Well, I am currently lying in my bunk on the fifteen hour train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (which, by the way is already 20x better than the fifteen hour train we took from Gorakhpur to Delhi, which was 14 hours late and ridiculously slow), so I figure what better time to write a quick post about a new country: Thailand!
We got into Thailand on Saturday, but have been busy taking in a city that is the most modern we have seen. Well, seen it to an extent. Because of all the turmoil going on with the election, Stephen and I decided to keep a low profile while in Bangkok to make sure that we would stay safe. We’re also going to be coming back through the city in April, so didn’t feel the urgent rush to see and do everything. Also, it was kind of nice to have a few days downtime after coming from the stress and craze that is India. We spent our fare share of time hanging out in the cafes/bars, celebrating Stephen’s 24th birthday, and meeting lots of new, foreign friends! (These included some Ethiopian Israelis, a London cabbie and his incredibly sweet girlfriend, and a couple of absolutely hilarious (and generous with the beer) Irishmen.)
I think one of the things that got me the most in this city, compared to the ones that we had been in before, were the roads and transportation. There are no (well very few) potholes! And there are stoplights! And lanes in the roads! And both are used correctly! Needless to say, we were both in a mild state of culture shock.
Since I had to go to a few doctors’ checkups while in Bangkok for my new job next summer (more on that later!) I got the privilege of trying out almost all the methods of transportation Bangkok has to offer! A very exciting opportunity.
First off, there is the sky rail. Beautiful, clean, metro-like: I was definitely impressed. We took this from the airport into the city and got (almost) to where we wanted to be staying for cheap! Always a plus! Unfortunately, the goal was to catch a bus from the rail stop, but we never found the bus. After later consideration we determined we had waited on the wrong street…whoops.
My favorite method of public transportation, however, was definitely the ferries! They go up and down the river all day long, and for 15 baht (around $0.30) you can get to a good number of places! Also, you get to ride on a boat. Like, casually. How cool.
Alright. Now on to the private modes of transport. I’m gonna go from my least to most favorite on this one. It also happens to be most to least expensive…go figure! First up: cabs. They have meters! And the cars are new! And they stay in their lanes! All pretty impressive to me, especially after living in Kathmandu where none of these things were true…they are, however, more expensive, so we only took one the one time when we were trying to get the bus that never came (see above).
Ok, my second favorite? Tuktuks. These things are great. Little tin open sided car like things that chug along. They’re not too expensive, and will get you most places, and are pretty fun! My favorite part about them though: outside of the tourist area they can be seen hauling along pretty much anything you can think of. From giant bags of sugar, to loads of women’s shoes, to one time I saw a tuktuk transporting a monk with two pink children’s bikes. You never know what you’ll see!
Alright, so as fun as tuktuks are, my number one favorite: motorbike cabs. Yep, I said it. They are awesome. Guys in orange (or pink or blue) vests riding around on their bikes, who will give you a ride anywhere in the city for half the price of a tuktuk. Naturally, this is what I was taking to and from the hospital each day for my appointments. They are speedy (hello, weaving through the middle of stopped traffic), cheap (can you say extra money for street food?), and, perhaps best of all, produced some amusing stories.
Like how, my second time on one of the bikes, the bike got a flat tire. We had to pull over to a gas station and wait a half hour while it was changed. Pretty annoying at the time for both of us, but mildly funny in retrospect. Or this afternoon on my way back, when my driver pulled over halfway to where I was going, told me he was late for something and assured me I would find a new bike to get a ride home on from that area. I think that is the first time I have ever been kicked out of (or rather off of) a cab! Anyways, I got home quickly enough, even paying less for my two half fares than I was originally going to for the first guy’s full fare. I was all right with that.
So, trains and automobiles have been covered. On to planes! I got the exciting news recently that I was invited to serve in the Peace Corps in Zambia starting this summer, barring any issues coming up. It would mean more than two more years of traveling (and blogging)! So that’s pretty exciting. I’ll be writing more about it, too, as the spring goes on.
In the meantime it is nearly midnight, and I have a solid thirteen more hours on the train. I’m excited to see the country as we pass through it, I’m excited to see a new part of this country, and I’m excited just to be on the road, traveling to new places, meeting new people, and discovering new things!