Day 2: Goodbye Taipei, Hello Bangkok!

8/4/15

I was a bit morose leaving Taipei this morning. Something I didn't anticipate. What I have realized with each trip here is that this magnificent city has more and more to explore! I would love to come back with the intent of doing some hiking and seeing the more mountainous sides (there are a lot)!

Here is a shot I took from my cab ride to the airport, just as the sun was coming up...


I practice the (at least) 2 hours early rule for flights. It cuts down on the anxiety and leaves a lot of wiggle room when it comes to potential mishaps with checking in, immigration, and potentially having to get miles across an airport to a gate. Of course that means I'm always left with plenty of time, but I'd rather sit in an airport with no stress than be freaking out about being late or missing my flight. That's what they made my elite status and airport lounges for right?! The EVA Star Lounge in Taipei doesn't disappoint. Lots of food choices, beverages of all forms, and an ice cream bar, what?! If I miss my flight you know where to find me!

So I have secretly been wishing to have the opportunity to fly on the Hello Kitty plane, guess what I stumbled upon when walking to my gate...Hello Kitty plane parked at my gate, I die!


 Total let down, inside is not Hello Kitty themed. It's boring airplane themed. My hopes and dreams have been shattered. On to the more pressing matters, like the fact that I'm in freaking Thailand!!

Hello Bangkok, pleasure to meet your acquaintance! My only exposure to Bangkok has been what I've seen on Locked Up Abroad. They say Scared Straight methods don't work, that shit gave me PTSD. Not only am I terrified of being "locked up abroad" (and in no criminal) but I'm pretty sure that the Immigration officer thought I was a drug smuggler because he asked a lot of questions about why I was entering, who I was traveling with (he seemed puzzled that the answer was "alone"), etc. at that point I started to sweat profusely I've seen those characters on the show, they go for a short trip by themselves blah blah blah, bam Thai prison, goodbye life. Was this guy profiling me, perhaps the PTSD was causing me to profile myself, ether way I was glad when he stamped me on through (woohoo a new stamp in the passport!)

I literally got to my hotel, dumped my bags, reapplied some deodorant (hello sweaty Bangkok) and hit the ground running, reading to make the most of my very short time here. Before arriving I had hired a driver for part of the day today, to hit some of the temples, etc. My reasoning (well there were a few) was that 1. I was sort of tired from yesterday in Taipei, 2. I wanted as little sun exposure as possible (not an issue the sun barely came out!) and 3. coming into this I really had a negative attitude about Bangkok, I knew there were things in the city that I wanted to see, but never had it been a place that I imagined spending (I would have actually called it "wasting") precious travel time. So I thought that by hiring a driver, I'd get a local perspective, and perhaps a better experience. While the driver was very nice, and provided lots of knowledge along the 5 ish hours we were together (that's a long ass time for an introvert!) I'm not sure that I would recommend it for someone with similar travel plans (only a few days in Bangkok) simply because transportation is pretty easy in the city (I quickly figured it out) and traffic SUCKS. I can't emphasize this enough and refuse to fill the blog with expletives about the traffic but damn, so much of my time with the driver was spent at a stand still on the road. It literally does not move. So, walking, taking the "sky train" or the subway where possible, or tuk tuks (not metered so you negotiate your fare) is the way to go. I was getting frustrated by the end of the day because I felt like I could just get out and walk and see more of the city. So there's my 2 cents about that. In fact, at the end of the day instead of dropping me off at the hotel, I just had the driver bring me to China Town and I walked around for a bit and caught a tuk tuk back to the hotel.

What I did do/see today was the Royal Temple (with the Golden Buddha). You cannot wear "short pants" what we also like to call "shorts" and tank tops (both of which I wore...it's hot as hell and summer in Bangkok) but I did have sense enough to bring a shirt (remembering mosques in Turkey) to cover up with. You can "rent" a scarf for 20 baht to wrap around you in a faux skirt. It's best to cover your knees. Trust me I'm not trying to offend Buddha. I obliged.
Golden Buddha is beautiful, and exactly what I pictured when I thought of Thailand. Housed in a building that has a white exterior ornately decorated with lavish gold.


Next was Wat Pho (reclining Buddha) Also beautiful. Buddha is being renovated (you could see all of it except for the feet). This Buddha is huge! Again, same rules apply but they don't charge you for the "appropriate attire". They either give you a robe to cover your top and bottom with or (in my case...lucky me) they give you this giant Little House on the Prairie skirt. It was so flattering I forgot to take a picture. Sorry!


On the way to the final stop (Wat Benchamabopitr (Marble Temple)) we drove through China Town and then through the Flower Market, wow that place is gorgeous, and the garland those people make (so cheap!) is beautiful! Wat Benchamabopitr is also undergoing some construction (The Queen's Birthday is coming up in the middle of the month so there are things going on to celebrate that, my driver said they are doing this to set up for that, the King & Queen live right next to Wat Benchamabopitr). It was very pretty but I couldn't go inside to see the Buddha because there were monks "in session" or "practicing" or "praying" whatever the proper term for saying that place was occupied with a beautiful sea of orange.

On the beautiful grounds of Wat Benchamabopitr
From here we drove and stopped at Khaosan Rd where I walked for a while (and ate). LOTS of people trying to sell you all kinds of crap, not going to lie, I almost bought some "Thailand pants" just so I don't have to deal with the skirt/faux skirt issue tomorrow at the temple I will be going to! Khaosan is vibrant and full of life, and backpackers, lots of them. There are hostels (or things like hostels) all over the place. I hope I didn't catch bed bugs by merely walking down that street! Lots and lots of Durian. I will try this before I leave Thailand, but I won't lie, I didn't have the balls to do it tonight. Man, my curse of a strong sense of smell will kill me on this one. I've heard it's really tasty, but the smell. Don't worry I'll give a full review when I finally take the plunge!

Durian

What I did indulge in was some amazing street food; shrimp patthai (that's Pad Thai in American) and mango and sticky rice. With a full belly (this will later be a really bad idea) I decided to flag a tuk tuk and start the adventure of getting to the hotel. I bargained my tuk tuk price, hopped in onto those nice faux alligator seats and off we went.

Use the tuk tuk they say...
I quickly realized that I should have taken a Dramamine, or maybe just paid extra for a cab, nah, it's the experience right?! I arrived back at my hotel thoroughly nauseated but feeling completely successful that I didn't toss all of that amazing food that I had just consumed!

All in all today was a super amazing day, as well as exhausting! Tomorrow is another busy one. I need a nap, oh wait, it's bedtime. Nighty night :)

Today's Travel Details:

Accommodations: Hotel Grand Eastin Sathorn (used Rome2Rio to find areas that were good to stay then looked on all of the travel sites for reviews, then scoped the best deal, because it's off season I was able to score an amazing deal on this 5 star hotel)

Tour: Booked through Beyond Bangkok Tong was my driver, he was great!

Tip: If you're exchanging US dollars, there are banks everywhere to exchange (at a rate way better than the hotel). They are a pain in the ASS though. They won't take a bill if it has a mark on it, a crease/tear in it. Basically anything that isn't fresh off of the press. If you hang on to your bills and bring them to one of the exchange windows (I used one on Khaosan St) they will accept more of what the banks won't. It's annoying and a PITA but if you brought cash that you want to change over (rather than pulling out of the ATM) that's the way you'll have to go.

If you are going to temples, bring a shirt/scarf with you, something to cover up if you're planning to wear a tank top. It's disrespectful to their religion. I have a lightweight shirt that I have been bringing with me that I just throw on over and it works fine (it's still hot as F, but I'd rather be hot than disrespectful).

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