A couple of days of the princess treatment, a few billion baht in extra pampering and I’m back. Back on the backpack track. I’m good to go again. I got myself a snappy new camera (more money, I’m out of control) and took my $50 Four Seasons pedicure for a cab ride down to Backpacker Mecca, also known as the Banglamphu district of Bangkok. I found a basic little (air conditioned, with balcony) room for $20 a night (yeah, back to reality) and took off for a walk to see what all the fuss was about. It’s hilarious here! It’s like backpacking 101 for babies. No wait…I’m backpacking 101. This is backpacking 1.0. Everything is laid out in a neat little row, known as Khao San Road. Picture a small street decked out in Las Vegas-style neon bar and hotel signs: then 7-11s, followed by full-service travel agencies offering cheap packages to the north and south; massage places; a million bars; stores selling ratty “I’m a dirty backpacker”-looking clothes, tattoo parlours, kiosks making dreadlocks in peoples’ hair (I don’t get this at all), henna places, internet cafes, tailors touting custom-made suits and dresses, places with laundry service (note: 25 baht per kilo, or roughly $3 to do all my laundry…approximately a $97 savings over what I paid at the Four Seasons) (I know, I know); kiosks selling flip flops and identical screen printed tees; overseas calls offices, cart after cart after cart of street food, a thousand tuk-tuk drivers on hand (“tuk tuk, pingpong show!”) and some guest houses mixed in. You couldn’t make a travel mistake here if you tried. I was having a great time mind-mocking the hippie-dippy 20-somethings with their messy hair, rattty tees and baggy shorts shuffling around with their scarves and bandanas and canvas sacks slung across one shoulder and wrists full of leather bracelets, trying to seem for all the world like they embody this lifestyle wholeheartedly….until a few hours later I found myself sitting on a grass mat on the side of the street with my new friend Ong the jewelry maker and his friends, helping girls pick out hand-made leather bracelets and necklaces (after I’d already picked out my own, of course). What happened? There’s just something about this all that affects you. My friend Jenn was right again – you do become a total hippie when you get to Thailand. It’s pretty tough not to feel completely laid back and at ease here (except for when I see the Nana couples…will never get used to that) (older, doughy foreigners with teenytiny very young Asian girls). The chill factor is helped not only a little bit by the fact that I’m actually finally taking time to stand still in one place for a few days and let it all soak in. Some would say 5 days is way too long to stay in Bangkok. Personally, I’m just fine with it. And I have a new travel buddy! I met Mael and Fabien from France on Wednesday morning. We had a great time hanging out for 24 hours before Mael headed off for other parts. But lacking a concrete plan of his own (by choice), Fabien is now coming to Chiang Mai with me to do some trekking, visit hill tribes and work on the elephant reserve. Meantime we’ve just been trippin’ around, checking out different little wats (temples) and quirky pockets of the city, sweating buckets and not really doing much of anything. We play roulette with the rainstorms (sometimes violent thunderstorms) and eat a lot of fruit and odd things from street vendors (he tried grubs. I did not.) (loving the banana pancakes, though!) We fly to Chiang Mai early tomorrow (Friday) morning. Thanks for all who offered their support through the low-down I had earlier in the week. There will be more of those to come, for sure; but as long as I’m always able to lean on my family and friends, remember above all that I have to be my own best friend, and find the good in things again, it’s all ok. Kinda like life. Hair Clips: A Mini Blog from Cara’s Curls Boots drugstores ROCK!! Cara bought me some awesome coconut-smelling deep conditioner and leave-in treatment. I have to be “down” all the time now, cuz that’s just the way things work in hippieland, so the timing couldn’t have been better. I was kind of interested by this dreadlock thing I saw, but Cara just kept on walking.