Bangkok is quite the sprawling metropolis, a fact best driven home by riding the skytrain or, if one is lucky enough, going to the top of one of the tall buildings. From the train you can see flashes of golden temples, parks, tin housing projects, gated communities, and, in the city, building after building. The population of Bangkok is over 8 million, whereas Chicago is closer to 2.7 million. It is a big place.
I have been in Bangkok before: for AFS orientations, transit between north and south Thailand, and I even stayed with Anouk’s auntie out in the suburbs. On the eighteenth anniversary of my birth I found myself here, and two years later I am drawn back again. This time to find my cousin Jake and lay low for a bit before the next phase of the journey begins. As I write this, however, the next phase has already begun. I have safely made it to Oxford and am writing in retrospect. As things happen I always feel like I have so much to say, but for now only a couple highlights:
– Jake and I did end up meeting up. He didn’t have a phone, so we relied on serendipity to bring us together. It was a system that worked pretty well. The first night we went out for Indian food and a drink on Soi Cowboy, where Hangover II was filmed. The street had plenty of neon lights and girls in skimpy uniforms, but it wasn’t too crazy. Maybe you have to go inside to see the real shows.
– Shopping! I always tell anyone who is coming to Thailand to come with an empty bag. Despite the fact that my bag is already stuffed, I bought more stuff. A new pair of pants and a shirt or two (bought at the maddening mess that is the Chatuchak Weekend Market), plus a mild shopping frenzy at a — want to guess? — large 7/11. In the States, usually you don’t shop at convenience stores because they are more costly, but in Thailand this is not so, generally speaking. I spent what felt like the outrageous sum of 856 baht (almost $30) on soap, batteries, a new toothbrush, a loofah, and all that good stuff in preparation for a stay in England.
– I dabbled a bit in medical tourism, if you can call it that. Jake gave me the idea when he said he and his friends got some vaccines at a travel clinic in town. He said it was done at a clean, well-run travel clinic and even pulled up the website to let me browse. (It is here: http://www.thaitravelclinic.com/) The prices are unbelievable. I wanted to get anything and everything that I don’t have already, but after consulting with a doctor at the clinic I ended up getting only Yellow Fever and Japanese Encephalitic vaccines. (The other ones I wanted, like rabies and cholera, are part of a series. Next time I come through I will try again.) In the States, these vaccines cost roughly $120 and $400 respectively. The Thai price? $40 and $16, plus a total of 170 baht in hospital/injection/consultation fees. (This would be $170 if done in the States. Seriously.) The clinic was only a little hard to get too, but once I was there the process was easy and painless. Even the needles hurt less than in the States. So now I have another recommendation for travelers in Thailand: do your vaccines here and save heaps of money!
Well, those are the highlights I can think of for my three or so days in Bangkok. Much love to my Yasothon family and the country that I love so much; I’ll miss you!