The Year of the Tiger Travelling: Beyond China

“Wat walking” and sun seeking were my highest priorities as I landed in Bangkok. My adventurous spirit had finally gotten enough courage to make the solo trek from Xizhou, China to Bangkok, Thailand for my winter vacation. With my backpack strapped tightly to my back and my family locket hanging close to my heart, I stepped into the “Land of Smiles.”

Throughout my Thai journey, I traveled to the north to visit elephant camps and wats (Buddhist temples) in Chiang Mai, to the central hub of the always buzzing Bangkok, and then down south to the true paradise of Koh Samui. As I walked down the streets in all three places, I could smell the Pad Thai and grilled street meat being prepared for hungry customers. I could hear the honking horns of tuk-tuks competing with the Thai women yelling out, “MASSAGE,” to every passing tourist. I could feel the sun beating down on my back as I rode on the back of my friends’ scooters as we explored the jungles of Koh Samui. I had the feeling that amazing adventures were impatiently waiting around each corner.

As I stepped off the sleepless night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, I could instantly feel the peace and serenity that I had heard about from past travelers. In the old town of Chiang Mai, there are wats at every corner, each one with unique architecture, but each with the same purpose. The temple that I felt most connected with was an open-air, wooden wat that stood near the Three Kings Temple. There I was, barefoot and believing, as I listened to the song-like chimes of the tin leaves with hand written prayers, which were able to drown out the chaotic street noise. I circled the city that day on my “wat walking” journey for six hours, taking precious time to visit each temple.

My adventures on the island of Koh Samui have left me breathless, smiling, and sun kissed. My mind is still swimming in Swedish and French due to the people I met on the island, who I now consider to be my close friends, or even family. I spent the humid days discovering the island on scooters and sticking my toes into the smooth sand at Chewang and Lamai Beach. At night, I would lounge at beach bars with my friends as we watched fireworks shoot across the sky. The smell of fresh orchids draped around my neck would make me breathe in each sweet moment slowly and leave me believing that life couldn’t get any better than this.

In two words, I would describe my days in Thailand as magical and life-changing. It took all of the courage I had to take this adventure on my own, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Through the UV protection of my Ray Ban aviators, I was able to see a colorful culture and a mélange of new international perspectives. Those who I have met, the sights I have seen, and the realizations that I have made will forever be imprinted on my nomadic-traveling heart.