After almost a full day of traveling with a short layover in Dohar, Qatar I’ve landed in Bangkok. I get my pack and head to the transit to meet my friend.
Picture New York City during rush hour, but 3x’s worse, that’s Bangkok. It takes practically 15 minutes to cross the street. Taking a metered cab can cost a lot because you’re sitting in traffic most of the time. When I was alone & not taking the metro or walking, I’d hop on an Uber motorcycle. It cost 32 baht which is not even 1 dollar for 3.62 kilometers/approx. 2.25 miles.
I stayed at Bed Station Hostel, which became known to me and is recognized by Travel Advisor as the best hostel. It’s centrally located, approximately 30 mins from Suvarnabhumi Airport, a 2 minute walk from Rachathewi BTS Station, 2 stops/12 minute walk from Siam Center (shopping center), minutes from MBK Center, around the corner from restaurants/street food and right across from a massage parlor. I stayed in a dorm style room, which cost about $15 a night. They have AC, one of the most comfortable beds I have slept on during this entire trip, a curtain around the bed to give you some privacy, lockers, breakfast, addicting cookies, and more. The staff is extremely kind, helpful and knows how to entertain their guest. I never had a dull moment there; Bed Station just feels like home.
One thing I underestimated was how bad jet lag was going to hit me. I was literally like this the next day. (less smiling though)
All the walking and partying on Khao San Road could have been part of the problem. It took me almost a week to get my body adjusted to the time difference.
[Thai Fish Massage]
I had no intensions of getting one. It kind of just happened. It tickles like crazy, but once you get use to it it feels pretty nice.
[Boat ride along the Chao Phraya river]
[At the market]
With plans to head to Koh Samet for the weekend while we waited for our visa for Myanmar(Burma) [which takes 3 days/cost 810 baht – $23], that left me with about 2 -3 days to see Bangkok. All I really saw was Asiatique night market. I attempted to see the temples, but the crowds that unloaded off the coach busses overwhelmed me. All I saw were selfie sticks, and a stuffed animal on a stick everywhere. (If you live in NYC you should know what that means. A massive tour group you rather not walk near.) I decided I’d come back another time. I just couldn’t do it especially in the heat. On top of that, if you haven’t noticed, I’m black and in Asia I couldn’t go anywhere unnoticed. Nine times out of ten, someone is making it very clear they see me. Which is okay, it’s all about the approach. [I’ll get more into it later.]
[Street food: Papaya Salad – spicy & delicious]
Traveling from Bangkok to Koh Samet was about 3.5 hrs. We caught the bus from Ekkamai Eastern Bus Terminal, then a boat from Ban Phe to Koh Samet. The first night we stayed at XP Hotel and that same night I lost my phone. I was told countless number of times how Thai people are so nice, and lucky for me I was able to see that for myself when I lost my phone. However, my phone still got destroyed. The next two nights we stayed at Olly’s the only dorm style hostel on the island, and is usually booked out. The staff is friendly, the set up is really cool and I had a great time there. The only thing I couldn’t wrap myself around were the pods aka Japanese coffin style beds. The first night I was out of it and slept like a baby. The second night, I think I was losing it. I wouldn’t say I’d never sleep in one again, but it sure was quiet the experience.
[I call it Harry Potter’s cupboard]
We rented motorbikes and road to the end of the island.
[At the very end of the island]
[Eating tamarind right off the tree]
Imagine being on the secluded part of the island. It’s so peaceful until a number of boats appear at the shore unloading dozens of people.
I had a few people run up to me for pictures. I could be rich if I got paid for every picture someone took of/with me throughout this trip. We went from being on the secluded part to another crowded section in minutes. It did put a slight damper on our ambiance, however, watching the people play in the water, fully clothed with extreme happiness definitely put a smile on our face.
[We crashed a wedding. It was beautiful!
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to crash the reception.]
Sonya felt that everyone should do a border crossing by foot in Asia at least once. And I agree. So, we started our journey with a 9hr bus ride from Mo Chit /Northern Bus Station to Mae Sot. We paid approx. $20 for a VIP bus. That probably sounds good until you realize that you are on a night bus, with no lights for 9hrs, with roaches running up and down. They gave out water and snacks on this bus, I would have preferred for them to spray it down before they picked us up. I could have done without the food. I could not even eat it. I could not sleep. My feet was flexed straight up the entire time, and my bag was on my lap, while I was freaking out praying they didn’t climb into my bag. Luckily, back home everyone was awake so that kept me awake. When the lights on the bus turned on I would sneak a quick nap. This may all sound crazy, but it was that bad. I was not expecting a luxurious bus, but I was not expecting the devil’s spawns either.
Once we got off at Mae Sot, we got in a tuk tuk to drive us to the border. They did at least four id checks. Two people got hauled out of the tuk tuk by border patrols. It was heartbreaking to watch a mother have to leave her son behind; and the other guy his friend. Granted they could have been up to something, but even as I am typing this I recall the sadness in their eyes and that filled the air as we drove off. The border patrol people were so kind to us because we’re American. I felt so bad to witness how quickly their demeanor changed towards them.
We got to the border crossing just when it opened at 6/630am. We walked the long ‘Friendship Bridge’, where we saw people bathing and brushing their teeth in filthy garbage filled brown water below. Along the bridge sat a frail woman and her two kids, whom she trained to cling onto foreigners walking by as they begged for money.
At the border we made a friend Htoo (pronounced two). He took us to have our first Burmese style breakfast. We saw the women and little kids wearing thanaka (yellow paste/ its like a sun protection and a sign of beauty) and we wanted to wear it to. He took us to a shop where we purchased some & the women applied it on for us. They were excited to have us in their country and loved that were wearing the Thanaka. As we walked down the street, a man came in front of us and became our hypeman. He shouted words to the crowds along the street of the shops. I have no idea what he was saying but I think it was something along the lines of “HEY EVERYONE LOOK AT THE TWO GIRLS COMING! LOOK!” When I say everyone I mean everyone. They pointed, they laughed, they cheered, and shouted in Burmese that we were beautiful and that they loved our skin. And in essence, just simply welcomed us.
We were heading to Hpa-An, which is 3.5 hrs away and the bus was not leaving for a while so we decided to get in a taxi. Our taxi was full, a man even had to hold his baby as they lay in the open trunk. I was so afraid the baby would roll out the car as we drove off. The Burmese definitely have an amazing sense of community. The women took turns to hold and sooth the baby. I can not recall the last time a stranger offered to help another parent out in that manner. That was humanity at it’s finest.
It was extremely hot & I was dehydrated. As much as I wanted to see the beautiful hills I could hardly stay awake. Until, we stopped on the roadside, in the middle of nowhere to pick up some random woman. The car she was in happened to break down, so she gets into our taxi. She starts yelling in Burmese as she’s talking to the driver. At this point I was so confused. Who is this woman? And why is she pulling out so much money out of her bag? Her entire purse was filled with Burmese Kyat (aka Burmese money). I’m starting to think we were set up, but thats also because I watch too much tv. We soon find out she owns a restaurant, to which can explain all the money. Either way she was extremely kind, and paid for our lunch. Our first day in Myanmar(Burma) was definitely off to a good start.
Veni. Vidi. Amavi
We Came. We Saw. We Loved.
Until next time