Fear, sweat and motorbiking in Bangkok

74% of road deaths in Thailand involved motorbikes.

This time, I really goofed. 

Leaving Bangkok in Style

On my last day in Bangkok, I decided last minute to fly to Krabi and post up near Railay. With its limestone cliff walls and towering karst islands, Railay is one of the world’s premier rock climbing and deep water soloing destinations. I’ve always dreamt of climbing there.

 

stalactite at phra nang beach

 
When I bought my flight ticket, I forgot to commit my departure time to memory. I knew I was flying out around 2:30pm or so, and my hostel was only 30 mins away from the airport by taxi. So I figured I could take it easy, eat breakfast, and heck, I even had time to do laundry too.

While doing my laundry, I finally pull my boarding pass out of my pocket to review my flight details. My heart sank. My boarding time was at 1:30 and it was already past 12pm.

I flip out.

Now panicking, I pull my wet clothes out of the drying machine and carry them back to my room in a rush. While running, I call over the balcony to Som, the co-owner of the Yard Hostel (awesome), and shout, “Som! Can you please call a taxi? I f#&@$ up, my flight is at 1:30, not 2:30!” Som and staff go into a frenzy.

Back in my room, I stuff my clothes into my bag and the bag is heavier now. I rush goodbyes to my new friends and bolt downstairs, hoping I didn’t leave anything behind (I did).

I ask Som if my taxi has arrived. Her reply: “Yes, taxi here now. I called motorbike taxi.”

Suddenly I feel very sick.

“Som, why a motorbike taxi?”

To those of you who don’t know, I have a massive fear of riding motorbikes, especially in Thailand. Apparently Bangkok is one of the most dangerous places in the world for motorbike accidents and I personally witnessed two motorbike accidents already in 3 days. And judging by many other travelers I met, getting a motorbike injury or accident seemed to be a common rite of passage. 

“where are the seatbelts on this thing?”

Som earnestly replies, “Traffic is very bad, today is Saturday. You’ll never make it with normal taxi. Motorbike can weave in and out between cars and buses.”

Seeing the terror on my face, she hastily adds, “Don’t worry, I ask driver to be extra safe.”

“Extra Safe”

I see the driver of my motortaxi waiting for me in the driveway – he revs up the engine and sounds like he’s ready to roll. I hesitate, but then notice he at least had a helmet for me.

OK, I’m in.

A few minutes in and I’m sweating in high alert mode. Everywhere I see crazy, maddened bus drivers, reckless tuk-tuks, and wild mopeds. Bangkok is the Wild West. At some points the traffic is bumper to bumper and we’re still beelining to the front.

To make matters worse, my 55L backpack is filled to the brim with damp clothing, weighing about 25-30 lbs on my back, and I have morbid visions of getting thrown off by the bike’s acceleration.

Each time my driver sees a small opening inch wider between two buses, I hold on for dear life as he guns toward them.

And then there’s the highway. Zooming at 55-60 mph with an apprehensive, hyperventilating aZn in tow is not a great idea.

As we weave in and out in between buses, I suddenly no longer care if I make my flight. I just want to get there in one piece.

When we finally do arrive, I sigh with relief. I’m alive, and we made it just in time. Cool. We take selfies, and he shoots off without a word.

Until I learn he dropped me off outside the airport instead of at my terminal. I guess I did say to drop me off at the airport. Anyway I freak out and start running with my bag to the airport, and I lose another precious 10 mins. 

but first let me take a selfie


In the end, I made it just on time.

As I write my recollection of this experience, I realize I am only  4-5 days into my trip.

I loved Bangkok. But I have a long way to go. 

at least i had a helmet this time

Hello Bangkok!

Good morning from Bangkok! After 25 hours of flying and layovers, I’m here. Even though I’m exhausted and hungover, I’m as pumped as ever. 

Day 1 was a success and already an adventure. I think I’m going to like this new lifestyle.  

My fear of not being able to make friends out of strangers, not adapting and ending up lonely this entire trip — well, that fear was put to rest right out of the gate. Literally right out of the airport gate. I made an awesome new friend who was also backpacking. Before I knew it, I ended up biking around the Ari neighborhood, prowling the night markets for street food, drinking $2 beers at bars called Cheap Charlie’s, speaking an incoherent mix of Turkish and Thai phrases, and er…watching unplanned, special shows. 

I’m staying at the Yard Hostel, and I love it. I’ll share more in a dedicated post, but it’s this hipster hostel with kickass owners, a bar, and awesome, likeminded people and friends.

Today will be a day of roaming – no plans and no tourist sights for me. Possibly foot massages, rooftop bars and dinner at Terminal 21 (thanks for the recommendation!). 

A plan is starting to formulate in my head. I may scuba in Koh Tao this weekend, or head to Krabi and rock climb at Railay. 

So many possibilities!

“Plans are deliberately indefinite, more to travel than to arrive anywhere.” – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance   

the yard itself. hipster objects scattered

delicious soup lunch for 45 thb ($1.30)

yen ta fo (pink noodle soup). no idea whats in it. noms

my ride for the day.

my new lifestyle, written on the walls

   

  

  

Here I go

(Cue in epic Whitesnake song…now!)

I’m sitting in my seat and my flight is about to take off. 

Things just got real. 

What a blur and adventure these past few days have been. 

Here’s a pic of what I packed for the road. Everything fit nicely into my 55L backpack, which was compact enough for the overhead storage compartments. Hooray for no baggage fees!   
Here’s one of me with my pack. About 20-23 lbs total! 
And lastly, here’s a pic of the hardest part – saying goodbye (or see you later) at the airport to my love and partner in crime. 

  
Thanks everyone for the support and love as I embark on this journey. I questioned myself often on why I’m doing this. But then I remind myself that it’s my dream, and dreams are meant to be chased. 

Ok we’re flying now. 

Never stop dreaming!

The plan and why I’m not planning

The game plan for my SE Asia trip hasn’t changed much since my first blog post.

So far, I still only have a 1-way ticket to Bangkok plus a place booked for my first few nights. I have an idea of the countries I might want to hit, but not much else.

This lack of having a “concrete plan” is by design, of course. But it is starting to freak me out.

In fact, it goes against every fiber of my being.

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Vagabonding

I’m usually that guy who plans out his day by the hour. I live by my calendar – if it’s not on there, then it doesn’t exist. So as you can imagine, not knowing exactly where I’ll be one week from today sits outside of my comfort zone.

And I love it.

The plan is to vagabond, as coined by travel writer Rolf Potts in his book “Vagabonding.” Here are some of my favorite definitions of vagabonding:

  • “Vagabonding is about refusing to exile travel to some other, seemingly more appropriate, time of your life.”
  • “Vagabonding is about gaining the courage to loosen your grip on the so-called certainties of this world.”
  • “It’s about being a student of daily life. It requires only that we walk through the world in a more deliberate way”

I find the uncertainty of vagabonding to be incredibly exciting. While to some people it may spell out a recipe for disaster, I think there’s so much to learn from it and I want to embrace it. I also believe that this mentality and flexibility may lend to more spontaneous, genuine experiences.

Unplug and connect

Another part of the “plan” is to unplug a bit from the frenetic pace of our digital lifestyles. So, I’m not going to bring my laptop with me. And I’ve set my inbox such that I only check my email 1-2x per week (gasp).

It’s so easy for us to remove the uncertainty in our daily lives, alleviate loneliness, or simply not live in the present moment by falling back to our devices. If I must know what’s going on in the world, then I’ll pick up a newspaper or ask someone. If I need a recommendation on where to eat or stay, maybe I’ll ask a local instead of resorting to some mobile app.

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Where I think I’ll go

I do have a list of activities that are high on my list, such as climbing in Thailand, surfing in the Philippines, diving in Bali, biking across fields in Vietnam, beaching in Cambodia, etc. And I do have some of the usual tourist spots on the list as well.

All in, I’ll likely hit Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, Japan (definitely), Malaysia and possibly more/less in some sort of order.

But what I’m most psyched about is learning and connecting with other people. To me, that is the true essence and real reward of traveling.

I leave tomorrow night. I can’t believe it.

People are awesome.

With just a few days left before I leave for my trip, I wanted to kick off this post with a giant THANK YOU.

When my blog went up last week, the responses I received in the ensuing days were overwhelmingly positive. People are genuinely excited. I’m starting to catch on to that excitement too.

I also made an interesting observation: People are awesome. If you ask for help, people will help you.

Selfie!

I asked folks to send some love in the form of recommendations, intros to friends in SE Asia, etc. Fast forward one week later, and I’ve now got Evernote notebooks filled with food recs, diving suggestions, people to meet, etc. And I now have new friends in Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines — even before I set foot on the plane.

Again, thank you. The generosity of others never ceases to amaze me and I appreciate it.

Cesar

“Here’s where the fun begins” – My Asia Walkabout

The idea came to me months ago.

Then one day, it just happened. Next I told my girlfriend and family, then my friends and more recently, my coworkers. Now, it’s time to press GO on this blog and tell the world!

In two weeks, I leave for a 4-6 month solo trip to Southeast Asia.

Where it all began

Let’s rewind to the beginning. My friends who know me well know that I love to travel. Too often, I’d dream about roaming and exploring. And for the longest time, it was just that and nothing more – simply put,  it was all a dream.

One day last year, I grabbed lunch with a friend who mentioned her 9-month long jaunt across South America. She told me how she sold her stuff, reduced her necessities to fit inside a backpack, and experienced the toughest challenges and most rewarding experiences of her life while on the road. I latched on and couldn’t let go.

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To me, traveling for an extended period of time, or vagabonding, was always something left for fantasy. But now it was real.

Later I attended a conference called Meet Plan Go. I met experts who shared travel tips on how they budgeted/saved, how they lived deliberately with purpose, how they returned and acclimated to the “real world,” etc. But more importantly, I discovered hordes of similarly-minded folks who shared a passion to explore and see the world beyond what we see from behind a desk.

At MPG, I promised to myself that I’d do my own trip within the next year. Fast forward a few months later – I bought a one-way ticket to Thailand with an open agenda to roam SE Asia! Woohoo, I’m doing my happy dance.

Happy dance

Why am I going?

This is the usually first thing that people ask me. The question often comes in the form of:

  • “What happened?”
  • “Do you not like your job?”
  • “Are things not working out right now? Are you trying to find yourself?”

To answer these in order — no, nothing happened. I can’t pinpoint a single event and honestly say that it triggered anything. Nor can I say that there was a negative impetus which influenced me. My decision happened naturally over time.

As for work – I love my job. I love my work, my team, my company and its startup culture. I feel lucky to say that what I do is rewarding, engaging, and impactful – in fact, I actually look forward to coming into the office. Sure we’re not saving the world or creating the next “Uber for X” app, but our mission is pretty damn awesome and the growth opportunities are #onfleek. I chose to be there, and I’m glad I did.

But…? There is no “but.” Everything is in its right place at the present moment and I couldn’t be happier. I’m not trying to “find myself” or search for something. I choose to travel because I’ve always wanted to, not because “something happened.”

Let’s face it – the stars will never align. There’s always a wedding, birthday or graduation that’s going to come up. I’ve come to realize that there never will be a right time to travel. I’m still in my 20’s, so there’s no time like the present, right? If there’s something you really want to do, why wait for a reason? Choose to do it, and just go.

Standard postcard photo

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What’s the game plan?

As the tentative title of this blog implies, the general plan is to EAT, CLIMB and TRAVEL. In all caps!

But really, there is no game plan, yet. And it might stay that way. I like the uncertainty and element of the unknown – it’s new to me and out of my comfort zone. But we’ll see how that develops over the next two weeks.

I do know that I’d like to visit an assortment of countries in Asia (i.e. Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines, Myanmar, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia etc), but I’m not interested at all in trying to race through and hit as many countries as possible. Hence the open agenda – I may spend days, weeks or even months in one area based on how I’m feeling.

What I care most about is eating cheap and delicious food, finding some beautiful climbing spots, meeting and connecting with people, and learning as much as possible.

Next up

I’ve got a lot to do in the next two weeks – buy gear, research, read and write, hang with friends/family/girlfriend, etc.

This is my first blog, so bear with me. I don’t aspire to monetize it and become like one of those full-fledged travel bloggers – it’s too much damn work and those travel bloggers are legit. But I do know that THIS BLOG WILL ROCK.

I want this blog to be a place where I can share fun updates and pics/videos from time to time, and an area for advice from a first-time solo traveler. If this interests you, then check in once in a while!

If you made it this far, thanks so much for reading. I hope you’ll follow me on my journey!

Cesar

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