by Cat Ku, Account Associate
After almost a year of inspirational, roll-up-your-sleeves storytelling work at LaunchSquad, I was ready for my first extended vacation. Destination: Southeast Asia. Armed with passports, sunscreen and not a single word of Thai, a friend and I headed off for ten days in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand and Taipei, Taiwan.
I arrived in Bangkok after 24 hours of travel that included a few detours involving a lost taxi driver, a few angry stray dogs and a very nice security guard on a scooter who saved the day — all before 4am. The natural reward after that ordeal was breakfast aka the best mango sticky rice I’ve ever had. (Dessert counts as breakfast if you’re in a different country, right?) I ate at least a mango a day for the rest of the trip.
We had a great time exploring traditional and cosmopolitan Bangkok, going from gorgeous old temples to shiny shopping malls via tuk tuks, river boats and Uber.
It’s rare that I’m in a place where I don’t know the local language or I’m not traveling with someone who does. But I was still able to find a bit of home at an “authentic” Mission taco stand in a mall food court…
… and a reminder of LaunchSquad, too! The first sight to greet me in the Bangkok airport was a JCDecaux smart billboard (powered by our client Jasper) advertisement for Konica Minolta (also a Jasper customer!)
Once we’d had our fill of “high-so” (Thai slang for “high society”) Bangkok, we flew north to the much more relaxed city of Chiang Mai, where a friend is spending the year working at an NGO.
The highlight of this leg of the trip was a visit to Baanchang Elephant Park, home to elephants rescued from logging camps. (Many of them still bore scars from their mistreatment). We got to be “mahouts” (elephant caretakers) for a day.
My elephant, Kanika, was a big fan of sugar cane and plantains. Girl can eat.
After feeding time, I hopped on for a very bumpy ride. (Think I’ll stick to biking!) We rode to a pond, where I gave Kanika her bath… or actually, she gave me one.
Another memorable moment, thanks to the recommendation of LS Account Executive Christine Heerwagen, was a massage at a women’s correctional facility in Chiang Mai. Prisoners with minor offenses learn traditional Thai massage to equip them with employable skills after they’re released.
Of course, no trip to Asia is complete without food. Since we couldn’t only eat mango sticky rice, we also got our fill of street food. In between all the eating, we took a traditional Thai cooking class and learned the secret to Thai cooking: oyster sauce, fish sauce and lots and lots of palm sugar.
After a quick pit stop in Taipei to visit family, it was back to real life in San Francisco. And as amazing as the trip was, I’m happy to return to actual Mission tacos and weather that doesn’t feel like a sauna. I’m already looking ahead to next year’s trip, wherever that may be!