Bangkok - Gateway to South East Asia
Bangkok Travel Blog› entry 1 of 19 › view all entries
Dear members of the Pathet Lao and viewers of the Patpong pingpong ball extravaganza,
So alas I bring myself to another continent! After talking to many backpackers on my past journeys, I decided to expand outside the box of Latin America, and Asia it is. Why you ask? Part of it is to check another continent off of the list, another is to appease my students. For when I tell them in World Studies class the I have traveled the globe, there are always a few hands raised that ask if I have been to Asia. I blush and reply "no," to which they reply, "well then you haven't really traveled the globe Mr. G." So take that students, now I will be able to check it off the list, and rub it in their face and act as one of their immature fellow peers, rather than the teacher.
So was, I prepared for Asia......No! Aside from a class on the Vietnam War in college, some knowledge of Muy Thai boxing, a little Buddhism, Hinduism, a strange infatuation with Communism, some war flicks, and of course some Kung Fu movies, I was semi clueless when compared to my past few excursions. However, I had an "Ace" card up my sleeve: the students. Those same little bastards that used to rip on me for not going to Asia were going to provide me with the inside information so the I could attempt to "fit in." I had visions that they would give me tips to help me with the languages, the alphabets, the dress, the food, shit.
A Thai student that is on my wrestling team advised: "Coach, just because she looks like a girl, does not really mean that she is a girl."
A Vietnamese student that is also on my team advised: "Coach, I talked to my family and they said something about a place Hoochi city or something."
Too which I replied, "Do you mean Ho Chi Minh City?"
"Yeah, maybe something like that, but they said it is good."
"That's it? Did you live there when you were younger?"
"I don't know, I dint know much, I was very sheltered as a child.
A Vietnamese student in girl in my Psychology class advised: "It is hot"
A Laotian/Hmong student in my class told me "My cousins wont kill you or anything for bombing their country, I promise."
Will Vo also advised me that there are a lot of prostitutes in South East Asia.
And with this encyclopedia of knowledge, I packed my bag, and was ready as I'd ever be to take on the Mekong river delta, an industrialized country (Thailand), two other nations that we (the USA) dropped more bombs on than the entirety of WWI and WWII COMBINED (Laos and Cambodia)! And the country that we fought a war against to stop the dreaded evil of "communism," despite the fact that 11 years after we left, their government declared "communism a failed experiment," and started to move towards market socialism in 1986 (Vietnam).
So it all started in Bangkok, as I met up with my mentor/coach Tony Evensen in order to understand the historical base of the region. In an obvious sign of East meets West, I quickly realized that Buddhism is the powerful cultural force in the region. It is similar to going to Europe and checking out all of the grand churches and Cathedrals. We went to many Wats (Wat = Buddhist temple). Then they had these "stuppa" things, which is kind of like a pillar/pyramid rising up to the heavens. Stuppas can be for a relic (a rib bone, an eyelash) of the Buddha or a grave for a king or something like that. All puns aside, I became Buddha'd/Wat'd/Stuppa'd out out as I saw.
So far the trip has included Japan Airlines...nice, the Japanese do it right, the Thai National Museum, the Ferries of Bangkok, some jet lag, the grand palace of Thailand, the backpacker ghetto/epcott center - Khao San Road, the pollution of Bangkok, a Thai Massage (save the jokes), Muy Thai Boxing, pad Thai, the Wat Pho, Jiu Jitsu in Bangkok, a tuk tuk ride, some rats, a Museum on the old ancient capital - Ayuthaya, a train delay, a bike rental, a tomb of an emperor - they actually let me go inside the tomb itself , a boat tour, some cool Dutch girls, Indian food, a water monitor, a bunch of rain, an industrial hostel, a cool Thai bartender, Thai iced coffee, the "sky train" of Bangkok, the mega mall culture of Thailand, a museum about the houses of Northern Thai/hillside people,another ferry ride, more Jiu Jitsu, a haircut, a few episodes of a bootlegged version of season 5 of "the wire," Durian fruit, the Damnoen Saduak floating market/tourist trap, the crazy neighborhood of Patpong, more tuk tuks, the crazier neighborhood of Soi Cowboy, a cool Irish guy,a national park called Khao Yai,
another Thai massage (again, hold the jokes), a suit fitting, some more rats, a debate to stay in Bangkok (Bangkok lost), a jungle hike with leeches - eeewwww!, some monkeys called "gibbons," an elephant hunt, Jack fruit, more cool Dutch girls and guys, the big name game, a weird Thai karaoke bar, an impromptu performance of Kool and the Gang hit song: "celebration" with the Dutch, Thai iced tea, a return to Bangkok, more weird fruit, the Chatuchak weekend market, a nice suit, a great bike tour of Chinatown :), a return to Khao San Road :( , a super tour of Bangkok, more pad Thai, and on to Luang Prabang, Laos.
The Thai Grand Palace was a site to see. Beautiful stuppas and wats all over the place. It reminded me of St. Basil's church in Red Square, Moscow, Russia. Ivan the terrible gouged out the eyes of the architects of St. Basil's so that they could never build anything as beautiful again. I put the Thai Grand Palace on that level, a wonder of the world. Luckily with the new way I am doing this you can actually see the pictures.