One of the best things about living in Bangkok is leaving. My wife works at an international school and has several breaks and long weekends during the year. I am currently in the enviable position of being “funemployed,” so time off really isn’t an issue for me. As a result, we get out of the Thai capital and explore Asia with some frequency, and we don’t have to endure 36 hours of soul-crushing travel to get here!
During our first three years in Thailand, we have traveled to Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the Philippines, and visited rural Thailand during our long breaks. We’ve been to Kolkata, Singapore, Saigon, Hanoi, Luang Prabang and the Thai beaches on short breaks.
This might seem like a great lifestyle, but I must confess that…yes, yet it is. It is every bit as awesome as it seems!
Before living abroad, we took longer trips, planned farther ahead, and had months of anticipation before embarking on the journey. Now we take short trips but with greater frequency, and much less planning is required.
When we went to Kolkata, for example, we got on an airplane Friday afternoon and were in India a few hours later. In the past, going to India would have involved lots of planning and anticipation – and a day and a half of grueling travel.
Neither of us had even bothered to read about Kolkata. On our first morning we ate breakfast then looked at each other and said, “What are we supposed to do here?” We went back to the room, started reading about the city and planned out our next four days.
Before each break, the conversation among my teacher friends inevitably turns to travel. Living in the hub of Southeast Asia means that we can easily explore the region and many expats are eager to travel when time permits. However, this proximity can lead to warped perceptions.
Talking to one of my teacher friends, I asked what she was doing for Christmas break.
“Oh, nothing exotic,” she said. “Our kids are coming from The States with their families, so we will just go to Ayutthaya then over to Angkor Wat and finish with a week in Krabi and Ko Phi Phi.”
I told her she’d become a jaded expat if she didn’t think Ayutthaya, Angkor Wat, and Krabi were exotic! But, I understood where she was coming from. The one downside to travel here is the that since we live in a city of golden temples, buzzing motorbikes, and delicious street food, it is easy to get desensitized.
At a friend’s house, I saw a paper on their fridge listing each school break and a proposed trip – Nepal in October, travel around Thailand for Christmas, Vietnam in April, weekend trips to Cambodia, Laos, and Malaysia. They had what for many people would be multiple life changing adventures lined up just during the school year. And if they were working as teachers back in America, they’d never be able to afford such a trip.
We don’t have a list on our fridge, but I did make a spreadsheet with various places in Asia and the best time to visit due to weather, crowds, etc. Over the next few years, we plan to explore new places like Japan, Nepal, northern Myanmar, Sumatra, Borneo, and Bangladesh.
To see all these places will take a few years, so I guess we will just have to keep living here. Oh darn.
If you are curious about our life in Bangkok, check out the other posts in this series: