What Bangkok Taught Me about San Diego

Known as America’s finest city, I am convinced that title does San Diego little justice.  It is truly the world’s finest city. My cumulative experience of travel to over 30 countries as diverse as Mexico to Cambodia, Israel to Hungry, England to Croatia, Spain to Russia, and so many others including travel from coast to coast within the United States have left me with no doubt that San Diego, CA is world class, through and through.  It offers a lifestyle unmatched anywhere else.

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What we have in our backyard is something that you could travel thousands of miles in search of and you would never find anything quite like it.  It is no wonder that so many people from around the world dream of moving to San Diego.

This realization became concrete during my latest visit to Thailand.  I spent time in Bangkok, Koh Samui, and Phuket. 

The trip started in Bangkok, which if you don’t know is an incredibly hectic and congested city.  Of course it also has a lot to do, see, and great food.  However, I quickly found myself searching for refuge from the chaos, yet there was nowhere to go aside from overcrowded Lumpini Park where you could still hear the city traffic.  I suddenly felt myself yearning for a quick little getaway to Sunset Cliffs where I could take in the beautiful ocean views, breathe some fresh air, and reconnect with Mother Nature. 

So I asked people where I could go to have that kind of experience in Bangkok.  I asked them where they would go to get away from it all for an hour.  They told me that my options were to either go to a rooftop lounge on one of the high rise buildings in the city or to drive at least an hour out of town.  I quickly found myself yearning for some fresh air.

We then continued on to Koh Samui, a great little Thai Island off the east coast of the southern peninsula.  Finally, I had what I had been waiting for.  Peace and quiet, storybook views, and total relaxation.  What’s wrong with that?  Nothing is on first glance. However, after a few days we got a little cabin fever from being isolated on our little corner of Thai paradise and we wanted to go into town.  We rented a motorcycle and made our way to the Island’s city center, only to find that it was not what we were looking for. 

We quickly realized that we had made our way into one of the world’s most unapologetic tourist traps.  No locals to be found, vendors everywhere, crowded streets, total and utter chaos.  This was no La Jolla Village, no downtown Del Mar, or eclectic Encinitas.  Instead it was mayhem and we couldn’t wait to get out.  On Koh Samui it is peace and quiet or you left to fend for yourself in this supposed “town”.

Leg three of the trip was a charming little Island just off famous Phuket called Naka Island.  If I thought Koh Samui was relaxing (when at our resort), well it had nothing on Naka Island.  What an amazing time we had in the most unique natural setting I have ever seen.  Our view included famed James Bond Island and Phang Ang Bay and the accompanying rock formations jutting vertically out of the sea in a way I have never seen before.

So what’s wrong with that?  Well nothing for the first few days, but once we ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the same restaurant for three days in a row we started missing our quick little 10 minute drive into Little Italy or a hop out to North Park and their many local eateries.

Here’s the point; the world is filled with impressive metropolitan cities, charming small towns, and glorious natural settings. However, as far as I’ve seen, nothing has the extraordinary balance of San Diego.  It seamlessly offers a bit of everything and it does it all well.  Nowhere else can you surf in the waking hours of the day, have breakfast in a hip urban environment, go hiking in the mountains without a vehicle in sight and a perfect sunset view, head home for a nap, get dressed up, walk passed all the hopping bars in one of the many great walkable San Diego neighborhoods, tuck into a world class restaurant serving the cuisine of your choice, and then retire to a quiet street for a great night’s rest all in one easy to manage day.  Balance like that is rare.

San Diego is America’s Finest City.  Sure.  That is well established.  But now it is clearer to me than ever that it is a world class city.  And all this without even once mentioning the weather.

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