Archives for February 2013

48 Hours in Bangkok

Even with just 48 hours in Bangkok, I didn’t know what to expect before going. I heard mixed reviews of people either loving it or hating it. Wanting to move there or find the first flight out. We arrived late on Saturday night and were greeted with much welcomed humid air, smiling faces and a friendly cab driver who, though his stifled laughter, still couldn’t seem to get us to pronounce ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in Thai properly. We eventually got better with the ‘sa wat dee ka’ and ‘khaawp khoon ka’ with time. It was a warm welcome from the city I was so unsure of.
In this site seeing mecca, we hit the ground running the next morning and saw as much as we could in the short 48 hours in Bangkok. Here are my top picks of how to spend even a short time in this bustling concrete jungle.

Markets, markets, markets
One thing I love about visiting other countries is looking through the local markets. Buying or just looking are equally enjoyable as you peruse stall upon stall that would intimidate even the most experienced of shoppers. Filled with textiles, jewelry, bags, sculptures, knockoffs and more, you can find everything your traveling heart was hoping for. In Bangkok alone there are several to choose from, the most popular being the Floating Market and Chatuchak Weekend Market (known to the locals as ‘Che Che’ Market).
No worries though, there are ‘smaller’ markets hiding around every corner of this country and we saw our fair share. The picture taken below is from a market near Soi Rambuttri Street (an amazing bohemian, backpacking haven filled with eclectic restaurants and hostels). The market was several blocks long on either side and was shut off to cars and transportation during shop hours.
Soi Rambuttri Street market bangkok market
Feel the tranquility inside of one of the many temples
Similar to the markets, tourists can find several different temples without even meaning to. In order for us not to get ‘temple overload’ we picked three or four temples that we wanted to see and stuck with those. If you try for all of them, you can literally spend days visiting the 19 ‘well known’ ones in the Bangkok area. We decided to stick with The Marble Temple, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Even though we still wandered into several others as we were walking down the street.
Another one to check out is the Royal Palace. We didn’t exactly make it all the way into this one. There is a lady standing at the gate and her sole job is to tell everyone passing if they are appropriately dressed or not…while yelling through a megaphone. I was one of the lucky ones blasted for *gasp* wearing shorts. In any temple associated with the government, you must cover your shoulders and knees in order to enter. Don’t worry though, there are garments for rent with a small deposit that is returned when the garments are. After seeing the line to rent these said garments, we turned and walked right back out with the intention of coming another time which unfortunately didn’t happen.
marble temple bangkok temples
The Marble Temple
wat pho bangkok thailand
Wat Pho was definitely my favorite temple that we saw in Thailand. It is the largest temple in Bangkok and is home to a 46 meter long reclining Buddah. I realize it looks large in the picture but it’s nothing compared to seeing it in person. As soon as you walk into the room, your head automatically goes all the way back in order to take it all in.
wat pho bangkok thailand
Wat Pho
 wat pho bangkok thailand
wat arun, bangkok thailand
Wat Arun was another one I was very excited to see. We never made it across the river to go inside but the views from across the way were just as magnificent. When lit up at night, it’s especially beautiful.
Take a ride down the Chao Phraya River
This is one of the best ways to get from one end of the city to the other. You can either take a private long-tail boat taxi or opt for the cheaper way of traveling and hop on one of the many ferries that travel along the river. It’s also a great option to take a tour of the river around sunset and see the coastline come alive with lights as the guide tells you about history of the river and temples that line it.
Chao Phraya River bangkok thailand
Chao Phraya River bangkok thailand
Spend the night sipping cocktails and overlooking the city of Bangkok
from the Banyan Tree Hotel‘s rooftop restaurant and bar. While the cocktails are a bit high for the land of cheap eats and drinks (around $9 for the local beer and on up from there for mixed drinks and wine) the views of the city are well worth it. We decided to make a date out of it and enjoyed the views of the sprawling city below us mixed with the stillness that comes with being so far above it all.
 Banyan Tree Hotel's rooftop restaurant and bar bangkok thailand

We loved the city a lot more than we thought we would and would love to return someday. Even though we both agree that two to three days was enough for us to see and do all that we had hoped to. Any other suggestions on what to see in Bangkok?

The New Norm Part I

Sometimes living in a different country you forget that some of the very odd and different things around you are in fact…odd and different. I remember when my parents came to visit last November, they kept asking me why I never told them about some of the interesting things they were experiencing. I told them that after living here for even a short amount of time, everything around you seems ‘normal’. So here are a few things that when I first came to Korea seemed odd but now are overlooked.

Apartment Buildings

Clusters of large buildings that seem like city centers but are in fact large apartment complexes equipped with amenities such as movie theaters, playgrounds, spas and workout centers.

Water heaters

This is a picture of our water heater control. There is no central heat here so most apartments have heated water that runs under their floor to heat the place. Also if we want hot water to wash dishes (dish washers are also rare) or to take a shower, we have to turn this on and set it to what temperature we want.

Massive phone covers

This phone was actually almost half the size as the cover.

Produce section

Animal sounds playing in the meat section of the grocery store. One word, disturbing. I would really rather not hear the animal I am about to eat.

Child perms

This picture is actually a very mild perm on a little five year old but when he first got it done I didn’t even know it was the same student. It’s very common to see kindergarten students with dyed and permed hair.

Letter replacements in the language

R and L are the same, Z becomes a J sound which is especially confusing when your student says they want to see a jew instead of zoo…it eventually got straightened out. Also, there is no F sound so it turns to a P sound. So when I say I’m going to go make a copy and all the students think I’m going to get a cup of coffee. Or when the word ‘duck’ sounds a whole lot like ‘dog’. My student spent five minutes explaining that her favorite festival was the Duck Festival where they see duck fights (weird either way) and ate all different types of duck dishes. I looked horrified as I thought she was going on about a Dog Festival. You can understand my confusion when I live in a country where some actually do eat dog.

Pizza toppings

The things they put on their pizza confuse me. Like corn and stuffing sweet potato paste in the crust, oddly enough, I now love both of these things.

Outdoor bathrooms

This isn’t the case with all buildings but has been so for our church and our previous school. This is difficult in the summer or the winter since in the summer you’re swatting away hordes of mosquitos and in winter…well who wants to partially undress outdoors in winter and sit on a toilet where the water inside has already turned to ice.

Have you ever stepped back and realized some of the very ‘bizarre’ things about the culture you live in? For example, trying to explain the use of tanning beds in the states to kids who live in a country where most of their cosmetics have skin whitening ingredients. Poor kids were so confused.