Tag Archives: thailand travel

In Search of: Heat Exhaustion and a Palace

The second day of my trip, I was even more determined.  I was not only going to get food, I was going to do some site seeing.  What do people like to see in Bangkok?  The book said the Grand Palace was good.  Of course, the question was – how the heck was I going to get from Rangsit into the city?  And where was the Grand Palace anyway?

I sent John a text message at work and asked him how to get to Bangkok.  He said to take the motorbike taxi to the main road, then flag down a white minivan shuttle and tell them I wanted to go to Victory Monument (Anu Sauli, in Thai).  Um…okay.  One thing I knew for sure: I was NOT taking the motorbike taxi.  I mean, really, how could anyone expect me to hop on the back of someone’s bike with no helmet in this crazy traffic?  I decided I would walk to the main road.  It didn’t seem that far.  Sure, there are no sidewalks, and someone might run me over, but it’s safer than the motorbike taxi — right?

I started walking.  And walking.  And walking.  At this point, I was drenched in sweat.  My shirt was soaked.  My face was sunburned.  I was sure the main road was closer than this.  Was my memory that bad?  And then I had a very unfortunate feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I walked in the wrong direction!  Do I keep walking, do I turn around?  Am I going to die of heat exhaustion?  After a few minutes of continuing in the same direction, I decided to turn around.  And about the time I thought I might have heat stroke, I decided to hail a taxi (a real taxi, not a motorbike).

The taxi driver saw my sweat drenched self and turned the A.C. on full blast.  “Tesco,” I said.  The man didn’t speak English, but I knew Tesco (sort of the Thai version of Walmart) was close to the shuttle stop.  I attempted to explain to him that I wanted to go to the “big Tesco”.  I also knew there were two other small Tesco’s along the way.  As we passed them and he tried to stop, I just kept repeating, “No.  No.  Big Tesco,” and gesturing with my arms something very large. He figured it out eventually.  He dropped me off at the big Tesco, and I was feeling pretty accomplished.  I sat down at an ice cream shop inside, hoping the air conditioning would dry my shirt.  Once ready, I headed back into the heat to the shuttle stop.  Now all I had to do was flag down a shuttle going to Anu Sauli and get inside.

Of course, the signs on all the shuttles were in Thai.  I couldn’t tell where they were going.  So I had to stop every white minivan heading in my direction.  I would open the door and say, “Anu Sauli?”  No one understood what I was saying until I said it at least four times, at which point, they all said no.  I stopped four shuttles.  Everyone said no.  I felt a bit like a dumb-ass.  I’m not exactly sure if they just didn’t understand my accent and said no so they could continue their drive or if they really weren’t going to Anu Sauli.  My hunch?  They didn’t understand me.

All the while, a taxi sat in front of me at the curb.  The window read, “I speak English.”  The man in the taxi watched me as I tried to flag down the public shuttles.  I gave in.  I walked up to his window and asked if he could take me to the Grand Palace.  He didn’t understand me either, so finally I got inside, pulled out my trusty Lonely Planet, and showed him where I wanted to go.  “Oh, yes, yes, of course.” And he started driving.

One thing I’ve learned about Thai people that speak English — they love to practice with other English speakers.  So although his accent was strong and I could only understand about 50% of what he was saying (and I suspect the same on his part), he talked the entire time we drove.  Which was a long time.  The Grand Palace was NOT close.

One thing I did understand.  After hearing that I was traveling alone, the driver asked how old I was.  I told him 33.  He looked at me confused.  “Are you married?”  “No,” I replied.  He looked even more confused.  “Do you have kids?”  Again, I answered, “No.”  A look or horror overtook his face.  “You’re not married, and you have no kids, and you’re 33 years old?  Why wouldn’t you be married?  Do you need me to introduce you to a nice Thai guy?  I’m sure I could find one that would be willing to marry you.”

Great.  I’m an old maid.

Finally, I made it to my destination.  It was a whole other world compared to Rangsit — it was filled with tourists.  This would be easy.  My taxi driver gave me his cell phone number and offered to be my personal taxi while I was in Bangkok.  “Just call me, I’ll take you anywhere.”  He was sweet.  But let’s be honest, he saw me as a cash cow.  I was a western person, staying in Rangsit off and on for two months.  Given his usual route, he didn’t make much money and wouldn’t often get the chance to drive people as far as Bangkok.  In his eyes, a win-win.  In my eyes, taking a taxi everywhere would break the bank.  I would need to figure out how to get around like a local.

In the end, the Grand Palace was beautiful and a perfect example of a Thai temple.  Plus, I got a good laugh from the sign at the entrance.

And so, Day 2 was a success.  Next time I’ll tell you all about making friends with monks and adventures in Laos.

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How I Survived My First Day in Thailand

The first picture I took upon arriving in Thailand was not what you might expect.  I took a picture of my friend John’s bathroom.  Is that totally lame?  But in my defense, I’d never seen such a bathroom.  The shower isn’t separated from anything else in the room.  Which is handy if you find yourself in the shower and suddenly need to pee.  Otherwise, if you care for dry toilet paper, it can be a bother.

Reading through my journals from the first days of my trip, one thing stands out.  I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into.  Seriously.  I booked my tickets with only two weeks notice and had no time to plan before leaving.  Instead, I was wrapping up and leaving one job, and writing and grading finals at the other.  On John’s advice, I ordered a copy of Lonely Planet’s Thailand, and that was about as far as I got.  I knew pretty much nothing about my destination.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do once I got there.  I didn’t know a single word of Thai, not even how to say thank you.  And I’d never traveled on my own before — not to another country anyway.  And speaking of traveling on my own, I didn’t even know how much I would be on my own.  Oh, and did I mention?  I sort of had a gargantuan crush on said friend.  I know — that’s a recipe for a Disney ending, I tell you.

When I arrived it was after 11 p.m., so I went to bed.  I woke in the morning feeling rested.  But I had no idea what to do with myself.  John lives in Rangsit, a ‘suburb’ north of Bangkok.  There’s nothing touristy about it.  It’s a small city.  Local.  And I had a funny feeling no one spoke English.  And did I mention John left for work early in the morning?  I was on my own…and hungry.  Oh, and there was no food in the fridge.  What the hell was I going to eat?

After getting dressed, I actually made a video I planned to post on the blog.  Sort of a first-day intro.  Unfortunately, the sound quality was non-existent, so it’s not worth showing.  But here’s what I said:  “I’m afraid to go outside.”  Haha.  Yes, that’s actually what I said.  How was I supposed to go outside and find food?  What the hell was I supposed to order?  Where was I supposed to get it?  Would anyone understand me?  And would they all look at me like some crazy white person?

So I got dressed and gave myself a pep talk.  I went walking along Khlong Si.  I walked up and down the road.  Roadside stands looked to be setting up something, but I couldn’t really tell if they were open.  I wanted to stop and ask for food.  But instead, I kept walking.  I essentially paced back and forth along the road, trying to look inconspicuous.  That went well.

Did I mention the 90 degree heat and 100% humidity?  I was a sweat-ball.  Maybe I should get something to drink.  I stopped at a stand and pointed at a bottle of Pepsi.  That had to be easy enough to convey.  He understood, opened the bottle, opened a small plastic grocery bag, placed a scoop of ice inside and poured my drink in the bag.  He topped it off with a straw and handed the bag to me.  What am I supposed to do with this?  Perhaps I’m an idiot, but should I be carrying around a bottle of Pepsi in a plastic bag?

Just act normal.

I paid, took my bag and drank as I walked down the street.  Which was all fine and dandy, except I hadn’t managed to get anything to eat.  Wait.  There was a guy roasting chickens nearby.  I turned back and made my way to the chicken stand.  “Can I get something with chicken?” I said.  He stared at me.  He started speaking Thai.  Fast.  I stared back.  “Chicken?”  I said.  He stared.  I pointed to the chickens roasting on the grill.  He rattled on in Thai.  I had no idea what he said but thought best to say yes and nod.  He kept speaking Thai.  I kept smiling and nodding yes.

Finally, he walked over to the chickens, pulled a whole chicken off the grill, chopped it up and put it in a box.  He wrote down a number.  I handed him some cash and grabbed my whole chicken.  Not exactly the Thai food I was hoping for, but at least it was something.  He chuckled as I walked away.  Oh, who am I kidding?  The man laughed at me.

When I got back to the house, I ate my plain chicken and drank my bag of Pepsi.  What was I to do with the rest of the day?  I came up with a brilliant plan.  Go back to bed.  Wake up when John gets home from work.  Feign jet-lag.  And then let him do all the talking.  Brilliant I tell you.

I did just that.  And as the day ended (after having an awesome dinner of Thai food with John), I thought to myself, “Okay.  Not so bad.  Now I just have to do that for 49 more days.”  What could go wrong?

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Leaving, On A Jet Plane

It’s just after midnight on June 18th.  I leave for Thailand today! I should be sleeping, seeing as how I have to get up at the butt-crack of dawn.  But I’m sitting here with a million thoughts running through my mind.  So I figured I’d throw up a quick post to say just that.  I’m packed and ready to go.  I made lists and checked them, and I’m crossing my fingers that I didn’t forget anything.  Either way, I suppose it doesn’t matter, so long as I don’t forget my passport and debit card (kind of important, you know).  Well, that and my Xanax.  I tell you, that stuff is a lifesaver for a freaked out flyer like me.

The next time I post, it will be from another country.  Until then, I’ll leave you with the song that’s been flying through my head for the past hour.  With the exception of one line, it has nothing to do with my own situation, but it’s the only song I can think of that relates to traveling.  Thus, here you go.  (Plus, this is a super pretty cover of the original.) See you on the flip side, peeps!

photo credit

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