Do you remember time when you were a kid? Those sweet moments when everything even the smallest thing were exciting! Millions of “my first time” and every each of them was magic. Discovering the world, hour by hour, day by day. Broadening horizonts, learing new things, understaning what surrounds us. Dreaming about my journeys I still feel like a little child. It is the only thing that gives me this type of pure excitement. Whenever I travel everything amazes me and I sometimes feel really silly about it. But there is nothing silly in it. It is beautiful. Especially nowadays when people need more and more everyday. More money, more attention, more friends of facebook. I often hear “you are so lucky you travel so much” and I wonder – what’s difficult in booking a plane ticket and reserving a room online? Someone recently asked me – where do I get my money from to travel so often. Travelling is never entirely free of costs. I’m not interested in credits, parties, gadgets. I work to live, not live to work. I won’t give up on travelling to follow someone elses dream about a huge house with a jacuzzi. I’ve been there and it is not for me. People travel. Every single day I see on facebook my friends adding thousands of pics from their trips that’s nice and I sometimes am jealous, but you know what?
Europe doesn’t do it for me anymore. Especially now, living in London – the capital of capitals. It is still cool to pop in to Rome for pizza, let your hair down dancing flamenco in Sevilla on a hot and sweaty afternoon or simply get some tan spending 2 days in St Tropez but it has nothing to do with learning about the world. And I want to learn! Even though it very often is learning the hard way. First time is always magic. Good. If it wasn’t this would hurt twice as hard.
Bangkok aka the “First Time” Rule.
Someone said you can either love or hate Bangkok. This person was right. Whether you gonna fall in love with Thai capital depends, in my humble opinion, on where you gonna stay. First time we were blessed – I planned it carefully and we could sleep in the most beautiful and calm place I have ever stayed, but the second time wasn’t lucky at all – last night in Bangkok made me believe that the hell does exist and am right in the middle of if… Bangkok was my door to Asia. I really regret I couldn’t get here good 10 years earlier. I would be a different person but he would be different as well. Probably as polluted and smelly as now but certainly less mean, greedy or commercial. Bangkok made me almost hysterical when I realised I could’t withdraw money from my bank account. So I ended up with just 60 bucks in my pocket. Luckily I did top up my phone before travelling and I could contact my bank so they managed to unblock my card and literally save my life.
Asia is cheap. One meal from a street stall costs more or less 1 gbp. They always give you solid portions and there is no fear of food poisoning because all the food is stir fried. I’m aware these places may look like a shit hole but always check if locals eat there. If yes, just close your eyes and under no circumstances ask “where does this meat come from?” or “so where do they keep this meat? Where is the fridge?”. Well, it’s Asia. (You can’t say you’ve LIVED IT after spending your time in 5* hotel!!!) So chillax and eat! Your stomachache is probably caused by the fact that you cannot stop it. All these smells play a tricky game with your nostrils. Asia is tasty! Rice and noodles are 2 basic things you end up eating every single day. Salads… what salads? (I have been fantasizing about beetroots for the whole 2 weeks!) and oh my God – fruits! Fresh pineapple, mango, papaya all taste heavenly apart from dragon fruit – you can skip this one in your culinary adventures.
And how about trying something unusual or disgusting? Snakes, insects, scorpions… Thai don’t eat this type of food so we decided to stay away from it. The only stall offering this type of weird snacks was at Khao San Road (more about this awful place below) and it was a place where all drunk people could take a funny pic and post in of facebook. No additional comments from me. The only thing that was hard for us was breakfast. I love continental breakfast but in Asia the only thing you can get (outside your hostel I mean) is a hot rice noodle soup. Which is great and tasty but maybe not for breakfast. Coffee? Tea? Forget. When in Rome do as the Romans do! While my boyfriend was crying (addicted to coffee this one) I was in 7th heaven sipping fresh coconut water everyday. I could live on coconut water – seriously.
Now the forecast. April is not the best month to visit Asia. High temperatures and humidity make you wanna vomit. I was constantly fighting against dehydration. And all the water you drink evaporate from your body immediately.
Our “romantic getaway” quickly turned into “do-not-touch-me” getaway. I had to accept living with sweaty moustache and yes… a beard. Luckily it was a very hippie trip (when the temperature reached 38 degrees I wasn’t wearing anything else than my cotton p-j) and I didn’t get a chance to spend hours in front of a mirror because of one simple reason – there was no mirrors in hostels we stayed 🙂 Thank God!
We spent our first two nights in Chinatown, in a small boutique hotel. This place was literally amazing. Small hotel with a soul. Loy La Long – let it be, let it go, let it flow! It was a gift from me to my lovely boyfriend but it turned out to be the gift as well for me because I have never stayed in a better hotel. If my dreams come true one day, I will own a place like this. A real oasis of peace in crowded and noisy Bangkok. We were feeling really special as the hotel was hidden inside some less touristy temples so we could see monks wandering around or peep them while there were praying. Not to mention our, almost private, terrace view on Chao Praya river that looks really nice and clean at night 😉 Our room was also great – you can see in pics below, tasty breakfast, friendly stuff… What more do you want from life? This place was unique!
So if someone asked me while being there, if I liked Bangkok – I would say I loved it! Unfortunately the bad experience we had last night (and the scam thing that is yet to come) made me change my opinion. We decided to spend a night on a famous backpackers road Khao San – this place SUCKS!! I can handle one or two drunk people or other douche bags interested only in alcohol/drugs if I don’t see them too often but this place is like their breeding ground so please AVOID at all costs, unless you are very into torturing yourself. The noise at night (it’s a constant party) was just unbearable. Mix 100 different types of music from 100 different places and you will soon be sure that the hell exists. The whole road is full of stall where you can buy everything from clothes to fake driving licence. The only positive thing I can say is that on Susie Road, a small road nearby there is a great SPA. Apart from that this is definitely the worst place of the entire trip, no atmosphere, no chill… and the worst thing is that I could only blame myself for staying there.
Sightseeing Bangkok? The best and the most pleasant way (that’s my opinion) is by boat. But now check it out. A boat is not always the same boat. For locals it costs 3 BHT (like a penny?), for tourists 40 BHT (less than 1 gbp) for a 1 way journey. Even though 1 gbp is nothing once you discover you have to pay more, you really feel discriminated only because your face is white.
When a local boat comes, it’s almost impossible to get on as there is a Thai guy at the pier who shouts something in his language, you then see a huge mass of people moving while you are keep on wondering what is this all about and by the time you realise that life is unfair, it has always been, the boat is gone.
The boat for tourist is always announced in English or it seems like English but you still don’t have a clue what is this guy saying. Asian English is hmm… confusing? But I will write more about it in my new post about Cambodia. Speaking about transport – good alternative can be travelling by tube or well known tuk tuk – a synonym of scam – now and forever.
Plan your itinerary wise. Sightseeing Bangkok means visiting Mr Buddha so you have to show a bit of respect. Once your outfit is appropriate you can admire standing Buddha or Emerald Buddha who’s wearing different garmet depends on the season, or even sing a lullaby to the biggest monument I have ever seen – the Reclining Buddha! The thing is that all these monuments are quite far from each other. All temples I found the most interesting were almost empty coz they were located a bit further (f.ex in Chinatown) so if you only have 1 or 2 days it’s better to concentrate on what’s a must. So you have a good plan. But it’s hot, and it will get hotter. You don’t want to walk. You feel so weak. And finally you end up surrounded by tuk tuk drivers reminding me a herd of very hungry sharks. Go hard or go home. Tuk tuk business is the cradle of all type of small fraudsters and cheaters. And they mastered it so you won’t win this scuffle but you can at least reduce the harm by avoiding the Heart of Darkness. Where is this place? Just on very doorstep of our beloved Emerald Buddha – the most important thing to see in Bangkok.
When we finally reached the Royal Palace (I was almost dead at this point) one of the guards told us that the main temple was closed, but we were lucky coz his friend (pointing at a tuk tuk driver) could give us a ride to some other temples and tourist info. Right, we wanted to go to tourist info and the price seems to be reasonable so we agree on this deal.
We even managed to see one temple but after that the driver started a really shameful tournee around local tailors and jewellery shops. At that point it was even funny for me – do I look like a rich person? Does my boyfriend, wearing a shabby tshirt and some shorts look like he wanted to buy a suit or an elegant shirt? After our 3rd stop we had to say it clear – what the f**k is it? so the driver takes us to the tourist info. Finally. We want to buy tickets for a train to Chiang Mai to celebrate Thai New Year there, but we were told that all tickets were sold out. Because all people want to go to Chiang Mai these dates. And they all what the same train! What a coincident! Shame I didn’t think about it this way then.
When they said we could buy tickets from a travel agency but they were more expensive but we could get a hotel in included in package we said yes. Why? Because a. they are Thai people. Thai people are so nice and it’s impossible that they want to rip us off. b. we really wanted to go to Chiang Mai and the following day we were flying to Cambodia so the tickets had to be booked asap. (Not to mention that the train journey is way more relaxing than 10 hours on a bus…) As you probably already guessed the whole “tourist info” was one big scam and they swindled us. If I was a wiser person, I would read it in our guide book but as all guide books, that one ended up catching dust on my shelf while I ended up as a THAI NEXT BIGGEST SCHNOOK EVER!
The fact that we were scammed made me really sad at some point, not because of money, I really thought all the people here in Thailand were so nice! So be extra careful my dear friends.
We believed a guard thinking that we can trust his words but we were wrong. Nevertheless I still think that you can rely on strangers, as my personal life balance remains positive (God knows for how long!). The “First Time” Rule – the subtitle of today’s post says that if you do something for the first time it always seems difficult for you. But there is certain beauty in difficulties you have to overcome. And excitement. It was our first time in Asia, so we were like little kids learning to walk. It will never be the same even though we’ll probably get scammed again. The most important is to keep calm and not over analyze things. Take them as they come. Welcome to Asia!