The world is in a sticky situation.
With that being said, travel costs are at an all-time low, and it can be fun to escape reality and kill time by planning a dream vacation.
Here are three of all-time favorite travel experiences and some ideas for your next get away.
Bangkok Songkran Water Festival
Heading to Bangkok to celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year, is a travel experience worthy of a top spot on your bucket list. For three days starting April 13th, the streets transform into an epic water battle zone with kids and adults alike armed and ready with massive squirt guns, powerful hoses, and buckets of ice water. It’s truly the pinnacle of frivolity.
Traditionally, shops close down and families come together to make new years resolutions, visit Wats (temples and monastaries), and cleanse their homes as well as their Buddha statues. The water used to wash the Buddhas is collected and trickled over the elderly and children as a blessing to wash away bad luck and rid the person of past sin.
I went with three friends in April 2019 following our Westerdam contract, and it was one of those life experiences I didn’t know I needed until I was in the midst of it.
Our journey began on our tuktuk ride to Khao San Road, a backpacker haven and epicenter of Songkran chaos. No one is off limits from the water fights, and as we zipped through the back streets, passerbyers would hurl buckets of water at us and fellow motorists would shoot us down with powerful water guns. Upon getting to the mouth of Khao San Road, we loaded up with some mid-range weapons and the fun began. We linked arms, picked a victim, and shot him down ruthlessly. Full wars broke out between us and other pods of hooligans, and sometimes we would even join forces to take out sly pedestrians who thought they could remain dry.
After a couple hours of revamping and waiting for our toes to de-prune, we filled our weapons up as the sun went down and hit Silom road, the craziest wet zone of the city. It was World War III; four year olds were throwing pales of ice water and unashamed old men aimed right for the face with giant water guns. Playful fighting would spontaneously morph into street dance parties then back into sniper mode once more.
After having enough questionably clean water burning out eyes, we hopped into a tuktuk to RCA for more festivities. Upon arrival, we saw a laser show to the right with blaring music and cheering. The entry fee was $60, a bit high for four performers heading into unemployment, but it seemed like a worthwhile splurge.
I’ll never forget the image of first walking in.
A DJ was blaring with music fire balls going off, lasers flashing, and waterfalls coming down. Young people were moving to the beat with no cares in the world, most in some sort of intoxicated state. I looked up and opened my arms wide in a moment of pure freedom as the recycled water pounded my face.
It was an experience for the books.
You owe it to yourself to experience Songkran. Just be sure to have a waterproof bag….
Bali Sunrise Hike
Post Bangkok, the squad jetted down to Bali for the next leg of the journey. One portion of our trip that stands out was a sunrise hike up Mount Batur.
My 1:53am alarm came quickly. After downing a shot of espresso and splashing my face with cold water, the driver arrived to pick up four surprisingly energetic travelers for the days adventure.
The hour long car ride involved looking at the dark scenery interspersed with brief seconds of sleep. We joined other hikers at a hostel where they served us a cup of sludge instant coffee. The room was filled mostly with young people like us as well as a few families. At 3:30am, our guide handed us some flashlights and we were off. At first I was disappointed with the easily navigable paths; if Birkenstocks could weather a hike, it isn’t hard enough. I chatted with a couple French girls who were taking a year off to travel as well as our 27-year-old guide who had a nervous laugh. About an hour in, we were offered an easy path or a hard one, and the four of us immediately said “Hard!”, ignoring the French girl’s puff. Then the hike got a bit more interesting as we ascended in elevation. Climbing up steep rocks and struggling to keep traction had my heart rate pumping. Behind us was the sound of heavy breathing. One of the girls, Lena, said “I don’t go to the gym and I smoke like a bitch!” resulting in frequent stops to look out over the still dark landscape.
By 5:15am we made it to a bench at the top. To the east was the horizon, with a sun getting ready to burst up. To the west was a crater filled with clouds. Our guide brought us a breakfast of two hardboiled eggs, a banana, a banana sandwich, and candy bar to pass the time until the scheduled sunrise at 6:30am.
At 6:00am, a gust of wind hit, and we were submerged in mist; things were not looking promising. Thirty minutes later, and we saw a muted glow emerge in the horizon. The group slapped on smiles of saying it was still a good experience with obvious undertones of disappointment. Some more wind came, and then the sun magically appeared. The mount erupted into applause just to be muted once more as the sun remised into hiding. The same occurrence happened a few more times, until things actually started to clear up, letting the magnitude of where we settle in. The lush Bali landscape was stunning, with rolling rice fields contrasted to dense jungle. A few clouds hung on to the mountains, creating a surreal view. Adrenaline was pumping which counteracted the fact it was freezing cold, and we frolicked around taking pictures, watching the monkeys, and exclaiming “I love my life!!”
8am we began the trek back down and were back at the lodge 90 minutes later. The exhaustion set in leaving me in a tired, blissful state as I rode the travel high back to the villa for a nap.
The brutal wake up call was worth it, and it won’t be my last sunrise hike.
To wrap up a backpacking adventure, my friend Haley and I headed to Morocco, and the adventure began with being locked out of our credit cards. You certainly learn what you’re made of when you are stuck in Africa with debts to pay, zero dollars, and no way to get cash.
We figured it out, and were able to embark on the highlight of the trip: a trek from Marrakesh to Fes.
In hindsight, the experience was sketchy, but we were two invincible 23 year olds traveling the world! Read my trip advisor review below :
The highlight of the experience was riding camels through the Sahara with an overnight stay in the desert under the stars, and was another one of those experiences that elicited a pure blissed out travel state.
After a 60 minute camel ride, we arrived at our pod of tents for the night along with 20 or so other travelers. We immediately threw our bags to the ground and hiked up a sand dune to catch the sunset. The burning orange sun tossed colors across the sky and gave the sand a deep red glow. Everything looked crystal clear and unmarred by the damage of smog, city-life, or pollution. The fading colors were soon replaced by millions of stars, and it was even more magical than you can imagine.
There was a cheesy camp fire song and dance session that Haley and I quickly ditched. We headed up the sand dune where we found two of the guides kicking back. Two days prior, Trump had been elected, and we got to talking about the whole debacle. The young men laughed at the scenario, and their anti-USA sentiments became clear. I dove in to asking about their opinions, and one responded, “All Americans are rich. They just want more, more, more in a glamorous Hollywood life.” The other guy chimed in with a pro-Morocco speech. He opened his arms indicating the beauty, picked up the sand and dramatically sifted it through his hands, and kept saying, “and THIS….. is Africa!!!!!”
I’m a sucker for an informative conversation, and this certainly was one such encounter.
Post-rant, the guys whipped out two sand surf boards and the fun began. Haley and I took turns hopping on the boards and flying down the massive sand dunes illuminated by the stars. Finding the right balance was tricky, but we both were gliding down like pros by the end.
The wild journey was one for the books, and I highly recommend getting the passport out and heading to Morocco. Just be sure to have working credit cards……
People often assert, “I wish I could just go travel!”
The secret in turning a dream into reality is simple, just do it.
You’ll always be busy, you’ll never have as much money as you’d like, and there will always be a “next year I’ll go.” Times are tough, but let’s be real, life is always hard. Take advantage of this time and low travel prices to look into buying a plane ticket to a dream location.
Covid-19 is wildly inconvienent at the moment, but, as my dad says at the end of every email, “This too shall pass.”