Thailand, Part Three: Bangkok

A one hour flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok got us to the capital city in the late morning and we wasted no time in exploring.  After getting settled in our hotel and grabbing a quick lunch, we set off to explore our hotel’s neighborhood of Sukhumivit – known to be a popular area for expats and teeming with shopping malls, hotels, and restaurants.

We chose this particular area and hotel due to its proximity to both the Skytrain and subway system.  Accustomed to the intricate maze of public transportation in NYC, I figured Mr. S and I would easily take to Bangkok’s more modern Skytrain and subways.  And we did.  Eventually.  Once we figured out how to pay.

To purchase tickets for the Skytrain, one must know which stop they are heading to.  That was easy enough, so Mr. S and I queued up for the ticket machine.  “Notes and coins” it said.  Good, because we had no coins.  Not good, because the machine kept spitting out our 100 baht bill.  We decided perhaps it would be better to wait in the line for the man behind the window.  When it was our turn, we played a short game of charades to indicate that we’d like two tickets to our destination.  We knew our fare would be a total of 84 baht so we handed the smiling man our 100 baht bill and he returned to us a handful of coins, which we assumed was our change of 16 baht.  We didn’t get tickets, but we presumed that since we paid the man directly, we could just enter through the side handicap gate attached to his little window.  So off we went, boarded the train, arrived at our destination, got off the train, and then…couldn’t exit the train station.  We looked to others around us for a clue and everyone had a ticket to put into the turnstile which would then open.  But we had no tickets.  We weren’t given tickets.  A very polite officer saw our confused faces, smiled at us, then wordlessly escorted us to the station’s window.  Again, the game of charades, except this time we didn’t know how to mime “We paid already but we didn’t get tickets.” In her broken English (and always, everyone, with a kind smile), the attendant said, “You pay now.”

“No, no we paid already.  We paid 100 baht and got change back, but no tickets,” I protested.  After fruitless miming and hand signals, I decided to pull out the coins we received as evidence of my claim.  Mr. S says he figured it out before I did…but I didn’t realize our faux pas until I saw that it required both of my hands to hold all the change I pulled from my wallet…  The first man in the window didn’t give us 16 baht in change.  He gave us 100 baht in coins so we could go back to the “Coins only” machine.  Ohhhhhh….. “Ok, yes, we pay now.”

The second time we had to take the Skytrain, Mr. S and I were ready.  Again, we had no coins (the “Notes and coins” machine was broken and just the “Coins only” machines were available).  We tagged teamed to cut down on our wait time so I stood on the machine line while Mr. S lined up at the window to get change.  We thought we were so smart, so Bangkok Skytrain savvy until Mr. S returned to me from the window with two tickets and 16 baht in change in his hands.  We’ll never know the secret to Skytrain success, but the moral of the story is to always have a ticket and always count your change.

So the Skytrain took us to the meeting spot of our first activity in Bangkok –  a guided night tuk tuk tour,  visiting some of the city’s landmarks via the infamous motorcycle tuk tuk.  Stops included  Klong San night market (to sample some street food), Wat Prayoon (where we got a glimpse of some monks in training), the Giant Swing, Wat Pho’s grounds, the 24 hour flower market, dinner at a local Pad Thai restaurant, and finally ending in Chinatown for dessert.  From living in NYC, I know that tourist attractions look and feel very different in the night time vs. the day time, so even though we didn’t have full access to some of the temples, it was still a really cool experience to be able to wander the grounds at night.

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Our view from our tuk tuk and some of our tour group friends up ahead.

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Wat Prayoon

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The flower market, open 24 hours a day.

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Thailand, Part Two: Chiang Mai

If Koh Samui was the part of our vacation where we didn’t do much, Chiang Mai was the part of our vacation where we did it all.

Upon our arrival, we immediately noticed the smoky haze that seemed to blanket all of Chiang Mai.  Turns out we were visiting during the time of year that neighboring farmers were burning off their crops.  We also noticed the moderate temperature – I mean, still hot, but not unbearable in long pants and sleeved shirts.

We checked into our hotel, U Chiang Mai, in the middle of the Old City and spent the rest of our afternoon touring the Wats (aka temples) that were in walking distance from our digs.  We had read in our tour book that one must be appropriately dressed when entering the temples, so that meant no shorts, short skirts, or sleeveless shirts.  I’d also recommend sandals or easy to remove shoes since most temples require you to leave your shoes at the door.

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Inside Wat Chedi Luang

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Thailand, Part One: Koh Samui

So I’ve been MIA around here.  Again.  Typical.  But, I’ve got some fun stuff to share, so hopefully you’ll give me a pass for being absent.  Somewhat recently, Mr. S and I returned from our twelve night honeymoon in Thailand, which included stops at Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok.

Our vacation of a lifetime started with a crap load of flying.  Awesome for me because I have an affinity for airplane food (it’s just like those TV dinners my parents never bought me as a kid no matter how much I begged) but terrible for Mr. S, who has an irrational fear of flying.  When we started making gigantic payments for our wedding, we opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred card to take advantage of the points system.  Our hope was that we’d rack up enough points to afford “Premium Economy” seats for the long leg of our journey to Bangkok.  I’ve been flying to and from the Philippines since I was a kid, always on economy, except for that one single, solitary, never-again-to-be-repeated, unicorn of a time that we flew premium economy.  Holy Jesus, it was heavenly.  There were foot rests, menus, space to stand and take a short stroll around the cabin, plushier blankets, bigger pillows with real fabric pillow cases (not that rough, disposable paper crap they give you in economy), and midnight servings of instant ramen.  I could have flown three times around the world in premium economy without complaint.

While I’ve been flying across the International Date Line since I was in diapers, prior to our mini-moon vacation to Mexico, Mr. S had never left the country.  And since I knew he wasn’t a fan of the friendly skies, I wanted to make his maiden long haul trip as comfortable as possible.  After all, his experience flying to Thailand would dictate how willing he was to make future trips to the Philippines – something I hope we do regularly in the future.  Plus, it was our honeymoon, and if ever there was a time to warrant splurging on an upgraded airplane seat, this was it.

Alas, homeownership has a way of unfairly robbing you of your disposable income, and when it came time to book our flights, we just couldn’t justify the $4,000 upgrade to premium economy when we had no kitchen, no walls, and no plumbing in our new house.  (I couldn’t even bring myself to look at how much business class seats cost.  Who are these people in business class?!  Why don’t they just buy their own plane and let the rest of us have a chance?!)

So it was economy class for us, and with our Chase Sapphire points, we paid a grand total of $700 for two tickets on Cathay Pacific to Bangkok by way of Hong Kong.  I guess it’s been a while since I’ve flown Cathay Pacific, but we were more than pleasantly surprised – the seats were roomy, the individual entertainment options plentiful, and we did get menus and late night cup o’ noodles. #winning

After our 22 hour journey to Bangkok, we boarded yet another airplane – this time a one and half hour domestic flight to Koh Samui.  The domestic carrier we used was Bangkok Airways and we waited two hours in their lovely free airport lounge complete with Wi-Fi and Thai snacks.

The airport in Koh Samui was rustic – a collection of thatched roof huts and open air waiting rooms.  We had a bit of a Mr. President and First Lady moment when disembarking the airplane via the long metal staircase.  Prior to leaving the USA, we arranged for an airport transfer to our hotel because after 26 hours of traveling, we didn’t want to have to think too much once we got to our destination.

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