Hi everyone! I hope summer has been going good for all of you and to my U.S readers, happy belated 4th of July. The last week of June, I embarked on a summer trip with my family(one of my sisters Riley is at home working to save money for going to college in the fall, so it’s just my other sister and I). My dad announced the trip in May, which is a visit to Thailand and then Bali. My connection to wifi has been spotty since I left,I’m currently sitting in a cafe with wifi to write this, so I apologize for my absence on here. I’ll catch you all up on my travels within the next few posts!
Our trek, and might I say it’s been a pretty long one, began with a flight from Florida to Newark, and then the next day, a flight to Beijing, on Air China. The flight was about 14 hours, for which I armed myself with the usual long flight essentials- a book, music, and sleep medicine to knock me out. I usually go with Benadryl, since it makes me sleepy and helps my allergies, but this time I went with a small drink called DreamWater. It’s all over airports and I have always wanted to try it out. The result- passing out 30 minutes later and waking up pretty refreshed.
So travel tip #1: for all you travelers out there who struggle with flight anxiety or can’t sleep: try this stuff. It really does help.
When we arrived in Beijing, It was quite a culture shock. I have traveled quite a bit in my menial 19 years of life, but besides South Africa, I have never felt so out of my normal zone. And I don’t mean it in a bad way. Arriving in the airport, we heard chinese spoken all around us, product descriptions at the stores were all written in chinese so when we grabbed a snack, we weren’t quite sure what we were actually buying. Communication with people was pretty much null, but we managed to navigate our way to the hotel. When visiting many places, we have taken various modes of transportation, and some experiences were a bit scary; the taxi drive in Istanbul is a story in itself. But I’m pretty sure the taxi ride to our hotel in Beijing was the most harrowing. Basically the chinese drive without a sense of rules.
When my family got into a taxi, the driver asked where to and my dad gave him the address.The man got out his phone for the GPS and started to drive, whilst typing in the adress and finding directions. My mom, sister and I shared looks in the backseat, and we knew it was going to be an interesting 45 minute drive. Our driver was going about 90 kilometers an hour and at times he would drive in the other lane and precariously weave around cars. At one point, a big truck cut in front of us, just barely making it, and our driver calmly swerved into the other lane into oncoming traffic.
The Air China flight from Beijing to Bangkok was about 5 hours and when we got to our resort, the amount of time changes hit us. The first full day in Bangkok, which was a Wednesday, was an R&R day, and we spent the time wandering around the expansive grounds and swimming in the pool. The next day, we were still recovering, but made a trip across the river to a market, Asiatique.
*From left to right: 1) flowers at the resort, 2) the wonderful breakfast in the mornings, 3) my mom enjoying a fresh coconut drink, and 4) my sister Taylor and I sharing the same thing.
Friday was the big day. My dad had booked a local Thai woman named Mandi who offered private tours, to show us around the city. She was absolutely lovely and really great company. We visited The Grand Palace, which was gorgeous and the temples were amazing. Our next stop was the biggest flower market in Bangkok, and then we grabbed lunch at a local eatery. Thai food has always been a favorite of mine, and to eat 100% authentic thai food was a dream come true. I had green curry with vegetables and a spring roll with chili sauce. Our last stop was a boat ride along a historic canal. The canal bank was lined with locals’ homes-many of them shacks- and it was interesting and sobering to see the disparity between the lower class and the wealthy. South Africa showed me the same type of contrast, with the shantytowns built right next to large homes and fancy shops.
*From left to right: 1) One of the temples 2) wall art, 3) school children taking off their shoes before entering a classroom, 4) Mandy talking to us about Buddhism, 5) the inside of the classrom on the Grand Palace Grounds, 6) Taylor putting coins into bowls as offerings, 7) statues, 8) inside of a temple, 9) temple roof, 10) Reclining Buddha, 11) monks, 12) Mandy and I at the GP, 13) two people in asian dress, 14) a selfie at the entrance of the GP
*Left to right: 1) My mom and Taylor in a tuk tuk, 2) selfie in a tuk tuk with mandy, 3) a tuk tuk, 4) my family in the other tuk tuk, 5) monks shopping, 6) the curry at lunch
*Pictures from the boat ride
Travel tip #2: The tour with Mandy was the first we have ever taken, as usually they can be quite touristy. If you want to see the sights in a big city but don’t know where to start, try finding a local who lives in the area. A search on TripAdvisor can help you find a really good guide that won’t take you to the tourist traps. They live in the area and know where the locals go.
If you’re planning on going to Bangkok sometime, check out Mandy on tripadvisor and her website
The next couple of days we spent time between looking around the city and relaxing at the resort, and when it was time to leave, I was a bit ready to experience the laid back environment of Bali. As for my overall take away from the time in Bangkok, I will say the city was hectic as big cities are, and disapointingly more polluted than I expected- the rivers were a greenish color, people threw trash wherever, and the smog was somewhat bad, although not nearly as bad as Beijing. But the people. My goodness, the people were great. Thais are some of the most friendly people I’ve met and we never had a bad experience with the locals. We were aways greeted with smiles and head bows, and they loved to try out their english with us. I felt more comfortable in their presence than I did with the chinese locals in Beijing. The only thing bad about our experience with people was the taxi driver who took us to the hotel.
Travel Tip #3: Taxi drivers in Bangkok are legally required to show use their meters. Many of them will try to scam you though. The driver who drove us from the airport hid his meter under a cloth and when we first got in, my dad asked about the meter. The driver kept saying he had a flat rate of so many baht, and acted like he didn’t know what a meter was. Finally, after my dad demanded forcefully for him to use the meter, he said “all right, all right” and lifted a cloth, showing the meter. They will do this because they know many tourists are unaware about their rights in a foreign place. Always demand to see the meter and check to make sure the driver has it on. If there is no meter or the driver refuses to use it, then get out and try another taxi. The money he was asking for was way higher than the amount the trip actually totaled to.
So that was my Bangkok experience; thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed. Stay tuned for my next few posts, as they will be about what I’m currently doing In Bali! Have a lovely weekend 🙂