I hate layovers. Even if they’re the perfect amount of time to get you from one plane to another without rushing or waiting, I’d rather pay a little more and avoid them. The reason I started my trip in Hong Kong rather than Vietnam was because I couldn’t fly directly from San Francisco to Hanoi. Yet, in order to save a few bucks, when I decided to fly from Chiang Mai to Bali, I resolved to make do with an 18 hour overnight layover in Singapore’s Changi Airport. I’m on hour 15. I love this layover.
I wound up treating my stay here as an informal vow of silence. I had one actual conversation with the cool Australian owner of a coffee shop called Overstand which could easily fit in back home in San Francisco. The rest of my interactions were by necessity and brief, either while checking into the guesthouse or ordering food. I had no energy to meet new people and perhaps it was for the best; when I arrived in Chiang Mai, I was still recovering from a massive bed bug bite attack from the guesthouse in Siem Reap and my arms and legs looked scary. I don’t want to be dramatic, but for a brief period, my right elbow closely resembled the Lady in the Radiator from Eraserhead.
No one needed to shake a hand attached to that.
At home, I was used to spending a couple of nights a week in my bedroom, reading, watching movies, or delving into a YouTube black hole. I ate takeout in bed. Even the more sociable introverts need solo time to recharge and I’m an ultra-introvert. When you’re staying in dorms and meeting interesting people from all over the place, it’s hard to remember that it’s okay to want to be left alone sometimes. I straight up Greta Garbo’d myself in Chiang Mai. The couple of extra bucks I spent on my own room here were more than worth it. Having my own bathroom was particularly great when I got sick for the first time on this trip. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say I’m glad I packed Imodium.
I’m currently in the midst of a ridiculously long layover in Singapore. Changi Airport is not the worst place for one. It’s the fanciest mall I’ve ever been to. There are free activities! It smells good!
I arrive in Bali tomorrow evening and will start out in a dorm in Sanur. I’m ready to engage with humans again. If anyone asks how Chiang Mai was, I’ll tell them it was nice. Did I talk to a monk, visit the night bazaar, or get a massage? Nope. I watched a lot of Frasier, caught up on The Dissolve, and clipped my toenails. Chiang Mai rocked.
I haven’t had the best time since I left Cambodia and my dear friends behind. My first night in Bangkok was fun thanks to good company. Wat Pho was beautiful. Other than that, the Khao San Road area irked me deeply and I didn’t have the desire or energy to explore outer realms of the city. I prefer the smaller towns, anyway. I left a day earlier than planned and hopped on a night bus to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.
It’s a lovely city which runs at a slower pace than Bangkok. I get the idea that it’s probably a better place to live than visit but I was determined to make the most of my time here. A guesthouse I kept hearing about was fully booked so I stayed at a little family-owned place called Same Same (of course) for my first night and would check into the other one the next day. Same Same was so inexpensive that I decided to treat myself to a single room for the first time on this trip. Nothing fancy but I have my own little bathroom and the ability to have a good old-fashioned underwear dance party. The WiFi here is incredible.
I went to the other guesthouse the next day. It seemed nice, but not drastically better than Same Same. After checking in, I asked the travel desk if there was a place I could go see elephants without riding them (they are often abused at those camps). Turns out there was a group leaving in 20 minutes. I would have preferred to research it first but since I was told there was no group going the next day, I decided to take a chance.
My heart hurts too much to really get into it but just because I chose not to ride an elephant didn’t mean it wasn’t an option for everyone else. It’s possible that there are places out there where the elephants are happy and riding them is well-regulated. This was not that place. The elephants were sad and so was I. Lump that in with receiving bad news from home and the fact that I was recovering from some very uncomfortable bug bites, and yesterday was pretty miserable. I went back to the hostel in the evening to do some research on my laptop but the WiFi was practically non-existent. I drank two large Chang beers on a mostly empty stomach, tried to dance my troubles away, and woke up with my first hangover of the trip.
It’s rough being sad and tired away from home. But five things helped to begin to turn my mood around.
I spent a full week in Siem Reap. When Ann and Lucy broke up their visit by going to Battambang for a few days, I stayed behind to have some quiet time. I cooled down in the guesthouse pool, walked around some markets, and finally finished up the August issue of Wine Spectator I brought from home. Even though I missed my friends while they were away, it was nice not talking to anyone for a little while. But on Day 2 of self-imposed isolation, my brain got bored and wouldn’t shut up.
My travel partners can tell you that I do not lose things. They know this because whenever I misplace something as insignificant as my powder compact or a tube of moisturizer, I proclaim: “I don’t lose things!” Then I find the missing object five minutes later.
I am neat. I am tidy. I am careful. I can tell you about all the things I’ve lost in my life because it so rarely happens. I still wonder what happened to the navy windbreaker that went AWOL in 3rd grade.
I’m proud to say that after more than 50 days on the road, I haven’t lost anything. But something went missing today, and it wasn’t my fault–my black flip flops were stolen.
I’m staying at a friendly guesthouse in Siem Reap where you must leave your shoes outside the building. I left them on the rack last night after returning from the rooftop pub. I don’t know what the size 8 hooligan saw in my $2 black Old Navy flip flops which at this point were covered in mud, but apparently it was enough to thoughtlessly snatch them.
They really weren’t much to look at. But they were easy. They were foamy and comfy enough. They reminded me of college. It’s not worth embracing vanity while backpacking. I’ve embraced no make-up, baggy pants, and my flip flops instead. Now they’re gone. What the hell am I supposed to wear in the shower now?
Enjoy my crappy shoes, jerkface. Wherever you are. Every time you flip or flop, imagine me flipping you something else entirely.