Chiang Mai 2022 || Delayed flights and sweet nothings

I’m still reeling from today’s crazy delayed flight to Chiang Mai.

I had a 1 PM flight to Chiang Mai via Thai Airways/Thai Smile, which got rescheduled multiple times. Initially, I planned to take the 12-hour train ride to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. I’ve read tons of reviews about how the ride isn’t that bad and if you plan your trip well, you save money by not having to check into a hotel for one night. However, I’ve done the entire journey from Ha Noi to Ho Chi Minh by train (it’s a 32-hour train ride split into multiple spots) and it wasn’t the best experience of my life – which is why I opted to book a one-hour flight instead. It was pretty cheap too! I got it for $25 which I think is a steal given that it’s their flag carrier airline.

A few days before my flight, I got an email that said my flight was rescheduled to maybe 15-30 mins later than the flight I had booked. Hey, that’s not that bad. I timed my flight to get to Chiang Mai around 3 PM and booked a food tour that starts at 5 PM. I used google maps to find out how far my hotel is from the airport and it was not that far at all (30-ish minutes at peak hours). I didn’t want to rush so early in the morning – and with the unpredictable Bangkok traffic, I was better off taking a flight past noon.

I left the hotel around 10 AM, expecting to get stuck in traffic for about 2 hours but voila, the Bangkok traffic gods deemed me worthy and I got to the airport in 45 minutes. Check-in was a breeze. There were even barely any people at the security gate. I had around 2 hours to burn so I went to find myself some lunch, then a chair to sit in until it was time for boarding.

When I checked my boarding pass, my flight was now scheduled for 2 PM. Alright. Cutting it a bit close, but still manageable. I went down to the boarding gate around 1:30 to line up, only to find that still, everyone on my flight was still seated. No announcements. Nothing. It was then that I knew I had to ask if I can reschedule my food tour to whatever available date they had while I’m in Chiang Mai. That was a good call too because the plane ended up leaving past 4 PM and I got to my hotel at almost 6 PM.

The entire time I was stuck at the boarding gate (you go past another checkpoint when going to the boarding gate), I was pissed and just wanted to rebook my flight back to Bangkok to the first flight out of Chiang Mai on the off chance that my flight gets delayed again. I only have to spend 25 baht to change my flight, but somehow, my payment won’t push through the payment portal. Ugh. Frustration!!

On my nth loop of Midnights album, I always skip over Sweet Nothing because I was already frustrated as fuck and I’ll never forget hearing that song for the first time, and having a visceral reaction to it. It was probably the most straightforward song in the entire album with no overwhelming production, BUT THE LYRICS. The only song in the album that made me cry at first listen. Joe Alwyn literally says “what a mind”, as if fascinated by the things that go through Taylor’s mind??? On the way home??? And it happens all the time??? Can’t relate. I’ve never met anyone who has made me feel like loving me was easy. Or that my mind is a good place. And after going through so much therapy to unlearn and gain back my self-esteem after my previous relationship, I don’t know how I’ll ever get to a point or if I’ll meet anyone who’ll never make me feel like I’m too much and not enough at the same time. But that’s irrelevant lol.

I checked in to The Inside House where there is no price list at the mini bar because everything is free!! I went and munched on all the snacks and drank all the soda before I went on my merry way. This room is actually quite lovely – so much better than where I stayed in Bangkok, that’s for sure. I was planning on staying here for my last few days in Chiang Mai but it was already fully booked. This hotel is a 5-star hotel – and so far, that rating is well deserved. This room even got an outdoor bathtub (with curtains for privacy) which I’ll probably use every single day while I’m here. My favorite bathroom aesthetic is marble and gold, so this was one of the things that drew me into booking the hotel. The staff was pretty helpful and made sure I knew how to get to the Sunday Night Market – their version of Chatuchak, only so much colder and less dense. I personally enjoyed this night market more than Chatuchak Night Market lol.

I went and grabbed a shit ton of food that I’m working on finishing right now while I write this. But today’s been pretty uneventful so I guess we’ll end this here.

Chiang Mai 2022 || Another biking accident lol

The funny thing about this is I wasn’t even riding the bike when I got into a biking accident, and now I’m sitting in my hotel room with a plastic bag of ice I alternate between my knee and my arm hahaha.

I started the day with The Inside House breakfast. The staff told me to order as much as I wanted from the menu. I initially just got coffee and juice, and they asked if I wanted to go for a smoothie as well. Of course, I said yes. When the food menu came out, I got the Lanna Breakfast set (lots of interesting items on the menu!), and they asked if I wanted to have a salad with it too. I just went along with whatever she was recommending and.. oh gosh, I got so many things. I managed to fill the entire dining table with food I wasn’t sure how to finish. One of the things my mom insisted on while we were growing up was that we are only allowed to take food that we can finish. At one point in time, I wasn’t allowed to leave the dining table if the food I put on my plate was unfinished. My parents grew up poor and food was scarce, and my mom hated the idea of wasting food.

Everything tasted yummy, especially the chocolate croissant in the bread basket! I tried to stuff myself with everything and finish all of the dishes on my table but had to eventually ask if I can take some of them up to my room. They agreed! After breakfast, I spent some time in the tub before I headed out for my random photo walk. My thing about solo travel is – I’m shit at taking photos and I rarely have good photos taken of me. I’ve been traveling solo since I was 22. And sometimes I wish I had more to show for it. A lot of times, I just get so in the moment that I forget to take photos or clips of them. While that’s nice, our memories aren’t perfect and years down the line, I can’t conjure those visuals in my head anymore. I’d remember what happened but I’d also have to confirm if it actually did happen without having tangible proof that it did. Do you get what I mean? Haha

Boom and Not met up with me at McDonald’s Tha Pae gate. They’re a sibling duo who does photo walks in Chiang Mai. We spent some time walking around Tha Pae (East Gate) which apparently was the most recent one to be renovated/reconstructed. There were bird feeders there that you can pay to chuck bird seeds at you so that the birds fly at you conveniently for photos/videos. The video they got of me was nice but I get so insecure about my tummy that it’s probably never going to see the light of day. Our next stop was a cafe where I got really good iced orange espresso. It was very hot when I was there which was a good thing because I was worried it would be the rainy season. Last month, it rained so hard in Chiang Mai that one of the oldest pagodas crumbled down. Our third stop was Mae Kha Canal (Boom made sure to tell me to drop by at night because it would look nicer) – it was this canal lined by local souvenir shops, small cafes, and bars. Since we went early, the place was practically empty. But it looked nice with all the decor for the festival. Boom said that they’ll probably hold their own Yee Peng in the canal and oh my gosh, that would be such a sight to see.

We also went to one of the temples (my thing with temples is that beautiful as they may be – most of the time when you’ve been to one, you’ve been to all of them) to take more photos. I personally am not the biggest fan of taking photos in temples, if I’m being honest. I’m agnostic so I don’t really participate in a lot of religious activities unless I have to (baptisms, weddings, funeral rites etc), but I feel like if a building is an active place of worship, the best thing we can do is only take photos when it’s not in use. It makes me uncomfortable to be snapping photos while anyone is practicing their religion or praying – if that makes any sense. Because I used to be a devout Catholic and I prayed a lot, especially when my mom was sick, and that would suck if I was going through all those things and yet someone was out there, not understanding that I needed some peace to air my prayers.

Our last stop was at One Nimman. We had some ice cream and walked around. There were tons of Halloween decor around and Boom told me that if I wanted to party, this would be the best place to go. She did mention some other local places (there’s a spot within the Old City that was just all bars), but she said this would be the least overwhelming place for me since the crowd would be less dense there. Given that the Itaewon incident had just happened, I was wary of going into crowds, especially one for a Halloween celebration. We parted ways at One Nimman, although they invited me to lunch. However, I saw some perfume shops and wanted to check those out, and had to decline.

When I got back to the hotel, I passed by the hotel restaurant and saw couples having afternoon tea! I went back to my room to charge my phone and went down to try out the complimentary service. I thought it would just be a pot of tea and a few snacks, but oh my gosh, it was A LOT. I didn’t even need to eat lunch that day because I got so full of all the pastries and that pot of tea that I consumed. They even asked if I wanted more when I clearly was stuffed already. It was crazy!! Ugh I love this hotel and I’m already dreading having to leave.

It took me more than an hour of chill staring into space to daydream (because my phone was back in my room) while munching on all the pastries. When I got back to my room, I changed into another set of clothes (one I could bike in) and headed off to Trailhead for the city biking tour. Now I wouldn’t be able to name all the spots we biked in, but oh god, I was nervous. I’ve mentioned before that Chiang Mai reminded me greatly of Ayuttaya and Siem Reap. The old city looks similar to the moat, the rivers dividing the streets and whatnot. I did the one-day biking tour for Ayuttaya pre-pandemic and found it manageable (not a lot of cars or motorbikes), so when the vibe was similar, I thought it would just be as easy. It was not. There were so much more cars and a lot more pedestrians. I’ve known how to bike since I was in kindergarten (thanks to the pink Sailor Moon bike that my parents bought me, and which my dad took the training wheels off shortly after I got it for Christmas), and I still own a city bike until now. I’m comfortable with biking. But aside from the fact that they drive on the opposite side of the road, I was simply not used to having to bike in such a densely populated area. I was terrified of either getting hit by another vehicle or by getting myself into an accident.

And because I got the evening bike tour, it was harder to see. One of the stops we eventually ended up at was the less popular entrance of Mae Khan. And Boom was right. It really was a sight to see at night with all the lights, the people, and the decor on the water. We parked our bikes and walked around, spotted a couple of marijuana plants by the side of the road (very legal in Thailand), and ate all the snacks they were selling. Because there were too many people on the narrow roads by the canal, we had to walk with our bikes in tow. At the end of the canal, as I was pushing my bike up this slope (entering the highway/road), my pants got caught in the bike’s chains for some reason.. which caused me to trip where I ended up sprawled in the ground with the bike crashing on me. Ugh gravity.

I shrugged it off and said I was fine (I truly wasn’t), and soldiered on for the rest of the tour. Which at that point, I really just wanted to end and head back to my hotel. It continued on for a few more hours. Our last stop was Warorot Market where she had me try out different snacks before heading to a rooftop cafe where we watched Corpse Bride on spotty internet (the movie kept lagging) and we biked back to Trailhead to return the bikes.

Overall, it was truly a nice experience. Even if I got back with a badly wounded knee and I’m sure, another bruise on my arm (I already had a huge spot of red on my arm, this is gonna look awful for the rest of my trip). I was asking the hotel staff if they can send me a cold compress or an icepack, and they couldn’t seem to understand what for. So I just asked them for some ice and I emptied out a pack of face masks to use the plastic for my cold compress. One of the worst parts was I was wearing boob tape instead of a bra the entire day, and when I was about to wash my exhausted body off the day’s grime, some bits of my skin got ripped off when I took off the tape. It looks nasty – like I got a few hickeys on my chest, except it’s red because it’s a wound and I didn’t have any fun getting them and they are surely going to leave a wound. Ouch. I’m tired and lowkey in pain. But it does make for a good story that I can just laugh about in the future lol.

Good night.

Chiang Mai 2022 || All the cafes & killing someone you love

I think there’s an entirely different level of heartache when you realize that someone you loved and thought you knew inside out, has always been this complete stranger. That even though you thought you knew them and that they knew you, it was all just hope that was messing with your head. It was just you negotiating relentlessly back and forth with yourself, wondering if *this* was the incident that was supposed to make you leave. Is this too petty, is this too small, is this something I should have known would be the culmination of all the things that have happened before?

I can’t listen too much to Taylor Swift’s High Infidelity because it makes me uncomfortable. The words hit too close to home, especially when she says “there’s many different ways to kill someone you love – the slowest way is never loving them enough”. There was one time in my life when I just *knew* I was doing something I shouldn’t be doing but did it anyway. I was 21 and 3 years into a relatively serious relationship. I was fresh out of uni and just started my first adult job. But even with all that, I know I don’t have any valid excuse. My needs weren’t being met, and I was being avoided by the person I was in a relationship with at the time (at this point, it was five months into a new job and he had never met up with me after work, didn’t even notice me pulling away). Some guy (try as I might, I can’t even pull up any detail on how he looked or even his name) from work had been showering me with attention. I didn’t really intend to do anything with this guy but I think on a deeper level, I enjoyed being on the receiving end of someone actually giving me the time of day when I talk about how hard it is to hold down a corporate job. And before I knew it, I was already having an emotional affair with someone I didn’t even have feelings for – it just was whatever was happening made me feel good and seen and heard and wanted. In my head, I tried to justify it with I’m not doing anything physical anyway. But I felt guilty the entire time, so I asked my ex for a break and some space. Instead of space, I was on the receiving end of a couple of grand gestures (think 3 dozen flowers, flower petals all over my room, getting serenaded at home, etc) as an apology for how he was treating me for almost half a year. We didn’t really hash out whatever has put us there but decided to get back together and begin again. The moment I got back with my ex at the time, I made sure to have a clean cut between me and this other dude. The guilt kept eating at me though. I initiated sex with my ex often (out of character), tried to spend all my weekends with him, and did anything to alleviate the guilt of spending roughly a month spilling my guts out to another dude instead of who I was in a relationship with. The second time I tried to break up with this ex, it was as I came clean about every single thing that happened. I gave a list of every interaction. I made sure to not miss a single detail of how inappropriate it had become. And while as a couple, we moved past it (stayed together for 7 more years, with zero incidents of any affairs whatsoever), a part of me will always be ashamed that I did something like that at all. I think the relationship, in part, lasted way longer than its due date, simply because sometimes, I’d be upset over something he did.. and instead of communicating how hurt I was, I’d always rein myself in with the thought that I had already done the unforgivable. So I should be extending that same grace and forgive him for the things he chose to do repeatedly. Maybe we’d been strangers to each other for a long time before we even parted ways. Looking at everything that had happened back then, through the lens of my present – I don’t think I’ll ever want to forget this feeling of guilt because I now know I’ll never be capable to take on another burden like that again.

I’ve been listening to Midnights since it was released. And for some reason, I feel like I’ve done a lot more introspection during this trip while relating to the lyricism of Taylor Swift. Today I spent it just cafe hopping (maybe I’ll detail those out later) and having dinner at one of the restaurants in Chiang Mai with a Michelin star. I think there’s a weird vibe when you just sit down in cafes with no plans at all, listening to music, and realizing how much has happened in your life. I feel like the time I’ve spent alive has passed by so quickly. But I’m 31, and that’s three decades here on earth. Parang ang dami ng nangyari sa buhay ko within the past few decades. But it also does not feel long enough to have gone through so much and so little that I’m barely scratching the surface of what life has to offer. Still, I quite enjoy having slow days and just enjoying the city without having to be checking out all the places every single time.

After eating a hearty breakfast at The Inside House (I will never stop gushing about this hotel, I tell you), I checked out my long list of cafes I’m interested in visiting. I mapped them from the furthest to my hotel/Old City/moat, to the closest. My first stop was Carp Cafe. Whoever designed this place started out with a fantastic idea, but I also feel like it could have been executed better? It still was pretty though and a nice place to take photos. But the food was not something I’d travel all that way for. Booking a bike or a car also took me about 30 minutes, and when I finally booked a bike – it was tiny!! One of those tiny ones that I felt like half of my butt was hanging out and that one hard brake and I’d be flying off it. Not the best way to die (still was not wearing a helmet on).

My next stop was somewhere I thought seemed a bit closer to the city (based on the maps), but was also slightly upland. I went to The Baristro Asian. It honestly felt like I flew to Japan with all the bamboos and just how much they managed to transport the Japanese cafe aesthetic to Chiang Mai. There were a lot of seemingly digital nomads working in the coworking space. Meanwhile, I took my time by heading to The Slow Bar where you have to take your shoes off, sit on the floor/the bar, and watch as they make your coffee/matcha. I got a matcha latte and some custard, and it was so worth the travel. I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes matcha. I also realize that if I wanted to, I could totally just come back to Chiang Mai and work from there. Maybe next year, once the busy season for small brands is over (holiday season!), I could come and just hang around.

I got halfway through the novel I had been reading when I realized I had actually been there for 2 hours and decided to head over to another cafe. By this time, it was already 4 PM and this other Japanese cafe closes at 6 PM. I went to Transit 8 – which compared to The Baristro with its Kyoto/Osaka/chill vibe, is the polar opposite. It kinda feels like a small set that was made to shoot because in the area were a couple of other Japanese-themed establishments such as a bakery, an ice cream spot, and the cafe itself. The slow bar had an izakaya vibe, and the stairs leading up to the seating area on the second floor resembled a chic airport escalator. It was pretty cool. At this point though, I was already feeling a bit full so I just had a glass of a non-caffeinated drink (totally forgot what it was but it was yummy). I spent maybe more than an hour and was leaving before they closed up, but I can still see some people arriving at the cafe. So I’m not really sure if they do close at 6 PM.

I headed back to the hotel and took a walk to try and digest every cup I’d ingested while I was cafe hopping. The sucky thing about traveling alone is I don’t have anyone to share dessert with, and as much as I wanted to try a lot of food, I can only fit a small amount in my tummy.

Later this evening though, I decided to still push through and head to The Ginger Farm Kitchen which was another restaurant that had a Michelin star. I had fried rice (yummy), their recommendation (as it turns out, crispy pork – which I regret because we have lechon kawali at home haha), and a citrusy juice with ginger on it. I almost spit out my drink when I first took a sip because that ginger flavor was strong af, but the more I drank, the more I liked it haha. That was nice, but not really the best meal I’ve eaten while in Thailand.

I walked around One Nimman and checked out all the thrift stores although I didn’t manage to buy anything. But today is such a nice chill day, weird introspection into past relationships aside. Excited to finally see the elephants tomorrow!

Chiang Mai 2022 || Elephants!

I want to fill my life with slow sunny days, trips to the market for good food, and anything that makes me feel alive. I want long walks. I want to lie down in a nice bed at night. I want to feel every single thing that’s happening around me. I want to feel the tender kind of happiness, the one where I allow myself to be soft because I’m kindest to myself.

I don’t think I’ve felt alive for a long time. Most days, it feels like I’m simply coasting through life and letting the current flow me to wherever it’s bound to take me. And for a while now, it seems that the water’s been still and I’ve been stuck. Aimless and drowning quietly.

Whenever I travel to somewhere that’s nature-themed or the outdoors. I always tend to wonder whether I’m just taking from them. I know it sounds weird. And it made so much more sense in my head. I’m not a good, kind, nice person – I hold a lot of anger and resentment and I’m also quite petty. I don’t have a lot of good thoughts, and it’s already taking a lot of my capacity just to make sure I never act on the ones that aren’t kind or productive. But most times, when I travel to somewhere remote (like Siquijor), or to a nature park (like the Elephant Retirement Park) – I tend to wonder whether I’ve just been taking from them without giving anything in return.

Being in Siquijor for more than a week, disconnected from the world, gave me a semblance of short-lived peace. It gave me long restful nights. It gave me a reason to come back home when I realized that the voices in my head are all mine. And they’re not too bad. Maybe that’s what being stuck in a jungle with barely any mobile data or internet will do to you. I took something from that place, and while I did pay my dues with money, I wonder if the act of taking that peace home and filling my cup meant taking the same amount from someone else’s cup. Ugh it’s hard to put into words.

I checked out of The Inside House today to move to K Maison Lanna Boutique Hotel. I was lowkey sad to be moving out of this nice fancy hotel. But the staff here has been so much friendlier and it seems more intimate than being at TIH, if that even makes any sense. Pailin and Tul from reception are both super chatty. I took my time eating and stuffing myself with everything I can from today’s breakfast before I checked out. Since my pickup for the Elephant Retirement Park was scheduled for noon, I left TIH a few minutes past 11 AM. By 11:30, I got myself to K Maison where Pailin checked me in immediately. Initially, I thought I’d have to leave my luggage and just check in once I got back from the elephant park. But I guess I got lucky!

Honestly, this room is beautiful and would have been such a great first room in Chiang Mai. But I felt a bit sad about checking in here since it also kind of felt like a downgrade from my previous room. Haha. Especially because the snacks in the bar now have a price tag lol. I checked out the room and went back downstairs to wait by the lobby for the pickup. Pailin stopped eating her lunch (honestly, I was so embarrassed at the fact that she even stopped eating to wait with me) and chatted with me about my plans in Chiang Mai. Because of Loi Krathong/Yee Peng, she did say that the hotel’s fully booked until the next week and she foresees that the entire week would be so hectic for the city. This was good because this is the first time since 2019 that they’ll be holding an event like this again. When I told her that I’ll be doing a sunrise hike in a few days, she took note of it and told me they’ll make sure someone was in the lobby to wait with me and to prep some packed breakfast for me. They were very nice about it and I changed my mind about being in a smaller hotel all of a sudden. My favorite thing about K Maison is how intimate it seems. While TIH had premium services and a premium experience, you can also tell that the staff tries not to be intrusive and that you’ll seldom feel them while you’re there. Which is a nice feeling as an introvert. But there’s also charm when you’re on a first-name basis with the staff and they recognize you when you go in and out of the hotel. They’re also quite accommodating too.

I was probably the third stop by the ERP staff by the time they picked me up. The rest of the people in the van were all Europeans (from Italy and Spain) who barely spoke English (literally talked to the guide using google translate). So it was such a quiet trip for me while they all chatted with each other. I was the only solo traveler in this batch, and I decided to just sleep throughout the long drive to the park. Getting there was relatively uneventful. There were 5 baby elephants (ranging from 5-10 years old). They were HUGE, but apparently, elephants are babies until they have fully grown into an adult at 25. They prepared lunch (I barely ate because I was still full) before we went and picked bananas and chopped bamboo to feed the elephants.

If you’ve ever been to Nara Park during the mating season where the deers are crazy aggressive, this is how aggressive the elephants were in trying to get food. They’re very smart so they recognize the bags used to carry their food and would place their trunks inside your bag if you are too slow. But they were smart enough to know that once you handed the bag to the guide, that meant that the bag was empty and they move on to other tourists.

I think the sad part would be the fact that this park seems to be one of the underfunded ones and I’m guessing that without the money from tours the past two years, the park struggled more. It kinda felt like for me, it was my reality for one day. But for the elephants and the people who manage the park, it’s their everyday life. We fed the elephants, gave them a mud bath, and played with them in the water. I wasn’t really sure if the elephants enjoyed it as much as I did though. I hope they did.

When I got back, I asked Tul if he can help me book a reservation at Cuisine De Garden Chiang Mai because they needed a bank deposit to confirm a reservation. I paid Tul and he transferred the money for me via Line and got me my reservation! He also pointed me to the direction of Warorot Market (walking distance – about 20 minutes from the hotel) so I can scour the market for good finds. Only to realize that this market is the same one that I went to during the bike tour! It was great because I already know which ones I wanted to try and eat again, and I went and bought so much food (and fruits, as usual). I nabbed some daifukus while I’m at it because there were so many flavors and I haven’t tried them all yet. But since I’m a bit too full with all the food, I have 3 pcs left in the fridge for another day.

Sometimes, it feels like this trip is too long but it also feels like time is passing by too quickly. I’m confused about whether I like that idea or not. I tried rebooking my flight on Saturday to an earlier time because I feel like maybe I’ve run out of things to do in Chiang Mai now that I’ve seen the elephants but the rebooking fee is now at 4000 baht. No thank you! I will once again take that noon flight and hope for the best. Hope I don’t end up regretting it because being stuck in an airport alone just makes me feel lonely. I like going on trips, but it’s always spending too much time at the airport that gives me all the feels. It’s such a transitionary place, kind of like a crossroads at times. Some people are leaving their lives forever, some are embarking on an adventure, and sometimes, it’s one of those places you never get around to visiting again. It feels like at every airport, I leave something behind for something else without knowing whether what I’m gaining is worth what I lost. And hanging out in airports with just my thoughts for company kind of makes me so much more introspective than usual.

But then again, today feels like one of those rare moments in life where you think that if one day, life falls apart, I’m just glad I had this moment. I had spent a day doing something totally new and feeling like life has a purpose, no matter how miniscule. It’s one of those days I hope I get to look fondly back when everyday life starts being dreary again, like some ray of sunshine to brighten up the day.

Chiang Mai 2022 || Lost in the labyrinth of my mind (and of night markets)

I’m so full. It’s 11 PM and I have no idea how I’m getting up tomorrow to do that sunrise hike. I should probably sleep to get ample rest and prepare for that hike. But I’m so uncomfortable, I feel like I’m going to barf any minute. I maybe should not have indulged that much tonight. On a side note, I have gotten back the photos from the photoshoot of the latest product line for sad girl scents and they are STUNNING. I’m speechless at how they turned out so well and I got to distract myself from this dreary feeling of overeating by being emotional over how far my small passion project has come. I’ve always wanted to release eau de toilettes (even went to workshops on how to make them!) and I’ve lowkey been doing market research while I’m here and dropping by every single store I see that carries perfume. But that’s for another day. As per usual, I’m rambling.

I thought I was going to have such a chill day today, which was partly.. eh, mostly true. I didn’t have anything booked aside from the food tour that I had to move from Sunday to today. If my flight didn’t get delayed, I was planning on doing the Doi Inthanon/waterfall day hike today. But the flight gods said no. I already have the food tour paid off and today was the only time I can reschedule my slot, so here we are.

I liked that because I didn’t have anything scheduled until late in the day, I get around to waking up when my body was ready to wake up. I will forever be a morning person through and through, so I was up around 7 AM. But it was nice to wake up naturally and not to the annoying sound of my alarm. I took my time getting ready for the hotel breakfast and did my daily streaming of Midnights (3 AM version) because there is zero rest for Taylor Swift fans haha. I remember eating my durian/salted egg/custard daifukus from last night while in my room, listening to Labyrinth, and wondering WHEN I’ll feel that way again. They say you heal your relationship trauma in parts, and most of the healing comes when you get into a healthy relationship because that’s where you confront all your unhealed parts. And the only time ever since I became single that I came across a dude who seemed healthy for me (got me into biking, he had so many other hobbies that I didn’t feel like he was too clingy, my friends/family telling me how peaceful my aura has become etc), I went running the other way. He never made me feel like he was just trying to get into my pants (not gonna lie, the unhealed crazier version of me felt rejected at that), and even watched all the Taylor Swift material he can get his hands on to relate to me (yes, everyone say aww now). He was even so respectful and understanding about it when I had to say I really can’t do whatever we were doing because it made me feel so guilty and I don’t wanna waste more of his time (after 3 months of dating back in 2020, and him starting a pinterest board because we shared house pegs all the time – and I shit you not when I say that I have a thing for fit dudes with glasses who is ALSO organized as fuck. The vibe that comes with that look is what makes me interested, but it’s the ‘being organized’ aspect of their personality that hooks me in lol. Even Gin/Mico/Kara/Alex aka all my friends who were aware of the physical attributes I gravitate towards said “ugh here she goes again with that type”). He’s in a relationship that he deserves now though, and of the handful of dudes that have come and gone in my life, this is the dude I’m the happiest for.

Ugh not another Taylor Swift song making me relive all these random tidbits from the past. I’m an out-of-sight, out-of-mind person. And I usually forget about people, especially ones I didn’t really connect to on a deeper level. It also doesn’t help that I delete inactive message threads all the time (unless they’re from friends I just don’t talk to a lot / people I met while traveling because sometimes, they come to visit or vice versa). Where were we again though? Oh, Labyrinth. It’s such a beautiful song about being terrified when you actually meet someone healthy for you. Will I ever get to that point again? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not too sure, to be honest. At this moment, I lean towards never. Ha!

I have so many thoughts in my head, partly because of Midnights. But also because my first stop for the day was Pluto. It’s a pretty nice cafe a bit further out the moat/Old City. There’s something about being on long (ish) motorbike rides in silence that makes me introspective. It was like digesting this song and assigning a lot more meaning to it while I headed to the cafe.

Boom was the one who recommended this cafe to me, and when I got there, I immediately understood why. IT WAS A HUGE BLACK SPHERE. I’m not even kidding. And the outside was designed to look like it was a building built in outer space. I’m sure whoever built it did some research about it but it’s immediately the vibe you get upon walking up the steps to the entrance. The furniture went so well with the entire structure that I’m sure Boom and Not have taken so many good photos up in there. I got the cloud nine coffee (mainly because I really like the term “on cloud nine”, I like Cloud 9 chocolate, and it’s just a phrase I relate to with quiet happiness – I’m rambling again, aren’t I?). There were also so many people taking photos in the cafe. Meanwhile, I get to enjoy my coffee and this delicious chocolate and banana (I’m still thinking if it’s banoffee or not) while listening to more songs from Midnights. It’s part of my personality at this point.

I booked a car (and not a bike because ooo boy, it was noon and I’m not aiming to toast myself) to Roast8ry Lab. Another from Boom’s list of recommended coffee shops. They have two branches, and Boom told me to head to the flagship store. I’m a sucker for industrial-ish aesthetics and it was that. Apparently, the owner of this cafe won numerous world championships for latte art so I went and got a cup. One thing about me is I’m not really a coffee connoisseur. I just like hanging out in cafes. Haha! So while the latte art was undoubtedly pretty, I found the coffee quite basic. Like something I’ve had before. BUT again, I can’t really be the judge of what tastes like great/nice coffee. I’m a yummy/bleh person. Sometimes I have an “it’s ok” rating too. But yeah. Mico likes coffee though, so I went and bought him coffee beans. The dude by the bar looked cute (maybe it was maskfishing) so I asked him for recommendations even though I already know what kind of coffee beans Mico buys (me and my friends talk to each other too much, I suppose).

My next stop was Free Bird Cafe. It’s a social enterprise that helps Thai Freedom House (an organization that helps refugees), and I keep seeing this place consistently in where to eat in Chiang Mai lists. While I don’t regret supporting a great cause, I’d have to say though that.. the food was meh. I guess it’s because I’ve had amazing vegan food before so I always have high expectations for vegan food. And it kinda did not live up to the hype. But they’re doing something for the greater good, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

I was getting a bit full so I only dropped by Magokoro Tea House. Whoever started the trend to adapt Japanese-themed cafes/tea houses in Chiang Mai should be given an award. Because this one was just pretty nice. I went and drank some green tea and it was so zen when I dropped by. Also, I’m lowkey planning a trip to Japan, but traveling when you own a business is hard because I still do most of the things and I can’t just do things willy-nilly. Oh, if it isn’t me and the consequences of my actions.

I went back to the hotel to drop off all my random purchases before heading to the food tour. We were told to meet at a temple, and I dropped by early thinking that a currency exchange place would be nearby (in my head, temples mean lots of tourists = money changer). But surprise, surprise, there was none. So now I was too early for the tour and I’d already managed to roam around the temple. I was getting a little queasy that I might be the only one or maybe I misunderstood my rescheduled tour. Fortunately, nearing 5 PM, I saw some people also roam around the temple seemingly waiting for the tour to start.

Our first stop was the Cowboy Hat lady who makes stew – honestly, I believe it’s the Thai version of patatim. It was good though, but since I’ve tried it before (at home and in Chinatown), it ended up kind of underwhelming. The next stop was some clay pot roast where they roast meat inside an actual pot. We had roasted pork and chicken – and omg that chicken was so tender. Stop 3 was in a market where we roamed around and she explained all the things – then we got to try different local fruits (quite similar to our local fruits – it was funny that guyabano is called something entirely different in English), as well as some snacks such as two different versions of chicharon (the one with soy sauce was very good), chili, rice crackers, those meringue tacos, and some of the fried worms. We also got to drink sugarcane juice afterward before we left for the next stop.

Now my memory’s a bit blurry, but I believe the next one was a vegan place. I do remember that the group had to split up between tables with the couples in one and the solo travelers in another. Got to talking with this old man from the US (forgot to note down his name) and he mentioned how often he makes the trip to Thailand (without his girlfriend, so who knows what kind of things he’s into lol). He asked me if I travel alone often and how I find it – I simply said, well, I’m used to it and it’s actually quite fun. Which to be fair, it is. But the long answer would definitely be “oh god, sometimes I get super lonely that I join tours to find some semblance of not being alone. However, it’s hard for me to not travel solo because I do quite enjoy having the time to only manage myself and no one else, and I personally don’t think I’d find someone (anyone) who enjoys the same things I do. Mao is the closest I have to an ideal travel buddy because we balance each other out so well, but he’s currently happy in his relationship bubble + our schedules mostly conflict. I always do have an open invitation to all my closest friends whenever I travel, I give them my travel dates and a rough draft of my itinerary (which mostly revolves around food and only a handful of tourist spots) and they’re always welcome to tag along if they wanted (something Gin used to do before meeting Mikko). It’s not really like choosing to travel alone, but more of not waiting for anyone to travel with. This girl from Boston, Erin, immediately agreed because she travels a lot alone too. And we kinda hit it off because she’s traveled to a lot of places I want to go to (like South America). Another guy was at the table with us (Jono from Melbourne) as well. But overall, our table of solo travelers barely ate anything and just chatted away.

During the tour, a lot of the local culture and history of Thailand was shared by the guide, Moui. As it turns out, not a lot of locals cook anymore because it’s easier (and sometimes, even cheaper) to just buy food from all the food markets before heading home. And as a loyal food delivery customer, I would have to agree. As much as I enjoy cooking, the clean-up and constantly having to think of a menu really drove me crazy. I’ll stick with my meal plan, thank you very much.

Our next stop was to this place where they served some curry, chicken soup, and the famous water buffalo salad. This salad uses the juice found in the intestine of the water buffalo as a sauce for the salad – which honestly sounds bad, but generally, I kinda thought it was on the same spectrum of weird as foie gras and people think that’s fancy. I still tried it because unless it looked/smelled gross, I always knew I would lol. The thing about local food is just don’t think about it too much, to be honest, and just enjoy it. Then we had another stop at a noodle place where we ate two different kinds of noodles. They have a Michelin star but at this point, I’m really just too full and too overstimulated to enjoy anything.

I did get to chat with this dude from Melbourne, and it was funny because we will be on the same flight back to Bangkok. The same one I was trying to rebook to an earlier time haha. He was having a few suits done in Bangkok, and I’ve watched a couple of tiktoks of people doing this in Thailand and Vietnam as well.. and I got upset at myself for never thinking of doing it too. I wonder how it will turn out and I probably would never know. I hope for his sake that it turns out well enough. We also got some free pandan-flavored kaya toast that I didn’t even eat and just put in my bag. Melbourne dude mentions how much he enjoys kaya toast and basically just ate that while he was in Malaysia. It’s funny because it instantly reminded me of my brother’s kaya toast phase every single time we spend a few weeks in Singapore.

Our almost last stop was this dessert place that served the Thai version of ginataang bilo bilo. It’s basically that. I got a throwback to spending hot summer afternoons in my mom’s kitchen, rolling sticky rice dough into small balls and throwing it into this huge pot of coconut with pandan soup. And that’s basically what this dessert was. They do add soft-boiled eggs too, so maybe that’s a difference.

The final stop was at Warorot Market. I’ve been there before multiple times so all I really wanted to do was head back to the hotel because I was tired. But I soldiered on and ate a few bites here and there (of snacks I’ve already eaten before). Since us solo travelers will still have some time to hang out, we exchanged contacts between the three of us (me, Jono, and Erin) before going our separate ways. We’ll probably go by a night market tomorrow. Who knows. The three of us quite have similar itineraries so maybe it’s going to be fun.

And now I’m in bed with wet hair (too tired to dry it), waiting for sleep to come to claim my consciousness.

I just realized that I do have the tendency to ramble on. Whenever I start writing, it’s hard for me to stop. It’s weird because it’s like dispensing every single thing on my head on paper (digital paper as it is). Hmm maybe this is why Pensieves exist. I feel a lot lighter writing down my thoughts even if they’re all over the place. Maybe I should take the time to do this back home too.

Good night!

Chiang Mai 2022 || Sunrise hikes and spa dreams

Last full day in Chiang Mai.

It’s way past midnight and I just chucked in the rest of my stuff inside my luggage. I folded half of them and I just can’t quite muster up the energy to fold them right knowing that I’ll be reopening and possibly repacking all my things when I get to Bangkok. LOL I was just writing that and a notif from Jono came in with “do you have a lot?” (referring to the things I’m packing). If he was female, I would honestly just start talking about how I tend to overpack because I have a tendency to hate my body and how it looks in clothes (and without clothes on, which is making it hard for me to date anyone because being intimate terrifies me now that my entire sense of self-esteem has been warped – ooo my therapist must be so proud I took baby steps in actually acknowledging that. I’ve danced around this topic for so long, I could tell she wanted to just shake me and force me to say that out loud. ANYWAY), so I feel safer with a lot more options in my luggage but I’ll probably just respond with “I overpacked” haha. I find that females (even though they’re almost strangers) relate more to body issues than men do. Even my closest male friends (like Mico) sometimes make well-intentioned comments that stick with me and haunt me whenever I step on the weighing scale (yes, Taylor, it’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me). I don’t think any dude would want to know just how many trains of thoughts this little head can have running all at the same time – busier than Siam station.

Response sent.

I’m so tired but I’m also not that sleepy. I wish I was. Sleeping has been hard for a few years but I’ve noticed during this trip that something about being in anything that’s moving (cars, planes, trains, boats, EVEN MOTORBIKES – you name it) makes me start yawning. Maybe I really am an escapist to the core. Knowing that I’m in transit and headed somewhere (anywhere, really), my body relaxes enough and makes me feel like I can sleep. Huh. I just realized that maybe I developed insomnia in the months leading up to my breakup because I could tell the relationship got stagnant and was no longer moving forward. My sleep went back to normal post-breakup (it even got so much better). And then got worse during the pandemic (when everyone literally got stuck). Hmm. Something to talk to my therapist about when I get back.

Weirdly ironic that I’m still up when I woke up at 3:30 AM today (or yesterday ? – all the days are starting to become a blur). Real-life Teesh is quite content with slow living, but Travel Teesh gets ambitious. The guide (Liw) told me to dress comfortably and maybe bring a jacket because it gets cold (10-15 degrees). Fuck that. I didn’t bring a jacket. So I brought a sweater and wore a cute thin cardigan underneath. I was chatting with Pailin/Tul the other day (I swear, I can’t remember which day it was HAHA), and told them I was doing a sunrise hike to Doi Suthep. When I got to the hotel lobby to wait for the guide at 4 AM, a paper bag with packed breakfast was on it. It had two sandwiches, orange juice, and bottled water. Aww.

I was the first one to be picked up by the guide. And surprise, surprise – most of the people that were part of this tour were honeymooning/doing couple trips. Sometimes, happy couples make me want to fall down the trail lol. All throughout the hike, Liw was chatty (he used to be a novice monk and did that trail quite often). My dude, I have not had coffee yet – you will not get any response from me. And to be quite honest, I don’t remember a lot of it until we got to the top. Because I found out that a lot of people actually just take a car to the temple.. and there was this “cable car” going up. I took the option of taking the cable car instead of walking up some more stairs. I am definitely not that ambitious. When we finally got to the top, it was still quite dark and you can see the skyline.

As I watched the sunrise, I vividly remember the same feeling filling my body at the exact same moment when I watched the sunrise at Angkor Wat at the last leg of my solo Vietnam-Cambodia backpacking trip. It’s so fucking weird to be doing all this alone (not technically, but you know what I mean) and having this fleeting moment of “oh my god I actually fucking did it” that I wish I could just bottle up and drink whenever I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing and have limited life experience. I love my slow boring uneventful life, but god do I love these little pockets of moments in time of feeling triumphant that I pushed myself to be here.

The hike was a blur, and I was probably half asleep the entire time so I don’t remember much from it. But after the sunrise, we made some food offerings to the monks and they made us kneel while we got blessed. I HAVE A WOUNDED KNEE. The pain woke me up. When I got a rib tattoo, I almost fell asleep. But this bruise was bad enough that it was so painful having to get blessed. That monk better blessed me enough just for that alone lol.

I had the guide drop me off somewhere with a good exchange rate because I was running out of cash and I wasn’t sure if my leftover coins can survive Bangkok. I might try to go to Chatuchak Market to do some shopping if I get back early enough tomorrow (later today?). I’m not sure if 2000 baht is enough lol. Anyway, I then went back to the hotel to change into my spa dress (it’s just one of those linen button-up dresses that I don’t have to wear a bra in because 1- we’ve established I hate wearing one and 2- sometimes they don’t wash/towel off the oil they use for the massage and it gets uncomfortable to be in clothes, and I’ve gotten lots of massages while I have this dress on that I only use it now to get a massage LOL). I knew I was gonna get tired from that hike so I got the 4-hour massage from this place called Fah Lanna Spa. This place is quite popular that even Jono had the same idea of booking a package from this spa. We were in the spa around the same time too! My massage started off with a trip to the steam room and I’ve been to saunas before, so I should have been fine. But for some reason, 10 minutes in, I started having a hard time breathing that I had to leave. The sign of an amazing massage is when time becomes a blur. I half pass out, and I get into a spa coma. And that’s literally what happened. One moment I was laying down on the spa bed, and the next, the masseuse was waking me up at 5 PM and telling me that the massage is over. Really good massage places are a time portal. So this spa place – I highly recommend it. (Plus, I remember at one point when I was soaking in the milk bath with a shit ton of rose petals in it – having this fantasy of being on my honeymoon and getting 4-hour massages with a husband I’ll possibly never have and having so much fun sharing the experience of passing out in the spa lol and adding another thing to this secret list on my Notes app that I would rather DIE than be leaked to anyone I know haha)

I had a dinner reservation at 6 PM that I totally forgot to take note of when I booked this long-ass massage I really just changed into a cute pair of heels (that I can walk miles in), and random pair of clothes that looked cute together, and booked a bike to my dinner. I had the 15-course meal at Cuisine de Garden, along with the wine pairing. It was quite good! I’m bad at describing food because I can only do yummy/bleh, but most of it was dishes I would eat again in a heartbeat. At least 75% was great!

I had a moment during dinner when I felt a bit emotional. I can’t believe that I actually do this, you know. Spoil myself with fine dining restaurants. Make reservations for me. And simply exist and have the best time while I’m at it. I’ve never had any dude try to spoil me because while I dress and look feminine, I’ve never been a soft girl. I’ve been raised to do things for myself – and at this moment, I like that I’m able to.

I had been in contact with Jono and Erin separately during this time. This two are so weird. They took a car ride together but never exchanged their details. I actually thought they maybe hit it off while we were all on the food tour because they kept talking to each other. There were other people on the tour that was also from Australia, and maybe it’s my nuanced take that I would usually gravitate to either other Filipinos/other Asians when I chance upon them, that when he kinda just talked to Erin alone, I immediately went YES, that’s who I’m betting for. I think I’ve written down before that I make internal bets of which solo travelers will couple up by the end of the tour and at the first half of the food tour, I made an internal bet that these two would. Ugh, I hate losing (even if it’s against myself lol).

It took a while to get a bike from the restaurant to the market. I think at one point they changed markets because it was, in Jono’s words, boring. When I finally got to Anusorn Market, both of them had already walked through it and found a spot. There were too many western tourists in the market, and maybe I’m severely prejudiced because of my experience with all the tourist spots but I immediately thought “hmm maybe nothing good to eat is in this market” lol. I wanted to do another walkthrough but felt too shy to ask if we can. Erin did say though that it was mostly clothes, and we both agreed that Asian sizing can hurt your pride if you’re not petite enough for them (this is what I meant about females and body issues!).

We then took a car ride to another busy food market (it was one of those gates, I’m sure. UPDATE: Jono confirmed it was the South gate) and sampled some of the items. I had charcoal-flavored jelly and coconut jelly. I only finished the latter and had to throw away half of the charcoal one, because why. During the degustation dinner at CDG, they had this dish with longgan charcoal sauce in it that I found yummy, so I thought it would be the same. It was not haha, but it was ok. I guess I was also just too full to enjoy it.

I wanted to see the lights at the Tha Pae (East Gate) because the last time I went, they were still setting them up. So I started walking to see it. Jono went back to his hotel but gave us instructions on how to get there (this dude is weirdly good at navigating – it always amazes me when I meet this kind of people), while Erin and I walked to the gate together. We talked about life back at home, rats/roaches/among other pests (she’s from Boston, previously Wisconsin, and have seen her fair share of pests). Our previous and future travel plans, how traveling is like when you’re a solo female traveler – and it’s always been fascinating to me how you can be from opposite sides of the world, and still have shared experiences. She gave me pointers on dipping my toes in with travel to Central America before I go do my dream of traveling to South America. She went to Argentina and had the nicest experiences. I’ve always wanted to do Peru and Bolivia – none of my friends wanna go, it would probably be safer to go with a partner which I don’t foresee I’ll have in the near future, so I’ll probably see it alone. Fuck how could that sound lonely and exciting at the same time hahaha!

When Erin and I finally got to the East Gate, the lights have already been turned off because it was already too late. A bit of a bummer because I wanted to see them all lit up. Initially, I wanted to ask Erin and Jono if they wanted to check out this cafe/bar that was on my list that seemed cool. But given that they both seemed tired and not into cafes as much as I am, I chickened out of asking hahaha. I booked a bike to Mars.cnx and omg, it truly was the right choice to still go. The cafe was already closed (they close pretty early), but the bar at the back was a nice otherworldly experience. They had smoke (ugh mind isn’t working – one of those dry ice things I bet) and the design of the place was just A+. The music was good too. It was one of those places I kinda wished I could have spent time in with a friend/anyone because I would like to gush about the environment with someone. I ordered a mocktail (can’t get any more alcohol in my system after 5 glasses of wine – Travel Teesh is 31 after all) but I wish I could have hanged out over there more. I would have if the bartender was chatty, but they don’t seem to speak much English, so I left after taking a shit ton of photos and finishing my one drink.

Overall, it was a good last day. The feels of leaving Chiang Mai and my trip almost being done hasn’t hit yet. But finally, the drowsiness has kicked in and I’m just fighting my eyelids to stay open to finish this because I’m on a roll ey. Good night!

Bangkok 2022 || Wholesome trips to strip clubs

After trip edit: I wrote this series almost in real time. I documented every single day of the trip at the end of each day (or during the wee hours of the morning when I couldn’t fall back to sleep) and just publishing them now. Initially, I was going to post chronologically but I want to do it from the last day to the first day. It’s fun reading them slowly too because I get to relive the trip again.

Last 48 hours of this trip.

My flight to Chiang Mai leaves at noon. Around 7:30 AM, I went for a walk around the vicinity of my hotel and kinda just soaked in my last few hours in Chiang Mai. Did a quick market run (not a literal run, can you imagine me actually running lol) to buy whatever breakfast food they were offering (they had ginger taho which was a shock to my system). I went back to my hotel and asked if I can eat the set breakfast in my room. It was nice to sit on the tatami mat, facing a full-length window of greenery, and eat my Lanna breakfast set. Sometimes, life feels like I’m in a slice-of-life art film with not much of a plot or dialogue, just beautiful cinematography.

I was already starting to nod off (from being full and being too zoned out that I started to daydream haha), so I reached out to Jono to ask if he was already headed to the airport because I might just go now. While I was checking out, had another good chat with Pailin about how great my trip turned out and she was telling me when next to go back to Chiang Mai haha. She waited for my grab car to arrive outside the hotel and hugged me goodbye.

Funnily enough, Jono arrived at the airport before I did. I guess because my hotel was a bit further from the airport than his. It’s been a while since I traveled with anyone (or at least anyone new, my last international travel was in November 2019 with Mao and we’ve traveled before) and all my recent trips (all my random 2-week domestic trips to work from holiday) have always been alone, so it was a bit weird to be in an airport with another person. But it was a nice change because I could roam around the airport and not look too weird doing it because I was at least chatting with someone.

At one point in our chat, we eventually got to the topic of our jobs (my least favorite topic) and what we do to earn money (which I guess started off with wanting to win the lottery – ironically, my favorite topic). I tried to gloss over my work because I really don’t feel like it’s something that defines who I am in any way. It’s always just been something I do for the day and that’s it. And I don’t really throw around all the other side projects I work on (like my small biz or my lowkey editing gigs) because it seems highly personal and I wasn’t sure if it was something strangers would be interested in. And since these feel more like an extension of who I am, I’m terrified of sharing them with people. You get what I mean?

Anyway. A habit I’ve developed over years of traveling solo (sometimes I remember that I started roaming cities alone at 22 and I think to myself that that’s too young to be doing that lol) is to keep my family and a few friends updated on my location for safety purposes. If I hang out with other people, I keep my location shared the entire time until I get back to the hotel. When I let a few friends know that I was at the airport waiting for my flight with the same dude I hung out with, they were a little surprised because I rarely hang out with men when I travel. Personally, it always felt unsafe and I find that hanging out with men on trips makes them think you’re trying to sleep with them (never really hooked up with men while traveling because I was in the same relationship for most of my solo trips before 2019. In 2019, I was on those solo trips to cry my heart out.. then the pandemic happened and I no longer know how to talk to men in a non-platonic way even if I want to flirt and put myself out there hahahahaha). I can count the number of dates I’ve been on IN ONE HAND since 2019. It sounds lame just typing that up, oh god.

I usually get a vibe from people when I travel. Some people, I can already tell after spending a few minutes with them that I have to be careful. Something in me gets all tingly, and I spend the rest of the time quite anxious because I have my guard up. With this one, he made zero inappropriate comments, wasn’t crossing any of my personal space, and really just treated me like a friend. When I used to travel with my ex or when I travel with my family, I usually take on the mental load of planning, making reservations, navigating, and making sure we get to where we were supposed to go. I enjoy traveling solo because I manage my own time and don’t have to think for anyone else, and even if I get lost in cities alone, I’m not inconveniencing other people. But this dude was so good at getting to places that I got to enjoy the sights while he navigated. It was so nice to hang out with someone (technically a stranger) and be so relaxed.

And his itinerary was so similar to mine (it mostly revolved around food and wasn’t jam-packed!) that he’s like an ideal travel buddy (I swear, when he was telling me about the restaurants he made dinner reservations for, the one thought in my head was “why can’t this person be my actual *real life* friend I can book dinners and travel with, kinda like another Mao” lol). When he was showing me photos from his phone, I managed to catch a glimpse of his albums and there were literal folders of food. All our interactions were so platonic and he’s so seemingly harmless that I can turn my brain off and just have fun. Not gonna lie, I found that surface-level personality attractive (let’s be real, I developed a low-key crush when I saw the food folders which I never/will never have acted on so it will remain this untainted wholesome memory for the memory bank) – I think whoever bagged/bags this man is pretty lucky. I think that limited time with someone from the male species actually made me feel a little hopeful too. I was genuinely telling my friends earlier in the trip that I think I may need to fully accept that I’ll have to live life alone because I like my way of life too much, but finding out that there are actually men out in the world that I’m on a similar wavelength with was nice. I now have at least a bit of a semblance of proof that they do exist. I find a sense of peace from having that knowledge. I’ve also never crushed on anyone since college so this was such a cute feeling while it lasted. (And I feel safe just publishing this with his literal name on it because I know he’ll never find it haha)

Our hotels were 3 km apart so we shared a taxi from the airport. At one point, he asked if I chose my hotel for a reason. I made up some shit about it being affordable (which it was), but my general reason was I thought the room looked nice. Karaarom Hotel had quite the industrial theme going on in their rooms and I’m a sucker for that aesthetic. Hahaha! Bangkok traffic was crazy enough that after I got dropped off, it took another hour to get to his hotel. I spent some time in the shower and washing off all that airport grime and repacking my entire luggage so I don’t have to the next day.

We met up at Jodd Fairs that night. And I realize now that I’m writing this down, that I felt safe enough with this stranger that I forgot to turn on location sharing with my family and friends for the rest of the night. Anyway. Night markets are the best way for me to lose weight. This is the same reason why shopping in malls makes me buy fewer things. When there’s an abundance of anything right in front of me, I get anxious that I won’t get the best deal and that I end up not buying anything. Jodd Fairs had hundreds of stalls with multiple booths selling the same thing that I ended up losing my appetite from stressing over which one to eat first. The good thing about having someone to share food with though is I get to try more! And ugh, eating coconut ice cream in Bangkok is always a must in my opinion. I’ve been to Bangkok multiple times and I still can’t get enough of it. The pandan bread was meh for me – I should have taken a page from Jono’s book and forced a stranger to take a piece to taste it. It was so funny, some girl asked me if it tasted good, and I said yes, and Jono was like “take one” a little too aggressively nice. Asian women are terrified of nice gestures like that, sir lol. We also ate those takoyakis with gigantic bits of seafood in them – now that was GOOD. There was a flag stuck into it, and the dumb person that I am asked “what flag is that”, and I can tell Jono’s immediate thought was “damn this bitch is dumb” (can’t blame him HAHA), before reminding me that that’s Thailand’s flag. I still find it funny just writing that out. I wanted to try some of the seafood skewers but ALL THOSE CHOICES and I can’t make one. Pft. He did get more food than me and I get to taste a tiny bit of it. But ultimately, my dinner was coconut icecreamS and iced milo (which totally brought back memories of college where I bought 10 peso cups of watered-down iced milo in Agno).

We separated for a bit after that. I went to go shopping at Terminal 21 and found the cutest snow globe with a bunny that bikes around a ferris wheel! I’ve been on the lookout for a snow globe as a souvenir for this trip and it was nice to find a cute one in such a random way. I also had my Pomelo haul part 2 (this brand has got me in a chokehold), as well as this cute Shiba toy I bought for Kara.

Jono was closer to Terminal 21 and we were supposed to meet there. But I went back to my hotel to pack all the extra last-minute stuff I bought before we even went out again. I kinda assumed Jono was maybe a bit tired so we probably wouldn’t be doing a lot and I’d have a lot of time/energy to burn just so I’d fall asleep, so I asked some dude I met while clubbing last week if he wanted to grab drinks around midnight. Alcohol works better than melatonin anyway.

We met up outside Jono’s hotel and started walking to Nana. I told him all about the time some woman asked me on the BTS if I was a tourist and where I was headed. When I told her to the night market, she gave me directions and I somehow ended up in Patpong (? where rows and rows of scantily dressed women sat outside massage parlors and there was a strip club somewhere called Golden Balls – see this memory remains vivid). On our way to Nana Plaza, sex workers and pimps, and stalls of sex toys and performance meds (like viagra ???? from the street??????) lined the sidewalk. The deeper we got into the red-light district, the more aggressive the marketing of their services was. When we got to Nana Plaza and walked around, you literally can just take a peek in the doors and you’d see women in their underwear (or naked) *not* really dancing but just standing over at the platform and faking dancing. We decided to first have a drink in the open area and take a look at whether anyone of the old men are going to go home with some of the women. Then we tried to take our pick of the strip clubs to go in and just see what happens inside. I’ve literally never been inside a strip club nor do I plan on checking out red-light districts. As a solo female traveler, it just seemed unsafe to do. But checking this out with a stranger who’s up for anything was fun. We had a weirdly wholesome time (at least for both of us).

The first stop was too full (I can’t remember which one was it – Rainbow # or Billboards), and hmm, honestly feels like a den with so many men ogling at naked women in the jacuzzi. Fascinating and creepy. Our next stop (UPDATE: It was Rainbow 4, I asked because it was bugging me) was weirdly ok (as ok as strip clubs can get – again, I can’t remember which one it was but it was on the third floor). We wanted to sit in a booth so we could people-watch, but apparently, newcomers are seated by the platform where the girls strut. The girls had numbers pinned to their barely there underwear and you can just take your pick. Jono described it as having front-row seats in a cinema, it was too close to enjoy the view. And it truly was. But omg these women’s skin is so tight. I wonder how much rice I need to let go of to be that skinny. If I’m being completely honest, I don’t blame anyone for doing sex work. Most of them would probably have chosen not to commoditize themselves to earn a living (it’s a physically demanding job too), and for the rest who do enjoy it – I say, good for them. I’m 31 and I have limited experience with sex (in the sense that I have a creative mind but I also like to overthink. The fun things I want to do in bed require trust, and how do you even trust a stranger with your body?). And if I had gotten paid every single time I engaged in intercourse and did not enjoy myself, let’s just say, I would have had more budget for this trip. Lol is that a sick thing to say out loud?

When we eventually got sat at the booth, we decided to pick one girl (for the heck of it, UPDATE: Jono mentioned to not forget that it was Girl #100) to buy a drink for and she sat between us. She was one of the few who actually looked like she was having a great time while she was up there. She was quite touchy too – she kept touching my arm and holding my hands, and playing with the thin ribbon that was holding up my top. We tried talking to her but I don’t think she understood and we had so many questions (like what kind of services men usually ask for, how many drinks is your average etc because we were so so curious). To be honest, writing this at the airport is still making me wonder if it was an ethical thing to do to support sex tourism. Because simply going down there to look around is participating in it. I also grew up and still live in a third-world country, where a lot of people (not just women), peddle their services for foreigners in the hopes of earning enough for a better life. At what point do we draw a line between curiosity and supporting an industry that just seemed so unethical? While I know it’s a systemic problem that my not going wouldn’t solve, but did the fact that I *did* go make me a part of this problem? Honestly, I don’t know. And I’m not sure if it’s misplaced guilt because I did have an awesome time. But I doubt the women we ogled at felt the same.

BUT to be honest, I now get why some couples do go to strip clubs as foreplay. There’s something about watching other women strip in front of you that makes you want to take off your clothes yourself (for a partner, I do not strip for everyone LOL, what did I say about my creative mind and the long list of things I want to try). I guess it’s also because of my hedonistic nature that I get turned on by the stimulation of the senses. While I was in there, I decided on finally meeting up with this dude that screamed like he was a one-night stand waiting to happen (justifying to myself that I need to welcome new experiences and not make it so limited hahaha). I wasn’t checking my phone the entire time we were there though and I found that he was blasting my phone the entire time and we were actually in there for a few hours. It was nearing 1 AM when we got out and I got turned off by all of the club dude’s messages that I would rather go 7/11 hopping to find snacks.

When I got back to my hotel room, I had to wash off all the smoke/red-light district smell that clung to my hair and skin. Which in turn, woke my senses up. I was trying to find anywhere to go to and just decided to book a motorbike to Chinatown at around 1:30 (I know). While on the bike, I suddenly thought about how nice my life was and then had a meltdown. I asked to get off the bike and walked back to my hotel full-on sobbing. When I got back, I wrote about how I felt at that moment and published it immediately (see the previous post).

I woke up to dirty sheets because as it turns out – it was my period all along. Oh god. Thank goodness it was all just hormones. Everything started making sense – the sudden bout of horny and just so much crying.

I felt like a zombie the entire morning as I head to the airport. Suddenly, all my joints hurt and all these period side effects started showing up. My voice was so hoarse from having to shout the entire night. My eyes were swollen and I had a headache from all the crying. My legs feel so sore from walking back to the hotel.

And just my luck too. On my supposedly 30-min ride to the airport (turned 1.5 hours), I got an email from Thai Airways that my flight got pushed back for 1.5 hours. When I got to the airport, the previously lifted e-arrival card for the Philippines requirement for boarding was required again (it was easy to apply for though, fortunately). Dropping my bag off took another hour. Security check and immigration were 45 mins. I went down to one of the food places inside the airport for a drink and to relax after all that.. and the power cut off. So I’m now in an airport without air conditioning and lighting. Crazy.

I think this is where I’m closing the book on this trip. In my art film supercut, my highlights would have to be bathing the elephants, that thing with the birds flying around me, and developing an untainted last-minute crush for the first time in forever (a little sad because I know we will never talk/meet again and he’ll just remain as a message thread that’ll soon get overwritten by other work-related messages).

But I guess the best part about this trip was actually going out of what was comfortable for me. It’s always outside of my comfort zone where I feel like I’m adding something of value to myself. When I went to Dumaguete/Siquijor before – it was truly one of those trips where I was more in nature and I legit was just talking to myself while climbing down cliffs to get to secret beaches. This trip was one where I went out with strangers multiple times, and Gin was right – I really do need to get out more. That I’m currently feeling stuck because I refuse to put myself out there (literally and metaphorically). All the stimulation I got from this trip has jumpstarted my work on my next collection and I can’t wait to start producing new things for both my brands with this new inspiration.

Plus I had fun reliving the day like I’m talking to myself in these senseless ramblings during my trip. I shall do it again for the next one.

Planned trips for 2023: Melbourne in July/August (for Alex), Korea in November (I was initially thinking of going for Halloween but I’m terrified of it now). But Taylor Swift’s tour is coming up and I’m not sure which one I’m going to go to yet. Aaaa exciting times!

Bangkok 2022 || It’s so hard to feel enough

It’s past 2 AM and I just got back to my room. I had a fun night out with someone I met during the trip.

And for some reason, I still felt so awake and lively that I just need to go somewhere else. At one point, I even thought maybe I should open a quick profile on a dating app and just get this energy out of my system.

Instead, I booked a motorbike to a market across the city. I’m only a few hours away from flying home – and at first, all I could think of was how nice my life is. I can go on long trips, I can do whatever I wanted, and I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I could afford most of the experiences I want to indulge in.

And then suddenly it hit me. If my life was so nice and good – then why doesn’t anyone want me. Like a switch, an overwhelming sense of rejection washed over me. While I know that I have people back home who love me dearly, still one has to wonder why I’m single at 31, on the back of a motorbike at full speed with no helmet on. I can be as reckless with my life as I’ve been because I have no one else to live for but myself.

When that feeling hit, I just started full-on sobbing. At the back of a motorbike. In Bangkok. At the very least, it was a main character moment.

But it’s so hard not to stop crying when you realize that in 30 years, no one has ever known all the versions of me, including the ones I’m ashamed of – and thought “that’s my person”. That I’m a free independent spirit because no one has deemed me worthy to anchor me down and let me rely on them.

I felt everything kinda just start crashing down and every single little thing that I can feel insecure about started popping up like fuck, no one’s even just trying to sleep with me. Am I that unattractive and unlikeable? Logically, I know that it doesn’t make any sense given that I’m not even on any dating app. Haven’t been for a while. If a dude does anything sexual in nature, I would get the ick. Never mind that I’m lowkey a recluse and I also keep my circle small. I almost never welcome any new people in my life.

But feelings are feelings – and they are rarely logical. And in the middle of a breakdown, I can’t even muster the comforting thought of having a person to come home to. Because there’s no one. Maybe someday there will be one and I can look back at this night and smile at how far I’ve come and how much peace I’ve acquired within myself. But right now, I have no one. And it’s just one of those moments where I just need someone, anyone, to hold me while I cry my heart out in a foreign city.

Life Lately || panganay problems

My sister graduated this year and got Latin honors for her degree (also an honors program). She’s also starting her first job in a few weeks – and in her job interviews, whenever asked about challenges/accomplishments outside of school, she would always use my brand as her answer lol.

My mom got sick and died early on, so I’ve mostly navigated through my adult life with no one to guide me. I got to where I am now, mostly through experience. I made my mistakes and learned a few things on the way which I passed on. Since mom got sick, I lost my safety net. With her around, I know I can fail because whatever I do and even if I break, someone’s going to be there to unconditionally pick up the pieces. And for a long time after her diagnosis, I felt completely alone. I knew my responsibilities and I know I can’t ever relax with them because I now have two people relying on me, and I had no one that made me feel like they were stable enough that I can rely on them. Both my siblings were young and they needed to have someone to be there to pick up their pieces. I knew I didn’t have that anymore in anyone, and the best I could do was be their safety net.

My family isn’t big on affection (I bet we all scored zero on words of affirmation as a love language) and the best way I show my love is by making someone’s life a little bit easier (sometimes at my expense, but that’s an entirely different conversation – preferably with a therapist). And while I’m happy at the fact that my sister can focus more on being her amazing self (do not tell her I said that) with a further starting point than I did, I’m also a little bit jealous that I didn’t get that. I know it’s a valid feeling and I know it’s no one’s fault. And life has gotten better (with time and therapy), but sometimes, these feelings would pop up and it’s hard not to feel guilty about it.

I guess it’s also because I’ve recently been working with a lawyer to do some legal stuff for the business, I just got a loan, my credit limit has kept up with inflation and increased by a significant amount, and I’ve been doing all these adult things. At 21, it felt like I had to sit in the driver’s seat before I even knew how to drive but I can’t crash and burn because I got passengers. The last passenger just got off (my sister – who funnily enough was in the car when I was literally taking actual driving lessons lol), and I find that I’ve gotten comfortable with driving and I can now relax my hold on the stirring wheel. I was just about to get to the nearest exit so I can slow down and explore more places, and maybe find a stop where I can get off the car I’d been driving nonstop for years and rest for a bit. Walk around and take in the sights. Instead, the vehicle turned into something so much bigger, that one wrong turn and I would start a pileup – and now I have no choice but to keep driving down the same path while being completely terrified of driving again. No one’s around to take the wheel when I’m tired or sick or restless or anxious. Just me, driving a truck on the seemingly endless expressway – when all I wanted was to drive down a scenic route in a small compact car at minimum speed limit.

Life Lately || career crisis averted

I’ve just had the weirdest/shittiest/best/most interesting day I’ve had so far and honestly, I’m extra grateful for it.

You know how it goes, on a weird career funk yada yada yada – so I went on a job interview today that I got invited to after I responded to a recruiter on Linkedin. I checked the role description she sent my way and admittedly, I knew from the get-go that I would need a wider-than-usual learning curve if I ever got this role. There were skills that were needed for the role that I am not particularly skilled in but heck, I learn best by trial by fire. I’ve proven to myself that I’m quite adaptable so I still went for it. And to be frank (I’ve done this my entire career HAHA), I like applying for positions I know are a significant jump from my current position and using it as interview practice. These interviews are my warm-up before I send in my CV to openings that I feel are a better fit. For example, before I applied for my current job, I went ahead and applied for two different management positions (knowing I’d get ask relatively harder questions), before I went in for the interview for this one. I’ve always seen it as a win-win situation – if I get the job, then I get to grow in another role. But if I don’t, it’s totally fine too because I knew I wasn’t ready for it yet.

During the preliminary interview with the recruiter, I made it abundantly clear that I lean more towards the business side of tech rather than technical. I remember having to repeat this because I studied the opening and knew I was reaching. Not gonna lie, I kinda expected never to hear from her again. But I did. So I went.

I left the house 2 hours before the interview. I was initially going to leave earlier than that but I had an issue with my clothes that I had to change just before I left.

And then the car I was in got into a minor accident because another vehicle suddenly cut us off. It wasn’t anything serious but oh man, was I glad that I use the seat belt even when I’m on the backseat.

I still got to the building 51 minutes before the interview (even with all that happening). I needed a drink and hanged out at the Starbucks across the street. I like to arrive to interviews 15 minutes before my appointment. So I left the cafe 20 minutes before my schedule.

While crossing the street, the FUCKING SOLE OF MY RIGHT SHOE FLEW OFF. I only had this thin cloth as a barrier between MY FOOT AND THE CONCRETE ROAD.

So I thought “ok lang to, I can just buy new shoes AFTER the interview” and kept on walking. But then the strap of my LEFT SHOE DROPPED because the sole was also loose.

And I had to sprint to the adjacent mall to get a new pair of shoes while the pair on my feet was falling apart piece by piece. I had to purchase an overpriced pair (it was a posh mall with mostly designer brands) – an unplanned expensive shoe purchase that I still have buyer’s remorse over. At that point, I was just done with this interview. I wanted to get it over with and just wanted to go home HAHA.

On the car ride back, I suddenly realized that I’d never had an eventful day in such a long time. During the interview, I was less focused on selling myself and my skills. I answered all the questions truthfully and asked those “intrusive thought” questions I rarely ask because I kinda took it as a sign from the universe that this job is probably not for me, so what’s the harm in asking. The questions I was asked and I asked during the interview gave me a new perspective on things I still have to learn, on readings I was planning to do when I got home.. and honestly, I’ve never felt more exhilarated in the past few months.

Maybe it’s the outside air. It’s the broken shoes. But this weird blip this year is going to be such a funny story. I feel so much more at ease now and less antsy about my career. And any upcoming interviews headed my way can only be better than what happened today. 🙂