At our annual Line Christmas party, I tell my sands my plans to travel the world. My sands Ari tells me she plans to visit Thailand in March with another one of our sorors, I jokingly said “not without me.” In a playful manner but was very serious as Thailand was definitely top 10 of my bucket list travels and plus that was my birthday month. Few weeks passed, she sent me the deets, we booked the trip, made the itinerary and come March we were off. They were flying from LA and I was flying from Detroit so we were on completely different flights. My flight had a pretty hefty layover in Beijing, China which I originally was just going to spend at the airport reading and relaxing but upon research I found out that one can conquer The Great Wall of China in a mere 5 hours or so. I decided to take on the challenge.
PRO-TIP: If you are ever in a city for a layover more than 5 hours, book a layover tour to make your trip a 2 for 1.
The tour company picked me up right from the airport where I met two other women, a hairdresser from Miami and a retired teacher from Vietnam who swiftly became my travel crew for the day. It was a rainy day in Beijing so we took the cable car up and walked the rest of the stretch of the Great Wall. The sight of the Great Wall was aesthetic, remarkable. I also distinctly remember something else that was remarkable though. The blatant, right in your face stares the locals gifted me when we stopped at a souvenir shop on our return back. I understand that it wasn’t meant to be disrespectful at all, some people in China genuinely have never seen black people before, but it did however make me uncomfortable and I quickly decided I ain’t need no souvenirs. Farewell to that!
Next stop was Thailand! Met up with the travel squad around 1am and we were off to our amazing condo. We slept, got up the next morning and started our adventure. We went elephant trekking and ATV’d to Big Buddha which is considering hallowed grounds in Phuket. Elephant trekking was amazing until I witnessed how harshly the operators treat these precious animals. Yelling and hitting them with bamboo sticks was so horrid to watch. With that said, I would suggest if visiting Phuket to visit an elephant sanctuary where these creatures are valued and well taken care of. Elephants are so majestic and symbolize so much greatness, it hurt my heart to see them treated so harshly. The highlight of this day though was indulging in authentic thai food at the end of our long day. Unmatched!
PRO-TIP: Everything in Thailand is so cheap as far as food and shopping. Go on a Spree!
The next day we had another amazing tour to Phi Phi Islands. Phuket is an island itself, but I would recommend anyone that visits Phuket to not miss out on visiting the other islands near by. The white sand, blue waters and rock structures are so picturesque it almost seems unreal. We spent the day island hopping, snorkeling, playing with monkeys and enjoying the scenery.
Our last day we spent shopping on Bangla Road, going to Patong Beach and enjoying Thailand’s fun but very interesting nightlife where we got lured into attending a sex show and I was able to analyze Thailand’s cultural obsession with “whitening” agents. We then went home to pack as Arielle & Dana’s plane left at 5am in the morning and mines left at 11. Thailand was an overall very exciting and cheap destination. Highly recommended!
Major credit cards are accepted in many places in Thailand. But get local currency (baht) for things like transportation, bars and local markets.
US plugs will work in Thailand.
Phuket transportation is accessible and cheap (most preferred is taxi) but walking is also extremely doable. Try to avoid Tuk Tuks especially at night as they will extort you for all you got.
Phuket is hot and tropical all year round.
Visit an elephant or tiger sanctuary.
Phuket gets very busy during peak season January- March, try to avoid the island during this time if you hate crowds.
Plan a day trip to another nearby island such as Maya Bay or Phi Phi Islands.
Greece will always have a special place in my heart, being my first solo trip abroad and being a trip that reified my blackness and made me realize that I wanted to embark on a journey to decolonize perceived travel culture. Why I originally planned to go on the trip was the price. I stumbled upon an Instagram post on my Explore page that said tickets to Greece for only $500. Bored and curious, I thought this couldn’t be true but let’s see. I followed the link and did my research and it seemed legit so I told my “old friend” we should go. This was an opportunity of a lifetime! We will never find tickets this cheap to Europe ever again! Boy was I wrong! Thankfully. But we did end up buying the tickets but ultimately decided that us going on the trip together might not be the best idea. We couldn’t just cancel the trip though. It was non-refundable! So me being the most frugal, penny-pinching, economical person you’ll find decided that I wasn’t going to waste the trip. I was going to go on my own. And to this day, I am forever grateful for that decision.
Initially I was nervous. The thought of going to a foreign space, not knowing what to expect and not having anyone to watch my back was taxing. I did extensive research, made an itinerary, booked my airbnb and let go of my fears. My plane ride was a mere 9 hours with Aegean Airlines, most of which I spent sleeping or reading to remedy my intense anxiety. Upon me entering the plane, they gave me a fresh pomegranate to symbolize good luck, prosperity, good health and longevity in the New Year, this put my mind at ease. I hopped off the plane at about 10pm, Greece time. My Airbnb was a pretty steep distance away from the airport and I had to make there amid the New Year’s Eve Festivities. Thankfully, my host gave me really great instructions on how to get there so I hopped on a bus right to the center of the city, Syntagma Square. I then had to walk about 15 mins from there. It was pretty late at this point and I thought there would be more people out with friends and family bringing in the New Year at a bar or club but I then realized I was not in America. Greeks would much rather spend their New Year’s Eve inside with family and friends. I made the 15 minute walk despite me being exhausted and noticed that my Airbnb was in what one may call “The Ghetto.” Really shady area but I didn’t care, I was just happy to have made it safely. My host was amazing and greeted me with open arms. I even made it right before the clock striked 12 and got to experience the amazing fireworks display and people cheering and dancing to celebrate another year.
Day 2 came, I woke up early eager to accomplish everything on my itinerary (Because at the beginning of my travels, I was embarrassingly a tourist in every sense of the word.) It was New Year’s Day! I was excited! Until I walked out the steep steps of my Airnbn and the stares and heckels began to flow as I walked 8 minutes to Omonia Square. Most of the heckels sounded something like this, “Hi, Hi Chocolate, Motel? Motel?” They were endlessly abundant. The notion is that you can’t be a Black Woman walking alone and not be here for covert reasons. I mean how is it possible that someone like you can afford to be here? You must be a prostitute, right? right?” This idea would be perpetuated over and over again as I traveled to other places in the world. It was sad, it was inundated, it was real! I ignored every heckle, every stare, every ignorant attempt to reject my presence within the space, and made my way to Omonia Square to do some shopping which upon doing research had read that it was a completely unsafe place ridden with prostitutes & scammers. I mean granted, Greece is in a financial turmoil right now and have been for many years and if you visit, especially Athens, you are sure to see your fair share of shadiness but not nearly as much as the internet will make it seem. So carry on! Honestly, I was in awe of this place, I couldn’t believe I was there. Alone but not lonely. I completely forgot about my itinerary and spent literally the entire day walking around, observing the culture and enjoying my own damn company.
Day 3 came and I decided to visit The Acropolis. I am infatuated with structures that have stood the test of time which is why I am so in love with the city of Athens. It was amazing! I literally just sat at the top in awe for about an hour. I then decided I wanted to see more and found out the most cost-efficient and convenient way to do this was to purchase a Hop-on, Hop off 2-day bus ticket. These type of buses are available in many major cities around the world and allow you to use the bus as transportation and get a free oral history lesson on board of the city’s top attractions. Every time I decided to ride one of these buses, I always just ride the route full-out one time and decide what sights I want to stop at then when I ride again, I actually stop and explore. I did this for 2 whole days and it was amazing!
The second day of exploring I stumbled upon a protest at The Parliament Building. If you know me, you know I love a good protest. I couldn’t quite dissect what the protest was about as everyone was speaking in Greek but I did my research after to see what injustice was occurring and learned the protest was for the release of two men, Mikel Zuloaga and Begoña Huarte (both of Basque origin) who were arrested as they were trying to travel back to the Basque Country with eight refugees in their van. I was so elated to stumble upon this act of resistance and although I couldn’t understand the words being spoken, oppression and injustice has no set language. I stayed the remainder of the protest. After I was able to witness the changing of the guards which occurs every hour as they protect the mansion as well as the tomb of the unknown soldiers. A sight to see!
My last day I decided to take a cruise where I would see 3 greek islands in 1 day. I saw the Saronic Islands of Aegina, Poros and Hydra for all of $75. It was amazing and I met some pretty great people in the process and was able to engage in traditional greek dances and songs. Unfortunately, that was my last day but my plane didn’t leave until the morning and I realized that I had mistakenly booked my Airbnb for 5 nights and not 6. In a panic, I talked to my Airbnb host and he said he couldn’t accommodate me for an extra night as he had another traveler coming. He did advise me to download the app Couchsurf and see who I could crash with for the night, absolutely free of charge. I met a nice man named Miguel who agreed to let me stay for the night and I gave him a bottle of wine as a thank you. Highly suggest this app for anyone who falls into a predicament like me or just wants to be a freeloader for a couple days. The locals who use the app love when travelers stop by and will embrace you with open arms. This trip was every bit of amazing. Opened my eyes to new possibilities, dismantled myths and gave me a chance to re-imagine my purpose. Forever Grateful, Thank You Greece.
Booking Lodging in Athens is super affordable: My Airbnb was only $18/night & I found 4 star hotels for as little as 40 euro a night.
Transportation in Athens is easily accessible whether it is train, bus or tram. My preferred method of transportation was the train. It’s easy to navigate and pretty cheap.
Visit the Plaka neighborhood after you visit The Acropolis. Amazing shopping opportunities and tons of cafes.
Download the messenger app or Google Hangouts to make free phone calls back home.
Remember to bring your electricity plug converter!
Get a combined ticket for the ancient sites in Athens. For 30 euros you can gain entry to all the major attractions. You can buy the combined ticket at any of the attractions. Also, From Nov 1st – Mar 31st, all major sites in the city are free on Sundays.
Dinner in Greece is usually pretty late around 9pm so plan ahead for that when you are looking for places to dine for dinner.
Book a day trip from Athens to one of the many Greek Islands or to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon. You won’t regret it!