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Day 31: Can't Bring Durian on the Subway

Bangkok, Thailand Important Components of the Trip that Never made it into a Blog Post: 1. Seeing 10-year-olds drive motorbikes around Vang Vieng. How in hell was this accepted... ? 2. All the wild dogs and cats in the streets. It's a major differentiation from my American cities, and I love seeing them when they're NOT sleeping in my dorm. 3. Walking by the prayer rooms located in airports and other public settings, made for Muslim guests. 4. Sharing headphones with Roxanne on the bus trips. Such a small detail, but I feel like it represented our friendship and how comfortable we became with each other. 5. So many people resembling my family members. I've never been somewhere where the majority of people look like my Chamorro dad and grandma. In Thailand specifically, so many features were similar. 6. Drinking out of buckets. Usually three shots each, made for sharing or not depending on our mood. I'll never see a kid making a sandcastle the same way again. 7. The 7-Eleven we went into every single day in Kuala Lumpur. The cashier there wanted to marry us so we could bring him back to the states. Honestly considered it. 8. "Hey can you make water?" asked by either Roxanne or I every morning. The steriPEN was a life saver, and it turned that sentence from an oddity into a part of our daily routine. 9. Roxanne's and my identical thoughts. We would say the exact thing the other was thinking so often, or have very similar life stories or beliefs or questions. Spending so much time together just made it worse. 10. Also searching for french fries everywhere with Roxanne. And I mean everywhere. Don't forget the extra mayo! 11. Signs in taxis or the subway banning the fruit, durian. Where else are you going to get a ban on fruit than in the tropical Bangkok? 12. Seeing people from old hostels or cities in a new location completely. Everyone expresses the same excitement every time, with an unexpected "hey!!!" and a wide-eyed, shocked smile. It's a community coming together again. 13. Monks walking around everywhere. Those orange robes have become normalized. 14. 7-Eleven toasties. The melted, cheesy goodness cooked right at the 7-Eleven register will be a highlight for the rest of my life. 15. "Doing a balloon." For some reason, it was very popular in Vang Vieng for tourists to get high from helium in balloons. So stupid but so funny to watch. And don't worry, Mom, I didn't do one myself. I was too busy sniffing glue in the other corner. (Kidding.)

16. How drinking games brought strangers with completely different backgrounds together over some good-natured competition. 17. Seeing Lewis sitting in a tube (see Vang Vieng adventures). His "protest" is still one of the funniest sights of the trip. 18. Street food everywhere. So good and so cheap. 19. Flights to and from Abu Dhabi. On the way there, a man kindly/jokingly asked me if I felt like a minority because, for the first time, my white skin did not blend in with the other passengers. It was just the start of being exposed to such a newsworthy topic: airplanes and Muslim countries. On the way back to the U.S., I won't be able to bring my laptop in my carry on due to the recent ban by the U.S. and U.K. It prevents this from certain locations, including my layover in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Just so interesting to be part of current events. 20. Hostel interactions and the ease of getting to know new friends. Everyone feels accepted and works to make sure others do as well. 21. Similarly, how easy it is to smile at everyone. A shop owner, a waitress, another traveler; it's so easy to be happy here, and it's just as easy to share it. I'm currently sitting in the Bangkok airport, ready for the 24-hour plane ride home. I've had a lot of time to sit and think about the trip so far, and that list is only a fraction of such an amazing adventure. I wouldn't say I'm ready to go home, but I am filled with gratitude for such an incredible experience. The last few days have been relatively mild, filled with shopping for presents and souvenirs. After an easy flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, we had no more stops except for the plane back to the States, and we could finally purchase gifts galore. We allowed our backpacks to inflate to a size that I would not want to carry more than a short distance. We hung out in the hostel and made some more friends, all the while aware of the conclusory state of our trip. We went out at night and talked with more travelers, happily participating in this dance for the last few times. Several days later on June 30th, we have finally arrived at the airport. The dance is ending. So bittersweet. The trip over here wasn't as collected as the past few days, however. Roxanne realized at 9:30 this morning that her flight leaves at 12:55 p.m. We thought it left at 9:00 p.m. Big oops. With a disastrous pile of clothes and greasy hair, we packed up in about 10 minutes and ran out the door so she could catch her flight. We have different flights because she came here from Australia and I came from the pits of exam week, thus having different round trips booked. We managed to be out the door by 10 a.m., and Roxanne made her plane, but man there's always some story when it comes to travel. I'd be okay if I never have to tell this specific one again. So stressful. But if the universe really tends to balance itself out, my hours in the airport will be the opposite of that chaotic departure. I'm several hours in, and it feels good just to rest. I'm using this time to reflect on my month here in Southeast Asia. I just can't believe how fortunate I am. I'm leaving happy and not so healthy (the busy schedule has caught up to me and I woke up with a sore throat. Perfect timing if you ask me). What a wonderful adventure. I'm concluding this journey, this learning experience, this incredible opportunity. I am so full of gratitude for all I have seen and experienced. At this moment in time, I feel so content.

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