I’ll open with the bottom line: I finally made it to Asia!
How did this happen?
I’ve been at my current job for about six months now, and I didn’t realize until I started that traveling is a big part of the position. So imagine my reaction when I learned that I would be going to Thailand! (Hint: it involves me trying to play it cool on the outside, but doing back flips of joy on the inside.)
I said that I’m switching things up because it’s true: I’ve spent the last 4 years or so traveling around Europe, and the West in general. I still have so much more to see, of course, but I’ve also wanted to try a new continent. New foods, new architecture, new languages. I always thought that I would go to Japan first (which is still a goal of mine for 2020), but I was very happy to go to Thailand—even for a quick 8 days. Most of my time was spent working, but I took as many pictures as I could.
I’d say the toughest part of this trip was the flight, which took around 25 hours with 2 layovers. If you have a sensitive stomach like I do, I recommend not eating much on the long-haul flight from the US to the first Asian stop. I was pretty bloated and uncomfortable the entire time. Why did I decide to eat Chick-fil-A in Detroit??
One of my layovers was in Seoul, and they have these little informational robots that roam around the airport. You can also take pictures with them.
Otherwise, the airport was pretty normal, with a lot of luxury good stores and a shop where I bought some Korean snacks.
I was pleasantly surprised with Bangkok, although I honestly didn’t have any expectations. The city has incredible energy and seems to be a mixture of cosmopolitan and laid-back life.
It’s also pretty large, and somewhat polluted, but it was easy to get around. I stayed in an area of town with a lot of shopping and dining options.
My hotel was also near a SkyTrain station, which is an above ground metro that goes around Bangkok. The public transportation-lover in me had to give it a try.
On the first day, my coworkers and I took a trip to Chatuchak market. It only operates on the weekends and is popular with both locals and tourists. I wasn’t planning to spend as much as I did, but Thailand is incredibly cheap for U.S. dollars.
On my last day in Thailand, I went to some of the main must-sees in Bangkok–a couple of Buddhist temples and the Grand Palace. The first temple was Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn. This second name comes from the fact that the tiles of the buildings glow from the reflection off the river when the sun rises. It was finished sometime in the 1600s during the reign of King Rama II. There’s a large tower in the center and then smaller towers around it with very detailed tile work.
To get to the second temple, we took a boat taxi, which was only–wait for it–4 Thai baht. That’s less than 25 cents…
The second temple was Wat Pho, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It is even older than Wat Arun and existed before Bangkok was the capital city. You’ll find a large collection of Buddha imagery, a school, and even areas to get Thai massages. (One lady was literally screaming during her back massage, so they must be intense!)
The main Buddha icon though is the giant, nearly 50-foot-tall, gold-covered statue of Buddha reclining on his side. People were jammed packed in here to see this Buddha.
The last place I went to was the Grand Palace, which was constructed (initially) by King Rama I in 1782. It’s a huge cluster of buildings, pavilions, temples, etc. I liked walking around and seeing everything, but they ran out of audio guides, so I wasn’t really sure about the significance of each building (which I didn’t like). Also, you can’t go inside the buildings, and that was strange for me.
There was also very beautiful artwork on the walls of the entrance and in the pavilions.
The last, and probably coolest, thing I did in Bangkok was ride in a tuk tuk! They’re little taxi scooters and a lot of fun.
I spent most of my trip in Pattaya, sandwiched between Bangkok, but didn’t get to see as much as I would’ve liked due to work.
On the first night in Pattaya City, I ate with my coworkers at a restaurant recommended by our hotel’s staff. Everything was tasty, and there were dancers. Unfortunately, I forgot to put on the mosquito spray I brought, and my legs were destroyed since we sat outside. What’s crazy is that I never felt a thing…
We also went a central area called “Walking Street.” This place was terrible. Crowded, dirty, smelly, touristy–everything you could think of. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh; it just reminded me of when I went to the French Quarter in New Orleans back in middle school, but worse. There was nothing there but clubs and bad restaurants.
Otherwise, Pattaya was lovely. I didn’t get to explore much more, but I saw some smaller markets and a lot of gyms (see take-away #8).
Planning for this trip, I was very worried about what I would eat because as someone who doesn’t like coconuts, peanuts (other than peanut butter), or spicy foods, I usually don’t enjoy Thai food. But I had so many more options here, and everything was fresh!
- Thailand seems like a good country to start with if you’ve never been to Asia. There’s a well-known network of travelers, and I saw plenty of expats in both cities. I also didn’t have a language problem, but probably because I stayed in hotels and more touristy areas. Most Thai people that I encountered were so polite and friendly.
- Some of the advertisements were interesting, but this one below.
- On the other hand, I saw some marketing for skin whitening products, and that was a bit sad. I also noticed that none of the people on posters or other ads had brown faces.
- I could not pronounce anything in Thai, not even “thank you,” which is pretty shameful. I just did a little bow with my hands together and used English. I need to step my game up for next time!
- I recommend visiting in December. The weather wasn’t rainy, and it actually reminded me of Florida, although it was more humid than Florida for this month. Drink as much water as possible when walking around because the heat is intense.
- I spent way more on souvenirs than I anticipated. My new philosophy: buy stuff like you’re never going to come back. Along with the pictures below, I also bought food, clothes, and a silk table runner.
- 7-Elevens exist in Asia! But I didn’t check to see if they have slurpees.
- As stated before, I saw a lot of gyms, particularly for boxing. I don’t know why it never clicked to me that Muay Thai boxing is from Thailand. I’d love to return and see a boxing match!
Moving forward: I plan on writing more articles this year, as I have a lot of trips to recap and topics to cover. If you’d like to get notifications when I post, please send me an email or follow my blog here on WordPress.