Airport reflections

Some days I feel old. Especially in airports. My ass is planted in a plastic formed seat in the small regional airport of Udon Thani, north eastern Thailand. 35 WiFi networks and none of them public.

Why?

Because fuck you. That’s why.

Time on the road can jade you just a bit. Cranky ass old people are a fixture of modern day life. As I sit here and embrace my inner cantankerous bastard, some glorious truths shine their benevolent rays of goodness light upon me…and I soften a bit.

Let me explain.

Am I a bit sore/tired? Sure. Why is that?

Well it happens to be because I averaged around 10 miles per day hiking all over the lower regions of Laos. The small yet charming south East Asian country being #72! and having evaded me (barely) this time last year. Now, this entire shot was just a bit over two weeks, and as it’s winding down, I’m absolutely elated. I’m grown man giddy. I have so much to write about, so many memories and sordid tales. Pictures, conversations, connections…the real shit that gets the blood flowing.

I know for many of us, we get lost in the worlds dumpster fires. Blind tribalism, shit strap politics, and overall doom and gloom.

I left that shit behind. I had no choice. This year certainly had its share of suck. Big epic balls of suck. But I’m still here, and I’m still standing. Pushing forward and stoked on what’s ahead. If it’s toxic, let it be. Don’t carry it around with you. Shits heavier than lead. Instead I’ve focused on making a difference, making my dent, and never giving in to the quiet desperation that seems so prevalent. Wrapped around all of this goodness is a fluffy, warm, slightly crispy pressed tortilla of stupendous optimism. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a feel fucking good burrito. The power of unbridled optimism feels weird at first, but then a euphoria settles in. It’s like a savage orgasm, only for your personality.

So my ass might be numb. I might be a bit sunburned. I may have believed my death imminent in the back of a tuk tuk today, I may feel a bit battered from vans, planes, boats, border crossings, and all the rest…I have longer pieces to finish and some logistics to sort…in short, I might feel a bit old in this airport…But I also feel the power of hope, and the concept that if I were to get creamed by a fruit truck next week, or my plane were to go down, I couldn’t be angry. I’ve been fortunate enough to jam on my dreams for over a decade now. I’ve pushed my self, my goals, and my ambitions farther than I ever thought possible. I’ve had a chance to love the fuck out of so many people. I’ve counted on and been saved by those same folks more than I should admit.

Seeing the world, sharing glimpses with you, and blasting ignorance in the pills every semester in my classrooms. Thank you for coming along, and helping me along the way.

More soon.

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Back to Bangkok, Time to Rock

When you roll the travel dice, and tempt the divine powers that be, you can never really tell what’s going to happen. I’ve relied on fate mixed with a bit of intuition, thrown down with a dash of inspiration to steer my wayward ass on countless occasions. This time around, I was coming out of a savage yet rewarding semester. I had taken on more classes than ever, and drowning in bluebooks, prepping like a madman and holding it all together along with the backdrop of an incredible year of change had left me optimistic, yet a touch depleted. More on that shit possibly later.

I waited until the last possible second.

“I need to get the fuck out of here”

“Tickets look kind of pricey”

“Well shit”

I could have stayed home, tended to a few things, prepped for next semester, etc…but lo and behold, after scanning possible routes for a few weeks, in the midst of finals, days before departure what falls into my lap?!

A scuzzy bargain basement fare to Bangkok Thailand. Don’t go and read the reviews. Stop being scared. Stop wasting all of your fucks thinking about what could go wrong. Embrace what could go right, tap into the stunning ass power of ridiculous optimism instead. Kick fear in the dick, and let hope reign supreme. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

Boom. Do it. Don’t look back.

For two months worth of most people’s cable bill, I was out of here. 15 ass numbing hours to Shanghai , then five more to Bangkok, this adventure was underway. I had finally finished grading in the wee hours the night before with my trusted buddy Frank, courtesy of some amazing friends. (Reason #16578 not to be a twat, friends make the world go ’round)

Frank always offers stellar moral as well as academic support

Thus I was able to grab a bit of shut eye. My flight from China landed at 2:00 AM after 25 hours, and 10,000 Miles. All grades submitted, everything graded. 2018, mostly survived. My cab driver despite lack of English kicked on the jams, and him, I and Neil Young rocked into the city.

Late night eats and into my hotel. I’ve been loving the simple things as of late, and so many aspects of Thai culture resonate with that. From outlook, all the way to flavor profiles.

This is my third time to the land of a thousand smiles, and this journey is just getting started.

Ready to get lost with me??

Leave some love, or don’t.

An island like no other… dispatches from Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is on my mind. Travel they say, is the act of leaving the familiar behind. Few things about Sri Lanka proved familiar. In my end analysis, Colombo especially, proved a nut I was unable to crack.

Now having returned and neck deep in the glowing heart of Bangkok, I’ve been unraveling my experience on the island for an afternoon.

Sri Lanka for me was mostly unknown. I had a hazy framework of colonial rule, beaches, and curry. Not a bad trifecta as far as travel destinations go. My last minute run to the island started off a bit rocky, and continued to haunt me a bit throughout the week. I was often left feeling that there was something I was missing. Despite my best efforts, I was seemingly “stuck in the lobby” on a regular basis.

As I was boarding the Air Asia flight from Kuala Lumpur, (after making it rain at the airport Popeyes) the gate agent, upon looking at my ticket and passport asked “where is your visa”?

I went cold for a bit. I was (mostly) sure I didn’t need a visa for Sri Lanka. She asked again giving me that face that suggests I ate too much paste as a kid.

“Visa”??

I explained that we didn’t need one? And eventually was allowed to board. The entire flight of 3 hours and 20 minutes I had visions of being denied entry and awarded the “idiot American of the month” trophy.

Not to worry however. Sri Lanka thinks it loves tourists, and thus the visa, is available on arrival, for 40$ USD, they take major credit cards (didn’t ask about diners club) and the line takes 2 minutes.

From this point, you are recognized as an easy access, no fee ATM. There is no going back. You are a walking community coin purse. Takes a bit getting used to.

Making my way to the taxi stand, after waiting in a 20 minute line for a cash machine, the “official airport taxi” uniform guy prints me a receipt for 2800 Sri Lankan Rupees for the trip to my downtown hotel. Now I’m used to paying the “tourist tax”. It’s part of traveling. Prices for you are going to be higher than they are for locals.

Get over it.

Getting schemed bums me out though. The 2800 was already high. My taxi pulls up in a car that looks more hand crafted from old pizza boxes and bondo than metal. My driver is no joke the villain from Disney’s Aladdin…in his old man jail disguise. He’s also sporting a T-shirt that reads “Friday is my second favorite F word”

We never get over 60km an hour, and it’s 90 outside. (Sorry Michigan, we can defrost together soon) The driver keeps looking back and grinning just like he wants me to grab him cave treasure when he asks if I want him to take the “high way”…because it’s 300 rupees extra.

Now I know, it’s 2$ USD. But I’ve been in country now for 30 minutes. We can “no take high way, hour extra” which I wasn’t game for.

These types of situations were often repeated, along with constant attention from the Tuk Tuk mafia, and other enterprising locals hoping to “help you out”. Side note: I hate being called “boss” and “big man” when people pitch me anything. I seem to elicit these two titles in South Asia a bit too often.

Now this is not to say that Colombo, and Sri Lanka doesn’t have an amazing side. It most assuredly does. I had some shockingly awesome moments and walked away with a quite distinct impression that this place is on the edge of a cliff. If you want to go, go NOW. Because this place, the island I spent a week on will not be recognizable in 10 years tops.

It took me a bit to realize what made Colombo so much different than my previous spots on this run. It’s barely developed. The money is just now starting to pour in, mostly from China, and it will completely change this place. The skyline is already filling in with new high rises and construction projects. The Hilton is finished, the new Grand Hyatt is nearing completion. The planned new China harbor project will be 15 billion USD in scope, and remodel Colombo into the “gem of Asia”.

(A gem most likely free of locals)

This just in. Sri Lanka does not feel like Asia whatsoever. There are similar qualities between Tokyo, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Hong Kong.

Colombo is something totally different. This place has the fringes of globalization, there is KFC, Pizza Hut, and a few hotel chains, but at heart, there is still an authentic culture residing.

In my week here, I was simply unable to unravel it. I thought giving up on Colombo and venturing to the ancient capital of Ceylon might do it, wandering through tea plantations and visiting my second temple focused on a tooth of the Buddha might clear the separation. Give me my eureka moment…while I had a tremendous experience in the mountains, and especially with the elephants…I was still left wanting.

My pictures from the capital, as well as the highlands evoke mystery to me. I met and partied with locals, as well as other visitors, I tried internet resources…all to no ultimate avail.

But in the end that’s okay. By my final days there, I just wanted to experience this place that I could practically feel eroding under my feet. Sri Lanka is indeed an island like no other. Perhaps I’ve been immersed in commercialization and raw globalist influence for so long, encountering something outside of it strikes me dumbfounded. I was immediately reminded of Cuba. My drive to get there and see something so different before it fell to the resort life, and non stop development. Perhaps I should have spent more time in the mountains…but isn’t that always the case?

For now, Sri Lanka will remain a riddle. A rapidly disappearing riddle. From 2000 year old Buddhist temples, to shop keepers burning their trash on the sidewalk. From a culture of Spicy curry, to an endless row of cheap questionable gas station style hamburger stands. Off the beaten path to reset the radar. If you feel the need to get lost, this is your place. But pack shipping containers of patience and an open mind. Also be sure to book that ticket yesterday.

Being back in Thailand feels strange, such a total transition. By the time I landed in Bangkok, after realizing monks in Sri Lanka receive automatic priority boarding…I felt like I had been gone for months. My days on the island bled together into a seamless warm haze.

Do we need more elephants here? Maybe have a elephant post? I’m thinking so.

Also follow me on Instagram for more updates kweaverton

Always dig your feedback and comments!

Thank you!

Almost time for the lost city…to Angkor we will go!

Relaxing in my divey hotel before the flight to Cambodia. Few places have resided on my list for a longer period. Angkor has haunted my travel dreams for years.

South East Asia has a climate that essentially precludes me from venturing here save for a narrow window. The temples, the street food, the warm and curious people prove fascinating, but as the temp rises past 90 I begin to die on the inside. The weather so far this run has been fucking majestic. The hottest stretch of the day is perfect for an AC inspired nap. The morning treks to the temples have been my favorite. Well, the night markets have been awesome as well.

The temple grounds, in the morning, on a week day are practically empty. You absolutley will not see my ass out here in 100+ degrees battling swarms of crazed camera toting tour groups, melting into a bright white puddle. No thank you.

The great thing about Bangkok is that there are numerous temples to wander. Beware of the tuk tuk drivers pitching you packages, as they often have a bevy of other various services they’d like to sell you as well. Take a morning or two, and go at your own pace. Stop and hit up the street vendors for fresh fruit and absorb the feeling of this big crazy city and it’s pockets of ambience.

And of course, Wat Pho. This is a must. Jet lag for me at this point works in strange ways. For Europe, it’s not bad at all, for Asia, however, I’m up incredibly early. I’m ready to rock at 5:30 am. Although, despite this round in Bangkok, what seems to be a feline orgy outside my window into the wee hours. (Cat sex sounds as awful as you’d imagine by the way). That aside, this city is a completely different place in the early morning. Hit the temples refreshed and non hungover.

Just a few days in the bustling Thai mega city remind me why it never left my mind over the last decade. Visions of Bangkok are distinct and vibrant. This was after all, my first city in Asia. Now I’ve returned, and soon to be headed into the jungle to embrace my inner Indiana Jones and wander the temple ruins for a few days.

The grand question is…where to after that?

Cambodia will be country #67. What an incredible year it has been.

Thanks for the feedback, always greatly appreciated!

Doing it Dirty in Bangkok

When we last spoke I was looking forward to the long haul from Chicago, connecting through Shanghai and then finally onto Thailand. This was my first time flying China Eastern Air, and don’t worry, I jumped on this grenade for you…it wasn’t as bad as expected.

Now I don’t typically fly Skyteam, but when I do it’s a sub 340$ fare round trip to South East Asia. Like many of you, I would see these dirty cheap flights and be rightfully wary, but it all depends on how bad you want it.

How long was that flight?

Enough for a solid nap, 3 meals, and the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. (Not the extended editions)

What happens when you wrap up final exams, race to Chicago to snag your ass numbing yet fantastically cheap holiday flight to Asia?

You take a bit of a beating, but on a warm inviting weeknight in December, you find yourself dropped into the sheer assault on the senses that is Bangkok; Gateway to Southeast Asia.

No more Kansas Billy. Time to cut those ropes, abandon the safety of the harbor and prepare for a bit of the exotic.

Bangkok is big. Bangkok is loud. Bangkok is pulsing. Alive with people, traffic, aromas and tastes the city itself is damn near a living thing. The heat mixes with exhaust and street food vendors, music and hawkers, go go girls and cafe owners all of which paints such an incredible contrast to the serenity of the many awe-inspiring Buddhist temples that dot this balmy metropolis.

I get it, it’s overwhelming. For an initial run, take it easy. Breathe. Be patient. Open your mind, and embrace all the craziness you can.

And promptly take a mid day nap. (Seriously. Drink water, and nap. This will save your life)

Today found the perfect mix for me, I chose a dingy cheap spot in an outlying neighborhood with a good shower and cold AC.

My goal? Street food and the river.

meats on sticks makes the world a better place.

It’s been ten years since I last visited the Thai capitol. When I showed up here the first time, a undergraduate student with a small group, it was my very first time in Asia. I was intimidated by street food.

Let me tell you, once you take the plunge, there is no turning back. You cone to realize that with the more human the desire, the less tolerance for boredom there is. In short, life is far too short for boring food. (That goes for conversation, sex, and travels)

Abandon the Applebee’s, never look back, and thank me later.

Protein!

Open your mind and especially your tastebuds to the unknown. If anything, it at least makes for a cool party story.

Somehow it took less than 24 hours before I was back on the river

The best part about the Chao Phraya river as it’s the heart of the city is witnessing the clash of classic Thai style with the more modern developments of recent times. Of course I found a twisted yet engaging tuk tuk driver to get me there, our 20 minute voyage including pitches for “tailored suites, happy endings, and happy hours” from various local bars.

That’s life in the big city. There will many people offering suits, drinks, and hand jobs. Certainly far worse trifectas can be found.

Post river I end up among many a golden Buddha…the serenity of the city restored before back to the night markets.

Kick ass first day. I’ve landed, I’m alive and I even scored a victory or two along the way. As always, there is more to come. Thank you for all of the positive feedback thus far!

Comments are always welcome.

cheers!!

Hold on to your butts.

Here we are again, back in Chicago at the must be modeled on purgatory O’Hare airport. Getting ready for this twisted run through Shanghai enroute to Bangkok.

I’ve only got a few minutes before being smashed into the ass of a Boeing Dreamliner for near 15 hours, so I’ll try to make this brief.

The holiday excursion is always something special. This particular lesson from the road cones from this weekend.

You can’t have amazing adventures if you’re an asshole. It’s just that damn simple. This whole trek for me was made possible by friends. Selfless friends who provided positive feedback, an open mind and collaboration, a long distance ride to a train station and even opened their new digs for an overnight crash. (Complete with spicy Indian food…sorry fellow passengers, but not really, you savage bastards)

I was amazed at the kindness which recharged my humanity batteries for the slog to Thailand.

Last but not least there was Frank. Frank and I hung out this morning and he helped remind me of a key mantra handed down from one Jeffrey Lebowski as I prepared to head to the airport;

“Life goes on man”

Frank is awesome. Be like Frank.

Every journey should start with bulldog friends and a shared meal.

Stoked to share some new awesomeness with everyone! Leave me a comment if you’re into it!