Category Archives: Thailand

And then…

Bangkok, Thailand

I debated on waking up at 5-6am to make it to the Amphawa Floating Market and to see the arrival/departure of the train at the Maeklong Railway Market. This particular floating market was supposed to be the best balance of liveliness and old world charm without it being overrun by tourists. And, apparently, it was open everyday. The nearby Maeklong Railway Market was something I had to see in person. It’s basically a bustling market through which a train, on schedule, seemingly barges in like a rhino stomping through tall grass. Upon arrival, all the vendors move their shit out of the way right when the train comes through. Then, while the train is just stationed there, they move their shit back out and sell in every nook and cranny of space that lies between them and the intrusion. Google image this.

But, I decided to sleep in.

It felt great to sleep in, except that I lazed about for too long before deciding to go anyway. There are minibuses that leave from Victory Monument, and I missed the 10am by 15 minutes. Go figure that the 11am arrived 30 minutes late.

Travel tip: You can take the BTS to Victory Monument but, since I was at a hostel near Khaosan Road where there are no BTS stops, I just took a cab. According to this travel blog, though, if you end up taking the BTS, take exit 4 when you leave the station. There are quite a few kiosks/tables on the ground level selling minibus tickets, and most of them should have signs declaring their destinations. If not, you can always ask “Amphawa” and they’ll point you to the correct table. The ones going to Damnoen Saduak, Maeklong and Amphawa were next to some movie theater/shopping plaza. The one way ticket price was ฿80. Also, try to bring exact change. They’ll claim to have no change but, really, they don’t want the big bills and, once the minibus arrives, go quickly and grab your seat. It becomes a every-man-for-himself situation and you could end up with a sucky middle seat or maybe even no seat at all. I have no idea how they organize these things.

The ride there took about 1.5 hr. We first made random stops for some locals on the bus, then stopped at the Maeklong Railway Market. It looked deserted. “I’m so glad I slept in,” I thought to myself. The next stop was supposed to be the Amphawa Floating Market but, after a few of us asked about it, the driver decided to tell us NOW that the market was only open on weekends (Fri-Sun). Why couldn’t the ticket lady tell me this before? I had a feeling I was ripped off. Luckily, the next and last stop was the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, which is the most popular but, the biggest tourist trap of a market. The driver told me to go there instead.

By the time we arrived, it had begun to downpour. For a good hour. A bunch of us stalled on the boat ride, waiting for the rain to subside. I’m so glad it took awhile, though, because it gave us time to Google things. We later realized that this particular stop wasn’t the main entrance to the market but, one of the entrances where a boat operator tries to rip you off with an overpriced ride. It was pretty obvious that the driver had a deal with this operator. He had called them up in advance and, as soon as the bus door opened, these girls in blue t-shirts began hounding us with “deals.” I had a feeling that way too many tourists fell into this trap, thinking that this was the only entrance and the only boat operator going into the market. With the intent to spend only ฿500 today, I walked away from the lady after she tried to sell me an hour boat ride for ฿1000. With the rain falling down hard, I contemplated just getting a bus back to Bangkok, and I probably should’ve. The lady then told me she could call up the bus driver for me and go back for ฿150, almost double the price of getting here.

These 2 Chinese girls from my bus weren’t caving in. The blue t-shirt lady then gathered the 3 of us and whispered that if we went together, she’d offer a price that she only offered to locals – ฿400 per person. We were the only Asian tourists on the bus. Given the rain, the girls decided to “wait” then went off to a corner to Google prices. Something didn’t seem right. This is when we found out that the main entrance was a 15 min walk away. The 3 of us, now bonded, opened our umbrellas and began to walk in that direction. The blue t-shirt lady shouted behind us, “They’re going to sell you a boat ride for maybe ฿200 but it won’t be a full hour! Or a nice motorboat!” Ha, so she knew.

So, here we were. Three girls walking along the curb of a main road in a torrential downpour. Out of nowhere, a motorbike tried to squeeze in whatever space there was between me and one of the 2 girls. The rearview mirror slammed into my side without warning, not even a shout or a honk. He had one hand on an umbrella and one hand on steering, barely keeping his balance. He also had the entire road to the right of us to drive, but didn’t seem to give one shit to do so.

Finally, a local bus slowed down beside us and told us that he was heading in our direction and could drop us off at the market. Only ฿7 per person. We closed our umbrellas and hopped in. We then looked at each other and burst out laughing. Was all this really happening?

At the main entrance, we managed to get a 30-40 min rowboat for ฿150 per person (almost 1/10th of the original price stated at the other entrance) and, that’s all we needed. There is absolutely no need for a motorboat. And, as we were rowing through, we saw that 85% of the market was closed anyway. Yup. Luckily, one of the Chinese girls was a take-no-shit bargainer and happily took control of lowering all prices, even the price of cheap plastic ponchos to wear during the ride. By then, the rain slowed down to a drizzle. In the end, the only thing we managed to purchase was boat-side pad thai and chicken satay skewers.

Back at the entrance, we asked the boat vendor to call the bus for us and they gladly did. Only ฿100. It was 3pm. The traffic back was incredibly horrible, though, and we made it back to Victory Monument by 5:30pm. Catching a cab was nearly impossible and inner city traffic was almost at a standstill. An Uber canceled on me, also.

Finally, a cab shows up, but a mom and a daughter had already been waiting for one. In an attempt to share the cab, I asked if they were going near Khaosan Road. “Huh?” “Khaosan Road.” Confused look. “Khaosan Road.” They didn’t understand me. So, they just got in the cab and drove off but, with traffic so bad, they only made it down a few feet within the next 5-10 min. Suddenly, I heard a shout and I turned around to see the daughter gesturing to me through an open window. “Khaosan?” she asked. “YESSS!” They motioned for me to get in. I got the feeling that they talked to the driver and collectively figured out where I was trying to go. Then, they tried to teach me to properly pronounce “Khaosan.” It sounded the same to me.

I get to my hostel by 6:30pm and ordered an Uber, heart pounding. I knew traffic was bad but, there really is no reliable public transportation going to the Don Mueang International Airport (DMK). I get there by 7:45pm and check-in had officially closed. I missed my 8pm flight and the next one was in the morning. To add salt to the wound, the nice airport hotel was fully booked. The receptionist offered a free ride to a nearby hotel.

“Is it nice?”
“No, but it’s the next closest hotel.”

Island walking adventures

Koh Tao, Thailand

Because I’m cheap, I decided to walk everywhere, even it meant 2 hours in my $5 bootleg Havaianas. It was great at first, because the first half hour or so was along the boardwalk from Sairee Beach to Mae Haad Pier. Then I was walking on straight up roads going further down the island, trying not to get hit by a passing motorbike. I’ve never ridden a motorbike by myself before and right when I contemplated renting one and taking a stab at it, one motorbike with 2 girls toppled over and skidded right next to me. One of them ended up with a huge bleeding scrape from knee to ankle. Nevermind. I can handle my bootleg flip flop-induced blister.

So, my destination of the day was the John-Suwan Viewpoint which I mapped out on Google Maps. It ultimately led me to the middle of a road with nothing but a yoga/diving studio and food stands. Scratch head. I looked up at the hill behind the studio. Am I supposed to climb that? It looks like private property, though. Scratch head some more.

Luckily, the owner of the yoga/diving studio, Ocean Sound Dive & Yoga, was an English speaker who had lived there for 16 years. I was told to keep walking down the road until I eventually walked uphill and saw signs for Freedom Beach Resort/Taatoh Resort. When I reached the entrance to the resort, I walked even further until I saw a sign for the 2 beaches, stating that no food or drink was allowed past that point. A little further and to the left of that was:

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Entrance fee was ฿50 (less than USD 2). Ten minutes and somewhat of a climb later (a bit tricky with flip flops which I ended up just taking off)…

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A little peeky peeky

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So worth the 1 hr 30-45 min walk from Sairee Beach. I sat up here and contemplated life until I was swimming in perspiration and needed to jump in the water STAT. Probably about 10 min.

I made it back down to Freedom Beach. It was a lot more peaceful and secluded than Sairee Beach. The bar/restaurant on the beach served an amazing green curry with chicken and freshly pressed mango juice.

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Not too far from Freedom Beach was the Chalok Baan Kao Bay, probably my favorite spot on this side of the island.

Destination for the next day: Sai Nuan Beach. After Googling how to get here, I came across this Koh Tao guide. My options included taking a taxi or boat taxi, renting a motorbike or, the one I ultimately chose. Taking my two legs. Sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself.

It took me about an hour to reach the entrance to Charm Churee Villa. I started out at Sairee Beach, made it along the boardwalk to Mae Haad Pier, then walked along the road to Koh Tao Royal Resort, walked past its entrance to a path behind the information desk/restaurant, eventually reaching Sensi Paradise Resort and kept walking along the path to Charm Churee Villa. You basically walk through all these resorts to get to the neighboring one.

Since Charm Churee Villa is a private resort that technically has rights to the beach, you need to pay an entrance fee of ฿200 (less than USD 6) if you’re an outside visitor. Pay at the Elvis Bar.

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The first beach you’ll reach is Jansom Bay, which is right by the Elvis Bar. Most of the resort guests seemed to be hanging out here.

To get to Sai Nuan Beach, you have to follow the signs past this one and walk another 15 or so minutes. You’ll know you’re making progress when you see signs along the way stating “400m more,” “300m more,” etc. At this point, you’re walking on a wooden plank path past people’s private bungalows and feeling a little bit bad about yourself for being in a hostel.

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Because of the intermittent sun and majority cloudiness, the beach wasn’t as spectacular as I had seen in photos. But, it was super secluded and super relaxing. There were only a few people hanging out here and snorkeling around. There was also a giant swing hanging on a nearby tree.

The Koh Tao guide mentioned that there were 2 parts to this beach – Sai Nuan 1 and Sai Nuan 2. Out of curiosity, I wanted to check out the other part but didn’t know how to get there. This beach had large boulders on each side and didn’t seem to invite the idea of having a second part. I asked some sunbathers and they had no idea what I was talking about. So, I decided to climb some boulders along the shore to see if there was something else beyond that. These boulders were embedded with hundreds of old shells and barnacles. I almost slipped on a slimy patch and scared away the crabs. Once I realized I had cut myself on a shell, I decided to give up my detective duties in the name of safety and just freakin’ relax on the beach like the rest of the tourists.

I ended the day with a ฿400 (about USD 11) Thai massage back at Sairee Beach and even impressed the masseuse with my flexibility while she was contorting my body into a pretzel and beating me down like I was dough.

Travel tip: If you’ve been backpacking, Thailand is a great place to get your laundry done for a cheap price. And for lunch or dinner, I recommend checking out 995 Roasted Duck. Go for the spicy noodle soup with roasted duck on top. You even get to choose your noodle (rice, egg, vermicelli).

Destination for my last day: Shark Bay but, really, Tanote Bay. Let me explain the “but really.” So, I read that if I had lunch at Blue Heaven Resort (which was recommended), I would pretty much have access to their privately owned Shark Bay where I could snorkel out and see blacktip reef sharks. And, so, per usual, I walked while following Google Maps. This time, I really wish I had just taken a taxi.

The roads I was walking along had a lot of traffic going through, including both motorbikes and pickup trucks. I started feeling dubious after passing 2 dirt roads under construction where I could’ve easily gotten hit. Then, I knew something was off when I still hadn’t reached my destination by a certain time and started walking some extreme uphills in my flip flops then an extreme downhill on loose dirt and gravel. Another road under construction. Then it began to rain. Clarity came when I saw a sign for Tanote Bay and my blue dot suddenly jumped up way north of my intended destination.

Tired and hungry, I settled for Tanote Bay. It stopped raining and I was able to rent snorkel gear for ฿50 (with a ฿1000 deposit) and swim out towards the large boulder protruding out of the water. Schools of awesome fish and guess what? A blacktip reef shark.

After an hour, I decided to head back and, as I was backtracking, I HAD to figure out where I went wrong. About 30 minutes of backtracking later, I found a dirt road to the side with a broken, bent over sign. When I lifted it, it said “Blue Heaven Resort, only 200m.”

Never say never

Koh Tao, Thailand

After waking up at 5am in Bangkok to checkin a half hour later at the bus/ferry ticket office, then waiting another half hour for the bus to arrive, then falling asleep in a freezer box they call a bus for about 7 hours, I found myself here…

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…boarding a ferry at Chumphon to get to Koh Tao. Why didn’t I just take a flight to Koh Samui, then a ferry to Koh Tao? Well, sometimes time isn’t worth a cost that is 3-4x more. So, I booked my roundtrip tickets online for ฿2200 (about USD 62) with Lomprayah. An overnight bus/ferry combo was also available but, I opted for the asscrack of dawn departure option since it seemed less miserable.

Travel tip: The Lomprayah office is located in the Khaosan Road area and opens at 5:30am. I got there by opening time to checkin for the 6am bus and redeem my email confirmation for an actual ticket (side note: I was able to show the email confirmation on my phone; no printout needed). There was already a short line of people waiting. They gave me my roundtrip ticket, luggage tag specifying my destination (Koh Tao, Koh Samui, etc), and a sticker for my shirt indicating which bus to get on and seat number. After tickets were issued, we waited around in front of the office and witnessed a drunken fight between an English-speaking couple and what appeared to be a group of locals. Next thing I knew, 30 min passed and we were walking to  the nearby roundabout where the buses were parked. I stayed at the nearby Suneta Hostel Khaosan so that I could literally roll out of bed and make it to the ticket office in 5 minutes. When we arrived in Chumphon, the ferry was already there waiting for us. (I also recommend Once Again Hostel if you’re just staying in Bangkok.)

About 2 hr later, we were approaching the pier at Koh Tao. After disembarking, I headed over to the nearby Roctopus Dive booking office to catch their free taxi service to their main office by Sairee Beach. My hostel was also nearby their main office so, that worked out quite nicely.

Travel tip: If you pre-purchased a roundtrip ticket, then on your way back, head over to the Lomprayah ticket window by the pier and switch your pink slip (given to you in Bangkok or your place of origin) for an actual ticket, luggage tag, and sticker stating your destination to put on your shirt.

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There was a time when I said I would never stay close to home for college and I ended up doing just that. I also said I would never go to business school. I specifically ended up in one. Then I said I would never work for my last 2 companies and I did. I said I would never bungy jump. Did that, too. Then, I said I’d never scuba dive…

And, I somehow found myself booked to get my SSI (alternative to PADI) diving certification as an open water diver at Roctopus Dive. So, never say never, unless you really want it to happen at that time, then you’ll say “never” deliberately and it will end up not happening after all.

Why did I even say “never” to scuba diving? While swimming in the open ocean is fine with me, the thought of diving in and having that much water above you as you rely on an oxygen tank for life seemed frightening. I’ve conquered most of that fear. (Yay me!)

So, as soon as I arrived at the main office, I started with a half day of introduction. Books were given out for required reading and homework to do, and you know what I did? I dove right in. #dadjoke

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I ended the day super excited.

Hostel tip: I stayed at Good Dream Hostel which was really clean and safe but, while everything is pretty much walking distance around Sairee Beach, this hostel still felt a bit secluded. Some people felt weirded out walking through a dark street at night to get back and ended up forfeiting their money here and booking a bed at this brand new hostel smack in the middle of all the shops and nightlife, Indie Hostel. Again, Good Dream was safe and clean so, if you prefer more peace and quiet, you’ll definitely like it here.

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Day 1: We spent 2 hr on theory then headed out to the pier after lunch to board one of their boats. Onwards to the Japanese Gardens off of Koh Nangyuan for our first confined dive. Forget learning in a swimming pool. This was the real deal.

Now, I’m going to get very detailed with the steps for my own benefit. I’m a subscriber to rote memorization.

  1. Check the tank – date of last check, O-ring is intact, smell the air coming out of it.
  2. Secure BCD (buoyancy control device) onto the tank.
  3. Attach the regulator and, before turning on the air, breathe into each mouthpiece to make sure you can’t breathe in or out/check for leaks. Also check that the mouthpiece isn’t ripping where you bite down with your teeth.
  4. Make sure the gauge is tucked into the BCD, then turn on your tank all the way while holding onto the purge button on the mouthpiece.
  5. Check gauge for level of air (180-200 bar).
  6. Breathe into each mouthpiece in and out quickly for 4 times while checking that the gauge arrow isn’t moving.
  7. Inflate BCD and deflate after making sure there are no leaks.
  8. Orally inflate the BCD then deflate with the nozzle.

Finally, BWRAF. Bangkok Women Really Are Fellas. Great mnemonic, eh? It really stands for:

BCD – Inflate/deflate.
Weights – It’s placed evenly on your hip.
Release Straps – Make sure all straps are tightened, with air tank secure in BCD.
Air – Check main mouthpiece at the same time your buddy checks your spare.
Final Check

The instructor tried teaching us some other water entries, one involving a forward roll and also known as the James Bond roll. I, instead, ended up doing a rotated belly flop, the impact of which reddened my thighs. It was funny to all but me.

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As we swam towards the shallow end, my instructor warned us to watch out for the Koreans, not realizing that I’m of Korean background. So, I asked why.

“They will swim into and over you and not give a shit.”
“How do you know they’re Koreans?”
“Well, other Asians, too…”

Lo and behold, a Chinese snorkeler rammed into us during our skill training. On top of that, HE seemed annoyed that we were in HIS way even though we were there first AND it was easier for him to see us then us him. Gave absolutely zero fucks.

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Skill training involved 7 skills:

  1. Taking out mouthpiece and putting it back in, subsequently using the purge button or breathing out of the mouthpiece before continuing to breathe.
  2. “Losing” your mouthpiece then trying to find it by circling around your right arm while feeling for the mouthpiece with your left or lifting your BCD with your left arm and reaching back to the top of your tank with your right.
  3. Filling up your mask halfway with water by squeezing in the temples, then emptying it out by lowering your head then tilting it back as you press down the bridge of the mask with 2 fingers and blow out through your nose.
  4. Filling up your mask all the way and repeating the process.
  5. Taking off your mask, putting it back on and repeating the process.
  6. Taking off and putting back on your weight belt, then your BCD.
  7. Acting out the scenario where you signal being out of air then using your buddy’s spare mouthpiece.

Day 2: 12m dive (x2)
Day 3: 18m dive (x2) & Certification!

I chatted up an Aussie on the boat in between dives.

Aussie: “Are you Canadian?”
Me: “No! American. Are you a Kiwi?”
Aussie: “No, Aussie. Touché.”

I celebrated my certification with day drinking and roadside pad thai, then bumped into 2 hostel mates, Grace and Fran, and continued with more day drinking and eating beachside. Grace was close to convincing me into getting a tattoo using bamboo. But not close enough.

Read this for Donna

I’ve been to enough nice hostels to make me forget that I’m even budget traveling. But, then, I booked a day trip through Viator that offered pickups only at major hotels, one of which I had to take a cab to at 6:30am. Upon hearing that I needed to get to the Royal Orchid Sheraton, the cab driver turned off his meter and jacked the price up to a fixed ‎฿300 (from Khaosan Road). I said no, then hailed another cab. Same ordeal. By then, I was running late and just reluctantly agreed. My “I’m only going there because I need to meet someone. It’s not my hotel,” was met by deaf ears. I should’ve tried Uber.

Ayutthaya, Thailand

The tour guide had a Thai name that escaped everyone’s ears and tongues so, she ended her introduction with “But, just call me Donna.” Although she had a very Simon says approach to guiding and constantly spoke in the third person (“Everybody listen to Donna,” “Just follow Donna,” etc.), she was very friendly and thoroughly told us the history of each stop, the first one being Bang Pa-In Royal Palace (aka Summer Palace). The drive to the palace from Bangkok was a little over an hour, a lucky occurrence. Traffic can get really bad which is why the tour started so early.

We first encountered a pavilion in the middle of a pond. “Everyone gather around Donna.” And, so, we did. Apparently, she’s a turtle whisperer because after yelling “Peter” out to the pond for a good 5-10 minutes, a turtle came by who she claimed was her son. “Mama’s here, Peter!” Then came the kissy noises. She called out to Peter so many times in this very specific monotonous way that it still resonates in my head in a very haunting manner.

A little further into the tour, “Watch Donna.” She called out some more names and two dogs came rushing out as she reached into her bag and brought out treats. I guess she’s been in this business for quite awhile.

By the entrance to the palace, there was a kiosk where you could rent golf carts to drive around the premises. It was encouraged for those who couldn’t take the midday heat. My first thought went to my last visit to Disney World in Orlando when I saw a bunch of obese people driving smaller but similar vehicles around the park, with a jumbo soda in the cup holder and a giant turkey leg in their non-driving hand. After an hour had passed in the park, though, I understood why someone would want to rent one. My body became a rainforest ecosystem.

Less than an hour away was our second stop, Wat Maha That (Temple of the Great Relic), a Buddhist temple left in ruins after Ayutthaya, the former capital of Siam, was invaded by the Burmese in 1767. Many of the heads of Buddha statues were knocked off.

Monks in assorted colors.

A banyan tree engulfed a Buddha head over time and no one seems to know how it happened. One theory was that someone tried to save the Buddha head and bury it or, someone tried to steal it and hide it. Either way, it was forgotten about until a banyan tree grew and made it modern day famous.

An even closer drive away was Wat Phra Si Sanphet, the holiest temple of the old royal grounds where no monks were allowed to live. The large gold-gilded Buddha that resided here was destroyed and the gold melted down during the Burmese invasion. Spot the tiny gold Buddha above.

Next door is Wat Mongkhon Bophit, a temple housing a large bronze-gilded Buddha.

The tour ended with a nice boat cruise on the Chao Phraya River back to Bangkok where they served an actually decent and tasty Thai buffet lunch. I bonded with a cool couple from Kentucky, and we all shared a table with another American but weird couple. The wife talked to us girls with an air of “keep away from my husband,” though I didn’t see why she’d think he was a girl magnet anyway. He claimed he could read minds. I hope he couldn’t read mine through the smile plastered on my face.

Wat pho? You mean pad thai.

My first trip to Thailand back in the late 90s is probably what triggered my Ayn Rand, nonconformist, cynicism phase. At least I went through it in a lesser conformist way – no jet-blackening of my already black hair; no black vinyl platform shoes; no black makeup, chains or stretching of my earlobes with big cylindrical tube earrings; no Marilyn Manson. I just became more holed up and passive aggressive, counting down the days when I could get out of this borough by way of going to college.

What was my first trip to Thailand? A missionary trip with the church I grew up with. This is probably when I also started to question Christianity, although I grew more “Christian” before I ultimately had a change of heart and just became “spiritual.” I’ll admit that I went more to hang out with my friends than to evangelize, even if it involved going into the mountainside, sleeping on wooden floors in air thick with moisture and flies that, after spraying bug spray, I’d find the bottom of my socks completely covered with them after walking to the door. I mean, I was 13 after all.

But, some things just didn’t add up. Here I was, my Christian teenage self coming from a middle class family and still not really happy, but trying to do prayers for people who’ve lived in rural poverty their entire lives and who were still ecstatic with life. Religion made them happier than it made me and, either I was doing something wrong or, it was just not for me. The idea of being born sinful and having to ask for forgiveness for the rest of my life was not my idea of God. How does that promote “free will?” I always felt the need to fill myself into a mold. But, something had always come in and stripped that mold out from around me.

And then there was the part where I caught the flu. Being teenagers, the girls and guys wanted to hang out together and sleep in the same room. When one of the chaperones came in to check on my fever, she saw all of us together and kicked out the guys. Who did they blame? Me. After that, I was pretty much ostracized…and still with the flu. And, thus, began my “fuck you” phase.

I no longer associate Thailand with that past.

Bangkok, Thailand

First stop: Grand Palace & Temple of the Emerald Buddha (aka Wat Phra Kaew). After paying for my ticket and going through the turnstile, I walked into this. Sensory overload. Structures everywhere covered in colors and gold, and just packed with tourists.

Travel tip: There is a dress code – no shorts or tank tops allowed. You need to make sure your legs and shoulders are covered. I think even guys needed to cover up to below the knees. You know those elephant pants that you see in every stand in every Asian and African country? I caved and bought a pair in Nepal. I wished I had brought it with me to wear over my shorts. It’s cheap and an easy thing to carry in your bag since it’s light and easy to roll up. The waist is also an elastic band and totally wearable over things. It’s a good idea just to keep it with you if you plan on visiting any temple around Asia. That, and a pashmina or scarf. Luckily, the palace offered short-sleeved shirts and sarongs for a deposit. I just had to stand in a long line to get it.

Given that this used to be the residence of the kings of Siam in the late 1700s, it’s no wonder how extravagant and ostentatious everything is. No patch of wall or column was left without some sort of detail. Photos of the Emerald Buddha were not allowed. (It was much, much smaller than expected, by the way.)

Even the murals had hints of gold. “Hints” is actually an understatement.

On the way out was the Chakri Maha Prasat, a hall built in the late 1800s by King Rama V who wanted to have a more modern, Western look. It was originally designed and constructed by English architects but, as it proved to be too Western for his court, he was urged to place a Thai-style roof on top.

And, just a short walk away…

Second stop: Wat Pho or, Temple of the Reclining Buddha as you can see above.

I must say, after seeing Buddha statues in Nepal, China, Mongolia, and Thailand, this was by far the most interesting one and deserves to be listed in Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist.

You’d need a very large feather to tickle these babies.

Phra Chedi Rai, a cluster of chedis (stupas), some of which contain the ashes of members of the royal family.

You’re a Buddha; you’re a Buddha; you’re a Buddha. Evvvverybody’s Buddhaaaaaa.

Inside the main hall, Phra Ubosot.

Third stop: Chatuchak Weekend Market. I tried to be cheap and take the local bus to the BTS train, then the train to the market (a short walk from Mo Chit station on the Sukhumvit Line; take exit #1) but, the bus just wasn’t showing up. So, I took a cab. But, there was so much traffic, he said he would just drive me to the train station. (Btw, try to have small change for the train. The machine only accepts coins. If not, you could always go to the person behind the window and ask for change.)

Usually when I hit up markets, they’ll only be a handful of stands selling actual worthwhile stuff. But, this market is the bomb diggity. It’s HUGE. You could easily spend a few hours here. Cute clothes, bags, souvenirs. Heck, you could even buy a candle if you wanted to. And, if you get hungry, there are plenty of stalls selling food. After an hour, though, I hit up most of the main parts and felt exhausted already.

Travel tip: From the airport, you can take the airport rail to Phaya Thai station to get into the city. Since I was staying in a hostel in the Khaosan Road area, I had to grab a taxi (or you could negotiate a tuk tuk) from there. The train doesn’t reach that area and my only other option really would’ve been to take local buses. Once you walk out of the station, there’s a taxi stand below. Walk over to the table and the dispatcher will sort you out. And, for pad thai, Thip Samai was listed as the #1 place and it totally deserves its spot. There usually is a long line but, given that they have wok stations both inside and outside, it goes by really quickly. I could’ve watched the cooks churn out plates of pad thai alllll day. Also make sure to get their orange juice, preferably large. The tastiest orange juice I’ve ever had in my life.