This weekend was a weekend of, “We’re doing it.”
At the beginning of last week we learned that the following Tuesday was a holiday; as it was the late king’s birthday, it is now celebrated as Thai Father’s Day and school would be cancelled in observance of it. This sounded like the perfect time to take Monday off and go on my first Thai getaway weekend. I texted Melissa, a teacher from Wisconsin who works at the primary school next to mine whom I had met by chance and hit it off with. She had, hours before, come to the same conclusion as I had: let’s do it!
After a handful of Google searches, we landed on Krabi as our destination of choice; three days before we fled Surin, we booked our bus and train tickets. Uncharacteristic of both Melissa and myself, the rest of our trip remained unplanned. We adopted an “it will all work out” attitude: things have a way of just working out in Thailand.
We debated different housing options, and ultimately faced the decision of hostel or hut (isn’t that always the question?). We had found a hostel that looked like it would suffice for what we needed: reasonably priced; reasonably clean; reasonably well-located. Meh. We had also found an alternative housing option on Airbnb—a collection of beachfront huts called Dawn of Happiness. The pictures made it look pretty neat, but we grappled with the overthought questions of American tourists: were the pictures doing it justice? When they said “bungalow” did they really mean “shanty?” Might this place resemble the set of a horror movie featuring two girls alone in the jungle? Ultimately, the risk was enticing enough. “We’re doing it,” we said, unbeknownst to us at the time that this would soon become our motto. So we booked the hut and jumped on our night bus.
And, like I said, things in Thailand have a way of working out! Dawn of Happiness was a quiet and authentic little Thai paradise. We had the best hut on the beach (and it was, quite literally, on the beach). Besides one mild calamity on the first night that started with a cockroach spotting, escalated with the discovery that cockroaches can fly, and ended with a smashed cockroach under my running shoe and Melissa and I nearly in tears from equal parts laughter and fear huddled under our mosquito net for safety, our stay went off without a hitch!
With three days in Krabi and no plan, we looked to others for suggestions. After talking to friends who had traveled to Krabi before, some backpackers staying in another hut, and a few locals running the place, we decided we wanted to take a trip 30 minutes north to the Tiger Cave Temple. That is when Melissa proposed the next crazy idea: let’s rent a motorbike.
I was initially against the idea, mostly out of fear for my life. Motorbikes are commonplace here; it’s a daily occurrence to see one laden with with 2, 3, 4 members of a family—small toddlers and/or family dogs included—zooming down the road. However, we had been warned by many that motorbikes can be quite dangerous. In time, the risky option won again: “We’re doing it,” we said.
And we did it! Or, more accurately, Melissa did it while I held on behind her, backseat driving and cheering her on. The apprehension subsided and was slowly replaced with heart pumping adrenaline and the sweet taste of freedom as we cruised through the streets of Krabi towards Tiger Temple. The wondrous thing about having no plans is that you also have no expectations. We had read only enough about the Tiger Cave Temple to know we would need to dress modestly and be prepared to climb a lot of steps to earn our view. And oh man, did we earn our view. 1,237 crudely built steps later—we did it!!—we reached the top and shrank in awe at the breathtaking beauty that surrounded us. Perching ourselves on a ledge, we settled in to enjoy the peaceful calm that comes with being on top of the world (both literally and figuratively; we were feeling pretty hyped on life at this point).
After some more fun on the motorbike, a night market where we practiced our Thai with a few locals, a meal we cooked entirely at our own table, and time spent relaxing on the beach, we enjoyed our last night watching the sunset, devouring mango sticky rice, and reflecting on our trip and our lives. How lucky we are to be able to call this fascinating country home. I returned to Surin with a slightly more broadened mindset. Living here, it is easy to classify the things I encounter daily as generalizable across Thailand; however, this one quick trip gave me a taste of the diverse richness I have yet to experience. I guess I’ll have to do some more exploring.
Originally published on December 6, 2017 on CIEE Teach Abroad Thailand.