Trip summary: Thailand – The relaxed land of smiles and urbanization

This update have been delayed more than what actually seems appropriate – if that even makes sense. I have now been in Japan around 3 and a half week – time does surely takes you by surprise at times. This also means that it’s been 3 and a half week since my husband and I left South East Asia and due to the fact that I focused on making youtube videos, I never got around to doing a blog entry during our traveling. So now I’ll make an entry for each of the three countries, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam – starting with the first.

So Thailand, also often referred to as “The country of smiles” – which such a tagline I couldn’t help but finding myself a bit disappointed in the end.

We stayed in Thailand for around 6 days during our 3 week trip. Those days were mostly spent in Bangkok and the surrounding area. We also spent a night in popular vacation spot, Pattaya in order to visit one of my husband’s friends – a place I normally wouldn’t even consider setting my foot in.

Bangkok is a very big city with huge skyscrapers, big and expensive department stores and crowded streets. I often found myself wondering “What is Thailand?”. To me it most of all just seemed like a hotter, more dirty, Thai-speaking version of Tokyo or probably any big city. I’m not sure what I expected to see, I knew there wouldn’t be elephants running around the streets or small tree huts under the shades of palm trees – but what I did find in Bangkok was an overwhelming amount of brand shops advertising for the latest Gucci, Louis Vuitton or Burberry as well as several 7-elevens and McDonald’s pilling up along the streets.

The roads were dominated by colorful taxis, some desperate to get your attention, others couldn’t care less and if you wanted to cross the street there was no use in waiting for the signal to turn green – unless you feel like spending the rest of your holiday waiting while cars pass you by with no intention of stopping. After spending 3 weeks in South East Asia my husband and I knew that the only way to get anywhere was to seize the opportunity, seek courage and just go for it. Don’t get cocky though, the roads of Bangkok or non- relenting and merciless. We already on our first day in Bangkok we witness a bike accident on the road and the cracked skull that followed was what horror images are made of – as we heard sounds of ambulances coming to his rescue in the distance we all knew for sure that this guy was not going to make it.

So is there nothing cultural left to experience in Bangkok? Of course there is. Bangkok has an impressive array of temples and the big royal palace. All very interesting and will surely catch the eye of those seeing them for the first time.

And I do put emphasis on the “first time” part, because I did surely spend of lot of time my first few days admiring these temples and buildings, watching them stretching for the sky and glimmer in the sun and I used every opportunity I had to take pictures of these very “South East Asian” – buildings, those after those few days had past, I might as well only have seen less than half of what Bangkok had to offer in terms of temples, but I felt like I had seen them all. I longed for the non-urban Thailand experience and my husband found us a tour which took us out of the city, out to the famous floating market and out to the elephants. We got in small boats and got to experience the market first hand, seeing small boats filled with everything from fruit, noodles, souvenir, fake brands and bags pass us by.

After that we got a ride on an elephant – since this is something I felt I really needed to try out in Thailand. The real Thai experience. On that day I felt my mood and travel-spirit rise, I felt something cultural, both at the market and on the back of the elephant and I also loved seeing the small huts along the riverfront or dirt roads.

Like mentioned earlier we also went to Pattaya, in order for my husband to catch up with a friend – a popular beach area located around 2 hours away from Bangkok by taxi. To be fully blunt and honest, Pattaya was just as I feared. A place crawling with tourists, bars and sleazy looking places. For me I would normally never go such places, since for me vacations are not about beaches, sun and parties – especially not at a place were it seems like there’s more foreigners than there’s local people. At that one day I felt like my cultural level hit rock bottom and I wanted to return to Bangkok as soon as possible.
I guess the best thing I have to say about Pattaya was the fact that the beach did have a nice view and if one do like partying, hot weather and hanging out at the beach, then Pattaya is the place I’m sure.

When it came to the Thai people, famous for the smiles and friendliness, some lived up to my expectations others didn’t. We did meet a lot of nice and helpful people who were also generous when it came to giving out the famous smiles and like in all other countries we also met some less-nice people. The Thai people seemed to have an overall relaxed attitude towards many things in life – apparently sometimes customer service as well. Maybe I have just spent too much time in Japan where the service is always a top priority, but at times I was disappointed with some of the service we got in Thailand. I often experienced feeling ignored in certain shops and convenience stores, because the staff seemed more busy with chatting than helping me buy something. Once there was even a girl at the cashier who stopped serving me, in order to take a phone call from what seemed like a friend, who she cheerfully kept talking with while she then tried to finish the purchase with one hand and no words left for me.

Of course we received a lot of good service as well, no doubt about that. I just sometimes felt that a lot of Thai people had gotten tired of smiling and had no famous smiles left for us.
Of course those people who either tried to sell us something or cheat us had plenty of smiles and charming words. Overall we did end up getting tired of the people who told us lies in hope of that it could be their gain. One example was when we wanted to see the royal palace and a guy in a uniform told us we couldn’t enter because they were closing earlier today, but we should go see the giant buddha instead, we chose to ignore him and went to the palace anyway, which we had no problems entering, so it was all a scam.

Scams, lack of smiles and hot weather aside, we did have a nice time during our stay in Thailand, we did get to see cultural things and have a lot of experiences we’ll treasure for a long time.

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Youtube: South East asia travel.

My husband and I spent around 20 days traveling through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam – I pretty much made a youtube for each day to give people an insight into what you can experience in those countries. I have not uploaded all videos, yet, but they’ll be created over the next upcoming days.

Here’s some examples, the rest can be seen on my youtube channel.

I plan to make three individual blog posts about each of the mentioned three countries sometime in the near future. My experiences, impressions, feelings and memories. Until then, I’ll work on getting the last videos together.

Youtube: Day 1 – Bangkok

Overall I have been too busy to update my blog during this travel so far, also because I’m working on my youtube channel at the same time. So I thought I would put my youtube updates on this blog as well.

So here’s a video of how my first day in Bangkok – with my husband went. The spoken parts are in Japanese with English (and Japanese) subtitles.

The video contains us getting a bit lost in Bangkok, then we go temple watching and finish the day off at a restaurant.

Travel plans for South Asia in progress

Taking time to make plans for making plans is not that easy when you’re lazy – which is quite problematic since I actually have to plan a lot of things.
So from the end of February I’m traveling around in Asia, which I also mentioned in a previous post. My flight tickets are bought; I’ll spend around 3 weeks in South Asia and 5 months in Japan where I’ll be an exchange student at Kobe University. My husband and I have pretty much found the apartment we need in Kobe, but our 3 weeks of travel in South Asia are far from planned.
(The outline)

So far we do have flight tickets to and from Bangkok and we’ve also reserved a hotel for the first night in Bangkok. Then the plan was to rent a weekly apartment in that lively city, go on a day trip to Pattaya and spend a night at a hotel. Then we hope to go to Cambodia, first spending around two nights in Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) and then get on a bus going to the capital Phnom Penh where we’ll aso spend two nights.

Then our travel continues to Ho Chi Minh City in South Vietnam, followed by stops in Du Nang and Hanoi. Like Cambodia we’ll probably spend two or three nights in each of the 3 cities and we’re also aware of the huge amount of travel time, which is also one of the reasons I decided to add Du Nang to the trip, so we didn’t have to travel the very long journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi in one stretch, which would either a 2-day train journey or a more expensive flight ticket. So far we have not really planned out our means of transport in Vietnam and how to get to both Du Nang and Hanoi as things are now, trains seems like the best option. We also need to sort out our dates of travel to both reserve transport and hotel as well in both Cambodia and Vietnam. We also have to look into flight tickets from Hanoi and back to Bangkok. My husband wanted to go back to Bangkok through Laos, but I, as a Danish citizen need a visa to get into Laos. We need a visa in Cambodia as well, but that can easily be bought at the border for 20USD. Both my husband and I (as Danish and Japanese citizen) are allowed to stay in Vietnam for max. 15 days without a visa. So in the end we plan to take a plane back to Bangkok, spend a night on a hotel and then the next day go to the airport and get on a flight to Osaka and there start my exchange student life in Kobe city.

I hope to update this blog a lot while I travel, but I’ll probably also have days where I’m too tired, but I’ll do my best. Traveling was actually one of the purposes I made this blog for. I’ve also created a twitter account so I can update on the “small and short stuff” so if you have twitter please follow me. The link is both in the sidebar and in the end of this blog entry.

I hope you all had a merry Christmas and happy new year. As things seems now I’ll at least spend half of 2012 abroad, which is an experience I’m very excited about. Please follow me on this adventure!  Either on this blog or on Twitter. – > My Twitter (Isabella Kayashima)