Picturebook: ราชอาณาจักรไทย

Apologies for the lack of posts lately; just went through midterms, flight booking for later travels, and group project miscellany–anyways, I’ll make it up this week! That’s ‘Thailand’ in the post title there. I may or may not wanted to showcase the Thai language there since it’s just gorgeous. Not that I know an ounce of Thai, which was my biggest concern when eight of us from our UCEAP group decided to visit Thailand for Recess Week from 23rd September-26th September. Turns out it’s not that big of a deal–a lot people are pretty fluent in English.

We (as in Craig, Jackie, Jenny, later Vivienne, and I, along with Rida, Ramsha and Salena, even though the last three mostly visited different attractions) spent two days in Bangkok[2] and one in Krabi, which was perfect since we all still needed to get back and study for midterms afterwards. Honestly, I’m not going to do justice to Thailand in this post, especially since you’ll create your own adventure if you go to Thailand yourself. One last point was that my group and I mainly stuck to the more crowded areas of Bangkok instead of heading off the beaten path more. I don’t regret doing this–it was our first time in a country where we didn’t speak the language, and we enjoyed ourselves and learned a lot about the culture anyway–but know that the Thailand I present here is a tourist’s Thailand.[3]

Figure 1.1 – Thailand Food Fair

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One of the best parts of Thailand is the food, even for a spice wuss like me. We randomly stumbled upon a food fair while walking a few blocks away from our hotel selling fried squid, fried quail egg, coconut/sugarcane juice, skewered meat, and more snacks that I can’t remember for less than SGD$3 each (which is already pretty expensive for a snack in Bangkok). In general, central Bangkok is way more street-foody than Singapore is.

Figure 1.2 – Moar food.
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I can’t remember for the life of me what we ate at this place, but it was delicious. We also had mango sticky rice after, though it wasn’t made that well–half of the dish’s flavor comes from bathing the rice in sweet coconut milk, which wasn’t the case here. I had better mango sticky rice at the airport (Suvarnabhumi–there’s also a cheap Krispy Kreme there) for breakfast while leaving later.

Figure 1.3 – Asiatique, Bangkok, Thailand

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This is a great, cheap (actually, most of Thailand isn’t too expensive, save for taxis for people who don’t know how to haggle) shopping and foodie destination if you don’t mind that it’s somewhat touristy (still less touristy than Singapore’s Chinatown, though, and with much better food). It also has a ladyboy/cabaret/comedy show called Calypso–I didn’t go due to the price and a previous mediocre experience in Las Vegas[4], but the other three people I was with did (Craig, Jackie, Jenny), and they thoroughly enjoyed it.

Figure 1.4 – Down the city
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This picture doesn’t show it that well, but traffic in Bangkok is cramped. It still doesn’t take too long to get from place to place by taxi or tuktuk (Thailand’s open-air carts whose speed, combined with their fearless drivers, brings thoughts of your last will and testament to mind).

Figure 1.5 – Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho
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I should’ve included some form of scale, but this was one of the more impressive sights I saw while temple-touring (and in my opinion, the temples are a must-see while visiting Bangkok[5]).

Figure 1.6 – Temple of the Dawn – Wat Arun

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Behold the rare picture of me that doesn’t look awful, though it’s not the best picture for two reasons: a) I’m only standing there because I was too tired/sore to go into the temple and/or walk up the surrounding stairs like Craig and Jackie did, and b) Wat Arun is famous for how it looks when lit up at night. It still looked stunning, though. Also, this is like the stray cat central of Bangkok, which is already teeming with street cats.

Figure 2.2 – …I like rocks, okay

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The next place we flew to was Krabi, where we’d booked a cheap (~US$25/pax) all-day boat tour. The tropical fish bit us while swimming, we went snorkeling (the water wasn’t too clear, though, and the tour guide neglected to warn our group of ~50 people about sea urchins–two women got very painfully, if not that dangerously, stung), and we caught a brilliant sunset followed by a fire-baton-twirling show. I should’ve taken more pictures.

Figure 2.3 – Again, the picture can’t do it justice.

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So to wrap up our trip to Thailand (again, I left a lot of details and photos out): it was the best ~US$370 I’ve ever spent (all expenses included, though we did get a promo price on flights to and from Singapore) for a three-day trip to Bangkok and Krabi. (The last day was just the morning flight.) If I could do it again, I’d probably branch out more: I’d visit a smaller city, stay in a hostel instead of a hotel (I’m spoiled because my sister works for a major hotel chain), and try more experiences (like elephant riding–though sources differ on the internet on how ethical these places are in making the elephants move/work, or whether they’re helping preserve or hurting the animals–and climbing or cave-exploring).

[1] Fewer people, not less, is grammatically correct, but dangit it sounds uglier

[2] Bangkok’s full ceremonial name is actually one of the longest place names in the world, translated as (thanks, Wikipedia): “City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s behest.” This actually captures its cultural image–or at least the one it wants to promote–pretty well.

[3] 80% of the country’s poor live in rural areas.

[4] If there’s a city that leaves an ashy taste in my mouth, it’s Las Vegas, which for some unknown reason I’ve been to at least four or five times. Funnily enough, Bangkok is touted as the Vegas of Asia. There are some beautiful parts of Las Vegas, and I treasure a lot of my memories of it, but it’s an unsustainable city that panders way too hard to its own image on The Strip, and collapses into chaparral weariness off of it.

[5] Note on the temples in Bangkok: Most of them are fairly close to each other, so it’s easy do a walkthrough around and call it a day. The Grand Palace is the main draw, but it’s also the most expensive temple grounds by far, with a 500 Baht (divide by 25 -> 20SGD) entry fee. If you go there, be prepared for swarms of fellow tourists. It kinda takes away from the ambience, but it’s still worth seeing. Head into the indoor museums included with your ticket to cool off in rare air conditioning, and in fact, just go to the temples early–the inner Grand Palace closes at 3, even though you can still walk around the surrounding grounds later (and for free).

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