UPCOMING TRAVEL by Marleigh Monique

Tomorrow (Monday) I am finally leaving Chiang Mai. I will miss it terribly, but I know it’s for the best. Plus, my 30-day visa is almost up. Why can’t Thailand just issue 90-day visas, like umm Australia? New Zealand? Malaysia?

I spent my last few days in Chiang Mai researching and preparing for the next couple weeks/ months. I did laundry. I had a massage done by a former female prison inmate. I ate at my favorite street food spot for dinner.

My upcoming travel plans look like this:

Laos --> Vietnam --> Cambodia

I expect this to take about 1.5 months. After Cambodia, I’m not sure where to go, but Hong Kong looks attractive. Taiwan does too.  

What's it Like to Travel Turkey As a Solo Female Today (Part 4): 10 Things to Do In Turkey (in order) by Marleigh Monique

So if you’ve made it this far, chances are you really want to visit Turkey. Here are 10 things to do once you get there.

1)    *Spend 4-5 days in Istanbul. Days 1-2: walk around Old City. Visit Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque), Hagia Sophia, and the Basilica Cistern.

2)    Day 3: Take the ferry across the Bosphorus Strait to the Asia side. Walk around Asia for a couple hours. Grab a meal. Come back to the Europe side. In the evening, check out Taksim Square for nightlife.

3)    Day 4: Walk across the bridge to the Galata Tower. Go up the tower. The views are incredible. Hang out and grab a meal in the neighborhood around Galata Tower. It has loads of cute cafes and shops.

4)    Day 5: Visit the Grand Bazaar before your afternoon flight to Kayseri. It’s super touristy but you can’t leave Istanbul without seeing it.

5)    Days 5-6: The moment you land in Kayseri and arrive to your accommodation (probably in Goreme), sign up for the hot air balloon in Cappadocia. The balloon is frequently canceled due to poor weather. I waited 6 days for it!

6)    Days 6-8: No worries if your balloon is canceled due to poor weather. Wait for it and fill your time with the Red and/or Green Tours. Both of them are awesome in their own right and take you to some very unique geological formations.

 

7)    Days 9-10: Take the overnight bus to Fethiye (you have to change in Antalya) and go paragliding. If the weather is poor, wait at least 24 hours for a better day. If you have time, stop in Antalya. I skipped it, but I hear it is quite nice.

 

8)    Day 10: Before you leave Fethiye, check out the Lycian Rock Tombs. I think many people miss this but they are worth seeing! After the tombs, catch a bus to Pamukkale for the famous terraces made of calcium carbonate. They are some of the largest in the world! Stay overnight in Pamukkale.

 

9)    Days 11-12: Catch an early morning bus to Selcuk. Take a day tour to Ephesus. Walk around Selcuk and climb the hill to the castle. I literally had to the castle to myself when I went!

 

10)   Days 13-14: Take the train to Izmir. Hang out 1 or 2 nights. Walk along the waterfront, visit cute vegan cafes, check out the Saat Kulesi (Clock Tower). Fly back to Istanbul from Izmir and change flights to your next destination.

*If you are from Australia or New Zealand, you will probably want to visit the Gallipoli peninsula, where the Battle of Gallipoli happened. You can do this from Istanbul. It is a full day trip.

This was more or less my time in Turkey. I stayed 6 days in Goreme/ Cappadocia waiting for the hot air balloon due to weather. It was totally worth it and one of the highlights of my trip!

I highly recommend Turkey for its diverse landscape, delicious food, hospitable people, and budget travel. It’s one of the cheapest, most rewarding places I’ve traveled.

If you have a nervous personality (like me) and want to visit Turkey, follow these simple steps:

  • ignore the media
  • don’t accept tea or meals from strangers
  • be wary of large crowds
  • keep your wits about you

This should also be applied to any travel destination. ENJOY

Hair Appointment by Marleigh Monique

After I got my hair done in Bali. Pretty happy.

After I got my hair done in Bali. Pretty happy.

Today I got my hair done. And it looks great! So why am I not more excited about it?

I guess I’m tired. I’m ready for something new, something different. Something more yellow, less platinum.

It’s hard to keep up with my hair on the road. When I was living in New York City, I had a colour appointment every 3 months. Now, I try to schedule it no later than 4 months, but it all depends on what country I’m in.

Thus far, I’ve done my hair in Bali, Prague, and as of today, Chiang Mai.

I was trying to hold out another few weeks thinking I could get it cheaper someplace else, but a google search of Southeast Asia western hair salons for blondes did not produce many results.

So I figured it was best to take care of it in Chiang Mai before moving on.

I booked a 2-day slow boat tour to Luang Prabang, Laos for Monday. I’m excited and nervous to leave Chiang Mai.

I’m excited to see a new destination but I’m nervous to leave this life I’ve built for myself in Chiang Mai (good food, quiet room, and wifi).

I’m most concerned with the sleeping quality that I will encounter in future hostels. In the last 6 months or so, I’ve been having huge problems sleeping, mostly due to the other people in the dorms. I’m not one of those people that functions very well on lack of sleep.

I have to keep reminding myself of the benefits of travel. Meeting new people. Seeing new things. Understanding new cultures. Trying new foods. Breaking down stereotypes. It seems so trivial to be concerned with whether or not I will get a decent night’s sleep.

But this is what I think about after 1 year on the road. Will I sleep?

Total cost of hair appointment: $131.26

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO TRAVEL TURKEY AS A SOLO FEMALE TODAY (PART 3) by Marleigh Monique

I just spent an insane amount of time looking for a room for my first 2 nights in Luang Prabang, Laos.

Not because I could not find a bed, it was the opposite. There were too many average beds. Where you sleep at night can really make or break your stay.

Anyway. Turkey.

I had just arrived in Istanbul and sat down at a local restaurant for a meal. In the span of about 5 minutes after receiving my food, the owner struck up a conversation and proceeded to lecture me about the state of American politics.

I was already on edge being in a country that was constantly in the news; politics was the last thing I wanted to discuss.

While this was not a one off conversation, the majority of people that I met seemed more interested in my tourist dollar than my president.

Over the next few days, I learned that tourism used to be the number 2 source of revenue in Turkey, right behind the textile industry. However, since 2015, tourism has declined to the point where it’s not even on the list.

This quickly became evident to me as I had no trouble booking hostels and frequently ended up in dorm rooms alone.

My visit to Turkey happened to coincide with the Chinese New Year on 28 January 2017. Most of the other tourists I met were from China (or living in China). In 2.5 weeks, I only met one other American, who happened to also live in China.

As for the locals, it was 5 star treatment all the way. I was offered tea nearly everywhere I went. If I knew them (for example from the hostel), I would accept. If I was walking by, I declined. I never accepted tea from a stranger (although it probably would have been fine as long as we were in a public place).

2 locals in 2 separate towns took me around showing me different sites and even bought my dinner at the end of the day! To say I was impressed is an understatement. I may have been traveling on my own, but the locals went out of their way to make me feel at home.

In spite of all this hospitality, I still was a bundle of nerves (good job media!). Additionally, I did meet any Western women traveling solo except for the one American woman living in China and one Kiwi (New Zealander). My mind kept flashing to everything I read in the news.

To be continued…

What’s it Like to Travel Turkey As a Solo Female Today (Part 2) by Marleigh Monique

Sunset over the Bosphorus Strait

Sunset over the Bosphorus Strait

I had just landed in the country I was most scared to visit since I started traveling, and my arranged car service was nowhere to be found. On top of this, darkness was approaching rapidly.

Istanbul from the plane

Istanbul from the plane

A taxi was only to be used as a last resort. I found an information desk inside the airport and asked him how to get to the Blue Mosque.

I was wise enough to book my hostel as central as I could get in Istanbul, which I figured was the Blue Mosque. Should there be a language barrier, I could always point to the Blue Mosque and ask for directions.

Hagia Sophia Museum on the left

Hagia Sophia Museum on the left

The information clerk spoke little English, but he was able to communicate how to get to the city centre. I boarded the airport shuttle and hoped for the best.

Galata Tower

Galata Tower

1-2 hours later, the shuttle dropped me off in Taksim Square. I was immediately hounded by scores of cab drivers asking me where I was going.

I ignored all of them and kept walking until I found a fancy hotel. Luckily, Taksim Square is very central and there are loads of hotels.

Istanbul at night

Istanbul at night

A trick I learned early on in my travels is hotel concierges are great for giving directions and usually speak English.

Taksim Square was my halfway mark; I still had to find the train station to get to my final destination. The hotel concierge was very friendly and pointed me to the station, about 100m away.

 

When I got to the train station, I could not figure out the ticket machine, and the window counter attendant did not speak English. Thankfully, I found a local who did speak English and helped me purchase my token.

3 hours after stepping off the plane, I arrived safe and sound to my hostel. By this point, it was nearly dark outside and I was starving.

I found a small shop across the street that served vegetarian food, so I stopped in for a quick bite.

Inside Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque)

Inside Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque)

The owner offered me tea, which I politely declined. He then tried to sell me a rug, which I also declined.

“How about a scarf? I have very nice scarves that would look great on you,” he said.

“No thanks,” I said.

“Where you from?” he asked.

“The states,” I replied.

“Ahh, American. What do you think of Trump?” the owner asked me. 

'Here we go,' I thought to myself. What did I get myself into?

To be continued…

What’s it Like to Travel Turkey As a Solo Female Today (Part 1) by Marleigh Monique

“Watch out for your blonde hair. Turkish guys go crazy for that,” the owner said to me upon check in to my Istanbul hostel.

I had just arrived to a country where I literally thought I might not make it out alive. According to the media, Turkey was the most dangerous place in the world, next to Syria maybe. Several of my friends back home messaged me not to go.

Yet, I made a conscious choice to enter Turkey in January following the New Year’s shooting at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul.

What led to this decision? How did I end up in Istanbul on a one-way ticket from Greece? This was not a country I wanted to get stuck in.

Several factors influenced my choice:

  1. Hot Air Balloons in Cappadocia. My dry cleaner in New York City had a postcard from Cappadocia on her wall. For 2 years, I saw that postcard at least once a week and vowed I would visit someday.
  2. Blue Mosque. Something else I had seen countless pictures for many years and always wanted to see in person.
  3. The media. I learned early on in my travels to take the media with a grain of salt. While the media seeks to sensationalize (and does a great job…I’m scared of everything!) I prefer to gather information directly from fellow travelers about where I should and should not go.
  4. My friend Spencer. He traveled to Turkey the year before and assured me I would be fine on my own.
  5. The nightclub shooting in Istanbul. I calculated the weeks directly following the incident would be safer as the city would be on high alert for a similar attack. Istanbul is a very large city and bad things can happen anywhere. My deepest sympathies go out to the people affected.
  6. Geography. I would be flying from Athens, only a 1.5 hour flight away.
  7. Me. I had been traveling on my own since April 2016 without incident. I trusted myself enough to stay alert, keep out of dodgy situations, avoid large crowds, and be in before dark.

So off I went solo into Turkey. I knew once I got on the ground I would be fine. Just to be safe, I booked a transport to pick me up from the airport and take me to my hostel. I also booked my flight early in the day so that it would be daylight when I arrived.

On the day of, there was no car waiting for me, no wifi to contact the driver, and dusk was rapidly approaching.

To be continued…

Show Up by Marleigh Monique

Look at that sunset! Chiang Mai, Thailand

Look at that sunset! Chiang Mai, Thailand

Today is another administrative day. In fact, this entire week will be administrative as I sort out my next few weeks of travel.

Songkran (Thai New Year celebration) is officially over (actually it finished yesterday). I had a blast spraying the faces of men, women, children, locals, and tourists. There were no prejudices on the street. If you were dry, you were getting sprayed. If you were lucky, it was only dirty moat water. If you were unlucky, it was freezing ice cold water.

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Songkran was an amazing celebration to take part, and I would totally do it again next year should I find myself in this neck of the woods.

My guesthouse

My guesthouse

Today, I also moved back into the guesthouse I was staying at before Songkran called Kham-Phai house. They only have about 7 or 8 rooms but I love it. There is a tv, mini fridge, private bathroom, and best of all it’s quiet. They do have wifi, but it’s not that strong. 

The highlight of my day was a lecture I went to at Punspace http://www.punspace.com/ . Punspace is a coworking space in Chiang Mai, the equivalent to WeWork in the United States. They provide weekly events for free to the public. You do not have to be a member to attend. There are 2 Punspace locations in Chiang Mai. I go to the ThaPhaeGate because it’s close to where I am staying.

Although it was pouring outside (mother nature did not get the memo Songkran is over!) and I did not think the lecture applied to me, I went anyway. I had attended a meeting at Punspace a few weeks ago about freelancing, and it was awesome and really informative.  

The website listed today’s topic as: “How to Get Ideas (Week 2): This event is a viewing of the current weekly lecture for the Startup School by Y Combinator.” Umm, what?

We ended up watching an hour-long video called Startup Mechanics with Kirsty Nathoo. In it, she discusses some of the logistics behind securing investors and hiring employees with a vested interest in your company. She also talks about how most businesses incorporate in the U.S. state of Delaware because the laws and regulations are really flushed out to the startup’s advantage. You do not have to live in Delaware or even be a citizen of the United States to incorporate there.

The entire lecture can be found here: https://www.startupschool.org/

Cool art around Chiang Mai

Cool art around Chiang Mai

Today was a great reminder how important it is to show up. So much about travel [life] is just about showing up; you show up to your flight, your bus, your train, your hotel/hostel, your sunrise, your sunset, your yoga class, your meeting, your breakfast, your dinner, your mountain trek, your diving class, the list goes on…Should you miss any of these things, it can do 2 things:

1) Prove costly.

2) Make you feel crummy.

Sunrise in Bagan, Myanmar

Sunrise in Bagan, Myanmar

Money comes and goes, but you will never find me missing a Bagan sunrise because I overslept.

1 Year Anniversary: Where I've Been (all unedited photos) by Marleigh Monique

Look how pretty Queenstown, New Zealand is!

Look how pretty Queenstown, New Zealand is!

The madness of Songkran seems to have died down. It’s still early though…

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Today is largely an administrative day. What does that mean? It’s a day where I sit down and try to get my life together.

Prizren, Kosovo

Prizren, Kosovo

Today is also the anniversary of the day I arrived to another country on a one way ticket. On April 14, 2016, I boarded an evening flight from JFK airport in New York City and landed 2 days later in New Zealand. Those first few days in Auckland were terrifying for me. I had literally given up everything I knew in NYC to come travel the world for 1 year. Who does that? No one I knew personally. That’s for sure.

Salzburg, Austria is really pretty!

Salzburg, Austria is really pretty!

I told myself that I could always book a flight back to New York if I didn’t like it.

Sydney, Australia is a complete stunner! 

Sydney, Australia is a complete stunner! 

One year later, I have yet to return to nyc.

George Town, Malaysia has awesome art. 

George Town, Malaysia has awesome art. 

This is where I’ve traveled over the last 365 days: 

  1. New Zealand: Auckland, Rotorua, Taupo, Napier, Wellington, Picton, Nelson, Christchurch, Akaroa, Lake Tekapo, Wanaka, Queenstown, Franz Josef, Dunedin
  2. Australia: Sydney, Melbourne, Phillip Island, Hobart (Tasmania), Adelaide (overnight), Alice Springs, Uluru/Ayer’s Rock, Cairns, Airlie Beach/Whitsundays, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Byron Bay
  3. Indonesia: Bali (Seminyak, Ubud, Kuta), Gili Meno, Gili Air
  4. Singapore: Singapore
  5. Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur, George Town (Penang)
  6. Thailand: Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Krabi (overnight), Koh Tao, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pai
  7. Spain: Madrid, Granada, Sevilla, Barcelona, Valencia
  8. Portugal: Lisbon, Coimbra, Porto
  9. England: London, Oxford, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Bath, Cambridge
  10. Scotland: Edinburgh
  11. Ireland: Dublin, Galway
  12. Northern Ireland: Belfast
  13. Denmark: Copenhagen
  14. Hungary: Budapest
  15. Slovakia: Bratislava
  16. Austria: Vienna, Salzburg
  17. Czech Republic: Prague
  18. Germany: Munich
  19. Slovenia: Ljubljana, Lake Bled
  20. Croatia: Zagreb, Zadar, Split
  21. Bosnia and Herzegovina: Mostar, Sarajevo
  22. Serbia: Belgrade
  23. Kosovo: Pristina, Prizren
  24. Albania: Tirana, Gjirokaster
  25. Greece: Kalampaka, Athens, Santorini
  26. Turkey: Istanbul, Goreme/Cappodocia, Fethiye, Selcuk, Izmir
  27. Israel: Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Dead Sea
  28. Jordan: Amman, Petra, Wadi Rum
  29. Myanmar: Yangon, Bagan, Kalaw, Inle Lake, Mandalay
Mostar's bridge Stari Most looks like it came out of a fairytale. Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mostar's bridge Stari Most looks like it came out of a fairytale. Bosnia and Herzegovina

That’s everywhere I’ve been over the past year. In bold are my favorite places.

Inle Lake, Myanmar doesn't seem real. 

Inle Lake, Myanmar doesn't seem real. 

Most of my favorites are surrounded by mountains and/ or beautiful scenery. Of these, Queenstown, New Zealand, may be the most scenic and photogenic of the bunch. I literally stayed for one week admiring the view.  

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Wadi Rum, Jordan

I’m writing from Chiang Mai, Thailand. Next week, I head to Laos.