It finally happened, I explored the eastern part of the world! Some of you can probably still hear me saying it ‘Asia? Brrr… I would rather check out a Thai restaurant around the corner!’ than actually booking a Thailand vacation. And besides, conquering this part of the world has never been my favorite challenge on the Risk board game.
The last 39 years I have mainly travelled to western countries and cities, with Italy as my favorite place to be. Why? Maybe it’s part of the comfort zone I’m used to; the familiar, not too much hassle or not letting go of a well developed environment. But what’s missing in the ‘familiar’ world in February? Sunny beaches and magical sunsets! And that was just what I needed after a year with a lot of changes, moving from city to city and working / adapting constantly. I needed a beach to rest my #ss, the peaceful sound of waves touching the sand to clear my mind and especially an affordable place to spend some time doing literally nothing. ‘So what about Thailand?’ Is what some people and also Google said… Yeah… What about a Thailand vacation?
After quite an amount of research – I literally did not know anything about the Thai region and islands – I booked my Thailand vacation tickets last November. Since then I have been counting the days to a well earned vacation and now I’m here, at the beautiful See Through resort in Koh Phangan, with a black Russian (a cocktail, not a guy) on the table. Listening to the waves as they whisper in my ears… waiting for a Phat Thai with chicken. Life is good.
“Sir, Taxi… Taxi… Sir… Taxi… Taxi!!”
My first introduction to Thailand was very overwhelming. It took some time to adapt to the pace and the culture. Retrieving my backpack at the airport, for instance, was pretty chaotic. Also due to the fact that I forgot how my backpack looked like, ha ha. Hint: If you buy one before you leave, take a picture of it! And then I needed to find my way into the city, for the first time since years without knowing the language and the culture of a country.
Once outside the airport, I immediately was approached by a dozen of pushy cab drivers… “Sir, Taxi… Taxi… Sir… Taxi… Taxi!”. All longing for the Thai baht I had in my pocket. Another hint: divide the money you carry over different pockets, so you won’t show the Thai how much money you have on you. Silly me with thousands of baht in my hands, of course they approached me as a walking cash machine. And there it was, the first challenge of the Thai culture; negotiating about literally everything you want to buy, except for the food. About the cab fare, about my new flip flops, about my new – fake – Fred Perry shirts etcetera. A game that I am terrible at and every time I ended up paying more than it probably was worth. Lucky me that it’s always just for a few Euro’s.
It’s better to be well prepared than sorry…
I’m the kind of person that always wants to have the travel accommodations arranged before arrival, especially when visiting a new country. For this trip I decided to start my journey by spending some nights at the Rambuttri Village, and how blessed I was! This nice and very affordable hotel was situated in one of the coolest area’s in town, with a swimming pool on the roof and cheap but good massages – 2,5 euro! – across the entrance. Can you imagine how relaxed my body feels at this moment!
The days that followed I spent exploring Bangkok. Checking out the impressive temples, while taking the taxi boat – fixed price, no negotiation.. Yess! – from location to location. A good thing I did some reading about the ‘Bangkok scams, cons and tricks‘, because I almost fell for a trick the Thai tried to pull on me…
When you are walking to a temple or another tourist location, you will always pass a lot of tuk tuk’s. They are mostly accompanied by a well dressed English speaking Thai guy, asking you how you are doing and if he can help you finding your way. But don’t let this guy fool you, he’s trying to talk you into a tuk tuk for an ‘expensive’ tour around the city! They often use an excuse like ‘the place you are heading to just burned down, aliens abducted the monks etc.’. While I was on my way to the Grand Palace, my guy told me that it was closed at the moment… The monks were having their lunch time!
I was about to believe him, but suddenly I remembered about these too kind ‘scams and cons’. And so I said that I wanted to go ahead to the Grand Palace anyway. The guy talked and talked, playing all his cards in trying to get me into a tuk tuk. But I would not budge. And of course the monks were not having a lunch break and the Grand Palace was open for visiting.
An ‘old fashioned’ kindness you probably won’t experience anywhere else
If there is one thing I have learned over the past days, it’s that these people truly enjoy life. Their kindness towards each other and us ‘farang’, how they take care of nature and enjoy cheap but good food. And also so different from our western world; living a life that does not evolve around being connected to your mobile phone 24/7, being logged in on Facebook or about how you look or present yourself. One might say that the Thai are a bit ‘old fashioned’, another would say that they are the true survivors of how life was or still could be lead… Greeting the world with their everyday and ever lasting smile.
The first days of my Thailand vacation and exploring Bangkok have been quite an inspiring and unforgettable adventure and I could go on about it for hours and hours. About the magic of Chinatown, the cool pop up cocktail bars that were in my street, the banana with Nutella pancakes, the Soi Cowboy red light district and so on. But the people of Bangkok and the Rambuttri Village left their true mark on me when I needed to leave my hotel at 5.30 in the morning, to catch a plane to the tropical island of Koh Phangan. They also got up early with me, prepared a breakfast box and waved me goodbye! My god… Almost like a family.
End of part one
Read all about my Koh Phangan adventure and my return to Bangkok in the second part of my blog about my Thailand vacation.
If you have any comments or questions about this first blog and/or traveling to Thailand, feel free to share them in the comments section below!