3 Nights In Bangkok

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Flag of Thailand  , Surat Thani,
Sunday, October 31, 2010

Coming to Thailand three weeks before the first term ended had its perks and downfalls.  The major downfall was that I was asked to work between 40-50 hours (and only get paid for 30).  I spent these hours preparing exams, grading papers, and evaluating each students English speaking ability.  The main perk of coming to Thailand at this time was that I was about to get 3 weeks off, and still get paid.  Having only seen the southern region of Thailand, I chose to visit northern Thailand, as I herd it was a complete 180 from what I had already seen. Bangkok was also on my list of things to see, although I wasn't interested in spending any more then 3 or 4 days there. 

The last day of the first semester came on Friday, October 8th.  After my day ended, I immediately packed my bags and headed to the bus/train station.  I had a positive experience with the train system in Thailand a few weeks before (I took a train to Malaysia for my work visa), so I planned to board a sleeper train and spend the 13 hour journey from Surat Thani to Bangkok sleeping in my own private bed.  Like most situations in Thailand, things did not go according to plan.  I was informed that the train tickets were sold out until tomorrow, and the only way to get to Bangkok tonight was via bus.   I was eager to start my journey immediately, so I decided to hop the bus to BKK. 
The 13 hour bus journey was long and boring.  The bus driver blared sex and the city re-runs through the night, so sleeping was very difficult.  I eventually arrived in Bangkok at 6AM Saturday mourning.  I was dropped off at Kao San road, which is known as a backpackers hub.  I decided to take a walk around some of the smaller surrounding roads, where I eventually found Rambuttree road (finding housing off the beaten path will often save you nearly 50% on accommodation). I eventually found a guest house to stay in for 160 baht (Thai money) a night (or about $5).  The room was very basic, including a bed, fan (no AC), and a shared bathroom.  I was very happy with this, as I didn't plan to spend much time in my room anyway.  With about 3 hours of sleep, I decided to take a nap, and explore the city when I awoke.  

My guest house was very close to the historic center of town, so I decided to take a walk to check it out.  On my walk there, I was approached by a Tuk Tuk driver (Thai taxi) who said he would take me around the city for the day for only 40 baht (just over $1).  I had herd about all the Thai scams, and my instincts told me not to do it.  However, $1 was worth the risk in my mind, and I decided to get in the Tuk Tuk.  He first asked me what I wanted to see, so I told him I would like to see the Wat Po (a Wat is a Buddhist temple). About 5 mins into the cab ride he told me that we needed to make a stop at a tailor.  He explained to me that the reason he gave me the cab so cheap was because there is a special promotion today only (lies), where Tuk Tuk drivers would receive free gas money if there client went into a tailor shop for 15 minutes.  I thought that 15 minutes was worth a free cab ride, so I agreed.  Apparently, I wasn't in the shop for 15 mins, because after we left, he explained to me that we needed to do it again.  I ordered him to drop me off in front of the emperors palace, which he did.  In all, it turned out to be a big waste of 2 hours. 

I ended up walking to the Wat Po (which was only a 10 minute walk from where I caught the Tuk Tuk), and spent a couple hours there.  This particular Wat was renown for its beauty and the great emerald Buddha.  It was also very popular among tourists because it is right next to the emperors palace, which is one of Bangkok's main tourist attraction.  After an hour in the Wat Po, I crossed the street and headed to the emperors palace.  I was almost immediately greeted by a man who posed as a government official, telling me that the emperors palace was closed for a Buddhist holiday.  I had heard about this scam as well, and this time decided to trust my instincts.  5 minuted later I was inside the palace.  The first thing I noticed was the palace's size.  If you wanted, you could spend days exploring the palaces many different buildings and sculptures.  After about 2 hours walking around, I decided that I had seen enough Wat's for the day, and for the entire trip for that matter.  I headed back towards my road where I found a cheap dinner.

I made friends with a Finnish guy named Petri (aka Pete) at my gym in Surat Thani. Petri had moved to Thailand at the age of 18, and had been living  in Thailand for 7 years (spending 6 of those living in Bangkok).  Petri was eager to leave Surat and move back to Bangkok (which he greatly preferred due to its variety and adventure).  As soon as he was offered a sales job, he moved back to Bangkok.  I informed Petri that I planned to come to Bangkok for a few days, and he insisted that he show me the "real Bangkok nightlife".  I had heard many things about BKK nightlife, and was eager to form my own opinions. 

 I met Petri at a local hot spot about 30 minutes from where I was staying.  The first thing I noticed when I got there was the lack of farang (Thai word for westerners), other then a table of blondes who stuck out like a sore thumb. These blondes, turned out to be his colleagues, all of which came from Finland.  The all seemed to fit my stereotype of Scandinavian people; interested in hockey, friendly, blonde, and beautiful.  They informed me that they had met very few Americans in Bangkok, and persistently picked my brain about American pop culture.  After a couple beer towers at the first location, we started to explore the Bangkok clubbing scene.  In total, we went to 4 Thai clubs before calling it a night/mourning around 7AM.  It turned out to be a great night experiencing the real Bangkok nightlife with a Scandinavian twist. 

I spent the following day exploring Bangkok's many city markets.  I first went to Chinatown, which I was told had the cheapest and most tasty food in Bangkok.  I spent about 3 hours navigating my way through an ally which I thought would only take me about 5 minutes.  Eventually, I got to a strip of about 100 Chinese restaurants.  Every restaurant I saw had the same special: shark fin soup.  Before I left for Thailand, I had recently watched a special on the national geographic channel about this delicacy, and there was no way I was about to try it.  After an expensive and mediocre lunch (shrimp and rice), I headed to Bangkok's famous MBK center.  Here, you can buy just about anything.  I ended up walking around for 3 hours and only saw a fraction of it.  I ended up buying a couple bootlegged DVD's and computer games (only 1 actually worked).

For my final day in Bangkok, I decided to talk a trip to the Damnoen Saduak floating market about 2 hours outside of Bangkok.  When I got to the market, I got on a small boat and began exploring the many different canals.  I was a bit disappointed with the floating market, because I felt that everything was designed strictly for tourists.  I had a hard time finding any unique local goods that weren't offered back on Kao San Road (backpackers hub).  After about 45 minutes, I headed back to the main dock where I would catch a bus to a local snake show.  

The snake show turned out to be one of the most entertaining things I have ever seen.  I had expected it to be touristy, which it was.  The show started out with a Thai man wrangling a large king Cobra.  About 5 minutes into the show, the man leaned down and kissed the cobra on the face.  I thought to myself "how are they going to top this, I just saw the best part of the show in the first 5 minutes".  I was wrong.  After this, the man precoded to milk the snake (take its venom in a vile), and then he walked around the room putting the king cobra around tourists necks (holding its head of course).  When he finished with this, he brought a large glass box to the center of the stage.  In the glass box was a mongoose, who seemed to be very edgy as he was constantly pacing around.  The man then placed a large cobra in the cage with the mongoose.  The two began fighting.  Within 20 seconds, the cobra was dead.  

After this, I got to see the "two hands, three snakes" trick, where a wrangler picked up two vipers, one with each hand, then picked up the third with his mouth.  The man narrating the show explained to us that in 50 years of operating, only 1 wrangler had died.  For the last trick, they brought out a 15 foot python to the center of the stage.  This snake seemed particularly irritated, as the man ran around the stage trying to fend it off.  After it was over, the man was bitten 3 times.  

The second part of the tour was spent at an elephant orphanage/crocodile farm.  The first activity was an elephant show, where the main attraction was an elephant soccer match.  I was happy to see that the elephants really seemed to enjoy performing for a crowd.  After the elephant show I went to a crocodile show.  I had heard about these Thai crocodile shows before, but didn't really know what to expect.  The main attraction of this show featured a man sticking his head in the mouth of a 15 foot crocodile.  I had seen photos of this before, but couldn't comprehend what I was actually going to see. The man first stuck his hand in the crocodiles mouth, then pulled it out causing the powerful crocodile to snap his jaws shut.  After putting his hand in, he stuck his head in, then pulled it out causing the jaws to snap shut again.  After the crocodile show (which lasted about 10 minutes), we headed back to Bangkok for dinner.  That night, I caught the night train to Chiang Mai (northern Thailand)  to begin the next portion of my trip.

I plan to add another journal entry in the next week or so when I get more free time. 
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