So, behold, my first blog entry from Thailand! I’ve been pretty bad with updating recently, and so at the time of writing, I’ve already been gone from Bangkok for a couple of days… Whoops! Better late than never though, I guess, and I always note down what I’ve done, so fear not! You’ll still get the low down on all my doings in Bangkok.
UPDATE: A couple of days? I’m a damned liar. It’s been two weeks.
ANOTHER UPDATE: *hides* It’s been nearly a month. I’m in Cambodia. Darn.
I am crap. I apologise. Having been on the move a bit more, it’s been a little more difficult to get stuff done, and when I say that, I mean that when I do get a chance, I get distracted by social media and watching cliche films like “The Beach” on Youtube. Whoops.
Let’s take a trip back in time and borders to Bangkok where my Southeast Asian adventure kicked off.
I arrived in Bangkok at around 5am, and was pretty impressed by Suvarnabhumi Airport! It is enormous, and I was so excited to get to my hostel just off Khao San Road (to be discussed in depth later!) Just being in Thailand was surreal – I’d had no hassle at all at border control with my free entry. A UK passport really is an all-access pass; we’re so lucky to be able to travel easily to nearly anywhere in the world.
I stopped at one of the first restaurants I came to in the airport and sat down to lose my pad thai virginity! Pad thai is a dish consisting of flat noodles with bean sprouts, and tofu/egg/meat (obviously the former for me!); a dish which is very popular with tourists in Thailand, FOR GOOD REASON! Actually, Thai people rarely eat it. It’s like the banana pancake of savoury Thai cuisine. Airport food is expensive, and I paid 180 Baht for the dish, which I thought was reasonable until the next day when I bought the same thing from a street vendor for 30!
The exchange rate for Thailand is approximately 50 Baht to the British Pound, so still very favourable, but twice as expensive as India! Everybody raves about Thailand being very cheap but having gotten used to the rupee, it was a little more expensive for me! I have to get used to it or life back in the West will be an absolute nightmare! I took the Airport Express to the Siam Skytrain station, and then took a bus to near Khao San Road. This was still around 7am, so although I was excited to get to the famed “backpacker ghetto”, it was completely dead; most places don’t open until close to midday because they know all the backpackers go out and get completely wrecked every night…
I found my hostel, Feel @ Home Backpackers, a couple of streets away from the far end of Khao San Road; close enough to be convenient for the nightlife, but far enough not to be disturbed once I get sick of it! I had only booked one night as I’d organised a Couchsurfing stay for the rest of the week. I couldn’t check into my hostel just yet, because check-out was at midday and there wasn’t room in the dorm yet. So, I dumped my bags and had a rest, and a quick chat with some other young travellers in the foyer. Before long, I headed out for a coffee and to see some sights.
At this point, DISASTER STRUCK.
I logged into my currency card accounts online to check how much money I had left. I’ve been VERY frugal up to this point. Using Workaway in India meant I’d spent only £400 in two months, and that’s including my flight from my flight from Delhi to Bangkok. BUT. There’s always a but, right?
So, when I was in Agra visiting the Taj Mahal, I’d visited an ATM a couple of times to withdraw money, but my card wasn’t being accepted, and one of the machines froze after I’d put my PIN in. All the ATMs in India have attendants, and the one there told me the transaction had been cancelled, and I didn’t want to wait around, and so I took his word for it, took my card and left. Evidently the transaction hadn’t been cancelled and the ATM had stayed linked to my account, allowing someone, be it the attendant or the next person there, to withdraw money from my travel account. And they didn’t leave much! Around £450 was taken out, which I was so annoyed and upset about. I mean, it’s not the end of the world but it’s a huge pain. I phoned to cancel the card and see if anything could be done. I’m lucky I had two different travel card accounts, and my other one with FairFX was separate from this incident.
Since then, I’ve filled in a form reporting the incident with Thomson, the travel agent providing the card, and thankfully they were very understanding and helpful, and reimbursed me the money a couple of weeks later. It would have been a nightmare to lose the money; at the rate I’m going, it could have funded about a month of my travels.
All’s well that ends well, but it just goes to show that you always have to be alert! Even though it wasn’t really my fault, it could have been prevented if I’d stuck around at the ATM. Check twice, kids!
Back to Bangkok, then. I had stressed about that for long enough, and sent messages panicking to my mum about it, but eventually calmed down enough to go out and make the most of the day. I visited Wat Phra Kaew – the Temple of the Emerald Buddha – and the Grand Palace, for an entry fee of 500 Baht – around £10. It was interesting as the palace had a museum about the royal family which I enjoyed, and it was my first temple visit, so I found it very impressive, but not sure it was worth the entry fee! I always find temples more impressive from the outside as well…
I had to hire a shirt there because I was wearing a tank top and apparently my shawl wasn’t good enough, but thankfully my long skirt avoided me needing to hire one of those attractive aprons also known as “sarongs” but let’s not kid ourselves… It’s a very big deal here to dress modestly when visiting temples. After a while wandering around, I went to visit Wat Pho, which has the famous Reclining Buddha – it’s so huge! The temples here are very impressive – all golden gilded and brightly coloured, with the amazing tapered roofs.
Next, I took a quick boat across the Chao Praya river to Wat Arun – this temple is supposedly very ornate and beautiful usually, but sadly it was covered in scaffolding so I didn’t see much evidence of this, but I had a great time wandering through the riverside market and then just sitting down to relax and nurse my blisters from the day of walking around!
I got back to the hostel and met up with a few people I’d run into earlier, and made plans to go out on the KS Road. I got ready SUPER FAST – nearly unheard of for me. We headed out to a bar and I had my first bucket – Red Bull and FAR TOO MUCH vodka. Only really hit later, and I’ve become something of a lightweight whilst not drinking at all in India or much before that. So people got quite drunk, everyone but me ate some scorpion (if I were to give up my vegetarianism, it would have to be for something more appealing than scorpion, let me tell you…), we went to a club and drank more and smoked more and basically did all the things you’d do when going out anywhere else in the world.
I ended up leaving early because I was very tired, and kind of bored of the whole smoke-drink-grind-repeat routine which was going on. No offence intended to the people I was with; I’ve met loads of great people on nights out across the world and I don’t think anyone’s a bad person for enjoying a few drinks, but I think my tolerance for partying is quite limited. I do it once in a while, but that’s enough. I’m glad I only stayed on Khao San Road for one night.
I got back to the hostel fairly drunk and feeling lonelier than I had throughout my whole trip. Strange, huh? Surrounded by people in a place aimed at backpackers, I felt very out of sorts, and found my thoughts returning to old heartbreaks and pains which I hadn’t worried about for a long time. I’ll write a separate post on this because I’m interested to see if anyone else has felt the same way; people tend to rave about Bangkok and Khao San and so I felt like something of an oddity.
After a fairly drunk Facebook chat with my mother, I went to sleep in my (freezing cold!) dorm, hoping the next day would bring brighter feelings. And you know what? It really did. That’s enough for now though. Only one day covered, but in my defence, it was a busy day! I promise to be more conscientious in my updates from this point – no more slacking!