May has been a whirlwind so far.
Gustavo is packing everything up in the apartment and canceling all our services. In just four more days, he leaves Rio to set up our home permanently in the United States.
At the same time, after just two short weeks home, I went on a work trip to Bangkok, Thailand. (If you’re wondering, “Didn’t she just go to Japan?” Yes, my travel itinerary has been insane lately – Japan in March, Rio in April, Thailand in May, and, soon enough, Morocco in June. Phew.)
First stop: Vienna
Because we were in Japan so recently, and because of everything else going on right now, I was hesitant to spend any extra time in Thailand. I also wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I only had a very, very short week to visit, amidst conference schedules and jetlag. Still, I made the most of it.
Flying over, I got lucky. My colleague/friend who was traveling with me lives in Vienna, which was also a connection option for me. I ended up opting for the 15-hour layover so I could check out of the airport for the day, sleep, shower, and see a little bit of the city.
I actually stand by this being one of the best options. If/when I go back to visit, I definitely intend to take a day or two somewhere in Europe to recoup and recover before getting on another long-haul flight.
In Vienna, we had lunch at a local restaurant, walked along the canal, stopped at a historic café, and made our way home through the city center. I’ve been to Vienna before and quite liked it, so it was a nice chance to see it again.
Second stop: Thailand
From the moment the plane doors opened in Bangkok, the heat and humidity rushed forward. It felt like Rio. Walking through the airport, you could feel the air conditioners struggling. That kind of weather is impossible to fight.
On the first night in Bangkok, we explored one of the streets just next to the hotel and had, appropriately, pad thai and some durian fruit dumplings. (I learned, quickly, that durian – much like jackfruit – is not really my thing.) While the next few days were filled with meetings and conferences, I did try to walk around a bit in the mornings, either to take in the river or the various little shops and homes around our hotel.
Bangkok is busy and overwhelming. As I ventured out on my own, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of anything. I stumbled hesitantly across things that were familiar – a coffee shop, a 7-Eleven – and researched the things I didn’t know after I was back in the comfort of my hotel. It was interesting.
Fortunately, I had a little bit of time to see some of the city outside of our hotel area. We took a brief tuk tuk tour of some of the more popular temples – the gigantic standing Buddha and the golden seated Buddha. I actually enjoyed riding in the tuk tuks quite a lot. They move a little bit faster than cars and, when you pick up speed, allow you a nice breeze to cut the heat. But when you’re in traffic, the hot sun plus the exhaust of the cars around you is quite a mixture.
I also got to visit Wat Pho, the temple of the reclining Buddha. On the day we arrived, someone suggested visiting and I had it in my mind that I needed to get there before I left. So Friday morning, I hopped in a cab and made my way there.
I was overwhelmed with emotion as we pulled up. I’d never seen anything so ornate and beautiful, ever. The temple was much, much larger than I expected, but still peaceful. It was silent as everyone walked barefoot around the 49-meter long Buddha in the cool shade of the temple.
Around the grounds, there were a variety of statues, small places of worship, and buildings with layers and layers of detail. I had to keep shielding my eyes to be able to take it all in, even with that midday sun.
I know there is so much more to see in Thailand, but I loved my initial taste. This year is full of changes, but we’re already talking of places we can travel together from our new home base. I can’t wait until the next time.