We all see those “Must Love Travel” posts flood our Facebook feed. Then, you proceed to tag your friends in it with the caption that reads, “Omg! Lets go.” We typically reply with, “We totally have to!”, but you never actual follow through. That is what this trip was for me, following through. I saw one of these said posts about the Red Lotus Sea in Thailand. I clicked through the comment feed to figure out where exactly this place was, because I hadn’t ever heard anything about it. It was in a town called Udon Thani, close to the border of Laos in the northern part of Thailand. About 30 minutes later, I looked up flights, found one for less than $50. Finally, I scoured HostelWorld for a place to stay and it was all set.
I may be loud and out going at times, but I do love my alone time. I wouldn’t say I’m selfish, but more a personality trait. Being overly independent comes along with being an Aries, I think. Sometimes, in groups I have more fun than I could imagine. Other times, it is a let down because I missed things I wanted to do.
After school on Friday, I immediately grabbed my bookbag and made my way to the airport. The first cab I hauled denied me, which ended up being a blessing. I was placed in a clean cab, that still had the new car smell. The driver looked like the Thai Version of a Sublime band member, with his blacked out Von Zipper glasses, sleeve tattoos, stud earrings and a big-faced plastic watch bigger than his wrist. While he spoke little English, he kept talking to Siri and having her translate in order to conversate with me, which was totally nice. There was tons of traffic, as there always is in Bangkok, so he wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to miss my flight.
Going somewhere by yourself in a foreign country to a town that speaks little English would make anyone slightly nervous. While my struggle with anxiety has dramatically decreased, it will never disappear. Anxiety doesn’t stop me from doing anything, but that doesn’t mean I’m not comfortable while I’m doing it.
I am currently reading a book by Ace Man, former Widespread Panic Roadie. As I am waiting to board, I read a line that says, “The fear and sense of adventure I felt while traveling alone was astounding.” This line struck a chord in me and my nerves started to float away. I was one of two westerns waiting on this full flight. One guy even came up to me and said “Is the next plane out of the gate to Phuket?” When I politely, told him I wasn’t sure because I was on this flight, he looked utterly confused.
The airport was super tiny and as I walked outside, I saw no taxis, which is a given at most airports. I finally went to the desk and they were able to put me right in a car. Cabs can be difficult here trying to find an obscure random place on the map with the language barrier and most drivers aren’t too keen on GPS. The guy seemed to recognize the name of the place, and when I walked up to the car and saw it was a Nissan which put me at ease. The little glimpse of something familiar gave me a sign that it was going to be all good!
Right when I walked into the hostel, I immediately felt at home by the sounds of Bon Iver and Hozier playing through the speakers. The bar was lined with craft beers against a backdrop of pale yellow paint and art covered walls. I settled in with my book and a beer, where I met a young German guy who was also making way to the Red Lotus Sea bright and early in the morning. With the attraction being about an hour outside of town, this was going to make my trip much cheaper having a companion. We met at 5:30am to make our way to the bus station. I walked down the stairs at 5:32am and he was already leaving! Maybe he didn’t actually want to go with someone or he was really on a schedule. But unfortunately for him, I saw him and he was stuck with me as his baggage.
We didn’t say a word to each other the entire walk to the bus stop (awkward), but it was still dark out so okay, I get it. An Italian couple approached us on the bus, when we came to find out we were going to the same place, we join together for the rest of the trip. Which was awesome making the 14km tuk-tuk ride and the boat trip even cheaper!
I absolutely froze my butt off the entire tuk-tuk ride. Up north the mornings can be pretty chilly. I looked at my jacket before leaving my room, but decided to leave it behind. Not the smartest move. Later, my new friends said they can’t believe I endured that entire ride without one complaint on the temperature. (**People back home take note. Y’all know I’m the first the grip about anything below 70 degrees.**)
The lotus blooms only occur between the months of November and February with the best time to go being January. You have to go early early in the morning, because has the heat of the day rolls in the blooms retreat to hide from the rays. The mass amount of flowers cannot be seen from the shore. As the boat ride progresses, the pink begins to take over more and more until that is all that you see. The little birds, swiftly fly across the vibrant green and pink hues like a scene from an old Disney Princess movie.
This place is still relatively unknown to international travelers. It can be popular among Thais, but is still considered a hidden gem. I only saw one other couple of westerns besides us in all the boats. The boat in front of us with a group of ladyboys and the boat behind us was filled with monks, quintessential Thailand.
Our tuk-tuk driver was the bomb! He waited for us the entire time we were at the lake. He then asked us “Where you come from?”. When we told him we were from three different countries, he was so impressed and made is bundle together so he could have his own personal photo.
On the way back, we dropped the Italians at the train station, and we proceeded to figure out our way back to Udon Thani. Where the bus dropped us off wasn’t actually a bus stop at all. Our trusty guide told us to cross the street and wait there. We sprinted our way across 4 lanes of highway traffic, and after waving down two buses who did not want to take us on as passengers, we were kind of worried. Minutes later a van pulled over and took us where we needed to go. One thing I’ve learned about Thailand, is public transportation is almost always on your side.
When I got back to the hostel, I said goodbye to my German friend whose name I never got, and went to lay down for a moment. Even though I was exhausted, I realized a nap wasn’t going to happen for me, so I got up to seize the day. On my walk to my first site, I stopped at the cutest outdoor mall for lunch. Mmm, ramen. So yummy!
First place I stopped was the Thai Chinese Cultural Center. The guy at the hostel recommended it and I saw there was a park nearby, so it was perfect. Although, all the information was only in Chinese and Thai, it was still a beautiful place filled with little gardens and koi ponds. It was a little oasis away from the busy streets and malls. They even had these bottle you could purchased to feed the fish. I saw several people doing it and these huge koi fish would jump right out of the water at you. I mean some of this fish, were bigger than my parents Yorkie Poo, Reesie.
Next, I strolled around the adjacent park. I was pretty much the only person there. It was really pretty with tons of trees and blooms lined up along the water. After swinging on the swings, I found this tree with huge yellow flowers. Some had began to fall off the branches. When you pick them up they were huge and engulfed your entire hand with their soft, fluffy petals.
After grabbing a snack at the mall, I hoped in a tuk-tuk to go to the main park in the town, Nong Prajak. Everyone was walking their dogs on leashes (that’s a first) and running around the water or biking. I was so jealous of the bikes! I miss my four bikes from Charleston. **Shoutout to my Dad who always made sure, I got a new bike when that last one was stolen** I found a little shop that rented them for 20 baht an hour, so basically 75 cents. She let me pick whichever one I pleased, so I picked out a blue one with a basket which reminded me of my favorite two-wheeled machine from college that took me on many cruises around The Battery. As I started to peddle, I past this group of fit, young males with shirts that read “CADET” in bold letters on the back. This reminded me of all the Citadel boys running around Chucktown in their navy shirts and orange belts. It really was just like Charleston, lined with palm trees and all! I was able to ride next to the water as the sun began to set.
After a full day, I was ready for a shower and my pjs! There was the cutest little reading knock up stairs at the hostel, so I plopped down on the pillow with my journal and my book. I wrote and read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I normally don’t sleep past 6:30-7am most mornings, so I figured I wouldn’t set an alarm. I ended up waking up at 8:30! After facetiming with some of my favorite people over some exciting news I received, that didn’t leave me much time before my flight.
One of my most proud moments, was navigating back to Nonthaburi without paying for a taxi because that can be expensive. I was able to take to the bus to Chatuchak Park which is right by the MRT and enjoy some shopping and lunch. This saved me about 300 baht.
All in all it was an amazing weekend. Probably one of my favorites since I have been in Thailand. I feel strong and courageous. If I can share any bit of wisdom with you, it is if there is something you want to do, whatever it may be, don’t let tackling it alone stop you!
My music for this week is a tune from one of my favorite bands, Greensky Bluegrass. As I was listening to it on the bus to Chatuchak from the airport, it truly resonated with me and the place I am at in my life. I have included the lyrics below as well!
Started fleeing comfort for something closer to the edge for the view in contempt of my conscience.
thoughts abandoning my shoes but I turn to walk towards home instead
though I am not without weakness I will define what lies ahead
Not out of control
Now I’m swerving in and out to feel the force of the curve unchecked
I’m fond of danger
Nothings really out of line everyone should make the time to find it
Will you ride beside me now or have I frightened all the words away
Not out of control x 3
If we could focus now, I’m certain this would all be clear.
Couldn’t we last for a while? What if we can?
Everything around me now will be reduced to the ground at the cost of a foolish nature consequence and conditioning all weighing on me to slow my pacing
It could all be worth it though, How the hell are we to know? we try x2
Not out of control I’m not out of control Not out of control we’re not out of control