Tag Archives: Thailand

Observations from Bangkok

10 Mar

I don’t really have another full post, and I’ve already uploaded all my good pictures, but here are some random thoughts to close up my trip to Thailand.

THE MAP IS A LIE. That place you want to go to might look like it’s nearby, but it is an hour’s walk. And it is hot out. Suck it up and get a cab.

Do not over-pay the cabs. I had a guy try to cheat me for 200 baht for a 1km drive. The starting price for cabs is 35 baht. (Asshole.) DO not listen to them if they tell you a number, and insist on a meter.

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi is nice, but the food there is super expensive. There’s a 7-11 on the arrivals floor. Their banana bread is delicious and cheap. You will not regret it.

I never saw any street food that looked good enough to risk dysentery. After six months of readily available shao kao in Chengdu, Thai street food seems distinctly unimpressive.

There are a lot of foreigners in Thailand. In Chengdu, it’s kind of a shock to see white people in an abundance on the street. I don’t think I ever went more than twenty minutes outside without seeing another Westerner there. Maybe since I was favoring tourist-friendly areas? I don’t know, it still seemed like a lot of white people running around.

Bangkok has some serious malls. Like, Hong Kong-level seriousness. I was impressed and terrified.

I was the most retarded candidate for a Thai massage ever. Clearly, my ESP is non-existent and I should pass on any future games of charades. Also, I’m pretty sure the place I went to was also a brothel, given all the foreign guys heading upstairs to another floor, following the hot young things. (Oops, my bad.) FYI, my masseuse was an older woman, maybe in her later forties/early fifties. It was pretty funny for the both of us.

—-

I liked Thailand, but I don’t think I ever got over the whole “Asian people speaking and I haven’t the foggiest idea what’s going on” thing. I more or less get along just fine in China, so this threw me for a loop and then some.

Basically, the part I will never, ever forget about Bangkok was at the airport on my last day. I was waiting for my flight out and the plane to Guangzhou had been delayed. Seated at the gate, I was working on my knitting when a family of four sat down opposite of me. The daughter and son were about my age and engrossed in their cell phones, but the mother was staring at me. I smiled blandly. The woman took it as an invitation. She got up and came over, looking curiously at my progress. She grabbed it out of my hand and inspected the stitches, proclaimed loudly in Chinese “You’re doing it wrong,” before starting to knit a few rounds.

I stared. What. The. Fuck.

Her daughter looked up, shrugged apologetically, and took my picture. Somewhere, there is a Cantonese family with a picture of me sitting confusedly next to an older Chinese woman who had commandeered my project and was knitting my sock*.

She eventually handed it back, two rounds later. She then proceeded to treat me like one of her children, chivying me onto the plane during boarding, and making sure I got my bags at luggage pick up.

It was simultaneously super weird and super sweet.

*I’m almost finished with this pair of socks, btw. Three weeks of no internet at the dorms + no classes = very productive Jane.

All in all, it was a fun trip. Weird, unexpected, and awesome, but fun.

The Grand Palace

7 Mar

There’s really only one thing you can do when life hands you lemons: go visit a national monument.  Um, yeah.  Okay, maybe that was a specific case, but it worked out pretty well for me.

On my third day of not getting on a plane out of Thailand, I was a little annoyed, but at least I was getting better at finding a hotel and navigating the airport train link. I managed to book a room, get from the airport to downtown Bangkok, and find my hotel in Sukhumvit in under two hours, a new personal record.

The Best Western @ Sukhumvtit 20 is a surprisingly good deal. For about $50 USD, you get a nice room with a king-sized bed, a well appointed bathroom (Western toilet, shower stall, hot water), and free internet in the heart of Bangkok’s business district. I would definitely recommend it. I stayed here for two days, getting a good deal on agoda.com, Asia’s alternative to Orbitz. (I would also recommend using them.)

I peeled out of my nice travel clothes, threw on my dress and ran off. The Grand Palace is only open from 8 to 3, and I was determined to not miss it. I should have paid attention to the hotel staff, who were trying to explain that I wasn’t nearly covered enough for the palace’s modesty rules, but I didn’t understand them until I reached the palace.

Clothing rules. They’re very serious about this.

As the line of foreigners wandered in, a guard with a whistle picked out the offenders and sent them to the clothing rental place. You paid a 500 baht deposit on the rentals, but got it all back when you returned them.

PROTIP: when visiting the Grand Palace, for Buddha’s sake, cover up. They managed to get me into the shirt and skirt, and I was sweltering. Ladies: your skirt must reach your ankles. You must have a shawl or scarf covering your arms. Gents: No shorts for you either. Pants and a button down would be a good idea.

Despite the incipient heatstroke, I loved the Grand Palace. Everything is gilded there and glitters fiercely. My little magpie heart almost burst. When the sun came out from behind the clouds, it was blinding. The Palace is actually the home of the King, who is a well loved institution in Thailand. From all reports, he’s a cool dude.

Anyways, pictures. For your viewing pleasure:

The front lawn.

A close up of one of the murals.  I think they’re demons.

Big old golden thing.  This is a stupa, Phra Sri Rattana Chedi, a temple supposedly holding the Buddha’s ashes.

The stupa is actually made up of tiny golden tiles.

Buddha on a pedestal.

Another stupa. This is the Phra Mondop.

A line of devas around the outside of the Jade Buddha Temple. This is one of my favorite pictures from Bangkok.

The Jade Buddha at a distance. You’re not supposed to take picture inside the temple proper, so this was the best I could do.

People lighting incense.

One of the old Kings (one of the Ramas, I think) had this to-scale miniature Angkor Wat built. I think this is the closet I’m getting the real thing.

A female deva.

A demon helping to hold up the Wat.

Outside the temple area, the palace complex is huge, including a museum, government buildings, and the King’s Residence, in a mix of traditional architecture.

An elephant bronze.

More temple buildings.

The National Palace was beautiful and gorgeous, and I’m glad I went, even if I had time constraints. It was hot as Hades, but at least the sun was out. If I had left it to the next day, when I had a full day to explore, I would have done so in the torrential downpours. Yay for small favors.

I really do suggest that people go visit the Grand Palace if they have half the chance. It’s gorgeous, not obscenely expensive (well, in comparison to the daily cost of life in Bangkok it might be), and really just a beautiful compound. But if you can’t, I hope my little visit served to edify and enlighten. It sure did for me and remains the highlight of my stay in Thailand.

Me, at the end of the day. See the skirt and shirt? Hot as hell.

One Night In Bangkok

5 Mar


(I had no idea this song was about chess. WTH?)

 As a person, I like to think I’m sorta well-traveled. I’ve seen a lot of the world, thanks to my parents. I’ve also seen the insides of a lot of airports. We mostly travel space-available in my family, since Mom’s a flight attendant. If there are empty seats, we can get on at a reduced fare. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it fails spectacularly.

My flights to and from Sydney were relatively painless. After a while of crossing the Pacific on a semi-regular basis, anything less than a 15 hour flight is a non-issue. (What do you mean, I can’t sleep for 10 hours and still watch two movies?) No, what really instils fear in the heart of an SA is the dreaded connecting flights.

I saw a lot of the inside (and outside!) of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. You see, Thai Airways only has one flight to Chengdu a day. I managed to pick a week when the flights were full. No empty seats, no SA’s. The Space Available Gods giveth and they taketh.

I can think of a few worse places to be stuck for five days though.

Despite the uncertain nature of my stay in Bangkok, I had a really good time. My first morning at the airport, I ran into some other SA’s, a pair of flight attendants also from United on vacation, who actually knew Mom. Small world, huh? They gave me a couple of hotel recommendations, before hustling off to another airline in hopes of connecting to Laos, their final destination.

I did not get on my flight. I got a room at the Chaba Hotel for the night, and headed into downtown Bangkok for the afternoon, despite the disapproval of the hotel staff of a young girl going out on her own. For the record, I was not carrying my passport, and only had a thousand baht or so on me, tucked into my shorts pockets underneath my dress. I’m not stupid.

The Grand Palace, from the outside.

My first night was spent wandering around the old district of Bangkok. The Grand Palace had already closed by then, but I took the water ferry along the Chao Praya River. The water ferry is the best way to get around Bangkok and probably the fastest, given the stewing rush hour traffic jam. A very nice ladyboy pointed out my stop and I got off at the Royal Orchid Sheraton.

The water ferry stop across from the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun).

No idea what this is.

I wandered around the western-style mall next door to the hotel and noticed the signs for a dinner cruise on the river. Last year, Mom and Cathi had been in Thailand, and had spent their layover evening in Bangkok on a river cruise. It looked decent enough, and hey, I might be on a plane tomorrow back to Chengdu, why not? I signed up and spent the next hour or two wandering around and looking at the expensive knick-knacks. They did manage to separate me from some of my money: I have a fatal weakness for scarves and I bought a beautiful wine-red silk scarf.

Our boat. I was on the upper deck, right next to the railing.

The cruise was actually quite fun. I was seated next to a very nice party of four other Westerners, who joined me for some pleasant dinner conversation. The younger couple, Tara and Barry, were living in Bangkok, and Barry’s parent (? I think it was Barry’s parents) had come to Thailand for a month-long visit. The scene was endearingly awkward, like a wedding or bat mitzvah on boat: mediocre food, a bunch of strangers, free cocktails, and people embarrassing themselves on the dance floor. Despite that, I had a blast talking with Tara and Barry.

The Temple of Dawn at night. Sorry about the shitty resolution.

The Grand Palace at night, I think.

I’m on a boat! (Hi Barry!)

After the two hour cruise, I headed for the Sky Train, and then for the Airport Link back to my hotel, a good 40-odd kilometers from downtown. I had an early morning wake-up the next day for my check-in, and I felt entirely pleased with myself for finding a good way to spend my only night in Bangkok.

if only I had known.

On Wednesday, I visit the Grand Palace!