Bangkok

For the longest time, I have wanted to visit Thailand.  However, it’s half way across the world so I never thought this dream would actually happen.  Luckily, I now live in South Korea and traveling to Thailand is incredibly doable! WARNING: this post is picture overload so prepare yourself 🙂

After nearly 20 hours of traveling, I finally landed in Bangkok and was headed to the hostel that my friends were already staying at.  Over the weekend, there was an alcohol ban, due to a referendum, that ended at midnight on Sunday.  Basically, everyone started drinking heavily at 12:01 am Monday morning, and my cab got to the hostel at 3:15 am, so people had a little over 3 hours of just drinking and drinking by the time I arrived.  Once I got out of the taxi, I was met at the road by 3 guys who were completely trashed and one of the guys very quickly started saying he was American and from Atlanta.  I’m thinking “Great, the first person I meet in Thailand outside of the airport is from Atlanta and making sure everyone around him knows it and he is incredibly obnoxious and drunk”-not helping people to have a good impression of Atlanta.  The next day I had to do a little damage control so people didn’t think all Atlantans are that obnoxious.  Fun fact I learned about Thailand from the facts in the bathroom stall at the hostel is that Thailand is the only SE Asian country that was never colonized by a European country.  I found that interesting, perhaps I’m the only one.

Luckily, the hostel we stayed at offered a free walking tour of Bangkok so a friend and I decided to check that out.  There were 5 of us total and we explore the city for around 5 hours and got to see most of the highlights of this massive city.  Apparently, when Bangkok was being developed, the developers wanted it to be the “Venice of Thailand” so there are canals throughout the city.  They later learned that the city would function more efficiently with roads, so the city is a mixture of canals and roads.  Getting around Bangkok is quite a challenge due to the various types of transportation: water taxis, metro with 3 lines, skytrain, and then taxis surrounded by traffic.  You have many options but they don’t connect very well, so Bangkok pick a method of public transportation and stick with it!  To get to the more historic part of town with all of the temples, we took a water taxi which costs around 12 bath, equaling 30 cents.  Yes, Thailand is CHEAP!!!  For some reason traveling via water taxi is always exciting so Steph and I took pictures of the graffiti covered canal walls and anything else we found interesting.

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Excited to be on the water taxi
Excited to be on the water taxi

During the tour, we stopped at many different temples including the Golden Mountain, which offered beautiful views of the city and gongs to hit.

My favorite place we went to was Wat Pho.  The designs of the temples are mesmerizing and full of color.  We were surrounded by ornate temples feeling like time had stopped while being in the middle of  bustling city life.

A joke we have is that you could sum up Asia with one word-juxtaposition.  I remember learning this word in school and thinking “really of all words, why is this one important to learn,”  well the world knew I would be coming to Asia in the future I guess.  In every city, there is the contrast between ancient temples and new modern city.  This is very nice to see and I’m glad the history is represented because I feel the US tears down a lot of older building so everything can be new and modern.

One thing that you notice quickly in Thailand is there are giant pictures of the King and Queen everywhere.  And I mean on the side of the road, at intersections, in businesses, EVERYWHERE.  From what I was told, Thai people love the King and Queen but hate the Prince.  However, you aren’t really allowed to ask any Thai people about this for some reason, so I can’t tell you why-sorry.

That night, we went to the Octave Rooftop Bar on the 49th floor of the Marriott for a drink.  This bar/lounge offered panoramic views of the city and with the topical weather of Thailand, it felt great!  It was not, however, conducive to anyone on a budget-oops.

Overlooking Bangkok at night
Overlooking Bangkok at night

The next day was a day trip exploring Ayutthaya, which is a city of ruins about an hour from Bangkok. Ayutthaya was a pre We hired a driver to take us to Ayutthaya and the different cites within the city and then back to Bangkok for $15 each.  Yep, only $15 each for a personal driver for an entire day.  The city is filled with ruins, palaces, and temples.  Since these were ruins, the architecture was more brick and stone and wasn’t colorful like in Bangkok.

At one point, we walked into Wat Ratchaburana, which is known for its’ murals inside the temple.  There was construction going on, and we didn’t think we would be able to see it until someone found the only set of steps that led to the top of the temple.  Once you are at the top, you go inside and then walk down  very narrow and steep sets of stairs.  This is a common theme in Thailand; the stairs are VERY steep.  We walked down about 2 sets of stairs and didn’t see anything but the stairs kept going.  I decided to take one for the team and go to the bottom to explore and almost said “There’s nothing down here” until I looked under a semi-wall and this beautiful 4-walled mural appeared.

Beautiful mural inside the temple
Beautiful mural inside the temple
White Temple
White Temple

The great thing about our personal driver is he knew exactly where to take us and we didn’t have to think at all.  In fact, we told him we were hungry and he didn’t ask questions and immediately took us to a good restaurant.  He also would show us pictures of sites, and we would say yes or no so we didn’t waste time. Now that is quality service!  During that day, we were able to see many different ancient sites all before the rain began mid-afternoon.  Some of my friends didn’t take the walking tour, so they wanted to see more temples in Bangkok, especially the Grand Palace after Ayutthaya.  Problem is, the Grand Palace closes at 3:30 pm and we didn’t get back to Bangkok until 4 pm.  We decided to hop into a tuk tuk and at least see the Grand Palace from outside the walls, and honestly I kinda felt like that was enough for me.

Grand Palace at night
Grand Palace at night

The palaces and temples are very interesting and I definitely recommend seeing them, but I was about done seeing temples and sorry but they all start to look the same after a while.

After 2 1/2 days in Bangkok, it was time to leave the big city and head north to Chiang Mai, but I’ll leave that for the next post!

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