Tag Archives: bangkok

‘Home’

It’s weird being away from ‘home’ for so long. Yes, only 7 months…but its a bit different to be travelling for such a period versus living abroad. When you’re living somewhere for even a week never mind months you establish relationships, favourite places, find good deals, and your favourite smoothie lady.

When I think of Canada it’s hard to think of what home I miss…obviously I miss my family and friends, but as far as the environment I don’t really miss much. I lived away for uni, so Calgary where I spent 18 years growing up doesn’t even seem familiar…I’m just that ‘old’ lady who remembers each club by what they were called 5 years ago when I had my fake ID. As for Edmonton, my life was greatly influenced by school but moreso by my workplace…with both of those relationships being done it’s hard to know what life would be like anyway.

As I wait for 12 hours in Bangkok to catch my second consecutive night bus, I feel ‘home’. I don’t know anyone here…I do have a fave smoothie lady though…but somehow Khao San Road and the live music cafes on Rambuttri are same same but different. The pad thais are selling for 5 baht more than my adventures in Bangkok a short 2 months ago, but the wifi passwords are still the same, and Backstreet boys is still the most played band (along with an asian cover of wonderwall–obviously).

It has reminded me what home is like …in the environmental sense…the sense of knowing where things are, how much they should cost, and most satisfyingly not being convinced into taking a taxi from the independence monument to Khao san (2 minute walk). Its a bit depressing in a way, as I’ve realized I probably ‘know’ Bangkok better than any city in Canada.

I will say though, that its almost a little victory of travelling…to return to somewhere you ‘know’. Helping fresh faced backpackers just arriving in Asia. Not price comparing fruit shakes. Just being comfortable…being able to walk somewhere and know that I’m going to get where I’m going, how long it will take, that it actually exists, and is open is a luxury I haven’t had in quite some time.

It was a bit familiar when returning back to Phnom Penh multiple times while taking side trips in Cambodia, but I haven’t had this sense of belonging and attachment to a place since my lay over in Sydney over 3 months ago. It makes you feel a bit accomplished, though…and it reminds me of one of they future joys of travel. As much change as I can observe from the last 2 months…imagine the evolution in years. I can’t wait to come back to these places and see what they become, and be able to say “I was in SE Asia when there were different visas and currencies” just as my mom can say the same about Europe. In such developing nations change is happening tenfold to what we experience in the West. It is a gift to be able to see all of these places and then to be able to come back and celebrate the advancements from the price of fake ray bans to road rules.

I feel more comfortable looking right-left-right for traffic, sabadee-kaa comes out of my mouth without processing, and even though its equally as hot here as Chiang Mai I feel more acclimatized even to the weather. I trust people (maybe with naive lenses) and am at ease. I’ve calmed down. It is amazing what not having to be on your toes for even 12 hours can do for mental health. Even the bus ride, I slept for 10 full hours because I had no stresses about where I was going. So, Thank you Bangkok for being a little different but mostly same same…I needed it.

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I <3 BKK

Seriously…what a great place!

I don’t actually get how people don’t get it. I’ve been in Khao San…the ‘stingy backpacker refuge’ and had an amazing time, I’ve been around Siam Square, Chinatown, Down the Chao Phraya River, Around the grand palace…to about 20 markets, the Hua lamphong area….and the nicer parts. I have yet to find a place I dislike or am not completely fascinated by.

Khao San–Literally everything you think Bangkok will be, all in one place…with enough tourists to make you feel ‘not weird’ but enough locals to remind you that you’re still in Thailand. There are ping pong shows, 20 baht pad thais, a million smoothie places, singlets/tank tops in every fluorescent color ever with every cheesy graphic and eye rolling pun imaginable. Don’t forget the fact that every building is a bar/restaurant/homestay/massage/exchange/live music venue with a temporary street cart with scorpions on a stick to photograph and its neighbor fresh squeezed OJ. I arrived there at 5am and it could have well been 9pm….the street never sleeps. One street over (parallel) find my favourite place in BKK…the Rambuttri Rd area….way more leafy trees…open air concept restaurants, tons of live music….a little less pushy, a few less fake ID and stolen electronic shops to make you feel a little less like the tourist police will arrest you for walking too slow. Continue across the main road towards the river and find cheaper (no matter what people say), more helpful vendors, tastier and cheaper food, and the used book shops have way better stuff too!….Laundry is also 20B at most of the alley places…sounds sketch, but way better than the bush league rush I got in krabi for 45. Guest houses are nice for 120B a night.

Grand Palace: Head a little further down the river and find the grand palace…do NOT leave Bangkok without visiting!! IT is extraordinary. It also has great old thai medicine shopes if you fancy some cheap as tiger balm, reflexology maps, or just in general voodoo stuff. There are also heaps of English speaking fortune tellers. Beside the palace there is also the royal field where I had my morning runs! I am saying its about an 800m loop….water fountains….clear running and people aren’t creepy. The side of the national defence building has great GREAT night markets…mostly locals though, so be prepared to play sherades to barter/ask questions.

Chinatown: HOLY MAN. Seriously, go down at least one of the ‘Walking Streets’ …they go forever and sell everything you’ve ever dreamed of…and everything the unicorn in your dreams has ever dreamed of. Everytime you see a stereotypical hello kitty decked out Asian at home and wonder where they got their accessories..they are there…in abundance. Part of me though Chinatown would kinda meld into the rest of the city because I’m in Asia…so surely it should all be the same right? no….not at all… that was by far the most culture shocked I’ve been in asia….it was also amazing because the excessive air con from the stores would overflow into the walking street…and I found a stall selling green salads, and mangoes for half price.

Chao Phraya River: Don’t buy the day pass…its only 15 baht to ride no matter how far…you aren’t going to get on/off 10 times unless you are lazy and don’t actually want to see any culture besides taking photos of temples….it is a great ride though, especially at night!

Siam Square/Downtown: When you’re just seeing street vendors its easy to forget about typically ‘Thais’…the ones that are whiter than gingers in canada, have striking fake blue eyes, and have perfectly tailored brand name clothing. There they are….all in one place…I’ve actually stared at a couple for a few minutes trying to sort out their ethnicity….Anyway, it is the metropolitan vibe you expect from a city of 8 million….and you will see way more expats than you expect that have moved to Bangkok for work….nothing like a legit blonde haired white guy rattling off in thai to his colleagues while eating a fried fish head whole off a stick.

Hua Lumphong….the major train station….actually not nearly as skeezy as you’d think…great cafes with free wifi accross the street…I’d find it to be pricy if I hadn’t been to the islands yet, but all things considered…they aren’t that over priced. Sunset over the station is quite beautiful as well.

North of Khao San: theres some major markets, some town hall…and a boxing stadium. the boxing stadium isn’t worth it but the markets included wholesale stores that I thought were pretty interesting….it makes for a good walk at least.

My tips would be to do as much of Bangkok as possible on foot…there aren’t that many ‘monuments’…there are temples galore…and tons of things they think are intersting that arent…but lets face it, they don’t have an opera house equivalent…it is the Culture of Bangkok, which you will get wandering through chinatown, or through markets between temples. Experiencing the ever changing and unique cultures of the city are why it is amazing. And though the traffic is insane…I’ve yet to feel like a place is actually crowded.

Anyway…conquering the thai-Cambodia border in the morning….it is supposed to be terrible, so wish me luck and I’ll report back later!

Backpacker blues

A slight disclaimer…Its been about 4 days since I typed this up…I’m feeling a lot less ’emo’…but there’s nothing like puking in the squat toilet on a night bus, having a broken camera, and waking up drenched in sweat, leaving your room to get heckled into rides, flashing lights, and 60 cent pad thai to make you wish you were either home for a day or just rich enough to …well be rich for a day. Anyway…I figured, lets post it anyway and keep the blog honest. I’ll post something a bit less depressing to follow

Railay beach was a stunner. Absolutely gorgeous, happy people…a bit overpriced, but it didn’t even matter….oddly, I laid there thinking only how great it would be to be at an all inclusive in Mexico again. I was with my new friend Becky, with an amazing plate of green curry and a freshly cracked Chang looking on to the first beach to compete with the Whitsundays since October…and yet I had no interest in being there. I don’t know how to explain it really…without sounding like a total brat that can’t appreciate things. I’ve just hit a wall with travels….lets rephrase….backpacking. I know how dumb it sounds, but if I’m practicing what I’m preaching….I am going to say how I feel even if I know it sounds ridiculous, even if I know people will tell me my feelings are ‘wrong’ or ‘selfish’.

I don’t think it’s a matter of being ‘lonely’…or ‘alone’…which have different meanings….but the former isn’t true and the latter doesn’t bother me. It’s moreso a matter of being sick of calculating how every meal and bottle of water will affect my budget. How I can’t even buy the cheap things I want because I can’t carry them around for the next 6 months. How I’m sick of wondering if a toilet has a seat…or toilet paper, and I’m tired of being constantly paranoid that everyone is out to scam or rob me. I’m tired of questioning the hygiene everywhere and trading off wifi or air con to save literally a couple dollars. I want to feel like I’m doing something, not avoiding something. I am sick and tired of people asking how I’ve changed, or telling me I will. I want the anticipation as to how the job market will be when I get home to end; I want to stop knowing rates for the dollar better than I know what’s going on in the lives of my loved ones. I don’t want to have to change 3 times a day because my clothes are drenched in sweat with a sprinkle of pollution, and I want to be wearing different clothes than I wore last month, the one before, the one before that, and the two before that. I am tired of making decisions about where to go or what to see and hoping I’m not missing out. I’m SO tired of explaining where I’m from, why I’m travelling, how I have the money for it, and the world’s unanimous hate on for Americans. I want a bed that isn’t the same softness of a piece of MDF, I would like my hair to dry properly, and I would love a wax. I want to drink tap water. I want to run when it’s not a million degrees outside and still have it be safe, I want to not have to plan workouts around laundry and having enough time to air out clothes before checkout. I want my ipod. I want new music. I want an income. I don’t want to think I’ve caught dengue or malaria every time something bites me. I would like good shampoo and conditioner, different sized handbags, and accessorizing not to attract thieves. I want a giant leafy salad, with dressing not derived from fish sauce. I’d like to eat lunch without being swarmed by flies. And I’d like to meet people that I could feasibly have long term friendships with, because my logical side has no interest in friends for a night…and most men in Thailand don’t want to be ‘friends’.

On the note of doing rather than avoiding. Contrary to the words of even some of my closest friends…I’m not running away or avoiding anything by travelling…in fact I’m pursuing many of my goals. That being said, there are some days…like today, where all I do is walk around and snack on street food that I begin to doubt what it is I’m accomplishing. I’m finding it hard to absorb that not every day will be a productive one. When you’re gone for a few months or less it doesn’t really matter because you can see your travels as some sort of long vacation…but you get to a point in the long term where you start to need some sort of direction. Even the ‘not hipster German hipster’ said the same. His breaking point was 6 months in….he worked on a farm for a few months, just to feel like getting up in the morning you might do more than see stuff. Australia was fine to be on a 3 month long spring break…literally: Beach, booze, boys…but as the culture gains normalcy in south east asia, I’m getting quite antsy about my day-to-day. I’ll be volunteering in Cambodia next week…so I’m sure I’ll start to feel better…I hope.

Whiny, I know…but I had to get it out…it’s been over 5 months of living out of a backpack and travelling alone. So sue me. The nomadic life really isn’t for everybody. Everyone says they’d love to pick up and leave forever, but it’s not all its cut out to be….and I know for a fact the people I know that say they want to travel the most would actually have the hardest time with it…perhaps they know it too, and maybe that’s why they’re all talk. And it’s those people that give me the hardest time about not ‘loving life all the time’. Don’t get me wrong, I do love travelling, I did have a great time at Railay, and I’m sure I’ll be back to loving life completely in a few days. Also important to note that travelling is much much different than living and working abroad… When you work you establish a routine and a network, comfort, and familiarity. AND INCOME. It’s not so much that I’m homesick….more that I’m sick of backpacking. It’s not that I want to be home….if somebody gave me even 10,000(not much these days), I would travel. I’m just sick of ‘backpacking’….poor man’s travel….I’ve been raised to be so money conscious that I have to actively try to enjoy myself while on a budget. To a fault. Hence why, to the detriment of my grades, I worked over 40 hours a week while enrolled in 5 classes a semester for the past 3 years of my undergraduate degree….hence why I sacrificed having a fun Bondi holiday to work….to make more money…to have money. I bank ‘security’ and success pretty much exclusively on my bank account which I can’t seem to change no matter how hard I try.

Anyway, this post makes me look like a glaringly terrible person…but it’s honest. And as postsecret seeks to do…perhaps one of you reading has felt even one of these annoyances while travelling and beat yourself up about not being grateful…you’re not alone.

On the bright side…Bangkok is actually amazing. I have been sick since I got here (I don’t recommend spewing in squat toilets on a night bus) and my camera is broken…and still I find it to be a great city…not nearly as crowded as I thought, and everything in excess….just as ye handy old lonely planet states. Mostly fake ray bans, havaianas, asics, and james bond dvds.