First Week – Orientation in Bangkok

So, after a very long waiting period of 5 weeks since I finally made my decision, I FINALLY MADE IT TO THAILAND!!!!

This past week I’ve been in Bangkok for orientation with the companies I’m teaching through, CIEE teach abroad and OEG teach in Thailand.

Fun fact – the full name of “Bangkok” is actually the longest word to ever exist.  Recently it’s been shortened to be “Krung Thep Mahaanakhon,” “Krung Thep” meaning “City of Angels.”

Bangkok is one of the most indescribable cities I have ever known to exist.  On a Tuesday night you can find everything from wild night markets open until 4AM, hordes of prostitutes beckoning to old western male tourists(vomit), and British vacationers slamming Chang beer on Koh San Road.  On a random Tuesday in June.  It’s the most crowded city I have ever seen, including streets, public parks, and motor bikes carrying a family of 4.

Koh San Road

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Koh San Road is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Bangkok, specifically made for backpackers.  On my first night, my roommate Lauren and I(who happens to be teaching in near me TGOD) hopped in a taxi and decided to give it a whirl.  At first we wanted to go to Chinatown, and our taxi driver told us that he knew another outdoor market we could go too, because “Chinatown have no Thai food.”  Being new, we agreed.  He then proceeded to bring us to a restaurant called “Seafood Market.”  We had fallen into a typical tourist trap, where taxi drivers take you to places that pay them to bring tourists.  After an awkward argument with our driver, we hopped in a different tuk tuk and went to Koh San Road.

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Check out the backpackers I caught feeding each other in the top pic, hehehehehe.

The second we hopped out of our tuk tuk, it was like sensory overload.  The road was packed and bumping on a Tuesday night, with hammered backpackers and Thais trying to sell you tickets to Ping-Pong shows(hint: they don’t actually play Ping-Pong, use your imagination), sell you 2-for-1 buckets of rum and coke, and inviting you into their bars to try laughing gas.  There were vendors selling elephant pants, people getting 1-hour foot massages sitting in chairs outside in public, and DJs blasting American EDM.  It was literally modern day Gomorrah.  Being jet-lagged and culture shocked, I bought Pad Thai from a street vendor for 30 baht(less than $1 US) and Lauren and I parked at a bar and tried our first Chang beers.  We then people-watched for about an hour before calling it a night.

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Paid thai Kung(pronounced “Pat Tie Kuuuung), or Shrimp Pad Thai, the first of many Pad Thai meals in Thailand!

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Our chariot for the evening, in this case a watermelon-colored tuk tuk(pronounced tooohk toooohk)

Patpong Night Market

The next day after teacher orientation Lauren and I went with a few other teachers to get Thai massages.  If you want the details on that read my post on Thai massages v. Hammam bath houses.  After running into a few rats and another mishap with transportation, this time with a tuk tuk driver deciding to bring us to a custom suit shop, we made it to the first night market we could find on Google, Patpong night market.

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Patpong starts opening up around 8PM and goes until 4 in the morning(this was a Wednesday night mind you, Bangkok doesn’t sleep).  Also kindly ignore what that sign says because it’s 110% wrong, kind of like most signs in Bangkok, at least the ones written in English.  There were a lot more Thais and less foreigners than Koh San Road, along with a lot more shopping options.  They had everything; food, counterfeit Naked palattes, counterfeit bags, Buddha statues, shoes, clothes, belts, jewelry, anything your heart desires.

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After circling the market once, we turned down a street that looked like it had more shops.  Suddenly, the number of white western men increased, along with the number of Thai women.  At first I was like “Wow, a lot of Thai girls go out on Wednesdays” after seeing throngs of girls in mini-dresses and high heels.  Then we started to notice the number of neon signs advertising “Ping-Pong shows” and “Sexy girls” and we realized that we had stumbled into the red light district, and the girls were out for business, not (their own) pleasure.

I have never seen such a high concentration of prostitutes in one area in my entire life.  They were literally sitting in groups of 20 on the sides of the street on little plastic chairs, casually chatting with each other like it was just another Wednesday.  Most were wearing skimpy dresses and skirts, but some were dressed in flight attendant outfits, which was a tad confusing?  I was tempted to take pictures with my DSLR, but didn’t want to risk putting my camera in a risky situation.  The best part about the whole thing is that there were multiple cops standing around within spitting distance from the prostitutes, not doing a thing about it.

It was kind of funny how the street was set up, but also sad because it clearly reflected the number of western men that come to Bangkok for sex tourism.  On the corner there was an Irish pub, across the street from a store selling Underarmour polos and golf balls.  The  street really catered to its target demographic.

Chao Praya River Cruise

On our last night of orientation, our coordinators set up a dinner cruise for us on the Chao Praya river, the longest river in Thailand.  This was by far one of the funniest tourist traps I have ever experienced in my entire life.  It was kind of cool to see some of the city from the river, but the whole thing was absurdly corny, to the point that it was entertainingly bad.  It was very insightful to how huge the tourist industry is in Thailand, and insightful into how easily some people fall into tourist traps.  In their defense I think a lot of people really enjoyed themselves.

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View from the bow of the ship, where a “shrine to Buddha” had been placed to prevent idiot farang(foreigners) like myself from standing on it to take pictures.

Before getting on the ship, we had Thai girls dressed in traditional Thai clothes coming up to us, pinning orchids on our shirts, and taking pictures with us, which they tried to sell us later during dinner.  Why I would pay 200 Baht for a picture in which I am dripping sweat in 95 degree heat with a stranger in a Disney Princess costume is beyond me.  This was before the poor wait staff had to do some sort of choreographed dance where they put their hands in praying position in front of themselves and rocked their hips.  There was a gross buffet consisting of less than mediocre Thai food and sad attempts at other international food, including french fries, pasta, and the scariest part of all, sushi.

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Another floating Disneyland viewable from our floating Disneyland.

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A Wat that was visible from our ship, the picture doesn’t really do it justice.  I think it’s the grand temple but who actually knows.

There was a Thai woman in a skimpy purple dress that looked like it had been purchased at Charlotte Russe circa 2002 who was emceeing the whole thing.  She hilariously sang songs throughout dinner like “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and “L-O-V-E” by Frank Sinatra.   The worst part of the whole thing was when she would advance toward our tables and be all “AHHMERICAHHH!!! COME DANCE” and try to get us on the dance floor.  The amount of times I’ve been treated like a performing monkey this week just because I’m American is starting to get out of hand.  Abso-freaking-loutely not woman.

Wat Phra Kaew – The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

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For the last morning of orientation, we went to Wat Phra Kaew, or Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the adjacent Grand Palace, the old home of the royal family.  “Wat” means “temple” in Thai, so whenever you see something with “Wat” in it, it’s a temple.  The temple was absolutely stunning, with spires literally plated in 24 karat gold.  Nothing too exciting, it was just really gorgeous with a ton of gems and gold.  The “emerald buddha” is a buddha made out of jade.  He actually has different gold outfits that are put on him for every season.

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Those really ugly looking things are demons in the Buddhist religion.

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All the little details on this spire are made of broken tea sets.  Detail on a similar section of the temple below.

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