So as I approach my third time leaving for what I anticipate to be a year or more, I take some time to reflect back on the first major trip I took overseas on my own for three months. Here is my journal from that first day….
It was time to go and I was cutting it fine as usual. I finished chatting to Matt and with an overwhelming sadness about not getting to see him as much over the next two months, then set in sheer panic when I saw my clock! 8:57pm! My train leaves in 5 minutes and I haven’t even left the house yet! Sheel threw my bag in the car and we hightailed it through the back roads to the train station, where I barreled out of the car and started sprinting to the platform. The sign said one minute to go and I could hear it coming as I selected my fare on the ticket machine. Shit, shit shit! The ticket hadn’t printed yet and the doors of the train are opening and then there it is. I ripped it out of the machine and scanned it! Hurry up change. It clattered out and I grabbed a handful of it, leaving some smaller coins in the coin return and I raced to the doors, sliding in just in time for the doors to shut, and for the train to glide slowly away from the station.
What a great start to the trip. It is the way that I always do it. I think that in a way, if I am later for everything and constantly rushing, I don’t have time to sit back and take stock of how seriously petrified I am. I mean seriously, what the hell am I doing? I am headed off to go and visit several different countries in the middle of Asia, hardly a safe region, on my own, for seven whole weeks!
Mum called about 4 times between the train journey and my eventually boarding the plane. She is also total stressed. As I am boarding, I noticed how striking the Malaysian air hostesses are. Their uniforms are amazing and so oriental. Their dresses are made of green and fuchsia pinks and purples and goes the entire length of the floor. Their make up is always done exquisitely and their hair too. They looked very elegant, and amazingly beautiful. I sat in my aisle seat on the plane and conked out straight away.
Touchdown in Kuala Lumpur. Met Sylvia on the plane and we walked together to try and find our next gates. She was heading to Hong Kong so we soon went on our separate ways. I caught the air train to gate G8 and stood at the security screening for about 20 minutes waiting for it to open. Got on board the flight to Bangkok and had to sit next to this guy who thought so highly of himself that I am sure he was disappointed not to be first class. He certainly behaved that way for the entire duration of the flight. Putting his Louis Vouiton bag on the seat between us as opposed to on the floor where it should have been, acting like a diva over a language barrier between him and one of the Indian air hosts. He was just rude. I was just awkward.
Then came the moment that I feared the most. Landed in Thailand. Immigration and customs. I got off the plane and stood in a line behind a young girl who was fighting with her parents and refused to speak to them. I got through and they stamped my passport fine. From here it was to pick up the luggage. I located it on the turnstiles and then I checked through it so that I knew it hadn’t been tampered with. I got to the screening section and looked for the sign that said nothing to declare. I went to put my bag on the x ray machine but the lady just waved me on through. Tight security hey? What security is what I want to know?! Wow that was easy!
I found my name on the sign at the airport. The lady wheeled my luggage out on the trolley and loaded me into a classy black car that drove me through Bangkok on the way to the Royal Hotel. In a way it reminded me of Vanuatu. It is very run down and tropical looking. There were people who lived in wooden shacks built on the side of the road and children running around all over the place. There is a great deal of traffic on the road and the driving is completely erratic. People drive like maniacs cutting each other off. I am surprised that there aren’t more crashes, but then I guess that the drivers over here are used to it.
There are pictures of the king everywhere. I wondered whether this is because it is what the people want or if it is because the king has imposed himself on the people. There are nice buildings everywhere. Especially the temples. There are run down shacks and poor people living next to these exquisite buildings everywhere that you look. It is too surreal for words. The extremes between rich and poor, and I am only scraping the surface of it.
I got to the Royal Hotel on Ratchadamnoen Avenue and checked in. After a nice hot shower I went downstairs to investigate what there is to do. I am greeted with a couple of guys at the front and they shove me towards a guy with a tuk tuk telling me that it would be 20 baht and that he would take me around some of the temples. First we went to Wat Intrawihan, also known as the big Buddha. There were people all around that were praying. The structures were amazing. What continued to surprise me however was that next door to these magnificent structures were a bunch of shacks where poor families were living. I loaded back into the tuk tuk and we moved on to the next attraction.
After that came the Wat Benchamabophit, or the marble palace. Also quite spectacular. I got pulled up for not wearing a scarf to cover my shoulders and the guy at the door gave me one so that I was not disrespectful. I wandered around inside. The urns in the walls…. The Buddha’s. Wow! It was pretty amazing. I have never seen anything like it and it is spectacular!
From here my tuk tuk driver started taking me to jewellery and tailor shops so that he could try and make me buy stuff so that he gets commission. I caved and bought a scarf and two mango tree vases. Then he took me back to the hotel and I offloaded my stuff. Managed to then go find a 7/11 for some food and also chatted to the guys at the front desk who sold me a power point adapter. Then when I asked about the night market, got offered a drive there by a taxi driver who charged me 200 baht each way. It is still cheaper than it would be in Australia but I feel that I may have gotten ripped off. He dropped me at the night market and I walked around. Much of it was the same stuff. Clothes, bags, jewellery galore, not much of it interesting me. I bought another mango tree vase and a couple of clothes before seeking out a spring roll and vegetable dinner and catching the taxi back to the Royal.
After my dinner I headed downstairs where I got an oil massage from a lady named Three, like the number she tells me. It was pretty good and she massaged my stomach and it really hurt. She told me to come back the following day and she would help get the knots out again. From there I headed back up the stairs, off to bed. Quite a long day all round. But I am enjoying myself and I like Bangkok. Lots more to explore tomorrow. I just need to get my compression stockings on, elevate my legs and try and get all of the fluid drained from my badly swollen legs. Did not know that I would have this much trouble with my legs on long journeys on planes… but I guess now I know.