General Travels

Always an Adventure – Thailand Part 9

Yesterday was relatively low key, Christine had some errands to run and I was desperately crazing 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 wound up meeting 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 more tense by the day, both sides want something without a compromise, it would appear the only way it’s 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. We relaxed for a bit 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 it 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 the 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 and 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, 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, they 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 drive of a cycle 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 a “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?

Anyway from there we called it an early night so I could wake early in the morning for Bangkok to fly to Kuala Lumpur and then Tokyo.

We got up the next morning, I showered, packed up and Christine gave me directions to get back to Bangkok, what to say to Taxi drivers etc. 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 4pm flight.

We said our goodbyes and soon from there I caught a motorbike to a bus station, only problem… Wrong one. The language barrier soon became unsurmountable as I tried over and over to explain to my driver where we were supposed to go, eventually I was forced to give up and call for Christine’s assistance, she came and met me at the station as she also had to head south, we luckily found one bus that was going to hit both of our stops and caught it together. It was a 3 hour ride down to Rangsit and traffic was heavy, as we got closer to Bangkok you could see military road blocks where they were randomly pulling people out of cars for interrogation. Not a pleasant sight. Christine got out at Ahuttaya 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 head 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 readers my agenda is pretty open. Ever been to Tokyo? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know what I should do.

General Travels

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

Yet another full day.

After sleeping off the night before and waking up around 2 Christine and I head out yesterday and got a boat tour through the Ayutthaya river. The boat ride was excellent and it was a lot of fun to ride past people swimming in the river who then turned to wave at us. The boat made three stops, the first of which was to a Buddhist temple that houses the largest Buddha statue in Thailand. The thing was massive! There were also monks leading holy blessings and the whole thing kinda felt like a Buddhist version of an evangelist Church as a man walked around with a microphone and got people to shout in it, kinda bizarre, but the statue was pretty cool.

I’m not quite sure what the second stop was, there definitely were some monks wandering around as well as 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 however everyone was there except Christine. I wandered around looking for her to no avail. Since I had no other way to find her I was forced to call her on my iPhone, for which did not purchase a calling plan for, so the call definitely cost around $6 for a grand total of 2 minutes… Awesome. After that I managed to somehow pocket dial Jenn at 4:30 am in her time zone which she was thrilled about and cost me at least another $6. Doubly awesome!

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

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

In a little bit we’re going to head out and she’s going to attempt to teach me to drive the motor bike and show me some of her favorite places around town. I’m hoping to make it an early night and a slower day so I’m rested for all the traveling tomorrow but we’ll see.


General 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 which 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 in 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 are representing America to a lot of people and they look up to it, that is really scary.

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 really good 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 really good 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 turned out to be surprisingly good.

Thai covers of American music are actually really huge over here in the touristy areas but they are quite amusing to those of us who natively speak English because most, not all, of the singers don’t understand the words to what they’re singing. 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, but 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 to share them with y’all. Cheers!

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 their ourselves when we stumbled onto an an old man who offered us a ride as we walked past his house. He was a funny little guy 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, if not 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 plant 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 a spiritual buddhist is typically vegetarian so I’d suspect a lot less meat as a whole, but the no beef thing one would guess to be influenced by Hindu beliefs. One this is for sure, there is definitely a friendly, laid back culture of lovingkindness here, so that says something. I definitely need to read more before I go on talking about this as I’m sure to make myself sound ignorant to someone with a greater understanding and possibly offend someone.

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 here favorite places here, I’m excited all around.