It’s Thursday September 22nd around 7pm – all my bags are packed and in the car. It’s all I’ve been thinking about and preparing for all summer, and the day has finally arrived. My parents and my best friend take me to the airport – I arrive at JFK around 10:30pm to wait for a 1:45am 15 hour flight from New York, NY to Ghuanzhou, China. After checking my luggage and getting my boarding pass, I get to the waiting area where I still have a couple hours before my flight. After waiting some time, finally it is time to board. Flying through multiple sunrises and sunsets and over time zones, whilst occasionally drifting off into brief moments of sleep, and switching on a new movie every so often, I eventually arrive in China around 4:30 am to go to my waiting area for 4 more hours, which was eerily pretty much deserted. All in all, it was a 3 hour drive, 3 hour wait, 15 hour flight to Ghuangzhou, 4 hour layover in China, and finally a 3 hour flight to Bangkok (+ an 11 hour time difference). After going through immigration/customs, getting my luggage successfully, and getting to the airport link train it was surprisingly easy to make my way to my hostel. By the time I arrive at the hostel it’s now Saturday September 24th around 1pm. I had an hour to kill until check-in so I relaxed for a little before I was finally able to check in and make my way to my bed. Though I was planning on only getting myself situated and organizing my stuff a little better, I realized the moment that I sat in that bed that there was no turning back. By the time I got all my stuff unpacked it was around 3pm and I decided to lay down for a little bit. I woke up about 15 hours later at 6am the next morning, and headed downstairs to get breakfast.
The next day, the lady at the front desk said they were offering a free tour – so I signed up. I was soon joined by about 15 others at my hostel and we got in a van and headed toward our destination. We arrived at a market, where we were able to walk around and I was surrounded by endless food options. As soon as we walked in, I decided to try a coconut ice cream – which was inside of a coconut and covered in fruits and nuts (not 100% sure what they put on but it was very tasty!) At the market, we were surrounded by endless options for food, all so diverse and new to me. Afterward we all sat down and the tour guide bought us all pad thai – my first in Thailand! We walked around the market some more, and then got on a boat for the floating market tour. During the tour, we got to see not only floating market, but so much of the beautiful landscapes and plants, and local life as we floated past people’s homes along the river.
After the floating market, we got on another boat which took us to an artist’s house. There we got to see many beautiful pieces of artwork, and afterwards got to see a traditional Thai dance and puppet show. After this tour, we got on yet another boat where I was fascinated by an endless number of intricate Buddhist temples that we passed. We got off the ferry and walked some more – and a big group of us decided to go to a Pad Thai Restaurant (supposedly the best in Bangkok) which was near Khao San Road. On the way to the restaurant, myself and four others squeezed into a tuk-tuk and were on our way. After finishing our meals, we proceeded back to the hostel for quite an unforgettable first day filled with sightseeing, food, and entertainment for the full cultural experience.
The rest of the week was filled with much more exploration and excitement of Bangkok. My next day out, I went with a couple others from my hostel. We got on the train and the boat and made our way to the infamous Khao San Road – backpacker land. We got some lunch there, and then my friend and I headed off in search of some temples. Upon asking for help with directions, we were soon (unknowingly) scammed by a tuk-tuk driver. We soon learned this to be a common scam – they tell you the temples are closed and because it is a Buddhist holiday they will take you anywhere for a couple hours for a very cheap rate. We were told they would take us to the temples, but instead we were taken to a tailor shop, and two travel agencies – apparently if we buy something the driver will get free gas out of the deal. The people were so friendly and believable, but maybe in hindsight we should have realized what was happening. The following days, I observed tuk tuk drivers try and do this scam again and again to us. Basically, I learned not to trust anyone in Bangkok when asking for help (at least in the touristy areas). Eventually, we got back to where we started but got a little lost for a while making our way back to the boat. After wandering around Bangkok most of the day, we eventually arrived back at the hostel.
The next day I headed out to actually see the temples. We made our way through Wat Pho and the Grand Palace, both of which had me mesmerized with the beauty and intricacy of every detail. Wat Pho has many beautiful temples as well as the famous Reclining Buddha – an enormous Buddha. It fascinates me to see just how much detail they put into these temples in both the architecture and the paintings and artwork within, the ceilings, walls, floors, outside, every single bit is covered in incredible amounts of detail. The following day was a lazy day for me, I spent the majority of the day lounging around in a bean bag chair in my hostel. I had the chance to nap some, and also chat with some interesting people in my hostel. After a lazy day for me, I decided to join a group from the hostel that was heading out to see a Muay Thai boxing fight – something I never would have pictured or planned to do during my time in Thailand – but I figured why not? We got into the boxing ring and I got a my cup-of-noodles and we got to watch about five different boxing fights and observe the interesting tactics and practices used in these matches. On my last full day in Bangkok, I went to see some more temples which were also very unique from the others. At one of the temples, Wat Saket (The Golden Mount) we climbed up to the top and were able to get an incredible 360 degree viewpoint of all of Bangkok. After a day of exploring, we had dinner and then got to explore Khao San Road and get some drinks. The last day I relaxed and prepared for my overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai – ready to start my next adventure.
My first week in Bangkok was definitely an unforgettable one. For my first experience traveling on my own and on the other side of the world, I was a little nervous before arriving. But once I arrived, I realized I had nothing to be nervous about as I met so many amazing fellow solo travelers all of which made my experience in Bangkok so much more incredible. I booked a hostel for 6 nights, and made no plans beyond that. Without any plans or expectations, I was able to truly open myself up to the experience and I certainly allowed myself to try new things – many of which I could never have anticipated. I’ve definitely been experiencing some culture shock this week (which is new to me – something I didn’t experience much in Costa Rica), but ultimately Bangkok taught me to be adventurous and open-minded. I allowed myself to be open to suggestions – new foods, new people, new places, new experiences every day. Bangkok is a fast moving place – so many new experiences I can’t even begin to express them all. Every day here I’m learning and growing and getting to know the world just a little more, and that feels pretty incredible. Some days as I am walking around I find myself stopping in amazement that I am actually here right now.
There’s definitely been some ups and downs, but it’s been an amazing ride so far. Sometimes I feel this sort of chill inside me, but the good kind – I’m filled with this excitement, a yearning, curiosity and unending desire to learn and understand this world as much as I can. My definition and expectations of travel have become so much more than what I ever imagined – it’s entirely unpredictable and indescribable. Let’s see what these next months will bring.
Mai bpen rai 🙂