Revelations In Bangkok

Hey, Carly here!

Well, I’ve been journaling again. And having some real revelations that Johnny thinks I should share. So here’s what’s gone down since our last post:

Tomorrow we leave Bangkok for our next Thai destination and we’ve never been more prepared and more energized for departure. It’s crazy the revelations the bustle of a new big city can bring you. After only three days in the infamous capital of Thailand, I can say with my whole heart: I love this place.

The people, the food, the captivating modern-metropolis-meets-old-world vibe. It feels like a place where anything can happen–and if your heart’s in the right place then that’s a really good ‘anything’.

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There’s a feeling that’s been creeping up in me, like something compelling me to stop holding myself back. We’ve been very conservative on this trip, making decisions frugally and letting cost dictate a lot of our experiences. It feels like the “adult” thing to do, count your pennies and spend them carefully. We are traveling for five months, after all. No extra debt for us when we go home.

But I think maybe the transition from Cambodia’s desperate economy to Bangkok’s self-reliant one did something to me. I don’t feel so defensive of our finances since we arrived, perhaps because we don’t have every person we meet trying to convince us to spend it.

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In any case, this new relaxed atmosphere allowed me an epiphany: I’ve been letting money determine what I want. It was getting so bad I couldn’t even look at a menu objectively to see what made my mouth water. And on the larger scale, Johnny and I weren’t letting ourselves craft a vision in our heads of what activities, sights and accommodations we’d REALLY love to enjoy because it was always about getting the cheapest price. In other words, our fear of losing money has been killing our dreams before we even let them start. We’ve been lowering our standards and effectively removing our reason to strive.

I’ve loosened up noticeably over the past few days when it comes to meticulous spending, but it was a serendipitous set of events yesterday that pushed me over the edge to my miraculous new mindset.

Firstly, I let myself look at the way-too-expensive places to stay at our next destination. I guess I was just sick of always feeling like the lower echelon scum that doesn’t deserve to have nice things. So I looked. And I saw this beautiful, unique set of villas and bungalows built into the cliffside in the middle of the jungle, with tasteful, richly coloured furniture inside sharing space with large boulders. It was like my little girl paradise, the equivalent of a blanket fort inside of a cave, but with all the comforts and nice things grown-up me would like.
It was, of course, totally out of our price range. Thirty dollars a night was already pushing it for our modest budget, so $148CAD/night was like pssh, in our dreams. But the key here is, I dreamed.

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And then I had a crazy idea. Why not write the manager and see if they have a honeymoon rate? Maybe even tell them about the videos we’ve made along the way and see if they have a villa open for a quirky Canadian couple while they make a video showcasing their resort? What was there to lose, really?

After sending that email, I felt kind of daring and decided to send a few more to other nice places in Ko Tao, although I never found one I liked as much as the first one. It felt good to dream again, to challenge myself and get creative about how to get what I want.

We went on with our day and I forgot about it until two hours later, when I opened my email to find a response from André the manager of the boulder place: “Great pitch, luv your style and gotta admit, I do have a soft spot for cool Canadians. Let’s get it on!”

And just like that, my little dream became a reality. We take a night bus tomorrow to Ko Tao and will be staying one week rent-free at La Cigale. What!?! I’m still bursting with excitement and disbelief that I made that happen! Like, if I changed my price filter settings on Trip Advisor as I usually do, none of this would have gone down. That was when I really began to recognize the magic of tearing down the self-imposed financial barriers to your dreams.

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And so later that day I was practicing this idea even more. Being freer to decide what we WANT first, before the money filter kicks in. So walking down the wild, vivacious party central of Khao San Road, heck yeah we got a couple of large Chang beers to cool our hands down. And when I looked at sunglasses, I never asked how much, because I didn’t care–I didn’t like any of them. The freedom to make decisions based on what I really desired let me stop feeling like a victim to my financial situation and empowered me to say no to something because I didn’t want it. And say yes when I did want it, if the price was worth it to me.

The events that went down later that night were what clinched it. We spent a good hour seeking out this cool shisha bar a friend told us about, Bombay Blues, tucked away around a curve of road that most of the Khao San crowd didn’t get to. We really wanted a hookah, and nearly lost the scent numerous times before finally tracking it down. It looked super vibey, with red cloth pinned up like sails hanging from the ceiling and soft light glowing through the fabric. But when we walked up the first words out of our mouths were “How much?”

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When they told us–500 baht, or more than $18CAD–our steps drew up short. That was hugely expensive for our standards, especially compared to Bali where we enjoyed hours of shisha for six dollars. But here in Bangkok, shisha is illegal so it’s hard to come by. Fair enough. Still though, that would shoot us well over budget.

I’ve already mentioned how I had been loosening my white-knuckled grip on our finances, so for me I was ready to say carpé diem, treat yo self, YOLO. But Johnny was stalled at the door, uncertain of the right move to make.

For the record, I’m always the money stickler and Johnny’s usually the relaxed one, so this is a real testament to how much my anxious budget management has rubbed off on him. It was there that I realized, for the sake of our ability to enjoy things we really wanted to do on this trip, I needed to let the leash go and trust that our instincts would help make it work. So I light-heartedly laughed and marched inside, saying “Don’t worry Johnny, let’s have fun!”

And that’s where we met the Thai police officers.

They were sitting at the table behind us. Not in uniform, and not there to bust anyone. They were just having a good time, like anyone else. So when they made conversation with us and charismatically invited us to share their Red Label whiskey, we of course said heck yes! and made our first four Thai friends.

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The night that went down was unanimously our favourite experience thus far on the trip. Totally by chance, dependent on every right decision being made, we met these remarkable and hilarious men who not only changed our minds about Thai police but showed us a party that I doubt any other foreigners can claim to have experienced. We had in front of us a full rank: “Is” the Senior Sergeant (“big boss” as they kept referring to him), “Pete” his First Sergeant and English translator, “Tik” the Second Sergeant and “Golf” the Corporal.  They fed us, shared our hookah, laughed at stupid things with us, talked about family and their special bond together as officers. Invited us on a fishing trip, gave us their phone numbers to call if we get into any trouble, schemed with us, shared some of their secrets. And at about 2am, as the bar was closing down, they asked the question that I will never so no to: “You want to go sing karaoke?” The only question was how we were going to get there.

So there we were, me, Johnny and Pete piled onto the back of Pete’s motorbike, ripping through Bangkok and cackling our heads off at what’s even happening right now. “Don’t worry, I am Thai police, you are safe,” Pete firmly assured us.

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We pulled up to the police station and they brought us up to their office, where we thought we were just stopping in before heading to the karaoke place. But then a microphone came out, a TV flicked on and we realize: we’re about to sing karaoke at 3 in the morning in the Bangkok police station.

I of course sang Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’, because it’s everywhere out here. Johnny led a sing-along to ‘Hotel California’ for the same reason and because, come on, it’s The Eagles. Is the Senior Sergeant sang us a moving Thai classic and taught me how to do the fancy hand movements to it (eg below). And I will never forget Pete asking me to sing ‘What’s Up’ by 4 non blondes for him as though it was his dying wish, and me obliging while he rapturously bellowed along. 

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The night ended around 4am with hugs, Facebook connections and our “big boss” hailing us a cab and telling the driver exactly how to get us home.

You can’t buy experiences like these. And yet, dubiously, we’ve been having a variety of encounters as unique as this one (I’ll have to write about our Balinese pal Ben one of these days.) I find they often come as a signal that you’re on the right path. Looking back on times when everything seemed to be going wrong in my life, I can  recognize now how far I had to go before I got on track. And when I met Johnny, everything in life and between us just started falling into place like it was already predetermined. That’s how I knew he was my person to walk this path of life with.

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Now, as we experience the ups and downs of traveling together and have stumbled on this new freeing mindset, it feels like we’ve just found our feet on the path again. We just need to work at keeping them there.

In short explanation, money doesn’t deserve all our energy. Allowing ourselves to live, experience, dream and be inspired does. The more we invest in those things, monetarily or otherwise, the more return we’ll get. Last night, we were afraid to buy $18 shisha because we would want to have a drink with it and that would skyrocket our budget.

But for the cost of that shisha, in reality we got bottomless whiskey, beer and snacks, transportation, a free tour of the police station and an unforgettable experience with some people we’re honoured to now call friends. 

And if we start letting ourselves be driven by our dreams and not by fear of losing, then I believe the opportunities will be endless.

See what I mean about what Bangkok did to me??

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