Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Asia Adventure Part 1: A Disclaimer

I've been back from my trip to Asia for nearly a month now. This is, quite shamefully, the longest that it's ever taken me to blog about a trip. But with good reason.

Before I left, I met with Natty for drinks to talk Thailand. And while she provided me with some great advice, it was something that she had written on her blog that I carried with me throughout my travels.

“Travelling is a funny thing," she wrote. "Every experience will be completely different depending on your company, on where you go, on where and what you choose to eat, and beyond that, it depends heavily on your state of mind and the energy you exude to others.”

This is part of the reason why it's taken me so long to write this—because in the case of my own Asia adventure, there were four key factors that affected my experience. So before I can write anything else about my trip, I need to get these out of the way:

Rooftop pool at the D & D Inn in Bangkok.

1) My trip to Southeast Asia, from its very inception, was about my breakup.

I present to you, dear readers, the timeline of events: 

May 21: My relationship ends. 

May 28: I message Mike: “I am thinking about doing a month-long trip someplace in October and was going to see if you were interested in coming. I'm thinking SE Asia.”

Mike replies to me less than five hours later: “I totally am!!!"

June 2: Court and I are drinking in Trinity Bellwoods, basking in a self-loathing and feebly attempting to pick up park boys. (This isn’t vital to the story, but it’s worth noting that we failed in our quest. However, if our goal would have been to develop massive next-day hangovers, then I would rate the afternoon as a success.)

Mike calls. I don’t actually remember the conversation, but I think it went something like this:

“You’re not going to bail on this, are you Jessica?” (Mike, being the only human being who consistently says my whole name.)

“Mike, why don’t boys like me?” (Read that with a slight slur and a whine for proper effect.)

“Jessica, I need to know if we’re going on this trip.”

“Yes, let’s do it. I know I'm drunk right now, but I promise you that I won’t bail.”

And that, my friends, is the way that the best vacations are planned—10 days after a break-up, drunkenly, in the throes of self-loathing and with a general disregard for finances. Bam!

So there’s no way around this integral fact—I wanted to go away because after six consecutive years of being in relationships, I found myself suddenly very much single.

“This is how I deal with break-ups,” I explained to my friend Andrew a week later. “I get a new tattoo, I go travelling and then I get on with my life.”

Outside the Sensoji temple in Tokyo. 

2) Travelling with a platonic friend of the opposite sex means explaining to a lot of disbelieving people that you are just platonic friends of the opposite sex (and not on your honeymoon).

Since we’re already talking about my breakup, I think it’s at this point that I make something excessively clear: Mike and I never have been, and never will be, romantically or sexually involved. 

First, a little context. I’ve known Mike since the fifth grade, but I would argue that we’ve only been friends since the sixth, when we bonded over a mutual love of 
Are You Being Served? (Strangely, there weren’t many other 11-year-olds in Cold Lake who truly appreciated the ‘70s British sitcom.) I’ll admit that I went through a period in grade eight when I harboured a crush on him, but nothing ever came of it. By the time we were 15, we had friend-zoned one another and that’s the way it’s been ever since.

On the plane to Koh Samui. Yay for Bangkok Airways!

Before I left for this trip, I had a lot of people (mainly dudes) trying to convince me that even after all these years, Mike was secretly in love with me.

“Just wait until you have to share a bed,” they insisted.

And share a bed is exactly what we did, for almost two weeks. Here are the following things that happened in bed: every morning, I hacked up an ample amount of flem; we avoided touching each other at all costs (kind of like two teenage boys who have been forced into sharing a bed on a school sports trip—at one point there was even a pillow down the middle as a barrier); I decided it was the perfect point in our relationship to start farting in front of Mike; and in one luxurious bungalow (which cost a whopping $6/night), Mike slept under a musty towel.

Needless to say, I am fairly confident that Mike is not secretly in love with me (not that I ever doubted otherwise).

3) Prior to my vacation, I had only taken three days off in two months. I had been working an average of 12 hours a day and had spent the weeks prior flying all over Canada for work. 

I was an exhausted mess.

My immune system gave out in Thailand and I got the first cold that I’ve had in over two years. By the time I reached Cambodia for the solo leg of my journey, I was coughing up blood every morning.

A rare downpour while waiting for the ferry from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao.

4) It was the “rainy” season.

The Good: The weather was actually awesome for the duration of our travels. There weren't any crowds and everything was crazy cheap.

The Bad: Sometimes, we were the only people staying at our resorts.

It's hard for me to be honest about the month that I spent overseas without acknowledging these four factors. Was my trip to Asia the most fun ever? No, but I still had a really good time. Was it everything that I had expected? Not at all, although my own expectations had been tempered by other people's nostalgia. But was it exactly what I needed? Absolutely. And would I do it all in the same way? In an instant.

Next up is Asia Adventure Part 2: Tokyo.

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