Just came from: Tokyo, Japan | One Night Without a Hotel
One Night in Bangkok
& One Missed Night in Bangkok
Oh Bangkok…. I had 2.5 days there and it wasn’t like anything I had ever imagined. First of all, it is absolutely massive. At a listed 8+ million population, it’s bigger than New York City. But with its metro area or suburbs included, it is 15 million or 30 million, respectively. That’s almost 4 NYCs put together!
The Tears From My Eyes Go “Tuk Tuk Tuk”
From the airport, I took the metro as close into town as I could, where I got onto a tuk tuk. This is like a motorcycle with a carriage strapped onto it, and I’m assuming it’s called tuk tuk for the scooter-like tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk noise it makes. This was an amazing experience to start as the fun of weaving through traffic is so new. But it doesn’t take long to wonder where the sliced onions are as your eyes begin burning and dripping with tears. The smog is so intense in Bangkok!
A Backpacker’s Heaven
My tuk tuk pulls up to my hotel on Soi Rambuttri, which is a backpacker’s haven because it is the next street over from the famous Khaosan Road. Imagine hut restaurants and bars lined up on a beach, sans the beach. I couldn’t resist getting a drink to celebrate my own arrival even before I dropped off my bags. I had 24 hours to myself before I met up with my Intrepid tour group, and I wanted to make the most of it. A drink now would ensure that. I finally did get settled in only to turn around and go back out to Khaosan Road…and it is CHAOS. It’s kind of like a crazy Cancun street, with throngs of tourists and locals alike sitting in cafes, smoking hookahs, and drinking. I had sat down to dinner when I met a group of tourists from Ireland and they needed a picture taken. Since I was solo, we joined forces and went to about 8 bars that night…only the first 3 of which I actually remember. The rest are only evidenced by hazy nightclub pictures and Ronald McDonald praying. I do, however, remember being forced to buy chicle. And when I refused based on good tourism standards, I got beat at arm-wrestling and thumb wars by a 10 year old girl. An agreement is an agreement…I had to buy the chicle.
Tread Carefully Into the Woven Thailand Scam
The next morning kicked off with a bang…in my head. Wow, what a hangover…but this was more than expected…it was desired. I got out and was immediately swooned onto a tuk tuk to go see a bunch of temples, but what they didn’t tell me was that they were going to try and take me to as many shops as possible to get me to buy jewelry, suits, etc. This was my introduction into the various forms of Bangkok scams. I realized later that they had people ‘conveniently’ sitting in places that would to try and push tourists to ‘the best suit shop in Thailand’. This part wasn’t really a scam…but it became one when I found myself in the midst of a “buy this jewelry at 80% off and you can resell it to Tiffany’s in the US” scam. And they would only sell it to tourists, only on this holiday weekend…and only this year, not next year’s holiday weekend. That’s when I knew it was a scam, but I went along for the experience…and the free tuk tuk ride around to all the temples. It worked for me!
A Little Bit of “Uh-Oh”
We were scheduled to meet our Intrepid Travel group at 6pm, so I had rushed back to the hotel. Heading into the lobby, I see the people I’ll spend the next 30 days with. A Canadian couple (Michelle and Mike, many photo credits to them!), Leanne from Australia, Romina from Peru, Liz from Australia, and Carla from Spain. Everyone is going to bring something different to this trip…and this was perfect. After sitting down to meet and sign some paperwork, we grab a quick group dinner.
Panic sets in. Halfway through dinner, I start feeling very ‘not right’. This was a feeling that I’d never had before. I felt my heart racing, my hands getting cold, and I can feel myself sweating. The noises around me are drowning out as I’m taking turns focusing on one specific sound after another. This sounds like a classic panic attack…but I’ve never had a panic attack before. Also, I am an extremely calm person and have absolutely nothing to panic about. My mind immediately starts tuning into everything I’ve eaten and drank in the last 24 hours as I’m trying to figure out what’s making me so sick. I’m interrupted by Liz who is a nurse: “Are you ok? You look super pale.” I respond back “Nope, I’m not…I’ve never felt like this, it’s super weird.” On a napkin, I discretely slider her my sister’s phone number (who is a doctor) back in the states and head to the restroom. About 20 minutes later, my body calms down. If you can believe it…I was trying to figure out whether I should go to the hospital (which the front desk told me was a near impossibility at this point), or whether I should go out that night! I get a hold of my sister and she tells me to wait it out and take it easy that night…”Stop trying to be travel hero!” OK, fine….
Chao Phraya River Tour
In huge contrast to the previous morning, I wake up feeling great. Who knows what that was about last night…but I need to pay attention to it. Please…no re-occurrence! As a group, we went on a boat tour of the famous Chao Phraya River that runs through Bangkok, and this would lead to seeing more temples. We boarded a longboat that basically had a massive V8 engine attached onto the back. The driveshaft itself was attached to a propeller and they steer by turning the entire engine around on an axis! I Personally enjoyed the boat tour more as there was so much to see. There are massive schools of catfish that eat bread right from your hand, kids playing in the muddy banks of the river right next to them, an of course, plenty of temples to see. What an awesome way to come off a crazy and scary ‘sick’ night.
Temples, Temples, Temples
It is absolutely unbelievable how many there are, and how much dedication there is to the building, maintenance, and upkeep of them (such as applying layers of 24k gold to just about everything). More on that in later posts. Within just a few hours, we hit Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Aru, and Wat Suthat! All this and we had some time to stop and get some street food which was absolutely delicious and beyond spicy (I like to push the limits on spice).
A Rookie Mistake
I had made another rookie mistake in coming on this trip without a professional camera, or something that would take respectable pictures for a blog that I would write 2.5+ years later…so at this point I am still resorting to my cell phone camera. My thought was that I could find the newer technology here in Thailand, even cheaper than I get it in the States. I was led to a massive electronics shopping center called Pantip Plaza. This was like Best Buy times 40 in one mega center…a tech geek’s dream! Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the model I wanted, so I held off. I was hoping that wouldn’t come back to bite me…I was wrong! It would indeed. I walked this mega-electronics-mall didn’t find the new Sony NEX camera that I wanted. For once, it seems the US got something first. Murphy’s Law at its finest. I hustled back to the hotel and packed just in time to meet up with the group again. We headed over to the train station and purchased some food for the overnight train ride to Chang Mai in the northern part of Thailand. We also had to purchase a cheap throw-away silk sleeping bag for a couple bucks…and these were actually pretty cool. But I think mine did only last a couple days. Sleeping bag, sandwiches, drinks, chips, and my bags…check. We’re headed to Chang Mai!
On to the next one:
Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai, Thailand
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