I booked my flight on Saturday and boarded the plane the next Thursday. Where to? Bangkok! With whom? Aaah, let’s just go alone!
That was some spontaneous decision! A decision I never regretted. A decision that changed me quite a bit I suppose. A decision that I will always think back to and say „Sometimes you have to be spontaneous and take risks. It’s the best thing to do!“
So I took a flight to Thailand. Actually I was never really fascinated by Asia but after I had spent some weeks in China with Christopher and Luna earlier this year I got infected with the „Asia-virus“ how I call it. I loved all these markets, the street food, the friendly people, the landscapes and nature. I was simply amazed by this country.
And when I had a look on the Internet and saw flights to Bangkok I was like „All right, let’s do it!“.
So I did it and traveled Southeast Asia for two months just by myself.
I originally only planned to stay for one month but after the first three days I realized that this was just not enough to do and see everything I wanted to and changed my flight to be able to stay two months in total. I dreamed of doing a diving course. I wanted to go mountain biking. I wanted to see the Temples of Angkor in Cambodia. I wanted to experience the everyday life of a local. I wanted to try all the food. I wanted to go trekking. I felt like going to Malaysia. I decided to also go to Laos.
And I did almost all of it. But the best part actually started when all the bullets from my bucket list were checked.
I had such a great time diving on small islands in Thailand and Malaysia. It was simply amazing when I was sitting on the bottom of the ocean for the first time, looked up and saw the sun shining through the surface. Simply magical! Since we went shark cage diving in South Africa last year I dreamed of going diving and exploring the underwater world. And it didn’t disappoint me at all!
Another highlight of my trip to Southeast Asia were the Temples of Angkor! These huge religious building blew me away and I went there four days in a row to see all
of them. I even always got up at 4 o’clock in the morning to see the sunrise which is a truly fascinating spectacle when the sun rises behind the main temple Angkor Wat. (It was not easy though to get up that early, but more than worth it!! :D)
One of the things I enjoyed most was meeting people. I made some great new friends from all over the world, more than I would have met if I had traveled together with somebody else. When your are alone you fell much more open-minded to other backpackers, you want to meet people because it’s ways more fun to explore the countryside on a motorbike with a group of people than by yourself. The experiences are even stronger if you can share them with others. (To be honest, after a while you’re glad to find somebody with whom you travel for a couple of days because even though it is very very enriching, motivating and inspirational to meet all these new people, after a while you get a bit tired of telling your story over and over again every second day 😉 )
But I didn’t only meet other backpackers. When strolling through the stalls of a local street market and then spontaneously deciding to try something unidentifiable to eat I often found myself sitting next to a local who was curiously staring at me. And even though we couldn’t talk to each other we often managed to communicate without words. I love these encounters! It gives you so much! This is probably the main reason why I love traveling so much: the people you meet along the way. Actually it doesn’t really matter where you go but who you meet and with whom you spend your time.
Another time I was with an English guy for a week or so. We rented a motorbike in Laos and just found our own way through the mountains, little villages and had the freedom to stop wherever we wanted to. We visited markets where there had probably never been a tourist before. We stayed in small guest houses in a village where there was not a single other westerner around. We had such a great time passing through the towns and all the kids waving at us and shouting „Falang! Falang!” which means foreigner.
This was actually the first time I didn’t really stick to my plans. And it was the beginning of a great ending of my trip!
I had done all the things I desperately planned to do in the beginning so form now on I was kind of „free“ because I wouldn’t have to watch out to somehow travel south to get to this or that city where I wanted to go. From now on I just went where the next train went to.
So together with the English guy I took a bus to the border between Laos and Thailand and we crossed it. Then we took a Tuktuk to the train station and just had a look where the next train would go to. Nakhon Ratchasima? Never heard. Well, whatever, let’s go there!
We traveled third class in a local train which means no comfort at all but traveling with the locals. At some stations women with huge baskets board the train and walk from one compartment to the next selling delicious food and drinks for less than one Euro! The journey took forever and in the end we were around three hours behind the schedule but it was so much fun! More fun than traveling by bus because the train passes through the landscape, you see people working in their fields or rice paddies and all the traditional houses.
When we arrived in the city we had no idea where to go and sleep. It was already 11 o’clock in the evening and we couldn’t see any signs written in English. This city is very unpopular to tourists and so it’s still very pristine and natural. People look at you as if they have never seen a „falang“ before. Maybe they haven’t.
By chance we found a tuktuk driver who seemed to understand that we were looking for a place to sleep. Prejudiced like most people from western countries we thought the guy would probably take us to the most expensive hotel of the city and then demand a horrid price for the ride. But no. He took us to a small house of a local family that rents two rooms in their house. And no, he charged us the normal price. This story and many many others once again showed me that prejudice are the worst thing ever. Of course you sometimes have to be careful and should watch out but in general people want your best and will help you out if you need them.
The next morning we had to separate cause George went to Cambodia and I had to go back to Bangkok to catch my flight back home. His train left earlier than mine so I had some time to visit another market. And this was one of the best! No tourists, only locals. The people wanted to shake my hand, they smiled at me and when I bought some food at a couple of stalls they were so happy! I loved it there! And also at the train station: everybody was so helpful, they accompanied me to the right train platform (even though that wouldn’t have been necessary at all…) and made sure I boarded the right train. It was so great to see how nice and welcoming these people are! Especially when they don’t often meet foreigners. I have the feeling that tourism is good on the one hand because the locals can make money from it but on the other hand it spoils and destroys the traditional habits. In some places everything is only for tourists: restaurants, guest houses, night markets, hotels, fun activities and in the end nothing of the local culture is left. But is this the reason why I want to go traveling? Why would I want to eat a burger in Malaysia? Or Italian pizza in Cambodia? Or speak German to the shop owners in Thailand? I can do all of that at home!
That’s why I liked my time in Southeast Asia most when I had the chance to go to places where people still live like the used to before the masses of tourist invaded their country.
Sure, I’m one of them but I try not to be the typical one.