Thoughts on Thailand

I recently returned from a two week trip to Thailand with a few friends. Here are some thoughts:

– If you don’t mind traveling at the whims of your driver, I highly recommend taking a ride in a tuk tuk. Our first day in Bangkok, tuk tuk drivers offered to take us to a series of popular temples around the city. Having no itinerary for the day, we readily agreed. To clarify, a tuk tuk is an enlarged motorized tricycle. Nevermind the sites, the ride alone was worth it. The drivers gun these trikes through the narrowest of openings, driving the wrong way on a street before barreling back in-between two cars, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision, all the while making impossibly sharp turns that fling everyone from one end of the vehicle to the other and convincing you that the momentum alone will cause the thing to flip over. Alas, we made it to the first site, barely avoiding death. It was a giant Buddha statue; very cool. Okay, we’ve got to prepare our nerves for the next ride… “Ah, first, we go to suit shop. You need suit. Look very nice!” the tuk tuk driver said. Hmm, this wasn’t part of the plan. Although some of us were looking to get a suit in Thailand, so why not. After people got fitted and purchased their suits, the drivers happily took us to the next temple: The Golden Mountain – a big hill with a golden temple at the top. Also very cool. Alright, we’re ready for the next site. “Ah, now we go to coat shop. Very nice material. You will like.” Wait, it’s 80 degrees here – who in their right mind wants a coat?! Turns out Taka needed one for back in Shichinohe. Okay, we’ll go to the coat place. Well, Taka got his coat and off we went to the next site. Another cool temple. Okay, where to next? “Hat store. You look very good in hat!” No! We don’t want any hats! “No no, Bangkok sun is very hot. Your head get burned!” After arguing with our drivers, explaining that we all had full heads of hair so we would in fact not get burned, we agreed to just go back to where we were picked up. Per person cost of the trip: 30 cents. We learned later that the tuk tuk drivers get free gas coupons from the suit, coat, and hat stores if they bring their passengers to their shops. Admittedly, it is a clever way for stores to get guaranteed service from naive tourists such as ourselves. So maybe we got hustled. It is still the cheapest way to see the city. And you can’t beat that ride.

– The street vendors have better food than the restaurants. They have a wider variety, larger portions, are much cheaper, MUCH spicier, and have better people-watching spots. You can walk up to any cart, point to a few unidentifiable and delicious-looking foods, and bam – you’ll have a full plate guaranteed to set your mouth on fire after the first bite. We even managed to find the notorious bug cart and treated ourselves to some fried cockroaches. Crunchy.

– The street food is delicious, but it does have consequences. After leaving Bangkok, we intended to go to Sukkhothai and see the ruins of the former capital of Siam. However, either the cockroach-eating, or the brushing-with-tap-water, or any other questionably sanitary activity we partook in in Bangkok caught up with us on the train ride. I felt bad for the other passengers, as we were visiting the bathroom so much that I doubt anyone else on the train had the opportunity to go. Instead of seeing Sukkhothai, we were cooped up in our hotel, those of us feeling less miserable venturing out to the market in search of sustenance for the others. If nothing else, that night reinforced our camaraderie. Fortunately, that was the worst of the food sickness and the next day we were off to Chiang Mai.

Note: The street food is definitely worth any consequences.

– Chiang Mai is awesome. On our first day, some of us went zip-lining through the jungle while others played with baby tiger cubs at the Chiang Mai zoo. Then we all went on a two day trek through the Bong Duet National Park. We climbed to the top of a waterfall,walked around a giant ant hill, made our own bamboo cups, took the everyone-enthusiastically-jump-at-the-same-time picture at the top of a mountain, spent the night at a hill tribe village, made a fire, were mesmerized by the brilliant stars, drank hot chocolate from our bamboo cups, rode elephants, navigated a river on bamboo rafts, and received a plethora of mosquito bites to remind us of it all. Chiang Mai is awesome.

– A 20,000 person party really feels like a 20,000 person party. After Chiang Mai we took a flight down to Koh Samui, an island on the east side of Thailand’s southern strip. From there, we ferried to another island, Koh Phangan, for the Full Moon New Years Party. Every full moon, thousands of travelers surge to this island for a night of body-painted mayhem. December 31st didn’t actually have a full moon, but I imagine the island’s party gods let that one slide. We walked down to the beach around 11:30pm and were hit with an amazing sight – 800 meters of coast packed to the gills with pulsating half-naked bodies. In about 20 locations there were giant speakers set up, pumping out thumping music, and stages built (or just sand) to support the mobs of people partying. As you dance your way down the beach, you transition from reggae, to trance, to hip hop, to techno, to more techno. Nearly everyone was on some sort of substance, with our group’s poison of choice being The Bucket – a nostalgic sand-castle bucket from one’s youth, stripped of all its innocence and replaced with a concoction of 10 parts whiskey, 1 part soda, topped off with a Red Bull and a handful of straws. If the night were to be abstracted into an attempted alliteration, it was fun flushed foolery with friends, fire, and fellow frolickers.

Now I’m back to 2 ft. of snow in Shichinohe. Went skiing last weekend; still doing the “pizza”, but slowly learning the “french fries.” Earlier, one of my students came to me and exclaimed “Your monster is stronger than mine!”, laughed hysterically, and left. An excellently structured sentence. Either Pokemon or anatomically related. Either way, I’m not sure how to respond.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by jannyd1028 on January 27, 2009 at 4:01 am

    That trip sounds amazing, as does the GI experience. I’ve been there, and it’s no fun. I’m only just now able to eat curry again.

    I’m glad you had fun, and I love seeing pictures. Your use of alliteration is astounding. The Bucket may need to have a taste testing by your college friends at a certain locale known by many as “Papa’s Palace”

    Reply

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