--Bangkok, Thailand (May 9-11)
While I may just be another American in Bangkok, I'm super stoked to be here. To get right to it though, my journey began 5:00am Eastern Standard time, when my alarm clock went off. But this is me we're talking about, so the snooze was hit once...okay, twice...and a half. So it was around 5:30 before I finally got out of bed. I met up with some of my fellow adventurers on down the interstate and began out journey to the Atlanta Airport. Now, this is not my first time at the rodeo known as Atlanta, I was expecting the same ol' hassle, but nope. I took me 10 minutes to get through security. It was the fastest, more hassle-free...ist I've gotten through Atlanta or any other airport for that matter. Our 15 hour flight (yes, you read that correctly) to South Korea not only boarded on time, but took off on time (Yeah, you read that right too, I am now a fan of Korean Air). To make a long story short--because I know y'all don't want to read about the goings-on of airports, after the 15 hour flight, we had a 2 hour layover in South Korea and then a 5 hour flight to Bangkok (which was also very much on time). Despite the fact I was able to get some sleep on the plane, two days of travel is still two days of travel no matter how you cut it. But I can now say that I've crossed the International Date Line (cross that off the bucket list).
Side note: If you happen to be wondering about the title of this trip, "chasing the sun" its because I saw nothing but daylight for about 35 hours. It finally set before we arrived in Bangkok. So we were--literally--chasing the sun.
Now onto May 11th, our first full day in Thailand and in Bangkok...
After breakfast we learned how to work on the local metro, known as the BTS, it's elevated something like three stories off the ground...picture something like the El in Chicago.
From there we walked to the Jim Thompson house. Mr. Thompson made his money back in the mid-1900s, he was an American GI that fell in love with Siam and decided to make his home here. He dominated the silk trade after his silks where featured in Roger and Hammerstein's "The King and I". His home is very unique, and very beautiful. It's made up of six different Thai houses he had dismantled and shipped in. But he made some changes...where traditional Thai houses have separate rooms, he put those rooms together to make a house...where traditional Thai houses have the stairs outside, he put his inside...in traditional Thai houses there are no such things as dining room tables but Jim Thompson was from the west and wanted a table, so he pushed two Chinese Majong tables together to make one. The inside of the house is full of ancient art and relgios symbols, Mr. Thompson was big into preserving history (man after my own heart). Switching from inside to outside, the house in located right next to a cannel, and is surrounded by this very lush garden. Without the noise of the city, one could almost think they were in the middle of the jungle: lots of palmtrees, and other things of the green, plant varity.
So here in Bangkok, shopping is huge. Everyone likes to shop! Just a few minutes down the BTS from us is a complex of three shopping malls. And by shopping malls I mean HUGE (so much so it deserves capital letters), HUGE malls. One could get lost...for days. But there is order to these malls. The first is the cheap, fake mall in which you haggle (always fun). The second, is the mid-level pricing. And the third, is like your Chanel, D&G, Dior, &ct. But get this, you go up to like the 6th level of the high-end mall and and your can buy yourself a nice BMW or Lambourgini. Right there in the shop, you know if with your loose, pocket money.
The coolest part about the malls, is the food court in the first (at least I think its the first). You go up to like the 6th or 7th story and they have this massive food court. But its not a food court in the Western sense of the world. To get food you go and you get a card. Once you have you're card, you figure out what you want--and they have food from all over the world. I mixed-and-matched with a triple mango berry smooth and chicken noddle soup with dim sung. For each of these you use the card they give you to buy. When you're done you go to the counter, they scan it, you pay and you leave. It was so easy! So convienent! Instead of having to pull money out here and here and there, but they want to go there, you just use the card!
After lunch we did take a quick break, rest up, get hydrated &ct. But then we were off again! We took the BTS to the river, where we hopped a water ferry. The water ferry was really cool. It was an awesome way to see a lot of Bangkok easily...and the breeze was nice. On the water ferry you can see some of the many different faces of Bangkok, from an Ancient Buddist temple, to the Royal Palace,to modern-day sky scrapers, to old, old docks and dock-supports (with dock missing) that looked like it jumped straight out of a Pirate movie. Which is really cool.
Once off the the ferry, we went and at the "buffet" but not buffet in the western sense of the word. Oh no, definately not. Some good things about the "buffet": it was one the water, it had a great atmosphere, live music &ct. But let me give you the skinny..."buffet" here means cook your own meat. Now, the extent of my cooking is making pasta, making my own sauce and a few other things. I do not known how to cook meat (should probably work on that now that I think about it). There's a...it's not a grill, its a...picture something like a flying saucer with steeper sides that's surrounded by a trench. This little mechanism is powered by gas in arosaul cans, and water is put in the trench so it boils. This is what you cook with. The buffet part comes in because you go and get your own raw meat. But you can't tell what is chicken and what is pork--you could tell the seafood apart. I somehow managed to actually get the correct meat (chicken) and cooked it up, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. Half-way through dinner I did find out that there was regular food, so I had some fried rice. Despite the food not being my forte I had a lot of fun, we watched the sun go down, and just chilled, which was nice after a long day.
We did a little bit of walking after dinner, through the real tourist-y parts. That was fun. Bangkok just lights up at night and you get a very diverse group of people.
So, lastly, some things I learned about Bangkok:
Bangkok is as big as the distance from Cincinati to Minasota. It's a horizontal city because much like Venice, its sinking! Bangkok was built on a swamp, and modern buildings are just too heavy.
There are several unfinished skyscrapers in here becasue of the Asian financial crisis of 06/08 (I don't remember which year). They're abandonded now and just stand like old, fossolized relects of the past.
Get this, street vending is illegal! But there's so much street vending, you ask. It's a shadow economy that just keeps everything in motion.
This city is very green! Like any other city there are parks and such, but there are palm trees everywhere. And the majority of buildings have some sort of plant on the balconies and/or roof. It's really cool.
Well, that's about all I got.
Update when I can.