As soon as I arrived in Bangkok, I crashed out from jet lagged (after 36 hours of travelling). My next focus was purely on getting my visa for the USA, so that I could do the Appalachian trail across the USA. After I’d submitted my online application I finally thought, maybe I should actually see a little bit of Bangkok?
With jetlag still looming I only made it to the giant shopping malls, and eventually running into a cinema (a terrible habit of mine when travelling). In Thailand interestingly they actually play the national anthem before the movie starts and everyone has to stand up. Well this movie was really high brow stuff you need to understand. Jumanji. Oh yes, I have a terrible love of bad cheesy funny movies. I loved every minute of it. Crashing out in my hotel afterwards and praying that I’d finally start to get over my jet lag.
After I’d finally got my interview appointment schedules for the US embassy for my visa I thought maybe I should actually crack open my Thailand travel guide to see what to do. As you can see I’m a highly organised person who knows exactly what she wants to do when she goes to far flung places. Most of my friends I suspect won’t believe this about me, but I’ve actually been discovering this ‘Control freak’ that used to be a strong feature in their life, doesn’t actually exist. Nope, in fact, there is a fly by the seat of my pants, I’m curious to see where the wind takes me, kind of person here. To the point, the Magician (who doesn’t naturally organise anyone or anything) would organise me. A fact we always find highly amusing.
So it was here I finally found myself in the Jim Thompson house. Jim Thompson was a famous westerner who founded a silk business in Bangkok and made Thai silk famous. His old home became a museum and you can clearly see how he took to eastern life here like a duck to water. He took small elements of his westerner culture here, to make his life here more comfortable (by having his multiple houses built together). Rather than typical Thai style, which is separate buildings. The really interesting part for me though, was the small model house that sat just outside the buildings. This is part of the Thai culture, where they believe that when you knock down an old house, you must replace this with a house for the spirits to live in. Here the new house owners will make offerings to them of food etc. This model house cannot be in the shadow of the new house. On top of this, when you move into your new home, you must consult a Shaman/ astrologer to find out what the best day would be to move into your new home. It was during this consultation that Jim Thompson was also told by the Shaman to be careful in his 61st year. As something may happen to him. And yes, you guessed it. When he was 61 he went missing (presumed dead).
The next day I headed on a long walk through the city. Here I made the stupid mistake of believing the man who’d said I’m a government employee waiting to have lunch with my friend (it was 3pm). But you should really get into this Tuk Tuk and go here for a tour by boat to see this. Because the temple you want to see isn’t open till 4pm. I’m such an idiot I believed him, pay way too much for a boat ride to see a canal of dilapidated buildings and a couple of baby crocodiles. But I got dropped to the pier by the Golden Temple and finally learnt the lesson that in Bangkok (at least) that they will screw every last penny out of you as possible.
As a result of this side tour, I only had an hour at the Golden Temple. This turned out of to be plenty of time though. The building and atmosphere is really beautiful, however it is literally SWAMPED with tourists. You can barely move around the very well known sections (especially where the Emerald Buddha is). But the sheer lavish nature of the place makes it worth seeing. The Emerald Buddha itself is rather mis- leadingly called ‘Emerald’ but its not made out of a giant Emerald. At the end of taking my thousand of tourist ‘photos’ to show I’d been their, I headed back out in the stifling heat and crowded madness to make my way to my evenings entertainment.
Bangkok is famous for a number of things, giant malls, amazing food and rooftop bars, large markets, the Buddhist temples. But also Lady Boys… So with an opportunity to spend the evening watching a show, well, curiosity got the better of me. I ended up feeling pretty uncomfortable watching a number of people dancing really badly whilst doing bad lip- syncing. My discomfort came from the strong sense that a number of the performers were doing this only for money. None of them seems to be enjoying themselves on the stage, everything seemed forced and fake. This impression was only re-enforced at the end of the show, when all the dancers stand outside and will take a picture with you. But immediate demand tips in a pretty hostile manner.
I was finally getting into the swing of seeing more of Bangkok, than just the giant mall which was a 10min walk from my hotel. So now I thought it was time to tackle the sky train. The sky train is a metro/ tube that runs through Bangkok. It’s a lot more simple to use that I was expecting, and the ticket sellers are so used to Tourists (like me) who can’t speak a word of Thai that they roll their eyes at you every time you head near them. Jumping on one early Saturday morning I ended up at the HUGE weekend tourist market on the north side of Bangkok. You can literally buy anything here, and its worth going to see this just to experience the madness. After managing to escape with some money left, I spent my evening eating too well at the Rock restaurant, before enjoying a cocktail over the Bangkok skyline.
On Sunday I took one of the many tours available out of Bangkok for the day. I decided to head out to the River Kwai bridge, because I find the history of the second world war pretty fascinating. This was a crazy day being surrounded by tourists, trying to take the perfect selfie stick pictures whilst sticking out their asses, poutting their lips. This seemed in complete opposition to how sites like this are treated in Europe. The story of the River Kwai impacted me a lot personally, as throughout my childhood my Mum would talk about the torture and high death rates of prisoners held here (circa 90% of prisoners died building this railway). But the tourists here seemed to have this as another box ticket on their holiday.
With my weekend coming to an end, I knew I’d be collecting my passport soon with my US visa to enable me to hike for 6months on the Appalachian trail. With this in mind, I was left thinking my visa application will be a mini version of the hike:
- Confusing to get organised, having to submit the application multiple times
- Map locations wrong, GPS wrong about where I am, then being re- directed to 4 different post offices to find the place I’m meant to pick up my visa
- Tuk Tuk driver driving into on- coming traffic and me thinking ‘huh… what a way to die’
- My visa being given to me longer than expected… like 10 years Do they really expect me to walk for 10 years?!
- Tuk Tuk costing a lot more than expected
- Meeting magical people who showed me the way when I got lost