Me and the boys. They were pretty much the reason I went to Thailand.

Same Same, But Different: Returning to Bangkok.

There’s a smell to Asia. A mix of lemongrass and coriander and durian and mango. A mix of incense and sweat and fermented meat. Something like that. It’s a scent that’s enhanced with the sticky humidity. Intensified. It’s a scent that’s just there, saturating the air.

It was a comforting, familiar, smell when I arrived in Bangkok last October. I could breathe in and know I was back in Asia. I was back. If only for a two-week vacation.

It was odd returning to a city I hadn’t been in for three years, returning to a country that meant a lot to me, where I once spent a good amount of time. Backpackers like to talk about the “reverse culture shock” they experience in returning home after long-term travel. How everything has stayed the same but they’ve changed so much. But that can happen on the road too.

Bangkok was the same. But different. And so was I.

Truth is, Bangkok was never my favorite city, I never had a particular affinity to it. I prefer the north or south in Thailand. But TBEX, a travel blogging conference, was there and, because of that, so many of my friends were too. So it made sense for a vacation.


Me and the boys. They were pretty much the reason I went to Thailand.

Me and the boys. They were pretty much the reason I went to Thailand.


Bangkok felt exactly the same as it did when I was last there in 2012. Yes, I know there’s been some unrest, coups, a bomb attack. But, to the tourist eye, it’s the same. Taxi drivers still try to swindle you. The vendors on Khao San Road all are peddling same wares (with the new addition of selfie sticks, mind you). Massages are still cheap. There’s still so much amazing food.

Same, same.

And, do you know what else was the same? Being with my friends. Seeing Chris and Stephen and Brendon and Nick, my Mexican Monkey crew, most of whom I hadn’t seen in two years, felt like home. It’s funny how some of your greatest friends can be friends you rarely see, friends who are rarely ever all in the same place at the same time, but when you do see them, when you all are together, it feels like no beats were skipped. And I love that.

I’ve tried for months to try to write about Bangkok, about what I did for a week there, about what it meant for me to be there. I could tell you how I so looked forward to mango sticky rice for weeks before my trip only to be up all night puking after having one off the street (I never want to look at a mango again). I could tell you about the conference, but that would be rather boring. I could tell you that all of the conference parties ran out of alcohol early and pissed everyone off. I could tell you what else I did in Bangkok, but the answer to that would be, “not much.” I went on a craft beer tour. I went to some local bar where I danced with Thai boys and drunkenly tried to use an elevated squat toilet after years out of practice. I could tell you about the Vegetarian Festival we stumbled into, though I had no idea what was going on. I could tell you that I danced all night at a gay club on my last night. I could tell you about all the new blogger friends I made. Or about how, yet again, TBEX left me wanting more out of my life.

But, after four months of trying to think of something brilliant to say, this is all I could come up with. Bangkok was the same, but different. Being in Bangkok was the same, but different. TBEX was the same, but different. Being amongst friends and bloggers was the same, but different. My hopes and dreams and motivation leaving was the same, but different.

And that’s all I’ve got.

Now look at a bunch of shitty iPhone photos.

I’ve attended four TBEX travel blogging conferences:

TBEX Vancouver

TBEX Dublin

TBEX Athens

TBEX Bangkok

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

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