I have to admit, at first, I didn’t like Bangkok at all. I found it way too overwhelming. You have to be proactive when crossing the street as the cars never stop for you, it smells bad most of the time, and it can be very dirty. Upon arriving at my hostel (which was beautiful), I immediately started researching how I could get out of the city! I ended up staying for three nights, and that was enough.
The first night, I went with two guys in my room to one of the food centres near the hostel. I had my first taste of ridiculously cheap and delicious food, and Bangkok started to grow on me a little. The guys took me to the Patpong district, which was interesting. The night market was cool, but the “red light” part was horrifying.
The next day I decided to explore the city on my own. I took a boat down to the Grand Palace, but I didn’t go in. It was absolutely jam packed with tourists. I wandered around the city for hours, and managed to get lost multiple times. However, while I was lost, I ended up walking by most of the things in the guidebook! That night, I had my first taste of fried bug from a food cart near my hostel. Crickets taste like seaweed. Who knew?
On my last day, I went to the Siam Center, a huge shopping mall complex. The mall was beautiful and luxurious, and the restaurants were neat. They had a McBubble Tea at the McDonald’s!
On my way up north to Chiang Mai, I stopped in Ayuthhaya to explore the city. A group of us rented bikes at a guesthouse and pedaled around the ruins. I liked the Buddha head tangled in the trees the best. I had my first taste of Taro ice cream, and it was okay. Not as good as Taro bubble tea!
I took the overnight train to Chiang Mai, which was amazing. The train was so clean, and the bed was surprisingly comfortable! I got to watch the sunrise over the Thai countryside out my gigantic window. It was a thousand times better than my previous European overnight train experience from Vienna to Rome. I remember being so cramped that I could kick the person in the bed next to me!
For most of my stay in Chiang Mai, I stayed at a beautiful resort a short tuktuk ride away from the city centre. There was a gigantic swimming pool, amazing grounds, and a delicious restaurant. It was a great place for a “vacation from my vacation.”
I knew that I wanted a Thai massage, but there were so many places to choose from! I heard that at the women’s prison, the prisoners do massages as part of their rehabilitation (they get the money that they earn when they are released). The women are in the last six months of their sentence, which is usually for very minor crimes. The massage was excellent, and the setting was lovely. I highly recommend it.
Although normally I have absolutely no interest in martial arts, I do like to step out of my box a bit when I am travelling. I watched a few rounds of Muy Thai boxing, and I actually really enjoyed it. The fighters were all very skilled, and it was fascinating to see the ceremonial aspect of the fights. I also won three bets!
I took a trip up to the Doi Suthep temple on a hill overlooking the city. The temple was lovely, but you could barely see the city through the haze.
Every Sunday night in Chiang Mai, there is a market in the city centre. It was insanely crowded, and stretched on forever. In addition to clothes and food, there were some neat busker acts, including a group of very talented blind guitar players.
The temple just outside Chiang Rai, Wat Rong Khun, was by far the weirdest temple I have ever visited. It started being built in 1997 by a local artist, and it still isn’t completed. The art in and around the temple depicts heaven and hell, and hell is filled with cartoon and movie characters, like Spiderman and Neo, and certain celebrities and politicians. I don’t really understand why. You also can’t walk backwards down the ramp leading up to the temple, because that would mean that you are walking back from heaven into hell. And the guy on the microphone will yell at you.
– I think snooze alarms should be banned in all youth hostel dorms. The guy who slept in the bed on top of me in Singapore pressed his snooze alarm FIVE TIMES between six and six-thirty a.m. one morning. And it wasn’t a soothing “cellphone ringtone” alarm. It was a full on “WAHH WAHHH WAHH NUCLEAR MELTDOWN IN THE REACTOR CORE! EVERYONE CLEAR THE BUILDING! WAHH WAHH WAHH” type of sound. I might have let a few choice words slip after about my third jolt awake, but sleepyhead was back to sleep. Ah the joys of dorm life!
– Speaking of being jerked awake, on the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, out of nowhere a man started yelling into his cellphone at about midnight. Curtains were pulled back, looks and shrugs were exchanged, and we all giggled nervously. Eventually, he stopped, and we all settled back into our cozy nooks. Then, about ten minutes later, the man started screaming again. It was very odd.
– I seem to be able to go weeks without losing anything, and then I lose about ten items in three days. I don’t get it! Usually it’s bathroom products. I am leaving a trail of shampoos and soaps and razors around the world 😛