Only 10 days in Thailand and I already felt all the feelings someone can feel, I felt both loved and not wanted, I felt jaded about love, overwhelmed by thousands of feelings, I fought with the idea that I want to smoke ,I’ve been proud resisting it, thankful when David didn’t let me smoke in my weakest moment, I’ve been curious, I’ve been awed, I’ve been sad and I might have been a bit happy at moments, like always I’ve been grateful to see amazing places and beautiful people, I learned tips from other blogger to help me with my blog space problem and if I started writing again it’s also glad to Luke, I abused Lays, Pepsi and beers but finally adapted a bit more to thai food, I’ve been more patient than I use to be and more meditative than usual (and I’m a meditative person in general), I’ve been bitten by mosquitos on every inch of my body and used at least 4-5 types of creams failing to make it less itchy (including Tiger Balm, they recommend that for everything), I’ve felt lonely and loneliest, I felt lot of bad feelings and some nice ones, and then I restarted my system.
Probably my first jet lag
I arrived in Bangkok after two long flights, one from Johannesburg to Dubai and one from Dubai to Thailand. In Dubai I changed 5$ in coins for my collection and had a very expensive dinner (I could have bought a nice watch with the money for dinner). Dubai really looks impressive from the sky and now I want to visit it one day and skydive above it. Somehow I see Dubai like a city of the future but it can be also some brainwash from the airport. The plane to Dubai was almost empty so I had 3 seats for myself but it was too early to sleep. The second one was full so I couldn’t get any rest. In Bangkok first thing to do was to go to get my visa on arrival. Filled papers and realized I need photos (my photos where in the checked baggage) and baht instead of $. After changing money and making photos I queued for maybe more than half hour. Although I stressed a lot about needing dollars to show them I have money for traveling, in the end nobody asked about it, as they didn’t asked about hostels bookings either. I bought a sim card for 15 days with 4Gb data costing 600baht (15euros), withdrew money and took a cab to hostel. Drivers don’t really speak english but my driver told me a lot of things in thai. I’ll never know what was that about. He tried to make a price for me but I showed him the meter and we left. If they use the meter don’t be surprised to pay the road tax at two stops, and 50 baht surcharge for driver. That’s normal, it’s not cheating you.They have Uber too, it’s just a bit more expensive than taxi. There’s also a train but then you have to take a tuk tuk or cab from train station to hostel, depending where the hostel is located it might take longer.
It was still morning by the time I got to hostel and I was so tired. It was too early to check in but I asked them nicely to let me in the room because I can’t keep my eyes open. They let me in and I slept till midnight with maybe one or two short breaks. And then I was awake till morning and then slept till middle of the day and realized something it’s very wrong with my sleep schedule.
Traveling you keep hearing these stories about how delicious and cheap is the food in south east Asia. And it’s true, if you are not as picky as I am. First meal was snails from a food stall. That’s how I met parsley or cilantro, a herb I can’t touch or smell. And I might have had a bit of indigestion after, stomach was in pain. I’m not completely adapted to the food yet, I still buy crisps and boiled corn, but day by day I try to eat some real thai food. The salt is very rare because they use soy sauce but I bought salt and I have it always in my bag. I also translated parsley, cilantro and bean sprouts in thai and I show them from my phone when buying food in order to ask not to have those in my food. Everyday I discover something I don’t like but patiently add it to my list and continue trying. As about price, you can pay around 3-5 euro in restaurants and 1-3euro at food stalls for vegetarian or seafood. I also ate 2 crickets, a tiny one and a fat one. Albert and his father, Arnold. Not completely disgusting but still a bit weird. There’s plenty of disgusting things for crazy people to try: scorpions, tarantulas, worms and big bugs. About disgusting, I saw a rat in a restaurant during lunch, it’s so comforting that I don’t eat meat. Beer costs around 1-3 euros, remember that you cannot buy alcohol from shops and some restaurants between 2-5 pm and after midnight.
Most active at night
Because during the day I feel it’s very very hot I prefer to explore at night. There’s plenty of night markets both in Bangkok and Chiang Mai and I really feel safe there. Maybe it’s too early to say how safe is south east Asia, but for the last 10 days I could explore at night, even sometimes alone and with my camera. As walking in the tourist night area of Bangkok, Khaosan street, you can hear tuk tuk drivers asking you if you want to go to ping pong show. I’ll let you search on internet about it, it’s not table tennis. The streets are full at night, both because during the day it’s too hot and also because many people come to Thailand because it’s a cheap place to get wasted. You can have a massage at night outside or inside with 150-200baht (less than 5euro). You can have also cheap manicure, pedicure, haircut and cheap clothes, and cheap souvenirs, and so many cheap things available for you. Which brings me to something that bothered me on few occasions, I can see people bitching about service and quality, and I keep wondering what kind of expectation can you have when paying so little. Just have patience, thai people will smile and say yes even when they don’t understand you. You can easily bargain price for clothes, souvenirs and tuk tuk, but don’t try to get them for free.
I read in Shogun about japanese culture and “save face” – retain respect, avoid humiliation. When I came here I saw it’s applicable to Thailand too. You should keep this in mind: their honor is very important therefore avoid showing displeasure in public, they try to respect you as much as possible, do the same!
You’ll see at airport all sorts of posters telling you to respect Buddha and not to buy Buddha heads. And you’ll see them in different other places and temples. That doesn’t mean nobody is selling Buddha souvenirs at the corner of the temple. As in any other religion you have to show respect, cover your shoulders and knees, respect their rules. In some temples you can use a scarf to cover, in others you have to borrow a shirt from them. The temple of the Emerald Buddha is the most beautiful one I saw by now, and the White Temple in Chiang Rai is the most surreal and interesting one. First one has an entrance fee of 500baht (12euros), seems much but it’s worthy.
The king it’s very important and respected therefore any insult at the king might get you imprisoned. Abstain of stepping on coins or notes also, thai money have the face of the king printed on them.
An idea about costs
I paid for my hostel dorm room in Bangkok 350baht (9euros) and I like it, it’s clean and in a good area, 430baht (11euro) for the taxi from airport , 690 baht (17.5 euro) for the night bus to Chiang Mai ( hostel to hostel), 150 baht for dorm room there, 1400 a day trip to Chiang Rai and 3-4 other places+lunch, 320 return bus ride to Damnoen Saduak floating market, around 40 baht (1 euro) for laundry, you pay separately for drying, detergent, softener, 10baht per page to print, 15baht a soda, 40-50baht a small beer,18 baht a boiled corn, 3000baht trekking to Doi Inthanon, highest peak of Thailand , with a guide, because apparently it’s not safe to do it alone ( haven’t done it although I would have liked it), 10baht to take a photo of the bugs, 50 baht a spoonful of them to eat, 20baht 6-7 quail fried eggs, 290baht a lady boys show ( I almost got to one but decided to stuff myself with food and beers instead).
What I have seen
I’ve been to The Emerald Buddha Temple and Palace and I loved it. It’s really impressive. I recommend to go there in the morning, and spend as much as you feel to there. There’s also a museum included in the 500baht entrance fee. If you are not properly dressed they can borrow you clothes for free but you have to leave there 200baht which they will return when you bring clothes back. Inside the temple you are not allowed to photograph but I sneaked my gopro there. The Emerald Buddha is very small and positioned very high and you might have trouble seeing it with all the golden stuff around. At the exit of the complex there’s an old man with small cages with birds. You pay and you can release the birds. A mother bought two cages for her daughters. They released the birds and they were happy and the old man was happy too seeing the girls joy. But the joy disappeared when the girls took a look at the birds left in the other cages. There are good people doing not very good things without even knowing it.
I visited the Damnoen Saduak floating market, really beautiful but one big minus for me. It’s full of snakes. At every corner you can see a guy with a huge snake around his shoulders. You pay and you can take the snake for a photo. You can buy all sort of things from the market, food, fruits, souvenirs, clothes.
In Chiang Mai I just walked visiting markets, temples, the Lanna museum, the Sunday street market where the streets are closed for cars after 4pm and they get full with street vendors, locals and tourists. I like the bars with live music, they play good covers here in Thailand.
From Chiang Mai I took a day trip to some thermal springs, to Chiang Rai, to a hill tribe village and the golden triangle where the border with Thailand , Myanmar and Laos meet. The last stop was a temple in a city at the border with Myanmar.
In Chiang Rai there’s a White Temple built by a very wealthy man. He still has plans to build more. The temple is unique in the world, inside has painting about Samsara, the material world, so you can see the two towers, minions, Keanu Reaves in Matrix, and so many other popular figures from this century life. Before entering the temple there’s a bridge and in front of the bridge there are many many hands going up from earth symbolizing desire. You can find there the most expensive “happy room” – a fancy toilet.
The hill tribe visit was my favorite part of the trip in Thailand by now. They are called Long Neck Karen tribe because they use brass neck coils in order to have longer necks as a beauty standard. They start to wear then at age of 5 and stop adding longer coils around 45. This tribe fled the conflicts in Myanmar and lives 100% sustainable from tourism. They sell scarfs, fridge magnets, and all sorts of souvenirs. There’s also a donation box there. More info here.
At the Golden Triangle, a small piece of sand island where many years ago Myanmar, Thailand and Laos where dealing in opium, we saw a huge Buddha statue and huge golden gates, we took a boat ride on the Mekong river and stopped a bit in Laos which intrigued me in therms of poverty, as tourists were buying stuff I saw a mother with child in a corner, I saw kids eating under a bridge and washing their mouth with water from river.
And I know I didn’t had a very busy trip yet but I will come back to Thailand two more times in the next months.
More photos from this trip to Thailand here.