This past spring break was really a collection of separate memories and locations, haphazardly thrown together into one fun (?) break. Friday, my friend and I took an overnight bus from our home base of Khon Kaen to Bangkok, arriving at 5am. We walked around Khao San road, which was still full of drunken European and American backpackers and still-hopeful prostitutes to get us interested despite the late/early hour.
We watched the sun rise, visited Wat Pho, walked into the Grand Palace, explored Chinatown, then took a late night flight Saturday to Siem Reap, Cambodia, home of the famous Angkor Wat and thousand year old temples. We spent Sunday exploring the main temples, and finished with watching the sun set over Angkor Wat. Fun fact: the huge temple complex used to house a city of one million people at the same time London housed 15,000.
The next day, we got up at 4am to catch the sun rise over Angkor Wat.
While in Cambodia, we also ventured to the Killing Fields monument left from the Khmer Rouge legacy and a land mine museum. What really struck me was the presence of the genocide still felt by the people; our guide kept talking about it, and there were frequent amputee street bands with signs saying they were land mine victims in need of aid. The genocide and Pul Pot’s legacy is still very much a part of the living history in Cambodia. Everywhere there are signs and pamphlets, ensuring through education and constant reminders that the genocide is not forgotten, but that something like the genocide will not happen again.
Then, like the haphazard spring break the week was, we headed to Bangkok for one full day of Songkran, which is my idea of heaven on earth. Songkran is the Thai New Year, and is celebrated by throwing water at each other to wash away last years’ misfortunes. And in most cases, it wasn’t a gentle purification ceremony. On Silom Road, there were probably over 3,000 people, mainly Thais but a few tourists with mega super soaker water guns that I know didn’t exist in my childhood but really wish they had. So of course I joined in the fray, buying water pistols and refills of water and splashing people from age 3 or 4 to around 95. The best were the older Thai grandmothers; they would beckon you closer and, as it is incredibly rude to disobey a grandmother, we would cautiously venture near only to have them dump giant buckets of ice water all over you with toothless glee.
The next day, we headed to Koh Chang island where we planned to do a kayaking trip, hike up a mountain and snorkel. None of those things happened. Within two days of arrival, my friend fell off the back of a tree swing and cut her head open on a rock, requiring 5 stitches but thankfully no concussion. And interestingly, it was me begging her to lie on the beach with me and rest. Remember that water I swallowed in Bangkok? That caused horrific food poisoning where I also had a fever and sore throat, so the four days on the beach I mainly slept and lay there, eating 5 crackers and a mango during the course of the time there. But the recovery location was beautiful, and I discovered many things about myself. Namely, I am quite queasy when I’m the only one around to change my friends bandages. Apparently doctor genes do not run in the family (sorry Mom!).
Then, with me still not eating (day five) and my friend feeling brief but strong bouts of nausea, we traveled for 18 hours to eventually return to Khon Kaen, where I checked into a hospital for an IV, medicine and real care. But that’s a story for another blog post.
Overall it was an awesome spring break where I met really cool people and saw beautiful things. But honestly, it didn’t feel like a comprehensive week with overarching themes or ideas or even passport stamps. Each different location brings with it different feelings and memories, from the childlike joy of Bangkok’s Songkran to the wonderment of Angkor temples to the sheer relief of my final throw up session at 3am.