Hope you are all enjoying December. December for me has brought a new country and a decision to extend my stay in Asia. After much thought, I have decided that it what I want and what is right for me at this particular moment in my life. That being said, I change my mind a lot and you shouldn’t be completely surprised if I book a ticket home on Christmas Eve. Anyway, having worked as an oncology nurse for 3 years I have been well exposed to the fragility and preciousness of life. We only get one of them after all, so might as well make the most of it. And right now I feel like this is the thing in my life I need to be doing. So we will see.
I am now in Vietnam, having arrived last Wednesday from Thailand. Vietnam is amazing, but more on that later. My few last days in Thailand were filled with islands, scuba diving, food, and nights out. After my last post, I left on a 3 night scuba diving live aboard boat. It was me and 24 of my closest friends. Well kind of. Most of them I met that day, but also many of them were new friends that I had met hanging out in Khao Lak for the past week. Both students and instructors, it was such a good group of people. We left on friday night, and spent the next 3 days rising with the sun and scuba diving until our bodies were pruned. We did 3-4 dives a day, at various sites around the Similan Islands. On Sunday we did a night dive, which entails complete darkness and flashlights! Definitely makes your heart flutter, but the ocean at night is a whole different place. I saw so many cool fish and octopus and eels and snakes and turtles and coral. And I am finally officially an open water certified diver! I am hoping to get a couple more dives in on my tour of Asia, might even go back to Thailand. Anyone want to join me?? A few of my friends there were completing a 6 week ‘Dive Master’ training, which allows them to eventually become diving instructors but also certifies them to lead trips. Many of them end up working in Khao Lak for the season and then often ‘chase’ the scuba seasons around the globe. Mexico anyone?
After returning from the boat trip, I stayed one day longer in Khao Lak than originally anticipated. I just have such a hard time saying goodbye to places I love! But my friend I was meeting in Vietnam was delayed due to visa troubles so I figured why not, right! Monday night consisted of a big night out with my new scuba friends, lots of Thai beer and live music. Yes please. Also some late night pool poaching at the most luxurious hotel pool I’ve ever seen. It look like it could have maybe hosted the olympics of Ancient Greece. Tuesday and wednesday was beach time and last minute souvenir shopping before I was on my way to Ho Chi Minh City. My travels were undoubtedly filled with a little bit of chaos, because that’s just the way it goes. This time it was a matter of immigration. My flight to HCMC from Phuket included a layover in Bangkok. I ‘checked out’ of Thailand at Phuket immigration and was labeled with a ‘fly thru’ sticker upon boarding the plane. Apparently this meant I was to remain in my seat at arrival in Bangkok and wait for an escort to my next international flight. Well I must have been sleeping during that announcement because as my head was up in the clouds I followed the rest of my air asia compatriots and suddenly found myself standing at the baggage claim. As in, on the very wrong side of immigration. As in, CRAP I was in the country illegally. I literally RAN to immigration, where I tried hopelessly to explain myself before even handing over my passport. To which I was responded with “You have departure stamp!!! Why you in Thailand?!?!” Uh Oh. I was escorted to the immigration office where someone recognized my ‘fly thru’ sticker and after making copies of my entire passport decided I was okay to, re-depart. I squeezed out a few tears that may have helped as well. Anyways, in my stressful situation recovery time I was unfortunate enough to pass a McDonalds and gave in immediately. Oops. Some things are just out of my control. The rest of the travels were uneventful and I arrived safely in Vietnam.
Since arriving here, I have come down with some rare unknown strain of the Asian bird flu. Well not quite, but my face feels frequently likes its going to pop and I have never seen such a rapid production of snot in my life. Fortunately it has not been debilitating, most just a huge annoyance, but hopefully it will be on its way soon. So, after a day in Saigon I have made may way north where I am exploring the Central Highlands by motorcycling. Aside from saying it is absolutely amazing, I will wait until the completion of the trip on Tuesday to fill you in on the rest! Good luck with the Christmas shopping and hope you are all enjoying the snow. xox.
I am now again in the south of Thailand enjoying time in the sun and becoming an Open Water Certified Scuba Diver! Since I last posted, I spent a few days in Pai which was surprisingly wonderful. I was afraid it would be too crowded to be enjoyable, but fortunately it has still retained all of its character and charm. I stayed two nights in a little bungalow that had a roof made of leaves and a wall I could stick my hand through. Also if I jumped on the bed I think I would have gone straight through the floor. It was a cold night sleep but it was a fun place to stay. It was called “The Pai Circus School and Resort” and you could take all kinds of juggling and fire poi lessons. I didn’t. I spent my weekend in Pai motorbiking through the Thai countryside, playing in waterfalls, and enjoying the company of new friends. It was good times!
Leaving Pai on Sunday, I began a long and arduous journey to the beach. Public transport post: My first leg included a mini van from Pai to Chiang Mai around the most winding roads your could ever imagine. So winding in fact, that it has lead the roadside shop keepers to post signs such as this-
After a brief stop in Chiang Mai (with just enough time for one last yoga class at Wild Rose!) I was boarded on to my overnight “VIP” bus. Remember last time when I took a VIP bus and it was AWESOME? Yeah, this time my “VIP” bus was a disgusting conglomerate of ripped and stained seats with questionable smells. I guess I should have seen through the half price ticket. Ah well, scammed again. Next- I arrived in Bangkok the following morning, 2 hours late and on the other side of town from the bus station. I guess scam buses don’t park at bus stations, I did in fact board it in the back of a gas station. Anyway, now I needed to be at the airport in 45 minutes for my flight to Phuket. Well, unfortunately for me the only taxis I was able to wave down for the next 30 minutes refused to use their meter and wanted a double fare. No thanks. So I finally caught a cab 5 minutes before take off, and after significant protest traffic (don’t know if you’ve heard but the Thais are trying to overthrow their government) made it to the airport well after my flight had taken off. So I take a deep breath and get in line to buy a new ticket. $130, 3 hours, and an overpriced “limo” ride to Khao Lak later, I have reached my destination! Now I need to brag for a moment and just let you all know that through the chaos, I didn’t shed a tear! Not one! I considered it briefly during my desperation for a taxi, but it didn’t happen. For those of you who have been reading along since I left, you may remember that time I cried over a plate of airplane eggs. Anyways, I think my skin is getting a little thicker and I’ve toughened up. Hooray!
So now I’m in Khao Lak, having just completed day 1 of my dive course! This is the second dive course I’ve taken in my life (this cert will be a little higher) and so it’s not been too difficult. I got talked in to joining the live aboard ship for the weekend so I will stay here until at least monday. The catch of the live aboard was that it returns on Monday and my visa expires on Saturday. So to solve this dilemma, yesterday I went to Burma! The dive shop manager (Wicked Diving, its fantastic!) offered to take me along on the “visa run” him and his girlfriend just so happened to have had planned for the next day. Thailand has these crazy laws where you can only stay in the country for a certain amount of months, but as soon as you leave the country and re-enter you can have a new visa. So, a popular tourist trip in Thailand has become a “visa run”. Mostly, these are booked with travel agencies. But I had the luck of tagging along with two seasoned pros. I went to Burma for 10 minutes, just enough time to have my passport stamped in and out… and then I returned (via rickety wood boat) to Thailand where I have been granted a legal stay until Christmas.
Speaking of Christmas, let me bore you a few moments with my current internal struggle. When do I go home?!?! Help me, suggestions and opinions please. I have no flight home (unless I miraculously arrive in Dubai by the 17th of December) and haven’t made up my mind about if I am meant to stay in Asia or be home for the holidays. Here is the dilemma. (Disclaimer- I’m going to get real here for a minute… so if you don’t like the mushy stuff stop reading now). I love my family, and as most of you know my mom and dad move to Slovakia on January 1st. On top of that, I generally live across the country and work a job that doesn’t close its doors on a holiday. I had planned to spend this Christmas with them and would really love to. Can we delay Christmas by a month? Then all my problems would be solved. So if I come home at Christmas I can spend the holidays with my family and enjoy my mom and dads company before they move to Europe. I also told my work I would be back in January and I feel more and more guilty the longer I stay away. My heart also aches hearing of the hardships of my patients and coworkers and not being able to be there. So there’s that. On the other hand, I have found myself in Asia. And I am afraid I will lose myself if I go home. I know I need to go home eventually, but I don’t know if I’m ready yet. These past few months I have discovered a new comfort and a happiness of being more alive and more myself. I know I am getting cliche and far too gushy, but I can’t help it people. Sorry, bear with me! While pleasant, my life in Salt Lake was monotonous and I was just going through the motions. Doing things I thought were or would make me happy, while still feeling an incredible amount of boredom, anxiety, insecurity, and restlessness. Since traveling, I have felt more me than ever before and discovered a confidence I didn’t know I had. At home, my anxiety was so bad I was seeing a therapist regularly and it was affecting both large and small decisions. Now, I can’t even tell you the last time I felt anxious. Maybe only a fleeting feeling a handful of times since August. Well, until this past week when I have been running circles in my head trying to make a plan. So this is my problem. Do I stay or do I go now?? (hehe) Real life is waiting and will always be, so I have to go back. I just don’t when. What I have learned these past few months is nothing short of amazing, and I am so connected to myself I can’t even believe it. I have never appreciated me like I appreciate me now. I don’t want this to go away and I am worried that when I go home it will slowly dissolve and I will be back to my routine life. It’s easy to say “Well, just don’t let it happen! You’re happiness is up to you and you are in control”. Yes, I realize this and I hope this will be the case. But I have found something amazing here and I hope you can understand why it is hard for me to let it go. So, if I leave, am I quitting my adventure too soon? Or if I stay, am I just avoiding the inevitable? What to do. I am lucky enough to have the support of my family no matter what I choose. Grateful for this!
Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and a tasty turkey. I went for a scuba dive and then a korean barbecue. No turkey for me this year, but it was fun nonetheless! Missed our annual game of LCR though. Tonight I board the boat for the weekend where I will complete my certification. Should be fun! Enjoy your holiday weekend 🙂