justification, right there?
It’s hard to believe the cost of things on this side of the world (or in India and SE Asia anyway). The worth of a dollar is so much more here and money goes so much further. 6 dollars for a French press coffee and 2 pieces of fresh baked cake at a French bakery (no, both were not for me). 3 dollars for an Uber ride 15 km to the airport. And only $0.02 to weigh yourself by the pier (not sure who would pay to weigh themselves-certainly not me after all the food I have been eating). $0.27 for a 1 L bottle of water. Certainly the hotels gouge you more, since you are a tourist and they know the value of the U.S. dollar in the U.S.. But, you can find things for so much cheaper if you are willing to just look a little.
Technology has always been something I have struggled with-I love it but I’ve never been super interested in it or good at using it. I was one of the last of my friends to join Facebook or IG-social media seemed like a colossal waste of time and invasion of privacy. But it was been AMAZING to have technology while traveling. Between the Maps app in the iPhone, Google maps, Google itself, What’sApp, FaceTime, Uber: they have revolutionized travel and allowed things to be so much easier. Especially staying connected with family and friends. Although I still am a bit weary/cautious about social media and the phone zombie phenomenon (it’s global guys! Phone zombies are real-don’t be one and I’ll try not to, as well.), we really are part of an amazing era of technology! And the familiarity of using it really helps when you are in an unfamiliar place.
So what did I take away from this part of my journey:
- If you are looking for experiences, they will find you. Even the ones you don’t expect.
- Ask people their names and look them in the eye. People feel valued and seen-it’s the beginning of a connection.
- People are kind.
- The universe is small.
This place felt like a little piece of home-it felt a little like the beach town, Cardiff, that I lived in while living in San Diego. Reading my book down by the water, smell of fresh cut pineapple filling the air, young lovers snuggling up and flirting on the park benches….there was a familiarity in a place so unfamiliar. It was a great way to end my time in India. India did not disappoint. I heard so much negativity about India before I left when I told people I would be spending a month there. “Be careful…India is dangerous.” Anywhere can be dangerous. You have be be careful no matter where you are. But my experience-India is amazing. The people, the culture, the food-just beautiful. Don’t be afraid to visit India. Go!
I headed on a late night flight to Bangkok at 1 AM on 8/31. BTW, you would be proud to know I am down to 21 kg of shit in my 70L backpack and another 10 kg or so in my carry on bag. Still a lot…still too much but the downsizing is happening slowly as I start to get more comfortable and confident traveling.
My flight was great-I had the whole row to myself and laid down and slept for the 3 and a half hour flight. It was about as comfortable as sleeping on a flight can be, I think (unless you pay for Business or first class and have one of those high end recliner seats-I hope I’ll be baller enough to do that someday).
I arrived in Bangkok very early in the morning and was all ready to fill out my visa form, only to learn I didn’t even need ANY visa at all. THANK GOD because the line was > 2000 tourists from all over Asia, long. I’ve never seen so many people in a line, in my life. I let out a huge sigh of relief and I headed through immigration and customs in a snap. Living in the US, we have a lot of privilege that we are generally unaware of, the freedom to travel into other countries being one of them. It’s generally very easy to do so. This is not the case for people who live in a lot of other countries so, take the opportunity to travel internationally, if you are able! It’s not that scary!
I was afraid that immigration would question whether or not I had my out bound flight booked (since this happened to another fellow traveler, previously, who was forced to book his flight right in the airport before they would let him through immigration) but they did not question a thing (you can only stay in Thailand for 30 days as a foreign tourist and they want to make sure you don’t overstay your welcome-there is a hefty fine and possibly jail time, if you do). In fact, they didn’t speak a word to me. Just checked my passport and waved me through.
I headed out to the gate, grabbed my bag and went to the area where my taxi was waiting. The ride was quiet (no constant beeping in honking like in India)- then it dawned on me, it was early on a Saturday morning-no wonder it was so quiet. And the city is pretty clean! I was at the hotel in Sukhumvit 15 within 30 minutes and it was 8 AM. The hotel check in time usually isn’t until 3 PM but they had me wait in the Executive Lounge, served me a coffee and breakfast and got my room ready in a jiffy. By 9:30 AM, I was comfortable in my room! That’s service! The service industry here works very hard to please their customers-it is greatly appreciated! Especially when you are tired after traveling all night.
I unpacked, rested a bit and hit the city around 2 PM. I wandered aimlessly-I’m serious-with no plans and no direction. I didn’t have a Thai SIM card yet so I just walked. I headed to the nearest shopping mall called Terminal 21, since that’s what the hotel folks advised. It’s a 6 story shopping center where the floors are split into countries and each floor is a circle or stores with “streets” that house stores and food from all different places; Paris, London, Istanbul, San Francisco, etc. It’s pretty cool, for a mall. I’m not very into shopping though, so I headed out on foot to see what else I could check out. I found a really neat place called “ARTBOX” with live music and street food. It was kind of like a “farmer’s market” of sorts. The live music was great-a male and female duo singing a lot of covers of American music. I have realized that people from both India and Thailand LOVE American music-especially Bruno Mars! They sang a lot of his stuff. But it was a blast. I met two Filipino women who upon learning I was alone, invited me to sit with them. I had a delicious dinner-Pad Thai (60 baht-2 bucks), a bottle of water (20 baht-0.65 cents), a caramel PB brownie (80 baht-$2.60)….and I headed back to my hotel fairly early around 9 PM to rest, since I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. I felt like I needed to justify that since the nightlife here is popping, nonstop, all night long….
Yesterday, I worked out at the hotel gym in the morning, had a leisurely breakfast and coffee and then readied myself to head out to the amazing temples here. The temples are just magnificent. I visited Wat Pho (with the reclining Buddha) and Grand Palace (with the Emerald Buddha). I had my first Thai Massage at the Wat Pho Traditional Medicine and Massage School (http://www.bangkok.com/magazine/wat-pho-massage-school.htm)-I had a 30 min foot massage and then a 1 hour whole body massage with oil for 1020 baht (33 USD!). It was amazing. Aon was my therapist-she was awesome! She gave me an interesting outfit to put on-the pants are called Fisherman pants and are baggy with a tie that ties from back to front (see pic in the photos section). The top, a loose tank top. I didn’t care-I just wanted to get out of my sopping wet clothes from the downpour I had been stuck in just prior to arriving (where my only umbrella also broke..damn). You may be wondering, what is Thai massage? It’s a method of massage where the masseuse uses his/her hands and feet, elbow etc. to loosen tight muscles. They also stretch the body between massaging. It is awesome-if you’ve never had one, I highly recommend it. Especially in Thailand. (https://theculturetrip.com/asia/thailand/articles/everything-you-know-thai-massage/)
Today, I am feeling a little under the weather with a cold. So, I actually haven’t left my hotel. I planned the next leg of my trip, applied for my Vietnam visa, uploaded and edited photos and wrote this blog post-ya know, the housekeeping things. Tomorrow I’m hoping to feel better so I can get back out there and explore more of Bangkok before heading out to Chiang Mai on Thursday.
What’s on the docket for the next few days:
- Checking out Soi Cowboy and Nana’s adult palace because that’s a must, right?! http://www.bangkok.com/nightlife-go-go-bar/soi-cowboy.htm
- Silom cooking class (https://www.cookly.me/by/silom-thai-cooking-school/?&utm_source=google&utm_medium=sem&utm_campaign=b_silomthaicookingschool&gclid=CjwKCAjw-7LrBRB6EiwAhh1yX81CwKSb8jUnOSdjwl7PqseqJbPn4fLJ6LK78FarO2bgHkgdnwj_ZxoCzRMQAvD_BwE)
- I’m going to try to get a hair cut….we shall see how that turns out!
- Maybe some Muy Thai observation, a yoga class, or intro to buddhist meditation class at the Wat Mahathat temple
If you have any other suggestions-send em’ over guys!
Sending lots of love from Bangkok! xoxo