Thursday, May 5, 2011
One Night in Bangkok...
Well, we survived a freakishly long plane ride (among other things). We flew to LA and waited for four hours to catch a plane to Taipei at one in the morning. Whitney sat by a nice Chinese couple on the plane and they tried to get her to eat some questionable looking Chinese airplane food. The stewardess felt bad for her and gave her both breakfasts. Surprisingly, the Chinese porridge stuff was better than the eggs. Chinese airplane food is nasty. We're pretty sure that airplane food has made is so we question eating anything here. Anyway, we got to Taiwan at six in the morning their time and had to wait in the airport till one to catch the flight to Bangkok. That flight wasn't too bad. When we got to Bangkok this lady was hired to meet us at the airport and take us to Ake (Pongsak) our contact here. She had what might be the equivalent of fast passes to get us through the immigration line. Then we found Ake and he took us and our bajillion bags to the hotel. (PS all 12 of our checked bags made it, that is a miracle). The air as soon as we left the airport was so sticky we could taste it.
Traffic here is insane! In Thailand you drive on the left side of the road and in the right side of the car. Nobody signals which direction they will be turning and motorcycles can do whatever they want. In Bangkok there are so many cars, but it seems like all you have to do is honk twice for the others around you and then anything goes. (even in a double decker bus) After we got to the hotel, Ake gave us 30 minutes to clean up and then he took us to the mall (Fashion Island) to exchange money, buy cell phones, and eat dinner. Alisha did not go because her feet were so swollen from the flight. She could barely walk at all and she mostly looked like a puffy lobster. We did end up getting two phones primarily so that when Whitney gets lost she will be able to find everyone.
The hotel was nice though Laura and Jenna had a lizard in the shower incident (they are everywhere here). Ake told us we had to wake up at four in the morning because we had a busy day ahead of us that he had planned. He arranged for us to be driven around by this hotel guy all day so we had our own private bus which was way better then a taxi. Whitney had the entire backseat and since her pillow is now a world traveler she could just lay back there and sleep (they also don't believe in seatbelts here, so we don't have those pesky things to worry about). So anyways, our very pleasant personal driver took us to the floating markets, which are amazing. You get in this boat and you get ferried around and people sell you stuff from other boats. It is pretty exciting to barter in a language you dont know. When they can tell you are American they get out their calculators and they type a price. If it is too high (and it always is) then you take and type your price until you settle, although it is considerably harder to walk away when you have to wait for your boat to move. It was difficult to barter when we aren't exactly sure how the money works here. It sort of feels like it is play money to us. Whitney ended up buying a big beach bag for like 210 baht (7 bucks) which probably wasn't a fantastic deal but a lot better then the 500 baht the lady wanted. She also bought coconut pancakes right off the griddle that was on a boat. They were delicious. At one of the places that we stopped, a man pulled us off the boat to show us his python snakes. He then started to put them around our necks so we could take pictures. Whitney wouldn't let him near her with the snake, but Alisha had two pythons wrapped around her neck at one point. When we were in the boat, the boat guide also took us to a temple where we put gold leafing on a giant Buddah...that was interesting.
After the exciting floating market, our bus driver (who's name we wish we knew) took us to this beautiful resaturaunt (that was closed) talked them into opening it and I had crab rice for breakfast outside in a garden with the fountains going. After breakfast our tour guide drove us two hours to the Grand Palace. It is amazing how it took us two hours to get somewhere and we never even left the city. On the way there, we stopped by at a random gas station for a potty break. This was our first experience ever in using a squatter toilet. It was intense. Actually, it wasn't that bad because our guide gave us toilet paper. :)
We went to the Grand Palace which was shiny enough to give us sunburns (especially since Alisha thought she was above sunscreen and Whitney is an albino). Out tour guide there was named Lek and she was very funny. She told us stories of the murals and Thai temples. We also took another boat ride across a long river in Bangkok to the Temple of the Dawn. We climbed to the top of the temple, which involved the steepest stairs our legs have ever encountered. It was slightly terrifying to get back down. Lek somehow found our bus guy and he took us to Health Land, which is a school for people who are going to be massage therapists and we all got a two hour deep tissue massages for like 15 bucks. However, it was terrifying. As Laura says, "That was the most intimate experience of my life." We were very impressed that the little Thai ladies could throw us over their knees and crack our backs. The two of us plus Laura were together and we had on their weird pajama things backwards and they kept talking in Thai making fun of us. The massage was intense enough that Laura was literally praying that she would make it. We pretty much all have bruises. The driver just laughed at us when we got out and he drove us to the bus station to go to Phuket.
The bus was crazy. It was double decker and hot pink and they gave us really nasty sandwiches for our enjoyment. We were starving though, so we ate it anyway. They did put in Twilight for us, however. They probably thought to themselves, "Oh, there's some young American girls so we had better show Twilight today. All American girls must love that show after all." (Gag me) So we got to watch it in Thai with English subtitles. That movie is even worse when you have to read the subtitles. But it was a nice touch. We were on the bus from 6:00 last night to 7:00 this morning.
This first entry has been pretty long, but like Ake warned us, our days have been packed. It is so cool to be in another country and being a minority for once. People here are staring at us constantly. One guy even came up to Alisha's face and took a picture of her. Weird. Anyways, we will have more stories to tell of Phuket and the Phi Phi Islands soon.