To me, Koh Phangan in Thailand has some of the most beautiful sunsets that I have ever seen. These cannot be captured on my iPhone, but oh did I try!
To the world it’s known as Bangkok, to Thais as Krung Thep, to fans of “The Hangover” it will always be the City of Squalor…and to me? My current home. Personally I think Bangkok gets far too much bad press, from tourists and media alike. Hence why today I am singing the praises of this individual city: B to the K K.
Too often tourists think of Bangkok as just Khao San Road (although I do love an odd night out there!) They irritate me with their accusations of “Why do you live in Bangkok?” and “I hated Bangkok when I was there, would hate to live there!” This “when” being a maximum of three days. So haters listen up, here are the reasons why I LOVE living in Bangkok.
You can get anything you want, whenever you want (and I don’t mean the sleazy things!) Food glorious food!!! I always miss home food, and often yearn for it but the want is eased by the huge choice of food here: Italian, Indian, British, Korean, American, Greek, Lebanese, Japanese, my Irish grub (although not comparable to my mammy’s!) and so on and so forth.
And what better way to wash food down than with a few beverages? There is a ladies night every night of the week in Bangkok, with free flow booze. Being a ‘lady’ I love this. Whether it be the classy dining of W Hotel of a Saturday night (where we once ended up or the chilled after work tipple in The Witch’s Tavern of a Wednesday (which also has free pizza I might add!) there is something for everyone. Even being broke in Bangkok can be a pleasure.
Keeping with the nightlife vibe, there’s a wide choice of bars, clubs, karaoke and rooftop bars, from dingy but popular places such as Wong’s to classy establishments such as Octave Rooftop Lounge and Bar in the Marriot to choose from. But BEWARE, 49 floors up and above the city is a scary- albeit beautiful- place.
And if I haven’t fattened myself up too much from food and booze there’s these much loved shops: Topshop, Forever XXI, Nike, Australia’s Cotton On and markets, markets, markets.
And if I can’t fit into that sexy red number? More choice of sports and activities than one could ever imagine! Soccer, Gaelic football, basketball, netball (which I thought was volleyball!), yoga, Pilates, aerobics, Thai Muay Thai, karate, jujitsu, volleyball, badminton and so on and so forth. Oh and there’s always my condo, kitted out with pool and gym to use at my convenience.
I hear you ask…but what if I’m not the sporty type? What do I do then? Fear not fellows for there is an infinite number of Meet Up groups to join, from photography to language to books to travel to everything you can think of! Well, within reason…ish.
And back to food (because there’s enough to fill a million blogs!) I must not forget to mention the quirky restaurants: the robot restaurant where it does exactly what it says on the tin…robots as waiters; Cabbages and Condoms where Santa Claus is definitely only fit for an adult Christmas; dining with rabbits and all sorts! As I said, “quirky”.
Not to forgot my favourite…Thai style: beautiful temples, food stalls, boat taxis, motorbike taxis, festivals, and the ever challenging footpath challenge (survive it without breaking a toe!)
Then there’s always the escape within the city with hundreds of luxury hotels at reasonable prices…I’ve done it and it’s worth it!
But if after all this excitement you really need to get out of the big bad city? There’s always the accessible island escape of Koh Samed or the riverside town of Kanchanaburi to keep you content.
Remember one thing: Bangkok doesn’t have the longest name in the world for no reason, there must be something to it…check it out if you don’t believe me!
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I love Thailand. I love living here. However, there are some things about this wonderful country that I’ll never get used to, be it good, bad or just plain ugly.
1. Men’s long finger nails, primarily on the baby finger: I’ve since learned that this is used as a ‘tool’ of sorts to unscrew things or to scratch one’s ear. But to me there are cotton buds and screw drivers so please use these instead!
2. Dogs that look dead sleeping almost everywhere: Again I love dogs but I don’t want to run one over…which is a danger as they sprawl across the road unaware (and seemingly uncaring) of their impending death.
3. Taxi men refusing fares: I definitely confused taxi men when I went home to Ireland for Christmas as I asked them would they take me to my desired destination. They cocked their heads to the side and laughed a ‘don’t you know how taxis work’ laugh. I hung my head apologetically as I remembered that taxi men at home went where you wanted them to go, no ‘pai dai mai?’ (CAN you go) necessary, as is the case in Thailand.
4. Whitening cream: I say cream but it’s cream, powder, deodorant…whatever whitening can get in…it’s in!
5: Babies and children on motorbikes…without helmets! If you must put them on one at least make sure they’re wearing a helmet!
6: Nose picking: children and adults alike! It’s nasty so please don’t do it in public.
7: Transportation for tourists: those night buses could easily be cut down in time…if you stopped insisting on ferrying us from cafe to cafe and just GOT US TO OUR DESIRED DESTINATION!
8: Fitting four or more on a motorbike: not disgusted, but impressed.
9: Random pictures: I’ve been asked many a time if I could have my photo taken, or I’ve simply caught sight of a sneaky photo being taken. At first this perplexed me, that is until one wise friend (who’d been living here for a year longer than me) informed me that this was normal, that I needed to “just go with it.” Embracing the advised “just go with it” has led to me being in family photos, from beach to graduation!
10: Patterns: I know mixing patterns is fashionable but I don’t think the rule applies to floral shirt with cartoon pants!
11: Shop greetings: I like shopping. Wait. I LOVE shopping. However, the thrill for me is slightly (totally) numbed when I am greeted, not with a smile and a welcome, but with a shriek of “We have big size”, “Look stretch!” What a way to kill one’s ego, and needlessly lose a customer!
Most of the above are trivial things (apart from putting white on a pedestal and the helmetless infants) so I can put up with them, nothing a healthy dose of ranting can’t cure! You have been warned so look out for (and avoid) the long-finger-nailed-nose- picker!
Feeling refreshed as I laze by the beautiful, blue pool in my condominium I begin to reflect on my life here in Thailand. I don’t do it very often- reflect that is- but life in Thailand is most certainly worth reflecting on. Today I’m remembering the places I’ve explored: Cambodia, Laos, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand, from North to South.
Initially, I intended to stay in Thailand for one year, however, almost three years on, I am still here and I am still LOVING it. In the beginning, I escaped to an island or the countryside almost every weekend. Being only a couple of hours away, a weekend on a tropical island or swimming in a waterfall is hard to turn down.
Exploring Thailand is a real treat: I have hiked the mountains in the north and lazed on the islands in the south. This month, I will once again stroll through the temples of Chiang Mai and raft down the rivers of Pai. The rich and diverse culture of this colourful country never fails to amaze me.
Although neighbouring countries, I was surprised at how different Cambodia is to Thailand. Different but equally as wonderful. I have been fortunate to see the sun rise at Angkor Wat and humbled to learn more about the painful history in Phnom Pehn. The experiences and knowledge given to me by Cambodia will never be forgotten.
Laos was another unforgettable trip. This charming country offers such beauty; the mountainous landscape, the humble villages and the picturesque towns are well worth a visit.
The vibrant Hong Kong was next on my vacation hit list. The bright lights of the city contrast beautifully with the beach- lined coast. Although afraid of (some) heights, I could appreciate the breathtaking views of both city and beach from (in my mind) terrifying heights!
Vietnam. Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam. My dad has always wanted to explore Vietnam: he loves history and has read every book about Vietnam (be it fiction or non- fiction) EVER. Being influenced by his enthusiasm, I developed a desire to visit this country so steeped in history. Vietnam was never top on my list of countries to visit, but it was definitely on a list. Having now been to Vietnam, I can say it is most definitely top on my list of COUNTRIES I MUST EXPLORE MORE. I had just over a week in Vietnam and travelled to Hanoi and Hoi An, similar names but unbelievably contrasting places. I navigated a map to find my way through the fiercely intertwining streets of Hanoi; educated myself in the city’s war museums; drank the deliciously cheap beer; squatted on the tiny chairs as I devoured the tantalizing street food and enjoyed every minute. Then there was Hoi An. The beauty of Hoi An is indescribable. I spent every night ‘ooing’ and ‘awwing’ the colourful lanterns that line the petite streets, and every day ‘ooing’ and ‘awwing’ the beautiful, mustard yellow, French architecture that the lights cling to. Relaxing boat rides, strolling and cycling was how I lazed away my days in Hoi An, as well as exploring the history that this town has to offer. At night I tried tasty food, drank smooth beer, listened to soothing music, waltzed through the colourful markets and ‘ooed’ and ‘awed’ at the lanterns some more. My disappointment at leaving Hoi An was somewhat eased as my anticipated return to Hanoi loomed. By the time I boarded the return plane to Bangkok my map of the city was well and truly worn.
So here I am, back in Bangkok with memories of Cambodia, Laos, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand flooding my mind. And where to next? I have set my sights on Japan and The Philippines. The world is my oyster, and South East Asia is a great place to have begun.