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!