One Month in Thailand Posted by sasha on Mar 7, 2011 in Uncategorized
Greetings, Thai blog readers. Please allow me to introduce myself – my name is Sasha, I’m from Detroit, Michigan, and I will be a guest blogger here for the next couple of months. I live in Beijing, and I’m a regular contributor over at the Transparent Chinese blog. Recently, I spent about one month in Thailand for my winter vacation, and I’ve been asked to write about my experience traveling around the country. In addition to a few written posts each month, you can also expect a couple of short travel videos that will give you a glimpse into many areas of Thailand. It was my first time traveling in Thailand, and it was the vacation of a lifetime. In fact it was so great that only a few days into our trip, we were already planning our return. During our trip, we tried to do a little bit of everything that Thailand has to offer: the beautiful islands, the peaceful national parks, the rich history, the insane parties, the wild jungles, and everything in between. So, without further adieu, I present to you my tale of “One Month in Thailand”:
Arriving in Bangkok after a long night of traveling, we did our best to follow my friend’s instructions about how to get a cab without getting ripped off. After locating the public taxi stand and handing the driver a print out with the address in Thai, I thought we had done just that. Speaking no Thai, and not being very familiar with Thai accents, I just sort of nodded and smiled when he said something. Going on about three hours of sleep, I wasn’t exactly functioning properly. About 15 minutes into the ride, we noticed that the taxi meter wasn’t on. When we asked the driver to turn it on, he pulled over and mumbled something in Thai. As I can speak Chinese at a fairly intermediate level, I hadn’t dealt with a language barrier in quite some time. Our driver spoke very limited English, but I was able to understand “500. No meter. Same same.” This would be the first of many encounters with this popular phrase – “Same same.” In fact, there are even t-shirts at just about every market in Thailand with this printed right on the front. A few minutes of arguing ensued, but I was just too damn tired to really care, so eventually we just gave up. At least we learned a lesson, and for the remainder of our trip we would haggle with drivers BEFORE the car moved an inch.
With only a few hours before our train, we didn’t have time to do a whole lot in Bangkok. Before we headed to the train station, we made the obligatory backpacker pilgrimage to the infamous Khao San Road. Packed full of guesthouses, restaurants, street vendors, bars and clubs, every night is a party on Khao San Road. On our first night in Thailand, however, we only had enough time for some Pad Thai and Tiger beer.
We left Khao San road and headed to Hua Lamphong train station for our overnight train to Chumphon. Arriving at the station, I immediately noticed the difference between train travel in China and in Thailand. For one, obtaining train tickets here in Beijing can be a royal pain, regardless of the time of year. That just comes with the territory in a country of 1.7 billion. Also, train stations in China are not particulary welcoming for foreign travelers, as just about nobody speaks any English. Finally, checking in for your train ride usually involves a great deal of pushing and line-cutting from your fellow passengers. In Bangkok, by contrast, our friend had zero trouble procuring tickets for us. We were also approached as soon as we arrived at the station by very friendly workers who spoke perfect English, and the line to board the train was nice and orderly. Less than one day into our trip, Thailand already had one-upped China in terms of the ease and enjoyment of getting around.
Our second class seats were comfortable enough, and I had little trouble sleeping most of the journey away, dreaming of sandy beaches and crystal clear water. Having escaped from the bitter cold winter and the hustle and bustle of Beijing life, I was more than thrilled knowing that a beachside hut would be home for the next few days.
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