One of the hardest things about living abroad is missing big moments in the lives of people you love. Conveniently, one of my good friends from high school decided to have a destination wedding in Thailand over Christmas, which meant I could go and celebrate someone I love dearly and work a little adventure into it. Leslie and her husband made their honeymoon plans open to all the guests as well, so that anyone who wanted to could tag along and travel through Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam with them as well. I also had a friend, oddly enough named Rachel as well, who even more oddly, I only knew from traveling together (we met when our mutual friend invited her on a trip to Argentina, and we ended up doing Chile together, as well), had wanted to come visit me in Asia. So she became my plus one to a wedding, which was great for this single lady, and we could work in some awesome travel, too.
Leslie (whose nickname is “Mule” and hers for me is “Mula.” High school.) and Mike and some friends came through HK before the wedding, so I got to take them for an accidental big night out. I could not have planned it any greater – we met at a rooftop bar, had some drinks, went to one of my favorite dives to dance to bad pop music and play darts. Then we went out to the street in Lan Kwai Fong where all the best worst decisions are made, and I had been playing tour guide as we went around, showing off my very limited Hong Kong knowledge to it’s best. At one point I described LKF as a place where people get into dance fights, and the two richest 7-11s in the world can be found within a block of each other. (By the by, if you want to do some fun learning about 7-11, fall down this rabbit hole with me.)
We wove our way through the madness and lawlessness that is Hong Kong at night, I think all of us got hit on at one point or another, and ended up in, I kid you not – the middle of a legitimate dance fight. We all chose sides and screamed and hooted and hollered. Someone won (I think? I can barely turn in a circle, so I’m not sure what exactly wins a dance fight) and then we were bored for just one second because some drag queens began pole dancing on a stop sign to the music playing in the club next door. We ended the night by singing and dancing along to a cover band, then at the cash only Kebab and Pizza place, which is what legends eat at 3am and can still taste the garlic sauce the entire next day.
Molina arrived early Sunday morning. I picked her up at the airport and we prepared to do the quickest 24 hours in Hong Kong of some highlights. We toured my neighborhood, took the Star Ferry, had an extended happy hour at Aqua with fantastic views of the city, wandered through Mong Kok markets, viewed the city from the Peak, took the tram down, were almost run over by anxious old Chinese women in a rush to get window seats, and then had epic amounts of hot pot at a restaurant I really like because you order off an iPad. Also they give you a hair tie and something to wipe your glasses off with.
We went back early to my apartment so I could finish packing and because we had an early as wake up call the next morning. We made it to the airport express train station at O dark hundred. Like seriously it was 6am, and were all giddy to go, when some terribleness happened – I had booked our flights, and without knowing it, had booked Rachel’s under her Anglo name, Rachel, when her legal name is actually Raquel. “No biggie,” we both thought. Turns out BIG BIGGIE.
Three hours and several phone calls a not a few swear words later, we had canceled our entire three week trip and rebooked it and were trying to find me a drink. We ended up missing rehearsal dinner, which was sad, but got in late that night in time to make the breakfast, pool, and wedding the next day. Of course, not even that could be easy. It was monsoon season, after all, and the island had been hit by insane rain and floods. The day of the wedding started out beautifully, but by the time we started driving up the mountain to the villa, the cars were stalling in waist-deep waters and visibility was disappearing. The mountain was so steep, it was actually a pretty scary ride.
But we made it, shaking and nervous giggling, and Rachel was a champ for coming to a wedding where she knew no one. I hugged Leslie’s sisters, who I hadn’t seen in probably 15 years, and got caught up with her parents, who still live in the house on the corner by the high school, and hopefully never find out what kind of trouble we got up to there (sprinkled with healthy doses of movie marathons and studying, I’m sure!). I had a moment of panic remembering their first names, though, and was immediately a teenager again. Her dad filled me in on the new traffic lights and how Sun Valley mall just isn’t the same anymore, and I promised to start a GoFundMe to buy their house if they ever thought about moving, because it should be preserved.
The turn in the weather forced the wedding indoors, which was a shame, but it still managed to be one of the most beautiful, intimate ceremonies I’ve been to. I started crying the moment Leslie walked in, and we could barely hear some of it over the rain, but they were wed and we got to do a Thailand water blessing, even though the priest said we were in Japan.
Jordana and I got to have a rapid fire catch up on all our high school friends, and after the beautiful speeches and details of the dinner, we took over the dance floor. And the playlist. The deejay had some issues.
I’d never been to a destination wedding, or such a small, intimate wedding, and it was so lovely how everyone felt like best friends by the end of it. The next day we spent on a junk boat, jumping off a bow probably too high for us to be doing so, and swapping terrible dating stories, and hiding from the rain. Mule’s niece swam up to me at one point, and in all seriousness, asked how she could be a mermaid like me. So I taught her the spell we mermaids cast upon ourselves. Don’t worry, she reminded me to go back to human before we got back on the boat.
That night we did what you do, which is have drinks on the beach, go to a fabulous drag show starring some performers so brilliant, I forgot they were lip-syncing. I asked the teenagers in braces who were the back-up dancers for makeup tips, and decided we were all best friends. Later we went out to prove how terrible I am at billiards, and cheer on the newly married couple as they danced to “Pour Some Sugar on Me” on the bar during a torrential downpour.
Molina and I spent the next few days chilling at the pool, deciding it’s never too early for a beer when you’re on vacation and it’s a million degrees, getting foot massages, soaking in sunsets from bean bag chairs and cheering on fire shows.
We spent our last day in the back of a truck with a British family living in Vietnam and their two adorable children. We made fast friends with the parents and had a great time snorkeling, until I made a joke about ordering some piranhas and eels to come visit and scared the pants off the boys, who then refused to enter the water. We toured a few small islands, sitting in the water and watching life happen, and then watched easily the most beautiful sunset any of us had ever seen settle down over the ocean. Koh Samui goes down like a treat.