I posted about the mess concerning my exit permit, which I ended up getting on time, thankfully. But, partly due to laziness (sorry guys!), I've been procrastinating a bit on posting about my lovely dream in Thailand.
Simply put: it was five jam-packed days, full of sight-seeing, photo ops and of course shopping. (Maybe too much shopping, seeing as I ran out of money several times.) We went to the cities of Bangkok and Pattaya, guided by Fatima, a lovely Thai girl who spoke perfect Indonesian without having ever been there.
Actually, it turns out Indonesians are a big source of tourism in other South East Asian countries. At one point we were in a souvenir market, and instead of trying to use English I just went ahead and did all my bargaining in Indonesian. I might not have gotten very good deals in the end, since I'm still a bit squeamish about haggling and I'm still just a white tourist. But at least I got to practice my host language in the most awesome way possible, in a foreign country with non-Indonesians!
Also I got to see the world famous temples, Wat Arun and Wat Pho. Wat Arun was across a river and we took a boat to get there, while Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) was housed in its own gorgeous building. Inside said building there was a long line of tin pots, and an equally long line of people dropping tiny coins into each one, filling the entire place with the sound of clinking. The money goes towards the local monastery, as monks depend on the generosity of others to survive.
|The souvenir market in Bangkok|
|Wat Arun, the temple which the market was close to - with stairs of death!|
|Wat Pho, where we stopped near some altars (that were outside) and ended |
up being randomly blessed by a monk
I had my first swim in the ocean in Pattaya, which is a fabulous and very touristy town about two hours away from Bangkok. I was a bit nervous, but everything was fine and it made me just a little sad that there's no good beaches close by in Surabaya (or in Boise). Being a beach party town, Pattaya had a TON of white tourists, mostly from Russia. It was surreal being surrounded by people who look like me, after four months of living in Indonesia.
In Pattaya there was also a floating market - the actual shops (most of them sold overpriced souvenirs and weren't much to look at, really) were on wooden foundations over the water but many of the food vendors operated out of boats like this one.
My Indonesian friends have been very fascinated by my pictures of the lady-boys, who were more beautiful than I will ever be. (Only slightly jealous). I'm pretty sure the ladies made more money by charging for pictures with tourists out front, than they do for actually being in the show.
But before that, we saw a Thai cultural show and got up close to some elephants. (Craaazy close actually, seeing as we were sitting on the same floor where elephants were coming in and out!) Later they had a show where the elephants rode bicycles, painted pictures, and played basketball. But my favorite part of all was getting to sit on the back of a baby elephant, and getting picked up by two adults. So awesome to get to interact with such beautiful and intelligent creatures.
Over the next few days (I'm a bit too scatterbrained right now to organize everything chronologically, sorry!) we visited a four-face Buddha monument where people were actually going about their daily practice of worship. Witnessing the influence of Buddhism in Thailand was one of the most fascinating parts of being there. Small altars in restaurants and stores abound; the dashboards of cars are festooned with small statues of Buddha while flower garlands hang from rear-view mirrors. The religion is just adapted into parts of daily life, just like Christianity in America and Islam in Indonesia.
I walked around the area of our hotel a bit, and saw a part of town crowded with tourists from the Middle East, India, and Africa. The busy streets, and the sound of so many languages being shouted out, was like heaven to me. It's part of the reason why I love Southeast Asia: life spills out into the street. Everything is bustling. There's a pulse all around, a strong vibe of purpose, and a sense of community that's just impossible to find anywhere near my home in suburban America.
We ate dinner and took a river tour of the greatest sights in Bangkok, including the king's palace and Wat Arun, lit up at night. It was a bit difficult to get good pictures seeing as my camera hates darkness, but the food was amazing and the views pretty spectacular.
We saw a laser Buddha carved into a mountain...
|Fatima and meeee|
... and took a stroll in Bangkok's famed red-light district. It was a lot cleaner than I expected. Like a normal night market, just with more night clubs and some risque things for sale in some of the stalls.
And when it was time to go home, Ronald in the airport sent us off Thai style. Also notable, I had Subway in that airport for the first time in forever and it was MAGICAL. It even had bacon. A fantastic end to an amazing getaway abroad.
I want to say, thank you so much to everyone who helped me get to Thailand, to those in-country who showed me hospitality, and to my host family for putting up with me for five days straight! And of course, to my American family for funding the trip. It's inspired me even more to chase my dream of travelling around the world, and I honestly can't wait to become like the numerous backpackers I saw there.