After our epic week in Laos, Corli and I flew to meet her husband and a few friends of ours in Thailand to spend the Christmas holidays together, springing for a nice resort for the first few days on the coast of the Andaman Sea, chasing sunsets every evening with various cocktails while tending to our mosquito bites and sunburns. 

no filter, unreal view from my balcony on Christmas morning :)

Having all spent significant time in the touristy bits of Thailand, we only visited the main drag once to see some live music and wonder at the creepy old men clearly here on some kind of gross mission. We spent most of our mornings lazily eating the hotel breakfasts, deciding which beaches to go to, where to get cheap beer and snacks outside of Muslim hours (you can’t buy alcohol during certain hours), gawking at the Russians and their topless sunbathing in a pretty (ironically) conservative country, coughing at all the public smoking, eating street meat, and reading books. Massages on the daily and delicious meals topped it off. At night we spied on the elephants from the sanctuary across the street munching on trees and bushes.

Downsides? Unfortunately, my intestinal system does not do well with endless amounts of curry (don’t suggest I use self-control, as I have none), and I had a few sweaty, running and swearing, barreling into the closest bathroom I could find close calls. Did I learn anything from this? Did I stop ordering curry, like a sensible human being? The answer is no.

I also had a misadventure trying to find a grocery store and not understanding the kilometer system of measuring things (how far can 3km be? I thought.). Ended up walking much farther than I’d planned in 30 C weather with 100% humidity. I developed a medical-grade heat rash on my inner thighs. I had to go buy diaper rash cream for it. What a moment. 

We moved on to the sleepy island of Koh Lanta (barely making the ferry, literally sprinting to make it after an hour in traffic that nearly ended our friendship) for five days and New Year’s celebrations. We stayed in the most delicious bungalows, with cats and chickens, hammocks, and black-out curtains. Ideal. The guy that owned our bungalows was from Spain and came to Thailand nine years ago and never left. Once he knew I spoke Spanish, he called me “princesa” and checked in daily. His Thai wife was so pretty you couldn’t look away and was really running the entire operation.

Everyone was barefoot and happy. Friendly locals, fire shows, bean bag chairs, endless drinks and good vibes, and sunsets that lasted for hours. New Year’s Eve day we spent on a long tail, hitting snorkel spots and swimming in the dark to pirate cave lagoons. The night found us bar-hopping for good music and fireworks, drinking from the classic Thailand buckets, promising we’d make no promises to behave differently in the new year.

The day came to part – my besties were off to ski in Italy and I was headed for some solo time in Chiang Mai. While I do make a killer third wheel, and our days and nights had been full of laughs and shared plates and silly Singha moments, I was ready to chill out with some alone moments.

If you’re my generation, when you think “girls alone in Thailand” you either immediately picture Claire Daines screaming from a jail cell in “Brokedown Palace” or Bridget Jones innocently carting a “fertility snake” that happens to be full of cocaine, then becoming a bra guru while slinging relationship advice, also in a jail cell in Thailand. I’ve been to Thailand many times, and the closest I’ve felt I’ve come to any sort of criminal charges was when a bartender challenged me to a game of Connect Four and I lost, refused to pay the bet in jest, and he got super weird and threatened to call the cops. I’m pretty sure I don’t run in the right or wrong circles to become an accidental drug mule. And Thailand is a great, super safe place for a woman to travel alone. I was looking forward to this r&r.

The first thing I did upon landing in Chiang Mai was look for Mexican food. Turns out I can’t go more than two weeks without it. I’d spent the entire layover marking all potentials on Google maps and then greedily consumed probably five tacos while plotting my next steps, which included laundry and a road soda while I walked the streets to make sense of my surroundings before the hotel would let me check-in.

Chiang Mai is a cool place to visit because of its temple tours, easy-to-navigate city, night markets, elephant sanctuaries, and a sort of chill, hippie vibe. There are plenty of ex-pats, students, art, live music, and tons of food to try. I had two days of tours booked and spent the rest of my days chatting with guys on Tinder but never meeting, wandering the picturesque streets, reading books and journaling in various cafes and bars, getting cheap massages from reformed inmates, and sleeping whenever I felt sleepy. It was a delight. 

My favorite memories were: 

  • one to two massages a day, an hour is about 8 USD.
  • A hotel room bigger than my hk studio, with a bathtub!
  • Hiking to the highest point in Thailand
  • The wild blue, white, and black temple tours, complete with hundreds of people who thought they were models and influencers and looked absolutely ridiculous and got yelled at for not covering their shoulders and holding up lines. A real treat to watch that.
  • The “hot springs” where for a treat, you can boil eggs in bamboo baskets to eat as a snack.
  • Stumbling upon live jazz night and swaying with locals to a heavily accented rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon”
  • Meeting a french bulldog and her owners and chatting for an hour in broken English outside an art shop slash motorcycle repair.
  • The “vintage” clothing shop that did have some legit finds, but also a dress I’d bought from the Merona selection at Target six years ago and used to wear to work.
  • Saving money by eating one meal a day from the quirky things I found at 7-11. Asia has great 7-11 food, it must be said.
  • Meeting other single women traveling and sharing our stories. One happened to also be from Hong Kong and lives a few blocks from me! We exchanged Instagrams but I don’t think she wanted to be friends despite my enthusiasm. Or maybe because of it.

Traveling alone always reminds me of key things – I am brave and like adventures, but I need to balance that and enjoy rest and starfishing on a giant bed with crisp white sheets and fresh coffee and a new book. And also – I’m such good company that I really just need myself for a good time (most of the time).

Highly recommend that for everyone.