Arriving In Bangkok
My trip didn’t start well in Thailand, in fact, I don’t suspect it could start off much worse then it did. If it had turned out any worse, I probably would have been making some sort of ransom call back home to Canada while tied to a chair in a dingy wet basement.
So, what the hell happened, right?
Well, after arriving by plane to Bangkok, my girlfriend at the time and I were looking for a taxi cab. We were scouting for one, but one little Thai lady had scouted us instead. We were waved over and negotiated a price for a cab ride to our hotel in Lat Phrao, quite a ways from the airport. She didn’t look professional, no uniform or badge, missing teeth and dressed down but, hey, I didn’t know that much about Thailand. “Maybe all of the cabbies look like this?”, I thought to myself naively.
When we arrived at her car, two big men came out of the passenger seats and helped us off with our backpacks before loading them in the trunk. I was beginning to feel very nervous about this decision and I had spent a lot of time afterwards reproaching myself for not turning away at this point. Yet, we carried on hesitantly.
A few minutes into the drive, the car stopped and one of the men exited the vehicle. This seemed strange to me. Hardly a word was said about it. We made another stop, so that the driver could buy a pack of smokes and about half an hour or so later we finally arrived at our hotel. I was honestly just glad that we arrived safely because all of my red flags had been hoisted to their max for the past 45 minutes or so. The woman offered me a handwritten bill that was ridiculously over priced for the trip, about 4 or 5 times more then that of the average taxi. Then when I went to pay, I couldn’t find my wallet anymore. Someone had nabbed it from me on this short trip from the airport. The only person I suspected who could have done it, was the man who jumped out of the car earlier on in the trip.
The Thai woman and this other man became quite accommodating all of a sudden after I had realized my wallet was missing. She offered to tear up the bill, which did nothing but implicate her guilt further in my eyes. Instead, like a dolt I just paid her some money and took off in to the hotel. I just wanted to be done with them. Fortunately for me, I kept half of my money in a passport wallet underneath my shirt with all of my very important documents. I had only really lost a few hundred dollars, some bank cards and other replaceable ID.
…And so begins my 3 week journey to Thailand!
Lesson 1: Be careful who you trust in other countries.
My Time in Bangkok
When I think back to my time in Bangkok, I can recall spending my first few days afraid to leave the safety of my hotel. I was afraid that Thailand was just a big dangerous place where everybody wanted to rob me now. Instead, I spent a lot of time on the roof of my hotel drinking Singha beer next to a pool and writing or reading.
After a few days, my anxieties decreased and I pushed myself to leave the hotel more often. I was further forced to overcome my fears when my girlfriend’s mother at the time arrived to meet for our travels. She was from France and my French was pas bon. Fortunately, I knew enough just to show that I didn’t know enough. I was taking a few lessons on my laptop, but my girlfriend at the time was my acting translator.
The most memorable day that I had in Bangkok, we traveled downtown to visit a few temples for some sightseeing. At one temple, I was able to watch a group of young monks receive an initiation ceremony of some sort which seemed like a coming of age thing. These interactions with monks really sort of sparked a deep interest in Buddhism for me. The monks just always seemed so zen, serene, wise, mindful and calm. There was something wonderful about their lives, as if they weren’t affected by the rest of the world. It made me wish I could be a monk for a while.
Lesson 2: Mindfulness is important in every day life
We also had a wild ride in a tuk-tuk, which is like a motorcycle taxi with a cart on the back. It was memorable because our driver enjoyed trying to scare us by zipping through traffic and at one point popping a wheelie. I didn’t even know that was possible on those things. We also ordered a pizza at one point to the hotel, which had a crust stuffed with little hot dogs. Now that is an advanced civilization if you enjoy coronary heart disease.
Lesson 3: Bangkok does Pizza Hut better
Lop Buri (Monkey Town)
After about a week in Bangkok, we hired a private driver for a day to take us North. We were to stop at different villages and temples along the way, then finish at train station where we would catch a sleeper train to Chiang Mai further North. I was absolutely ecstatic to visit Lop Buri, because I had never seen monkeys before outside of a zoo and I had so many fuzzy feelings about how this experience would turn out.
Well, all of my feelings were wrong. I bought a bag of sunflower seeds from a lady out front a temple teeming with monkeys so that I could feed them. Within only a few seconds there was a monkey at my feet staring up at me, glaring at my seeds. When I reflexively pulled the bag back, he revealed his fangs and jumped at me. He bit my finger and stole my sunflower seeds.
I now hate all monkeys.
Lesson 4: Monkeys are like sucky humans without the pretense.
In Chiang Mai, we had some of our most interesting Thai experiences. The first cool thing that we were able to do, was take a half day trek into a jungle where we stayed in a remote village for a night. The next morning, we continued our hike on the other side of the jungle, ate some Pad Thai wrapped in Banana leafs, rode an elephant and then took a bamboo raft down a nearby river.
After this was all done, we came back to Chiang Mai where the Thai people had begun to celebrate the Thai New Year, or Songkran, with a nation wide water fight that lasted for three days straight. It was completely insane. Most people had water guns or buckets of water to assail one another, and no one was off limits. I watched family of three on a moving scooter take buckets of water to the face as they drove by. I’d seen a guy in a business suit walk to work completely soaked from those he passed, at that point, why even bother dressing up? I had never seen anything as chaotic as this in my lifetime, and after two days outside in this, I had run out of dry clothing. The third day was mostly spent hiding indoors and visiting a nearby zoo.
Lesson 5: Thai people do New Years better than us
Some other things that I had discovered because of Thailand:
- Thai Green Curry is my favorite food of all time
- A Ping Pong Show in Thailand is not what you think it is (Not experienced personally)
- Blowjob Bars actually exist (Nor did I experience this)
- The lady boys in Thailand are very flirty (This I did experience)
- The animal welfare could have been improved in the country, especially those animals that dealt with the tourists.
As imperfect as Thailand had been at times, it was still one of my favorite travel experiences! The cultural differences had added to the experience of my journey. Every traveler should seek an experience which brings to them a little culture shock at least once in their lifetime. It’s amazing for growing your perspective of the world around you.