We arrived in Thailand around Midnight. As we exited the Boeing 787 it was clear we weren’t in Ar-Kansas anymore. The heat and humidity hit us like a wall as we walked across the ramp into the airport. It certainly wasn’t snowing like it was at home. We had just spent 30+ hours traveling and had arrived on the other side of the world in Bangkok, Thailand. I truthfully don’t remember much of the voyage since I pretty much slept most of the time. Sleeping during the day seemed like the best way to beat jet-lag. Plus we had travel hacked our way into Business Class seats which reclined fully into a bed. Oh, it was nice being pampered. The Japan Air staff was exceptionally friendly and I could never imagine them angering a customer. My only complaint, is for a single grumpy lady who hassled Lindsay about not being able to travel into Thailand without having a return ticket. So we were forced into purchasing 2 cheap flights to Vietnam from Thailand just to convince this woman that we weren’t trying to stay forever. We later canceled these flights and were reimbursed. It’s a pretty dumb rule.
As we left the airport I realized that we never were hassled by any type of customs check. We showed someone our passports, and that was about it. The Thai officials never even inquired about us leaving the country or what we might be bringing with us. They just smiled and welcomed us to their beautiful land. It was clear that they didn’t care. They wanted us there and we were glad for it. As we jumped into a taxi we secretly cursed that Japan Air staff member who caused us so much anxiety eight hours ago.
Our first two nights were at an AirBnB condo on the 9th floor of a building completely surrounded by local Thai housing. We figured it would be nice to have an apartment to ourselves for the first few nights. This turned out to be a great idea. The balcony view was beautiful and it really was nice to have a complete home to ourselves while we got situated in the culture. There weren’t any hotels / hostels nearby, and we really got to see how the locals lived right from the start. Plus the sunrise views were spectacular!The next two days went by quickly as we spent our time roaming the streets just taking in the sights. We stumbled across the Bangkok Science Museum and spent a good portion of our first day enjoying all it had to offer. For 30 baht (less than $1) we were given tickets which allowed us access to the museum, aquarium, and planetarium. The place was designed more for children, but we spent many hours of entertainment here. We’re pretty much just a couple of kids at heart. So we enjoyed all the exhibits and got a laugh out of the occasional bad Engrish translation. There was even a little piece of home in the mineral collection! The only problem we came across was the planetarium. Visually, the show was awesome. Unfortunately, it was all in Thai language and didn’t make much sense to us. Still, it was nice to sit in air-conditioning for awhile.
Later that night we ate American food. We had previously told ourselves that we weren’t going to fall prey to touristy eating establishments. You can save so much money by avoiding sit-down restaurants and eating food from street vendors instead. Plus it just seems more authentic. However, it was our first night, and truthfully my pulled pork sandwich at the Great American Rib Company was delicious! Lindsay’s mac-and-cheese was also probably the best I’ve ever had. So it felt good knowing that our seemingly over-priced meal was benefiting an expatriate from Texas with mad BBQ skills.
We woke up early the next day and began a long trek to Patnip Plaza. Somehow I had forgotten to pack my laptop’s charger and needed a replacement. I thought for sure that we’d come across a small electronics store while wandering, but we had no such luck. We asked around and learned about a place completely devoted to computers and general electronics. Pantip Plaza is an indoor IT shopping mall located in the Ratchathewi district. The place is insane! It’s 5 floors tall with hundreds of small shops specializing in computer hardware, software, and accessories. If it’s related to electronics, then they have it – including knock-off versions of all major brands. They even openly sell pirated copies of software and bootleg videos. If you’re into computers or information technology, then this is a must-see place. Even Buddhist monks get in on it.
It took awhile for me to find the right charger. Pretty much every price in Thailand is negotiable and I wanted to find something that worked for cheap. Unfortunately, my western face is a target for price gouging. The first few stores tried to rob me for 1,700 BHT ($47). I haggled a bit and was only able to get it down to 1,400 ($38). They said it was impossible to find one cheaper. So I took up their challenge and walked around until I found one for 500 BHT ($10). I didn’t even try to negotiate this price. It seemed fair.
Afterwards, we took the BTS Skytrain back to where we were staying. It was much faster than walking and saved us an hour for a reasonable price of 50 cents. Since traffic in downtown Bangkok is always bumper-to-bumper this is usually the quickest way around. It’s also one of the cheaper options since taxis and rickshaws are notorious for overcharging. You usually have to hail a handful of them before you can find one willing to turn their meter on. They would much rather keep the transaction off the books and not pay any taxes. I’d be fine with this if it was actually cheaper, but it’s usually not unless you’re a master haggler.
Earlier we had packed up and dropped off our bags at our first hostel: The Matchbox. It was nice having some space to ourselves for a few days, but we were excited start meeting people. We weren’t disappointed. As soon as we arrived we were welcomed by a friendly couple from Argentina. They were concluding their own month long trip to SE Asia and we caught them while they were packing to go back home. Being fellow wanderers we quickly exchanged information in hopes of helping each other out in future travels. It’s pretty much a guarantee that I’ll visit Patagonia someday, and I look forward to seeing them again. Any couple who hauls a tent to the other side of the world has to be good people worth knowing. We though about bringing ours, but camping really isn’t a part of Asian culture yet. Plus accommodations like hostels are quite cheap. We paid about $10 a night for our “box.” That’s only $5/night each!
So here we are. Three days into our journey and we’re staying at this hostel for a few more nights. Bangkok is absolutely AMAZING!! It’s the coolest city I have ever been in, and I like to think I’ve seen some sweet cities. It really has everything you could possibly hope for, and Thai culture is disarmingly nice. Unfortunately there are huge discrepancies in living standards with extreme income inequality. Yet everyone we meet seems rich in spirit.
It has been a great start and we look forward to many months of traveling!! Feel free to drop me a line if you’re exploring SE Asia or just interested in our journey. We love connecting with new people!!
Keep On Wandering!!