Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thailand - Part 1 - Bangkok

Beware... these posts will be quite long! 

For Eid (an Islamic holiday in the UAE), we were given 9 days of holiday. This is unheard of - normally they only get 4-5 days off so I knew I needed to take advantage! Will was already planning on coming later in October but since I had such a long break, we decided it would be a perfect time to travel! As you can tell by the title of the blog... we chose Thailand! We had been talking about going there so it was the perfect choice. (PS. most of the pictures were taken by Will - his photographs are awesome! Much better than the iPhone)

Our flight had a connection through China on both ends of the trip. The layovers were in Kunming, China, which was a rural town and very few people spoke English. When we got off the plane, we were planning to go straight to our gate since we couldn't go through customs. Americans need a travel visa to enter the country and it takes days to get before the trip. If you enter without it, you can pay huge fines or go to jail. Well... we got off the plane (without the travel visa) and the workers kept pushing us through customs. We knew we weren't supposed to enter the country but they didn't give us a choice. We had to go through customs then go back through check-in and security to catch our flight to Bangkok. We were both very worried. They ended up giving us a temporary 24 hour visa so it ended up being ok, but it was very stressful for a while. The way back was even worse. We had a 22-hour layover and didn't make the best decision about where to stay that night - some airport worker (we think...) encouraged us to stay at this cheap hotel in "town" so we got into this sketchy van, the van picked up two random girls wandering down the road, and got dropped off in this tiny rundown town where nobody spoke English. At that point, we decided we wanted to go back to the airport to stay at the airport hotel but since no one spoke English, it took many hand motions and to get back. The story is much crazier but I don't want to have to relive it to write about it. Basically, I won't be traveling to China for a very long time after that experience. 

We finally made it to Bangkok and took the sky train and metro to our hotel. We stayed at the Grand Millenium in the business district of Bangkok so it was really nice! We were exhausted that night so we didn't do much except plan our next few days in Thailand. We wanted to go to Khao Yai National Park but it was too far for just a day trip. Then we decided we would go to Ayuthaya but found out it was flooded. Our next option actually worked out! We went on a boat hop-on/hop-off tour on the Chao Phraya River where we were able to visit all the temples. The temples were amazing! I really loved getting to explore Wat Pho, which has the giant Reclining Buddha. The reclining Buddha is supposed to represent the passing of Buddha into nirvana. The temples and grounds were beautiful and very fun to explore! 

We got back on the boat when it stopped at the dock again and headed to another temple - Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn. 

We climbed tons and tons of stairs to get to the top area (well, it was more like pulling ourselves up the stairs with the railings... it was very steep!). There were beautiful views of the river and city from the top. We had to get a few pictures from the top!

Oh! I almost forgot about the flower market!! Off one of the docks where the boat dropped us off, it said there was a flower market about 1km down the road. I love flowers so we decided to head that way. After walking a while, we thought we were either lost or that it was way farther than we thought so we got a tuk tuk (a bike taxi thing) to take us to the flower market. We went all around then when he dropped us off, we realized all we needed to do before we had got on the tuk tuk was cross the street and we would have been there. At least we got to experience a tuk tuk! The market was great and the flowers were beautiful. They were SO cheap too! Large assortments and arrangements of flowers were less than $10. It's too bad I couldn't bring some back to Abu Dhabi with me! 

That pretty much wraps up our Bangkok adventure except for the hookers. Yes, thats right. Hookers. Funny story - we were walking back from the metro one day and saw this restaurant/bar called Country Road. We thought it would be a nice place to get dinner and drinks that night so we got all ready and headed down there. Something seemed a little off about it when there were about 10 girls standing out front with lanyards with some card in it, but we thought they were just waitresses. Well, they may have been waitresses but we definitely stumbled upon the red light district. We realized soon after sitting down that the girls were there for single men (that's all I'm going to say about that..). Then, we decided to wander down the street after dinner just to see what other crazy things were going on. Well, it was all strip clubs and more hookers. And some were just walking around half naked in heels. Don't worry, I'll spare you from seeing the pictures. It was quite an interesting night that's for sure!

Can't wait to write about Ko Samui next. It was by far my favorite part of the trip :) 


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