The goal (for the first two weeks of being in Thailand): figure out where we want to live.
The choices: Bangkok (on the mainland) or Phuket (an island in southern Thailand), and, if neither appeal to us, Chiang Mai (in the north)
The result: Stay tuned. But in the meanwhile, enjoy a brief summary of our first week in Bangkok.
We landed a deal on a great place through airBnB during our stay in Bangkok. Unbeknownst to us, it was a bit far away from the “happening” part of town. Being the only white people in a very local neighbourhood made a few basic things like finding food to eat and locating groceries fairly exhausting. Jet lag didn’t help the situation either, but we mustered through the first few days.
Coming to a foreign country as an expat instead of a tourist makes a huge difference with how you tackle your days. We knew we had loads of time in this country and, even if we didn’t choose Bangkok, we knew we’d be back. So we felt like we could take our time wandering and not rush anything. (It was a welcomed change because, from previous travelling days, I always felt rushed with a finite amount of days in a city.) Instead, we spent our time exploring a few different neighbourhoods, walking around a few parks, and dreaming of where/how we’d like to live.
One of the top priorities for us when finding a new place to live is the community (this includes the very important church community). We knew we needed to connect with as many people as possible, and right away, so we did just that. We were introduced to Newsong Bangkok, a “local” church (seed plant from California) and immediately felt at home. They have services in both English and Thai, with a translator. It takes a lot of work, but being able to minister to local people is amazing.
From his previous couchsurfing days, Graham knew three people in Bangkok. That’s a decent start when you arrive in a city. One of our (now mutual) friends, @fromskinny2strong over at Guilt Free Desserts, just so happened to read my blogpost where I mentioned that I really missed having house slippers while we were travelling around the USA. So, being the awesome person that she is, she went out and bought me house slippers!!!!
Playing the Tourist
We did manage to do a few touristy things while we were in Bangkok.
A large park with an artificial lake in the middle of Bangkok provides a nice green getaway (a rarity in a concrete jungle).
Sukhumvit Soi 38
After church on Saturday night (evening service!), a few of our new friends introduced us to the world of Thai food on a popular street, just below the Thong Lo BTS station. It’s open every night from about 5pm to 2am. This place is so popular that the prices are somewhat “expensive” (at 50-70 THB, 1.50-2.75 CAD per plate). The horror.
After I came home, I noticed that Mark from migrationology.com wrote a great blogpost on Sukhumvit Soi 38. Great read and I can’t wait to go back knowing a little bit more about the food. I’ll write up a blogpost on Thai food one day.
Bangkok is full, full, FULL of shopping malls. I’ve never seen so many malls in one area of town (and I hear, having only walked through seven of them, that doesn’t even scratch the surface!). Terminal 21 has a really neat layout. Most of the malls are just 7 or 8 stories tall, but this one has transformed each floor into a different part of the world. We walked into each floor’s bathroom just to see what it looked like. Rome’s was really cool with columns as sinks and London’s had a large tube map on the walls (as well a life-size tube leading into it).
As the “center of the backpacking universe”, this street is the most popular street in all of Thailand. It’s chock full of tattoo parlours, suit sellers, tour companies, and tourists being ripped off. Things are so overpriced on this road, I refused to buy anything. For example, a normal plate of pad thai on this street cost about 60 THB (2.30 CAD), and as soon as you stepped over two streets, it dropped to 35 THB (1.34 CAD). This seems like peanuts to most foreigners who don’t know any better, which is exactly why locals continue doing it… but I won’t be sucked into this farang mentality! (Exception: we managed to find cheap wedding bands for ourselves on a street parallel to Khaosan… they cost us 4.25 CAD each.)
One word of advice that we’re slowly learning here: always, always, always barter prices. Even if they’re listed, always try to get a lower rate. Case in point with the above fish spa: instead of paying 200 THB each for 15 minutes, we bartered down to 100 THB each. And the guy was so busy, we actually stayed in there for 27 minutes (and normally 30 would have been around 500 THB each). Always barter.
Patpong Night Market
I feel like all of Thailand revolves around shopping of some sort. Patpong Night Market is another one of the “must see” shopping places, full of tourists and high prices. It’s located in a shady area of Bangkok, so it wasn’t our kind of scene.
We had a great week in Bangkok, despite the jet lag. We then moved onto Phuket in southern Thailand, to see where we’d like to settle for the next year… blogpost coming up in a couple days (hopefully)!