Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Motor-taxi of Doom: Bangkok

By Liane Nichols


Today I began my adventure of backpacking it around Thailand. My first stop was Bangkok to visit a friend for the night, and from there I would head out early morning to catch a bus to Krabi. Little did I know, I was in for one hell of a ride.  

It was Thursday morning. I took the BTS toward Victory Monument. My research online as to how to get to Southern Terminal had pointed me in this direction. It was wrong. After leaving the BTS, I quickly flagged down a motor taxi (a motorcycle that drives you around Bangkok) and said "Chimplee - Southern Terminal" like my online directions had told me to do. The driver said "Okay - 80 baht". I had been told it would be this much - things were going to plan quite well. I hopped on. 

That's when the driver turned around and started dodging oncoming traffic. I was frightened, but after living in Thailand for 5 months, I knew this was not uncommon. I held on tightly. Eventually we made it to the correct side of the road and I began to relax. However, that's when the driver kept asking others where this "Southern Terminal" was. He had no clue. None. Nada. I started to worry. After weaving in and out of traffic, taking off, slamming on breaks, and a few near misses, we eventually found a man who seemed to know where to go...and he said it was far. Very far. 

Now the driver turned to me and said "Oh, very far. 400 Baht." No way, Jose! I eventually talked him down to 250baht. I didn't know exactly how far "far" meant and didn't want to get ripped off on my very first day of adventuring! That's when something odd happened. The driver handed me a helmet and took off his taxi driver vest. Where were we going?! As if dodging traffic and speeding down side roads wasn't dangerous enough - now it seemed he believed that where ever we were going was far worse and I needed protection. Yet I held on. Why, I'm not entirely sure. I had come this far with the driver; I figured I could survive a bit longer. 

The end result was an hour drive back and forth around Bangkok and eventually seeing the glorious sign that read "SOUTHERN TERMINAL". I think I almost cried in relief. When carrying a 50 lbs backpack and holding on like any second might be your last, your body has a tendency to seize up. I was quite surprised when I was actually able to stand up and walk when I departed from the bike's back seat. Every inch of me wanted to fall off. I'm pretty sure that my thigh muscles have been strained due to excessive gripping of the sides of the motorcycle. 

Alas, I am safe. I have a bus ticket that will take me to Krabi, Thailand. I will soon be in paradise, so why worry?

And that's my story.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ayuttaya: The Ancient Capital

Ayuttaya - some people say that historical landmarks and museums "aren't their thing", but after spending the day in the beautiful city of ruins, I believe these people must be crazy.

Upon arriving in Ayuttaya, my friend Marci and I were promptly blocked by a row of Tuk-Tuk drivers attempting to strike a deal for a city tour. For a small fee of 200 TBH per hour, our guide took us to the most famous of ruins. We saw the reclining Buddha, beautiful pagodas, walked through the ruins of what was once a majestic building of much royal power. We gazed upon the ever famous Buddha head that has been grown into a tree - but were careful not to tower over it, for this is concidered highly disrespectful. I even enjoyed a fresh coconut as we buzzed happily through the city on the back of the Tuk-Tuk.

However, one down side is that many of the sites require a fee to be paid before entering. As a normal tourist, this may not pose a problem. The average fee is 30-50 baht. But alas, I am not a tourist, but an English teacher who still has to watch her baht. It would seem that the stereotype is "you have white skin, you have money", and the locals take no pity on me. I still have to pay the foreigner price instead of the local Thai price, work permit present or not.

Overall, I would recommend a day trip to this wonderful city. If in fact you are intrigued by ancient cities and their ruins, you are sure to enjoy what Ayuttaya has to offer. Personally I felt this incredible tranquiliy in the air walking through the city. Maybe it was the elephants giving people a lift through the streets, or maybe it was just a beautiful day, but I felt incredible being able to walk through a city of such significance. I even let myself get suckered into buying a "happy elephant" carving from a street salesmen. I was happy with my purchase.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Education Corner II: The Wildlife

Alas it is the time for a new tale. No, not one of adventure and travels - but one of terror and fright. It's as though this 14-eyed little creeper knew I was aching for a story to tell - and now I do.

It was early in the morning, freshly risen out of bed, when I began the usual routine. I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and poured a cup of Joe. I walked the 12 stairs back to my room, placed the coffee on the table, and opened the closet doors to find something teach appropriate to wear. As I reached my hand through the open doors - that's when I saw it. All 14 eyes eying me down to anticipate my next move. It was smart in doing so - for my next move was to grab something with the power to SMASH!!! An extra large water bottle seemed to be a good option. But it was quick for a spider the size of my palm! That's right, I said "little" earlier but that was PURE sarcasm. I took a picture for proof! However now that Plan A of smashing the beast failed, I needed a Plan B. But not before I checked every inch of myself and even stirred my coffee to see if it had landed somewhere unfortunate. He was no where in sight but I could feel him everywhere!

A new brilliant idea struck me. "He's surely still in the pants!" He's quick but he's not that quick! So I ran out to grab a bucket, filled it with detergent and water. I hooked the pants hanger with my extra ling water bottle of doom and subordinate them in the soapy water! And then I had to leave for class.

Later on I came home still not 100% certain I had killed the spider. I was overcome with the heebbie jeebies. Therefore I had a second task: to was all of my clothes, clean my room, and spray an entire can of insect repellent around every crevice to ensure no future surprise attacks. After all my clothes were successfully taken care of, I did find that spider. It had drowned in bucket of death number 1. I had conquered the beast!

And now for a few facts about Thailand wildlife:

1. In the practice of Buddhism you are bot supposes to kill a living thing. This includes, ants, spiders, and snakes. I am a bad Buddhist.

2. You will live with Geckos that make loud bird like noises when you try to sleep. Get used to it - they eat mosquitos so they are friends.

3. There are wild dogs everywhere. They are not 'pets' but they still enjoy some scraps once in a while.

4. There are thousands of ants of varying sizes. Just don't leave food out and it should be okay.

5. I'm going to take a guess here, but I'm almost certain you share your bed with at least 10 bugs a night. Try not to think about it.

6. The monkeys are tourist attractions that steal your stuff even if you ARE paying attention. I'm not fond of them.

7. Tigers are also tourist attractions. They may be drugged, I'll let PETA decide - but I still like having my picture with them.

8. Elephants are yet another attraction, but they are enormously amazing.

9. There are snakes. Big ones. Dangerous ones. Some even around school. Just give them some space.

10. Lastly, there are spiders. Big ones, small ones, some the size of my head. (Maybe, I've got a rather large skull). But the point is, if they stay away from me I'm happy. If they surprise me by moving into my closet - they're going to die.

Well I hope you've enjoyed this education corner on Thailand wildlife. Until next time - be careful out there!