Saturday, June 16, 2012
Finding Our Footing- Bangkok
We are on our third day in Thailand, but it feels like we have been here for at least a week. A 22 hour plane ride, 12 hour time difference and noisy hostels definitely do work on one's Circadian rhythm. That being said, we could not be having more fun. We survived our first two days in Bangkok and, thanks to a mutual friend, got to see way more than we expected to. As I have been telling Allison, this is a lucky trip and I think the best is yet to come. Our first hotel picked us up at the airport which was great. I slept like a baby on the plane, Allison did not, haha. I got up early to explore and take in the smells, people and craziness that is Bangkok. We got breakfast and headed towards Khao San road which is the main backpacker area near Old Town Bangkok. Bangkok is MASSIVE. Seriously, I think it sprawls out more than Chicago which makes it more intimidating that I can express via blog. We met up with a mutual friend, Nat, who is a law student in Bangkok. She has been such a blessing and possibly the only reason we are still alive. She showed us around a major shopping area, MBK, which is a 7-floor mall touting every ware imaginable. She took us to a restaurant where we enjoyed Spicy Papaya salad, Waterfall Beef, Spicier Papaya Salad (gross actually), soup and none other than fried chicken (not KFC, though KFC is probably the most popular fast food restaurant in Thailand). We came back early, took a 6-hour nap, woke up to watch a Euro Cup match and went back to sleep. I got up really early and explored by myself and found delicious Pad Thai from a street vendor for $1. As if Nat hadn't helped enough she offered to show us around again. We went to a different part of Bangkok (God, the traffic is insanely awful, I would never want to live here) for noodles. Let me tell you, these noodles are something else. For 35 cents (10 Baht) you get a small bowl of noodles, so I think the three of us went through around 13 bowls. They were of all different flavors including one with a cinnamon flavor sauce, a pink bowl, a pad-thai like soupy noodle, and tiny baby noodles with beef. Thai cuisine focuses on four flavors: Spicy, salty, sweet and sour. You add condiments by preference to pretty much every dish to enhance/balance the flavor. I always tend to go too far spicy, however, whereas the Thais tend to add sugar to nearly every dish and even a bit of vinegar. After the noodles we got this drink that was made from grass apparently. It was basically sweet dark water with black, jelly-like wormy things. It wasn't as gross as it sounds, but I am still a bit traumatized by sucking these worms up through a big straw. We then went to a Wat (Wat Pho specifically), which is what they call their temples. There was this massive, and I mean enormous - at least 100m in length - reclining Buddha which we saw (picture coming soon). Allison participated in a fortune telling ritual with Nat and her friend and received a favorable fortune (some aren't so nice). We had to hustle back because our bus to Chiang Mai (12 hour trip north of Bangkok) was leaving soon. Nat came back to help us plan our time up north and was sincerely jealous that we were going to Chiang Mai (and for good reason, we love it!). The 12 hour bus ride was pretty grueling, but, per usual, I slept pretty well while Allison had water dripping on her from the Air Conditioning unit right above us incurring a sort of Thai water torture for hours on end. Chiang Mai has been splendid. It isn't so hectic, polluted or intimidating. Prices on everything from wares to food to accommodations are significantly reduced. Best of all, it just feels so much smaller and the traffic is negligible. The major mode of transportation are these red pick up trucks in which you just hop in after confirming that they can take you (and often multiple other people, usually Thais) to your desired location, although it might be after a couple other stops. We haven't been accosted by scam artists as we were constantly on Khao San road, and we haven't felt lost at all -- We feel like one could actually live here happily. We explored the old town area, stopped in at a couple of coffee shops to enjoy the AC and cheap Iced Mochas. We then went shopping for souvenirs on the Saturday walking street (along with half the city), and we plan on going out to visit the live music/bar scene here soon. All is well! It is nice to have so much of the trip yet to come, but also to feel a little established and adjusted. A little sleep deprived, sweaty and mosquito bitten we may be, but nothing can get us down when the best food you have ever eaten is a dollar a dish, every local you meet is kind and willing to help and days with elephants, cooking courses and beaches are yet to come. More soon!