Saturday, May 26, 2012

Settling into Krabi

Before leaving for Malaysia, Eric and I spent three weeks in Krabi, Thailand.  Krabi has a lot to offer — the food, the short distance to multiple islands, lots of great expats, lots of great bars — but it's not a big city.  It's an easy place to start to feel settled.  During our few weeks, I noticed that I was starting to set up routines.  I had my regular coffee place, where whenever I walked in the woman knew I'd want a cappuccino to go.  I had my regular soup lady, who had the best dumplings.  We picked out our dim sum place after branching out to restaurants with inferior bao buns.  I could walk around town without getting lost and I knew when the local general store closed for the night.

Speaking of finding familiar things on the road,
Eric found this Michigan t-shirt at a night market in Krabi.
Also pictured: the best soup.
When you spend more than a few days in a place, you can begin to understand how it works.  For example, the bar across the street from our guest house was often empty.  Had we been in town for a long weekend, I would have assumed it was just a fluke.  Since we stayed for three weeks, we learned that the owner had tried to open a Thai-style bar in a backpacker district.  For that reason and several others, it was not attracting a crowd.  (That didn't stop one guy we met from going there every night to sing with the Thai band.) 

I was interested in the ways I could see other travelers "adopt" Krabi, too.  We all picked out favorite bars (for one guy, the empty one with the Thai band), favorite places to eat, and even favorite menu items at our guest house's restaurant.  Though we were all there mostly to explore somewhere new, part of that exploration involved creating a sense of familiarity.  There's something comforting about being able to walk in a café and order "the usual" from a bartender who knows your name. 

Staying in one place for a while lets you notice some of the city's details.
For example, cars that can wink at you.
I realize I'm mostly writing about finding familiarity through the service industry.  Unless you do get the opportunity to live somewhere long-term, maybe with a host family, your first and most frequent encounters with local people will likely be through guest houses, restaurants and shops.  If you stay longer, you can meet more people who work in other industries.  Making friends, whether locals or other travelers, is a big part of feeling more at home.

These cliffs are part of how I will remember Krabi.
Even after a few weeks — even a few days, depending on how much of a routine-based person you are — it's possible to feel established in a new city.  One of the best parts of traveling is uncovering a new place and discovering how to find your own parts of it.  I've been surprised that while traveling through an unfamiliar country I can start to make my own sort of home. 

How do you start to feel comfortable in a new place? 

1 comment:

  1. That's pretty cool he found the Michigan t-shirt there :). One time when I was in Little Italy in NYC, two men there were arguing about how Michigan football was going to do that season - lol!