Like most major cities I’ve been to around the world, Bangkok is a little overwhelming. The strong sun mixed with the heat and humidity make it difficult to spend the entire day outside. The spectacular temples are filled with tourists speaking every language you could imagine. And in the background of it all, you can hear the constant rumble of motorcycles and tuk tuks in the endless traffic of the city.
But despite the mayhem, it is possible to find moments of reprieve from the chaos. I’d like to share the stories of a few sweet human beings that have crossed my path this week amongst the clamor and chaos of Bangkok.
Friday was my first full day in the city and I wasn’t quite over the jet lag of my journey. I wearily ventured out into the heat and headed to Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This place is truly impressive. At 150 feet in length, the image of Buddha is one of the largest in the world. While waiting in line to take my picture next to this beauty, I overheard a conversation in Spanish being had by the guy in front of me in line with the guy in back of me. Realizing that they were together, I offered (in Spanish) for the guy behind me to cut in front, and they were both immediately impressed and confused as to why I spoke Spanish so well. Their other 2 friends quickly joined the conversation and suddenly I had 4 friends from Spain to spend the afternoon with. We left the temple and went to find some street food at a market for lunch before wandering around the neighborhood together. These guys are documenting their trip on YouTube, and you can see Bangkok for yourself (and hear me speak a little Spanish) in this cool video they made. I was able to meet up with them again in Chiang Mai a few days later for lots more laughs before they moved on to the South of Thailand.
On Saturday I met 3 girls from China at my hostel. We went to dinner together and had a great time talking about cultural differences between China and the US. They were impressed with my ability to use chopsticks, and I was impressed that babies in China know how to use them. They were adorable and I really enjoyed our cute photo shoot together before I headed out to a different hostel the next morning.
Monday was by far the most special day I had in this city. After a hectic morning spent in taxis between the train station and the bus station trying to organize how I would get to Chiang Mai on Wednesday, I was excited to spend some time with my friend Larry (who I haven’t seen since college) and his girlfriend Alix who were in Bangkok for a short layover before heading to Myanmar. Our plan was to visit “The Green Lung” of Bangkok which required a 1 hour water taxi down the Chao Phraya River, however, none of the piers seemed to have any available options. Since the ticket saleswomen we asked spoke limited English, and our Thai vocabulary consists of hello, thank you and no thank you, we decided to scratch that plan and get Thai massages instead. These are famous for being a little intense, but I had no idea it involved a small Thai woman digging her elbows into my back, standing on my legs while pulling my arms, and twisting me all around until my entire back cracked. It sounds painful but it was actually quite nice. We ate some delicious dinner at a street food stall and drank some refreshing Thai tea before meandering back towards my hostel.
On our way we passed a brand new hostel with a free art gallery in the entry way. We wandered in and ended up touring the place and hanging out in the lobby with the guy working there. A short time later, the hostel’s only 4 guests visiting from Pakistan came downstairs to join our conversation, and we spent the next 5 hours learning about each other’s cultures, and exchanging ideas of how much traveling truly expands your horizons about the world. I’m not sure how many Americans they had met before, but they kept saying how impressed they were with how kind and friendly we were. It’s safe to say that the US gets as unrealistic of a reputation in Pakistan as Pakistan gets in the US. These guys made me so excited to visit Pakistan someday, and we ended the night by learning some traditional Pakistani and Thai dances. This kind of evening is my absolute favorite way to pass time while traveling and is the #1 reason why I continue exploring new places.
Just before leaving Bangkok on Wednesday, I was able to meet up with Melissa (my brother’s girlfriend’s twin sister) and her husband Phil who were visiting Thailand for their honeymoon. At this point I was very tired of the madness and smog of Bangkok so we went to the Jim Thompson house, a nice break from the chaos in a garden oasis in the middle of the city. Jim was an American expat that became known for his involvement in the silk trade in Thailand. His beautiful house is now a museum and an awesome way to spend an afternoon. And I got to crash a honeymoon, which feels like something I should cross off my bucket list 🙂
Once again, traveling has proved to me that the best gifts that come from a trip like this cannot be purchased. They are those sweet moments shared with strangers who become friends. These experiences overcome all the barriers that language, culture, and distance attempt to use to divide us, and they always leave me hungry for more.