Getting to Thailand
Our journey began on Wednesday afternoon when we boarded our flight to Bangkok. We planned this trip to be low budget, and used frequent flyer miles to get here. But… we managed to work the system in our favor, and unlike most backpackers would, booked our seats in business class! The journey began in the lap of luxury, with lie-flat bed seats and gourmet food. Ridiculous amounts of gourmet food. And we made friends with our onboard sommelier, which we highly recommend. 🙂
Arriving in Thailand
Once we landed in Bangkok, grabbed a few extra water bottles from the plane, took out Thai Baht from the ATM, and bought a local SIM card with an Internet plan, we headed out of the airport and onto the airport rail link (with only locals and us) towards downtown. Determined to stick to our low-budget, we began the search for the bus stop to take us to our guesthouse near Khao San Rd. After wandering the streets for 30 minutes, carrying everything we brought on our backs (go turtles!), we discovered that bus stops are optional. The bus does stop at designated places. You just need to know where those places are. Good thing Jordan spotted a blob of locals boarding a bus. One minute later, sitting on the bus, we were almost there. Another 15 minute walk from where the bus let us off and we were at our guesthouse, soaked with sweat and exhausted. Welcome to Bangkok!
We settled into our room, a simple 10×10 shoebox with a bathroom and A/C (a necessity around here) and went out to explore the area. We found streets full of food carts and lots of cheap knock-offs. Dinner was authentic green curry and green papaya salad, washed down with a mango shake. We topped off the evening with a relaxing foot massage by the side of the road. Well deserved after carrying our homes for so long.
The morning began with our search for coffee. We found a Thai cafe and ordered two ice coffees, as it already sweltering hot and humid. The drinks arrived in a large glass with ice, but much to our dismay were sickeningly sweet and not at all what we wanted. So after wasting 100 Baht (about $3.25) we moved on to lunch. Across the street was a Pad Thai cart, where were shared a vegetarian Pad Thai with egg for 30 Baht ($1). With our stomachs full, we were ready to go sightseeing.
The Grand Palace was a 20 minute walk away, through a riverside university campus and bustling streets. In order to enter the palace grounds, one must dress modestly – shirts with sleeves and pants or skirt below the knee. As this was our first temple visit, we weren’t quite sure how strict the dress code was, so Jordan (on advice from the guesthouse staff) brought along a long sleeve shirt, a sarong to wrap around her, and socks and shoes. The Grand Palace was indeed a sight to see, with intricate buildings laden with gold leaf, and many statues. The main attraction is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which was smaller than we had imagined, though perched atop a very impressive alter of gold. Many tourists were praying there, and platters of offerings were full at the front of the room. All who enter must remove their shoes at the steps of the building, and when sitting in front of the Buddha must be cross-legged or sit with feet behind them – don’t point your feet toward the Buddha!
Upon leaving the Grand Palace, Jordan tore off all the extra layers of clothing she had put on and began to feel human again. With the assistance of a fresh coconut water right out of a fresh coconut (20 Baht, $0.70), she began to cool off. We walked back to the vicinity of the guest house where Jordan got a mani/pedi for 200 Baht (about $6.50). It was a decent mani/pedi and the price was great. In the meantime, Felix scouted the area, bought more water, and located our snack – a banana pancake with Nutella from a street cart, 50 Baht and heaven in the mouth. As the sun began to set, we went back to our room to prepare for Shabbat.
See the full picture album here.