In 2013 I flew to Thailand to meet up with a friend from Dubai. I planned to have about 20 hours solo in Bangkok to recover from jet lag before heading to Koh Samui and Koh Phagnan. This was my first solo international trip where I didn't know another soul in the country.
After landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport I hopped in a taxi and asked the driver to take me to my hotel. Unfortunately, I didn't print out directions to my hotel or have a hard copy of the address (rookie mistake #1). Thankfully, I had the address stored in my Tripit app and was able to pull it up for the driver. After a short ride I arrived at the Hotel Muse Bangkok without incident and had a friendly welcome and was offered a complimentary cocktail. Since I had such a long flight from NYC I decided to grab a bite to eat and a drink at the rooftop bar and call it an evening since I had a full day of exploring to do the following day.
The next morning before heading out to explore the city I walked to the Starbucks that I noticed during my taxi ride the day before. Almost immediately upon exiting the hotel I encountered a line of taxi drivers that were asking if I needed a ride and offered me unsolicited tours of the city. I politely declined their offers and one driver proceeded to ask me the whereabouts of my husband. Being quick on my feet I muttered something about my "husband" resting at the hotel which they seemed to believe. As I walked away I over-confidently thought to myself "I got this", which was a big mistake.
After my coffee I asked the concierge to write down the address of my intended destination and got into the first taxi in the lineup. I remembered to ask him to turn on the meter, which took a bit of convincing, but he eventually did. However, it took even more convincing on my part to get the driver to understand that I had no interest in going to his uncle's shop or visiting the floating market and by this point my confidence was waning that I'd ever see the Reclining Buddha at the Wat Po Temple.
I eventually made it to the temple and my confidence had inched back a bit so with a little pep in my step I headed off on foot to my next destination. People on the street seemed very friendly and nice and curious about where I was from. However, it didn't take long to realize that most of them had different motivations. After engaging an older gentleman I was misinformed that the temple I was planning to visit was closed and he insisted that I take a guided tour via tuktuk instead. I managed to finagle my way out of the city tour only to encounter a "friendly" history teacher who was trying to hook me with a similar spiel. No thank you!
The low point of my trip came as I was walking down the street and I noticed a bunch of pigeons flying around. The woman feeding them apologized and insisted that I too should feed them for "good luck". I declined her offered but she was insistent and since I didn't want to offend anyone in a foreign country I took the bag of bird feed and proceeded to feed the pigeons with reckless abandon. I started to walk away with the bounty of "luck" I had just accrued but was stopped in my tracks by the woman demanding payment!! Oh *ish I thought I've just been scammed. I initially refused to pay but her accomplice, a larger intimidating man walked up and had something to say about it. I managed to negotiate a lower ransom insisting it was all I had and they accepted and let me go. I then went to the mall where I proceeded to leave my debit card in the ATM.
I pride myself on being a street smart New Yorker but this trip definitely taught me that anyone could be taken for a ride if not at the top of their game while traveling. And be careful about that jet lag as it can really affect your judgment.
Looking back on the experience I can laugh about it now and it's made me a much smarter traveler. I'm tempted to test my hypothesis with a return trip to Thailand in the not too distant future.
In 2007 I decided to move to Paris for seven months and I ended up staying for almost three years (that's a whole other story). When I first broke the news to friends and family most were very excited and happy for me and promised to visit. My maternal unit on the other hand was having none of it. She even told me outright that I wouldn't see her again unless I came back to New York.
A few weeks prior to leaving my maternal unit excitedly showed me her first ever passport but insisted that she wasn't going to use it to visit me (yeah, ok mom). Fast forward to the spring 2008 and the maternal unit was planning to be visit me in Paris for almost three weeks. I don't care how amazing your relationship is with your mother is, three weeks alone with no buffer and no plan could be disastrous. So plan I did!
I came up with an itinerary that would show her all the amazing sites Paris has to offer, including climbing the steps to Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur and the Arch de Triumphe. From Paris we would travel to Rome for a few days where we encountered a transit strike and managed to haggle a deal on a new wheeled suitcase from a street vendor. We ate gelato almost every day, saw all the amazing sights and she even encouraged me to take a very much prohibited photo of the Sistine Chapel. After Rome we headed to Barcelona a city which the maternal unit absolutely fell in love with. She tasted her first paella, enjoyed strolls along Las Ramblas and was blown away by the colors, scents and different produce at La Boqueria Market and we both viewed in awe the breathtaking architecture oh Gaudi.
On our flights back to Paris, after about 10 days of travel she was already asking where we would be going next. This from the woman who had never traveled internationally previously and had no plans to visit me in Europe. And with that initial trip we've started a tradition that has taken us to Greece, Croatia, Morocco, Turkey, Vietnam, and Tanzania. Some people may find it odd to travel with one's parent as an adult but these trips have been life changing in so many amazing ways and I wouldn't change it for the world.