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Japan Summer 2011 - Part 1

There's so much I can write about my trip to Japan that just attempting to start this post has been too daunting to make its way into my schedule since I left. Now that I've been out of the country for a week, though, I realize that putting it off any longer might mean that it gets lost in the shuffle. Can't let that happen, can I?

Thanks

For the fourth or fifth time now, Elliot has let me stay in his awesome apartment in Shibuya. At this point I've actually lived in his apartment for over two months in 2011 alone. Despite doing what I can to be a good guest, I know it's a bit of an imposition to have someone stay with you for such a long time, so a huge thank you is due to Elliot. I'm incredibly fortunate to have somewhere to stay in Tokyo, but far more fortunate that it's at the home of a friend whose company I enjoy, even after so many weeks.

72 Hours in Bangkok

On Imported Blog

Three days–that’s all I had during my first trip to Asia.

I was set to take off just a few days after spending 3 weeks traveling to Sri Lanka, the States and the Bahamas and I was dead broke. A few months earlier, I found out that I had won a free flight to Bangkok from my bank here in the United Arab Emirates and was determined to make the trip happen–even if it meant traveling to Asia with only $300 to my name. This trip would also be my first experience Couchsurfing AND on the Asian continent, so I was excited and nervous all at the same time.

One of the first things that I always do when I travel alone is purchase a sim card so that I can stay connected with family & friends. I arrived to Bangkok, bought my sim, added some minutes & a data plan and headed to the house where I was going to be staying for the next few days. Bangkok was everything that I thought a stereotypical big Southeast Asian city would be–sprawling with skyscrapers, intricate metro rail lines, crowded, dirty and lively with millions of things happening all around me at the same time. It was a complete sensory overload but I must admit–I loved the energy.

Couchsurfing is a popular way to travel. You stay in the homes of locals or expats in cities around the world–for free. I met my host Amy through a friend of a friend who had Couchsurfed in Bangkok a year earlier. Before my trip, I had Skyped with Amy and her roommates to get things situated for my stay at their house. On the first night, I made it to Amy’s house and enjoyed some welcome drinks and conversation with her roommates about Bangkok, living abroad and traveling. Each of them had come from various parts of the world (Europe, Australia and the US) to intern in Bangkok for different businesses and NGO’s and they were renting a 3-bedroom apartment in the Sukhumvit area. That night, as I lay down to sleep on the couch, I remember thinking about how crazy it was to be in a complete stranger’s house in a foreign country. One of the things that always blows me away about most travelers and expats that I meet abroad is how amazingly open and welcoming they are to meeting new people.

Early in the morning on my first full day, I borrowed a map and an old Lonely Planet guide from one of Amy’s roommates and hit the city. For a girl with less than $300 in her pocket, I couldn’t believe how much I was able to do and see. I spent the next three days traveling around in tuk-tuks exploring temples, hoping on and off of the Bangkok Transit System (BTS), visiting wats, shopping, meeting up with more friends of friends, gorging on street food and partying with fellow travelers on the infamous Khaosan Road. By the end of the trip, I was exhausted. I enjoyed every minute of it and even boasted mosquito bites as battle wounds.

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