Monday, April 24, 2006

Bangkok, Thailand 2006

Bangkok, Thailand 2006

My friend, Ana, has being living in Bangkok for 7 months now. Unlike most Thai, Ana spent all her teenage-hood in Maryland, and completed her B.S. in the States. Her final decision of moving home came after a mental and physical breakdown, a result of years of hard work for the Thai Embassy in D.C.

I haven't seen Ana for 3 years. The last time I saw Ana was right after my mother's passing. I remember how awful I felt, and it was very comforting when Ana came to visit. Ana is one of my closest friends.

I have been wanting to see Ana for awhile, and after a mental and physical breakdown myself, I decided to back my bag and headed to Bangkok.

Most people who visited Thailand would advise you not to spend more than 3 days in Bangkok because Bangkok is just another big city, with noise, pollution, bad traffic. I choose to believe in Ana, and she believes 6 days is not even enough to cover Bangkok. She is right.

After a 24-hr plane ride, I arrived Bangkok, Thailand. It's hot and humid, just like what Ana has told me. April is the hottest season in Thailand, and I arrive just in time for the famous Songkran festival.
Songkran Festival is one of the four new years Thai people celebrate. During Songkran Festival, people all have water buckets, water guns, water bowls, ready to pour water at anyone and everyone.

Davis Hotel Bangkok ( Sukhumvit soi 24) is the hotel I stayed, and it sits in a neighborhood so-called "Bangkok Beverly Hill". The hotel is nice and quiet, and a 15 minutes walk can get you to the nearest Sky Train station, Phrom Phong. Due to hot weather, most people choose to pay 35 baht for a quick taxi ride from sky train station back the hotel; however, I am so used to walk around using my feet (and being cheap at the same time); I walked from the train station to my hotel on the first day of Songkran. Ana was home studying and doing her midterm. I was not warned about the water and its quantity. Kids and adults all lined up in the street of soi 24, with their weapon in hands, ready to fire at me. Because I was obviously a tourist, people were very gentle to me, and most people asked for my permission before dripping water on me. Thai people are nice. I like them, and I think they like me too.

During my visit, I stayed away from the backpacker neighborhood altogether. Having hearing stories about ethnocentric farangs stepping over local people and their culture, I swear I am going to travel like a local and avoid tourist traps. I have great respect for this country and their people. I learnt to speak a few words in Thai, such as "thank you", "yes", "no", and general greeting. People responded nicely whenever I tried to speak Thai to them. Mutual respect is will received here, at least, I didn't get ripped off by taxi drivers when Ana was not around.

Ana and her family treated me like a family. I was taken to various local hangout and restaurants for food and snacks. I did my homework before going to Thailand, and armed with Saveur Magazine, I was able to take Ana and her sister out for a treat at Baan Khanitha, a famous restaurant ran by the top female chef. I'm glad I had Ana with me, otherwise, I would most likely end up ordering Pai Thai. Ana and her sister managed to order what they think is the best, food that I have never seen in the States, even in California. I couldn't name any of the dishes I had except Chiang Mei sausage which very very yummy. Ana told me that a friend from Chiang Mei used to make it at home in Maryland. I wonder how could I missed out on that.

On the third day of my visit, Ana's family took me down on the south west coast of Thailand, to go to the beach. The place we are heading has the shortest distance from Burma, this is a virgin beach where no backpackers can get to on their own. The resort we booked is supposed to be new, but it turned out to be more like a hostel. The inn keeper apparently lied to Ana's dad and promised more than what "the resort" can offer. I feel guilty for troubling Ana's family so much. It was a ~5 hr drive from Bangkok to here. Soon after arriving the beach, Ana's sister became alarmed about our surroundings, she noticed that many Burmese are in the area, this is not safe, especial we are three girls together. At night, we locked the door tight and watched Thai soap opera together. I learnt to watch Thai Royal news and was able to enjoy watching Korean TV series "大長今" by reading Chinese subtitles. Regardless the lack of local infrastructure, I enjoyed this adventure, and I had really good sticky mango rice Ana's mom prepared.

My visit to Thailand was really too short. I kept believing I had one extra day in Thailand, and Ana has to constantly remind me when day of my flight home. I spent all my money on a couple of massage sessions before I left Thailand. I ran out of money and have to ask Ana to lend me some in the end. I am such a lousy traveler. I have to pay Ana back the money I owe, and this gives me a good reason to go visit her again soon. I have to pay Ana back her money, right! :)