I arrived in Bangkok at 8 am, after an overnight flight from Darwin, and a ridiculously long layover in Singapore. As I exited the airport, I was stunned by the intense heat and humidity. Man it is hot here! The first thing I did was to withdrawal some cash (1 Thai Baht currently equals about $33 USD.) and headed to the taxi stand. I had read about taxi drivers trying to charge tourists a flat rate and that one should insist on the cabi turning on his meter. My cab driver told me the fare would be a flat rate of $450 baht. I insisted that the cab driver turn on his meter and threatened to get out of the cab if he did not. He grudgingly turned on his meter and my fare ended up only being only $300 baht ($9 USD) for a 1.5 hour cab ride! I had the driver drop me off near Khoa San Road, an area known for housing backpackers in cheap accommodations. I had not booked a room before arrival, so I set off in my search and viewed five different rooms before I met my new friend Hannah. She had also just arrived in Bangkok and after wandering the streets together in search for a guesthouse, we decided to share a room to get more bang for our baht! We decided on the Lamphu House, located on Soi Rambutri Road, which is around the corner fro Khao San Road, but is much quieter. Our room was only 770 baht total, which cost each of us only $12! Our room had a double bed and a twin bed, private bath (with hot water), AC, and a private patio.
While I had arrived in Bangkok solo and was looking forward to traveling alone again, it is also fun to meet new cool people to hang with along the way. Hannah and I dumped our bags in our room and headed to Khoa San Road for lunch. I had my first authentic Thai dish, deciding on the classic pad thai (I am in Asia so it is cool to take pictures of your food!) It was really good and cost only $2! While eating lunch, I saw a girl walking by that I had met in New Zealand! I called out her name, Claire, and we were both completely shocked to see each other! I met Claire in Rotorua, NZ, and we hung out together briefly before going to different cities, but I had thought she was a very cool girl. We decided to all meet up later that evening for some fun.
After lunch, I told Hannah I wanted to walk to Wat Mahathat, a temple that I had read about offering meditation instruction near the monks’ residences. I wanted to find out the times of the classes as I want further my meditation practice while in Thailand. While in San Francisco, I took a 10 day introduction to meditation course at the San Francisco Buddhist Center. We were taught the practices of “The Mindfulness of Breathing” and “Loving Kindness”. I wandered into the temple while Hannah waited for me outside. I quickly got lost between many buildings and was not sure if I was allowed to ask a monk for directions. I saw a Thai woman and asked her for directions. Turns out she spoke English, and had just came from a meditation course herself. She told me that day and the next were a Buddhist holiday and the English speaking class would not resume until Thursday.
I returned to the temple today and participated in a two hour guided meditation course. The class was very small as it was filled with only myself and a Filipino girl. The course was very similar to the classes I participated in San Francisco. Meditation to me is the art of getting to know one’s own mind and helps one gain wisdom to encourage what is best in each of us. Meditation also forces one to be in the present as opposed to getting drawn into the past or the future. I find the practice very challenging but rewarding and calming as well.
While walking back to our room, a woman came up to Hannah and put a bag of open bird seed in her hand. Before we could realize what was happening, Hannah was surrounded by heaps of pigeons with no way to escape! I could not stop laughing and was able to snap a photo as she stood in shock. The funniest part about it was that the woman told Hannah she owed her 50 baht for the bird seed! Of course she didn’t pay her, and we quickly left the screaming crazy pigeon lady behind!
Later in the evening, Hannah, Claire and I met for a Singha, the national beer, and then went for our first ride in a tuk tuk. A tuk tuk is a three wheeled motorized cart that can sometimes be a better value than a cab. One must bargain and agree on a fare before accepting a ride in a tuk tuk. We had a very entertaining first night out in Thailand. We did what every tourist in Bangkok must do once, and we all said NEVER AGAIN!
The following morning, Hannah and I rolled out of bed at 6:30 am after only 4 hours sleep. Our tour bus was picking us up at 7 am to take us 1.5 hours outside of Bangkok to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. The initial image is iconic, wooden canoes with multicolored fruits and vegetables, paddled by Thai women wearing wide-brimmed straw hats. The reality reveals hundreds of souvenir stalls and market vendors all selling the same merchandise at a marked up price and tourists bartering for a better price. Some boats were actually cooking food and cleaning dishes in the dirty water from the canal. There were flies covering the raw fish and vegetables, it was so gross! We decided we were not hungry after all. We boarded a small boat and cruised along the canal.
We rowed passed many homes, and stopped outside a nunnery. A nun came out and gave us cans of what looked like dog food to feed the fish. I couldn’t believe that fish could survive in the filthy water as we floated by a dead pig!
On the way back to Bangkok we stopped at a coconut sugar cane farm and a Thai wood factory. We saw amazingly intricate carvings and beautiful hand crafted wooden furniture.
In the evening we decided to take a tuk tuk to the night market. Neither of us realized that the market was in Patpong, Bangkok’s main red light district. As we walked through stalls we were constantly being asked “Ping Pong show for you Miss?” There were rows of clubs and bars all appropriately and shockingly named. There are numerous “shows” one can see from the infamous “ping pong show” to the dangerous “dart show”. All I can say is that once is enough for me, I have no desire to go back to Patpong it was disturbing just like the guidebook said it would be. There are markets galore throughout Bangkok and I find it very exhausting to barter for prices. It is amazing that a vendor will start off selling an item for 1500 baht and quickly lower the price to 200 baht. Everything is so cheap here and I feel guilty trying to beat them up too much on prices.
After only a few days in Bangkok, I am ready to get out of the city and on to a beautiful beach! I am loving how cheap everything is here as one can easily survive on a $25 a day budget. One can easily eat a nice dinner in a restaurant for $3. The weather has been blazing hot and humid, but I think I have a higher tolerance to the heat with my southern upbringing. Traveling in Southeast Asia in the middle of monsoon season has the advantage of frequent showers to cool one off. Not so great for the curly hair though…
I held off on doing most of the touristy things in Bangkok, as I will be spending more time here once my friend Nicole arrives.
Today Hannah flew home to Manchester, England, after traveling for the past 2 years! I was sad to see her go, but I too will be leaving Bangkok soon. Tomorrow I will take a six hour bus/boat ride to the island of Ko Chang. Ko Chang is suppose to be less developed than the other islands and I look forward to doing nothing but chilling on the beach!