Thursday, February 7, 2008

I don’t think we’re in Korea anymore, Toto.

(This was actually written two days ago, and I just now got internet for my computer.)

No, definitely not in Korea any more.

In fact, right now I’m sitting in my underwear with the windows wide open (aside from the screens) with the songs of night birds and insects expressing their devotion to the warm night air. I share in that devotion. I am so happy to be warm again. The only thing that’s crumby about the tropical weather, though, is the slime. I almost forgot about the slime. All of the heat I’ve been in recent past has been dry heat. I forgot that as soon as you step out of the airport, you’re clothes feel dirty. It’s not really your clothes that are dirty, it’s not even you that’s dirty, it’s all the water and moisture being sucked up into the air and sticking to anything that… well, anything. I don’t mind it though. I certainly prefer it to freezer weather. Freezer weather makes me want to stay in, heater weather makes me want to go out.

I learned a lot from Korea. The biggest lesson I learned was the fuel of generosity and trust. In fact, I believe a large part of my enjoyable, successful travel, comes from a little blind faith and trust. There were so many times when I had no idea what was going on and I just went with my newfound friends, the advice of strangers, or the lead of my co-workers and students. When one travels without faith, one often ends up eating boring food, seeing only the tourist sights (and not even with a very insightful eye), getting lost a lot (in a bad way), and feeling rather frustrated and left wondering why they liked traveling anyways. People are bound to be generous and sharing if you approach them with love and trust. (At least, that’s what I would like to believe in some small way.) You are in their land. I’m not saying that it’s smart to be foolish and believe everything you hear, only that letting go of your way may lead you on a very nice way indeed. Perhaps it was the unexpected way, but either way, I think more is had. Working my ass off distracted me just enough to be happily willing to throw my hands up and say, “lead the way?” a lot.

I bring all this up because I have noticed an alteration in my now free travel style. (As you know, my time is now my own again and I am currently celebrating my third day off in a row!) Since landing in Thailand, I have said, “okay” to a lot more things this trip than other trips I have had. I think.

I think I usually had questioned the motives of all those helpful Thai people wanting to give rides, advice, a cheap meal, an opportunity to see more Thailand, etc. This time, I’m finding myself walking up to folks with wide eyes, a big smile, positive intentions, and an open mind. I think a lot of travelers (and I have been able to watch a lot of travelers since arriving in Thailand) are really scared. They should be! I mean a different language, different food, no sense of direction and landmarks, not even the knowledge of how to make a phone call usually makes a person a little nervous. But then, as travelers, we do a funny thing. In the midst of all this unknown, we defend ourselves from the locals, we see scams where people really are just trying to make an honest buck, we read guidebooks, and stand in front of maps for fifteen minutes wondering how to get to the train station. We shrug off people in uniforms asking us where we’re going. Maybe people are nice.

So, I’m asking. I’m asking and accepting and it’s great. I’m not accepting the tuk tuk ride for 60 Baht when I had just paid 40 earlier for the same ride and I’m not going to towns without calling a guesthouse ahead of time. I’m not being a “noob”. But, I will go on the little tour that the nice old lady from my guest house pitches to me right after I check in (I didn’t have anything else planned tonight). I will ask everyone where they’ve been and where they’re going and make a friend in some way or another every place I go and ask for advice and take it. I’ll write down people’s names and remember them later. I will take a motorcycle ride home (it was fun and cheap!) I will eat off of stalls and learn new food words from the ladies cooking up… whatever it is they’re cooking up.

I’m currently in Ayuthaya after taking a train ride from Bangkok this morning. I slept in a fabulous guesthouse called Suk 11 near the sky train. The rooms were nothing to write home about, but the shared space and overall atmosphere was very sweet indeed, all wooden and set way off the road down a flowery side street. Although I arrived in Thailand late, got to my guest house late, ate late, and got to sleep late, I was determined to wake up early and catch the 8:25AM train to Ayuthaya. Well, it was a good thing too, because I got there and was able to buy my ticket with exactly fifteen minutes to spare and I waited and I waited and I waited. I had a lot of conversations and reading time as other trains came and went, even other trains going to the exact same place, but not my train. Not until four hours later did my train come, delayed as ever. Good thing I got up early. Good thing.

I checked into the Baan Lotus Guest House for the night and it suits me just fine. I called this morning to reserve a room, but I think my timing was more important, because I don’t think GoSoom had written it down, but she did have a room for me, although it was a double with two beds. The rooms filled up and people came and went without key in hand. About an hour after I checked in, GoSoom approached me in my room to ask if I would be kind enough to share my room with another girl. So I met Gabbie from Switzerland and since I am in “I will” mode, I invited her to share the room. Heck I had an extra bed just sitting there and it saved me an extra 150 Baht and good karma is good karma. Since Korea, I feel like that’s just what you do. You don’t even think about it, you have something someone needs and it’s really not too much trouble to share, you share. I like it. Gabbie is very sweet and traveling alone as well, but for the next six weeks. She also just arrived in Thailand yesterday. She has been here before, has actually stayed at this guesthouse before, and GoSoom remembered her.

After everyone was settled in, I went on a little tour of the temples on the outskirts of town for three hours. I saw a lot of ruins. I saw a lot of ruins. Did I mention that I saw a lot of ruins? The tour group was funny. There were about ten of us. We were a motley crew of an English couple, an Argentinean couple, two German couples, an Indian guy, our Thai driver, and me, the American. I took a lot of pictures, shared a few stories and advices and… I saw a lot of ruins, by the way.

When the tour finished, I asked the driver if he could take me to the train station so I could change my ticket (a matter I had talked about with maybe five people both Thai and foreign and all advised that it was probably a good idea to change my tickets if I could). I was able to change my tickets, no problem, and now all my transportation is set between now and Chiang Mai.

I found a fabulous roadside food stall where I supped on one of my favorite roadside Thai meals, Pad Thai and a Coke in a glass bottle. (My other favorite is Tom Sum and a chicken leg!) I was then going to get my tuk tuk home but I had a little scammer on my hands. I dealt with the tuk tuk guy who wanted 60 Baht for what I knew was a 40 Baht ride by walking down the street and later accepting a ride on the back of a motorcycle for free, but I gave him 40 Baht anyways. (I know, don’t be mad Mom. It was fun and very “local”.) Now, here I am.

Tomorrow, I will probably see some more ruins and then head over to Sukhothai to see some more ruins. I like ruins.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Last Day In Sight

Tomorrow is my last day at Inha University English Camp.

Today, we had our final day for the Monday, Wednesday, Friday classes, tomorrow, we will have the final day for our Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday classes. Today, we had our group performance project, graduation, and awards. It was a fun day and I think everything ended on a good note. The kids in my class wore traditional Korean outfits for the play; I thought they were so cool.

I am really excited about going to Thailand and seeing Robin. I am looking forward to being warm and eating some different food. I’ve been researching things that I may want to do there and having my freedom back is sounding really good.

The camp and Korea have been wonderful, educational, and interesting. I have met some really great people and have done a lot of fun things. I have learned more about others, and myself, and for that I am always grateful. Travel always puts so much in a whole new perspective, or at least a clearer one.

It’s still not over yet though. I’ve got some fun-filled days left here in Korea and I intend to make full use of them. There’s more that I want to do than I will have time for so, I guess I’ll just have to come back some time.