09.07.2006 - 13.07.2006
Sometimes it's just impossible to stick to plans. Every travel plan I made for this summer failed. Being spontaneous would have been a less bumpy journey this time around.
So, my plan to do Europe this summer changed to one-month beach vacation in Phuket, which led me to a package tour to Cambodia and Thailand, only to end up with a 5-day package tour in Bangkok and Pattaya.
First day, Saturday, was only get-there part of the trip. 14 hours of bus and plane ride : Mokpo-Gwangju-Incheon-Bangkok. We arrived at Bangkok airport at 0:30 a.m. and met our tour guide; whom I started to like and dislike all at the same time; and the rest of the group. There were four couples, one of which was on honeymoon, and four single girls including Norah and myself. We were taken to a hotel close to Grand Palace. Next day, we got up at 7:00, and visited the palace. It was hot and sticky and most of us were in shorts and sleeveless tops. At the gate, we were asked to cover up our shoulders and legs with shirts and skirts they lent us for 1 US dollar, the extra layers made it much harder to walk around the site. It was very hot and humid.
Afterwards we got on a long-tail boat along the river to visit Wat Arun the Temple of the Dawn. Amazing site. So much detail has been put into this temple. And I notice how different temples in different countries look like. Korean temples, versus Chinese or Thai ones. Each one has its own unique features and characteristics.
Along the river in Bangkok, we passed by some houses built on water whose residents step out of their house into their boat! An Asian Venice but not as famous. After lunch, which was Korean food not Thai to my surprise, we got back on the bus and headed to Pattaya. Two-and-half hours later we were in Pattaya visiting Mini Siam which displays the small-scaled version of famous historical statues/buildings from Thailand and around the world such as statue of Liberty, Eiffel tower, the Opera House, .... To my surprise I found a miniature of Takht-e-Jamshid, the ruins of the Great Persian Empire, or Persepolis as it was called by Romans. Then we watched a traditional dance show, partly cultural and history telling, partly comedy. To me the choreography, performance, lighting, music, art direction and the coordination of them all were amazing. We were told that the next night, if we wish, we can sign up for a dance show by transvestites, kind of dirty but famous in Pattaya! Out of curiosity we all signed up for it.
The next day, we all met up at the hotel's lobby at 8:00, were each given a towel and got on a boat to go to an Island, not being told any more details. I thought we're just heading for some sightseeing, but later found out that I was going parasailing, so unprepared for the event! All turned out to be ok and I didn't get wet since I took off and landed on a deck. It was not as scary as my bungee jumping experience, but on the first 10 seconds or so, I was basically thinking how could I forget to give Norah my mom's phone number, because I probably won't make it back on deck! It was fun. It's probably the closest you can get to being a bird.
After the parasailing, we took the same boat again to Koh Larn (Coral Island) and its white sandy beach and clear water. I was not going to swim in my jeans and tank top. I bought a bikini and jumped into the water.
Then we were taken back to the hotel, and given two hours of free time. My swimming lessons were going to pay off. I went to the hotel's pool and enjoyed the cool water in that very hot afternoon.
At 3 o'clock we met up again and went to an elephant show, which was so amazing that I decided that my favorite animal has to be elephant. Elephants are not as stupid and dull as you might think they are. The elephants held a brush and with some paint drew a tree on a canvas. Then the "artworks" were sold for US$200. They also played soccer, basketball and darts. They bowled. They danced. They even bowed to the audience's applause. It was very entertaining.
After the elephant show, we found ourselves watching live sex show, what we had expected to be a transvestite dance! The opening was shockingly just hardcore sex, and the other acts were mostly girls stripping and taking a shower on the stage or guys showing off their member! Thailand is supposedly the sex capital of the east. Anything goes and sex is so readily available to those male visitors looking for cheap sex.
Then we went to "Waking Street", the center of nightlife and shopping. We heard live music coming out of some bars (wish we had some of that in Mokpo). We shopped for souvenirs and I for shoes, walked along the street, go-go's, clubs, transvestites, transexuals, prostitutes, …. it was quite controversial, interesting to some, disturbing to some others!
It was a long, busy day. Para sailing, beach, swimming, elephant show, weird sex show, shopping and people watching all in one day. Lots of fun but exhausting.
On the last day, we started the day at 9, first by visiting an alligator farm and alligator show. I heard that Thai people believe that alligators bring tourists to Thailand. There were hundreds of mean-looking yet funny alligators chilling in the sun or in the water.
Then we headed back to Bangkok. On the way were asked to visit some Korean-owned factories such as a bedding factory and cosmetics and we were, of course, encouraged to buy some products. No one did. Then we visited a pineapple farm (I thought pineapples grow on trees!!!) and a souvenir shop, followed by a local market in downtown and shopped some more. I was thrilled to find an Iranian/Indian restaurant even though I didn't at all like the "Estamboli polo" and "Chelo Kabab Koobideh" and "Mast-o-Khiar" that Norah and I ordered. The food was the Indian version of Iranian food. A little disappointing but oh well! Then we hopped in the bus to go back to the airport for our flight home at 2:30 a.m.
On the tour, I spent most of my time with the group, and wasn't at all able to interact with the locals and to visit less touristy places. So at times I felt like a stupid tourist rather than a traveller. I wished I could stay longer and explore Thailand on my own but the return ticket was not flexible. There are so many things to see and do in Thailand, no wonder it's so popular with tourists. I will definitely plan a trip back, this time much longer!