Starting my trip at a Yoga Retreat was exactly what I hoped it'd be: a nice, relaxing introduction to Thailand. Four nights, five days, long enough to calm my nerves before venturing out on my own. In that time I received two massages, a Reiki treatment, a Hadu healing session (hard to explain, but involved drinking water that was infused with good vibes), took six yoga classes and three meditation classes, read two books, and had amazing meals prepared for me. To say I felt relaxed would be an understatement. I also got to visit and get advice from fellow travelers from all over the world. By the end of the weekend I was feeling ready to embrace the next part of my journey, the one that scared me the most, solo travel through Thailand.
I felt anxious on the taxi ride to my next hostel, always afraid of the unknown. Once I arrived I sat, utilizing the internet, trying to make the next step easier, but, no matter how much I researched, I was still going to have to navigate a foreign city alone.
I ventured out feeling unsure of myself, I even attempted talking myself out of the excursions. The devil on my shoulder whispering, "you know what sounds nice?!? A nap. The White Temple doesn't seem that great. Who cares if you take a day to relax instead of explore?" This internal dialog continued as I made one safe lap around the block near my hostel. On my first lap I made sure not to cross any streets, as Chiang Rai has an every-man-for-himself attitude and there are no 'yield to pedestrians' signs.
I knew I needed to take a bus to get to the White Temple (17 km outside the city), so I started on a second lap in search of the bus station, which was at a new location due to construction (i.e. a dirt lot). I was especially nervous about this idea because: 1) I would have to cross a street to get to the bus station, 2) I had no idea where to buy bus tickets once I got there, and 3) I wasn't exactly sure how to get back to Chiang Rai after I was done. I kept wrestling with my thoughts as I walked ominously towards the bus station. Then a man lounging in his Tuk Tuk pointed at me and said, in a heavy Thai accent, "White Temple." Anxious me was eager to talk to someone so I began to blab, "Yes, I'm heading to the bus station now. They say it's only 20 baht, but I'm not quite sure where the bus is..." He looked confused and it's clear he has no idea what I'm saying so he interrupts me and says, "there and back, 300 baht." I pause for a minute reflecting on whether I should abandon the challenge of the bus station. Sensing my hesitation he begins to pantomime with his fingers someone walking around and says, "I wait while you do do do do (again pantomiming) and take you back here." Convinced, I say, "sure, but I want to go to Singha Park, too." He smiles and says, "yes, White Temple, Singha Park."
I climbed into the back of his Tuk Tuk feeling incredibly relieved and excited. I don't know why climbing into that weird vehicle, with one side mirror missing and the other only having one piece of the mirror left, relieved my anxiety, but it did. It felt exhilarating as we weaved in and out of traffic toward the White Temple and I thought I'd take this over a bus any day.
I felt more confident after that to explore and cross streets and navigate in and out of the city with my new secret weapon, the Tuk Tuk. And I did eventually have to find that bus station to get to Chiang Mai. It was kind of chaotic with buses coming in and out of this dirt lot and I was once again relieved for my Tuk Tuk excursion the day before. Luckily the Chiang Mai bus was well marked.
My first day navigating solo in Thailand left me feeling accomplished and a tad bit more comfortable. On to Chiang Mai!