The Philippines is like that lover I keep coming back to. Vietnam is the one with everything I want but we’ll only ever be friends. Cambodia used and abused me, but I know I’ll still go back for more. Thailand, now, is in the process of slowly courting me. While it didn’t initially steal my heart, each day I discover a new detail that heightens my affection for this country and I think we’re in for a long love affair.
It’s been nearly three months on the road now. I can’t decide if it feels like I left a day or a lifetime ago, but one thing’s for sure: I’m having the time of my life. It’s not always easy; being sick and alone in a third world country is painfully lonely, and at times I am stricken with a heart-wrenching homesickness. Sometimes I worry about money, and when I’m ripped off simply because I’m a foreigner my blood boils. I miss my friends and family, I feel like I’m missing out on important things back home, and I wonder if I will ever fit in anywhere again.
But when the wind whips through my hair as I drive through the green, rice terraced fields, when my stomach aches from laughing so hard with new found friends, and when I lie on the grass staring up at Thailand’s artfully dramatic skies, I know that I’m in the right place.
May was a hectic month. I left Vietnam and headed into the hot, dusty red roads of Cambodia unsure of what it had in store for me. I found breathtaking beaches, a terribly sad history, kind and friendly people, and a rich culture. After two weeks I beelined for Bangkok, Thailand to start an English teaching job I’d decided to take only two weeks before. A few days later I found myself in front of a classroom of 50 high school students in Chaiyaphum, a town seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Chaiyaphum has been my home for two weeks and will be for two weeks more.
Here’s the overview of May:
Buses: 6 (33 hours)
Times I nearly pooped myself: 50+
Koh Rong Samloem Island, Cambodia
I went to the sleepy island and met up with some friends I’d made in Vietnam. We took a boat out for a gorgeous sunset and spent the day relaxing on one of the most pristine beaches I’ve ever seen. We rented a bungalow overlooking the ocean and did yoga on our porch.
Koh Rong Island, Cambodia
We spent two more days on the bigger island of Koh Rong, a place rife with venomous snakes and also the filming location for the latest season of Survivor. Our first night was a Full Moon Party, though it was much more low key than real one in Thailand. The second day we went to the other, quieter side of the island and strung up hammocks to camp on the beach for the night.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
After getting my fill of beach time (and nursing a wicked sand fly rash) I headed to the capital where a friend of a friend kindly offered to host me. I spent an afternoon at the Killing Fields, which is the most profoundly sad place I’ve ever been, learning about the unbelievable genocides of the Khmer Rouge. We spent our evenings with her fascinating group of friends, who ranged from reporters, photojournalists, translators for the UN, authors, and even a sun bear conservationist.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
By the time I got to Siem Reap I was covered in a miserably itchy rash and had very little control over my own intestines. I attempted to see the famous temples of Angkor Wat but I saw just as many toilets as I did temples. And I can assure you they are not nearly as pretty. I also went to see Phare, the famous Cambodian circus that is an incredible nonprofit organization that helps refugees and children of poverty to develop skills and careers. I spent the rest of the time locked up in my room feeling sorry for myself but so thankful for a private bathroom.
I didn’t really do a thing in Bangkok except learn what a Changover is (Chang beer is evil). The lovely Tania and Lee (of the awesome travel blog Small and Tall Travel ) have been on the same travel path as me for the last few months so we’ve met up several times along the way. They decided to quit stalking me, though, so we had our final meetup and headed our separate ways, though I hope to see them in Australia later this year.
My new home is a lovely city with a small town feel. There is a solid group of foreigners that I have a lot of fun with and we spend our nights and weekends getting up to all kinds of adventures. Teaching has been fun and I really lucked out with my school. Part of me wishes I could stay for the full term but I’m feeling restless and the road is calling my name. It’s felt really good to have a home base for a while and a community of people and I really will miss this place and these people.
Bring on Month 4!!