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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Barfing & Bartering in Bangkok

A quick little 5 hour flight from Incheon (anything seems little compared to a 16 hour flight), and I had arrived in Bangkok. Since it was fairly late, I headed straight for my hotel that I had (responsibly) booked ahead of time. Upon waking from my surprisingly terrible slumber despite how tired I was, I had a series of thoughts that went something like this:

1. Holy shit I’m in Thailand

2. What now?

These thoughts quickly passed as I realized how hungry I was (#typical). I headed down to the lobby to grab some breakfast. Some friends had recently been in Bangkok and recommended this hotel to me. It was glamourous compared to hostel standards, and more "expensive" than what you would typically pay, but still very cheap in comparison to hotel prices were used to in Canada.

The view from breakfast cued the "Holy shit I'm in Thailand" feeling again. A great feeling! After showering, and repacking my backpack that I had somehow managed to unpack (a trend for the rest of the trip), I was off to explore the city of Bangkok.



First stop: The Grand Palace! Or so I thought.....

I had heard and read about the tourist scams before coming to Thailand. However I had no idea HOW abundant they were. While trying to find the entrance to the Grand Palace (the perimeter is massive), a nice gentleman dressed in uniform informed me that the Palace was closed for lunch. Closed for lunch? That makes sense, right? For some reason, it made complete sense to me at the time. Even though I had read to not trust anyone who tries to tell you something is closed for "Buddha's Birthday", or any other excuse they may come up with. He directed me to a tuktuk (see picture below) driver who would take me to another temple (that was not closed for lunch....), and then by the time I got back, the Grand Palace would be open again. Great! And for only 30 Baht ($1)! Little did I know, that along the way I would have to go in 3 jewelry and designer tailored clothing stores, so this tuktuk driver could get his free gas coupons. Once getting into the tuktuk, the driver was quite open and friendly about how I was helping him out with his coupons and how happy he was. Honestly, at the time, I was more than happy to do it. I was riding around Thailand in a tuktuk seeing the city in a way I would have never seen on foot, while helping this Thai man out. It was a little agonizing having to pretend (for 5 minutes) to be interested in buying an tailored Armani suit that I would never buy or fit into my backpack, but hey. I eventually made it back (safely) to the Grand Palace.

Anyone who knows me knows that a) It's hard for me to say no and b) I can be a bit naive when it comes to trusting people. Although I wasn't bothered by my $1 ride around town at the time, the more I thought about it and told people the story, the more it bugged me. The more scam stories I heard from other travellers, whose were much worse than mine, the more it bugged me. It still blows my mind how connected everything is (the man in uniform, the tuktuk driver, the shops), and how frequently this happens.

What bothered me the MOST, was how on earth I ever managed to believe that a temple was closed for lunch. I could clearly see other people walking around. It's so funny now, to look back on.

By the time I was back in Bangkok on my last day (to fly to the Philippines) my guard was definitely up. When taxis were try to tell me a flat rate or that their meter was broken, I always insisted on the meter (which always ended up being cheaper). You can't escape the scams in Bangkok, but you can definitely learn to be smarter!


Tuktuk

Grand Palace

Grand Palace

Stopped for some refreshing road side fruit after the heat of Grand Palace!

Fish Spa!
This was an immediate "yes". No hesitation. Still not sure if I liked it though......

Found a nice park to just sit back and people watch to end the day

As I was only planning on staying 1 full day in Bangkok (I think I had my share), I had to head to the bus station to catch a "sleeper bus" to Chiang Mai. Unfortunately (but expectedly), the sleeper train was full that day and I did not book ahead.

You might be wondering where the "Barfing" in the title of this blog post comes in.....I think that's right about now. At some point during the sleeper bus experience, I started to feel really sick. And I don't get motion sickness. At one of our pitstops, I made a point to grab a bag, and thank god I did. I had eaten the most delicious pad thai for dinner, and it was starting to make its way back up. It was most definitely not a "sleeper" bus that night, for me. Thank goodness there were empty seats that I managed to move to, so I didn't have to throw up beside the nice old Thai man I was originally sitting beside. 

I had actually taken a picture of "the best pad thai I ever had" but had to delete it, since every time I would look through my pictures, the sight of it would make me nauseous. 

In the wee hours of the morning we eventually made it to the beautiful city if Chiang Mai- surrounded by rolling green hills and a lush jungle landscape. I was lucky enough to have met some girls from England and Scotland on the bus, who I spent a lot of time with during the rest of my time in Chiang Mai. We found a coffee shop with wifi, and set up accommodations for that day/night. 

Unfortunately, I had some degree of food poisoning for the majority of my time in Thailand. 3 full days of not keeping any food down, and having it come out the other end. The latter continued for the rest of my trip, even into the Philippines! The human body is a marvellous thing. Despite this, I tried to remain positive and still DO things. I was in freaking THAILAND! I needed to remind myself of this sometimes. It also really helped to having met some friends on the bus, they were a great source of social support!

There you have it. An unnecessarily long and detailed post about my 24+ hours in Bangkok! Yikes, if I can say this much about 24 hours........

Stayed tuned for more on Thailand & The Philippines!

-L2K

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