Thailand is amazing. I love it here and I want to stay.
Vienna had gotten pretty chilly by the time we departed. As Brandy said earlier, we had our little interim vacation in Budapest, which turned out to be rainy and drab. Well, that all ended the moment we stepped off the airbus that floated us from Egypt to our new home in South East Asia. We made it through customs without a hassle, retrieved our baggage, and were greeted with a grunt and a hand motion by the fellow hired by the university to pick us up from the airport.
As soon as I stepped out of the airport the humidity hit me like a ton of soggy bricks. My forehead started to glisten as my pores and sinuses opened for the first time in a long time. To quote my wise friend Richie – it was hotter than two rats making-love in a wool sock with the heater turned up. Damn, feels just like we’re back in Georgia!
Hot. Humid. Sticky.
That is about where the similarities end. I love Thailand because you look around and see so much that looks familiar if you glance around quickly, but look a little closer and it’s starkly different. It's twisted in many ways, ingeniously adapted in some, downright alien in others. Actually, that statement goes for Bangkok. American’s like to talk about being a melting pot of this or that, which is true in many senses, but this city is absolutely filled with different cultures and influences…the good, bad, ugly, beautiful, smelly, colorful, and flagrant. Anyone who has been here for a while says Bangkok is much different than the rest of Thailand so I definitely don’t want to make any sweeping generalities about the country in general.
Little things make me laugh everyday. For instance, it doesn’t take long to notice that you’re barreling down a six to eight lane highway with cars going every which way with no traffic lanes in sight. Instead there is just one giant, wide road. The airport is about 25 minutes from the center of the city where we live. Of course, just a few miles before we arrive we hit the infamous Bangkok traffic. Atlantans…you only think you know what a traffic jam is.
Here there is a wildly colorful display of vehicles jammed together everywhere you turn; cars, vans, trucks, motorized carts with dried squid, motorcycles with refrigerator sized boxes strapped to the back, and tuk-tuks….the classic three wheeled death-trap of a tourist motorcycle taxi that everyone has to try at least once.
My personal favorites are the mopeds…there are damn mopeds everywhere. On the streets, on the sidewalks, in the alleys, in reverse direction in traffic…and yes, sometimes they ride through the restaurant you’re eating in because they want to take a shortcut.
On our way into the city I saw three in particular that caught my eye; one was a family of 5 on and 80cc, one was piled with dead chickens, and the last had what seemed to be a 100 year old woman riding backwards taking a nap. I will mention that though traffic is hectic, it is quite entertaining. Much more so than slugging from 285 north up to Canton Road….eh.
We’ve been here for 3 weeks now and have been to quite a few places, so I’m just going to make a short list and maybe retouch on a few of them later. So far this is what we’ve been doing:
-EATING! – sure, there are normal restaurants like McD’s, Hard Rock, and honestly anything else you can image…but anyone who comes to Thailand is selling themselves short if they don’t eat street food. For 30 baht (1 US dollar) you can have a plate full of any kind of meat with rice, veggies, peppers, egg and the works. Thai food is without a doubt the most flavorful food I’ve ever had. Brandy and I have 4 or 5 places that we rotate through on a regular basis. Half the time you don’t even know what you’re eating. Worth.Every.Penny….all 100 of them.
-Cheap food means more money for SHOPPING. At least that’s what my girlfriend keeps telling me. There are gigantic shopping malls on every block, street vendors on every curb, and people willing to haggle at every turn. My dad would be in heaven. We sure are. A bargain-finder’s dream is just a few stops up the skytrain where one of the biggest outdoor markets in the world takes place every weekend. Brandy and I were there for 4 hours going up and down rows…we barely saw a fraction of the place. Huge.
-The Beach – Our second weekend here we took a bus with some friends to a popular beach on the Bay called Pattaya. It was a typical beach town Thai style. With food, street vendors, and a lot of beer we couldn’t go wrong. Let me just say the pricing is amazing—this is the way to vacation—I managed to pay for 2 bus rides, food, taxis, moped rentals for a full 24 hours, jet skis, random trinkets from vendors on the beach, many Chang beers, and who knows what else, all for about 100 dollars. Not bad for two days of fun.
-We spent Brandy’s birthday riding around the city on tuk-tuks. We explored “Old Bangkok” where we saw the royal palace, the Grand Temple that houses in famous Emerald Buddah, the amulet markets, and the Dusit Zoo.
-School work. Eh. Thankfully its hasn’t been nearly as bad as last term….I’m very thankful to be able to see more of the city!
-Wandering...everywhere you go there is something to see. We’ve been to some cool little ex-pat bars that are set up like a backwoods Louisiana nip and sip, a futbol pub, and an Irish pub featuring a fully Thai Beatles cover band that sounded just like John and Paul were there singing. Like many big cities Bangkok has it’s indigenous quarters that are home to the Japanese community, the Arab street, Korea, Chinatown, etc. Each has an amazing assortment of foods and goodies to buy. For all those wondering about the prostitution…yep, it’s all over the place. It’s more overt in some areas than others but definitely out in plain sight.
-Enjoying our rooms. We are staying in some amazing "service apartments" with a heck of a view. Not to mention a jacuzzi in each room, cable, a king sized bed, laundry service, and a housekeeping who clean up after us and leave little bottles of shampoo every day. Theres nothing better than not having to replace the tp or wash your own dishes!
Here's some views from the balcony...
More to come!