I spent the first part of reading week in Thailand, to escape the foggy gloom in Hong Kong. My travels did not get off to a great start, as my digital camera decided to crap out on me the night before we were supposed to leave. I couldn’t quite accept the fact that I was going to be camera-less in Thailand for five days, so at the airport, I spontaneously bought a new camera (it wasn’t that spontaneous; I had done some quick market research on Canon point-and-shoots beforehand). I love my new camera! It’s loads better than my old one. Don’t ever buy Kodak cameras. Ever. But I digress.
We met up with one of our tour guides at the airport, and set off for Bangkok International Airport. The flight was very enjoyable, and I highly recommend China Airlines. For a two-hour flight, we were provided with all the food and amenities you would expect on an overseas trip.
Once we landed, we met up with our other tour guide, who is actually Thai and speaks fluent Chinese. Our tour guides were very nice and always translated everything in Mandarin for us, since most of us couldn’t understand Cantonese. We then shuffled onto our coach bus and were whisked to Pattaya, a beach town about an hour drive from Bangkok.
It was hot as all hell, but thankfully we had some mild air conditioning on our bus. We were a group of 12, and probably annoyed the other people on our tour by being loud, obnoxious, and late many times.
Our first destination was a Zoo (?). It didn’t have many animals, and I thought the exhibitions were rather gimmicky. The one thing we learned off the bat was that if you wanted to take photos, you need to pay up. The highlight of the day was definitely the tranny show. It was quite the feast for your eyes. However, the elaborate costumes and sets didn’t make up for the lack of showmanship by the performers. Most of the scenes consisted of people coming on stage to poorly lip-synch, wave their arms around, give a few twirls, and then exit.
Little did we know, that night as we ate our first dinner in Thailand, it would probably be our best meal over the next few days. We did a little street shopping before retiring to our hotel for the night. Shopping in Thailand is relatively a lot cheaper than even Hong Kong, and some people even swear the quality is better. I ended up not buying much, but that was mostly due to my guilt from dropping nearly HK$2000 on the camera.
Day 2 was what I was looking forward to the most – hitting the beach! We rode a speedboat to this sketchy-looking platform thingy floating in the middle of the ocean. It was the place where you could go parasailing. The concept’s a bit scary but it’s actually really cool and you feel safe. This was definitely my favourite part of the trip.
We then continued on the speedboat to an island that had a beach with beautiful waters, and participated in some water activities. We rode a banana boat (inflatable pillar that’s dragged by a jetski), shopped at the markets, and just chilled in the water/on the sand.
In the afternoon we went for a 1-hour Thai massage. For a “western” massage, you get kneaded and pressed. A Thai massage is almost like visiting your chiropractor. They stretch, crack, and flex you. I didn’t feel much different afterwards, but the people who paid for the full 2-hour massage claim it was positively orgasmic.
On Day 3, we were on the road back to Bangkok. Along the way we visited a lot of shops – honey, snacks, leather, jewelry. We felt they were a huge waste of time, and nobody really bought anything. We stopped by a place to see a monkey show (it was rather sad to see how they treated the monkeys), ride a horse-drawn carriage, and ride an elephant.
For dinner, we were each issued a 200 baht voucher (1 Canadian dollar equals approximately 30 Thai baht), and released into the food court at CentralWorld mall. I used exactly 200 baht to get a pad thai, gyoza, beef ball skewers, Thai iced tea, dessert, and a fruit shake. Unfortunately we were rushed, and I probably only finished about 80% of my food.
We visited the Suan Lum night bazaar where I bought a few trinkets, and then checked into our hotel. Our tour didn’t include the Grand Palace or any temples in Bangkok, which was ridiculous, so the next day, we broke off from our tour group and explored Bangkok ourselves. Transportation was rather tricky, but thanks to good planning, nothing ill befell us. First, we hopped on a ferry to get to the Grand Palace. Many people were commuting to work on the boat, so it was jammed full by the time it reached us. We somehow managed to cram all 12 of us in, and I hypothetically questioned how something like this would fly in Canada.
We made our way to the Grand Palace by asking random locals for directions, and made it just in time before the ticket booth closed.
The weather finally fatigued us, so we went to the city centre, where there were malls with air conditioning. After grabbing food at a local market, we took the ferry and BTS (Thailand’s subway system) to MBK mall. The mall wasn’t that impressive… it was catered to young people, so it was squished like P-Mall and didn’t have all the lavish shops. The highlight was probably getting free Thai iced tea from the food court, for being a foreigner.
We reunited with our tour group at the Siam Paragon (a very nice mall; shame we didn’t have time to wander around). That night, we went out for dinner at this mall called… The Mall. Seriously. For dessert, we decided to try some roti. We gathered to watch the guy make them at the counter, and he did all these crazy spinning/throwing/catching tricks with the dough. He did mess up a few times. Mine was naihua + banana + egg + chocolate. OH EMM GEEEEE it was so good.
The next day was mostly spent packing up and saying goodbye to Thailand. We were at the airport by noon, had very expensive lunches, and arrived back in Hong Kong around 6pm (Thailand is one hour behind HK). My point of stupidness was when I forgot to pack my aerosol sunscreen in my check-in luggage, and so they confiscated it at security. RIP, pricey sunscreen :(
The trip was a lot of fun, but at times I did feel myself missing the comforts of Hong Kong (ie. English, MTR…). I’m looking forward to more adventures in South-East Asia in April/May when a handful of Waterloo people are coming to visit!