Categories
Travels

Always an Adventure – Thailand Part 9

Yesterday was relatively low key. Christine had some errands to run, and I was desperately craving cheese and gross American foods, so we split up. I wound up hanging out at Pizza Hut, eating mediocre pizza and drinking unlimited free refills of Pepsi, and Christine met me there.

Word of Saturday’s violence in Bangkok started to trickle in, and people started to be a bit concerned. The prime minister was on TV issuing a statement, but people’s opinions are mixed. The situation actually seems to get tenser by the day. Both sides want something without a compromise, and it would appear the only way it is going to end is with further bloodshed. Thankfully in Nakhon Sawan it was of little local concern.

After pizza, Christine took me out to the park on her motorcycle, and she taught me how to drive it. I found it to be surprisingly simple and VERY fun. I’m definitely going to look into motorcycles further when I return to the states. After that, we went and relaxed by the pond. We bought a bag of rice balls and fed the GIANT fish who live in the pond, watching and laughing as they jumped and splashed over each other for each piece.

After that, we went to a small bar simply named “Cups” to meet her friends, Jon and Tom. It was Jon’s last night in town for a while, so we kicked back and had a few beers. A few locals that the group knew joined us, and we discussed the political situation in more depth. The general consensus seemed to be that both sides of the argument have a ton of merit but are equally wrong in their actions. Unfortunately, there isn’t a third active side, and the average Thai citizen would rather just ignore it and live their lives. Jon and Christine pumped me for information about the recently passed American health care reform bill as they are both are deeply concerned that they may be expected to purchase American health care while living abroad or face steep fines. I admitted that I honestly don’t know how it will affect them, if at all.

After hearing about my first attempt at driving a motorcycle, Jon offered to let me try out his. While Christine has a cute little Honda Wave, Jon has something a little more akin to a Harley. Christine had a good laugh when Jon made me get off the cycle when I asked what “the clutch” was, and he refused to let me try again. Apparently, I’m a freak because I never learned to drive a manual transmission car. How was I to know?

From there, we called it an early night, so I could wake early in the morning for Bangkok to fly to Tokyo.

We got up the next morning, I showered, packed up, and Christine gave me directions to get back to Bangkok. She made suggestions of what to say to Taxi drivers and more. News reports on BBC International seemed to convey even more tension in Bangkok, making me glad I was heading down to the city early for my 4 PM flight.

We said our goodbyes and soon from there, I caught a motorbike to a bus station, the only problem… it was the wrong one. The language barrier soon became insurmountable as I repeatedly tried to explain to my driver where we were supposed to go. Eventually, I gave up and called for Christine’s assistance. She met me at the station and, as she also had to head south, we luckily found one bus that was going to hit both of our stops. It was a 3-hour ride down to Rangsit, and traffic was heavy. As we got closer to Bangkok, you could see military roadblocks where they were randomly pulling people out of cars for interrogation. Not a pleasant sight. Christine got out at Ayutthaya to pick up her Kindle, which she had left in the hostel a few days before, and I had another 30 min until I arrived at Rangsit. From there, I caught a taxi and headed back to Bangkok airport, completely avoiding the downtown area and boarding my flight out of the country.

I had a great stay in Thailand, but now I’m on to my next adventure: 27 hours in Tokyo! Dear reader, my agenda is pretty open. Have you ever been to Tokyo? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know what I should check out.

Categories
Photography Travels

Buddha, Buddha, Buddha, Buddha, Rockin’ Everywhere – Thailand Part 8

Another very full day.

After sleeping off the night before and waking up around 2, Christine and I headed out yesterday and got a boat tour through the Ayutthaya river. The boat ride was excellent. It was a lot of fun to ride past people swimming in the river and have them turn to wave at us. The boat made three stops, the first of which was a Buddhist temple that houses one of Thailand’s largest Buddha statues. The thing was massive! There were also monks leading holy blessings. A man was walking around with a microphone and stopping to let people shout in it. The whole experience felt somewhat bizarrely like a Buddhist version of an evangelist Church, surreal. But at least the statue was pretty cool.

I’m not quite sure what the second stop was. Some monks were wandering all around, and there were some interesting buildings and statues, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t go to the spots I was supposed to. When I got back to the boat, our whole tour group was there except for Christine. I went back to look for her but had no luck. Since I had no other way to find her, I had no other choice but to call her on my iPhone, which I had not purchased an international calling plan for. So, I’m fairly certain the call cost somewhere around $6 for 2 minutes. Awesome. After that, I somehow pocket-dialed my friend Jenn in California at 4:30 AM in her time zone. Which she was thrilled about and cost me another $6 at least. Doubly awesome!

From there, we went to our third stop, which seemed to be the ruins of a Buddhist temple. Unfortunately, since everything was in Thai and no one in our group spoke any English, I had no idea what I was looking at. However, I feel like I’ve seen photos of this place before, so maybe once the pictures are online, someone will be able to identify it.

After that, we caught the bus to Nakhon Sawan, where Christine has an apartment. We dropped off our stuff, grabbed her motorbike, and then met up with two friends of hers for dinner, drinks, and karaoke. We wound up staying out until 3:30 AM and had a pretty good time with laughs all around. Today is my last full day here, as tomorrow I have to take a bus back to Bangkok and then a flight to Tokyo at 4 PM. While I’m really excited for Tokyo, and I’ll be glad to get out of the sweltering heat, I’m definitely going to miss this place and Christine.

In a few moments, we’re going to head out for the day. Christine wants to show me some of her favorite places around town and attempt to teach me to drive the motorbike. Assuming I don’t kill us both, I’m hoping to make it an early night, so I can be rested up to travel tomorrow. We’ll see if I succeed.

Cheers!

Categories
Pop Culture Travels

It’s A Party in The USA – Thailand Part 7

Yesterday we arrived in Ayutthaya and set up camp in a hostel called Tony’s Place. While there are some minor flaws (zero water pressure in the shower), this is hands down the coolest place I have ever stayed at while abroad. The whole front of the building is a giant deck/restaurant that is swarming with a mix of traveling folk, and it’s directly across the street from Christine’s favorite bar, Chang House.

There is WiFi and decent food on the terrace, as well as a tourist information desk. It very much blurs the line between hotel and hostel. Everyone here is super friendly, and I’m typing this while eating a delicious BLT breakfast (I got a little tired of chicken and rice.)

Our room has cable TV, so we settled in and relaxed for a bit and flipped through stations before settling on MTV Africa (an odd thing to broadcast since Thailand is not in Africa). I haven’t watched MTV in years. In fact, I’ve been pretty actively boycotting it since around 1997, so whenever I do catch it for a while, I’m always blown away by what I see. 8 videos in a row and 7 of them (including Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus) clearly used and overused auto-tune. I’m sickened, is there any musical talent required anymore? Geez. Anyway, this frightened me worse when I realized I was watching MTV Africa, not MTV US, these pop stars and the ads for Jersey Shore represent America to many people, and they look up to it. That is frightening.

After that, we went to Chang House and hung out with Christine’s friend Earth. Awesome guy, we split a bottle of “Blend” whiskey (Distilled by Red Bull, cheap and not half bad, considering) and attempted to overcome language barriers and had a good laugh doing so. From there, we went to another bar where Earth’s band was playing and found some French guys and Christine’s coworker, Dan, from the UK. We had a great time talking about cultural differences, and I wound up telling the one gentleman from Paris my trick to getting a Parisian to speak English. He had a hearty laugh and admitted he had no doubt it would work.

From there we went to a nightclub where there was a Thai rock band playing. I was exhausted, but it was a lot of fun. It seems a lot of Thai rock is set on a reggae beat, so it’s very, very similar to the ska-punk I grew up with on Long Island, which is very strange but very comforting. Eventually, the band busted into a Thai Punk cover of Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance,’ which was surprisingly good.

Thai covers of American music are actually really huge over here in the touristy areas. Still, they are quite amusing to those who natively speak English. I’ve been told that most (but not all) of the singers don’t understand the words to what they’re singing. It strikes me as believable as if you listen closely, many of the singers will butcher the lyrics but hit the notes, tones, and timing near perfectly. It’s an amazing phenomenon and very entertaining nonetheless. From there, it was time for bed. As a whole, the day turned out to be really enlightening and fun.

Today we’re catching a boat tour around the city and checking outcome old ruins. I can’t wait to take pictures and share them with y’all. Cheers!

Categories
General Travels

Another Day, Another Bus, Another Buddhist – Thailand Part 6

We got up this morning, had breakfast, and caught a motorbike taxi to the bus station. We were actually walking there ourselves when we came across an older man who offered us a ride as we walked past his house. He was a funny little man with a great big friendly smile so we couldn’t help but accept his offer.

As we walked up, we saw his back was covered in a large tattoo written In the Thai alphabet, so while it was illegible to me, it was very detailed and very beautiful. Christine informed me that she’d seen the same design before and that it was a spell of protection that the monks do. Sadly, I did not get a picture, but the idea is fascinating to me.

Thailand is one of the most populous Buddhist countries in the world, and it has greatly changed a lot of my outlook on Buddhist culture. I suspect and hope that I may be misinterpreting things, but at first glance, there seems to be a lot of materialism and superstition around it here, which was not at all what I had understood from the beliefs previously. I also, in general, know very little about Thai Buddhism and how it varies from other forms. This is something I plan to research further when I return to having a regular Internet connection.

I have noticed that meat is very popular over here, but beef is almost nonexistent. This fascinates me because my perception was that spiritual Buddhists are often vegetarian. As such, I would have suspected to see a lot less meat as a whole. But the no beef thing, one would guess to be influenced by Hindu beliefs? One thing I’ve seen for sure is a friendly, laid-back culture of lovingkindness here. I definitely need to read more before I go on talking about this. Otherwise, I’m sure to make myself sound ignorant.

We are headed now to Ayutthaya, which used to be the capital of Thailand before Bangkok. We’ll be meeting up with some of Christine’s friends from her job over here (note: I forget if I mentioned this but Christine is over here teaching English as a foreign language). She tells me it’s among her favorite places here. I’m excited all around.