The 30-hour travel took its toll on us. We were both exhausted and sleep deprived. My phone somehow managed to stay on the plane when we touched down in China and there was no way to retrieve it. In this day & age, loss of a phone is much more than just a material item left behind. It was quite a terrible start to our trip. We arrived in the dead of night in Bangkok and took the first available taxi to our hostel, Old Town Hostel. (Travel tip: *never* take a taxi who doesn’t turn on the meter… Ever. It is illegal if you are in a metered taxi to not turn it on.) Our taxi driver spoke no English and could barely read Thai. He would only say the same street name over and over as if that was where we were going to go no matter what. After getting directions and showing him the map to our place, he had a better clue. (Travel tip: print out written directions in the native language for the taxi drivers. In Thailand, many taxi drivers come from the country after farming season to drive, but don’t know the city too well.) Still it took over an hour to get there and when he overcharged us, we didn’t care, we just wanted out of the taxi.
Our hostel had a nice big neon sign outside, but wasn’t much to look at from the outside. Nothing in Thailand is actually. The inside is very spacious & decorated very nicely. We were greeted by two warm gentlemen, one of which was night security (security is a nice comfort to see in a new place). The two of them quickly helped us get settled in for the night and we were fast asleep.
Old Town Hostel was super clean and cheerful. Our private room had Aircon (air conditioning, the Thai shorten it) and a nice firm bed. With the AC cranked, we had our own oasis away from the stress of acclimating to the time change (+12 hours EST). Adjusting to the time change meant keeping odd hours the first few days, which lead to many good conversations with the night manager, Dav (Dave). He was always looking out for us so we wouldn’t get ripped off or hustled. Otto, the day manager, was also superb. Between the two of them, we couldn’t have asked for a more friendly and familial welcome. Each afternoon when we returned from our trips, we found 2 new water bottles in our room and the same dependable welcome at the front desk. Otto and Dav had so much knowledge of the area and were critical to our navigation of the city and the people. Old Town Hostel had everything we could ask for: dishes to use, movie nights, trip ideas, pack storage, a Cafe, two lounges, dining room, a sitting porch, well-respected quiet hours, and clean hot showers.
We arrived in the wee hours of a national holiday, King’s Day. It only made sense that our first adventure was to go to the Grand Palace on King’s Day, the birthday of the King (5 Dec). Getting a helpful tip from Otto at the counter, we took the boat taxi for ฿15 pp (฿ = Thai baht) (~$0.45) to the palace (much cheaper & more fun than a taxi). The sheer amount of tourists was immense. Standing room was an understatement. If the herds of group tourists started to move, you wanted to get out of the way for fear of being trampled. Everything was covered in gold, the buildings each with its own importance for ceremonies and prayer. After experiencing the festivities (though no parade – bummer), we headed back to our hostel for the day.
I had the poor fortune to break a tooth while we were traveling and was forced to see a Thai dentist. Our good friends at the hostel recommended Silom Dental Clinic, which was about a 30 minute walk. Good god, the difference between Thailand and the States! The dental facility was very modern and clean. The staff spoke great English, were helpful, and courteous. My dentists were top-notch, friendly, and had my tooth fixed in no time. Instead of spending $2500 back home, it cost us less than half to have it done here. They were able to squeeze us in over the next few days as I needed more than one appointment.
Since we were stationed in Bangkok until the tooth was fixed, we took the opportunity to explore. We navigated the city looking for cheap food and beautiful sites with the help of our new friends at the front desk. It took us a little bit to find our way, but soon enough we were pretty good at getting around. We managed to find a few restaurants that we could eat for ฿40 pp. With the current exchange rate, that is about $1.25 a meal. 7-11 is everywhere in the city, on almost every corner, and inside is quite different than in the States. You’ll find a liter of water is between ฿15-20 ($0.50-.75) and soda is about ฿30 ($0.94) for 325 ml or a skinny can of coke; approx 10 oz. With the water is not potable, bottled water is an evil necessity, keeping the cost more affordable than its sugary counterparts.
All of the street food is cooked fresh to order and each neighborhood is slightly different. They don’t eat breakfast the way we do. Most times it’s normal food topped with an egg or maybe a custard-filled sweet bun made from taro. We couldn’t believe we we’re both eating for about $2.50 a meal versus in the states about $10-20. McDonald’s is apparently in Thailand. costing about ฿250-350 (≈$9.40) for a meal compared to ≈$6.00 in the States. It is cheaper to eat healthy in Thailand than to not, which is the opposite in the States. The perks of living in Thailand just kept adding up!