Stay with me because this is a long two part post on the first leg of my solo trip through Southeast Asia. (At least there are plenty of nice pictures.)
Let’s start from the beginning… Silly me thought I could book a ticket with the longest layover in Shanghai so I could explore the city a little. Who doesn’t like two trips for the price of one?
So there I went and booked a 12 hour layover. I figured it only took the bullet train 8 minutes from the airport to the city center which meant I would have at least 8 hours to eat some good Chinese food and breathe their impeccable air quality.
As I packed my bag I checked the weather of every single city I was going to visit. Do I need a coat? Boots? Parka for -40 degree weather (hi Carrie!). The weather was fabulous in pretty much every town in all four countries I was planning on visiting. Low 70’s, high 90’s. What else could a Brazilian girl ask for?
So off I went. Alone, a bit terrified and totally relaxed on some Xanax a friend scored me.
The flight was fine. Mostly because I don’t remember it. Did I mention the Xanax? Yeah, it put me to sleep for 10 out of the 14 hours I had to spend crushed like a sardine in the economy class. I swear I need to be rich in life.
I made it to shanghai. At that point I was wide awake. I was excited. Let’s fuck this bitch! I get my passport stamped with their 24 hour transit visa and off to customs and security I go. If you didn’t know this, you don’t need a visa to visit China if you are staying for less than 72 hours. They have three transit visas: 24, 48 and 72. A great way to visit of you have a long layover like me.
Back to security.
I put my huge ass backpackers bag down. It goes right through. I was pretty sure I ate the whole Xanax so there was nothing to find there. Except that there was. As they tell me to open my bag I am start to sweat. Did I forget anything? Shit must be my pepper spray. Please don’t be my pepper spray.
No it wasn’t. It was my goddamn $40 power bank for my iPhone. Aparently that’s not allowed in their communist country.
If you know me you KNOW I can’t live without my phone. It’s just as part of me as my beating heart. In fact, one day while holding my infant on one arm and my cell phone on the other and tripping through a set of stairs, I seriously considered dropping my infant instead of my phone. Baby’s bruises heal fast. An iPhone’s broken screen not so much. Don’t worry, I was able to hold on to both.
So that Was how china welcomed me. By taking away part of my life. It’s ok though. I still had the regular wall charger. All I needed to do was find an outlet to plug that baby in.
Wait. Why the Fuck can’t I access my gmail and Facebook? What the fuck is going on? I promised my boss I would be connected.
I start to panic. At this point I start to feel the tears coming down my face.
I search for the next white guy I can find and ask him if he is having the same problem. “Mam’m this is China. Facebook and google are not accessible.”
What the Fuck did I just hear?
Oh yeah it all came back to me. I chose a long ass layover in a goddamn communist country with no access to Facebook, google, gmail, google maps. Plus did I mention it was pouring raining and 45 outside? This bitch wasn’t going anywhere for a long time. The only option left was to call my Alaskan friends who I knew would cheer me up by savagely laughing at my situation.
At least FaceTime still worked. So I bought myself a big ass gin and tonic and got drunk right there and then. Thankfully China hasn’t forbidden booze yet.
So that’s how I spent 10 hours in shanghai. Stuck at the airport freezing my ass to death and completely unable to access my life.
Now here comes the better part. The best part I should say: Bangkok. The land where you go to Bang cock. God I’ve been wanting to say this joke forever.
And it’s true. Hot men are everywhere here. Australians, French, Argentinians. It’s like dick grows on trees in this place. And it’s 2-1; Way more guys traveling alone than women. Trust me, this is every single woman’s paradise.
But back to my arrival.
I arrived at 3am. Customs and security was easy. Everyone spoke Some English and they were extremely friendly. And most importantly, Facebook and google are fucking allowed.
The first thing one must do after arriving in Bangkok is getting a local SIM card. You can do it right at the airport. Pick up your baggage, go though customs, walk out and there will be at least two local cell phone booths waiting to help you. They are open 24 hours a day. I set mine up in less than 5 minutes. It cost me 300 Baht which is about $8 USD for unlimited internet for 8 days. You can’t beat that.
I then took a long nap until sunrise before going to my hotel. For safety reasons I just don’t feel comfortable taking a cab or the subway at 3am alone in a third world country I don’t speak the language of.
May I just take a moment though to emphasize how magical Bangkok is? Yes it’s dirty and underdeveloped but I think that’s why I love it so much. It reminds me of Brazil. It’s real life. It’s messy and chaotic and passionate and warm and above all it’s happy.
I had rested so much on the plane (damn I love Xanax) and then again on the airport floor that by the time I got to my hotel I was wide awake and went straight into exploring the town.
The temples, the local merchants, the bright blue sky. Everything felt so right. Just like I imagined. I was able to see the grand palace and the reclining Buddha. I watched people from all over the world praying and even though I am an atheist, it felt good to see genuine faith.
I then went wat pra kaew:
The next day I took a ferry across the Chao Phraya River to Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn).
In my opinion It’s the most beautiful temple in Bangkok. A must see! But get there early before the crowds. I woke up at 5am and I was there by 7, right when it opened. There was literally no one around so I was able to really enjoy the peace and quiet, and obviously take some awesome pictures.
I then HAD TO go to Lebua Sky Bar. If you have seen the movie The Hangover II, it’s that rooftop bar/restaurant they go to look for their friend. To me it was the icing on the cake. It’s a must go destination in Bangkok. Not only the food and drinks are amazing, but it’s also the tallest open air bar in the world. You get the most breathtaking view of Bangkok… if you are not afraid of heights of course.
The rest of my time here in Bangkok is being spent just literally wandering the city alone with no destination, people watching, eating like a cow and appreciating every little detail around me.
If there is one thing you have to give it to Thailand is their attention to detail. Every street corner is a surprise. (This elegant man is the deceased king of Thailand. I’ve heard he was an amazing man).
Here is the best advise I can give a solo traveler: invest in an iPhone tripod with a remote shutter (that’s how I took my own pictures) and create a bad ass soundtrack on your phone.
I can’t emphasize enough how amazing it is to cross the city canals on boats, to wander the crowded streets and ride buses listening to your favorite music. It’s takes you even further into your experience. It emerges you into the moment. A few years from now I will listen to “To Binge” and “Cough Syrup” and I will remember exactly where I was during my trip.
There is no better way to refresh the memory and pull us back into time than music.
In summary, the first few days of my solo adventure have been pretty amazing (Fuck you China). Check back in a few days for some tips and adventures in Phuket and Phi Phi.