Unsurprisingly, after a late night in Bangkok followed by an early morning flight, I've gotten behind on blog posts. We arrived at the Bali airport feeling terrible...tired, hungover, hungry. I had booked us an AirBnB homestay in Ubud with Ketut Mendra. If you have never used AirBnB I 100% recommend it. If you are ever coming to Bali I 100% recommend staying with Ketut and his family. 

Ketut's first son, Wayan, picked us up. A little history on the Balinese naming system - they often name their kids one, two, three, etc. Ketut is four, and Wayan is....? You guessed it, one. Anyways, that means there are multiple people with the same name. 

Despite the rough state that we were in, Katie and I couldn't help but be talkative and feel full of life when we met Wayan. He is so joyful, funny, and answered all of our questions about Balinese culture and island life. One thing that was tough - the driving and the roads! The roads are quite windy once you leave the city, and technically they drive on the opposite side of the road, except we realized that it's more of a "drive wherever if it works for you" type of driving. Literally, sometimes we'd have motorbikes coming straight at us. 

Once we arrived in Ubud (Payogan is actually the little village where we are staying) we were shown to our room and were blown away by its beauty and the niceness of Ketut. Our room is the perfect little studio - marble floors, a small sink and fridge in one corner, a raised living/eating area with a beautifully carved coffee table and cushions for seating on the floor, two twin beds and more amazing furniture. The room is surrounded on three sides by windows, and a sliding wood and frosted glass door leads to our outdoor bathroom. We even have a front porch where we leave our shoes when we enter our room (as is customary in Bali when you enter inside a house, temple, or store). Ketut immediately realized we needed a nap so that's what we did. To give you an idea of just how special this family is, the minute our door closed Katie started to cry - the beauty of our room, of Bali, of Ketut and his family was simply overwhelming.

Post nap, we walked into town for some food! We didn't know what to expect of Balinese food and were pleasantly surprised. Fresh ginger iced tea, a salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and avocado, a very light coconut chicken curry, and Indonesian fried chicken (that was also light, somehow). The freshness of the food was amazing and we are sure this will be a nice change from the heavy (but delicious) Thai food.

The only way to fully describe Bali is magical. The Balinese people, the scenery, the way of life, the food - it is all so magical and indescribable.

I'll Fight You For a Singha

Our last day in Bangkok before Bali delivered. We took the train to the Chao Phraya River that runs through the city, and hired a long boat for a one hour tour of the canals. It was beyond interesting to see this other side of Bangkok, where people live literally on the water, and to see the juxtaposition of new modern homes next to old, dilapidated houses, all intertwined with marvelous temples and shrines. There were storefronts that face out to the canal, so people can buy necessities from their boats. And there were areas where nature had taken over with lush greenery. All of this was complimented by an ice cold Singha that we paid a whopping $4 for (and were not ashamed because it was so good). 

Side note: there are two Thai beers - Singha and Chang. Naturally, Katie and I had to try both and wow were we disappointed in Chang. If you're ever in Thailand, Singha is the way to go.
After our tour we wandered through the streets and made our way back to the hotel. Along the way we stopped in a small park and were blown away by the body weight exercise equipment (we gave it a test drive). A little relaxation after our workout and we were off to see our first ever Muay Thai (Thai boxing) match.

One of the workers at our hotel walked us out to the street to hail. This man is one of the happiest old men ever. As we walked past food stalls and shops, he'd smile and chat with everyone. He proudly pointed things out to us, such as the impressive high rise down the street. Despite it being rush hour (which I think it's maybe always rush hour in Bangkok), we got a taxi and made our way to Rajadamnern Stadium. Rajadamnern Stadium was built in 1945, and Muay Thai has been a Thai sport since the Sukothai period which ended in 1767 AD. Muay Thai originated as hands on combat in times of war, but later became a sport. It is considered full body combat, and is the only combat sport that uses punches, kicks, elbow, and knee strikes. 
The hustle and bustle of the stadium hit us the minute we stepped out of the cab. There were food stalls, people selling tickets, a plethora of motorbikes, and gamblers placing their bets. We splurged on our tickets - $60 for ringside, knowing that it would give us access to the entire stadium. We settled into our seats, and just like at any American sporting event, paid an astronomical amount for beers (Singha, of course). We were close enough to see the beads of sweat dripping off the fighters insane abs. These men were ripped. That said, they were also tiny. The 9 matches of the night ranged in weight class from 109lbs to 126lbs, with the 126lbs match being the highlight. Before each match the boxers do a ritual dance around the ring and pray in each corner - it was quite surreal to watch. Each match then consists of 5 rounds, and typically the first round isn't very exciting as the fighters feel each other out. Between rounds the fighters get doused in water, pumped up by their coach, and rubbed down with what we believe was an oil of some sort. The excitement of the whole evening did not disappoint. 

One of the benefits of spending $60 on tickets meant that we could really go anywhere in the stadium - so we did just that. After one of the fights we wandered back into where the boxer had gone and found him giving an interview. His family and coaches surrounded him, and we learned that family members who cannot afford tickets can sit in the back and watch the match on TV. We took pictures with this fighter, and then went to watch the peak match (the 126lbs weight class).
All of the matches were entertaining but there was typically a clear winner. This match was different - there was not a moment that didn't have us on the edge of our seats. Once the match was over we got to take a picture with the winner. He was quite sweaty, and had a deep gash above his left eye from the fight. We could've stayed for 2 more matches, but hunger had hit us so we ventured out. 

Our plan had been to get some food and go home. Well that plan did not happen. We grabbed a taxi to a street near where our hotel was with the hopes that food stalls would still be open. Luckily they were. And then we followed our noses and noticed where the locals were eating to decide which place we would eat. Across from us there was a Thai man (Tick) and an expat (Martin) eating and drinking, so naturally I asked them for food recommendations and wow did they deliver. We had an amazingly spicy lemongrass chicken soup, sticky rice, and delicious pork. 
It became very clear that the night would not be ending early, as Tick and Martin invited us to join their table. Tick ordered more food for us to try, and we helped them a bit with the bottle of Johnny Walker on the table. We learned to make little rice balls with our hands to soak up the juices of the pork. We also learned that Tick works in the tourism industry (he will now be our tour guide when we go back to Bangkok) and Martin is a film director who lives half the year in northern Thailand (and may hook me up with some travel opportunities if I push my flight back). The entire experience was so amazing and made Katie and I both feel like we were really getting to experience Bangkok. Hell, it even included multiple trips to the gas station squatter (which was not a fun experience in flip flops). 
Martin and Tick kindly ushered us back to our hotel a mere 90 minutes before our taxi to the airport would be coming. Needless to say, the flight to Bali would be rough, but it was all well worth it for what was easily our best night in Bangkok. 

Thailand Does It Better

What does Thailand do better, you ask? A lot of things - temples, shrines, clean streets, roadways, markets, food, massages, malls, grocery stores. 

We started our day taking a taxi to visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace. We knew we had to dress conservatively so we brought scarves to cover our shoulders and wore pants/dresses to our ankles. This didn't cut it - we were forced to rock out some pale blue polyester button down shirts. They were hot (in more ways than one). 

Upon entering the temple and Grand Palace area we were in awe. The size, the colors, the detail of the temples were simply stunning, especially against the blue sky. We started at The Upper Terrace, which consists of 4 monuments and scattered statues of elephants and other mythical creatures. After that we walked through the crowds to The Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha. We took our shoes off, doused ourselves with holy water, and entered the temple among the throngs of people. We were immediately bummed that photos were not allowed. The site was indescribable - from the marble floors, to the traditional golden Thai-style throne, to the Buddha himself. Disclaimer: the Emerald Buddha is actually jade, blame the abbot who initially discovered the Buddha covered in plaster in the 1400s. This Temple is why Thailand does temples better. 

At this point, quite sweaty and tired, we continued on to the Grand Palace. Some stops included the weapon museum which included tridents (I thought only King Triton from the Little Mermaid used a trident; apparently I was wrong) and hat caskets, and some beautiful architecture such as the Dusit Maha Prasat Hall, which is still used for the annual Coronation Day Ceremony (complete with throne). 

We happily returned our polyester prison garb and began our 10km walk back towards our hotel. Along our walk, we passed houses, the United Nations building, several government ministries - the majority of which had beautiful shrines. 

We also noted a lack of trash on the streets, and specifically mentioned that we had yet to see a single pothole (thus making the streets infinitely better than those of Houston...Westheimer in the loop, anyone?). 

Further along our walk home we happened upon a floating market. I've been to many a market in Latin America and they all have their bonuses. The bonuses of this one? The floating aspect, the bright colors reflecting against the water, the skincare products being sold (including a plethora of coconut oil products), and the food. We have yet to have any truly bad food in Thailand. If you want more on food (and massages), check out the feed me, rub me post or wait for an all encompassing food post that will make you go get Thai food (which I promise will not be as good as the Thai food I can get here).

After another round of massage, Katie and I headed to Siam Paragon, a mall recommended to me specifically for their food court. Well, let me tell you, Thailand wins the game in malls. On our short walk to Siam Paragon we passed at least 3 other malls that were massive, nice, and well-stocked with stores (think everything ranging from H&M to Mango to Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga). Once we reached Siam Paragon our minds were blown. WOW, does Thailand do malls better. Besides the store options, you also have options of visiting the aquarium in the bottom floor, or watching an IMAX on the top floor. But we were there for one thing, and one thing only - the food court. We each put 300 baht on a food court card and got started. Overall, I think their food court was good, but the street food is better. Following our meals (and ice cream), we wandered into the grocery store within the mall (it literally is your one stop place to shop)! We were, yet again, blown away. The rice selections, the pre-cut vegetable selections - all of it made HEB and Whole Foods look like a Piggly Wiggly. Hey U.S. Grocery stores, step up your game!

So there are some of the things that Thailand does better. What can they improve on? Traffic lights. As Katie says, "they're the longest in the world".

Feed Me and Rub Me

Oof that flight was rough...for everyone else on the plane. I very quickly passed out into a sleep-deprived, Benadryl-induced, drool-included slumber. My apologies to the two men in my row. 

Doesn't matter to me though, because I made it to Bangkok and met up with Katie. First impressions of Bangkok (and Thailand) are that it is a big, bustling city but still has greenery, public transportation is good and clean, and people are BEYOND friendly and helpful. 

We took the train from the airport to Ratchaprarop Station and then walked to our hotel. Unsurprisingly, we walked the wrong way (past a street stall selling something that smelled amazing), but a nice guy at a tailor shop asked us where we were going and pointed us in the right direction. We checked in at our hotel (Hotel de Bangkok) and were greeted with a welcome drink and AC! We took some time to decompress and then headed out into the streets with no plan in mind besides street food. And street food we got. We started by going back to that street stall where we were quickly ushered to a little metal table. We didn't even order anything, food just showed up. I can't actually tell you what it was called, but it was a beef broth with noodles, beef, and some vegetables. It was DELICIOUS. All for 70 Baht. One USD is approximately 32 Baht).

We then decided to just walk around and see what else Bangkok had to offer. We ended up meandering through a market while the likes of Lady Gaga and Tove Lo were blasting in the air. My guess is that they don't realize what Tove Lo is saying in "Talking Body". Next on our to do list was hydration so naturally we had to have fresh coconut water. The teenager that we got them from tried to cut Katie's open and drastically failed. His mom stepped in, and let me tell you, I would not mess with her when she has a butcher's knife in her hand! 

Coconut waters in hand, we wandered further down a street. By this point we had eaten and hydrated, and my feet were hurting and swollen from all the flying - so next on the list was obviously a massage. 

200 Baht later, with the softest feet ever, and feeling relaxed, we wandered back onto the street. I was shocked that it was already dark out! However, that meant that there were more and different street carts out with food. For someone who can be indecisive, having so many options can be tough. That is, until I saw a lady making pad Thai. Wowza was it good. Katie got garlic chicken and we ate while we walked back to our hotel for an early night to hopefully deal with some of our jet lag. 

Two takeaways: (1) the food is amazing and the smells are indescribable (in a good way); (2) we will likely get massages daily. Given these, I'm pretty sure the title of this post will be all-encompassing for our time in Thailand.

I'm Ready

I'm currently sitting in IAH Terminal D (which sucks, by the way), eating a salad and drinking some wine. And it just hit me - it's here! Less than 40 minutes 'til I board my Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt. HOLY SHIT. 

I've really felt like this day would never come. Even earlier this morning, time was moving at a snail's pace. Saturday morning cartoons (naturally, I was too excited to sleep), yoga, Guadalupana brunch (I'll miss Mexican food), all seemed to take forever. And it was hard as hell to keep my mind focused on what I was doing/where I was. I think I've had a big, stupid grin on my face for at least the last 10 hours. My face hurts. 

I've been thinking about how my excitement has started to mask the fear, even make me think it's not there. But right now, it is. Butterflies in my stomach (they like wine). But I'm not worried. 

I heard two things this week in yoga that clicked for me: (1) "We already know the ending - we die", and (2) "play full out". (Sorry if that first one is morbid, but it's true. And thank you, Nancy. I hadn't taken your class in months and you said both of these (or something along those lines) this week). They clicked because I realized that the first one is true so why not live life to its fullest and "play full out"?! And the second one made me realize that my fear around this trip (and everything else) has been preventing me from doing just that - I've been playing it safe instead of taking risks and having fun! (Side note for my mother - this does not mean that I will be stupid and do stupid things or not pay attention to my surroundings. Calm down). 

The fact that these things have clicked for me in the past week, before I had even left on this adventure, make me even more ecstatic for what's to come over the next 5 weeks. I'm going to play full out and have an adventure, experience new cultures, eat ALL THE FOOD, and maybe get on my return flight at the end of March. I'm ready.

How an overpacker gets 5 weeks into 1 backpack.

I'm notorious for overpacking - just ask anyone who has traveled with me. Weekend trip? I obviously need my biggest suitcase. And I'm no stranger to the fees associated with luggage greater than 70lbs (I just view the >50lbs fees as the normal checked baggage fee). And whether it's for work or fun, I always bring a plethora of yoga clothes, only half of which get used. Unsurprisingly, this trip has been no different. 

I started gathering things for my trip a week ago by making a pile in my living room. Well, this pile very quickly grew to take over my living room. After spraying some items with permethrin and laying them on my floor to dry, I lost most of my walking space in my apartment.

Luckily, Mandy came to the rescue (after I bought a few additional items because you never know when you need another loose-fitting cotton grey tee). This afternoon she and I went through my piles. She made me get rid of the following: 1 dress, 1 skirt, Birkenstocks, LOTS of yoga clothes, several tank tops and tshirts. 

Then it came to packing. Previously, I've toyed with rolling my clothes, stacking them, and sometimes just quickly throwing them in a bag and hoping for the best. Well, today I opted for rolling, and man was it a success! My backpack (which has gone through Central and South America with me) has never been so small and light. It's currently 38lbs and could grow in height by at least 12 inches. Perfect for the purchases I plan to make!

I'm all set and ready to go! Next up, Germany (after yoga and breakfast tacos, of course). 

Facing My Fears

One week from today I will board a plane to Bangkok by way of Frankfurt. I'm anxious, fearful, excited. Exploring and venturing out of my comfort zone has always been a passion of mine - from my decision to go to boarding school to my move to Houston. What's changed as I've gotten older is the fear factor - it now exists. 

After college I got on a plane to Costa Rica to go work on a sea turtle project. All I knew was that once I arrived I'd hopefully meet the people I'd be working with. I did not know anything about them - what they looked like, even their names were a mystery. Boarding that plane was an adventure and, despite the circumstances, I was completely fearless. I used that trip to travel through Central America. After graduate school I took time to travel through South America, once again, not afraid of what I would encounter. It was all a big adventure.

Well, this time around it is still a big adventure. But there's fear involved. I don't know if it's because I'm older and therefore less naive, or if it's because I will have to deal with a language barrier, or because I haven't traveled out of the US much since South America. I don't know the why, I just know the fear is there. And in the past few weeks leading up to this trip, I've realized the fear is there in other parts of my life - my job, my yoga practice, my relationships. I want a change and instead I'm completely stagnant because of the brick wall in front of me. This trip is an opportunity to confront my fear, to push the boundaries of my comfort zone, so I can experience that courage again and make moves in life without fear of the unknown.