Typical. Just when you think you’ve bitten the bullet and set off on a solo-adventure to “find” yourself, you end up meeting some handsome German guy who sweeps you off your feet. I spent years looking for that guy in a bar only to have him encroach on designated, uninterrupted “me” time. On the whole, having a dashing foreigner pick me up over a bucket of booze at the full-moon party wasn’t all that bad, but to this day, I can’t watch “Good Morning Vietnam” (pause for a moment of reverence in memory of the late and great Robin Williams) without clenching my teeth and raising a shaky fist in the air with feigned annoyance. Here’s why.
The Happy (solo) Traveler
It all started in Bangkok. I had been traveling for a few weeks by that time, working my way up from Singapore and passing through Malaysia via Malacca, Langkawi, Penang and Kuala Lampur and avoiding tourists like the plague. I had set out alone, created a map of where exactly I wanted to go and what I wanted to see, and was determined to stick to my guns. I rose with the sun and returned around dusk when it became less than ideal for me to wander around solo. Now, don’t get me wrong, I met some fabulous people along the way who were great for dining after dusk (hats off to Julia and Patricia, two of my favourite Germans of all-time); sharing a gondola ride up Penang hill (because 3 white people being stared at is way less awkward);or embarking on a chaotic adventure involving waterfalls, a crazy Russian, a couple of newlyweds and an island with no taxis. But honestly, on the whole, I absolutely loved the parts of my trip where I just wandered around alone for what seemed like hours, stopping to grab sugar cane juice in a bag from this hole in the wall or some pineapple tarts from that little bakery just around the corner. I was on a mission to take charge of my own life, making my own plans and doing so well, until… he came along.
Dancing Canuck Meets Wet German
This particular part of the complicated puzzle started after one of my very best friends decided to join me in Thailand’s capital city. Despite my love affair with solo-travel after spending the last few weeks making small talk every other day, I was pretty excited to meet up with someone who knew me; someone with whom I could just sit back, relax and sip on some Singha, or maybe Chang… admittedly, we may have sipped on more than one but they were all delicious, and the company, fantastic. We toured Bangkok together, checked off the palace, the temples (wats), the nightlife and many a market before deciding to part ways; I was drawn towards exploring the jungle in the north and she was destined to spend some additional time working on her killer tan. Before we split, we decided we would attend Thailand’s biggest and baddest beach shindig: The full-moon party on Ko Pha Ngan. Notorious to expats, travelers and party goers the world over, this beach party is wild. Having been on a book binge, living from museum and museum and targeting historical hot spots, I had my doubts. Thankfully, they all disappeared the moment I heard that drinks were served by the bucket.
Full Moon Party: Ko Pha Ngan
And so, the adventure began. After unpacking our luggage and grabbing a quick bite to eat, we set foot on the beach. The first thing you need to do at the full-moon party is grab a bucket, and so we did. The second thing you have to do (seemed obvious to me) is to cover yourself in body paint. Amazing. The only thing left to do, was dance. And so we did. We worked our way up and down the beach, from hip hop to dance music, passing fire rings and light shows, until I saw him. No no, not him. The guy next to him. It was Shorts (which is how I pronounced his completely unpronounceable Dutch name), a guy I knew from a hostel in Kuala Lampur! What was he doing here?
In all honesty, I didn’t care because it was at this point that I saw him. Yes, him. Standing beside Shorts, soaked to the bone and looking devilishly handsome in his white shirt buttoned down and long sleeves rolled up, my future husband awaited. Unfortunately he was too hungry to notice me so I begrudgingly pointed him in the direction of food and carried on my conversation with Shorts. After a few minutes, tail hanging between his legs, the white knight returned, begging me to let him buy me a jello-shot which literally consisted of jello flooded with vodka. I allowed it, and eventually forgave his rudeness (I can get a little “hangry” from time to time). As it turns out, he had some brain to back up that brawn (and European to boot! a major score in my books – cute accent? check!) so we (we being my friend and I) decided to add him to our little posse of 3 and danced our way to day break.
Change of Plans, Apparently
The next day, my girlfriend and I were booked on a boat to Kho Phi Phi and then I was heading onward to Krabi where I’d take a plane to Chiang Mai and start my discovery of Thailand’s impenetrable north. At this point, my plans were concrete and I had no intention of making alterations because a cute German happened to have appeared on-set. I was however, delighted to find out that he intended to grab a last minute flight and meet me in Chiang Mai! Clearly I’d made quite the impression (not what you think) and I was over the moon to learn that my handsome catch from the night before was interested in following me up north. Needless to say, we hit it off in Chiang Mai and had a wonderful week exploring the area, including jungle trekking, elephant rides (which I wouldn’t recommend) and sketchy bamboo rafts up the river (which I totally would recommend).
Bye Bye Baby…
Unfortunately, I had made the amateur move of booking too far in advance and was scheduled to leave from Bangkok to Vietnam at the end of the week. With sad goodbyes and the intention of keeping in touch, I set off on the long overnight train to Bangkok. While Mr.Wonderful had considered joining me, he wasn’t quite sold on the idea of Vietnam for political reasons, and since I was determined to hold my ground, in the end, he thought it better to stay the course and explore more of amazing Thailand. A fan of overnight train rides, I found this one oddly… well, sad. I kept thinking about how it took me traveling this far to find the perfect guy, and now I’m leaving because of what… an airplane ticket and a hostel reservation? I decided against making too rash a decision and promised to leave my choice up to fate. When I pulled up to the airport in Bangkok, the departure board couldn’t be clearer: There was a 1pm flight leaving for Cambodia. That would give him just enough time to make it to Bangkok before jumping a plane to Phnom Penh.
When I finally found a payphone, I dialed the number I had scribbled on a blue piece of paper (with a heart beside it – because apparently I was a 5 year old girl trapped in a 20 something year old’s body) and waited for someone to pick up. When he did, I could hear the shower in the background. “Lucky I heard the phone ring, he said!” “Lucky I called,” I replied. I told him about the flight to Cambodia and before we could wrap up the conversation, he was out the door and on his way to the airport. As the hours went by, I watched as my flight to Vietnam opened for check-in, called for boarding, and finally took off – without me on board. There I was, standing at the window, waiting on a guy… again. What had I become? This guy was different, I thought to myself. This one was worth waiting for. Long behold, with all of five minutes to spare, out of the arrival gates burst a blur of clothing and an army bag. My hand was grabbed and I was pulled in the direction of the check-in booths. “Two tickets to Cambodia please!” we said in unison and ran towards our gate. We had made it, and more importantly, we made it together.
Giraffes Never Forget!
After our chaotic take-off and catapult like flight to Phnom Peng, we enjoyed two weeks of relaxation and discovery, exploring the wats, palaces, architecture, cuisine (it’s delicious) and history of the Cambodian people. While our time spent motorcycling around the streets, devouring the curry and touring the wats of Phnom Peng and Siem Reap was truly unforgettable, to this day I have yet to slurp noodles on the streets of Hanoi or float down the Mekong as originally planned. Sure, I guess you could say that one kick-ass wedding and a beautiful daughter were worth the sacrifice, but year after year I hint at the fact that my husband still owes me a trip to Vietnam, and one day I’m really hoping to cash in.