Laem Chabang and Bangkok, Thailand - January 23-25, 2008
26.01.2008 95 °F
As with Shanghai, we arrived in port during the night. I awoke to see that we were in a pretty desolate, industrial area. Turns out that Laem Chabang is kind of in the middle of nowhere. Actually, it's about an hour and a half west of Bangkok and about half an hour east of Pattaya. The options are to take a TSS sponsored shuttle directly to Bangkok or to take one part way and then jump off in order to catch a bus going the other way to Pattya. I would say most people headed toward Bangkok. Some returned nightly to the ship though the options are limited - only two shuttles in each direction per day. I opted to stay in the city. The most students had plans to go here, there and everywhere.
The mad scientist encourage me to play it by ear. I will not listen to him in future. Of course, he won't be around, but I won't listen to him anyway. Actually, we had a good time in Bangkok, easily finding accomodations on Ko San Rd, which is a backpacker's haven. The best description I can come up with is a street fair. Ko San Rd is like a never-ending street fair with food vendors, merchandise stalls, and glassy-eyed tourists wandering back and forth incessantly. It's to the west of the city, not very close to public transportation but in walking distance - or should I say "wandering distance" to The Grand Palace and Wat Po, which are two of the city's must-sees. Bangkok is full of must sees, so that part of it worked well. Our room was cheap - a triple w/ air conditioning for 580 baht per night, which is less than 20 dollars per person. J., with whom I bopped around in Shanghai, was our third.
We quickly discovered that what they say is true - the street food is cheap and amazing. Just for comparison sake, a decent size plate of pad thai on the street is about 10 baht or $3. Can't beat it. We've eaten at three restaurants, including one high-end one, and none of them compared to the street vendors' fare. Taxis are also incredibly cheap. A fare that might be $15 in San Francisco is about $3 in Bangkok. One can easily see why so many Westerners come here and why so many can easily get into bad situations here. It's steamy and hot and although the population is 95 percent Buddhist, hedonism seems to be part of the social fabric for those who want it.
The first night, Eric went off on his own. I was supposed to join him but was too tired. He wound up dragging himself home at 4 am, but he turned down the wrong alley and wound up being accosted by 4 tranny's who bruised his balls and ego and probably stole his camera. Personally, I found his story to be hilarious. Hours before, he had gone on and on about how amazing Thailand was (and it is!) and how he might consider chukking everything in China to drop out in Thailand. Then he gets groped by a man in a skirt and he wants to go home. It was very very funny. He actually had a good sense of humor about it the next morning, but I could tell it messed with his head a little.
After a couple days, Bangkok began to feel like a too-sweet dessert or an over-ripe (though not rotten) fruit. I felt a desperate need to leave. Unlike my cohorts, we hadn't planned anything specific and it is high tourist season so instead of heading north, we found it would be cheaper to go south - south to a pretty touristy spot. I was little bummed that our choices were so limited, BUT the great thing about Thailand so far is that it's amazing anywhere and everywhere you go. We've got a little hut in the Krabi province for a few bucks a night. The area as a whole is crowded but our little hut is off the beaten path. Eric has spent the day snorkeling and I got myself a two-hr. massage for $15 and am now awaiting a boat to bring me back to "my" island. I am also trying to decide whether to stay here until the 29th or return a day earlier for one more day of Bangkok, but on my own. J., is in Chiang Mai and Eric is going to bop around the country for a few more days before going to Hong Kong. I am ready to be rid of group think so I think I'll head back to the city.
I have a bus ticket, but I think I'd rather fly. The bus ride was actually a bit hellish. I felt like it would never end, and I was very uncomfortable though I'd say the bus was much better than a typical US Greyhound bus. An over-night ride is about $20; a one-hour flight is about $50. If I leave early, I will need to find a place to stay again, which isn't a big deal. Then I need to make sure I get to the shuttle drop off by 1:30pm on Tues., the 29th. Otherwise, I will be trapped in Thailand, which wouldn't necessarily be a horrible thing, but why go there, right?
One point of interest: I feel like more people understood English in China - not many, but more than here - and yet, China is not super-tourist friendly. Here it is the opposite - the tourism industry is in full effect here but there aren't many English speakers. The bottom line is that I feel like I can get around better in Thailand on my own - at least in the cities - than I could in Shanghai. I'm very curious as to how India will be.