Kop Kun Ka: Backpacking Thailand
A trip was needed for both of us. Steve was celebrating the conclusion of 26 months of studying to become a Physician Assistant and I simply needed a break from the monotonous ways of cubicle living. Simply said, we needed to get away. With that we began researching alternate destinations that contradicted the way of living we had become so accustomed to. We wanted to experience something different, a place so foreign to anything we had ever known, that we truly felt out of our element.
After tossing around several ideas, we decided to literally fly across the world. With nothing but two backpacks and camera we embarked on a journey to Thailand. Since Steve was departing from New York and I was departing from Pittsburgh, it was inevitable we would be on separate flights, agreeing to meet in the Bangkok airport.
December 4, 5:30 pM - Narita Airport, Tokyo
After 14 plus hours in the air, I sat in awaiting my connection to Bangkok. Slightly weary from the 10 hour time difference and being stuck in the confines of an airplane for half of a day, I fought the temptation to pass out as I observed mask covered faces and foreign advertisements while I wandered through Narita Airport. Though hoping to catch some sleep on the last leg of the trip, optimism was non-existent as my excitement had gotten the best of me.
There's nothing more exciting than stepping foot in a foreign city with nothing but the pack on your shoulders. No ties to anything or any one place allows unlimited possibilities and spontaneity to do or go wherever you wish at the drop of a dime. As I daydream about what the next two weeks holds, boarding for Flight 262 to Bangkok has begun. With that, I sling my pack onto my shoulders and head down the corridor to plane and more importantly, Thailand. Onward I go.
I arrived in Bangkok around midnight of December 4th. Alone in a foreign city with a foreign language, I awaited Steve's arrival by aimlessly walking the halls of Bangkok's largest airport. Finally after several hours, Steve walked through the arrival gates. We greeted each other (him with a hug and me with a Smirnoff Ice) and we found a worker who was able to translate to a taxi driver where we needed to go to get to our hostel.
Though we were excited for what lay ahead, after a full day of travel and 2 oclock looming on our watches, we decided it would be best to check in and get some rest, but not before removing our shoes prior to entering.
December 5, 8:30 AM - Nap Park Hostel, Bangkok
We awoke early and immediately headed out to explore the streets of Bangkok. It appeared besides the many street vendors that were setting up for the day, we were some of the few people roaming in the streets. Famished, we bought some fried banana off of a street vendor who seemed reluctant to sell to us and we put our sites on the Grand Palace.
As the sun rose, the heat was strong yet and we were happy with our choice of tank tops and shorts. Yet, as we grew closer to the palace, the amount of people grew significantly and it appeared they were all headed in the same direction as us. Groups of 6-7 people each which appeared to be families were all walking in the direction of the palace all covered from head to toe in black garments. Immediately, we began to feel slightly out of place in our touristy clothing.
As we got closer to the Palace we slowly started to realize that we were in the midst of "King's Day" and that many locals were heading to the Palace to pay their respects to the late King. People were everywhere and if our fair skin didn't give us up as tourists, then our lack of black clothing did.
Unfortunately, because of King's Day, unless we were relatives of the royal family, there was no way we were getting in, however booths were set up all over the place offering free food. So it was a decent trade off.
After giving up on entering the Grand Palace, we set our sights on some of the other smaller temples around the area. After receiving some directions from a local elderly man who claimed the Wat Arun Temple was just past the "platform nine and three quarters", we finally did some formal sightseeing and stumbled across a very elaborate temple with women praying, lighting candles and offering donations.
At one point, we asked an attractive asian tourist to take our picture. Afterward, I tried talking to her and it was clear she felt extremely awkward due to our conversation...
"Thank you for taking our picture. Are you from around here?"
And with that she quickly walked away.
After the temple, we decided to head downtown to see if we could get into an abandoned skyscraper we had heard about and thought would be a great picture opportunity. We hailed a Tuk Tuk and were on our way.
Easily one of the most interesting things about Thailand were the Tuk Tuk's. It appears there is no traffic laws in the entire country, as scooters and bikes weave in and out of lanes constantly. This particular Tuk-Tuk we were in had a plug-in for an auxiliary cord so the Notorious B.I.G. narrated our trip as we weaved through the streets of Bangkok.
After grabbing a bite to eat and our first Chang beers out of many, we made the 2 mile walk to the skyscraper only to discover that it had been closed, so we headed back to our hostel to nap in order to prepare for the night out.
December 5, 6:45 pm
...After our nap we got ready and headed to a Muay Thai Boxing Match. With locals yelling bets back and forth to each other and a chain gain separating us from the action it was a very intense situation to be thrown into. After briefly chatting with a French girl and four or five fights and three Changs, we grabbed a Tuk-Tuk and headed downtown to Maggie Choos, a popular bar that I had was a must see.
Walking into Maggie Choo's feels as if one is stepping into 1930's Shanghai. Equipped with old fashioned swings, bar girls were sitting on and a vintage jazz band that made me feel like James Bond, the place was unlike anything I've ever seen.
After requesting Frank Sinatra from the band and celebrating Steve becoming a PA with some shots, we set our sights on Skybar which was made famous from the movie "Hangover 2". As we tried to get in, we learned that in order to get in we needed to have long pants on (which we didn't have). Ironically enough, a woman had a booth just outside of the entrance in which pants could be rented. Not only did we rent pants from the elderly Thai woman, Steve discovered several stains on his shirt and she was kind enough to clean them off as we deemed her Steve's Thai Mother.
We made our way to the roof to set our sights on what had to be the most gorgeous view of Bangkok. This fact was emphasized with the 20 dollar minimum drink on the menu however, seeing that view was quite worth it. After SkyBar, we checked out Smalls, which I had heard was a local favorite. Though when we got there it was dead, the decor made it easy to understand why people enjoyed going there so much. We chatted with the owner briefly who happened to be an American and then we ended the night with a bang by heading to Khao San road.Khao San Road is the equivalent of Bourbon Street in New Orleans but a tad bit wilder. Everyone was drinking in the streets and every bar was playing different music.
The first thing we did was buy two dead scorpions...to eat. The crunchiness was so great and was very difficult to swallow but with that we realized that we were no longer in America.
We walked around the street and eventually I met a girl from Amsterdam who we chatted and partied with awhile until I realized she had taken my phone and jokingly said I wouldn't get it back unless I got on my knees to beg. Though funny at first, I realized that this could turn bad rather quickly so I was more than grateful when Beaner was able to get the phone off of her.
The rest of the night was spent inside a very loud club until I could no longer take it and headed back to the hostel for some much needed sleep.
I woke up in a daze. With my head throbbing and throat screaming for water, I quickly checked my alarm to make sure the flight to Chaing Mai was not missed. With more than enough time prior to departure, my sudden burst of anxiety vanished, only to be revisited when I realized Beaner was nowhere in sight. After checking my Facebook messages, I learned that he had gone home with a local Thai woman who happened to live 45 minutes from the club we had been at. Knowing this, Steve confirmed he would be missing his flight and told me he'd meet me in Chaing Mai. So with that, I headed to the airport in a zombie-like state, checked in, and immediately passed out for the duration of the plane ride.
December 6th, 10:15 am - Chaing Mai, Thailand
I was awoken to a Thai stewardess shaking my shoulder and handing me a plastic bowl of water. I stumbled off the plane and quickly found a Starbucks that was a significant assistant in the attempts to cure my hangover.
After booking a hostel, I checked in, and decided to immediately explore the city knowing Steve would not be in for some time. The first thing I realized, was the road our hostel was on had about 100 massage parlours, all with attractive Asian women sitting outside, and all trying to garner my attention. Believing a massage would be the final nail in my hangover coffin, I walked into the nearest one and asked for a Thai Massage, not realizing that I would soon be turned and twisted into a pretzel.
I was taken upstairs to a room that looked like the dojo from the Matrix and was immediately told to lie down while an older Thai woman bent and twisted me in more ways than I could imagine. Though painful at times, the massage helped my hangover and for 200 Baht, which is the equivalent of about 8 US dollars, it was basically free.
After I paid the woman, I was given some complimentary tea that I chugged and headed out to explore more of the city. I stumbled upon a restaurant called Hot Chili, whose decor was simply begging passer-byers to stop in, so I did and ordered a Mango juice that I also proceeded to chug.
Without a map or direction, I walked the city for a couple hours, exploring temples, snapping pictures of monks, and taking in all there was to see. After building up quite the appetite, I researched a locals favorite to try the popular Northern Thai dish called Ko Soi. The dish consisting of chicken broth and crunchy noodles poured over a chicken leg was interesting, but after one or two tastes, I had had enough.