Amazing Race in Bangkok

It doesn’t matter how often we travel or how prepared we are for any adventure. We always end up with at least one Amazing Race style story. This time it happened during our move from Bangkok to Vietnam. 

Our mission: to catch a flight via the budget airline Air Asia from Bangkok to Hanoi departing at 6:30 am. 

Our first challenge, was figuring out how to find a taxi to take us from our condo to the airport. We were in a neighborhood where you couldn’t always find a taxi. We couldn’t take the metro system because it was closed that early in the morning. We ended up having to pantomime (act it out) “call a taxi” with the security guards of the condo. We used a piece of paper to write down the time we wanted a taxi (4:15 am) and I pretended to be an airplane using my arms and making sounds with my mouth to indicate where we wanted to go-it worked!

When our alarm went off at 4:00am, we were half asleep and zombie walked downstairs to meet our taxi. We were pretty surprised to find out it was raining-very, very hard. I know, I know-you’re thinking that since I’m from San Diego I think it’s pouring when it’s sprinkling outside. Trust me, I’ve seen crazy storms. This blew them all away. It was as if every single drop of water in the ocean was falling from the sky at that minute. It was the epitome of the words “torrential downpour.” The doorman had a giant table umbrella he was using and helped us get into the taxi so we weren’t completely soaked. 

The drive to the airport was short but it was terrifying. The water had filled the streets and since it was dark outside it made it hard for the driver to see the flooded areas. When we arrived at the airport in one piece I thought for sure the worst was over. 

I was wrong. Air Asia is a budget airline for Asia which is comparable to Ryan Air and Easy Jet in Europe. We had arrived more than two hours early since it was our first time with this airline. When we walked into the airport it was complete pandemonium. Envision hundreds of people packed into every part of the airport and every single one is yelling or talking as loud as they can. The areas for Air Asia were the most crowded. Every line had more than a hundred people in each of them. Each line winded around the area like a giant snake. It was impossible to find the end of any line. We normally would proceed to the gate because we checked in online, but Air Asia specifically said online that we had to stop by the reservations desk to have our passport scanned. So we kept asking different Air Asia staff which line we should be in to travel to Hanoi. Each staff person sent to a different line. After waiting more than an hour in a line and battling with line-cutters (not on my watch!) we had barely moved up a few feet. It was less than an hour to our flight, we were no closer to having our documents scanned and we still had to get through customs and security before finding our gate! 

By 5:50am I couldn’t take the line anymore. I knew we wouldn’t make our flight if we stayed in that line. So again I walked up to an Air Asia employee, I told them our flight was leaving in fourty minutes and we were in a huge line. This employee looked at our tickets and points to a line with only EIGHT people in it. She says that’s the line we should be in. 

After getting our documents scanned we run to customs where there is another huge line. We are almost at the front of the customs line when a bunch of people start crowding the line. We are talking major pushing, shoving and trying to cut ahead. I pretty much lost all patience at this point. We had twenty minutes until our flight departs and we still have to finish in customs and get through security. If anyone thought they were going to get ahead of me they were going to have to pry my cold dead body out of their way. I was seeing red and snarling-this seemed to work because no one tried to bump ahead of me anymore. 

The security line was the shortest line to get through and didn’t even  require removing our liquids from inside the bag. We ran full sprint to our gate which was boarding and somehow made it on board. 

The flight was a little over an hour and when we arrived at the Hanoi airport is was the complete opposite of Bangkok. It was as quiet as a library. I could literally hear the stamping sounds from the customs agents. No one was talking loud or making any noise. 

We had made it to Vietnam! Read about our night food tour and impressions of Vietnam next. 

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Six Hours in Bangkok

On our second day in this busy city we split up our time so that we could go back to the condo during the peak heat hours.

We were wide awake and out the door by 8:00am local time. We had six hours, sunscreen, water in our hydroflask and an unlimited ride metro card. Our mission of the day, was to visit the Wat Pho temple to see the Reclining Buddha.  

In order to reach the temple, we first had to take the metro to Chatuchak Park. We read about a weekend market that takes place here so we figured it would be a good place to get some breakfast. 

We were pleasantly surprised to get off the metro and find a huge park full of green grass and trees. Everything we’d seen of Bankok so far felt very tight and crammed with lots of people. It felt good to explore an area that was open and spread out.    

Turns out the locals enjoy coming to this park as well. We saw plenty of them sitting on a bench and eating breakfast, laying under a tree and a few out for a morning run.     

On the other side of the park, we found these stone columns with photos on them. Each photo demonstrates a different exercise that can be done in the park using various wooden logs or equipment.

  
These ladies were stretching using the wooden logs. In the background a young girl works on balancing exercises on a wooden beam. We even saw someone picking up and lifting a log and doing chest press exercises with it. I enjoyed watching the locals make good use of their parks. 

The weekend market was located directly next to the park. We were happy to arrive early, because we had the chance to watch the market come to life. Some stalls were still setting up and the food booths were busy making the special of the day.    

 We found a food vendor ready for business and a gentleman named Ken sat us down next to the stand. After taking our order, Ken proceeded to make the rice and noodle dishes. He asked his coworker to make the papaya salad.   

Everything was very tasty and as we sat there eating (and sweating!) the market started to get very busy. 

We wandered around the market and ended up finding a foot massage stall. We enjoyed thirty minutes of air conditioned massaging. 

 Some of the textiles being sold in the market. 

Before leaving the market I decided to use the potty. It was tucked away down a back corridor. Imagine my surprise when I found an entire art gallery on the way to the bathroom. All these local artists working on a variety of different artworks in a small studio. 

Here are some of my favorites:    

 
 The next part of our journey involved taking a bus. We were determined to figure out the bus system in Thailand. It was a lot harder than expected. We knew more or less which bus number would take us to the temple but the bus stops didn’t have any signs indicating if that number stopped there. We ended up finding a very nice lady who spoke a tiny bit of English. We explained where we wanted to go and she informed us of the buses that would stop at that location. She was also able to tell us how much it would cost and that you pay on board the bus. 

We figured the hard part was over. However, while waiting for our bus we started watching other people get on and off busses. The busses barely come to a complete stop. You have to jump on or off as its moving and the steps are high off the ground. When the bus you’re looking for is coming, you have to start running towards it so the driver knows you want to get on. Otherwise, it will not slow down at all and you’re stuck waiting for the next one. When we finally made it on board, it felt like a huge achievement. We enjoyed driving through the city to our destination. 

Once we arrived at the Wat Pho temple, many vendors outside told us that it’s holy hour and the temple was closed. They invited us to go on a tour or to eat some lunch while we waited. It’s a good thing I had read online that this is a common scam done to tourists in order to get you to buy something. When the vendors asked where we were going we kept saying “just walking.” When we arrived at the entrance to the temple it was open for business. 

Super Nel had to purchase some Thai elephant design pants because the temple doesn’t allow you to wear shorts. I had brought a wrap with me to cover up my shoulders because tank tops are also not allowed. 

In order to enter the area of the Reclining Buddha, you must remove your shoes. You are given a bag to place them in so you can carry them around with you. 

Once inside, you are immediately face to face with a towering golden Buddha.           

The Buddha was glorious! He’s so big he feels larger than life. 

Overall we’d had a very productive morning and we enjoyed our adventure. We were ready for a much needed air conditioned nap. So we negotiated with a tuk-tuk driver to take us back to the metro. 

Lost in Bangkok 

We made it to Bangkok after an extremely long travel day. Our flight from LAX to Bangkok was fifteen hours to Taiwan, ten hour layover there and then a four hour flight to Thailand. 

Once we arrived, we used the metro to travel from the airport into the city. We had booked a vacation rental and it proved to be near impossible to find the building. The people in the neighborhood didn’t speak any English (or Spanish) so we had to do a lot of critical thinking in order to find our condo.The directions we’d been given were pretty straight forward “Find the lobby, look for mirrored doors in the middle of this room, inside you’ll see mail boxes, the key is inside the condo mailbox labeled 559/228.” Sounds easy, right? Wrong. We couldn’t find the lobby. It didn’t help that the heat and humidity was out in full force and our backpacks were starting to feel like heavy boulders on our backs in the sun. Also, the cell phone we brought with us to use for local calls wasn’t accepting the SIM card so we were unable to call for help. When we did finally walk into the condo, the air conditioning felt heavenly. I think I dropped my bag on the floor and just sat to enjoy the cold air blow the sweat off my face. 

  
Once we recovered from the heat, we took a step out on the balcony to look at the view. The city seems to go on forever. Endless people and houses fill every nook and cranny of the streets. 

It was currently 15:00 in the afternoon and even though we were tired, we were determined to battle the first jet lag so we set out to explore Bangkok. Our goal was to find Khao San Road and do some people watching and street food eating.

However, we never made it to Khao San Road. After taking the metro as close as we could, we were supposed to take a bus. But without the assistance of wifi and with the language barrier we were unable to locate the bus stop. Some very eager tuk-tuk drivers were very persistent and tried to get us on board. They offered to take us to discount stores so we could buy souvenirs. We politely refused and walked away. The tuk-tuk driver followed us and said the direction we were walking would take us into the part of town full of “thieves and pickpockets.” We weren’t sure if this man was telling the truth or not but we were willing to risk our chances.

 
Turns out the tuk-tuk driver was right. The area we walked into seemed somewhat questionable. And the lack of businesses made it hard to find anyone to point us in the right direction. So Super Nel and I did what we do best-we trusted out guts and relied on our brains to figure out a solution. We decided to cross the street in order to get a different view of our surroundings and to determine if the two gentleman walking closely behind us were simply fast walkers or following us. Once we crossed the street I saw a building with a sign that listed the business as a hostel. A hostel is the best place to go to get help with your surroundings. Turns out it was a good choice because inside Yellow Duck Hostel we found some friendly faces who spoke a little English. They provided us with a map and showed us which way to walk in order to find a nearby temple and China Town.
China town turned out to be a “must see” for Super Nel because of the tasty street food.    

Every street we explored was full of people, cars, tuk-Turks, vendors and did I mention people?!  

We tried to retrace our steps back toward the hostel, but it was impossible. Every corner we turned brought us back to a new street. Nothing looked familiar and we had no sense of which way to go. 

  After more endless walking we found ourselves at a dead end. But we found this beautiful shrine and one of Bankok’s many canals was behind it. The sun was setting and this turned out to be the perfect place to watch it disappear behind the buildings. 

In the end, we found a bar and had a cold beer. Super Nel and I decided we would brave a tuk-tuk ride to get us back to the nearest metro station. It turns out, the tuk-tuk rides are exhilarating! It’s like being inside a live version of Mario Kart. 

When we finally returned to our condo it was 20:00. We had fought the jet lag off for as long as we could. Now it was time for some much needed sleep. 

 
  

Osprey Porter 46 Liters: Inside the Bag

We depart for Asia in less than a week and that only means one thing: packing! I like to pre-pack my bag a few weeks before departure on big trips like this one. This gives me enough time to review the items in my ONE bag and decide if its worth carrying on my back for a month. In the last few weeks I’ve been able to eliminate quite a few items to lighten my load. I tried to fit everything into my 30 Liter backpack. However, it was too tight than I wanted it to be. Instead, I’ll be taking my trusty Osprey Porter 46 Liter backpack. This bag has traveled around Europe for weeks and it still looks brand new. This backpack is incredibly light, distributes weight evenly and the straps can be tucked away so you can hold the backpack by a handle like a traditional luggage. We’ll be traveling via budget airlines all over Asia and the maximum weight allowance for some of these flights is a total of 6kg (13.2lb).

The weight restriction means that every item that goes into my backpack must serve multiple purposes or will be used frequently enough to warrant taking up space and weight.

I found this Keen purse with fabric that is tough, water resistant and looks like denim. There are plenty of compartments inside the bag to store all my necessary items. This makes this purse the ideal day bag. Also the strap can be adjusted so you can wear the purse as a cross body or shoulder bag. 

This is my airplane bag. I always have this little bag stocked with antibacterial wipes (for disinfecting airplane armrests, tray tables and seatbelt buckles), eye mask, earplugs, compression socks and hand lotion. 

This waterproof zippered bag holds my first aid kit. Inside you’ll find your basic band aids and triple antibiotic ointment. However, since we’re nurses and will be visiting some rural areas of Thailand we decided to pay a visit to our travel clinic. We were provided with antibiotics, Immodium and anti-malarial pills. We also received a Hepatitis A booster and Typhoid Immunization (my arm is still sore!). Prior to departure, I visited our local pharmacy and stocked up on the following OTC medication: Mucinex-D, benedryl, ibuprofen, vitamin C/immunity supplements and excedrin. 

  

Liquids: shampoo samples, small bottle of conditioner, tide stain remover pen, face lotion/hydrating spray and a travel pack of essential oils. I’ve become a huge fan of DoTerra brand oils and use them for headaches, immunity boosts and muscle aches. 

  

This small insulated lunchbox always makes it into my bag. Inside I keep baby wipes, Kleenex, reusable utensils, zip locks and a cloth napkin. We’ll use this for picnics and to store daily perishable leftovers from breakfast or lunch. This helps keep food expenses to a minimum. 

Toiletries: razor, sunscreen stick, soap, comb, floss, nail files, lint remover sheets, solid perfume, deodorant and a loofah. 

  

Electronics: external battery charger, international adaptor plug, mini power strip. Not pictured: iPhone/iPad charger cord. 

  

I’m a huge fan of packing cubes. These Lewis and Clark brand cubes are made of thin lightweight material. This cube holds 3 tank tops rolled up, small bag of accessories and these two bows. My favorite bows are the ones made at this etsy shop: http://monasbows.etsy.com. The owner makes all kinds of different hair bows, but this Star Wars one ends up in my hair most often. 

Red Cube: 3 underwear, 1 exercise bra, 1 regular bra, 1 pair of socks and 2 headbands. 

 

Large Blue Cube: Bathing suit, lightweight waterproof jacket, sarong (doubles as a towel for the beach), 1 tshirt and 2 pairs of exercise pants. Not pictured: A new item from a company called  Encircled. They make clothes that convert to a variety of items. I purchased their Chrysalis Cardi. It can be word 8 different ways including a cardigan, cape, scarf, dress and more. I’ll be wearing it on the plane as a scarf.  

 

Shoes: Birkenstocks, Chaco’s and Ipanema sandles. 

 

Everything fits! And there’s stil plenty of room inside. 

Ready for take off! 

Miscellaneous items missing from photos: sleep sack, hydroflask water bottle, headlamp, combo locks, hat and clothesline. 

I’m a minimalist packer and hopefully it shows in my photos. What type of packer are you? What would you add to the bag? 

New Site, New Blog, New Adventures

I recently attended the Women in Travel Summit (WITS) and was beyond inspired to try something new. I had the opportunity to sit in a room filled with hundreds of inspirational and creative women of all ages. These women have been to countries I’ve only dreamed of visiting (to be honest I didn’t know some existed!). Going to this conference really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I attended all alone, without knowing anyone else and I shared a room with a fellow #WITS16 conference attendee. The entire conference is dedicated to helping bloggers and like minded travel gals to connect, network and learn how to grow your blog beyond a hobby and into a business.

I had a one on one mentor meeting with one of my favorite bloggers-The Travel Fashion Girl.

This leads me to this new site. I’m diving into the deep waters of word press and doing my best to navigate my way to creating a new blog. There is so much to learn about this site and during a breakout session at the WITS conference I learned that word press has an endless amount of plug ins that can make a blog stand out. I know I have a lot to learn and I hope anyone reading this will bear with me as I go through the trial and error phase. One thing that’s positive about making mistakes, is the learning that comes along with making them.

This blog will be very similar to my Blogger site (wonderwumanadventureisoutthere.blogspot.com). However, I hope to blog about travel tips and adventures year round. I’m making it my mission to sit down and write a blog post weekly. When I have an excess in content, I may be able to post multiple times a week-but I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep.

My husband (Super Nel) and I are days away from our next big adventure. We’re headed to Southeast Asia for a month and to say we’re excited would be an understatement. We’ve spent the last two months preparing an itinerary, packing and prepping for an adventure of a lifetime. Unlike our last big adventure (read: honeygroupmoon), only the two of us are headed to Asia. However, there is a chance that a friend may meet us on our journey if she gets lucky enough to board the right Mac Flight. Company or solo, Super Nel and I love the idea of a month of travel in new places.

Stay tuned for more updates on our pre-flight preparations for Asia and as always-thanks for reading!