One of these things is not like the others...

Trip Start Dec 14, 2004
Trip End May 25, 2005

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Thursday, February 24, 2005

(inhale deep breath.) one of the greatest things about traveling is the ability to propel yourself in and out of different worlds, all the time (sometimes even when you least expect it!). stepping on board our thai air flight to bangkok, we knew that we were about to enter a completely different world within a matter of hours, and we were (and still are) ready to meet challenges, face to face.

the first task was to get ourselves out of the airport. at 6 am, after spending 12 hours on a bus, 4 in an airport, and 10 more on a plane, our bodies were basically there, yet our heads remained in the clouds. we found our way to immigration and stood in a line that had been formed free of any authoritative help, hoping we were in the right place. 10 minutes later, our first success! our passports now display a stamp that allows us to stay in thailand for 30 days. yay.

we found our bags and wandered out into the crowd of faces holding signs with names... searching dutifully for one of our names to no avail, we wondered where our ride would be. after a bit of run around, we heard a page, "jodie gordon, jodie gordon please report to the information desk." there we found a man with a sign reading, "JODIE GORDON." assuming this was the person who was driving us to our guesthouse, we jumped in his car and rode off into the sun-- well, no, not the sunset, not at all... in fact, it was morning, and the sun was fully out. though it was a little hard to tell where exactly it was, because it was covered in a questionably cloudy sky... greyish from clouds, or pollution, or a combo of both? hard to say.

a friendly welcome at our guesthouse made us feel happy to be here, and a clean shower shortly after left us with big smiles. it was time to venture into the city. still smiling, we followed the directions we were given and headed to the sky tram-- a beautiful and relatively new system of transportation that glides through the the top of the city, complete with air conditioned cars....we got off in Siam Square, hoping to find some food.

"you two the same! same shoes! same skirt! same shirt! even same size! same purse! are you twins?"
"no," we giggled.
"ah, just friends?"
"yup!" smiling and laughing.

this friendly thai woman began chatting with us, telling us different things to do in the country, as well as the best tailors in bangkok so we could get new dresses made for us. she encouraged us to go to the tourist information center and book some tours for ourselves-- all too soon, her encouragement switched into a decision, and she pulled aside a tuk-tuk driver and told him where to take us. (a tuk-tuk is one of the many ways to get around the city. it is a small, carriage-like seat for 2-3 that sits atop a motorized bike... it can be kind of thrilling when you're not sitting in the middle of traffic and baking in its exhaust fumes.) without being able to voice a proper dissent, we found ourselves sitting with a "travel agent" about 15 minutes later, certainly not ready to discuss any kind of travel plans we may have had.

not smiling anymore... where are we? what has just happened? yikes! help! we want to see other tourists! we want some food! we're hungry! we have no idea where to go, what to do, what the best way is to get there, wherever "there" may be. it's hot and humid! ahhh!

by now we're pretty good at reading each others thoughts...a lot of finished sentences and such these days. One sideways look at each other was all the confirmation we needed to get out of there. we decided to head over to Khao San Rd. to see if we could get a little more comfortable with our shellshocked selves. Khao San Rd- typically known as the touristy/Westerners side of things.... endless rows of stalls and vendors trying to sell you things at slightly jacked up prices, a Ronald McDonald statue with hands folded in traditional Wai greeting (palms pressed together like in prayer), and tuk-tuk drivers following you in hopes of getting you to agree to their very special tour, at "special price, just for you".

our first day in Bangkok was an assault on the senses, in every way possible. our first meal in Bangkok was delicious- topped off by fresh fruit shakes, and cost us each 100 baht (about $2.50). we wove our way through crowded streets with putridly smelly patches, rode through Thai traffic in the back of a tuk-tuk while practically eating exhaust fumes, drank fresh coconut milkshakes and longed for more, and escaped from the oppressive humidity anywhere that had air conditioning, which wasn't too easy to find.

There's just so much to tell.... can you tell? :)

we experienced our first night market last night- a pretty central part of Thai culture- endless rows of beautiful Thai silks, skirts, traditional fishermen pants (like the ones they sell in Israel), sandals, candles, jewelry- literally, everything. We have heard that "everything in Thailand is so cheap"- but you can't believe it, until you walk away with a new pair of Birkenstock sandals (whether or not they're real- another story....) and a pair of pants, for less than $5. The colors are amazing... everywhere you look, there's something interesting to touch or smell or resist the urge to buy.

This is becoming a very long entry, and we're only on day #2....

Should we tell you more? Or save it for later?

Suffice it to say, we are experiencing the culture shock that we expected to come. Both of our days have included intense highs and lows... high points have been enjoyable--sitting alongside a bustling street, eating something that we couldn't begin to name (but it was delicious), with a smiling Thai woman urging us to sprinkle more of the salt/sugar mixture (something that Thais seem to favor with their food) on top of our gooey purchase, seeing our first Wat (traditional Buddhist temple), and the Reclining Buddha, indulging in Thai massages, and drinking thai iced tea (though we suppose they just call it iced tea) in the manner favored in Thailand, which is out of a plastic bag that is tied up with enough air inside that makes it easy to poke a straw through...
The lows hit us hard... like when we find ourselves sweaty and covered in a thick film of Bangkoks' ever-present grime and polluted air, shoving our way into a crowded riverboat, stepping around the countless stray dogs, seeing small children begging near one of the busiest shopping centers....

clearly, we have had an intense couple of days. our eyes and ears are wide open, and we are constantly trying to get a grasp on a new culture. bangkok is exciting, disgusting, crazy, and strange, but we still find it enchanting. we're sure that our experiences in the rest of the country will be quite different from this particular city, and in a couple of days we will move to a new destination, still to be determined. we will keep you posted. if you've been here and want to give us any advice, we will happily listen! :)
rachel and jodie (friends, not twins or even sisters)
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