Maryland, USA to Chiang Mai, Thailand- the route

Australia denied my visa

I have been anxiously (literally, anxiety ridden) anticipating this trip. My emotions were all over the place the 2nd to last week before leaving. I am very well planned, a type-A. I originally planned to add Australia into my trip but after 2 applications for a travel Visa I was denied. I still don’t have a clear answer as to why and I’ve spoken to a couple people from Australian home affairs. After 3 weeks in Thailand I was planning to hop over to Aus. I had a well planned 4 week itenerary: stops in Melbourne, stay in Fotzroy a few days and then fly to Tasmania with hikes to Wineglass Bay and Cradle Lake. I would join a guide and we would also feed kangaroos. Then I’d fly back to Sydney and drive the shoreline with a lot of other small city stops and adventures until I arrived to Cairns. So all if a sudden I had only 3 weeks instead of more like 2 months planned for an alomost 4 month trip.
I started thinking about worse case scenarios, watching and reading about solo travel tragedies… etc. I think Australia was a bit of a safety net for me …it would be more similar to home. This is the same week I started this blog. I needed to disconnect from the trip to relieve my anxiety. I spent 2 days just focusing on creating this space and adding posts from my first real solo trip- the American Roadtrip.

Reorganizing my trip- without Australia

I felt calm from seeing what I already was capable of and then I woke up and had only 3 days left before I would depart from BWI. I spent that entire day organizing all my Southeast Asia notes. I guess I should mention I had already spent 2 months researching all the countries I would be going to visit. Without a visa to Australia, I reorganized the complete order in which I would go- putting the season as the priority and then logistics. The reason Australia made such an impact was because Australia would be going into winter had I not jumped there for May (their last month of autumn).
I’ll get there one day. 
I am so relieved now, plus I don’t have the pressure of packing for more seasons, I only have a 60L(?) backpack and a small offsprey for my everyday bag (perfect for my camera a lens and tripod). It’s the emerald green one in all my pictures from my roadtrip. That being said, I’m less anxious and more excited, like the excited but nervous feeling you get right when you go on a stage, or start a new job… I’m excited for the culture shock and the challenges of communication but that exact thing is what makes me nervous.
I’ve interacted with many Thai’s while booking my accommodations and they’re all easy to communicate with and speak English well enough if not perfect. I know better than that though, this happened last year in Prague until I got out of the touristy places and really got to experience true local Praha- Czech. So I am super excited… I have about 24 hours left. This trip is 3 legs, I have completed 1. 

The flights to Thailand

I’m currently sitting in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA- a layover; I stayed at a hotel near BWI lastnight. I went out with a couple friends for dinner and then 1 of them dropped me off. I would be boarding at 05:40 and wanted to make sure I didn’t miss my flight. I checked-in my hotel around 20:00. I quickly got situated, showered, added my current clothes to my carry on and downloaded some movies… for now actually. Before I start my movies though I’ll recap the morning. 

The night before boarding a plane with only a 1 way ticket across the World.

I laid in bed and my mind started overthinking. I was a bit frantic for a second. I brought something valuable with me, something that belonged to my grandma, I couldn’t find it! I searched my purse and pockets. I started trying to think of places I could’ve lost it, how I could find it, who to text. Then I calmed down and checked my purse again and there it was.
I finally went to bed, with 2 alarms set, to wake up at 03:06 and 03:12. I will have 4.5 hours of sleep if I fall asleep immediately. I woke up without my alarm and saw light in my window. SHIT…. how did this happen?! I purposely made sure everything was correct to avoid missing my flight. I shot up in my bed thinking with an 8 hour layover I can still catch my second flight out of MSP.  
I shot up to sitting position in the barely lit room. I closed the curtains the night before but that slither of light was just enough to make out the clock under the TV. 09:39… wait, it’s a 1… 01:39. I didn’t miss my flight AND I get to sleep for another hour (plus). I made it down to the lobby, grabbed snacks, and wipes from the front desk, complimentary, and then I printed my bus ticket for my overnight trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and hopped on the shuttle.

Flight 1: BWI to MSP

I tried to do curbside check-in but I couldn’t because my layover here (MSP) is so long, but I did get to surpass the HUGE line and jump to the front since it was a ticket issue. Delta employees just started to come out, it was 04:00. I have been listening to podcasts since waiting at the gate there (BWI) and for my entire flight. 
I sat next to a sweet young boy- maybe 8. I had the window seat- my preference, and he was in the middle. I think the lady on the aisle was European, maybe Australian or New Zealand (I only heard her say 1 sentence- she asked me to take some photos like the ones I was taking on my own phone). The young boy’s father was sitting in the middle seat in the row in front of us and his mom was in the middle sitting a row behind him, his sister behind me; He talked to her through the crack between the seats. Then he asked me to open the shade.
We looked out the window for take off. He was so excited. Then he played a game on a Nintendo Switch. I sat back with my eye mask on to try and get some sleep. At some point I looked out the window and right as I looked a jet was approaching to fly right over us- pretty close, too. I tapped the boy and he saw it just in time. It was an exciting moment! We looked after eachother on the flight. I ended up dozing off at some point. I was woken up by some SERIOUS turbulence. He ended up getting sick. The lady in the aisle seat next to his mom switched seats with him so he could be with them. His sister was sick too. The rest of the flight was comfortable and I played some games on the display. 

Turkey, brie, and pear sandwich on rye bread paired with sparkling Kevita- lime mint cucumber flavor.

When we landed his family thanked me. It was really no problem. I liked sitting with him. They departed and I waited to get off, no rush just to sit somewhere else. I got off the plane and figured out my gate- with some help. It wasn’t hard to find, I’m just tired. I started to walk to my gate. I noticed someone walking beside me at the same pace trying to keep up. It was my little friend. I asked how he felt and he politely asked back. We had a quick conversation before we parted to our gates- he’s off to Cancun.
I browsed a few stores here, this airport is REALLY nice. Too bad I literally have no room in my bag. I bought a sandwich- smoked Turkey, pear and brie on marbled rye. Delicious. Oh yeah, I almost forgot it’s snowing outside. All the flights yesterday were cancelled. I’m not too worried though. Lastnight I worried for nothing, and this is out of my control. So ‘shikata ga nai‘. I’m going to watch a movie…. or like 3. Next leg is the longest, off to Seoul, only 1 hour layover there. 

Flight 2: MSP to ICN

captured from the window of the airplane- wing seat. An endless view of snowcapped mountains.

We boarded the plane a little later than schedule. I chose to upgrade my seat for this leg of the trip when I booked; I’m so happy I did. It just includes a bigger screen and more leg space but what a difference! I have the window seat again, I also picked this in advance. I strategically picked a window where an aisle was already chosen. My plan worked we have an empty middle seat- even MORE leg room!! After sitting awhile, longer than it should have taken for the rest of the passengers to board, the pilot made an announcement: We would be fighting against the wind so we would be adding 30 minutes to our duration. Then he came on again.. 15 mins later to announce we had to find someone’s checked bag from the under carriage because they aren’t going to make the flight. THEN.. again to tell us we need to treat the tail and wings of the plane for the freezing temperatures. At this point I was crossing my fingers that I’d miraculously somehow make my connection. Worse case scenario, I get a day in Seoul. Although I’ll have no idea what to do- this isn’t a part of the plan. That’s how it goes though and it only adds to the adventure. 

airplane food on my seat tray- beef bubimbap with assorted vegetables and steamed rice a side of fruit and kimchee. I paired the meal with oblong tea.

We just had our first round of snacks and then dinner. We also have a late night snack and then breakfast- this is a very long flight. For dinner I had Beef Bubimbap with assorted vegetables and steamed rice, I put on a little too much Gochujang sauce (spicy), and it was served with kimchee and fruit. I am topping it off with oblong tea. Oh, and I finally got to see Bohemian Rhapsody the movie. I loved it. I need to use the bathrooms but we just hit a bit of turbulence; seatbelts on.
It is official- there’s like no way I’ll make my connection. We will be landing when it is scheduled to takeoff. I am monitoring our flight on the screen. I just opened my window. We are in the far northwestern corner of Canada. It is -54 degrees and all I see is untouched mountains covered in snow. It’s so peaceful looking. I love mountains, snow… I mean sometimes- I hate being cold. 

Breakfast; airplane meal on my seat tray- Andong chicken stew with steamed rice paired with fresh fruit a roll- drinks: orange juice and coffee.

I got some sleep and watched a few more movies. I watched: Beautiful Boy, Crazy Rich Asians, and Colette. Now I’m watching an HBO documentary on Robin William’s. Breakfast is coming around, I’m having Andong Chicken Stew with steamed rice. This will also include bread, fruit, chocolate and orange juice. Both of the meals I chose on this flight were created by award winning chef- Kwoon Woo Jong.

missed flight- stuck in Seoul.

We touched down just as my other plane would be taking off. We weren’t even connected to the terminal yet. I knew I couldn’t do anything, so I was patient while the other passengers who could still make their connections rushed off. When I finally deboarded the plane Delta’s crew in Seoul was very accommodating. They were waiting for me in the hall before I officially entered the chaos of ICN.
They had envelopes with accommodations and a free shuttle along with new boarding pass for everyone who missed their connections. My flight will be tomorrow- same time. I have a full day in Seoul. It’s about 20:00 now, I had to go through customs and pick up my luggage, then I struggled trying to find the shuttle. While waiting I researched some things to do here. It will include a night market tonight, a palace tomorrow and possibly eating at a raccoon or meerkats cafe. I can’t miss tomorrow’s flight- I’ll need to be at the airport around 16:00. Oh, while researching Seoul I discovered the Bubimbap meal I chose is the national dish. 

reflection of me in the window of my shuttle from ICN to the hotel Delta put me up in.
—20 mins or a bus ride later—

Come to find out, I’d be staying on a small island with nothing else really to do. The city of Seoul is about 80 mins from here. I decided I’d go to the hot tub instead of the night market- to soak. I put on 3 bathing suits… what plane food and sitting all day can do to you- UGH! The hot tub was closing in 10 minutes anyway. I called and scheduled my massage for tomorrow morning, I’ll have breakfast first. Did I mention Delta was covering everything? They covered the hotel, food and massage.
After my massage, I’ll head to the city around 10:15 and have about 3 hours to explore. I will see the cherry blossoms as I walk and then I’ll go to a palace. I can’t be tempted to shop- my bag is literally as full as possible. It’s problematic everytime I have to zip it! It’s likely to break soon. I’m happy I didn’t go to the night market, I’ve been feeling dizzy since dinner. It’s a dizzy feeling kinda like I’m seasick. Anyway, I had my greens and that should help. That and bed. Goodnight!

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