Wednesday, October 28, 2015

One week in Bangkok ...

So Bangkok is quite a shock to the system. Many people I spoke to in advance said I likely wouldn't enjoy the city. I opted to originally book for 5 nights at a hostel called Loftel 22 located near Bangkok's Chinatown district. For my first ever hostel experience I am thoroughly impressed. The hostel itself is very new and each air conditioned dorm consisted of 4 beds which made it very quiet and easy to sleep at night. The location was also great for street food, of which I ate quite a bit of everyday. The streets outside the hostel were packed with different food carts each day.


Loftel 22
I am a big people watching person and each morning I would often sit out front of the hostel and enjoy a coffee (the main level of the hostel is also a cafe). The daily routine of the locals buying their daily food items, as well as donating food items to the monks seen in the image was quite interesting and made for an enjoyable start to my days. While I didn't really venture too much around Bangkok as a whole, I did often walk many of the streets and side streets around Chinatown. Earlier I mentioned that I initially booked 5 nights, well I hadn't really done any planning past that point and so I opted to book 2 additional nights in the same place, and I am quite happy I did. It turns out the annual Vegetarian Festival (Tesagan Gin Ge) was occurring between October 12th - 22nd, and during that time there is a massive dragon march precession. Turns out Loftell 22 is a very important location during this parade, at one point the dragon stuck its head right in the hostel entrance before continuing on down the alleyway. A pretty awesome experience to start off my travel adventures, especially considering it happened on the evening of the day I was supposed to have originally check out and moved on.


I did take one of the days to go all touristy and decided to venture my way over to explore Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It is one of the oldest Wat's in Bangkok and contains a massive Buddha measuring 150 feet in length! This beautiful complex where the Reclining Buddha resides is also home to many other temples, buildings and Buddha images. Well worth stopping in to explore around. After spending over an hour wandering around I continued on down the street to explore the Grand Palace complex. Wow! The attention to detail and intricate design work on each of the buildings here is absolutely staggering. It really is hard to explain, I can only suggest you make a point of visiting while you are in Bangkok. Note that at each of these locations there is a strict dress code in effect. No tank tops (shirts must have sleeves), as well as men must be wearing pants ... Seriously this day was one of the hottest I have experienced to date as I have had a bit of trouble adjusting to the temperature and humidity so pants and a full shirt were just adding to the heat. I took plenty of photos and hope I was able to land a few that aren't completely touristy looking. But between the heat and the insanely massive crowds of tourists I ended up kinda rushing through some of the sections which i'm OK with since I will still have plenty of opportunities to shoot photos while I am travelling. In the end this is still a backpacking life experience first and foremost.

During my week I also spent one evening (as everyone should do at least once) partying on Khaosan Road. Multiple patios consuming copious amounts of mixed bucket drinks and big bottles of Chang beer combined with jet lag make for one hell of a hangover, or "Changover" as friend of mine back in Calgary accurately described it. But hey, I spent the evening in the company of a German, a Polack and two amazing girls from Toronto (turns out people from TO aren't that bad after all ... inside Canadian joke there) so that Changover was well worth the experience! If you are travelling and feeling a bit lonely and want to easily meet new friends I definitely suggest you venture over to Khaosan, day or night there's always something happening. Oh and fun fact, you cant help cure your Changover by visiting your nearest 7-11 (most likely a block away from wherever you are, seriously those fuckers are everywhere!) and pick up a few bottles of water ... also produced by Chang.

While the insane speed at which Bangkok runs at may not really be my cup of tea, spending the first week of my first time overseas in the city was definitely an eye-opening and valuable life experience that I will certainly not forget any time soon. I'm certain the time spent there will only benefit me greatly in all my travels to come. And hell, the prices on goods are cheap so I'll likely end up there right before I head back to Canada to load up an additional bag full of clothing for festival season 2016 :D

I am not much of a "writer" but will still try to genereate new blog posts when I can as I travel my way around. Thanks for following along and be sure to check out my social media feeds as I do post social photos more frequently!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Off to Southeast Asia

October 14th, 2015. Money saved. Travel insurance purchased. Flights booked. Quit my cubical based office job. Bags packed. Off to the airport, final destination ... Bangkok, Thailand with a one way plane ticket.

This trip is one I have been wanting to do for a very long time, and spent the better part of a year planning for. It's worth noting that not only would I be completing this trip solo, this would also be my first time leaving North America. While I have been to many places around Canada, the United States and Mexico, obviously this trip would be far different and I would be stepping into an entirely new realm and comfort level. I would also like to give huge thanks to all of the friends and family who helped me get to this point over the last year, for without all of you it just wouldn't have worked out.

Off to the Calgary (YYC) International Airport I go with what I can only presume is a couple bags full of the right gear and clothing for my trip, my life in two bags ... pretty bizarre to comprehend actually.
I am currently travelling with a 46L Osprey Porter as my main pack, and a 12L Osprey Orb as my day pack. While it is very common to see most people using larger packs, I wanted to become better as a minimalist and so using a 46L as my main pack forces me to take less non essential items. The pack is carry-on size so I don't have to worry about checking baggage at airports which is one less thing to worry about if multiple flights start coming into play as I move around. Here's a quick snapshot of some gear for photo's, clothing and other random items that I'll be flying to the other side of the world with, I'm sure within a few weeks I'll find some items aren't necessary but only time will tell. First of my flights is from Calgary, Alberta (YYC) to San Francisco, California (SFO) which is about 3 hours flying time. I only had about an hour or so layover there before I would board the longest flight I have taken to date. San Francisco to the Narita airport in Tokyo, Japan (NRT) was a 10.5 hour flight, and when you're like me and can't really sleep on air-planes ... it's a tough one. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I got 2 free meals included, oh and free booze ... they sure know the way please a Canadian. 

By the time I reached Japan my body and mental state was a bit rough. I mean, by this point I had now crossed several time zones and jumped ahead a day in time not to mention I had been awake since 4am MST. After a 4 hour layover which I had spent most of hanging out with a chill dude named Ryan from Banff who was also heading to Bangkok, I boarded my 3rd and final flight. Tokyo, Japan to Bangkok, Thailand (BKK) which was another 5 or 6 hour flight (I cant really remember to be honest as I was pretty bagged. Luckily I was seated at the back of the plane where I had the entire row of seats to myself so I was able actually able to lay down a bit and sleep for several hours, bonus!

I arrived in Bangkok. 14,530 km's (9030 miles) in the bag and somewhere in the neighbourhood of 26 hours of travel and layover time.

Holy hell, it's midnight here, and insanely hot and humid!
This will take some getting used to...

(I plan to post more frequently now that I'm a bit adjusted to everything, stay tuned for more on my week in Bangkok. Head to www.neilmcelmon.com to connect with me on social media to follow along)