Singapore: 10 Things to See and Do

8 Min. Read

One of the Four Asian Tigers.
Multi-Cultural City-State.
Global Financial Hub.
Foodie Heaven…

We could only be talking about one place really…

Singapore

Yep. Singapore.

Founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post for the British empire, Singapore had evolved into one of Asia’s economic powerhouses and with a population of 5.7 million people, it is home to the world’s highest percentage of millionaires and its property is among the most expensive. Singapore has been rated the world’s most expensive city to live in multiple times, although this year, that award goes to Hong Kong.

But still.

This sovereign city-state island is one of the 4 Asian Tigers, powerful high-income countries with remarkably high growth rates. The others being: Hong Kong (of course), Taiwan & South Korea.

But Singapore ain’t just about money.

Home to a very diverse and well integrated society mainly comprised of Malays, Chinese & Tamil, Singapore’s world famous diversity is well ingrained in its constitution and culture.

And it shines brilliantly.

Are you curious now?

Cool.

Let me show you around.

1. Marina Bays Sands

Firstly, if there is one place that stands out from the rest in Singapore it’s the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino. And rightfully so. As the world’s most expensive standalone casino property, the Marina Bay Sands has it all: The world’s largest elevated swimming pool? Check. Nightclubs? Check. Over 300 high end stores? It has that too.

Completed in 2010, the property also boasts a museum, a large theater, art & science exhibitions, 10 celebrity chef restaurants, 2,561 luxury hotel rooms, 1,000 gaming tables and 1,600 slot machines. Enough to lose (or triple) your life savings in a day.

The Marina Bay Sands is a true work of art and should definitely be one of first places to see in Singapore.

To reach Marina Bay Sands, take the MRT’s Circle Line to Promenade station.

2. Chinatown

Originally home to Singapore’s Chinese community, many being descendents from Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese immigrants, the area today is diverse and fairly well mixed, pretty much like the rest of Singapore.

For some traditional Chinese and interesting colonial architecture head to Kreta Ayer Road to get a glimpse of what Singapore used to look like back in the day.

Here you can find some some excellent Chinese temples, such as the Buddha’s Tooth Temple (Yes. It houses a tooth from the Buddha.) and pastel-colored shophouses with its strange mixture of both Baroque & Victorian design.

Stroll around, check out some street art, grab some dumplings or Singaporean Noodles and learn about the neighborhood’s interesting history.

Here’s a list of places to definitely check out while in Chinatown:

1. Thian Hock Temple
2. Wak Hai Keng Temple
3. Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
4. Chinatown Street market
5. Maxwell Food Centre

To get to Chinatown via the MRT, take the North-East Line to Chinatown Station.

3. Little India

For a bit more culture and mouth-watering food, head over to the historical Little India, located east of the Singapore River, to see some beautiful temples and observe daily life, in what was originally the neighborhood for Singapore’s Tamil residents.

Wander through its streets, haggle on some merch and get your hands on some delicious Dosa and a Mango Lassi.

For some good eats and shopping make sure to check out the Little India Arcade and Tekka Food Centre.

Tip: The City Square Mall is a good place to shop and to escape Singapore’s notorious heat while in Little India.

To get to Little India, you can take the MRT’s North-East Line to Ferrar Station or the Little India Station.

4. Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple

Built in 1885, this marvelous Indian Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna is one of the oldest temples in Singapore and a fine example of Hindu architecture. Check out its beautiful gopuram.

The temple is the starting point for the annual Thaipusam festival celebrated on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (January/February), where devotees pierce their tongues and cheeks with metal spears and carry decorated cage-like constructions called Kavadi to show gratitude to Lord Murugan. This procession begins at the temple and makes its way to Chettiar Hindu Temple in a large festive parade.

The temple can be reached by taking the North-East MRT to the Farrer Park station.

Visiting Hours
Everyday: 6am-12pm & 5:30pm-9pm

Location
397 Serangoon Road.

http://www.sspt.org.sg/

For a video of the 2020 Thaipusam festival, click here:
(Warning: Sensitive Images)

5. Haji Lane

Located in the Kamplong neighborhood of Singapore, Haji Lane is a great place to wander around and peruse through its many fashion boutiques and hip bars. The area is also notable for its fantastic street art and numerous Turkish and Arabic cafes and restaurants, making it a great spot for lunch and some people watching while wandering the streets of Singapore.

Be sure to also swing by later in the evening for some good local nightlife. For some interesting bars, you can check out Blu Jaz Cafe and Bar Stories to get your drank on.

To get to Haji Lane and the Kamplong neighborhood, take the MRT’s East-West or Downtown line to Bugis Station.

6. Singaporean Hawker Stalls

Ok Foodies… Listen up.

No trip to Singapore is complete without trying some seriously delicious food from one of its many hawker stalls.

I repeat. DO NOT MISS IT.

With over 100 “Hawker Centres” and over 6,000 food stalls, Singapore is a fantastic country where a lot of cultures have mixed throughout the years and it shows best in its cuisine. Ethnic Malay, Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, Peranakan and Western cuisine have all shaped the countries food culture and it’s downright tasty.

Believe me.

Be sure to try some Laksa, a thick, rich and spicy noodle soup with either chicken, fish or prawn and of course Singapore’s national dish, Hainanese Chicken Rice. Wash that all down with a glass of Teh Tarik, a hot milk tea blended with condensed milk and hunt for the next best food stall.

And don’t forget to try some Popiah, a fresh Fujianese spring roll.

And everything else for that matter.

Got it?

Aight.

Here’s a list of some great Food Centres :

1. Old Airport Road Food Centre
2. Maxwell Food Centre
3. Chinatown Complex Food Centre
4. Tekka Food Centre
5. Chomp Chomp Food Centre

Pro Tip: Not sure which stall to pick?! Find the one with the longest line and join the party you hedonistic gourmand you.

7. Masjid Sultan

Located on 3 Muscat Street, also in the Kampong Glam neighborhood is the Masjid Sultan or Sultan Mosque. Originally built in 1824, this impressive religious building has remained unchanged in design since it was rebuilt in 1932.

This historic mosque is known for it’s beautiful golden domes and large prayer hall which have served the community’s Muslim residents. Be sure not to miss this national monument during your walks through Singapore and join one of its informative tours to learn more about Islam and its history.

Interesting fact: The black band that you see below the golden dome is made up of glass soy sauce bottles donated by the community, making this mosque a collaborative effort.

To reach the Sultan Mosque and Kamplong neighborhood, get off at the Bugis station.

Visiting Hours
Saturday – Thursday: 10am-12pm & 2pm-4pm
Friday: 2:30pm-4pm

www.sultanmosque.sg/

8. Raffles Hotel

This colonial-style luxury hotel built in 1887 is located in Singapore’s Downtown Core area. With 9 dining rooms, 9 different kinds of suites and a spa, this historical landmark is not to be missed.

It is also famously known as the birthplace of the Singapore Sling, a gin based cocktail created before 1915 by Ngiam Tong Boon. As with many historic cocktails, the exact recipe of this drink has been heavily disputed throughout the years and had been made every kind of way, from the most simple to complex.

Nowadays, the accepted recipe is made up of: Gin, Cherry Brandy, Cointreau, Dom Benedictine, Grenadine, Pineapple juice, Lime juice, Angostura Bitters and then garnished with a maraschino cherry and a pineapple wedge.

Due to its shadowy history, many variations due exist and as a professional bartender myself, trust me when I say, that I’ve tried them all and many are subpar; this one is great. So, if you happen to be a cocktail nerd in Singapore, I recommend you saddle up to the Raffles Hotel Long Bar and give the original a try for yourself.

Who knows, you may end up loving it.

https://www.raffles.com/singapore/

9. Atlas Bar

If you’re a fan of gin (And why wouldn’t you be?), then make sure you head over to Atlas Bar located in the gorgeous lobby of Parkview Square, also in Downtown Core. This stunningly beautiful Art-Deco inspired bar is currently at number 8 in The World’s 50 Best Bars and houses over 1,000 varieties of gin which is displayed in its 3-story gothic tower making it one of the largest collections of gin in the world.

Along with its impressive gin list, this spectacular bar also has an excellent cocktail program. Make sure you try their signature Atlas G&T, made with London Dry gin, Fresh citrus and house-made Burmese tonic.

And for something truly special, try the Milk Punch Palais, a clarified Milk Punch made with Japanese gin, peach, earl grey, milk and lemon. (It sounds so good just typing it).

Get yourself a group of classy friends together and mosey on over to Atlas Bar and relive the 1930’s in this spectacular bar.

Tell them Ben Valentino sent you.

www.atlasbar.sg

And last but not least!

10. Gardens by the Bay

Making our way back around to the Bay is the spectacular Gardens by the Bay nature park.

This popular attraction is a 250-acre venue made up of 3 gardens around the Bay and 2 conservatories. The Flower Dome, which exhibits flowers and plants from the Mediterranean, is the largest greenhouse in the world and will surely bring out the inner botanist in you.

The other conservatory is the Cloud Forest, which houses a 138 ft. “Cloud Mountain,” and replicates the tropical mountainous regions of the world. Here you will find all kinds of tropical plants, orchids, ferns and a 115 ft. waterfall (Whoa).

The other main attraction is of course the Supertree Grove, which are 18 solar-powered tree-like structures that function as vertical gardens displaying exotic ferns, orchids and vines (pictured above). Along with the Marina Bay Sands and the, ahem…Merlion, the Supertree Grove is definitely an iconic structure in Singapore and one not to be missed.

Enjoy it during the day to appreciate the gardens, but also be sure to catch the nightly music and light show known as the Garden Rhapsody, which begins at 7:45 pm-8:45 pm. The perfect way to end your time here in this spectacular city.

To reach Gardens by the Bay via the MRT, take the MRT Circle line to the Bayfront Station, from there take exit B to access the gardens.


And there you have it!

Obviously, there is a lot more to see and do in Singapore, (Orchard Road, Clarke Quay, Sentosa Island, etc.) so, I highly encourage you to go out, have fun and explore this wonderful city!

Also, keep in mind that Singapore is preeetty hot and humid year-round, even for me (and I’m from Miami), so make sure you stay well hydrated during your walks through the city.

Also, one last fact before we part ways.

You may be wondering what Singapore means…

It comes from the native Malay name for the country, Singapura, which means, “Lion City.”


If you liked this list and would like to see something added here or have been to Singapore yourself, don’t be afraid to give me a shout out.

I’d love to hear about your experience there!

Ayutthaya: The ancient Capital

5 Min. Read

It was May 11th, and I had just arrived to Ayutthaya from Bangkok by the local train. It was 4:20pm and I begin my walk from the station down a road with some small stores and restaurants on both sides. It was hot and the sweat immediately started to trickle down my back as soon as I stepped into the sun.

I walk up to a dock by a brown river and look across. I wasn’t quite sure but the city center seemed to be just on the other side. I didn’t see any boats but I did see a bridge to the left of me in the distance and wondered if I had to cross it. I backtrack and decide to eat something first.

I sit down in a patio restaurant and was greeted by a Thai woman that wasn’t too welcoming. I sit, say hello in Thai and she plops a menu in front of me. I flip through it looking at the pictures but before I even order, I saw a western girl sit at a table right behind me. She was skinny with long brown hair and was wearing a trucker hat. Something about the way she dressed told me that she was American and I just had to know.

I turned around and said hello to initiate some small talk. She spoke English with a slight accent and was quite friendly, so I asked if she wanted to join me. She smiles and sits in front of me. Her name was Lauréline and she was from the French part of Switzerland… I was off.

She had large light green eyes and a kind smile. We order some food and talked for a while exchanging pleasantries. I had some Pad Thai and she a Papaya Salad. We pay after our meal and thank the lady whose mood had changed. Lauréline finds out that I didn’t have a place to stay for the night and recommends me the hostel that she was at.

We walk back to the dock and find a brightly painted longboat with a long tail boat shaft coming our way. We pay 5 baht each to get across and on the other side she unlocks a bike that she had by a side street. We stop at a small guesthouse by the river, so I could have a Thai tea but also to ask for pricing on a room, since it looked nice from the outside.

A small Thai lady shows me the private room she had available and it was decent enough but I decided to see Laurélines hostel first.

Lauréline leads me to Allsum Hostel on Bang Ian Road where she was staying. The hostel was very clean and modern, so I paid 400 baht for two nights, which is about $12.70. The place had several floors, some common areas, had breakfast included and even some bikes to rent.

I lock up my bag in my dorm, rent a bike and we went to a popular weekend night market in town. It had just finished raining and it was already dark, so we quickly ride down two long streets, pass some roundabouts and reach the market that was next to some ruins. We lock our bikes under some trees in the front and begin to walk around.

There was a long stone path that wrapped around a small creek flanked by tall leafy trees with hanging lights on both sides. Along this path there must of been more than a hundred bamboo stalls selling all sorts of very delicious looking Thai street food and delicacies: All kinds of skewered meats grilling over binchotan charcoal, crepes, vegetable curries, coconut desserts, insects, ice creams, teas, sodas and other regional foods I didn’t recognize.

The path was illuminated by the hanging braided bamboo lights which gave the entire area a beautiful glow. All the locals were out and about and some of the young kids would stare at us, as Lauréline and I were the only foreigners there.

The night was warm and everyone was smiling and enjoying themselves. We strolled by a little girl singing Thai pop music on a karaoke machine and other vendors selling handicrafts. They would smile at us and say hello from their stalls, saying “Sawatdee Ka” and giving a slight wai.

I felt that Thai people were friendliest people in the world that night and it gave me a really good feeling about my upcoming journey through their beautiful country. Feeling curious, I walk up to one of the stalls and a buy a semi-sweet coconut dessert that was green in color. It came in eight pieces and it was delicious but kind of chewy.

I share some with my new friend and we talk back in forth in English and in some French. Her English was quite good but at times she would have to say some words in French, which I would understand…despite my mediocre command of it.

We reach the end of the long path and ended up at a small square. There we saw some teenagers dressed in classical Thai costumes performing a show depicting an ancient Siamese battle with warriors, kings and demons which was very entertaining. They all fought against each other with swords and had elaborate make-up. One even startled everyone by quickly drawing a pistol that let out a very loud and unexpected bang. One side emerged victorious and the crowd gave a hearty applause after they all bowed.

We leave the square the same way we came and then bike back to the hostel in the dark. We stay up and chat for a while before calling it a night. Lauréline was to leave the next day and I had plans to see the town. I had read that the historic city of Ayutthaya was once the capital of the Siamese kingdom and I wanted to learn much about it.

AYUTTHAYA


Bangkok: City of Dreams

8 Min. Read

On May 8th I woke up from my bed and rose to my first real day in Bangkok. The sun was peering through my window and I was ready to explore everything that the city had to offer. In my dorm I met Joni, a young guy from Spain who was also traveling through SE Asia, yet was on the last leg of his journey.

I decided that if I was going to be in Thailand for at least a month that I should get a sim card for my phone. I get dressed and head out to a nearby Tesco-Lotus store a couple of blocks down Rama I. The day was hot and humid and the streets were noisy with rushing traffic.

Inside on the third floor was a Dtac cellular kiosk and there I purchase a data plan for a month with a Thai number, which was around 400 baht ( $15.34). I return back to the hostel and download an app called Grab, which is like an Uber but for Asia, and then set out to see the city with Joni.

On the street Joni teaches me how to use the app and we first head out to Wat Phra Chetuphon, also known as Wat Pho to see the stunning architecture and the famous Reclining Golden Buddha statue. On the way there I noticed images of the new King; King Vajiralongkorn or Rama X, all over the city. Just a couple of days before was his coronation.

After getting dropped off, we make our way around the temple perimeter looking for the entrance and of course some tuk-tuk drivers stopped us and assured us that the temple was closed. One tried to sell us a tour around Bangkok to see the other temples but I knew that the temple was open and that this was a very common scam in the city. We smile and walk away.

Towards the back we find our entrance and pay 100 baht to enter the grounds. We pass through some groups of Asian tourists and make our way towards the Reclining Buddha, marveling at the Thai architecture around us. Completely golden and massive, it was a breathtaking wonder. The statue was resting on two box-pillows covered in glass mosaic and the Buddha had a slight peaceful smile with a relaxed posture.

At 15 meters high and 46 meters long, it’s one of the largest statues of the Buddha in Thailand. I’ve seen many pictures of it in books but I was happy to finally be in his presence and the serenity of the statue filled me with good fortune.

Circling around the area, Joni and I took some photos and paid our respects to the Buddha before exiting the building.

We continued walking around the temple complex taking in all of its splendor and entered the main hall, Phra Ubosot.

Inside there was another gilded Buddha statue sitting on a tiered pedestal and under a tiered umbrella. The Phra was constructed by King Rama I in Ayutthaya style and then later reconstructed in the Rattanakosin style by Rama III. Wat Pho is one of Bangkok’s oldest temples and has been around even before Bangkok became the capital of Thailand.

The temple contains many Phras and also houses over 1000 Buddha images, which is the largest collection of its kind in Thailand. There is also a school of Thai medicine and the temple is also known as the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage, where it is still taught and practiced today.

In addition, it’s also considered to be the earliest public education center in Thailand. The entire complex is filled with exotic Thai architecture and it is a definite must if ever in Bangkok.

After Wat Pho, Joni and I head out to Bangkok’s Chinatown to try out some of the famous street food there. On Yaowarat street, everywhere I looked there were signs in Chinese, traditional-herbal medicine shops, restaurants and food carts. The traffic was dense and crossing the roads was a challenge.

To do so, we would wait and then jump in front of traffic with two or three others, passing quickly as tuk-tuks and mopeds swerved around us instinctively.

In the street all kinds of food were being sold from the stalls: Thai curries, brothy noodle soups, dumplings of every variety, skewered BBQ pork and fried chicken, coconut desserts, fruit juices, jelly teas and of course the infamous durian fruit.

Joni and I shared some skewered chicken with sweet chili sauce and dumplings. We spoke with the locals and continued to get lost in the alleyways in search of more interesting and delicious food. We then came across what I had been looking for: Insects.

By the side of a small street I found a lady with her cart catering to three other local ladies snacking on the crispy bugs. Upon seeing it I was in awe. It was something I had seen many times on travel food shows like Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and I was excited to see it. At first I was a bit hesitant, but I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

All of the Thai ladies were staring at me and upon seeing my curiosity, egged me on to try some of the insects. On the cart were crickets, grasshoppers, scorpions and fried caterpillars. Joni and I look at each other laughing and he tells me in Spanish that the fried caterpillars were good, so he has heard. I pay for a little mix of the crickets and caterpillars and she hands it to me in a small styrofoam bowl.

I grab one caterpillar and slowly bring it to my mouth. I crunch on it…and to my surprise it wasn’t that bad.

It had a salt and spice mix on it and it reminded me of the small Pik-Nik shoestring fries that we use on Cuban sandwiches back home.

I then try the cricket and it flaked off into pieces in my mouth and it felt like a was chewing on a thin piece of bark, which was unpleasant and had no flavor. Joni then filmed me trying the black scorpion on a stick and although the gross factor was there, I wasn’t too fazed out by it. I move the arachnid to my mouth, pause and bite down hard on the claw. I was expecting some kind of meat inside, yet it felt like I was biting into plastic. It had no taste and was hard to eat. It was obviously just an exoskeleton and a novelty food item directed towards curious foreigners. I don’t know how much of a delicacy it actually is in the region but I’m sure some eat it.

We explore a bit more and I try a lemongrass jelly drink that I found in a dark alley from the only stall in the area, which was quite tasty and refreshing. We also end up finding a small sweaty stall in another alley that was selling noodle soups. We have one each and pay the young girl before going to Khao San Road.

We get there around 6pm and begin to walk up the infamous road. To the left and to the right of me there were hotels, cheap hostels, restaurants convenience stores and massage parlors all with glowing signs. In front of these buildings there were all kinds of stalls and food carts selling all kinds of exotic foods drinks and treats.

One was selling crocodile meat that was skinned and skewered and grilling over some coals. Along the street, hawkers paced up and down slowly selling everything from selfie sticks and scorpions on a stick to small portable electric fans and silly tourist glasses.

Joni and I sit at an outside table at a bar called Khaosan 1986 to have couple of beers and people watch. I sat there taking it all in and gazed at the ebb and flow of people from all walks of life and of every description:

Hippies with dreadlocks sporting Hindu tattoos and wearing elephant print harem pants, young Europeans on holiday from school with oversized Osprey backpacks and hiking boots, bearded Israelis that had just finished their IDF service wearing velcro sandals and filling the air with Hebrew, old couples navigating through the craziness with Lonely Planet books in hand, groups of Chinese or Korean girls wearing beautiful flowing dresses and floppy sun hats, Thai punk rockers, ladyboy performers, soulsearchers, drunks, musicians and lost travellers tired of the west.

Everyone was here it seemed.

I went to the restroom quickly and when I returned there was a street magician at our table showing Joni some tricks. The magician guessed all of our cards from a shuffled deck and did a rope and ring trick that was absolutely amazing.

From the bottom of a thin rope tied at both ends forming a circle he would slide a metal ring up halfway with the string inside the ring and not touching the sides. Naturally, it should have fallen to the table once he released it but when he did, the ring would tie with the rope and not fall. He performed it may times and it left us completely baffled.

We chatted him up and he performed some other good tricks. We leave him a tip and pay our beer tab.

Joni and I then walk across the road to Charlie’s massage parlor where we get an hour long Thai massage for 250 baht, which comes out to around $8. The ladies take us in, wash our feet and give us some light clothes to change into. The lady lays me down on a thin mattress on the floor and Joni was laying on the adjacent one with his masseuse.

They closed the curtains and played some light Oriental flute music. The whole hour was very interesting and relaxing. She massaged my entire body using her fingers, elbows and forearms to hit all of the pressure points and used her body weight to twist and crack my spine using her feet.

She was very pleasant and we would make light conversation but she really went to work on body when she got to my neck and back, massaging me vigorously and working out any knots and sore spots. When the time was up Joni and I thanked the women, changed into our original clothes and headed back to the road feeling great.

It was nighttime and the road was buzzing with activity. Live music from the bars and the sound of travelers cheersing over Singha’s and Chang’s filled the air. Thais mixed with the foreigners on the streets conducting business and haggling on prices. Everyone seemed free and happy to be here and I was no exception.

We walk towards the end of the short Khaosan Road and decided to head back to downtown. On the ride back I began to think of how happy I was to be in Thailand and I thought of all of the travelers that had been here before me.

Of all of the people that came from faraway places arriving here for the first time. How excited they must’ve been, as I’m excited now, to be starting in Bangkok and to pass through the famous Khaosan Road… To make the first big step of a long journey.

“And now I’m finally here”, I thought to myself.

It was my turn.


Bangkok: The Beginning

5 Min. Read

From Lucca my father and I went to Venice and spent a couple of days there. Although, to our misfortune it was rainy and windy, but we did make the most of it and enjoyed our time talking and having some delicious food in various restaurants, like La Profeta. Yet, this is where my father and I parted ways.

He had decided to fly back to Spain and I decided to begin my Asian trip by flying into Bangkok. From the Venice Marco Polo airport my father was to head to Barcelona and I to Frankfurt, where I would then fly to my destination.

At the airport my father wished me luck on my journey and I gave him the biggest hug. It was a fantastic month traveling with him and I am truly glad to have been able to spend time together backpacking. It was really nice to be able to share crossing the Atlantic and exploring Italy together. But this was the end.


In the Frankfurt airport, I began to grow excited as I was eating some currywurst and enjoying a cold German beer. Finally, the country and region of the world that had eluded me for so long and the land that had been the subject of countless hours of daydreaming was approaching.

I was finally going to Thailand. The mysterious land of Muay Thai, misty mountains, delicious cuisine and friendly natives. The land of smiles was just 10 hours away and on the plane I was smiling the whole way.

Next to me were a young couple originally from Bangkok and they gave me the in’s and out’s of Bangkok and Thailand in general. They explained to me some cultural norms, some basic greetings and food recommendations. The flight was a bit long, but after some movies and a quick nap, the plane was just two hours away from the capital.

After landing, I collect my bag and thanked all of the flight attendants for their hospitality. I walk off the plane, into Suvarnabhumi airport and pass through customs and immigration. They stamp my passport and I had one full month to explore their beautiful country.

I had no real plans on how to go about my travels but I did have a rough outline of the places that I wanted to see: Bangkok, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai and Pai. I know from my previous travels that I almost always deviate from any original plan and go to a lot of small towns in between and learn about sites that shouldn’t be missed.

Or sometimes, I find a place that I like and stay there for longer. My aim is always to travel slow, talk with the locals, eat local, soak up as much as I possibly can and write down a good amount in my journal.

I take the Airport Rail Link, and make my way to the center of town by transferring to the BTS Sukhumvit line and get off at the Siam stop on Rama I Road. I had no cell phone service and no pre-booked hostel for me to stay at, so I walked into a large shopping mall called the Siam Center and come across a bubble tea kiosk on the second floor called The Alley.

Here I had my first bubble tea in Thailand, a delectable brown sugar and milk concoction with tapioca pearls. They didn’t have wifi, so I took off looking for another spot. And of course I found a Starbucks and used their wifi to connect and find a place to sleep for the night. I settle on a place called Lub d Hostel, which was right up the street on Rama I and close to the National Stadium.

I check in around 5pm, receive my key and was shown my room that had four beds in total yet was empty. The hostel was clean, large, had open air patios and was mainly blue in color. I get some much needed rest, since I had been non-stop from Venice and later in the evening do my laundry, because my filthy clothes desperately needed it and I was on my last pair of underwear.

Later in the evening I go out for a walk to explore the town by night and to find something quick to eat. I was on the hunt for my first street stall noodle soup and whichever would have been perfect. I stroll along the streets taking in the facade of Bangkok and was elated to have finally made it.

The buildings were old, lacked paint and had weeds growing from the cracks. Everywhere I looked, there were telephone wires crisscrossing and gathering into knots and locals making their way in and out of restaurants.

The night was damp and the moped traffic was fierce, which made crossing it a challenge. Each small restaurant that I passed by was like a little window into their business and world. The experienced elders would cook and the younger ones would take the orders.

From the stalls that dotted the streets, vendors would be chopping meat and all kinds of greens with their heavy cleavers making a loud “chop chop” sound or straining fine noodles into a bowl of steaming broth filled with morning glory and beef. All of the aromas filled my senses and I struggled to settle on a place, yet finally did.

A young girl no older than 15 approaches me as I sit at a small steel table and on a low plastic chair. “Sawadee ka” she says smiling and in a low voice. “Sawadee krap” I said and returning the smile. I then point to two plates on the plastic menu. Minced pork and tofu soup with some fried shrimp cakes on the side and a spicy plum lemongrass sauce for dipping. She jots it down on a paper pad and runs off quickly.

Thai, which I have only heard on occasion back home, now filled the air and it was melodious and exotic. Some would stare at me and some would smile as I ate, as I was the only foreigner there. It was all delicious and I pay the bill after thanking them.

Thailand had always captured my imagination and I always wanted to experience it for myself. And I could only dream back then. Every time I would hear stories from others that had been there, it only made me want it more.

I craved Thailand. All of it.

And now I was finally here. No real plan. No real idea of the city. No real sense of direction. And no knowledge of Thai. A guest in a faraway land. Alone and out of my element.

And exactly where I like to be.