In 2010 I left China with a one-way ticket to Thailand. I had 10,000 USD in my pocket from working as an English teacher the previous year. I was a bit shell shocked from the intense year in Shanghai. So Thailand was the perfect getaway.
Over the course of the next six months I traveled alone in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Taiwan. This was a life-changing experience for me where I fell in love multiple times with the culture, people, and places I saw on this backpacking trip.
When I reach back ten years ago into my memories, a couple of things still stand out. One of these was when I was in Bangkok, and I visited the Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho. Imagine a golden Buddha lying down in a relaxed pose the size of several school buses parked lengthwise. It was beautiful, mysterious, and awe-inspiring at the same time. After soaking in the size and scale of the sculpture, I couldn't help imagine why humans would go through the trouble to build something like that.
Humans have been building enormous religious monuments for tens of thousands of years, but it's different when you read about them in books or see them on the Discovery Channel. Seeing the Reclining Buddha in person made me feel like it truly is limitless what humans can accomplish.
After making my way down to the south of Thailand by train, I took a bus to a sea port where I boarded a ferry boat to the south-eastern island of Ko Chang, off the coast of Cambodia. This was my first Thai island experience.
I read in the blogs that the furthest end of the island is the most unmolested by resorts and the tourism industry. So I headed straight there, to a place the Westerners call Lonely Beach. Here is where I saw the true beauty of Thailand's beaches. I booked a bungalow for 200 Thai Baht a night, or about six USD. It was perfectly primitive, with sand for floor, and thin pad for a bed, and a mosquito net. What more did I need?
Somehow walking around the beach I met two Australian backpackers, Nico and Melita, and we hit it off right away. We did a lot of chilling out together, like drinking banana shakes on the wooden beach deck, going beach bar hopping, and hungover breakfast back at the wooden deck. I never imagined life could be so simple. Back then we didn't have our phones with us. We didn't care if there was WiFi, and our priorities were catching the sunset everyday and happy hour on the deck.
Eventually I got cabin fever in my bungalow and longed to get back to the city, so I made my way back to Bangkok and eventually to Cambodia. Here is where I saw one of the most incredible things I've ever seen: the temples at Ankor.
I felt like I was visiting an alien planet as soon as my tuk tuk arrived at the site of the ancient temples. It's a temple city, mostly preserved except for the banyan trees that are slowly reclaiming the land by squeezing and strangling the temple structures. I stayed for sunrise at the main temple, waiting for the perfect photo opportunity the sun coming up turning the sky pink with the largest temple at the foreground. Ankor taught me that there are world's within world's if you travel far enough.