I am finally in Asia!!! My first stop was Bangkok. Originally my plan was to travel through Thailand to begin and then work my way east. Well, since the king died I changed my plans around a bit because Thailand was going through a mourning period. Therefore, I decided to stay about 5 days in Bangkok and then move on from there to Hong Kong to check it out and see if it is a city that I could work in next year. The flight from Baltimore to Bangkok was so long and the jet lag was terrible. My dad dropped me off nice and early at BWI (thanks dad!) to catch my first flight at 7am. I first flew to LA and had about a 2 hour layover. It was crazy because that airport is so big that I think I walked over a mile to get from one end to the other to find my gate. Then, I took another overnight flight to Taipei in Taiwan. The plane was really nice on EVA air and it was amazing service and food, but it is just really hard to sit there that long. I think I watched at least 5 movies. After a layover in Taipei and eating my first real Chinese food, I finally boarded my flight to Bangkok.
I arrived at about 11pm and got a taxi to my hostel. My hostel was really cool, but a bit off the beaten backpacker track. There weren’t really any other hostels around and it was empty. I felt like I was the only one there. They had pod beds which were really nice because they are like little cubes that go into the wall with a curtain so you feel like you are in your own little cubby hole. I even had my own plug, light, and shelf. The beds were so comfortable and it was a great place to get over jet lag. I tried and struggled a bit to sleep through the first night, but it was difficult because my body felt like it should be daytime with the 12 hour difference.
The next morning, I woke up, ate breakfast, and went for a bit of a wander around, but I got tired around 1pm and went back to the hostel to take a quick nap. Well, next time I do this I need to remember to set an alarm. I woke up at 8pm. So basically I got my normal nights sleep in what my body thought were night hours. Which then made it difficult to sleep the next night. Dinner that night was interesting because I was trying find some food, but no signs were in English and I had never seen anything like I was seeing on the street. I settled for some chicken on a stick because it looked safe. That first day was a bit hard because I was on my own and really had no idea on where to go. It was really frustrating as well because I am used to Latin America where I can speak with locals and read menus and here the lettering isn’t even anything that I can read. It will take a bit to get used to.
The next day I had booked a tour which ended up being the highlight of my Bangkok experience. I had booked a tour in hopes of meeting some other people, but I happened to be the only person on the tour. So, it was just me and my Thai guide and we had a blast together. Since the palace was still closed he had to make up parts of the tour and just show me other things around. We did a so much that day and I apologize that I am going to describe it in detail because it was so cool. First, we started at Wat Traimit which is the temple containing the giant golden Bhudda. My guide explained to me that originally they were moving a giant bhudda made of cement to the temple but then accidentally dropped the bhudda and it cracked. Inside they found a Bhudda in a different pose made of gold. They think that during one invasion that they covered the gold statue so that it would not be taken. The Bhudda weights 5.5 tons!!
Next, we wandered through Chinatown which is the biggest chinatown outside of China. The road is curved to they call it the dragon where business deals are made at the head of the dragon and food is sold at the belly of the dragon. We tried many different foods in Chinatown like Thai pudding which was delicious! We lunched on pad thai (finally got real pad thai!!), so amazing juice, spring rolls, and a weird leaf with onions and sweet paste inside.
Another interesting thing about the Thai/Chinese culture is their belief in the after life. We looked at the differences in coffins, then he showed me many different things that were made of paper, but looked like everyday things that we used such as iphones, cigarettes, food, money, and a toothbrush even. They burn to give you your ancestors in the after life. My guide said he felt stupid because he got his dead father an iPhone but forgot to burn a charger so it must have run out of battery. We also saw several funerals set up where they build large houses out of paper with servants and everything so their ancestors can live in them comfortably in the after life.
Throughout Chinatown we went to small Bhuddist temples. The one that stands out most was the one my guide called the Prostitutes’ Temple. They call it this because the women who built the temple was the owner of a brothel and made her prostitutes pay a kind of tax which paid for the temple. There, my guide taught me how to pray and we even got my fortune told (outlook looks good!).
Next, we made out way into little India. Evidently the name for an Indian princess is really close to the name of the town so they settled there. After, we went to the most bizarre department store where the store has not gotten any new inventory or updated since the 1950’s. Everything is still there and just sits waiting. There is a staff but no one inside. All the clothes and even sports equipment was from the 50’s!!
The next location was Wat Pho also referred to as the old city. This was definitely my favorite temple location that we went to. It was huge! So many golden bhuddas everywhere and many very ornate spires. The first major bhudda we saw was a gigantic reclining bhudda. It was in this tiny temple that could barely fit it. What was annoying about the temples is that you needed to be covered so every time I went in I had to put on my pants and long sleeve shirt and it was hot! We walked around for awhile and saw many temples, chinese statues, and of course bhuddas. The most sacred temple was my favorite. It was absolutely beautiful everywhere and on the walls were paintings of the stories of the bhudda. Here I was also blessed by a monk that was there. He just came over and started blessing my and then put a bracelet on my wrist for luck. (More pictures of this at the bottom of the post)
After, we went to Wat Arun also known as the Temple of the Dawn. We had to take a boat across the river that was really cheap. This place was beautiful as well but after Wat Pho it was a bit smaller and more of the same. It had some very large spires which were the highlight but not much else. Then, we went walking near the Imperial Palace. We couldn’t go inside because it was still closed because the king had died, but it was interesting to see everyone near the palace in black. Also, there was a lot of free food and drinks being handed out to anyone walking by. At one point we had to stop because the ex-wife of the prince was coming out to cook food for the people. I also saw the long line of people just waiting to go and sign the kings book. There must have been hundreds of people!!
Our last stop was to see the national museum. There were more bhuddas there and many very old statues and god figures. The best part of there was we got to see the what I am going to call Chariots where they transport the burned ashes of royalty through the streets. I saw the one they were going to use for the king in a few days time and it was just majestic. After I got back from my tour I was so tired that I just went to one of their million 7-11’s in the city and got some instant noodles for dinner.
The next day I walked to Lumpini Park and walked around for a bit. It is a beautiful park with a lake in the middle and a lot of exercise equipment and benches scattered around. I think they also have some restaurants open at times, but everything was shut when I was there. I sat on a bench and read for awhile and tried to plan a bit more of my trip. All of a sudden I saw a crazy lizard swimming right past my in the water. After, I exercised for a bit just in the grass until is started raining.
That night I went to a Mexican restaurant named Tacos and Salsa to meet up with Lisa who is a friend of Sarah who I worked with in Argentina. I had met a British guy at my hostel named Ed and he came along too. It was still raining so we ran through the rain to the restaurant which was fun and had a great dinner!
My final day in Bangkok Ed and I went to the weekend market Chatuchak. It was so big!! Over 5,000 stalls! I wanted so much of the stuff there. There was a whole row of really pretty dresses so I bought one black and teal dress. There was some beautiful artwork as well and some adorable elephant souvenirs. I didn’t buy anything else though because I didn’t want to cart is around through the rest of Asia with me and I thought it was too early to send home a package. I will wait until I come back and then return.
The craziest part of the market is when we found the what we think was the illegal pet trade part of the market. We first started seeing fish in bags which we found a bit odd. Then the fish got bigger and we were like alright. Then, we started seeing baby turtles, frogs, and sting rays. We tried to get out of that part so we took a left and saw tank of giant fish, then a monkey, some flying squirrels, puppies, giant cats, birds, and squirrels chained to the tops of cages. Things really got weird and we wanted to get out of there fast. In all, it was a really fun day with some good company. I ate dinner at the hostel that night and went to bed early.
The following day I woke up and went for a run in Lumpini Park, had breakfast, found the sky train, and went to the airport for my flight to Hong Kong. I really liked Bangkok. It was just a shame that I didn’t meet many people in my time here because it is always more fun to spend time with people. The upside is that I finally got over my jet lag. Next stop, Hong Kong.