Escape to Bangkok and Laos

Last week I left Nakhon Sawan and headed for Bangkok and Laos. Danni and I left as soon as we got out of work, Saturday evening. We went to the local bus station and took a huge mega bus to Bangkok, which is about three hours south of where I live. By the time we arrived it was almost midnight, and, of course, raining. After much communication confusion, we found a taxi and took it to  Khaosan Road, an area where all the foreigners go.

After being in Nakhon Sawan, where there are only about 50 other foreigners in the city, it was almost shocking to see so many people who were my same size, had similar appearances, and who could speak with me. Of course, not all foreigners are English speakers, but for the most part everyone I met the first night could hold a conversation and understand what I was saying. Until you are isolated from your own language, you don’t realize how much you take for granted the ability to freely communicate. We quickly found a room, got changed, had a few beers, and headed out for the night. The best way I can describe Bangkok/Khaosan is that they are like Las Vegas on crack, acid and ecstasy. It was everything your senses could imagine or ever want, all at once. There were people everywhere; travelers, foreigners, locals, and we were just two among a sea of new faces. People party in the bars, the clubs, the streets, dance parties on top of tables, whatever, you name it. We took our coworkers advice and got “buckets of joy” and enjoyed the music and the random people we ended up hanging out with. We spent the night consuming more than our fair share of alcohol, while wandering the area we were staying in, eating the most amazing street food, and having conversations with people whose names we never even learned.  We made it back to our room just before the sun rose, and slipped into sleep.

Sawasdee House was the name of the hotel we stayed in, and this was the restaurant that was on the bottom floor.

By the time the bottom reached the bucket I gave up and didn’t bother finishing it. Bucket-1 Allie-0

When we awoke the next day the first thing we had to do was to buy a trainticket for that night, so we could take the overnight train to Laos. After we got our tickets we had all day to kill, so we walked around Khaosan more, exploring what it had to offer during the day time, and ate the most amazing brunch. My favorite Thai dish is Panag Curry, and the one I had in Bangkok was the best I have ever had. I may have just been beyond starving, but it tasted so yummy I never wanted it to end.

Kitty that was creeping around my table

Passing by these IQ lamps in the tree was the first time I have felt the smallest bit of homesickness. My brother got me this same lamp years ago as a gift for when I was accepted into college. It was, and still is, one of my favorite possession and this was the first time I have ever seen them hung other than in a store before.

We spent the whole day wandering down different streets and alleys and eventually we found ourselves by the river where the water had risen so high that it began to flood the park.

By the time we made it to the train station that evening we were so exhausted that we spread our luggage out and just laid on the floor, giving our bodies a much needed rest.

I laid on my back and looked up at the ceiling, which was made of all glass. There was a huge storm going on outside and the lightening kept flashing in the dark purple sky. The people in Thailand are so used to the extreme storms that they don’t seem to take any notice, but I have never heard thunder as powerful as I have since living here. it shakes the world around you, and quickly afterwards there is an electric shock that lights up the sky. Laying in the train station, watching the storm above me, was something i will never forget. It was one of the most beautiful moments I have lived. It reminded me of utterly powerless i am to the emotions of nature and the natural world around me.

Because I am a new traveler everything is really fresh and exciting for me, and what to many is a long and tiring train ride, was novel for me. The area you pay for turns into a bed and you get this little private area closed of by curtains, but which has a huge window in it to see the country as you pass through it. The train ride was about 14 hours, but it travels during the night, so that when you wake up in the morning you are at your destination.

After a full night’s journey, we arrived in Vientiene, Laos. Crossing the border and going through immigration was exhausting and irratating and cost a rediculous amont of money. I quickly realized that anything havig to do with border crossing was going to be an unpleasant experience, and not being able to speak the language makes it even more complicated. After about an hour or so of complications, standing in line, hualing aroud heavy luggae and taking muitple buses and taxis, we finally made it down to the river, where we were told to find a place to stay. I found us a Laos youth hostel and we crashed there the first night.

That evening we went down to the river market and then went out to dinner at an Indian restuarant. Danni had only eaten Indian food once before so I inststed she try it again and I ordered us an incredible dinner.

Afterwards we went to a rooftop bar and had a few drinks and watched a live band perform. Live music in Thailand is really popular and it seems that this is true also for Laos. More often than not I have been at places with bands before they have a DJ. The performers will play many American songs, but they always have a really heavy Thai accent, which turns songs like “West Virginia” into “Wess Va Jin Jhaa.” Classic.

Monks taking a morning walk around town, collecting donations.

The river bank that was once, not long ago, under water.

The next morning we went to the Thai Embassy to get our Visas, and then went to brunch with a friend we had met at the embassy. He was staying right down the street from us, so we checked into his hotel for our remaining stay in Laos. He introcued us to a bunch of other travelers, from all over the world, and we all decied to spend the day together and go to a place with running water, that had flowed down from a waterfall upstream.

A van was rented that we could all fit it, and we embarked onto what was going to be a very bumping and rough trip. Most of Laos is undeveloped, and many of the roads are dirt with huge wholes, deep puddles of mud, or giant rocks that block the path. Because of flooding they have to close down even more roads which makes rerouting at the last minute inevitable. The ride to the river was crazy, but the view outside was incredible. It was so lush and green for as far as the eye could see. There were giant ox grazing in the rice fields and some even crossing the road. The area we passed through was the most impoverished I have seen since arriving in Southeast Asia. Outside my window I passed makeshift structures which they consider buildings and people living in conditions I can’t even imagine being in. No matter what your purpose is for traveling or living in another country, you are quickly reminded of the amazing opportunities you own life has presented you with, and the struggles you have not had to face.

After a bumpy ride we had reached our destination. We spent all day in the river, playing on a rope swing, drinking beer, and getting to know one another.

and then there were elephants….

After spending all day at the river we packed up and headed back into town. We got back to the hotel everyone was staying in, freshened up, and headed out for a huge group dinner and night out together. It was an absolute blast, and I am really lucky to have met such amazing people to enjoy the trip with.

After spending a few days in Vientiane, it was time for Danni and I to head back to Nakhon Sawan. On our last day we went to the station to buy another another sleeper train ticket, which would get us back to Bangkok.  In Laos we had about four hours to kill before the train departed and we were in a very remote area, so we hung out at a restaurant across the street, playing “fuck/marry/kill, would you rather?” and laughing about the absurd encounters and adventures we had had over the week. We  were also entertained by the owner’s children, who were the most adorable kids ever.

That night on the train we met another traveler who I invited to play cards with us. We played round after round of bullshit and then he taught us the German game “Mau.”

A Weekend in the City

Last Thursday I departed on a last minute trip to San Francisco. Two of my close friends were driving up for Outside Lands, and I decided to ride up with them to spend a much needed visit with one of my best friends from college. We hadn’t seen one another since April, and this friend was someone I had spent almost every day with my last year at Santa Cruz. There was no way I could leave to Thailand without one last weekend in his company. So, how to sum up Thursday through Monday….?

Left town around ten-ish Thursday night. First stop- alcohol. Sitting in the back seat with a Four Loko while me and my friend passed the ipod back and forth. DJs taking turns makes for an interesting playlist. Dubstep to Ludacris. As we both made progress on our drinks the car ride got sillier, while our driver, of course, remained sober. Drove until we had to eat. Stopped for pizza sometime around midnight and ate an extra meaty pizza. Wrecked our stomachs. Only guests in the pizza place. Totally creepy. Drove for about another hour until our driver had to sleep, so we parked and passed out in a hotel parking lot. Hot air and a car full of limbs sticking out the windows just to cool down. Two of us slept with sunglasses on to keep the street lights out of our eyes. I thought it was clever, but our other friend laughed at us. Sleeping behind a steering wheel is not the best night of sleep.

With a few hours of sleep, we were on the road again. Driving under the rising sun that would make the Central California drive miserable. If, it weren’t for AC. Stopped again a few hours later so our driver could take another nap.

That time my friend and I played in the parking lot and entertained ourselves. I sat on the curb and wrote as he sat on the ledge of the trunk and played guitar. He skateboarded, I scootered. We wandered through a Pea Soup Andersons giant tacky gift shop. And I used a restroom that was decorated with more fairy statues that I have ever encountered. Literally, an army of them.

Once we could no longer fight impatience to go, we woke up our driver, who said we were making too much noise for him to really even sleep.

Ok, Dad.

We stopped to get lunch in a town where everyone goes to get drunk or die. I am not kidding. It was either a hospital, or a bar. There was even a dive bar across from the hospital called The Waiting Room. My friend couldn’t find a bathroom so he peed in the corner or its wall. After that last stop we were off to San Francisco.

We got to my college friend’s house and dropped off all of our stuff and then drove into the city. From there I split ways with the boys so they could go to the show, while I killed time to meet up with my friend. I wandered the city until he got off work, admiring fountains, stopping for coffee, and walking the water front. I met him in his office, which was 36 stories up, and had a view of the Bay. His big boy job. We went out for drinks and tacos and caught up on months worth of events in one another’s lives.

Nothing better than sitting across the table from one of your best friends and seeing their face as you talk to them, while being so appreciative of them in your life. Friendships that will stand the test of time will be the greatest gifts in life.

After drinks, sneaking on metro, back to his house, meeting housemates, drinking beers, getting fresh, off to a night out, more sneaking on metros, hopping around in the Mission District, meeting people and having instant connections, sneaking off together and sitting on the stairs of row houses giggling and talking, meeting up with more friends from college, off to more bars, all cramming in one car, back to the house, partying on the roof, over looking the city, rows and rows of houses and lights, passing out.

The next day we all woke up a little worn out from the night before, and decided at noon to get some breakfast. We took the bart back into the city and spent the afternoon in the Mission.

Bloody Marys- essential, diner lunch, Goodwill shopping, more Bloody Marys, Dolores Park, laying in the sun, hippy hill, surrounded by more people I have ever seen just hanging out in a park, people walking by selling drugs, selling alcohol, selling whatever it is that got you high got you low, wherever you needed your mind or body to go, people in hula hoops, people practicing for fire spinning, minus the fire, people playing sports, all different kinds of music playing, all different kinds of people, some dancing, some sitting, some sprawled in the grass like me, drank our beers as we joined a three man baseball game, hit a home run, returned back to our spot and layed under the sun with the group I was with, ended the day with a Chinese food dinner. Passed Out.

Sunday was my last full day in the city, so I wanted to explore a little more than the Mission. I have been to San Francisco so many times that I was surprised that the Mission was really the only place I had never been to in the city. We took the bart into Chinatown and climbed the hilly streets. In and out of shops, looking at weird things, smelling weird smells, buying pounds and pounds of gogi berries and taking pictures with people in dragon costumes. Chinatown was my last bit of American Asian influence in my life before I move to Asia. After Chinatown we ended up in City Lights bookstore and I could not put down the most amazing book I have ever found. Every picture and every word explained things that I have felt before and the exact way I think. It was eerie looking at a book that I felt I could have written. I will buy it, when I have money again.

After City Lights, Vesuvius Café next door. More wandering led us to Dolores Park again, but today it was just the two of us. More catching up and sun basking. Back to the house to relax and then off to Golden Gate park for a game of glow in the dark ultimate Frisbee.


This is kind of a big thing, well for me at least. I went on my first real motor cycle ride, through the streets of San Francisco, in the evening, where fog was beginning to wrap itself around everything. It was one of the most exhilarating feelings I have ever had, as well as one of the most magical. It never occurred to me how much I would enjoy riding on a bike, even if just on the back. The feeling of the cold bay air on face, just that one band of unprotected skin across the front where the helmet didn’t cover. The way the bike leaned and so did our bodies. The vulnerability that you feel, unprotected, racing down streets, with only the sound of air rushing past you. I fell in love.

Glow in the dark Frisbee was so much fun, and the park was so thick with fog it was amazing we even could see the glow sticks. Mine were green. I wore them on both wrists and as a head band. After the game I went back to the house to cook dinner with the boys, and we had the most amazing meal I could have asked for. A whole baked chicken, lemon tossed kale salad, sautéed potatoes, quinoa, and bacon wrapped shrimp. Wine and Cheese. Delicious. Watched films made my friends as we ate dinner, and laughed until our stomachs hurt.

Check out- Scare Cabin of Uncle II.

The next morning I was back on the road again with my two home town friends, and was sad to say goodbye to my San Francisco pal and the city. As soon as Thailand is finished and I am done traveling to wherever else I end up, I am moving to San Francisco. It is the final destination. It’s such a unique city with so much life and spice and flavor. I want to call it home. I will call it home.