The first school break was much anticipated. Situated in early March, I was itching for the opportunity to explore my second country outside of the U.S. My friends Matt and Miller, teachers in Kelanton and Sabah respectively, and I decided early in our Fulbright Grant that the first trip should be to Thailand. It seemed almost a mythical land; where one could find anything they sought at a fraction of the price they were used to. We found that to be true in all we encountered including food, scenery, nightlife, tranquility, and architecture. It was a busy 8 days to say the least, spread out between Bangkok, Chang Mai, and Koh Kood, but also a thrilling adventure.
Bangkok is unlike any place I have been to in my lifetime. It is crowded, chaotic, and lacks English, but at the same time is my favorite place I have traveled to so far. There are few skyscrapers to be seen so it feels unlike any major city I had previously been to. We arrived Friday afternoon and checked into our hostel. I had never stayed in a hostel before and was surprised at how pleasant the experience was. I guess it only takes one bad incident to cloud someone’s image of them. Everywhere in Bangkok we ate. The food was fantastic. Flavored meats, coinciding with fresh vegetables, and smothered by broths. And fresh fruits galore. I ate enough mango to cause a shortage in Southeast Asia. We went to the Grand Palace on Saturday in addition to the Chatuchak weekend market, which is the largest in Thailand. The market was overwhelming in a good way. Everywhere you went there was an interesting handmade craft to appreciate. The Grand Palace on the other hand was bewildering. All of temples were carefully sculpted mosaics of tiles and gold. We saw the giant reclining Buddha, and took in the smaller but equally as impressive emerald Buddha. At night we did our best imitation of the Hangover II. We ventured to a couple of the scenic sky bars that the city has to offer, and bonded over drinks with people from all over the world. I must say the New Zealanders were my personal favorite.
On Sunday we boarded a plane and in a hop, skip and a jump were in Chiang Mai, located in Northern Thailand. The first day we went to the Sunday walking market where a decent portion of the streets in the city are closed to allow for vendors to set up their stalls. Whereas the market in Bangkok was vast but condensed, this market was spacious and almost never ending. The vendors here sold more unique and personable items than in Bangkok. As many of you are aware I wouldn’t consider myself a shopaholic so there wasn’t much that I purchased save for an elephant necklace and some thai-patterened shirts. Our other day in Chiang Mai we spent with nature. We signed up for a full day of mountain biking, elephant riding, and white water rafting. Little did we know that it is dry season in Thailand, so white water rafting was less than exhilarating, but nonetheless it provided ample time to take in the beauty of the countryside.
The final stop on our quick tour-de-Thailand was Koh Kood. Koh, in their language, means island. We were against the touristy, spring-break feel of Phuket and Krabi, and settled on one of the quiet old-school islands mentioned in a New York Times article that both of my parents sent to me. It was sparsely populated, an untouched gem. Here we relaxed and recharged after our time in the two cities. We spent one of the days on rented motorbikes exploring the island from one end to the other. I can’t believe an island that beautiful will stay secluded forever, so I’m glad we got to experience it before it is overrun with resorts and gift shops. Looking back on our week I don’t believe there was one thing we could have done differently to make it any better.
Thailand, I salute you. Here are some photos from the week…