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Bangkok

Senses overload in Bangkok, Thailand

sunny 100 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

We arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, after 16 hours of travel with tiny petite Chinese and Thai flight attendants serving big burly men on their way to see The Sevens, the super bowl of rugby tournaments which takes place in Hong Kong. Elizabeth and I got a kick out of the contrasting people sizes. We got upgraded on the last leg of the trip for reasons we're unsure of, but we didn't ask questions and welcomed the nice seats and delicious food!

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Livin' in style in first class.

We spent three days exploring the amazing and overwhelming mega metropolis of Bangkok. Extreme sweat and exhaustion followed each day as our senses were continually bombarded by the city's seemingly endless strands of street vendors and shops. Within five steps, we would smell five different odors - delicious, disgusting, sweet, rotten, & intolerable. We were dizzy with the sight of all the colorful vendor food and knock-off clothing. The sounds of deafening tuk tuk taxis, a little three-wheeled vehicle named for the sound of it's high pollutant engine, also dominated the streets.

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Fish and other meats line the streets. Traditional supermarkets are not common.

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In this overwhelming city it's amazing that Thailand lives up to its reputation as the land of smiling people. The Thai people are very handsome and friendly, always greet you with a smile, and are incredibly appreciative for any attempt to speak their language. However, with a smile on their face, many of the vendors and tuk tuk drivers will try to scam you. Never-the-less, haggling is easy, and they will quickly agree to a reasonable price and will happily do business with you.

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Even Ronald greets people with the customary bow and a smile!

Elizabeth and I explored for two days before joining our first organized group tour with GAP adventures. In that time we saw the Wat Pho temple which is known for it's giant reclining Buddha. The temple has beautiful and intricately tiled Pagodas and statues of warrior gods guarding each doorway. You are guaranteed to be within a few kilometers of a temple in Thailand which has a rich Buddhist culture followed by 90% of it's people.

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If I only had a staff like his.

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Gong beware!

We also visited the Chatuchak market. This market is the epitome of the Bangkok vendor scene. It puts all other markets we've seen to shame with 10,000 vendors selling everything from knock-off clothing and accessories to beautiful and original hand made clothing to food and kitchenware. The smell and heat were overwhelming and the narrow alleys and giant matrix of market vendors were difficult to navigate, but everything was dirt cheap! Too bad we can't fit anything in our travel bags. To Elizabeth's mother's dismay, we only walked away with a knock-off Diesel watch for me (my 20-year-old Casio finally gave out) and two tank tops ($4 US total!) for Elizabeth.

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We had been warned that tuk tuk drivers are almost guaranteed to scam you, but we couldn't resist the experience. We hopped on one to show us around town for 20 baht (about 50 cents US), but we ultimately got taken for more of a ride than we bargained for. These guys get kickbacks from jewelery and clothing stores they "convince" you to go inside, so they basically park outside until you promise to go in for five minutes. It works! We had been told by several friends that you can get high quality, well priced custom clothing from the same factories that take orders from top American brands. When the tuk tuk driver stopped at a tailor we splurged for a nice sports coat for me to wear at my sister's wedding. Sensing his profit had been made (and his gas tank full from the jewelery store he stopped us at), on our second to last stop he ditched us before even collecting his 20 baht! We had to take a taxi to our next adventure, a traditional Thai massage, but didn't feel too bad since the tuk tuk experience was exhilarating!

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I didn't know what to expect from a Thai massage. After changing into Thai pajamas, Elizabeth and I lied down side by side, and it didn't take long to realize this was no western-style massage. Before we knew it we were being whipped around and stretched in ways we didn't know were possible! These little Thai women used their entire body to stretch you, walking on your back and legs, using their feet to dig into your muscles, bending you backwards and forwards. Finally, I lost it. With my masseuse's arm under my arm and her leg wrapped around my waste in a way bordering on inappropriate, she rolled both of us back as if we were doing ballet. My back cracked so loud it startled Elizabeth. I couldn't stop laughing for the rest of the massage, yet fearing I wouldn't be able to move the next day! My masseuse and Elizabeth were laughing with me too. In the end, I felt like I'd finished a week of intense yoga in an hour all for $6 US, and thankfully, I felt fine the next day.

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The next day, we joined a tour group whom we'd be with for two weeks. Our first activity was a bike tour of Bangkok, which was an incredible way to see things missed by most tourists. It gave us a better sense of the local lifestyle. We biked through busy streets, over bridges, down narrow alleys, and through people's houses and restaurants! It's all too much to describe, so hopefully the following photos will do it some justice...

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Posters and billboards of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej are everywhere. He is loved by the people and so revered he is on par with a Buddhist god.

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The base of most temples are shaped like boats. Notice how the base of this temple is curved.

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A scripture storage house surrounded by a moat filled with turtles to protect from rats. People donate a turtle for good luck on special occasions.

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Navigating through a restaurant/house.

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Our always smiling GAP adventure guide Koko.

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A common Buddhist theme.

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Safe water is only available in bottles or from these vending machines.

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Copper worker works near flame in 100 degree weather!

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Mmm... taro treats.

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Our wonderful guide Nok, from Grasshopper Adventures, sings us a song of Bangkok's full name. The official name is the longest city name in the world!

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Bangkok's full name is a mouthful.

We're recuperating from our 14 day GAP adventure tour of Thailand on an island in the south east, away from the protests happening in Bangkok regarding the current Prime Minister. The protests should fizzle out after the Thai New Year before we return to Bangkok on our way to Cambodia.

- Dave

Posted by daveliz 23:13 Archived in Thailand

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Comments

Liz & Dave,
I've enjoyed reading your very interesting and candid blogs I just received for the first time today from Deb Ruder. They were especially of interest to me since we've trekked much of the same ground in Asia--Vietnam & Thailand--and because we're planning to visit our son on his work study in Austalia, if that works out.
Don't know where you are now in the world, but maybe we can compare travel notes via e-mail or in person someday. I've most recently been traveling in Latin America--Argentina, Ecuador, Panama, Uruguay--and expect to do more of that next year since we have a daughter now living in Buenos Aires.
Happy trails. Drop me a line at Homerhenn@verizon.net if you get a spare moment. I've signed on to your blogsite.
Paul Hennessy

by PHenn

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