Happy New Year!!! Wow, 2013 was such a busy year for us: adjusting to married life, planning for and leaving on this round the world trip, and kicking it off by visiting Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Thailand! Ha, I’m surprised we made it through!
I’m not usually one to get sentimental at New Year’s or to set many resolutions, but when this time of year rolls around I do always relish a bit in the feeling of a new beginning. It’s like we get a clean slate; a fresh start with all things forgiven.
New Year’s has always been a specified time to collectively reflect on our choices and reactions in life over the past year and either decide how to build on them or take the lessons learned. Either way though, we get to start again, unburdened as much as possible from the happenings of last year, gazing forward in determined anticipation at the possibilities of the next. It reminds me of being a kid–the adult’s version of the start of a new school year. An opportunity to take your older, wiser self and be kinder, more responsible, healthier, happier and ultimately DO BETTER, whatever that may mean to you.
What I have come to see even more clearly while traveling this year is that, although not everyone is celebrating the western new year, these feelings–feelings of wanting to be better, do better, and live life in a meaningful way–are universal. For all that seems to separate us as humans, for all the DIFFERENCES we focus on, the world is really very much the same at the human level and we were all born into it with the same intentions, living for the same reasons: to care for and connect with those we love and to be happy. To find the meaning of life, we don’t need to look to philosophy or even religion, but can deduce it from these universal longings. When you look at them, really look, this search we see for happiness, this search for connection, this search for meaning, they show us that we have gotten disconnected from the reason we are all here: to experience the love, joy and beauty in the life we were given and to help others to do the same.
So how can we do this more in the new year, taking into account the myriad of different situations and circumstances we are all in?
For me, this year, I think the best way to reconnect with the ultimate reason we are here is to try to see the beauty in life as much as possible. You might think of it as looking for God in the little things, noticing the divine, or, as exactly what it says: finding the beauty in each and every, everyday situation no matter how mundane or even how ugly it may look on the surface. If we all went around cultivating this kind of eyesight, well, how could we not be happier? How could we not find more meaning? How could we not inadvertently spread this view of the world to others? Right?
I guess I’m just hoping that with this new year–this new beginning– I can take my older, wiser self, and, along with trying be be a better communicator, friend and wife, to give more and to be more peaceful, that I can stop to be present in each moment. Stop to be grateful for this life I have been lucky enough to have been given the chance to keep living. I am hoping that if I try hard enough to be mindful of this that I won’t even HAVE to search for the beauty, that it will simply unfold and reveal itself… That’s my hope anyways ;)
Life is hard though, and we all get really lost sometimes. It is because of this I am grateful that we get this chance to not only celebrate the achievements of the past year, but move on from its struggles, make our resolutions, and start anew.
Speaking of starting anew, today–New Years day–we fly to South Africa to begin what I consider to be the second major part of our trip. Another new beginning!
To close out 2013, here is a bit about our last few days in Asia, which we spent in Bangkok, Thailand.
First off, we found a really, really great hotel that was just close enough to Kho San–the busiest street in the famous “backpackers district”–but just far enough away not to be inundated with drunk twenty-something year olds and techno music.
Hotel Riva Surya on Phra Athit Road. Comfortable, affordable, nicely decorated with a great pool area overlooking the Chao Phraya River. Lots of fun bars, coffee shops and restaurants right outside in walking distance. Way better than we expected, highly recommend if you are in Bangkok. What more could you want?
Second off, when we got there they were having the Rattanakosin festival, a festival/street market that they only have on four weekends out of the year. And it was right outside of our hotel. When we arrived the street was alive with Thais and low key tourists alike and the amount and different types of Thai street food was really amazing! We couldn’t have picked a better date to come. How lucky!
Along with the festival and cool bars on Phra Athit Road, we also stopped in a little bar (garage??) called Jazz Happens. Set up by the Silpakorn university faculty, it is an intimate, informal venue for young jazz musicians to show off their stuff–and for lucky people like us to watch for just the price of a drink. Both my and Mo’s kind of place!
After our night out, this Korean run restaurant (leave it to Mo to sniff out the Korean places in Thailand!) a block down the street from the hotel had super, SUPER good stewed beef noodle soup, which we had for lunch the next day (and ate too fast to take a pic!) Highly, highly recommend if you are in this neck of the woods.
Third of all, literally behind our hotel there was the Old Phra Arthit Pier, from which we easily grabbed a private long tail boat to take us on an affordable hour and a half tour (actually two and a half hours because the boat’s engine broke down and we had to sit and wait while the driver fixed it…but never mind that) through the canals of the Chao Phraya River to see Bangkok from the water.
We saw some of Bangkok’s famous sights, but only briefly, as we flew by in our boat.
While on the boat, we bought a few drinks from a woman who was part of the “floating market”–boats that float down the canals and sell all sorts of food and gift items.
Part of the trip was also feeding the catfish some bread that the driver of the boat took us to buy. These fish were huge! I’m not sure that this is the most eco friendly thing to do though, and I saw one of the fish swim right into a plastic bread bag that some other tourist must have let blow into the river! Sigh…the effects of tourism gone wrong…
Fourth, we took a silly but really fun cocktail making class at the hotel for just the price of the two cocktails. The mixologist was really nice but seemed nervous, I think it was his first time doing the class. We went through all the steps to make the cocktails and then realized he had forgotten to tell us to put in the alcohol…..Virgin spicy orange martini anyone?
Lastly, we got to hang out and wander around the neighborhood during the New Years Eve festivities, watch some fireworks over the river and then simply walk a few blocks back to the hotel. Pretty much just they way we think New Year’s Eve should be: fun and people without the fuss, price and traffic, and in a terrific city–the only thing missing was friends :-(
Oh, and what is NYE without a NYD breakfast? (2014 healthy eating diet goes into affect tomorrow….)
Happy 2014! We hope everyone enjoyed a fun and safe NYE and are looking forward to a new year full of fresh starts and new adventures!