Welcome Eric! – Vivir es aventurarse … divertirse Eric!

I want to give a warm welcome to Ericwho has just joined the Traveller’s Playground team. Over the next few weeks his experiences and images will start appearing from his trip through Asia… his next destination, South America! He also writes at Taggart In Asia Here is his transition post… let the travel’s begin!

We’ve gone WAY beyond

It’s been awesome that you’ve followed my travels, and I will continue to awe you with stories of passion, danger, and grand adventure. Most of you probably know that I left Asia and headed back home for the cold and snow. It didn’t last very long. Spending the holiday season with friends and family was a much needed and served as a lovely respite from Thai cuisine. Yet I felt as though I wasn’t quite done out in the world.

I decided that instead of returning to the cubical farm to graze upon spreadsheets and cold calls, I would continue this trip for a little bit longer. So I booked myself a one way ticket to Lima, Peru and intend to spend the next few months exploring a new continent!

So yes, we’ve gone beyond Bangkok. We’ve gone beyond Asia. This will be a new chapter in my backpacking life and hopefully it will bring the noise. I’ll be covering diverse terrain, going from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and then turning south to Patagonia. I’m in exceptionally medium shape, so hopefully I can handle it.


Back to Bangkok

So I’m back in the big city. This time however, I’m rolling solo. To be honest I was rather nervous to start my onward journey, relying on only myself. It was sad to see Chelsea go. She was a great travel companion and it would have been hard to adjust to SE Asia without her there to struggle with. But with two weeks under my belt already, I felt ready to take on the rest of my trip as a solo backpacker.

It’s been 12 days since I returned to Bangkok on my own and it has been fantastic. Often meeting new people is tough and striking up conversations with total strangers can be intimidating. Luckily the hostels here make that so much easier. Everyone staying there is a traveler, so you already have that in common. Plus most travelers like to drink, so you also have that in common. When you put a bunch of young people together who all happen to be on adventures of a lifetime and add in a few beers, they tend to become friends quickly. I met a great group of friends while going on the walking tour that the hostel provided. Not only that, but I gained a better understanding of the city. We took the water taxi’s, the metro, tuk-tuks, and walked all across the city. We saw temples and strolled through China town. We viewed the Bangkok skyline atop Wat Sakat, the Golden Mount (one of the holiest sites in the Buddhist religion. Bangkok has a unique skyline that’s filled with old abandoned skyscrapers. These were projects that were abandoned when the market crashed in 97. So you have a newer skyline with the modern city and old creepy towers. It’s also absolutely massive! Overlooking it, you might think it’s never ending.

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After settling in with a group friends we took to the Kho San road for a night of partying. I won’t go into detail, but that street is absolutely insane. There are things there that would NEVER fly in the States. It’s like the modern day version of the wild west. I don’t think there are any rules.

After 3 days in Bangkok, I’d met tons of people from all over the world and teamed up with a few travelers from the UK who were ready to head North. My friend Martin from Birmingham, England decided to join me for a day at Ayutthaya before we joined the group in Chiang Mai. Ayutthaya was the original capital of the Kingdom of Siam from 1351 – 1767 until it was burned to the ground during the 2nd Burmese war. Martin and I rented bicycles and toured the old ruins scattered about the city. It was about 90 degrees and we biked almost 15miles so by the end we were ready for a cold beer and a shower.

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Unfortunately, we had to settle for only the beer because we had to catch the overnight train up to Chiang Mai…


Arriving in Bangkok

Honestly, I should have looked up the weather in the South Pacific before I took off. I’ll take the blame for that one. My bad. Was not aware Typhoon Merantis was going to be smashing into Taiwan during the only 4 hour stretch in my lifetime I needed to be in that f’n country. Good news, it hit the South of the island. Bad news, its 185mph winds caused turbulence so bad I was convinced I was going to wind up like John Denver. In the end, still not dead. So that’s a plus.

After 24 straight hours of travel, we finally arrived in Bangkok. The big apple. The city by the bay. And as tired as we might have been, there is no greater shock to the system than that city. It’s different. It’s loud. It has a certain aroma. The traffic moves in a form of organized anarchy. Cars, mopeds, and tuk-tuks pass one another at will, driving on whichever side of the road they seemingly pleased. The sidewalks are filled with stalls selling clothing, bags, and jewelry intertwined with food stands hawking pad thai, chicken or fish on a stick, and more eccentric delicacies (bugs and scorpions deep fried with soy). It’s like a weekend market in NYC or Boston, except it’s everywhere, every day, all the time. It’s easy to get lost in. And we did. Pretty much immediately. As in 5min after we left the hostel we had no idea what we were doing.

We must have looked lost too because right off the bat we were sucked into a tuk tuk scam. Sure he took us to the standing Buddha and a few other temples with a smile and a nod, but then we got dropped at the Thai Cultural Center. Except it wasn’t the Thai Culture Center it was the Tie Culture Center, selling bootleg custom fit suits for half the price. Basically had to fight our way out of the store. It was 2 against 15 pushy salesmen trying to pitch me a suit in 87 degrees and 90% humidity.

We followed that up with a lovely river cruise on the greyish-brown waters of Bangkok. You see quite a wide range of lifestyles along that river, from tin shacks to luxury condos. Eye opening to say the least. Except for the fact that I was so tired I fell asleep in the boat. So we grabbed a beer and some pad-thai on the khao san road and we called it a night.

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(our boat looked like this one but 3x smaller)

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(dinner on Khao San)

After 10 hours of sleep we took off for our second day in Bangkok, refreshed and already much wiser. Day 2 consisted of 9.77 miles of walking. It was a lot. Especially in the 95 degree heat. We also had to be in pants as we visited Wat Pho (reclining Buddha) and the Royal Palace. Thank god I brought my sweet zip-off pants from EMS and dope Teva sandals. Swagger like you read about 100 100. It was actually an awesome day that ended at the train station as we awaited our overnight train up North.

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 (wat pho)

Bangkok was an abrupt welcoming to SE Asia. But it was everything I wanted it to be. And I’ll be back to explore more in 2 weeks. I think you could spend years in that city and still not understand a thing about it. Anyways, off to Chaing Mai. I’ll be turning 24 on a 2nd class sleeper car. Just how I drew it up.

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(palace decor)

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(palace)

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(budha on budha)

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(palace Wat)


Taking Off

That Hello Kitty plane is actually the plane I’m flying to Bangkok in. I chose to embark on the trip of a lifetime on an airline that is decorated with a wildly popular Japanese anime cat. Why? Because there’s no way that plane goes down. It’s adorable.

Admittedly I am pretty nervous about this adventure. Was this a good idea? Will things go smoothly in Asia? Should I have packed more than 2 pairs of underwear? Will Trump be elected president when I’m gone and wall off the entire country, keeping me out? Is Joe Flacco elite? These are the questions that have been keeping me up at night.

I will say I’m far more excited than I am nervous. I’ll be landing in Bangkok about 23 hours after I leave New York and I have brought zero plane activities. I’m looking to catch at least 5 to 8 Tom Cruise movies, enjoy a glass of red wine with a side of xanax and  wake up somewhere on the Khao San Road. Pretty sure that’s how Dicaprio did it in ‘The Beach.’

The first 2 weeks are pretty packed with trips and adventures so I’ll be sure to update all 3.2 million of you reading this blog as best I can. First stop is the Suneta Hostel in the backpacking capital of the world. Tucked between the Orthodox Jewish Community Center of Thailand, a Starbucks, and the police department, it’ll be as though we never left Brooklyn.

-ET