Sunday, January 8, 2012

Thailand - First Impressions

Hello from Thailand! I think I'm kind of obligated to write at least a few paragraphs about my first impressions of this country, my new home, while my thoughts are fresh. Don't worry, I'll keep it short, and finish up talking about Nepal within another couple days.

I arrived in Bangkok,Thailand on the night of January 6th, after an unprecedented 4-hour delay in Kathmandu. I'm going to miss Nepal, inexplicable “weather delays,” electricity blackouts, and bedbugs (a whole new story that I may or may not expand upon later) aside. In the Kathmandu airport, I tried to change my remaining money to Thai Bhat, but learned that such an obviously unreasonable request was obviously unreasonable, so I exchanged my remaining funds for U.S. Dollars.

Hadn't seen one of those for a while, and boy was I shocked to see not only one of these green wonders, but six!

The flight itself was uneventful, thankfully, but again made me realize just how shitty airlines are in America. If “Nepal Airlines” is better and more comfortable, even after a 4-hour delay, than any American-based airline I can think of, something is wrong. So... something is wrong? Whatever. Let's put that aside for now.

I got into Bangkok after dark, and upon stepping off the plane, found myself sweating immediately. Hmmm. I guess I did ask for a change from cold weather and work, so complaining would be hypocritical. After dealing with a weird form of culture shock … maybe more later? … and dealing with typical international airport BS, I finally boarded the express subway from the airport to a major subway station in the city. Going from the airport to my new home, “Cozy Bangkok Place,” was made more comfortable than I could have expected a month ago by the fact that I sent a lot of stuff home (it'll be there in less than a week, mom and dad) and threw out a lot of other crap. Suddenly, my BIG backpack was reasonably-sized. This, of course, discounts my outrageous amount of camera gear, but like the bedbugs, I'll leave that alone for now.

Immediate first thoughts in Bangkok: (1) Holy shit! There's electricity 24/7! (2) Holy shit! There's wireless internet in my room! (3) Holy shit! This is a big city! (4) Holy shit! Hot water?! (5) Holy shit! There are a lot of tourists here. (6) Holy shit! What happens next in my life...?

Obviously, number 6 was the biggest and most important of these “first thoughts,” but I've managed to, now 3 days into my Thailand adventure, still utterly avoid it. BUT I have had a few quick adventures. So open up your eye-holes.

After a day of doing internet BS and working on pictures, I decided I was overdue for a walk through the city and the checking-off of some mandatory tourist to-do stuff. So earlier today, I wandered around in town. I saw a couple beautiful temples, stupas, and whatever else you can call Buddhist holy sights. All this cultural stuff may be worthy of a future email, but for now, in the spirit of keeping this post readably-short, I'm going to skip all this and just talk about some oddities.

Bangkok, being the Vegas of Asia (I coined this phrase myself, copyright pending), has some weird shit going on. I haven't yet experienced any of it, and will, as a nearly 30-year old, probably manage to fully avoid the REAL crazy shit (excepting, maybe, a ping-pong show … c'mon, you turn your head when you drive past a horrible car wreck), but there are parts that are unavoidable. Like the porn / dildo shops set up all over town on this and that street corner. It's just a little strange to walk past a roadside shop selling nothing but dildos, rubber fists, and porno DVDs, and then, less than a minute later, walk past a monk. And there was the mother / son run dildo / rubber fist / porno DVD shop. The son was probably 10. Bangkok, so far, is kind of a weird place.

It's also, so far, an awesome place, but I'm not going to write about any of the things that make it awesome right now, because frankly, who cares? I do, and hopefully some others do to, but this isn't the time or place. It's now time to talk about dildos and porn.

Something else, not as erotically interesting, is the existence of outdoor arcades. I think we all know that the days of the video arcade have come and gone. In Bangkok, I walked past an outdoor “arcade,” where everyone who paid (I don't know how much) was allowed to play any number of PS3 games on a big-ass LCD TV, outside, on a major street crowded with hordes of pedestrians. If you were a 10-year old kid who couldn't ever hope to afford a PS3 of your own, how badass would this be?

Last short story: I took a river “taxi” from one side of the Chao Phraya, the river that runs through Bangkok and probably has a long and interesting history that will be fully ignored henceforth, to see Wat Arun, a Budhist temple – The Temple Of Dawn – that reminded me of a Hindu temple in it's ridiculous intricacy. After coming back to my hostel's side of the river and enjoying a pre-sunset beer which was peaceful and didn't cause any of the problems that pre-sunset beers are likely to lead to, I hung out with a newly-made friend for a bit before heading back to my hostel. On the way back to my hostel, which I walked, a guy with a motorcycle offered me a ride. I declined, and a few minutes later saw him hanging out with his friends, finishing the beer he'd obviously gotten started on (the beers are big here) well before he offered me a ride. I'm smart. Or perceptive. Or lucky.

The only other thing of note is that since my arrival here, I have literally only eaten street food, and it's amazing. I don't want to accidentally put down the food in Nepal, because it was usually amazing there, too. But with such a strong Indian influence, it tended to be vegetarian. Here, I'm not sure it would be possible to get a vegetarian dish. THANK GOD! Again, I really loved the food in Nepal, and prior to having spent 4 months there, I wouldn't have believed that I could survive so long with so little meat. But I did survive, having lost an indeterminate amount of weight in the duration. And now it's time to get fat, a nice whole-body sunburn, and possibly some long-overdue alcohol poisoning.

Let the Southeast Asia Adventure begin!

PS – I still have a good bit of stuff to write about Nepal, and a SHITLOAD of pictures to post. I'm hoping to get all this out of the way before my next SE Asia post. That does mean that yes, finally, there are some pictures on the way. Hold on a minute...

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