Existing Member?

Gina, Joe and Justin's Backpacking Experience


THAILAND | Saturday, 31 January 2009 | Views [1764]

Its time to graduate from our warm and fuzzy English speaking and culturally analogous mates, to a new level of world travel...Thailand here we come!


It doesn't take too long in Bangkok to get the understanding that you're in a whole new world.  But one that has a whole lot of new unseen culture (at least for us anyway) and the guarantee of a good time.  Our first big event here was the taxi “experience” from the airport; I have to call it an experience because the word “drive” or “ride” just doesn't give it proper justice.  I would like to take quick second to disavowal a popular American myth, being that “Asian people cannot drive.”  This generality couldn't be farther from the truth; what we saw this taxi driver maneuver through would leave Mario Andretti sucking tailpipe exhaust.  To these people getting from point A to point B is an “at any cost” situation.  Normal driving protocol such as stop signs, center lines, and red-lights that us Americans (and Australians for that matter) are so indoctrinated with are merely suggestions here and most defiantly not punishable laws.  I think in the 45 minute taxi drive we spend 10 minutes driving on the wrong side of the road, ran 6-7 red lights, and dodged at least 25 pedestrians.  They take transport serious, but when a 45 minute taxi ride only costs 8 bucks American...what can you expect!? 


To take the transportation differences a bit further I have to mention the Tuk Tuk's.  These death traps are large chariot versions of a small motor trike, and the pavement acrobatics that these things are capable of put the taxi drivers to shame.  Where taxi drivers would occasionally heed a safety hazard such as oncoming traffic or a red light, the Tuk Tuk drivers cannot be bothered.  I think my most memorable moment in one of these things was when we were behind about 25 cars at a red light.  Instead of waiting for the light to turn, the driver instead got in the far side of the lane of oncoming traffic, passed all 25 cars, and ran the red light through a barrage of intersecting green light traffic.  All of this in a vehicle that looks like a motorcycle with a bench seat in the back!  What makes the Tuk Tuks even more interesting is that they rarely ever take you to your destination on the first go.  Oh no...before you go to “yada yada street” we need to take to you one or all of these places: gemstone store, travel agent, suit/dress tailor, or t-shirt/Asian crap store.  I will give them credit where credit is due, the extend and depth of how well their individual scams for getting you to these places is planned is really staggering.  When we were first getting the feel for the ways of the city, we got dragged to about 4 of these places that in all involved about 10 different Thai people playing various “roles” in the show...and it worked...for awhile anyway!


Ok on to the exciting stuff. On our first day in Thailand we were all thoroughly exhausted having traveled on minimal sleep for the last 27 hours and arriving at noontime.  But we couldn't let a little thing like sleep deprivation stop us from having fun in a new country...right?  So we decided to wander around Khao San road.  Khao San road is basically the tourist Mecca of Bangkok.  It’s everything you think of when you think Asian city...think Chinatown in New York and multiply it 10 fold.  There are shops upon shops, most are actually in or on the street rather than in a traditional BUILDING, all selling different varieties of the same t-shirts, jewelry, jeans, hats, books, suits (these guys are the worst), and Asian trinkets by the truckload.  There are also more food vendor carts than you could imagine business to support them, selling all sorts of “food (...a term used loosely here)” that has no English description or visual recognizability.  All in all...the place is AWESOME!


After roaming around here for awhile we decided to go to Mauy Thai fighting tournament, kind of like kickboxing.  This actually turned out to be pretty cool.  For $50 we got front row seats right next to the action!  The arena was exactly like you would expect it to be, completely cement, dirty, and filled with loud people screaming in a foreign language.  Kind of reminds me of every Jean Claude Van Damn move I’ve ever seen, There were a total of 10 fights, most of which were pretty decent, we even got to see a knockout...delivered my a massive head kick.  I don't think I would ever venture to mess with one of these little 105lb Asian kids; they've got some serious skills! 


The next day we did some palace and temple hopping.  That’s one of the main things about this country that I find so intriguing.  For the most part, the entire population lives in poverty in little huts or apartments that are MAYBE 100 sq feet, but they have a TON of these lavish temples and Buddha statues EVERYWHERE.  At any given point in the city you’re probably only a 5-10 minute walk to a temple of some sort.  Most of them are absolutely amazing too.  Look at some of the pictures from the grand palace, all completely done by hand and for the most part all of the stuff that looks gold...is real or at least plated...INCLUDING the outside structures!  We did get to see a lot of really cool things, like the emerald (jade) Buddha for instance, but for some reason they are really strict on what you can and cannot take pictures of...and for most of the really good stuff it’s forbidden to take pictures.  They go as far as to hire guards looking for only cameras.  If you get caught taking a picture they remove your memory card and confiscate or destroy it!  I'm not quite sure why they go through all this, but it’s their country so you better be polite and play by their rules!


The next day we took a day trip that hit all the major tourist attractions including the ever so popular floating market, the bridge over river Kwai (lol I didn’t even know that was here...I was surprised when I saw the sign), and Tiger Temple.  I could probably write a few pages here, but I’ll try to keep it succinct, as best I can anyway ;).  The floating river was basically a wet version of Khao San road (which im finding out mostly everything is).  It was cool to see how they jam all this stuff on their boats...even the food vendors have it all figured out...deep fryers and all!  We got to take a long boat ride into the market which was pretty neato.  Surprisingly these things CRUISE!  After perusing the various wares we decided to go to a “Cobra Show” (which we were informed by the signs is the best show in the world).  The guys running this thing were absolutely SICK.  These snakes were all deadly venomous and they were fighting them with no regard.  I think one little story will pretty much sum the experience up.  For one of the acts the keeper was antagonizing three snakes at the same time.  Nasty looking and fast little buggers that coiled up ready to attack in a way that screams “Don’t mess with me.” After the keeper sufficiently antagonized these creatures he systematically rounded up two of them using his hands and holding on to their head, but what about the third???  In all seriousness, you can’t make this stuff up, this sick guy got face to face with this poised snake and preceded to do some sort of ninja front flip maneuver over top of the snake and ended up with the snakes neck IN HIS MOUTH!!!!!  Where do you learn to do something like that!!!!!!!  I think there's a message in all of this....Kids...stay in school or you might have to catch cobras in your teeth for a living!


Moving along, our next stop was the bridge over river Kwai and then on to the Tiger Temple.  The Tiger temple was a bit of a surprise.  This place was a like a big petting zoo...but with big dangerous animals.  Nothing was caged (except the tigers were chained to the ground) and there were all sorts of random animals roaming about: buffalo, cows, peacocks, horses, camel, deer, ect ect.  Kind of odd...welcome to Thailand.  So we spend some time taking pictures of and petting random animals (including tigers).  Where else in the world can you pet a tiger?? I love this country!


Our last Bangkok day trip was to the ancient city, which was where Bangkok was...before it was in Bangkok.  If that makes sense.  The basic gist of the place is that it used to be the capital before it was attacked and completely destroyed a few hundred (???) years ago.  All that is left now is dilapidated stone ruins and partially dismantled Buddha and temples.  Kind of a cool place, lots of history and its crazy to imagine that a few hundred years ago it was a huge city and now it is mostly just a pile of rocks!  Some of the stuff has been fixed up over the years and several of the bigger temples are still in pretty good condition so you can really get a feel for how the city used to work.


Our last day in the city we decided to do something a little different and took a Thai cooking class!!  Which turned out to be a ton of fun and REALLY good food to boot!   We even had to go to the market and buy our ingredients...authentic eh?  So now if any of us ever offers to cook dinner for you, you may want to give it a second thought!  It might be some crazy Thai recipe we learned on the street corner in Bangkok!


Next stop Phucket for some diving, sailing, and a little beach time!  Isn't it snowing in the states???


Add your comments

(If you have a travel question, get your Answers here)

In order to avoid spam on these blogs, please enter the code you see in the image. Comments identified as spam will be deleted.



Travel Answers about Thailand

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.