Day 28 (Fri)
Today I had originally planned on going on a motobike adventure and getting out of the city for a while. However I drank a bit too much Chang Beer last night and was pretty slow moving this morning. But my volunteer friends are leaving Chiang Mai tomorrow so I decided I couldn't waste the day.
My friends Kate and Frieda also wanted to get out of the city and see a waterfall so we decided to rent some motobikes (mopeds really) for the day. Though I have rented motobikes before and am pretty comfortable driving them around, I was a little nervous about navigating in a city as big and busy as Chiang Mai. But Kate sat behind me and with map in hand she navigated us through the city and out. I have mentioned before how really great the infrastructure here in Thailand is and it definitely helps when having to get around a foreign city. Though every time I made a right turn, I said "left, left, left" out loud to make sure to remind myself to stay in the left lane (which made Kate laugh every time).
Though Chiang Mai is a pretty awesome city, it was really great to be able to get out and see some of the beautiful countryside that is Northern Thailand. There are mountains all around, making for a very scenic ride. We went to some waterfalls that are on the Samoeng Loop outside of the city. The loop is suppose to be an excellent ride and we originally planned to make the whole trip but our late start didn't leave us with enough sunlight to make it back before dark (and I hate driving in the dark even in States, so I was most certainly not going to drive at night while in a foreign country and driving a moto).
The waterfalls are composed of 10 levels and it was a pretty good hike going up to see all of them. It felt great to be in the forest, breathing fresh air and getting some exercise. We waded into the water for a bit and it was refreshingly cold! It doesn't seem to matter how many waterfalls I see, I never really get tired of them! I always take so many pictures but of course you never seem to be able to capture the real beauty of them.
After seeing the falls for a while it was about time to head back into the city before dark. But even though our moto adventure wasn't what we planned, it was still nice to get out of the city for a little while and enjoy the outdoors!
Day 30 (Sun)
This weekend was my last in Chiang Mai. I met up with some other volunteer friends who are traveling around, including two of my island mates from Guimaras! It was really awesome to see them and catch up. We had all been traveling around and been to most of the same places, just in a different order, so we talked about our experiences traveling and our favorite sights. We also talked about missing the Philippines, the food we liked (we are pretty much always talking about food) and how we are all feeling about getting back to the States. I will be the next to get home as they are all travelling for a few more weeks.
We were all pretty worn out from our travels and stayed away from a lot of the "tourist things" while in Chiang Mai. Instead we just walked around, window shopping, eating and enjoying some of the night life that Chiang Mai has to offer. It was a pretty great ending to my travels, being able to relax and enjoy being with friends. Tomorrow is my overnight train ride to Bangkok, and then I will fly out to Manila. Last stop through the Philippines before I'm finally home-bound!
Day 33 (Wed)
So I finally made it back to Manila! My train ride to Bangkok was pretty uneventful, seeing as I slept pretty much the whole 13 hrs (those sleeper berths are really not too bad.) My flight from Bangkok to Manila wasn't till after midnight but thankfully I was able to spend the day at my friend's place (he was a volunteer in the Philippines but now works in Bangkok and I am so grateful I was able to relax there til my flight!) Taking a taxi to the Bangkok airport late at night would have been a bit expensive so I opted to take the brilliant metro rail system and airport link that goes straight to Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
After flying all night and arriving into Manila around 5am local time, I didn't make it to the hostel until close to 8am. For some reason getting through Philippines immigration takes longer than even Thailand. And when you're running on little sleep, having traveled for over a 24 hours and just gotten off a midnight flight, standing in line for another hour or so just to get your passport stamped is pretty frustrating... But I finally made it and am at pension (hostel) now. I will be here for two days, getting everything in order (mainly picking up and repacking my luggage that I had left here) before heading back to the States Friday!
I really can't believe that I have been in Asia for over two years now (27 and a half months to be exact!) It is a little surreal thinking about being back in America but I look forward to being reunited with my friends and family and for the holidays! I know I will have a time of readjustment of being back in the States and trying to figure out what my next steps will be.
But the last two years have been the most amazing and life changing experience. I have met people from around the world, immersed myself in another culture, learned a new language, and experienced different ways of life. I have eaten new and sometimes "weird" food and learned new customs and ways of doing things. Though there have been some challenging times, whether it be puking my brains out readjusting to food, dealing with new "bathroom situations", or constantly standing out as a foreigner in a strange land... but the rewards have far outweighed any of this. I have made new and amazing friends whom I will never forget, been accepted into a small island community, and worked with locals for environmental sustainability. It has been an amazing journey! And I know it will never really be over. I am forever changed by this in ways that I can't yet comprehend. Though I go back to American and will eventually fall back in to the way of life there, a part of me will always be a little Filipina. And I will always consider a small island called Guimaras to be my home on the other side of the world. So, really, I leave one home for another.
This will be my last post for this blog. I hope that in some small way I have been able to share some of my experiences with others and achieve that third goal of PC, to help others know, love and appreciate the Philippine culture and people the way I do.
Thank you Philippines for an amazing two years! Damo gid nga salamat sa Pilipinas!
And the journey of life continues....