Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Whirlwind Tour: Ready, Set, Go!

I arrived at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport
last night.
Photo Credit: JoeDuck, Creative Commons
Oh boy. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Ridiculous, but as of noon yesterday, this was what had been going through my head pretty much non-stop for the previous 48 hours, since my last class before April break (fall break, down here in Australia) ended on Thursday afternoon. I felt like a little kid on Christmas Eve, or on the day before a trip to Disneyland: I couldn't think about anything else and felt like I was revving in neutral, burning off excited energy by bouncing around in my seat. Why all the hyperactivity?

I landed in Thailand last night.

Just typing that sentence sets off another round of internal squeals of excitement. We have a little more than two weeks off, which I'll be spending in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Koh Lanta, with a couple of days across the Cambodian border in Siem Reap and at Angkor Wat. It's going to be a bit of a whirlwind, especially at first, since I'll be going somewhere new about every two days, but I didn't want to regret not fitting in the trip to Angkor. I'll have a little longer in Chiang Mai and nearly a week in Koh Lanta, where - if the weather cooperates - I'm hoping to get my dive certification.

When I was growing up, I was so enamoured of France and then of Europe in general that I had very little interest in Asia. Not to mention, as a young teenager the idea of going somewhere that seemed so utterly foreign was more terrifying than exciting. But, on a whim my sophomore year of college, I picked up a compilation of travelers' stories about Thailand and my interest began to grow. By the time I returned to the States from my year in France, Southeast Asia was firmly on my travel wishlist - for some time in the hazy future.

Choosing an Australian postgraduate program turned my world upside in more ways than one. Oceania and Asia, which had been filed under "someday" in my travel plans, jumped to the top of the list overnight and I discovered an enthusiasm and anticipation for Southeast Asia in particular that were far stronger than I had realized.

With a larger-than-usual tax return due to having paid most of the costs of my first year of grad school in early 2010 and a two-week break scheduled for April, visions of Thai street food and markets began to dance in my head and I started to look at fares from Sydney to Bangkok. When I started to plan out possible itineraries, I surprised myself again when I realized that I already knew exactly what I wanted this first trip to Asia to include: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, dive certification at one of the southern beaches and a jaunt into Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat - if I could work out the timing to fit it all in.

After some agonizing about whether to include Angkor and destination-hop every few days for the first part of my trip or to leave it out and spend more time exploring Chiang Mai and southern Thailand, I decided to include a few days in Cambodia. I know myself well enough to be sure that coming so close to such a major site without going to see it would drive me crazy.

I arrived in Bangkok late last night and, after a few hours' sleep, am ready to dive in. First up: Chatuchak Weekend Market, followed by some temple time.

So it's Bangkok, Siem Reap, Chiang Mai, Koh Lanta and me for the next two weeks: ready, set...go!


Gina said...

Yay!!!! I have been dying to go to Thailand for years too. Let me know what you think about Angkor Wat - when Andrew and I go next year I was thinking of taking a quick trip there or to Halong Bay in Vietnam but I don't know how easy/worthwhile it's going to be to get there. Have fun and post lots of pictures!!!!!

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

I kept having to pinch myself yesterday - "I'm in Thailand!!! Wait, really? ...Yep!" I'll let you know how my quick trip to Angkor Wat goes, and I will definitely post lots and lots of pictures!

Heather said...

YES!! What a fantastic break you have ahead of you -- and well-deserved I'm sure :-)

Haven't been to Asia yet but I wish I could head there for a few weeks between Australia and heading home.

Hope you have a wonderful time and that we can say hi before I go home (yikes, flight is April 27!).

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

Thanks Heather! :-) It's amazing, I'm having SUCH a good time.

You leave so soon!! It must feel incredibly surreal. I'm back in Sydney the 25th - time enough to meet up in your last couple of days, I hope?