Thailand had a great start with a free upgrade for Sean and I to first class on the Kingfisher flight. We've both talked to a large amount of people who warned us how “crazy” and “insane” Bangkok is. Maybe its because we had just come from Kathmandu, or because I've seen Cairo, Bali, and Baja before, but Sean and I found Bangkok to be a very clean, organized, well-developed city. No trash burning on the sidewalks, good driving techniques, and great public transportation system. You do have to deal with the constant nagging to buy this or that, or eat here or there, or take this or that taxi, or all the offers for massages, but just ignore the side street vendors and drivers and its a chill city.
Sean and I welcomed the warmer weather with open arms. This time of month is very pleasant and no extreme heat or humidity was around during our stay in Bangkok. Our fist few days were spent in Bangkok being super tourists...
We hit up most the “must see” sights including many temples (wats) and many different Buddha statues and also enjoyed stuffing our faces with all the street vendor and small restaurant Thai food. We could usually find a good Thai meal for around a buck and were rarely disappointed with anything we ate.
Luck was on our side AGAIN... Sean and I ended up being in Bangkok for King Rama IX's birthday. Thailand has the longest reigning living monarch in the world and Thai's love their King. It even can be a criminal offense if you say anything slanderous about the royal family. Basically, the birthday reminded us a lot of the 4th of July back home, except all the locals were sober, no drinking on the B-day. Sean and I headed to the river to try and see a boat procession and were smashed in between the locals.
The crowds were some of the biggest I've ever been part of and seemed endless. We were given a pink candle that the person next to us lit while the entire city sang a couple of different songs. After the singing there were some great fireworks (I love fireworks), and then locals started letting off the lanterns that act as small air balloons. Just when we thought we had seen it all, an organized group set off 8,400 of the lanterns to fill the sky in hopes that the King will each the age of 84 next year. It almost looked like a crazy galaxy once the lanterns were just specks in the sky.
After a few days in the city, Sean and I headed north to Chiang Mai for a 3 day jungle trek. We weren't expecting much, especially since we just trekked for over 25 days in the Himalayas and this seemed like a much more “touristy” trek.
We were pleasantly surprised with a great trek through the jungle. We were able to ride an elephant for part of the trail, then hiked to a few waterfalls and a couple of different huts to sleep in small villages. Along the way, we came across some huge spiders that our guides picked up and put on our heads. Our guides would also find different plants and bugs (ants & grubs) that they fed to the group if you daring enough to try... “Never try, never know.” After some great hiking, fun swimming, and great company, we ended the trek with a super-fun bamboo rafting trip down a river. We battled other rafts like pirates and had a blast on the way down the river.
Sean and I took the night train back to Bangkok for a day going through the royal palace and now we are headed down south for the real reason we came to Thailand... the beaches!