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giovedì 31 maggio 2018

Thailand On My Own Day 1: Bangkok

I’d like to skip the whole bit where I get told at the airport there is a 50% chance I’ll get sent back home and won’t pass Thai immigration borders because of the conditions of my passport. I’d like to also skip the fact that I watched Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Breathe, Your Name, Thank You For Your Service, The Killing of a Secret Deer, and started Coco all in one trip. 
Let’s get to Bangkok straight away, shall we?

I manage - you guessed it - to pass the border and enter the Country. It is hot, like proper hot. That hot that sticks to your skin and clothes and breath. Actually no, breathing is difficult because the air is still and very warm. It feels like trying to inhale a soup. I don’t realise any of this until I am on the Subway, but as soon as I get out I realise how strong the Air Conditioning must have been in the carriage. I am a silly idiot, therefore I am still wearing long jeans and a rather tight t-shirt, which translate to death via sweat. 

Finding the hostel is a quest. All the roads are packed in traffic jams, motorbikes and tuk-tuks trying to smuggle their way around cars. Crossing the roads is more of a conscious walk towards death every time than a well-thought act. I still don’t get how to cross. I feel like you have to impose your crossing and hope people will stop (or worst case scenario just honk).  
The smell in the air is continuously different and very strong.  Food, sweat, people, flowers, sewage, fruit and cement all keep coming at you in a matter of meters from each other. 

I manage to get to the hostel - where the AC is indeed blasting at max power - and get told I can check-in in an hour. I drop my luggage in a not-very-secured “Staff (not really) only” room and head out again to check out Lumpini Park. 

Bangkok is… really something. At first sight it seemed - from the airport train - like a mixture of modern and expensive with old and poor, but when you are actually walking in it it feels even odder. I cannot begin to express how it feels to be walking around. In the main roads and  market everywhere feels packed, people are talking and shouting and the heat is unbearable. I am that kind of person who will always carry her backpack with her but with this heat it means all my back and shoulders get drenched in sweat. Along with the rest of my chest and face, let’s be honest. Very Attractive. 
Lumpini Park is rather peaceful when I go, but the heat of noon makes it a rather treacherous experience. I am sweating, people stare and the lens of my camera has condensation on it for the warmth. I learn straight away to always have water with me. TIP: Unfortunately, in Thailand tap water is not advisable especially for Western stomachs, therefore you always have to buy a bottle. At 7/11 you can get some for 7 Bahts which is  basically 20p, so it’s not too expensive. Even for brushing your teeth and washing food it’s not advisable. I learnt to be careful with choosing ice and fruit and check at stall markets and fruit stalls that they use gloves and the health and safety conditions are at least bearable. The last think I want to do is get sick on a holiday by myself, I’ll be honest. 

I check in at the hostel, settle down in my bed, get changed from my soaked clothes and I decide to head out. I’m wearing a floaty t-shirt and a very floaty maxi skirt this time, I learnt from my mistakes. And I am hungry. Oh, boy, I am hungry. 

I have to quickly learn Vegan culture is not really a  culture at all in Thailand. Most food - I am literally talking almost all of it - somehow includes fish or meat. The vegetarian options are few, not in many places, and use eggs. I managed so far to find places suitable, but being Vegan is proving to be hard sometimes. Especially, I haven’t found a street food stall yet that can fit my needs (or that looks like it). So far I managed to eat Pad Thais, Noodles with vegetables, Vegetable stir-fry, I even managed to go to a Veganerie place where I got a Peanut Sauce and Tofu salady-thingy that was bloody great. I will probably be back to get a slice of Carrot Cake as I haven’t had one in years…

I decide as of my first day I should probably go and visit the
Grand Palace and start from there to see where I can go. You know usually on my holidays I mainly walk around, it’s my favourite thing to do to actually live and explore the place and feel part of it. Also, let’s say it, I like saving money. I like that a lot. 

Get to The Grand Palace via public transport would take an hour - plus understanding bus stops written in Thai would be… interesting - so I try to get a Taxi. I think I still quite don’t get how to call them, I guess you might have to find a waiting one. So I get approached by a Tuk-Tuk driver which, I’ll be honest, I am not that interested in. I know Tuk-Tuks are more expensive than taxis and also being in the middle of the traffic jam breathing the smoke coming out from the car is not really on my wish list. We fight on the price and eventually I manage to get a pretty good deal seen the distance, and I hop on with the promise to stop once to one of his “sponsors” and pretend to be interested in their products while browsing around. I agree and we get there. It’s a tailor. I get in and while I am browsing a very rude employee asks me to tell me specifically what I want as there is no browsing since everything is tailor-made. So I get out.

My journey is full of honking, speeding, breathing horrible gases, but we eventually get to interesting areas of town and speeding around backstreets we drive through a busy and hectic Chinatown scattered with markets, watchmakers and signs of all sorts. Passed that we get close to the Grand Palace where I get down. I manage to find the entrance and I am tempted to buy some floaty trousers for 100 Baht for the next days but I restrain myself. Once inside, the atmosphere is unbelievable. The architecture is like nothing I have experienced in the West before, and I cannot stop looking at the walls and colours and shapes. It’s incredibly beautiful. (Aside from the bunch of  tourists shouting to get a picture in front of it. Tourism in this city is insane.) 

I decide to walk (you don’t say) somewhere with the intent to get closer to my hostel and then get a Taxi as the distance is pretty… big. I end up walking in in random temples. 
TIP: leave your shoes outside with everyone else’s, walk inside and try not to give your back to the Buddha. A monk will be there and there will be people burning flower garlands and incense actually worshipping. Don’t get in the way. Photos are okay, selfies are not (use common sense). Also, don’t steal someone else’s shoes, that’s not nice. I know you thought of that.

Walking and walking, the streets I’m going through are absolutely invaded by Buddha shops. All sorts of Buddhas, all sizes, all colours. Repeated. For miles. I keep walking and reach Chinatown - how did I walk all the way there without being run over I have no idea - where people are everywhere and shops of every kind occupy the sidewalks. I avoided buying fruit from the stalls, scared as I am of germs - I know, I’m sorry - but I am really fancying a mango by that time. At some point, on a side street, I find a hidden market street. Stalls are crowding it both sides and I get in to see what I can find. It turns out to be long. So long. And with so so so many stalls! Food, fruit, crafts, jewellery, clothes, nuts, berries, rows and rows of typical products, beans, spices, tea… It feels never-ending and I absolutely loved it. 

Somehow, from there, I walk all the way home. With 30,000 steps in a day. I never stop. I know. I manage to find a nice place where to eat a mixture of stir fried vegetables and    noodles. I really need it. 

To stop my mango craving I get one from a supermarket - yes you heard me a SUPERMARKET - I find. There I can get some mixed nuts, cereal and milk for the morning as Thailand doesn’t really have a specific breakfast. Normally they eat as any other meal. 

After that I have a bit of a night walk - I say night walk, it’s like 7.30pm but I am absolutely shattered and it is dark so leave it. There are way more people at night in the streets - and there were many already during the day. People come out as the heat is ever so slightly more bearable. I wouldn’t understand why there were so many night markets to see, I wondered why having all of those at night. The lights? The atmosphere? No, it’s genuinely the heat. 

Walking I end up in Patpong Night Market where it is famous for the nightlife and being the red light district. I mean, I wanted to avoid that area but my hostel was literally behind it so I might as well give it a look. The market is lovely and it’s interesting to see something like 10 bars in a row all advertising female lap dancers. It’s not hard to see inside either as the doors are wide open. Most dancers - perhaps as it was early - were barely dancing on the tables. I don’t know how I feel, passing by. It’s always a grey area. I would want to go inside and see. See what it is and how it works. I often wonder about the ethics of that sort of entertainment in a country like Thailand. 

I go home, at last. I was planning on reading on being on my phone a bit but after basically 3 days without sleep I collapse for 13 hours.

See you tomorrow for the second day of the adventure!


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