It was about a month ago when I was tipped off about a hotel stay giveaway along the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok. I gave it a try and didn't think much of it, until I was given the call that I had won. It didn't take me long to get my flight booked and itinerary planned because the trip was certainly a highlight of what has been a tough semester.
I spent a little over 3 days travelling by boat from pier to pier along Chao Phraya soaking in all the sights and sounds at 2x the speed of a normal tourist. Armed with camera in hand, I sought to give a go at street photography and the Land of Smiles did not disappoint.
I was met with mostly curious looks which made for very compelling subjects in some of my photos. But the Thais were generally happy to oblige for a photo when I asked nicely. I only knew how to say a couple of Thai words thanks to the help of a school mate. The rest was all a game of charades whenever I needed something I didn't have the words to describe.
Travelling solo took a while getting used to but once I got onto the boat on the first day there was no turning back. I enjoyed the freedom to roam around in a place where no one knew who you were. It was liberating as all I had was a list of places I wanted to see and that was it. Bearing in mind that I was also armed with Google Maps and a data plan to help me navigate. In the end it was the stuff that was not planned on my itinerary that was most fulfilling.
Along the way I met with a fellow backpacker from France. Paul and I met on a chance encounter while taking shelter from the rain in a Burger King. He was interested in my camera and soon we started talking about our travels and exchanged details about our lives. It was such a magical moment in the middle of such a bustling city, to be able to make friends with someone from halfway across the world.
Let's not forget about the food I had there. Everything from the street fare to the dishes in shophouses was pure heaven. You've never tasted real green curry until you've been to Bangkok. All the dishes I've ever had are lies - the Thais truly do it best. And you could easily find milk tea vendors at every corner of the street you turn without fail. This was something I was really impressed by.
I spent one early morning visiting a few major temples which really wasn't my thing because the swarms of tourists ruined the experience. While I wasn't on some 'Eat, Pray, Love' adventure, I have to say I was awestruck by the architecture all around. It helped that I arrived early and beat the crowds to the ticketing counter. I was able to walk around the Grand Palace right while it was still empty and admired the level of detail in all the structures inside.
Being able to travel and see the world on my own is in itself a great privilege I am so grateful for. Prior to this experience, I had read countless articles telling me how important it is to travel and I've had endless debates with myself about how that could never be possible because of time and money. But looking back I realised how I was only making excuses for myself. The world is out there waiting to be explored and it doesn't really care if you choose to or not.
I made the decision to go on this trip and it came at the time right after the end of my semester and before a paper. I could easily have tabled the entire plan citing having to study as a main concern but I'm glad I didn't. If anything this whole experience has taught me to enjoy my own company, to step out of my comfort zone and to keep an open mind. I really do hope I get more opportunities like this in the near future because there's just so much more I would like to explore.