Mind the gap: first days of Thailand

Weekly Wrap. Week 41.

This week had the least amount of sports I have done within the past 6 months I would say. There were many reasons behind that, but sum of all those reasons would sound simply as follows – visiting the oh so different Thailand. Before landing in this part of the world, on 7th of October, I felt that there will be so many different possibilities to keep up with my sport plan and fitness. Right now, after a whole week here, I do realise that such planning was futile and some activities – inaccessible, especially in Bangkok.

Due to the fact, that I have not done and most likely will not do too many workouts while we stay here, I have decided to drift a bit away from my sports-related theme of my blog. In this and next blog post, I will try to express my dive into Thailand, share my shocks and how did those get absorbed, and of course tell you about what have we visited, done and what activities did we do during these days. To give you a sneak peak of how it was – me and Dovile had to find shelter in Starbucks once, to let our mind vent from all the disturbance we had experienced within that day. And none of us really like Starbucks!

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Much needed alcohol, which lets your brain have a restart after a day in Bangkok.

Arrival into an Explosion

For us to travel to Thailand from Lithuania, we needed to go to Helsinki and then take a flight from Helsinki, straight to Bangkok. This took us over 14 hours in total and the toughest part was the long, about 10 hours flight to Thailand. Luckily, these numbers felt much lighter than they are on the paper and with some short naps completed, we landed at our destination. Fast forward through all the checkpoints at the airport, we are out and taking our train to the city centre, where we have to take a cab to get to our hotel. The train fills in within seconds with locals and I am now happy that we were seated. First difference I notice – are the layers of Bangkok. Previously if I were taking a metro or a train, I would be going deep underground. Now we are in a train, on what seems like a third layer of the city – we can see sky scrappers, shiny buildings and a lot of business centres. Local people do not stare much at us, which makes me feel less like a traveller. I start to wonder if we are seeing our travellers in Lithuania the same way and do not stare at them. I can not recall.

Out of the train, through the station, we cruise through the layers and each layer peels off a certain amount of luxury from the city. Each layer shows less money, more simplicity into small scale poverty. Imagine a layered cake, which top has crispy caramel flavour, middle would have some waffle and bottom – lemon crust with ginger and some cinnamon to keep it even stranger and out of line. We follow the signs to the taxi / bus stop and are greeted by what seems to be 3 security officers, who either are or are not in charge of getting taxis. Dovile tries to explain where we need to go, with a face, which had no expression, security officer writes something down in her journal, gestures something additional to her colleague and then waves a hand at passing by taxis in the street. Taxi driver arrives, then they have a long discussion about something, we only hope they are clarifying where we need to go. But nobody talks to us. Then out of nowhere, some elderly person, smoking a cigarette comes by and starts talking to our taxi driver. The security officers suddenly stop being involved in anything. After passionate discussion on some topic, which to our understanding as well might be global warming, the guy with a cigarette starts explaining something to us about 2 taxis. While he does that, taxi driver takes one of our bags and puts it into the cab. I patiently listen to our smoker-friend, nod at him, but think to myself, that we should just get to the cab and go. We do just that, taxi driver takes second bag and puts it on the passenger’s seat. What happens next, a phrase is coined, which will lead us through the most of our travel this week – literally and figuratively – brace for impact. Temperature outside was around 32 degrees Celsius (90F) with 80% humidity and when you jump into the taxi – it is so cold, shiver me timbers! The taxi driver had like 19-20C (68F) inside of his car. This could be ok, if there was no such sharp difference between outside and inside. But this kind of brace for impact leads us to this day, whenever we go into a shop, bar or any closed place with air conditioning on.

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Top layer of the “Bangkok” cake.

We are driven around the city for some time, taxi driver feels the obligation to direct our attention at the biggest shopping malls of Bangkok, with a short explanation what has to be done there – “Shop! Shop shop”. With all the flights and travels behind us, we try to comprehend the information, but our only wish is to get to the hotel as fast as possible. However, we agree that shopping in the shopping malls is a good idea and nod to our driver. Some detours and circles around the city, we are at our hotel.

Hansa Hotel Bangkok became our main shelter from the day one of our visit. We arrived there much earlier than the check-in hours, but our hostess – Ann – has agreed to help us out and prepared our room within 30 minutes of us stepping into her hotel. In our room, quick shower, air-conditioning on and onto a quick nap. 3-4 hours later, we still would very much prefer to sleep, however we power through and get ready to go out into the evening and night-life of Bangkok. Into the explosion of night-life.

Chaos and road

We go straight to Khao San Road, which has a night-market in it and there is so much going on. For some reason, the first thing we wanted to do, was to buy stuff and we did – later what was described as my “wife’s pyjamas”, I bought some light pants and Dovile bought a DIY skirt / dress. Then we stopped for a drink, to chill out and start comprehending where are we and what is going on.

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This is where we had our very first beer and started inhaling the business of Bangkok evening.

The person sitting in front of us, looked like a cross-over between a movie-like hitman and Christopher Walken and some other tourists were staying around, drinking beer or cocktails. This is where we started seeing how much is going on in here, almost every minute people were coming to the front facing tables and trying to sell stuff. And that is the best description to that – stuff. Stuff was either dried / burned scorpions, some wooden frog, some magnifying glass for your smartphone, a lighter, etc.. You name it.

While walking through the street, we are stopped quite often and are offered from tailored Armani suits, to massage or a bucket of whisky, occasionally a scorpion. From time to time, you pass someone selling Durian – the most smelly fruit imaginable. Every time we passed such place, I thought there is a gas leakage somewhere.

On our way home, we accidentally noticed a very cozy, out of the way hostel, which had a bar and stayed there for some drinks, before a walk home and calling it a night. Through the bridge and into our safe haven, called Hansa Hotel. We started getting ready for the second day.

Marketable shock

On the second day, after tourist-tailored breakfast, we decide to go and visit the outskirts of the city and some things inside. We go to what is called a “Water Market”, a very local place, which is told to be like Venice-meets-Thailand and people sell stuff from their boats. Full of excitement, our host helps us to get a cab, we brace for impact, get into it and go. It takes about 15-20minute drive to get to it. Once out of the taxi, we thank our driver and are ready to explore.

One of the very first views that greets us is a hairless boar, roaming through what it seems a very busy traffic junction and nobody minds him, nor he minds others. Deep breath and we start going around the market itself. And the very first moment – it is so overwhelming. There is such a small amount of space and twice the amount of people around. To top that, every market place is deep-frying different sorts of foods. And it is even hotter than yesterday, easily above 34C (86F). Combine that with huge amount of people, narrow space and it seems that we will get fried soon enough.

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Fry or get fried.

Dodging the boiling oil and heavy spices, we pass through most of the market to find ourselves at a riddle – out of all these foods, with which should we coin-flip our health. Multiple walks forwards and backwards, we decide that fish looks good and this married (I am assuming married) couple are preparing sterile enough food for us to eat. We pick it up, get ourselves a table at the end of the market and eat some excellent fish with rice noodles and extra hot spices. Feeling that we have survived the street-food challenge, we conclude visit to the water market with few conclusions:

  • It is borderline scary / uncomfortable, that people in this market are standing all day, 7 days a week next to a pot of boiling oil, in the heat in next to no sanitary environment, preparing this food for such a small amount of money. Of course, there are different price ranges even here, but most of those – it seems like they do it almost for free, even in Thailand’s economy terms;
  • Street food market is chaotic. It reminded us Paper Island in Copenhagen, Denmark with obvious price differences, but the chaos and structure of street food market is very similar here.
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Fish grilling a’la Thailand.

For now, I will conclude it here, at the middle of the second day in Thailand, right at the moment, where we decide to go back to the centre and visit the park and see some dragons.

Random

Song of the week: The Doors – People Are Strange 
Reading: Haruki Murakami “Norwegian Wood” (Almost at the end)
Game: On hold – Deus Ex: Mankind Divided 
Average Weight: Heavily influenced by Phad Thai with Chicken

This vacation feels like the real vacation despite a lot of worrying and troublesome stuff happening here and there. But in general, I did not really workout, I stopped worrying about work related things and was able to just spend time with my wife, walk around in a different city, read a book here and there and eat the cuisine that I am very much in favour of. But we miss our animals – Totoro, Joncas, Filipina and Yoshi. Luckily my dad keeps sending us a picture here or there and it keeps us smiling for a long time. Hope you enjoyed reading this time and see you in a week!

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BFFs

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