Tag Archives: Thailand

Does everything happen for a reason?

You may call it whatever you’d like. Karma, luck, coincidence, universal connection, destiny… The list goes on describing the energy that created this beautiful episode.

I was flying from Japan on my way to Cambodia with a layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As I boarded the large flight, my fingers were crossed that I had a decent seat considering the 8 hour flight I had just finished from Tokyo.

I was tired.

A small internal leap for joy occurred when I spotted my cozy location next to a window with only one passenger next to me. Glorious!

Happily settling in to my new temporary space, I put my reading book and iPad in the seat back in front of me and wedged my water bottle between me and the wall. Delighted that I’d only have one person to climb over during my frequent bathroom needs, I nuzzled in like a puppy next to a fire.

An elderly woman gently sat down next to me and I greeted her with a smile and a nice to meet you, don’t worry I’ll keep to myself nod. I noticed she seemed unsettled and a bit frazzled. Within moments, I found out why. The angelic woman turned to me and with a fragile voice said, “My husband is ill and we were seated seperatly, would you mind switching with him so we can be together?”.
The selfish side of me was sad to depart from the best seat on the plane, but without hesitation, I replied with some sort of “Of course, no worries”. I packed up my nook and looked for the man eagerly making his way to swap spots with me.

Ah, indeed his donation of a chair was in the middle seat of the compact center section of the plane. I tried to hide my deep breath as I realized that to one side of me would be a newborn in the lap of mom and on the other was a tech savvy teenager with his head buried in whatever device was in his hands.

I grinned as I awkwardly climbed over the young woman attempting to maneuver matrix style to avoid hitting the infant or the diaper bag blocking the foot path. I plopped down and started to unpack in hopes that this would be more comfortable than I was imagining. As I guided the diaper bag out of my way, the stressed mom leans in my direction and starts with an apology, “Excuse me, I’m sorry.”

Oh great.

“I’m flying with my daughter and mother, but my mom was seated apart from us. Would you mind switching with her so she can help take care of my little girl?”.

Almost giggling and knowing that the next neighborhood couldn’t be worse than this one, I quickly agreed and loaded up once more. By this time the flight attendants were pacing the aisles, securing doors and requesting all passengers to be seated for take off. I finally found my third attempt at a permanent spot and with relief, it was in the aisle. Nobody to climb over, leaning room on one side and an elbow partner that clearly wasn’t going to be a Chatty Cathy. Too exhausted to unpack quite yet, I leaned back with eyes closed to meditate my way back to being centered.

A small tap on my hand alerted me to the man on my left who was ready to talk. He politely asked if I’d like the middle seat. What? Who wants the middle seat!? I kindly said “no thank you” as my eyes wandered to his quivering hands. Beaded with sweat and clearly anxious, I asked if he was nervous.

His response was clear, “I don’t like to fly”.

At this point it was routine, so I quietly stood for him to have the aisle. Suppressing my desire to either break down or laugh hestarically, I sat slowly in the middle seat, leaned back once more with my eyes closed and took a deep breath.

“That was really nice what you did”. I heard a voice next to the window. It was a youthful female with a kind tone and a genuine smile that greeted my sight when I peered over.
“Awh thanks…. He’s nervous” I whispered.
“No”, she said, “I’ve watched you go from seat to seat that landed you here and that’s really kind of you. Hi, I’m Bree”.

That is how Bree and I met and that was the first day of many adventures to come.

This flight included a lengthy discussion that surrounded wonderful topics from traveling to relationships, health to the definition of happiness. You would of thought we had a script in front of us judging from the ease of the organic conversation.

Here’s a photo from the very plane ride I described above.

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Proceeding this flight, we departed ways as I was volunteering in Phnom Pehn and she was off to connect with a friend outside of the city. We were able to meet up just for a moment with high hopes to plan a small reunion in Thailand.

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Several weeks later, we (with the beautiful help of the universe) came back together in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Ten days, uncountable miles on foot, tastes of shared dishes, shopping through thrift stores, local gatherings, a Thai massage and one cooking class… We had “bonded” to say the least.

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At the end of our time together, we had already discussed when and where the next connection would be. To save you the details, I’ll just tell you with joy and wonderful memories, that we landed our reunion in Barbados!

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Our departure from the island was on the same flight and allowed for an emotional babble to reminisce of our past and wishfully dream for the future. Where next? How soon? The answers are still yet to be discovered, but one thing is for sure… I have found a dear soul that has enhanced my journey beyond what I could of imagined. Here’s the last photo we took together on our way back to the U.S.

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Dear Bree,
I have 6 dollars and a bag of nuts…

BREE HAD A RESPONSE TO THIS POST:

“Dear Erika,
I remember that first plane ride all too well. I was exhausted [I had spent the entire 24 hours before with my Bali family soaking up every moment until my 4am flight out of Denpasar], terrified [I was heading out of my safe Bali bubble into a the real backpacking world, alone, with no preparation, and very little idea of what was ahead of me], devastated [you of all people know the high I was coming down from, having spent the most spectacular four weeks of my life on an island of love and healing]… and did I mention I was exhausted?

I was looking forward to sleeping the entire flight from KL to Cambodia. I was looking forward to nestling in my little window seat. I was looking forward to some silence to meditate on my time in and away from my piece of heaven. I was looking forward to wallowing in my own self pity and shed my tears in peace.

LUCKY FOR ME this ball of light – all smiles and silver rings with big eyes and even bigger smiles – sat down next to me and burst my pity bubble like some sort of star exploding into a supernova. Did I mention this supernova came prepared with a snack bag?

I remember our conversation. I remember Indian Santa Clause, as he has been fondly called since that moment on. I remember thinking, “Excuse me? People like you exist?” I remember feeling blessed all over again and coming around to the idea that my “Bali bubble” was actually just a “life bubble” all along and the happiness and love was all around.

I remember Cambodia – gorging on popcorn and hot sauce with Semhal like it was our last meal and marathoning movies with Candice on those harem beds.

I remember Thailand – running around like some sort of street food fiends, looking for the banana leaf with the most bizarre filling and stalking the egg lady like she was some sort of bounty we were hunting. Not to mention all the “you will never believe what happened to me at work…” moments.

I remember every grand adventure and giggle fit; every beautiful happy memory. But do you want to know what I remember most? I remember you cutting your Barbados trip two weeks short and waiting on me hand and foot; walking miles in the rain to pick up coconut water and medicine, calling every doctor on the island to see who could do a house call, preparing all my meals for me, washing and braiding my hair to make me feel a little more human, and most importantly making me laugh hysterically any chance you got. I remember thinking, “good lord, what have I done in my life to deserve such altruism, such friendship, such love?”

I still think those things almost every day. There are a handful of moments in my life that I can look back on as flashes of “Karma, luck, coincidence, universal connection, destiny” that visibly and drastically changed the course of my life. Your game of musical chairs on that small Malaysian airline… I’m too scared to even imagine my life without it.”

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I’ll have the mystery meal please.

Yes, I’m the girl next to you on the flight that brings out the buffet of food that I’ve stored in my carry on. Pre-cut veggies, dips, fruit, nuts, crackers and so on. I usually just say “No thank you” when they offer the complementary meal, as I’ve never been a fan of the mystery meat and dinner roll they serve you. This round I thought I’d branch out a bit after I realizing that you get options for specific meals as long as you request it at least 48 hours before your flight. Why not?

First up is a short flight from Chiang Mai Thailand to Bangkok. I picked “Vegetarian” since I had some pumpkin seeds with me and I figured it would be a decent combo. I was served fruit, raw veggies, salsa and a side salad of raw veggies with a dinner roll. Good thing I wasn’t battling hunger (and it was a quick flight) so I just wrapped it up to take on the go.

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First snack of the journey? Leftovers from the previous flight (seen above) with those pumpkin seeds I had in my carry on.

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Next flight was a bit longer traveling from Bangkok to Shanghai, China. For this journey I previously selected “Gluten Free”. They served me poached eggs, steamed vegetables, two servings of fruit and some sort of gluten free bread (I’m assuming made from rice). Please keep in mind this is all for the experience and hopes for something new on a flight. I am in no way intolerant or allergic to any foods nor am I a proper vegetarian. I simply love food and surprises! For this one, I chose to eat the eggs and toast and save the fruit for a separate snack.

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What’s this… left over pumpkin seeds? Perfect!

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I still had a few hours to go while waiting in China, so I busted out my other carry-on meal which was a packet of miso soup. In the Shanghai airport, they have machines that deliver complimentary warm, hot or boiling water. You’d think this would be common, but more often than not, hot water is hard to find. I usually carry my own tea and oatmeal so I’m frequently in search of a cafe that will just put hot water in a cup for me or I settle for paying for the water since they “have to heat it”.

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Quick photo break! Here’s a few shots from the airport in Shanghai, clean with an open layout and traditional shopping options.

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Moving on to the flight from China to Tokyo, Japan. I wasn’t able to pre-select my choice for this 2 1/2 hour jaunt, so when the stewardess came around, I just asked for which ever had the most vegetables. My surprise platter consisted of fruit, rice crackers, veggies, potatoes, beef and a chicken salad. For dessert (I think) was what looked like a firm white custard-type jiggly puck shaped item.

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Although I’m not a vegetarian, I’m certainly a picky meat eater and airplane beef and questionable chicken is far from my first choice of protein. With that said, I transferred all of the veggies to one dish, stashed the rice crackers for later and offered the rest to my neighbor (a teenage boy that was eager for more food). Even he stared at the “dessert” for awhile and with a confused look just covered it up with his napkin.

Landing back in Tokyo my mind is satisfied with the experiment and my stomach is horribly confused and probably a little frustrated with me. Oh we’ll, I’m still happy, healthy and no longer have extreme curiosity of the meals I’ve always skipped on flights.

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Hello Japan, home sweet home? For now.

Wait… Did you say bees and ant eggs?

I’m still gratefully accepting donations for this season of “With our powers combined”!

Over the time spent in Chiang Mai, Bree and I hit several different markets trying what seemed like any and every item that was either new and curious or familiar and tasty. Lets start off with some sugary delights, why? Because every human should have dessert first once in awhile… It does the inner-child some good!

This sign stopped me right my tracks as I love frozen yogurt (well, pretty much anything that’s sweet and frozen) and I had never seen this before. They take a flavored ice block and attach it to a machine that shaves it so thin that it resembles the texture of snow. Amazing, I know! With flavors ranging from the typical options to green tea, chai, banana and even a “yogurt” that we can’t tell if it was actual frozen yogurt or just flavored that way. Doesn’t matter because it was delicious!

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I’m not a soda drinker, but kudos to this simple idea. They would pour your favorite drink into the cylinder, drop a stick in it and gently rotate it until they froze. Homemade pop cycles!

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For those who like baked goods, your options seemed unlimited. Yes, that waffle was made with shredded pork and it sat amongst the other flavors of coconut, raisin, chocolate and corn!

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Donuts anyone?

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This was a soft but crispy shell with a marshmallow type cream and your choice of topping melted into it. The yellow shavings? Definitely not cheese, it’s actually egg yolk! (Also to be seen in large qualities below).

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Here are some other sweets that caught the attention of my camera.

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The glorious group of fruit is in a different category for me. It’s not dessert or a topping to a salad nor do I love it dried or fried. My favorite way to consume it is by itself, freshly cut and first thing in the morning. They do it a bit differently in Asia, as it seems to be served up primarily in the evenings and usually blended.

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Moving on to the meat, fish and questionable items that they claim are edible.

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Vegetables… I think. If it’s green, it has to be healthy, right?

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What do you like in your omelet? Cheese, onions, ham and peppers? We went for bee and ant eggs… Turns out there’s a first and last time for everything!

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A few more fun items that may or may not be tempting while wandering the streets of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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I’ll close this scrumptious post with a beautiful plate of traditional Pad Thai that came from 29 Cafe. I highly suggests scouting out this hidden table if you’re in the area – thank you Zsuzsi and Vilmos!

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“The Yao of cooking”

Again I start with the idea that people cross your path for a reason, a season or a lifetime. On this day, I’m confident to say that I acquired all three of them!

Days prior I met Claudia who was introduced to me by Bree (the girl I met on the flight to Asia). The three of us partook in Monk Chat that led us to a beautiful organic cafe with this sign posted:

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After meeting the enthusiastic owner we decided to return in celebration of her book release. Plus, free gourmet organic food, live music and a multi cultural crowd? Can’t really go wrong with any part of that!

Blending with us is on this little adventure is also sweet Maddi, a new gal in our dorm room that was easy to chat with and willing to join! When we arrived the double story cafe was packed full of smiles, glowing energy and enough bare feet to question the reason we even bother wearing shoes.

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Downstairs there were sample trays full of her own recipes from flavorful spring rolls and sweet dip to a pumpkin-veggie-nut mixture that I could have swam in. We over heard the waiter ask the owner “how much food will be served?” Her response, “…until everyone has had their fill”. That alone should give you an idea of what kind of woman we’re talking about. Up stairs introduced you to floor tables, bean bags and more shining faces. You really couldn’t frown in a place like this!

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Recognize that jolly bearded man? Yes, another brilliant unexpected path crossing as that guy was the English teacher for the Monks that we just met. Turns out he’s also a fan of this quaint cafe trying to make a difference in the community. What joy reached his face when he glanced over and saw the three of us smiling back!

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There’s so much to look at in this shop! Have wandering eyes? Me too.

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The food eating slows and now it’s time for sweet Yao and her colleagues to share a little bit about their goals in regards to supporting local growers and artists. This is when what I think is going to be a neat little taste of a locals perspective, turns and hits me with an unpredictable love-punch straight to the heart.
There were times I felt like they talking directly to me…. maybe in my teary eyed little world, they were.

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The band started back up and books start flying off the shelf. Not literally, but I do think there were definitely multiple reasons of why the books were jumping into the hands of all of these smiles. The author is a quality, personable human being that puts just as much effort into her community as she does in her recipes.

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Instead of paying a huge company to bind the books in large quantities, she found this local artist that personally hand-bound (I think that’s how you say it) every single one. When I approached the table, I took time to look at each design and picked my absolute favorite. She smiled and held my hand as she whispered “I only made one like that, I’m glad you chose it.”

Heart…melting…again.

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You can imagine the natural high I was floating on as we left this building of love. I met people who had just the right thing to say at that moment, connected with some that I plan on seeing again and bonded even more so with my dear friend Bree.

Dear Yao,
Your soft voice speaks in volumes through your genuine eyes and passion towards helping others. I’m honored to have met you and I give thanks for your encouraging words and devotion to leading by example. You are a hero!

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Orange robes, bright streets and a local organic cafe!

There’s a poem that talks about people entering your life for a reason, season or lifetime. Some may think this is coincidental, others wonder if it’s work from their angels, guides or even their intuitive self. With that said, believe what makes you feel the best and enjoy the following sequence of events… they couldn’t have been planned anymore perfect than how they turned out.

Quick back story in under 30 seconds (depending on how fast you can read).
Deep breath in… and go!

A month ago, Bree met a German woman named Claudia in Bali while studying Yoga.
Two weeks ago, I met Bree on a flight to Cambodia.
On this day, all three of us connected in Chiang Mai in order to experience Monk Chat (to be described soon).

We got lost, followed a monk and found our way. Ironic?

Met the monks, spoke in their classroom, received a gift and was fed a meal while viewing a ceremony outside of the temple.

Later we stopped at a hidden organic cafe that is owned by a local chef who was having her first cookbook release in a few days. She personally invited us to come back and celebrate with free food, live music and book signing.

Wouldn’t you know it, the English teacher from the monks ceremony was also a fan of this mysterious hang out and was pleasantly surprised to see the three of us plus our other friend Maddie (a new gal along the path to be introduced later) supporting this driven local woman and her vegetarian cafe.

We returned for the book release party, met more people and heard a speech. On that day, with all of that energy in alignment…
I decided on the next step in my beautiful journey.
Thank you universe.

…and breathe.

Ok, time to explain these enlightening adventures and expand a bit out of the nut shell described above.

Back to step one: Claudia, Bree and I headed west towards the temple where we would get to experience a conversation with willing Monks that in need to practice their English. For more info on this popular Thai excursion, please check out the website at www.monkchat.net.

The journey started with our fingers crossed that we were going to find it on time, that was until we found (or he found us) an unexpected guide, thank you orange robe!

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We arrived and got seated at a private table with three monks ranging in age from 24 to 35. (I only know their age because one of my questions was in regards to celebrating birthdays (FYI- they acknowledge the day, but don’t necessarily “celebrate” it). After an hour of casual conversation, they invited us into the classroom where they were holding an English speaking competition. Each participate gave a speech and was scored and voted on by the three judges. What an honor to sit right along with them and get to witness the “behind the scenes” of a day in a studying monk.

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I’m not sure what this student was executing on his phone, but it makes me wonder what he possibly could of been doing at this moment.

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…and the winner? This gentle smile!

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After the awards were handed out, the attention unexpectedly turned to us sitting so I innocently observing from the back of the room. They called us to the front of the class and kindly proceeded to ask us questions ranging from personal history to recent travels. Here was our view:

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To complete this memorable event, we all posed for a group photo and bowed out gracefully (literally… bowed our way out).

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As if we hadn’t already had an evening full of stimulating conversation and heart warming attention, on our way out this crowd invited us over to partake in the complimentary food, drink and desserts that they were sharing. People of Thailand, your hospitality and genuine courtesy continues to shine, thank you!

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The sun was down and the three of us enjoyed a walk back to the city, taking in the vibrant street decor that was in preparation for the Loi Krathong and Yi Peng Lantern Festival . What a colorful Illumination of an already brilliant city!

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Handstand shot? I would be honored to be a part of this colorful backdrop!

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Add this gorgeous view to the list of things that you don’t get to see every night!

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After being embraced at the Monk Chat and then surround by the street lights, our walk turned even brighter with a quaint cafe that opened their doors and invited us in. Yao, the owner of The Birds Nest Cafe was days away from celebrating her first cookbook release. Guess what the next post is about…

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