Coming home for Christmas was definitely a good idea. We finally had some time for our families, but also for ourselves, a few days in an environment that was well known and safe, without huge adventures, but with lots of fun and extra tasty (and familiar!) food. A moment to cool down and sort out the memories and impressions crowding inside our heads. It felt good to be home. Writing the blog turned out to be a great idea too! I was surprised how many people actually did read it regularly. Thanks to that we didn't have to try to sum up the whole story and repeat it over and over again, but could focus on particular questions or details, that our friends were interested in. And it proved to me, that I am not wasting my time completely, writing it all down :)
But all good things come to an end, to make place for new adventures. We have made a general plan, found flight tickets that would not ruin our budget completely and decided to spend the next 10 weeks traveling through Southeast Asia, trying to see as much as we can without making it all too stressful. Since the flight to Bangkok was the cheapest one, we decided to begin our journey in Thailand, hoping for an easy start.
I have to say I don't really like flying and try to avoid it whenever I can. Every time I have to go to Poland I am deliberately choosing a 20 hours bus ride instead of a plane. It's not that I would be afraid, I just don't like it and since it's not really very ecological, I have a good excuse not to do it unless it's really unavoidable. This time it was. The flight was few times longer than anything I have done so far, making me feel a bit uneasy, especially after choosing Eastern China Airlines, which we never even heard of before. Fortunately, we had no reason to worry or complain. The service was perfect and the plane was so nice and clean, that it felt like a high standard hotel. Even the food was good. It wasn't full either, so we had enough space to sleep, but we have never really made it that far, since we were too busy watching movies on demand, checking all the titles we have missed the last 6 months. And the food was pretty good too. Ten hours went by before I even noticed.
The only problem was, we had a small delay. We have managed to catch the connecting flight in Shanghai, but our bags were not as lucky, which left us standing at the Bangkok airport with empty hands, wearing our winter clothes, which we needed in Europe before. The good news was, the bags were not lost, simply delayed. The bad one, they reached Bangkok a day latter then we did. Well, I had to do my first shopping in Thailand a bit earlier than planned.
I believe that whether you like Bangkok or not, strongly depends on what you've seen before coming here. I'm quite sure I would have hated it a year ago. I would probably think it's a total mess and one huge chaos. But the last 6 months changed my point of view completely. Compared to the capital of Mongolia most cities seem clean and well organized. And so did Bangkok. A perfectly synchronized machine, making a constant pleasant noise. And compared to Iranian drivers, the ones in Bangkok are civilized and extremely careful. All in all I liked it a lot.
The real shock was waiting for us in the touristic center of the city, where we went to look for a hotel. Don't get me wrong, we were not expecting to be alone there, but still, the number of tourists took our breath away. The whole area was full with European people, that were by far outnumbering the locals. I thought I have seen touristic places before, but I guess they were not even close to what we experienced here. But it was not really the quantity that was worrying us. Quality seemed to be a bigger problem. I try to avoid generalization and I know for sure there are quite a few cool people traveling through the region, but it doesn't change the fact that a huge group of tourist seems to come here only to get drunk or stoned until they most probably don't even know where they are anymore. You hear them screaming and fighting every evening, you see them lying lifeless at the breakfast tables a day after and you quickly understand why local people do not seem to be too happy about working in tourism industry. It was honestly disgusting. Fortunately most of those people hardly ever moved more than 500 meters away from their hotel or favorite bar, so we could visit the rest of the city without having to face them too often.
Moving around Bangkok is a tricky thing, as public transport is poorly developed and traffic is huge. That is why we tried to do most sightseeing by foot or taking the public boat for longer distances (ticket costs less than 50 cent). It was a great idea, as in this way we were able to get to the parts of the city not many tourists visit. We even managed to have a whole temple to ourselves once, which I would never consider possible, taking under account how many tourist come here in high season. I guess we were really lucky. We took a public boat early in the morning to see the sunrise on the river. We got out at the Wat Arun to make a few pictures, though we knew that the place didn't open for the next two hours or so. There was even a big sign with official opening hours, so we didn't bother to ask. But suddenly a guy holding a bunch of keys appeared next to us, opened the door and pointed us to the ticket office. A minute later we were climbing endless and really steep steps to get to the top of the temple, all alone in one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. It was amazing! And I was really glad there was no one around, cause climbing those huge steps was one thing, but getting down again, was the harder part of the task. I managed to keep my vertigo under control, but it took some time and would certainly be much more difficult with hundreds of other people jumping around. But the view from the top was certainly worth the trouble.
Bangkok seems to be busy at any time of a day and the city really has an unique atmosphere, which even thousands of tourist didn't manage to destroy yet. And it is so totally different than anything we have seen on our journey so far. The culture, architecture, even the food, it's a different world, a world full of shiny gold temples and intensive smells, where colorful tuk-tuks are fighting their way through the streets. If the rest of Thailand is equally fascinating, I can hardly wait to explore it! But we have to postpone it a bit. Two weeks exactly, as we already booked plane tickets for Myanmar, a country we wanted to visit for quite some time now.