Cross Country

So Long Bangkok!!!! – Now don’t take this the wrong way, but I found Bangkok to be well, not my cup of tea to put it nicely.  It is a city to visit at least once in your life, but being from Montana, people upon people is not my ideal city.  Interesting enough Travel + Leisure just voted Bangkok as the #1 2011 Best City in the World, but I fail to see their basis.  Anyway back to my story, we only stayed in Bangkok a couple of days and left on a Saturday, we had to get up to Chiang Mai for schooling starting the next Monday.  When I say we left Bangkok, I mean we drove on a bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai!! It was 14 hours of interesting travel.

On a bus – which wasn’t so bad because it was a private bus for those in my group, but the picture on the right says it all, no room. To be fair, I am 6’6 so I don’t fit into a lot of places here in the USA, but basically I stood decapitated in the toilet.  For those of you who have only travelled in the US on buses, ie sports trips, the bathrooms are nice and located at the back of the bus. This bus in Thailand is located basically where the luggage is stored.  Their are two doors on the Thai buses, one being in the middle of the bus so you go down a set of stairs and the toilet is right there! Enough about space, travelling across the country is something I have loved since I was young. My parents used to load me into our van and drive 16 or 11 hours to Minnesota and Colorado, sometimes every weekend, but that’s another story.  You can tell a lot about a country and the make up by seeing from the ground as opposed to in the air.

While driving I remember seeing Buddhist temples on the hilltops every so often.  I was amazed at not only the number of temples between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, but also the size.  The Buddhas stuck out over the trees and vegetation like they were ants, and another amazing thing is that it seemed as though half the temples were in the middle of nowhere.

One Stop –  We made a couple of stops along the journey, but the main site seeing stop was Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand.  It was hurried so we were only able to make three stops in Ayutthaya, highlight being the Buddha statue in the tree at Wat Mahathat followed by a Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon and the pagodas filled with bats. At one of the temples near Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, we saw an offering to Buddha of a Washington apple, and having lived in Washington for the last 10 years thought it was interesting that an Apple would show up at a temple in Thailand.

All in all, the bus ride was a great experience, and something I highly suggest for those who have some extra time to meander.

See more pictures on our Flickr page by clicking links above.

Temples

Cultural Experience – We got the opportunity to tour the Grand Palace on our second day in Bangkok, and a better opportunity, local college students were coming along to give us their perspective!  We were greeted at our bus by the local students, who brought us an assortment of local sweets.  It was a interesting mix of gelatinous and coconut filled goodies, and for someone who doesn’t like coconut, thought they were amazing.

Grand Palace – After a half hour bus ride we arrived at the Grand Palace.  Greeted by the Thai military marching outside the main gate with what appeared to be AK-47’s.  I was taken aback by a military escort on arrival, it wasn’t for us they were marching, but where we we in proximity to where they were marching it might as well have been.  So we followed numerous tourist from around the world and entered the main gate of the Grand Palace, where gold pagodas and temples abound.  We saw many demons, Buddhas and other items that odorned the buildings, but the most impressive element was all of the gold.  One of which was a 2 1/2 ton gold buddha and another was the reclining buddha, both impressive in their own right. We also got to go inside the Chakri Mahaprasad Hall, because one of the local college guys had a Dad that worked at the Grand Palace.  In the Hall, we saw some of the royal carriages used to carry the King and Queen.  It also serves as a banquet hall when they would use/live in the Grand Palace.  Due to a mysterious death of King Rama VIII, the Grand Palace is more of a tourist destination instead of a royal residence.

   Rain/Weather – After the Grand Palace tour, we were supposed to go on a longtail boat ride on the Chao Phraya river, but due to inclement weather we had to        settle for the Vimanmek Palace.   Vimanmek Palace is a beautiful teak palace that is a now a museum of old Royal items from King Rama V. Normally I don’t like museums, I think they just distract us from the real reason to go places, the culture, but there is something about the Grand Palace, and Vimanmek Palace that makes it worth the tours. It gives you a sense of history.

Did you know Bangkok is not the real name of the city?

Bangkok’s real nameKrung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. Krung Thep means City of Angels.

Bangkok Dangerous

Airport of dreams- Ok so it may not be the airport of dreams, but I remember thinking as I flew into Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport, “Are you kidding me!”  There is a golf course in the middle of the runways. What do you get when you check in for your tee time, a cart and ear muffs? (I forgot to post this with the last post)

My First Full Day in Bangkok- Alright so Bangkok Dangerous is a little cliche, especially since the movie “Bangkok Dangerous” came out 3 years after my visit, but when you first experience a foreign country it is a little dangerous!  Not in the sense that you could get hurt, but in the sense culture shock, like traffic, respecting the culture and temples…..

So woke up the first full day in Bangkok to our hotels “American Breakfast”, which was interesting, because it was the first time I had ever seen Rambutan, Lychee, and other exotic fruits.  It was also the first time I had an omelet shaped like a football (American Football).

We stayed fairly close the the hotel the first day, there was a shopping/grocery store 5 or so blocks from the hotel, so we walked down and again saw some of the exotic fruits that we saw before, it was amazingly fresh and inexpensive.  We shopped around there in blistering heat and humidity and in no time the pool back at the hotel was calling our name.

Night Market – The hotel was conveniently located on one of the metro lines, so we went to the closest station and took the train to the night market.  We walked around and saw all of the knock-off clothing and wares.  I saw a ton of fake Rolex’s, DVD’s and shirts claiming a Hard Rock Cafe in Chiang Mai.  Even though it was geared toward tourists, if you dig far enough, you can find nice local goods, mostly wood products and other home decor type goods.  After an hour of walking around the night market, we decided to pull up at a local bar and sample the local brews, Singha, Chang and Heinekan were the favorites.  All in all a great day figuring out the vast metropolis.

Off to Thailand

The day had finally arrived to leave for Thailand, which was only a week after the final day of class.  I remember it well, because I was so nervous to be on the plane for 12 some hours that I woke up at 6 AM.  My flight wasn’t until 2AM the next morning, and it was delayed so I as up for almost 22 hours.  It wasn’t bad though, I think I was up for only about 3 hours of the actual flight.

I flew EVA Air, which at the time through Orbitz was $950 for economy, and had a stop in Taipei, Taiwan. This was also a first for me, this was the first time I had flow in a 747, and overseas. It definitely made me nervous because of how much runway it needed to take off, and the fact that we would be over ocean for 12 hours.  I really wish I had some time in Taiwan, because from what I read it is another amazing place to visit, sadly the layover was only 3 hours.

Arrival in Bangkok was a short 3 1/2 hour flight from Taipei, arrived at around noon Bangkok time. We got our baggage and found our first experience with haggling with a taxi/van to our hotel.  On the way to the hotel we incurred our first “monsoon” and even though it happens regularly there, it seemed like the streets were almost immediately flooded.  It was crazy to see that much ran in so little of time, and it only lasted 15-20 minutes.

Even though I got a lot of sleep on the leg from Seattle to Taipei, I was dead tired compared with others in my group.  I immediately got some food, called my Mom, and went to bed.