Adventures in Chiang Mai

As soon as I got home from work yesterday I jumped right into the shower and changed into my warm comfy clothes. Yesterday’s cold and rainy weather only furthered encouraged me to spoil myself to take out. I thought about getting sushi but I decided to go for Thai food instead. I ordered myself some Khao Soi and the taste immediately took me back to my adventures in Chiang Mai. Talk about nostalgia. Chiang Mai was my first stop in Thailand. I remember being ecstatic to finally visit the country that was home to my great-grandparents. I heard so much about the city and could not wait to explore its stunning temples and taste its unique cuisine!

As soon as I arrived at the airport in Chiang Mai, I took a cab to my hostel and immediately asked the front desk for lunch suggestions. They helped me scope out a local restaurant called “Its Good Kitchen” that was just steps away. The entrance of the restaurant was adorned with colorful hanging flowers baskets and the host instantly welcomed me. I took a look at the menu to see if they served the one thing I was craving for. Can you guess what I ordered? Khao Soi and a coconut smoothie, of course! I absolutely love spicy food and the noodle soup reminded me of my mother’s cooking. Khao Soi is actually a local dish from northern Thailand and is a must try when you’re in the region. I enjoyed my dining experience so much, that I made frequent visits during my time there.

Being in Chiang Mai was ultimately the first destination on my backpacking trip where I was truly traveling solo. I knew absolutely no one but luckily I made friends along the way. After my lunch, I made a visit to Wat Doi Suthep. The temple is situated right on top of a mountain that overlooks the city of Chiang Mai. It is about 45 minutes away from the city center and the best way to get there was to take a tuk-tuk. When I arrived, I spent some time observing the temple perimeters and stopped by the altars to pray. Whenever I visited temples it has been rooted in me to donate to the temple and pray for my family and friends. From the spires to the statues, nearly everything was covered in gold. It was truly such a sight to see!

However, my overall memory of my experience at Wat Doi Suthep was a bit spoiled when I encountered some trouble heading back to the city. As the sun was setting, I was rushing to find a way to my hostel and the drivers refused to take me unless I paid for a full car. In a way, I understood because was traveling alone but it still felt awful to know I was being haggled and taken advantage of. There weren’t many people around that I could seek help from and the worst part was that even though I am Thai, I was still considered a foreigner in their eyes. I never thought my life was threatened at any point but the aggressive treatment I encountered made me feel so unwelcome to the country. Luckily I found two other solo travelers who were willing to split the fare. Let’s just say that one negative experience taught me to bargain better during the rest of my time in Thailand.

The driver dropped us off outside of the old city gate and we made our way back on foot in the dark. Old Chiang Mai city is not as populated as the new Chiang Mai city at night and I was fortunate enough to meet my current friend Elvira who walked with me to the city center. Elvira did not have an active phone or GPS but I did so we decided to help each other out and make sure we got back safe. Once we arrived together at the drop-off, we both discovered later that we were staying at the same hostel! I don’t know if that sounds like fate to you, but I truly believe we were meant to cross paths. It was too much of a coincidence! I remember praying to my grandfather and ancestors after departing Wat Doi Suthep and I felt like I was blessed to have Elvira with me after such a negative experience. We discussed the strange but awesome coincidence on the way back to our hostel.

After returning to our hostel we decided to get dinner together and check out the Chiang Mai night market. The night market was located close to the new Chiang Mai city. It is good to note that if you enjoy the nightlife, the new Chiang Mai city (located outside the old city gates) is the place for you. It is filled with restaurants, bars, and the night market is only a few minutes by foot. For my solo travelers out there, new Chiang Mai city is safer to travel at night alone as well. Chiang Mai night market was home to local vendors that sold anything and everything from trinkets and clothes, to home décor and most importantly MORE street food. That evening, I got to meet Elvira’s boyfriend, Martin and we all spent time getting to know each other. I learned that they have been traveling for 6 months since graduating high school. I couldn’t believe how young they were, not to mention how brave! It was refreshing to meet people from around the world who live life so courageously as they did.

The next couple of days, I spent some time outside of the city. I had an opportunity to visit an Elephant Sanctuary and also went cliff jumping at the Hang Dong Grand Canyon. The elephant sanctuary was an unforgettable experience for sure. The elephants in the sanctuary are rescued from other camps that encourage abuse for profit. The mission of elephant sanctuaries is to provide a loving and nurturing place for these gentle giants. There were no elephant riding, painting, or performing during my time there. We fed the elephants and bathed them in mud right after. It was so fun! Cliff jumping at the Grand Canyon was a crazy experience as well. I am still a little bit in disbelief that I did that. I was a bit hesitant to jump at first because the water is 40 meters deep. Then I thought to myself that I could not back out especially since I already spent 40 minutes traveling to Hang Dong. I thought I was a bit crazy for jumping in the first time, but I had the courage to do it once more. Chiang Mai, in general, is known for their laid-back lifestyle. Cliff jumping at Hang Dong Grand Canyon is something I would recommend all thrill seekers to do!

My last night in Chiang Mai was spent with Elvira and Martin browsing the Saturday night market in the old city. We then had some dinner and a spent the last few hours playing a game of Jenga back at the hostel. It was bittersweet to say goodbye but I was so grateful that I got to spend my time in Chiang Mai with them. Moreover, I never thought I could develop a friendship over traveling like this. Before turning the night we wished each other a safe trip during the rest of our journeys. As I was packing my things that same night, I could not help but reflect on how much the city challenged my personal growth. The next morning, I made my way to the airport to fly out to my next destination, Bangkok.

First Stop, Hong Kong

After a 16-hour flight, my plane finally landed. I can remember feeling a rush of anxiety and excitement all at the same time as I was deplaning. I was thankful that I arrived safely but was also in disbelief that I was going to be away from home for a month. It was 9 PM and I had just arrived in Hong Kong. Without hesitation, I proceeded off the airplane confidently.

I spent my first night in Hong Kong settling into my hostel. I decided to stay in a district called Tsim Sha Tsui because of its convenient location. Upon arrival, I actually got lost trying to find my accommodation, hahabut as soon as I did, I was ridiculously happy to check in, unpack, stretch out on my bed, and decompress after a long flight. I remember struggling to sleep that first night because I was so excited but also had a hard time adjusting to the new time zone.

Hong Kong being the modern city that it is definitely was a good first stop to get over my solo travel jitters. I was comfortable knowing that the city was easy to navigate and luckily had an old college friend to connect with if I needed anything. What I noticed first about Hong Kong was how amazingly efficient and reliable the city’s transportation system was. It made a big difference to me in my travels because I was able to hit all of my destinations on my bucket list very quickly. GOSH, if only Boston’s MBTA was as efficient and as clean as Hong Kong’s. That’s just my wishful thinking though, hehe. There were also many places that accepted major credit cards so it was helpful not having to worry about converting currency and running out of cash. If you’re anything like me and do not like carrying cash, this is something to appreciate!

Tsim Sha Tsui was the perfect location to call home for the week. There were restaurants and shops galore and it was central to many places to the city. If you enjoy shopping and dining, this is the district for you! It is seriously so full of life! In a way, it kind of reminded me of Times Square in New York. I especially felt safe wandering alone at night, because everyone was out and about even during the late hours. I spent most of my evenings admiring the glittering city lights and munching on some good street food.

During the day I went out to explore other parts of the city. I first did some touristy things like exploring the Avenue of Stars, Tsim Sha Tsui Pier, Victoria Harbor, and the Peak. All were fun and beautiful sites to see nonetheless. I found cool spots for dim sum and egg tarts too, haha. However, my favorite part of Hong Kong was visiting local temples in the city and hiking up Lion Rock. Being around the temples made me feel at home. I wouldn’t say I am the most religious person, but I am pretty spiritual. The local temples provided such a nice break from the busyness of the city.

Hiking up Lion Rock was a great challenge and I met a lot of locals and travelers along the way. It was also pretty entertaining to see mischievous monkeys on my hike as well, hehe. Before I actually went on the hike, I can remember contemplating for hours before I finally convinced myself to do it. It sounds silly, but I was intimidated to hike alone in the event I got lost and I was afraid I would not find my way back. I actually did get lost, but I will explain later, haha. Eventually, I got over my fear and left early the next morning. I referenced a blog, click here, I googled that provided pretty awesome directions. (Side note, the Internet is incredible and the Google maps app is the shit!) It took me 3 long hours up and probably half that time to get down.

During my hike, I got lost after one group of locals accidently led me the wrong way. After being directed by another, I bumped into the same group as soon as I reached the top. They noticed me immediately and cheered for me as I arrived. I’m sure the wife said to her husband and friends, “oh she made it!” They laughed and simultaneously apologized for leading me the wrong way, haha. We enjoyed the sunny weather at the top of the rock together. The view was amazing and the company was fun. I actually met another traveler from the same county as mine as well that day. It was so bizarre!

After all of my travels, Hong Kong is definitely one of my favorite cities I’ve visited. It was so nice to reunite with an old friend there but also finally see the city many of my friends and their family call home. Hong Kong will always have a special place in my heart for giving me courage and confidence to conquer whatever else came my way during my solo travels. I’m sure I’ll visit the city again someday. Thank you, Hong Kong!

Backpacking Southeast Asia – Highlight Reel

Hello, friends! To start off, I thought it would be a good idea to share a highlight reel I created during my solo travels in Southeast Asia. I hope it serves as a bit of inspiration before I start digging into my travel journals.

I first arrived in Hong Kong before I made my way to parts of the ASEAN. Since I was limited on travel time, I prioritized places I wanted to visit first which included Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Indonesia. If you are curious about any specific places covered in this video please feel free to shoot me a message!

Just to note, I am all about traveling efficiently and lightweight so I did not use any fancy equipment for these shots. Many friends have already reached out to me with questions about my “go to” equipment and the photo/video apps I use during my trips. I plan to cover this in more depth in a future post so be sure to stay tuned if you’re interested!

Also if you haven’t already, feel free to check out my Instagram for more photos! 🙂

Home Sweet Home

Hello, dear friends! It’s Linda here.

It’s been about 3 weeks since I’ve returned home from Southeast Asia and I am finally ready to share my story and get back into the swing of things!

Last month, I spent my time exploring parts of Southeast Asia all alone with just my backpack. I have never traveled internationally by myself before and visiting Southeast Asia has always been a lifetime goal of mine. Throughout my adventures, I saw wonders of the world, made new friendships, and reconnected with my roots and heritage. Needless to say, I did encounter some challenges…however, my overall trip has been nothing short of amazing and I am so thankful for the opportunity.

Traveling alone is truly a wonderful and liberating experience. It provided me irreplaceable memories and priceless life lessons. It is such a unique experience and I recommend everyone to try it at least once. In the next few days, I aim to share my journey and provide some helpful tips to hopefully inspire you to also travel solo or to simply make your upcoming adventures more enjoyable. I invite you to read on and relive this epic journey with me.

With love,
Linda

My Decision to Travel Solo

If you were to ask me if traveling alone was something I would ever do a couple of years ago, my answer would have been a flat out no. In the past, the thought of traveling alone was ridiculously intimidating to me. I could not understand how it could ever appeal to anyone. Originally, I thought traveling solo was a dangerous experience and in a way pitied those who traveled alone without company. However, after some time, I discovered how inconvenient it could be if you are not traveling with someone who has the same interest or pace as you. Being able to travel solo would mean doing whatever it is you wanted to do on your own time. I admired the freedom associated with it and loved the convenient idea of not having to wait or plan around someone else. Over time, I slowly grew fonder to the idea of traveling by myself, but could not fully commit to actually doing it – until now.

My upcoming trip to Southeast Asia will be my first solo trip internationally. For a little over a month, I will be exploring regions in China, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Indonesia. I have personalized and organized my length of stay based on the pace of travel I found reasonable. This trip is going to be a bit more special to me because it will be the first time I will be able to visit the countries my family calls home. I will be able to experience my family’s heritage on a deeper level and connect to my roots which are the two primary reasons why I want to be a little more selfish with this opportunity. Although possibly challenging, I believe this trip will be filled with moments of self-discovery and personal growth.

Am I a little anxious about this trip? Yes. I can barely stop thinking about it. Although I must admit, I am more excited than nervous about my travel plans! Having a tentative itinerary and talking about the reality of it eases my nerves a bit. I wonder what I will be able to learn about the world and myself. I suppose I will find out in due time. 🙂

Growth from Pain – Goodbye 2016

As another year comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on the events that occurred year to date. 2015 and 2016 truthfully have been horrible years for me but needless to say – I’ve learned a lot more than I expected.

Within these two years, I experienced so much struggle, heartache, and pain. Some days became truly unbearable and challenging to get through. I moved out of home, lived on my own, and had loved and lost. I had also ended friendships that later became toxic, cut ties with certain family members, and at one point grew complacent in my career. There were multiple occurrences where I was no longer inspired or passionate about anything and I experienced long days of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. I felt numb, defeated, unstable, and unlike myself. It was taxing beyond belief.

Although challenging, these past couples of years affected my personal growth profoundly and have been quite an eye opener. I was pushed into a long-term state of sadness (aka depression) that was difficult to get out of. However, I learned to cope with my struggles better over time. There were significant moments of positivity that humbled and reminded me to live life mindfully and gratefully. I was able to see things in a better light and learned to accept, confront, and gracefully let go of what pained me. With some self-reflection and guidance from others, I took my negative experiences and turned them into lessons learned. It was not easy needless to say…but looking back, I am thankful to see the progress I have made. In the end, I would not change anything I have been through. Despite the difficulties I have faced, the growth that came from my struggle is truly a gift to appreciate. The pain I experienced transformed me for the best and I was able to discover other strengths about myself. After changing and adjusting my perspective, I can now see the positive opportunities presented in front of me that were not as apparent before.

Despite an awful two years, there were still notable moments of accomplishments and adventures that I am beyond grateful for. All in all, I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. The series of events I encountered has reminded me that sometimes Life presents negative experiences as blessings in disguise. This year I am ready to heal and grow further. I am determined more than ever to let my love and excitement for life flourish. As 2017 approaches, I am genuinely eager for the New Year to begin. Surely there will be some bad days, but I am hopeful it will be outweighed by more beautiful days moving forward.

24 Life Lessons I Have Learned at 24

If I could choose one word to describe this past year it would be metamorphic. Although I have experienced a lot of changes (both positive and negative), I can’t be thankful enough for the life lessons taught and the memories made. Today, I have compiled a list of 24 life lessons I’ve learned thus far now that I am officially 24! Needless to say, there is still so much more for me to learn. But overall, I love the woman I am becoming. Life is a journey and I am grateful to have lived another year. I hope you can relate or take from my experience.

  1. Learn to love and honor yourself
    Embrace yourself and practice loving you entirely. Look into the mirror and confidently remind yourself of the incredible being you are. Remember, your unique differences are the building blocks of your one-of-a-kind character. Once you learn to honor yourself, you will never need another’s opinion to validate your worth. How you love yourself is truly how you teach others to love you.
  2. Never allow anyone to dictate your sense of self-expression
    Dress they way you want to dress, get the damn tattoo, wear makeup if you want to or simply don’t. Do whatever makes you feel good as long as you’re not offending or hurting others. With that being said, never project your own opinions and judge others for their lifestyle, beliefs, or choices. Be open-minded and be thankful for the gift of diversity we are given in this world.
  3. Be a good listener and be careful with what you say
    Actively listen, digest and reflect, and then respond if necessary.
  4. Be your own hero
    Being truly independent is a beautiful thing. Codependency is never healthy and negative life experiences inevitably happen to all of us. But as individuals, we still have control over our own perspective and approach to overcoming our challenges. Some days there will be no one to save you but yourself and you have to be okay with that. Be brave enough to fight for your happiness even if that means you’re doing it alone. Be resilient. Life is never fair or easy to anyone.
  5. Be loyal to those who have been loyal to you
    Be thankful and show gratitude towards the people who genuinely love you and consistently support you. That is something that should never be taken advantage of. Pay it forward and take care of your loved ones when they need you. People are naturally selfish and good people are harder to come by as you get older.
  6. Give yourself more credit
    Allow yourself to be proud of the progress you have made, especially the progress no one has seen.” Often times, the work put into achieving your goal or overcoming your challenges is barely recognized or noticed. I will tell you right now that it does not have to be. Applaud for yourself and celebrate the work you’ve put in behind the scenes. You do not need anyone to validate your success either. Continue to set goals for yourself and smash them.
  7. Prioritize on building your career path
    Work towards your passion every day because it will always be there for you one way or another. Never allow any “man”, “friend”, or “family member” get in the way of your life goals. Your career will always support you when other people will not. It will never fail you. The right man, friend, or family member will never stop you from pursuing your career.
  8. Practice your craft
    We are all talented at something. If you aren’t already incorporating your talents into the work you do every day then you absolutely should! Otherwise, make time for it simply because it makes you happy. Hone in on your strengths and eventually you will master what you do best. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to turn it into a career one day. Your talents and skills will always be worth investing time in.
  9. Stop taking everything so seriously
    This is something I am still working on until this day. This journey we called Life is already difficult enough so we might as well enjoy the ride and have fun along the way, right? Learn to live in the present more, laugh more, and love more.
  10. Take chances
    Get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Meet new people, travel to a different country, apply for a new job, or take a class in something you’ve always wanted to try. What have you got to lose? It’s time to be bold. Taking chances is a great way to broaden your perspective and will always benefit your personal growth.
  11. Sometimes, you outgrow people
    There are times when the people you were once closest to become people you can no longer relate to and it’s really okay. When people grow, they sometimes grow apart. You can miss them and care for them and maybe they will reappear in another chapter of your life, but do not be afraid to move on. You have to work on yourself.
  12. Wisdom does not come with age
    Wisdom does not come with age, but life experiences do. On that note, never confuse education with intelligence.
  13. Blood is not always thicker than water
    You cannot choose who you are biologically related to but you can always decide whom to call family. Never feel obligated to commit to family members who has never fully committed to supporting you. Often times, they were probably the same people who said you weren’t good enough or thought you could never make it.
  14. Always travel
    Traveling will lift you. Traveling will humble you. Traveling will inspire you. Traveling will change you. You will never stop learning and growing because of it.
  15. Remember, you are worthy of love
    Anyone who tells you otherwise is simply not worthy of you.
  16. Trust your struggle
    For quite some time, I thought I was cursed for being brought up in the lifestyle I was in. There were days where I had wished my parents brought me into a different world. Today, I am thankful for the challenges I have faced because it has been my sole drive to succeed for not only myself, but for my family. Although I did not have a glamorous past, I wholeheartedly believe that “it doesn’t matter where you’re from. All that matters is where you’re going.” If you’re struggling, there is something worth fighting for. Although bad days seem like they last forever, they are really just temporary.
  17. Be humble and be kind. Help others when you can
    The world can be an awful, terrible, and ugly place. As Aesop has said, “no act of kindness is, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Be kind.
  18. Don’t be afraid to let go
    In addition to outgrowing people, sometimes it is best to walk away from people, as well as situations, that are parasitic to your life. Let go of negative vibes and of those who only know how to abuse your kindness and love. Bad energy will not only consume you. It will further control you and spoil your good heart from the inside out. Seek positive people who know how to love, support, understand, and appreciate you.
  19. Challenge yourself
    Is there anything you can do better? Are you being productive and efficient enough? Are you happy? Do not be complacent. Keep making moves. Be vocal if you need to. Strive for improvement and commit to reinventing yourself every day. Remember, you reap what you sow. Don’t expect great results out of anything if you’re putting in a mediocre effort.
  20. Invest in your health
    Taking care of yourself is not only vital to your health, but affects your attitude and daily performance. There are days where we will become overwhelmed with work and life that we forget to prioritize our well-being. Take a break from the noise and take time to rejuvenate. Do not overwork yourself to the point where you’re adopting bad habits. “Sleep well, eat well, move well, feel well, work well, play well.” Enhance your wellbeing for a better you. ( Yes, this was inspired by my job! 🙂 )
  21. Treat yourself
    Self-love is important. Spoil yourself here and there. Enjoy a night out with some friends, maybe splurge on a spa day, or simply wrap yourself in a comfy sweater and stay in bed with a tub of ice cream. Indulge in whatever helps you unwind. Sometimes you just need to refresh your mind, body, and soul.
  22. Document the good times
    We only live once and we’re only young once. Take pictures and videos of the good times while you can. Time does not stop for anyone and with time, there will be changes you cannot control. Keep documenting memories of your loved ones. When a person is gone, that is all you will have left to remember them by. Having some sort of memorabilia or memento is always nice to look back on.
  23. Forgive yourself
    As people, we are ever changing and are always growing. The person you were 5 years ago or even yesterday is no longer the person you are today. Don’t dwell on the mistakes you have made in the past. Let go, forgive yourself, and heal. Every day is a new beginning and everyday is another opportunity to work towards the best version of you.
  24. Never stop learning
    I strongly believe we are all life-long learners. You can never know enough. Knowledge enriches your life. And as they say, “knowledge is power!” Now go kick ass with your knowledgeable, wise self. I know I will this year.

With Love,
Linda