2-Day Escape to Bangkok, Thailand

20140223-193141.jpgFor Chinese New Year, we had a four day weekend. I like to take advantage of holidays and travel as much as possible. After all, I’m living in close proximity to several countries. It’d be absurd to not take advantage of traveling. The flights are cheap and shorter. In the last minute, I decided to pick Bangkok. I am well aware of the riots and political situation. However, when I researched I discovered that with common sense and street smarts I should be okay.

Khaosan road was the area I stayed and I stayed in Suneeta Hostel at Khaosan. This was my first hostel experience. I was willing to stay there after several promising reviews and hearing that they are secure, well-maintained such as restricting alcohol and not allowing extra visitors. And it’s not right next to a night club so that I am waking up to loud music at 3 am. When it comes to having a good time, I prefer hiking, sightseeing, meeting new people and talking about life – humor, intelligent, or interesting topics.

Khaosan Road is known as the spot where the young, 20-somethings venture out to hike, explore temples, enjoy street food, trendy restaurants, and massages. There is a police station on the street and thankfully I didn’t have to visit. It’s nice to know they are nearby. The area also has a McDonald’s but seriously why would I eat American fast food in Thailand? The prices are slightly more expensive since it’s a tourist attraction. This felt reasonable at this time.

Day One: Arrival

On arrival at the airport, we took the train to a bus stop and then have to take a taxi to the hostel. I bargained with the taxi driver who was charging me 300 Bahts but I convinced him to turn on meter. It turned out to be 60 Bahts. The hostel is on the second floor and easy to locate with its visible sign. Walking to the lobby, there were a few people watching TV. I found my room. It’s a dorm but the dorm is secure and each individual bed is capsule style that can be locked during the day to secure belongings such as your passport. The bed is large enough to put one bag and purse in one corner with enough room. With a light and aircon inside, comfort and privacy can be ensured. There is also a ladies floor.

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The plan was to be spontaneous and open. I’m used to a tight, hectic schedule and wanted to unwind. Today’s last minute agenda was touring temples, a boat ride, and a park. A nearby food cart sold Pad Thai that sent my tastebuds to another world. A Dutch medical student joined me, and we took our initial tour around Bangkok. We explored temples, a giant swing, and took a boat ride across the other side of town. It was all about enjoying Pad Thai, coconut water, and the sights. We were going to Sanam Luang Park but we saw protestors gathering. That is when I snapped a few pictures before deciding to get out of there.

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Here are some pictures of a gathering that I probably don’t want to be around. I ran into a local lady who asked me how long I planned to say. I told her I’m leaving Saturday morning.

Her reply was, “Good. Don’t stay Sunday. It’s election and I’m staying home. Not going out.”

Good plan! Sunday is election day.

After soaking in the sights and a day of walking, I went for a massage that cost me $10. I needed a couple of hours to wind down. I spent time at the hostel lounge watching TV and chatting with two other newbies. For dinner we visited one of the cafés across the street. There’s street food, cafes, bars with live music, shops, and salons.

We wandered around the Khaosan area checking out the areas. A dutch girl and I joined in with some random street musicians too.

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Day Two: The Grand Palace, Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha) and a Night Out on Yaowarat (Chinatown) 

2014-01-31 14.04.372014-01-31 13.43.35If only I could post every picture snapped by my phone to bring you there. There was so much to see. Twenty minutes away was The Grand Palace and other nearby attractions.

Tiger Temple would have been nice but it was 3 hours away by car. If I had the time to travel I would. A few Malayalee guys we met last night and another Indian-American from the hostel were there last week and showed pictures. The funny part was that guy had a Malayalee Pentecostal background. I don’t see too many malu pentis in backpacking hostels and traveling with friends and acquaintances. These guys were chill and laid back. I enjoy listening to people with interesting stories about life experiences. There were a few Dutch, one Swiss, Chinese, Japanese, and two other Americans. Some of them left this morning. Three of us decided to check out The Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and enjoy more food during the day. After that I’m going for another massage and rest. The evening/late night plan was Chinatown. It’s Chinese New Year after all.

Warning: When visiting temples or other tourist attractions, beware of scams. You will have people in the street approaching you to tell you the temple is closed but there is another place. That is a scam because when you go with them, you’ll be asked to pay an exorbitant amount of money. Another girl in our hostel had a man tell her that there is a deal in this other place for tomorrow. Don’t listen to that either. They will send you over and you will be disappointed to find out the deal never exists. I suggest having a plan.

Dress code: temples have modesty dress codes. Please avoid shorts and tank tops. This applies to the men too. Wear full length pants and shirts with sleeves. I made a mistake of wearing capris, but I was allowed to rent a sarong.

The Grand Palace is a set of historic buildings that began construction in 1721 by the king of that time. Today, part of it is open to the public for tourism. The current royal family does not live there but official ceremonies still take place in the location. When you pay 500 baht to enter the palace. This includes the Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha Temple, Museum, and other buildings.      

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You will need at least 3 hours to enjoy all the sights and architecture of The Grand Palace complex. The buildings are truly mesmerizing.

Another tip: make sure you wear walking sandals with a strap that can be easily removed. You will be asked to take your shoes off before entering certain places. Since I live in Asia and grew up in Asian culture, I am used to taking my shoes off before entering a home, church, temple, and other places. The only exception is offices.

Here are a couple more shots of the lovely architecture and historic buildings. I will admit that when I came into Bangkok, I didn’t know much about the history or even government. Only after coming here, I looked into the culture and history. I also got an idea what the protests were about. It baffles my mind why the protestors literally don’t want an election. It’s another world. I pondered about Thailand’s current situation as I gazed over the several buildings and sights. I hope you too are checking them out.

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And here is the Emerald Buddha, it’s a statue made of emerald and gold clothes made in the mid-1400s. According to the legend, it was originally made in India and then ended up in Ceylon to save it during a war. The king of Burma sent out a mission to get it because he wanted to support the strong Buddhist religion. Then, the ship carrying it lost its way and ended up in Cambodia, only to be captured by the Thais.

However, according to history (official Bureau of the Royal Household, Bangkok, Thailand) the statue surfaced in Northern Thailand during 1434 and now the statue is in the grounds of the grand palace. Here is a photo of the statue. However, it is not as huge as it appears. It is much smaller in size.

Emerald Buddha

After this, when we walked along the path and here are some of the guards. Official ceremonies still take place here but the royal family’s residence isn’t The Grand Palace.

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The crowd was stopped by a guard and we got to witness these two people. I googled pictures of the Thai royal family and prime minister but the pictures don’t match. 

I have no idea who they are but they look important.

Chinatown – After returning to the hostel and resting with another massage and food, we hung out and socialized with more people from our hostel. Story time of each other’s lives is an interesting interlude. I am glad that I stayed at a decent hostel because it was enjoyable. Chinatown was of course packed with the crowds of a night market and street food.

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Back at the hostel with a group from Northern England, Americans, and a Mexican. BTW to Oscar, I still remember, “Viva la Mexico, Cabarones!”

Us at hostel

Of course, the group decided to go clubbing but that’s not my thing. So I stayed at the hostel and decided to get creative. Creative inspiration hits at odd times. I ended up chatting with a Malayalee about the quirks our culture, travel, relationships, life, and so on. No, I didn’t get his number. He has a girlfriend. And, I’m not interested in him. Can’t a man and a woman relate to each other in a completely platonic manner? It truly felt like I was chatting with a brother. It’s nice to have a decent conversation with a like-minded person. As you can see, hostel life doesn’t have to be frat house style. Sure, most people are singles  in their 20s and 30s (and for the young at heart). There were a couple of older people too. I suppose it depends on the culture and location and who you travel with. I enjoyed this escape and being an observer of life. My first hostel stay was a good one. I like the idea because one of the ladies told me, “I could pay for a hotel but I’m out and about and only stay in the hotel to sleep. So why not stay at a hostel and get to meet people.”

That is what a writer does—observing people and life. This trip renewed me and allowed me to have the chance to check out another place.

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