Southeast Asia Finale

A lot happened since my last blog post. During my last two weeks abroad, my classmate Val and I travelled down the coast of Java island in Indonesia, then made our way back up to the north of Thailand, and finally, back to Bangkok. More specifically, we started our trip in Jakarta, Indonesia, where we took an overnight train ride to Yogyakarta—a ride that made me never want to step foot in another train for the rest of my life. From there, we flew to Bali, then to Kulala Lumpur, then to Chiang Mai, and ended with a couple of days in Bangkok before finally flying home to the United States. I think it is safe to say that I took more plane rides in my four months in Southeast Asia then I had previously taken in my entire life. I flew 20 different times!

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Good bye to Green Park, the place I’ve called home for almost four months. (My window is the one right behind my head.)
My trip to Indonesia started off with high hopes. Val and I were excited to spend more than just a weekend in a different country. But after two days in Jakarta, we were both a little worried about what we had gotten ourselves into. In Jakarta, we were the only white people in sight, and not a single person spoke English. I felt like we were at a zoo with the people who would just stare at us as we walked down the street. Nothing really went our way there. We spent most of the time sitting in traffic or in Ubers. The traffic here was so much worse than Bangkok, which I didn’t even think was possible. Luckily, a two-hour Uber ride cost only $6. We had heard that the markets in Jakarta were the place to be, but each market we went to felt as though it had unfashionable clothing—such a devastating realization because I was ready to shop! After two awful days in Jakarta (also no place believes in air conditioning except malls), we took a train to Yogyakarta.

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At least we looked cute visiting the national monument—even though we couldn’t go up to the top.

The train ride was horrible. Actually, horrible doesn’t even begin to describe how awful it was. There was no air conditioning, it smelled, the lights were on the whole night, the seats didn’t recline nor have any cushion, and the toilet was a hole cut into the floor of the train. We even paid a few dollars more to sit in “business class,” so I cannot imagine how bad economy class must have been. The entire time we were in Jakarta, we kept trying to stay positive; luckily, we were rewarded with the best time in Yogyakarta.
IMG_7883Drinking a sweet treat made it better!

In Yogyakarta, we stayed at a very fun AirBNB. Our room was covered in graffiti artwork. The owners and workers also provided great entertainment. We sat outside, talking and listening to music in the evenings. They were the best! On the day we arrived, we got to the hostel at 6 am, so we had a whole day to do activities. We decided to make Batik, a technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to whole cloth, at a local woman’s house. She picked us up on the back of scooters, and we spent the whole day designing and painting our masterpieces.

IMG_3757Our Batik masterpieces. We had a great time making them!

We even ate traditional Indonesian food—Gado Gado; however, Thai food is truly where it’s at when it comes to Southeast Asian cuisine! That night, we fell asleep at 8 pm (not a real shocker after getting an hour of sleep the night before), but we woke up at 2:30 am for an hour ride to the Borobodur Temple to see the sun rise.

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The morning was too cloudy to see the sun rise.
The sunrise was a bit of a disappointment because it was cloudy, but exploring Borobodur was incredible. Yogyakarta is not very touristy, so we basically had the temple to ourselves. I imagined the crowd would be like it was at Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world located in Cambodia, but it was nothing like that.

 

IMG_8255Here I am sitting among the stupas, mound-like or hemispherical structures containing relics, typically the remains of Buddhist monks or nuns, used as a place of meditation.

We took our time exploring the gorgeous stupas of Borobodur, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple, as well as the world’s largest Buddhist temple, and also one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world. The temple consists of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. The temple is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa.

Then we headed to Prambanan Temple, an 8th-century Hindu temple compound. At Prambanan, we were swarmed by locals wanting to take pictures with white people. It was funny that in the place of beauty like Prambanan that we were the site to see!

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A few of my fans!

IMG_8383Prambanan was beautiful—despite me butchering the name every time I said it.
After another full day of Yogyakarta, we went to Gumuk Pasir to go sandboarding. I had an incredible time sandboarding and was surprisingly good at it.

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I was completely covered in black sand by the time we were done, and my calves were on fire from hiking up the steep hill repeatedly (it was totally worth it though!) After we’d somewhat cleaned ourselves off of sand, we headed to a lookout to see the beautiful ocean.

IMG_8310The waves were massive even from far above which got us excited for the waves in Bali!

Next, our driver told us we were going to a coffee shop. We assumed he meant a café, but it turned out to be a place that makes Civet coffee. Civet coffee is made from the bean that has been crapped out of a civet. It is the most expensive coffee in the world because it is made through such a tedious process.

IMG_8361Cat-shit coffee was pretty good (must enjoy the taste and not think about where it came from).

It can cost $100 a cup, but we ended up getting to taste it for free. I enjoyed it, which was crazy because I don’t like coffee for the most part. We both ended up buying some because it was very cheap here, and it was so delicious.  It was a very long day in Yogyakarta—packed with a lot of memorable moments. I loved Yogyakarta and was sad to leave.

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The next morning, we flew to Bali and climbed down a treacherous cliff to make it to our beach front hostel on Bingin Beach. Unfortunately, there was no air conditioning in our room—and each day was in the high 90s. I don’t think I have ever been so hot; fortunately, the ocean water was nice and refreshing. We spent our days in Bali playing in the massive waves (that sometimes beat us up pretty badly) and tanning in the sun. Once, we got stranded on a rock for a few hours because high tide came (a little scary, yes). Bali was fun as was Yogyakarta, which made up for how awful Jakarta was. We ended our Indonesia trip satisfied and ready to conquer Chiang Mai for Songkran.

IMG_8404Ahh, the beaches of Bali!

The second time in Chiang Mai was just as extreme as my first visit there earlier this semester. We drank margaritas daily, ate taquitos and cashew chicken, shopped, and most importantly—participated in the splash fights that ensued all over the city in celebration of Songkran.

Songkran is a three-day festival, celebrating Thai New Year. You splash water on each other to wash away the bad from the year. Considering how much I was drenched in water each day, I think all my bad is gone! Chiang Mai was a lot of fun—and we were excited to be back in Thailand where things felt so familiar. After Chiang Mai, we went back to Bangkok to wait for our flights home.

IMG_8472Connor, me, and Val—ready to splash each other for Songkran.

In Bangkok, it was a lot of lasts: our last time seeing Pha Pin at Green Park, our last Bangkok Train Station (BTS) ride, our last Korean Shaved Ice, and our last time shopping at our favorite store, Bershka. It was bittersweet.

As much as I love Thailand, I was excited to come home and see my darling cat, Sylvester! The “glorious” (joking!) 26 hours of travel homeward was made better when I was bumped up to business class for the flight from Bangkok to Dubai, and when I got a taste of home—a drink from Starbucks. Oh, the simple things! Now back home, I have to get used to how expensive things are again!

IMG_4069Glad I found a friend at Mahidol who loves to shop and take pictures as much as I do!

Thank you, Thailand, for being such a wonderful home to me for my time abroad. I learned so much, experienced so much, and met so many amazing people. I’m glad I went outside of my comfort zone and studied abroad. It truly was the experience of a lifetime.

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Thailand was “Thai-namite”

Sawasdee Ka, Thailand! You will remain forever in my heart.

The ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia are even more awesome with great friends.

I finished my last final at Mahidol University International College in Salaya, Thailand, today, meaning my semester abroad is over. (Yes, here come the tears). I can hardly believe how fast my time here went, and I’m completely heartbroken to leave my friends and this beautiful country. You could say I’m being forced out because my visa has expired!

Thank goodness, I’m done with wearing a uniform!

I have fallen in love with Southeast Asia and don’t want to leave, so I’ve extended my stay and will be spending a couple of weeks in Indonesia, and then coming back to the wonderful Kingdom of Thailand to celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year, which is basically a giant water fight. I’m beyond grateful for the time I’ve had in Thailand. I learned a lot about myself since arriving here. I’ve learned to navigate all over the country by train, bus, and taxi. I’ve learned to speak some Thai. I’ve tried many, many new foods. I will always remember everything that has happened, the places I’ve traveled, and the people I’ve met.

One of the best things about my study abroad experience was meeting my amazing friend, Val!

So how does one measure three months in Thailand? Was it by the amount of fried rice or Pad Thai that I ate, the number of trains or buses I traveled upon, or the number of plane rides, cities visited, clothes purchased, and attempts to speak Thai? In any way, my time in Thailand was perfect. From sweating all the time, to going to the Seven-11 constantly to get food, to travelling every weekend – I would not change a minute.

No one was “crabby” while snorkeling in Krabi, Thailand.

I was able to travel to Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, Kanchanburi, Pattaya, Koh Larn, Phi Phi Islands, and Krabi in Thailand, as well as Luang Prabang in Laos, Siem Reap in Cambodia, and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Next stop: Jakarta, Yogyakarta, and Bali in Indonesia, before I head home.

Boat rides, even boats that look like they may sink, were my favorite in Luang Prabang, Laos.

I was able to wash elephants, tour beautiful temples, witness the inside of a hospital (thank goodness for the health insurance I said I wouldn’t need), swim in turquoise blue waters, sun bathe on sandy beaches, kayak down the Mekong River, whitewater raft through rapids, zip line through the jungle, learn how to barter quite well in Thai, eat insane amounts of Thai food (I have no idea how I’m going to survive now when delicious Thai food is no longer available everywhere I go!), and meet incredible people.

One of my favorite memories was visiting the elephant sanctuary in Kanchanaburi.

While I won’t miss the mosquito-infested dorm shower or the odd odor permeating areas of Bangkok, I will miss Thailand completely. It is crazy that before I left to study abroad, I questioned if I should really go and if it was worth missing some of my favorite Marquette things, like basketball games, and seeing my friends. I’m very glad I decided to embark on this journey because the experiences I’ve had were completely surreal.

Whitewater rafting in Chiang Mai was incredible!

I went into this experience without any expectations (well, expect to see elephants). I basically just wanted to study in a foreign country and see what would happen. Anything I could have dreamed has been far exceeded by the real experience. It’s been amazing in every way! I’ve gone to places I never even heard of four months ago and have been truly open to trying new things. I never said “no” to any opportunities that came my way (I even ate a cricket!).

I will miss the “Pasta Lady,” and her fantastic cooking.

Who knows, maybe someday I will study abroad somewhere else. Until next time, Sawasdee Ka, Thailand. I love you and will never forget my study abroad experience.