After getting bogged down the Grad school blues, I was fortunate enough to be taken on a relaxing father/daughter trip with my amazing dad. With his love of Asian cultures and my love of all Asian foods, we settled on Hong Kong and Bangkok! I was a bit nervous for my first trip out of the US but also had these incredible little butterflies of excitement. I had no idea how much this trip would change my life.
We spent an incredible few days in chilly Hong Kong eating, shopping and sightseeing. We let ourselves become completely immersed in the Hong Kong way of life and were generally the only Westerners in most of the restaurants we chose (OK I’ll admit it, one day we ate at McDonald’s). We traveled to the smelly fresh markets full of bloody fish and chickens being chopped up. This was the first time I was able to see these horrific images without getting choked up for the poor animals. I realized it was a way of life for them and who was I to judge.
As the first leg of our trip came to an end, I started to think about our next destination: Bangkok. Three words came to mind when I thought of Bangkok: dirty, seedy, and just plain scary! The second we landed all of these fears and thoughts were confirmed. We drove past a line of Thai prostitutes heading to our hotel in the infamously seedy Nana district. What had we gotten ourselves into?!
Arriving at our hotel didn’t soothe my fears. Our room hadn’t been properly cleaned and I was disgusted. Could we leave Bangkok and go back to Hong Kong now…please?!
Seeing Bangkok in the light of day gave me an entirely different perspective. Ok, I was right, it was dirty – and smellier than any place I’d ever been – but it was also the most culturally beautiful place I’d ever seen. The Bangkok streets were filled with vendors selling everything from $3 (100 baht) dresses to young coconuts to bagged Fantas (they want to recycle the bottles for money so Thai people will put them in bags with a straw and you’re on your way!). You can look around at any given corner and see last night’s Chang Beer bottles from the local motorbike “gang” but you also see incredibly beautiful men, women and children all ready to give you one of their famous smiles. I was in heaven and fell in love with Bangkok that very first day.
After our trip was over, my eyes were opened to how much this world has to offer and I felt like I was missing out. I was homesick for a place I never really got to know but my Bangkok journey wasn’t over yet…