I’m back. I arrived home sometime Friday night at a decent hour, but I immediately ordered a pizza and just started watching TV. Being able to relax was a high priority. After later sitting down at my computer, I didn’t look up until it was around 6am and released I should sleep. The next day, I didn’t wake up until 5pm. I’ve been continuing to relax, but my sleep schedule is definitely off. Today, I hope to get sleep by 4am. What will follow are some quick impressions from my trip, while they are still fresh in my mind. I plan on sorting through my thousand-something pictures and posting them soon, with thoughts from my more detailed journal that I kept. Let’s start from where I left off, leaving 3 weeks ago!
Three flights to get to Bangkok and 27 hours of traveling. Flying on Cathay was the best flying experience of the trip, thanks to their unlimited free Johnnie Walker Black Label and Chevas Regal 8 year! My friend in Bangkok, Vicki, was waiting for me when I got off the plane around 8pm and took me back to her apartment. Dumped my stuff and headed out for dinner and drinks. Had my first Pad Thai and then ride on the back of someone’s motorcycle to a club called Santika. It was a great club, expensive for Thais, but as I tragically found out 2 weeks later, it burned to the ground on New Years Eve killing 59 people. Such a bizarre coincidence for me, although looking back, I’m not surprised. For the following days, I ate and drank alot and explored Bangkok. Went to the Chatuchak weekend market and bought a big new fake backpack for $40. I found out about Thai massages and started getting like 2 hours of massage every day because it was costing me about $6 an hour. Went to school with my friend for a day, she teaches English at a local college. Went to the Siam mall and was very impressed. Overall, loved the food and friendly culture of the Thais. For a few nights out party, eating as much as I want, without paying for housing, and buying alot of random clothes and bags, I spent about $350 over 6 days. Landed on a Saturday night and then took off the immediate Thursday following.
Flying into Kunming, China and wandering around was my biggest shock of the trip. I was babied in Bangkok by having my friends do the hard work of figuring out how the culture and language works, I was lucky enough to experience the best parts of it. China was a whole different ballpark: different language, different culture, different money, and no help. Actually, I had my Lonely Planet guide and a pocket guide to Mandarin that I picked up. The pocket guide with dictionary proved very useful at times when I literally ran into situations where no one at all spoke English, we were unable to communicate, and they were uninterested in helping me out. After landing, I spent a fun time taking an hour to exchange money because you have to wait in line and fill out a form involving your passport! God bless Communism. I felt so safe in China, there were cops on every corner and I knew that everyone was staring at me, no one was going to try anything with me. It took me 2 hours and much embarrassment to book an overnight sleeper train to Dali, where I met a Hungarian traveling the same route as me. Very glad to have someone who spoke English to talk with and decompress a bit. I had complete culture shock my first couple days in China, life is really 180 degrees different from America. I could not relate in anyway to people, everything was so bizarre. You could not assume anything, like toilets you sit on or food that is cooked or heated water or drinkable water or any toilet paper or jeez, I could go on. I went to Lijang by bus and spent a day there. Then the best part of my trip, walking the Tiger Leaping Gorge! Actually hiking. I spent 3 days hiking it from beginning to end, top to bottom, and every other way imaginable. First time I had vertigo in my life, when I was looking over the trail that was only inches wide, a few thousand meters drop, and a heavy wind. Loved all of it. I spent Christmas eve and day in Sean’s Guesthouse, at the end of the trail with a mix of travels, celebrating the holiday together. It wasn’t too bad at all up in the mountains. I took a bus back to Lijang, a bus to Kunming, one day exploring in Kunming, and then a plane to Hong Kong. I have to say, I was very tired of traveling China and it wore me out. I was glad when I left.
Hong Kong was a great vacation though and raised my spirits greatly. My current roommate Haris was there to greet me at the airport and get me to his house. Showered, changed my clothes, and then my “vacation” began. Dinner in Central Hong Kong at a nice restaurant and then drinking at Stanley market. This continued for the next 6 days, a great recovery and time that I needed. I bought a tailored suit, made to my specifications, in 3 days flat, ready for New Years, for about $450. Pub crawl in Wan Chai, the redlight district on one night, drinking in Lan Kwai Fong many nights, including New Years Eve! Haris had great friends and many good connections for fun things to do in the city and good food to eat. I loved Hong Kong immensely! Coming back via Air China was torture and I would almost not recommend flying at all versus flying with them. That brings us back to today, so I will start writing up more details soon. It was a great trip, highly recommend checking out Asia to those who haven’t been!