Back in the USA

Hey all! So I have returned to America for the summer months to visit friends and family. I thought this trip would be full of bouncing from place to place but rather uneventful…but I was wrong!

While visiting some family in Florida, I discovered that my uncle is a pilot with his very own plane. What?! HE. HAS. A. PLANE! And he offered to take us up one morning for a little aerial tour of the Amelia Island coastline.

Flying a plane has been on my bucket list for a long while now.

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You can imagine the excitement I felt as we drove out to the little airport.  We went to my uncle’s hangar and got to check out the little plane we were about to fly in.

I jumped at the chance to grab front seat before he even finished asking us who wanted to claim it and we clambered aboard. We put on our headpieces, performed a pre-flight check, and then we were off! It was so awesome watching a take off from the cockpit. It’s like I never knew I wanted to be a pilot until I saw what pilots see all the time. Realistically, I don’t actually want to become a pilot, but it is pretty sweet.

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Once we reached altitude and leveled off I looked over at my uncle. “Can I…can I fly it?!” I asked, holding my breath. “Oh yeah! Of course!” crackled in through my earpiece and I almost died wit13393513_10206457922983578_564837812_nh excitement. I did a little cheer and clapped and grabbed the controls, letting him guide me through it. I didn’t ascend or descend (I feel like my uncle did not want to gamble with death and quite frankly neither did I) but we stayed level and I followed the coastline before cutting inland.13400924_10206457921063530_2103348785_n

 

I was feeling simultaneously exhilarated and terrified at the same time, because as much fun as it was I didn’t want to over turn and send up spiraling (which, as I have since learned, is actually quite difficult to do). After landing he let me guide the plane along the runway and around to the hangar. I was so so stoked to unexpectedly be presented with the opportunity to knock off a huge bucket list item and lifelong goal: fly a plane. I did it!!

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He looks so pleased with the mid flight selfie….

Maeklong Railway Market

I went down to Bangkok for the two-day I Am Hardwell/Together Festival. The festival was so much fun but….while in Bangkok I also took the opportunity to finally do something that has been on my Thailand Bucket List for a while:

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About an hour and half drive southeast of Bangkok, in the small province of Samut Songkhram, there is a rambling market called the Maeklong Railway Market. This small, outdoor, day market has gained a lot of international attention over the years due to the fact that it operates on the railway tracks despite a train barreling through six times a day.

The market’s narrow entrance leaves you wondering how it’s possible a train could possibly come through without causing all sorts of chaos. Indeed, as I entered even 20150511_131628further, my 6 foot frame almost permanently hunched to avoid the overhead tarps, I couldn’t even imagine how it would be feasible. I arrived around 11:30am and had just missed the train. The next one was scheduled for 1:45pm so I had plenty of time to explore. The Maeklong market covers quite a bit of ground but the most exciting part is, obviously, the section that runs along the railway track for about 300 meters.

20150511_132857Vendors sell everything from fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables to clothes and random knick knacks. I picked out a couple different shirts and tried to bargain for them but the woman kind of glared at me and said, “No discount for you!” I don’t know if she meant specifically me for some reason or if she just meant discounts in general and that 20150511_115330was simply lost in the language gap, but I was a bit taken aback by her demeanor. I’m not sure if I did something wrong, or she has a personal vendetta against farangs, or she was just having a bad day, or what; but that is the first time I have been met with that kind of response when attempting to bargain at a market stall. That aside, I had a wonderful time sampling different foods and enjoying some cool coconut water while waiting for the train.

20150511_134807Finally, it happened; we heard the warning bell. I had stationed myself at a small coffee shop at the end of the 300m stretch of market. There were a few other foreigners there and we all had 20150511_134811our cameras out and ready while the locals, on the other hand, didn’t even bat an eye. The first bell rings 3 minutes before the trains arrival and I watched in amazement as all the awnings, tarps and tents were snapped shut, leaving just enough room on the tracks for the train to pass through. And I mean just enough room. The coffee shop owners made sure everyone was a safe distance away (safe being a relative term…in America I think safe 20150511_134824might have a different meaning). After three minutes you hear the train whistle and then the train comes chugging around the corner. We were literally inches from this train; we felt the rush of air push against us and if I reached out my hand I might have lost it. I was amazed at the efficiency of this whole process- 20150511_134855before the train was even out of sight this little pop-up market was back in action as if nothing ever happened. This much-anticipated event was over in under a minute, but I think it was definitely worth it. Not only did I get to 20150511_134936see this unique market, I also saw a town in Thailand I would not have thought to go to before!

Getting there from Bangkok:
I’m sure there are multiple ways to get there, and I’ll share with you how I went about it.
First of all…YOU DO NOT NEED TO GO WITH A TOUR! Maeklong station is not too far from the Amphawa floating market and I think some companies will try to sell you both as a tour. I have yet to do the floating market so I’m not sure but I think you can do that on your own also. I do know that you can do the railway market solo. And it’s a cake walk.
Hop on the nearest BTS and make your way to Victory Monument. Get off and head down the exit 4 stairs. I got a little bit lost at this point so I can’t give exact directions but there are minivans going literally everywhere so just start asking around for Maeklong and you will be pointed in the right direction. The minivan will cost 70 baht for one way and it is about an hour and a half to two hour drive- depending on traffic. Once you get into town you are close to the railway, just ask if you get lost. Even if the locals don’t know much English, most of them will know railway or railroad. Haha I think they are used to giving foreigners directions. 😛 And then you are there! Head down the tracks to the small coffee shop at the end and grab yourself a 25 baht fresh coconut and enjoy the sights. 😀

Songkran Snaps

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If I have learned anything about my time living in Thailand, it is simply this: the Thais love to celebrate! In Thailand they celebrate western new year, Chinese new year, and (probably my new favorite) Thai new year! This celebration is called Songkran, and DSCN1257while traditionally it was a more sedated and family centered event it has evolved into a noisy, fun-filled nationwide water fight. And it is too much fun. 🙂

This year was my second year celebrating Songkran in Bangkok, Thailand with thousands of other locals and foreigners alike. Both years have brought unique DSCN1279experiences to the table and I have loved them both in their own ways. Last year I was running around Silom Road and RCA like a wild woman shooting everyone in sight (with water, obviously), and this year the highlight was, again, RCA but surprisingly Khao San Road came in a close second.

Last year I was with B, and this year I got to hang out with Emilie, Jillian and James. Anyway…I could talk all day about how much fun it was, but Ill show you instead 😀

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So. many. people.

Game face haha

Game face haha

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New friends and old!

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No, it wasn’t raining.

Until we meet again, April 13th! (plus 14th-16th)

Fish Spa AKA Kayla’s Personal Hell

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I was in Bangkok with Emilie (my friend and old university roommate who came to visit me) and Jillian for Songkran this year, and once I steal some pictures from my friends I will write a post about all the good-natured water fighting but for now I want to focus on my nightmare come to life. I don’t know why such tiny creatures seem to terrify me so much, but they do.

Growing up, and even now, I have a select few irrational fears. I won’t divulge all of them in case an enemy may be reading, but I will admit to this one, and only because I somewhat conquered it.  Ever since I was little I have had a weird fear of fish. Fish in lakes, to be particular. Ocean fish are totally fine, but murky lake water and it’s inhabitants freak me out. I don’t know if it’s the fish themselves or really just a general disgustedness of not being able to see below me and not knowing what’s around me. I’ve had this fear that a fish is going to swim at me or bite me or something worse (literally anything you can imagine it doesn’t even have to be a real thing) is going to float up from the depths and drag me back down with it.

Fish in tanks are fine, fishing is fine, seeing fish while fishing is fine, seeing all the fish feeding on whatever you throw in the water as you stand on the dock is not fine….and you couldn’t pay me enough money to jump in even though my mind knows they will -probably- all swim away and not attack me. Again, oceans are fine, I’m not afraid of sharks (which could actually inflict some real damage) or any other dangerous sea creatures; lakes and their black waters…eh. Not my cup of tea. This is strange since I grew up in a land locked state with a nearby lake which most people enjoyed. To be perfectly honest this fear hampered my ability to learn how to water ski as a child. I was so afraid of something biting me that after two failed attempts to pull my body out of the water I called it quits and gave up, waiting anxiously for the boat to come around and pull me out of the watery death trap. I don’t exactly know what my fear is rooted in, but I call it a fish fear even though it isn’t always exactly the fish themselves.

Anyway, I wanted to provide you with some background so you could further understand why the following act was such a feat for me. While in Bangkok Jillian, Emilie and I decided to do the fish spa pedicure. You know what that is? It’s a tank, full of little cannibal monsters, that want to eat your skin. It was on Jillian’s bucket list and, to be honest, mine too (labeled as “overcome your fish fear.” Close enough).

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This picture is very misleading…none of us were enjoying this experience

We found a suitable looking nail salon with a tank of doom just outside its doors and agreed to shell out 100 baht for 15 minutes of pure torture. The three of us washed our feet, sat on the benches…and took at least 3 minutes to actually work up the nerve to take the plunge. Yes, it was just deep enough for our feet and half of our shins, but that was definitely more than enough. Jillian gave up and just sat there with her feet up, Emilie tried but kept squealing and kicking her legs whenever they came near her, and I actually managed to do it. I did not enjoy a single second of it but damn it I was not about to let 100 baht go to waste (for the record, that’s about $3USD….I am 14711_10152860699677810_3764117006343118815_nincredibly stingy when I want to be). I twitched a lot at first, pulled my feet out a bit, but after 5 minutes I steeled myself for the assault of countless evil little gilled zombies having a feeding frenzy on my flesh. I sat there, grimacing, quivering, every muscle tensed up. I wanted to cry, and I did allow myself some pathetic little whiney sounds, but I stayed strong!

This is me trying to smile. Like, legitimately trying to smile. I just can't.

This is me trying to smile. Like, legitimately trying to smile. I just can’t.

I looked at the advertisement and couldn’t help but hate the smiling people in the picture with their feet surrounded by these fish. It had to be photo shopped there is no way anyone could possibly enjoy this experience. I had to start taking deep breaths and made Jillian quote some of our favorite lines from “Fresh Off the Boat” whenever I started focusing too much on the feeling of my flesh getting ripped off. My worst fear was happening. For reals.

Jillian was so impressed with the whole thing (or she just felt that bad for me) she ended up paying for my torture session! I was very grateful, and pretty glad she didn’t tell me this until the end because I probably would have bailed early if I had known. As it was, I did it!! I lived the worst 15 minutes of my life and made it through.

Suck on that, fishes.

Bring On Another Year

It’s time to ring in 2013; create those New Years resolutions and bucket lists! I actually hate new year resolutions. I think people get overly ambitious and make all these resolutions that they really can’t keep and just set themselves up for failure. It seems like every year people decide to all of a sudden stop smoking, go on a diet, hit the gym, and run 6 miles a day-all at once. In reality, how likely is that to happen? Face it, you aren’t going to fit into those jeans you fit into five years ago anytime soon. Just go buy new clothes and work from there. We can’t change our entire lifestyle in one day and expect to keep it up for an entire year. It’s like we all think a Cinderella-esque story will happen and we will magically become something we never worked towards once the clock ticks midnight. Instead most new year resolutions just end up looking something like this.

But I don’t want to start the year off as a negative nancy, so let’s look on the brighter side of facing a fresh 365 days, shall we?

I feel incredibly blessed to have had the experiences I did in 2012. I welcomed last year in at Furneaux Lodge with friends that felt like family (it certainly beat getting ditched downtown on new years the year before haha). From there on out the year was a roller coaster of highs and lows that took me for one hell of a ride. For the lows…I got dumped, lost a best friend for good, plunged myself into debt, became homeless, and learned many lessons the hard way. On the bright side…I spent most of 2012 in New Zealand, made some amazing friends, went on a great American road trip through the West, saw some of the ones I love the most get married, spent an entire year in summer, crossed off bucket list items like sky diving and bungy jumping, got to see my family (however brief it was), moved into a flat with some new friends, and overall have been living my dream.

We now usher in 2013. While I refuse to create new years resolutions, I will add to my bucket list. I think I left my bucket list at home, which is a shame because I can’t even remember everything that was on it, but it also frees me to be more open and creative with my adventures. 🙂 Some new additions that I’ll set out to accomplish this year:
1. Go on at least one adventure a month
2. See at least 2 continents
3. Eat something new and exotic that I would normally never try
4. See at least 5 different countries
5. Don’t step foot in America…except for maybe Christmas
6. Try one new recipe a week as long as I live in my current flat
7. Check out one of New Zealand’s great walks
8. Satisfy my inner adrenaline junkie
9. Visit at least one friend who lives overseas in their home country

Ok, ok, I know this looks eerily similar to a new years resolution list. But it’s not. It’s different…somehow. It’s not so cliché? It doesn’t include life changes? Whatever. It’s different because I say it is. 😀

Before I Kick the Bucket

Like most of us, I have a bucket list. I’ve had one for years. The trouble is, it keeps expanding and changing and there are some things once important enough to make the list that I don’t really care if I do or not anymore, like “become famous” and “become a videographer”. I actually don’t ever want to be in the national spotlight, I do far too many stupid things as it is I don’t need the whole world in on my affairs. It recently took me about 3 too many weeks to get my eyebrows waxed, the last thing I want is the media broadcasting to the world my newest Frida Kahlo fashion fiasco. I like my privacy, thank you very much. Becoming a videographer would be fun I guess, although I can’t for the life of me remember what prompted me to throw that one on the bucket list. I was very impressionable when I was younger, that dream most likely spawned from watching one too many video explorations on the Discovery Channel. I couldn’t care less whether I become a videographer or not (which is good since it’s looking like I most certainly won’t); I’m not even fully sure what all I thought that would entail. To be fair, I also have “tower of terror-do it!”, “catch a squirrel”, and other equally ridiculous items on the list that I might be ok with if they lay me down in the ground before I get around to accomplishing. The Tower or Terror seems way less legit after both jumping out of a plane and into a canyon from 440 feet up, but if I get the chance I guess I would still do it. And having a pet squirrel would just be awesome.

My bucket list is mostly travel based, which, if you know me, makes a whole lot of sense. It largely consists of seeing everything I can and having the most memorable adventures. Bucket lists are great things, I always look at mine and it inspires me to save money so I can actually travel the world. The trouble with bucket lists, however, is that they tend to limit your scope of possibilities. If you let them, as with any list, they can become quite constricting. There are so many things I have done that I am so glad to have done but never would have thought to put on the list. Just his week I have shot a tommy gun and driven a tractor. Both of these have been quite fun (and completely random) experiences that, had I thought of it before it happened, might have made it onto the list. In Fiji I ate bat, and if you asked me even one week beforehand, eating bat never would have even crossed my mind. Opportunities like these that just seem to fall into place remind me to keep looking beyond the list, to not limit my experiences to the few things I have managed to think up in this short-sighted brain of mine. Look at each day as a new chapter, each word/thought/experience as something to be taken in and mulled over, loved, and explored. I see life like I see words in a book, if I don’t know what a word means, I’ll look it up. If I come across something new and foreign to my repertoire of experiences, I’ll find out what it’s like. My bucket list is less a to do list than it is an inspiration to experience life to the fullest.