Stacy in Thailand 2006
One of the pictures I took in India won a photo competition sponsored by the Imaginative Traveller. I won first prize for the Asia division and the prize is a seven-day tour in Thailand. Coolest prize ever!!
- Name: Stacy
- Location: Washington, United States
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Outside of Bangkok Pictures
Monday, September 11, 2006
More Island Life Pictures
Khao San Rd and Muay Thai Boxing Pictures
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Tips for Traveling in Thailand
Ok, so these tips are written specifically for Thailand, but a lot of them can work for other places as well like India, China, and other countries in SE Asia.
Wear sandals/shoes that can be easily taken off and put back on. You will have to take them off at holy temples and in some rural places before entering a shop or restaurant. You definitely don’t want to mess with laces, a strap or a buckle several times a day.
Always use the meter in a taxi. Drivers will try to quote you a price but it is always 2 or 3 times the amount than if the meter was used. Try to take taxis that you approach rather then when they approach you.
Avoid tuk-tuk drivers in Thailand at all costs. They are nothing but a bunch of scammers trying to lure you to a shop after they tell you that the sightseeing site you want to go to is closed until later in the day.
Trust your guidebook when it comes to operating hours and sights. Or, if for some insane reason you don’t have a guidebook, ask more than one person your question and definitely don’t ask tuk-tuk or taxi drivers.
Tips are greatly appreciated no matter how small. But, only tip people who are courteous and give you no trouble. You wouldn’t believe how grateful taxi drivers are when I give them a little extra something because they didn’t give me a hard time about wanting to use the meter. The minimum daily wage in Thailand is 162 baht. A 10 baht tip (about 30 cents) makes a huge difference.
If a random person approaches you and strikes up a conversation and mentions anything about “practicing their English” and they are not carrying schoolbooks or in a school uniform then be wary of their true intentions which is usually at a shop that pays a commission. A typical Thai person does not start conversations with random Westerners.
Shopping is relatively easy barring an occasional rotten egg. I shop by thinking of how much I would pay for something in the US and then pay no more than half. More often than not I accepted the first price offered because I thought it was a good deal. I admit I could have bargained down some more, but what’s a couple of dollars to me when it can go a long way for the seller. Expect to pay more in touristy and Western-driven markets i.e. Khao San Rd. I did all my shopping on Khao San Road and found some really great stuff and deals. Ask for a deal if you buy more than one of the same item.
Here’s another shopping tip that worked wonders: after the seller tells you the price ask them “Is that your best price?” More often than not they’ll smile and automatically reduce it by at least 10%. They like a good bargainer but don’t insult them and counter with a ridiculously low price. They like to “save face” but they’re not stupid.
The overnight sleeper train is very comfortable and spacious with privacy curtains and bedding (including a mattress!) for sleeping. Screw those “luxury overnight buses” (who can sleep sitting up anyway). The bottom bunk is better than the top because the overhead lights stay on all night and the privacy curtain only blocks some of the light.
Learn three basic phrases in the local language: “hello”, “goodbye”, and “thank you.” Trust me this will help!!
For girls with bigger thighs—baby powder is a life-saver.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
I've been up since 2am this morning and today is my first day back to work. Insomnia sucks!!
Friday, September 01, 2006
Last Day in Bangkok
The Foodloft was quite an experience. When you enter they give you a card with a barcode and you use it to charge your food purchases and then pay on the way out. Nice concept. I immediately went for the Indian food. I miss really good Indian food and it did not disappoint.
Ok, back to the movie experience. The ticket was around $14 and I was treated like a star. There is a waiting lobby with a bar and plush chairs. I was offered a free soda by the wait staff. When I got up to look at the snacks at the bar someone rushed (ran!) right over to make sure I had everything I needed. Before I was escorted to my seat (assigned seats in Thai theatres) I placed an order for some French Fries, or as they are called in Thailand "French Fried", and a soda. The theatre had only five rows of eight chairs across-- all reclining sofa chairs! There was a pillow and a blanket on the chair. I watched the movie almost laying flat. What a great experience even though the movie was just ok. My food order was delivered to my seat just after the movie started. All in all a worth while experience.
I then returned to Khao San Road around 7:00pm and met up with Bridgett "B" from the tour at a bar just around the corner from my hotel. One of her friends flew from England and then they are off to Cambodia. There were also two Australians she had met while in Koh Pha Ngan. It was fun. But, then I realized I had only a couple of hours to do some serious shopping.
Two hours later and several bags later I think I have everything.
Happy Birthday, Mommy!!
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Back in Steamy Bangkok
I used today to catch up on the Bangkok must see's-- the Grand Palace, Wha Pho etc. I eventually walked to the Grand Palace (only about 1.5 miles away) because a) I couldn't find a taxi and b) I've sworn off tuk-tuk drivers. It's too bad because I loved taking them in India. One tuk-tu driver approached me and asked where I was going. I said the Grand Palace. He pulled out his map and showed me exactly where they were (which I already knew). He then looked at his watch and said it doesn't open until 1 pm (it was 10:30 am). At that point I waved him off and said "no, no, no, I know it's open!" Sure enough it was open. The Grand Palace was spectacular-- the colors and architecture are like none other.
I then went across the street to a coffee house the guide book recommended because it had air-conditioning. It was good until a piece went down the wrong way-- a spicy chilli to be exact. My eyes watered so much and I was coughing up a storm. The people in the coffee house were very friendly. I think they know that they are listed in the "Lonely Planet" guide book.
I then walked towards Wat Pho- site of a huge (huge!!) reclining Buddha. The building barely contained it. On my way to Wat Pho I tuk-tu driver said that it was closed until 3 pm. Bollocks! (My new English word!) I am through with tuk-tuk drivers.
I am on my way back to my room to rest before venturing out to have dinner and head to the Muay Thai boxing match. Then back to Khao San Road for some night market shopping. I have yet to do any buying...
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Monday, August 28, 2006
Yesterday, I went snorkeling and I had a lot of fun. We went by boat about 1 hour away in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand. We arrived at a rock called Sail Rock. The water was a deep blue not crystal clear but not muddy either. The water was a bit rough and I was a little aprhensive about jumping in. The water was the perfect temperature. At first, I did not have a floatation device. Everyone else jumped in without one. It was so tiring trying to stay afloat. I asked the boat crew for a life vest. That helped a lot and I started to have fun. As soon as I learned to calm down and control my breathing it was fantastic. So, many different types of fish and coral and it was clear enough to see the sea floor. I am really glad I went.
Today and tomorrow I'm just going to relax and be lazy before heading back to the hectic city of Bangkok. It is cooler down here but still rather hot. Tonight a local bar is having a party. There are two beaches and between the two of them there is a party every night. The bars take turns hosting parties because there are not enough people here right now to keep them all open.
Until next time...
Sunday, August 27, 2006
It's a Pagoda, not at Pakora!!
Our first day was to the famous floating markets. We took a "longtail" boat (a long boat with an 6 foot "tail" with an 8" propeller) around the local houses before we reached the floating markets. The boat ride was fun but the market was a let down-- too touristic.
Then we were off to the "Death Railway" and the Bridge over the River Kwai. We first went to a museum about the Thai-Burma railway. It was tragic reading about the treatment of forced laborers and POWs during WWII. Very few Americans- as compared with Australians and Brit- died. I guess that's why we never learned about it in school. I walked across the bridge which was quite frightening because there were school kids everywhere and the actual bridge is just the railway-- one sudden move and Stacy could be floating down the River Kwai.
Next stop was the town we would be taking the overnight train from. It is famous for it's pagoda (buddhist worship house) because it is the largest in the world. Now, our tour guide pronounciates words harshly and I thought he said pakora, which is cheese or vegatable dipped in batter and fried (Indian snack). Now before we saw the pagoda I thought he said the town had the largest pakora in the world. And I thought great because I was hungry. Now, imagine my letdown when we turned the corner and saw the pogoda.
The overnight train was fun. It was much nicer than the Indian one. Everyone else kind of grumbled but I told them to be thankful we weren't in India. (Of course this is the 3rd overnight train they had been on.) One of the Brits, Hugh, had said something to me about going to the dining car because it turns into a disco. I was only half listening because I was having a hard time understanding his accent. (Dave's accent is weak compared to his.) Soon enough some of the other Brit girls were going down and invited me. I am so glad I did. Sure enough the lights were down, some Christmas lights were flashing, and loud music was playing (My Humps by the Black Eyed Peas). It was a moving disco!! I thought Hugh was being sarcastic. We played poker, drank beer and had fun. What an experience. Even the waiter um I mean waitress um well we couldn't figure it out (Thailand is the sex change capital of the world) was dancing and drinking. Ok, back to the poker game. I got dealt a royal flush. What are the odds of that!?! I looked at Hugh and said I have a scary hand. And he said "for me or for you." I cleaned him out. I have never (never!) seen a royal flush being dealt in the poker. I'm playing the lottery when I get back.
Now, we finally made it to Koh Pha Ngan. It is absolutely incredible. What a great way to spend days being lazy. I'm going snorkeling tomorrow out in the ocean. Can't wait.
Well, got to get back to being lazy...
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Arrival in Bangkok
Bangkok is ten times better than Tokyo in terms of culture and people.
It is a pleasant change from Japan. It somewhat reminds me of India. I only had to deal with one street hawker-- she was relentless. I happened to be walking in an area where the bus tourists get off to take a river cruise. I feel more at ease here than in Tokyo.
The first street corner I was at a lady starting talking to me, welcoming me to Thailand, and told me I should cover my arms because I will get sunburned. She even went as far as to call me "white" (here I am thinking I'm quite tan on my arms). She then told me about a temple in the other direction I was going and said it is free today. I told I will check it out later. She then asked me if I had a map and she would show me where. I pulled out my book and then she said something about "practicing her English." Now, since I'm this world traveler, that is a red flag and I bid her farewell. People who want to "practice English" want one of two things: 1) money for their services or 2) take me to a shop where she gets a commission.
I walked around today for a couple of hours. I wanted to go to the Amulet Market that was recommended in my guide book. I was interesting though not that great. I walked a good mile to get there in 90 degree weather with high humidity mind you. On the way back, I stopped to get a Pineapple Shake for about 50 cents. It was good. There are similar shakes in India but I avoided those because they say not to eat fruit that you can't peel yourself. I am confident that it is ok here because they have coolers here-- even the meat is in coolers. It is definitely a step up from India.
I back at the hotel now and will meet up with the tour group in about three hours. I peeked on the sheet when I checked-in. I think there are 8 people.
The internet cafe has music and I'm listening to a song that has the lyrics "You make my temperature rise like El Nino...." I'm dead serious.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Narita airport is a shopper's paradise. Expensive, name brand stores galore- Chanel, Armani, etc. It's like Rodeo Drive. This airport is very efficient and has quick lines unlike Delhi.
Ok, my time's almost up. I write when I can. I'm not sure of the internet connections in Thailand.
Tokyo Got Better!
I finally made it to Roppongi at about 7pm. This is what I imagined Tokyo to be -- modern, vibrant and full of people. It reminded me of Times Square. I walked around for a little bit and decided to get something to eat. I have resorted to going to places that have pictures. Wendy's woohoo!! I got a baked potato and a diet pepsi just by pointing.
I then took two different subways to get to Shibuya. Shibuya is famous for being the busiest intersection in the world. Can't wait to show you all the pictures. I even found Hachiko (a statue of a dog). Legend has it that Hachiko's owner took him everyday to the station but couldn't take him on the train. So, Hachiko waited patiently until his master came back. One day his owner died at work but Hachiko waited and waited until his death several years later. It was also featured on the Amazing Race. Shibuya was my favorite part of Tokyo.
All in all, I have become an expert at negoitiating the subway system. I'm glad I took all local transportation and not a group tour. I was usually the only Westerner on the subway.
Oh and I think I have dropped a dress size just by sweating...
P.S. Thanks Margaret for the Japanese phrases.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
After my early start around 7am, I'm back at the hostel taking a break. Tokyo hasn't really impressed me. There's no charm except for the Asakusa area near a much-visited temple that quite frankly wasn't that great. I attempted to go to the fish market and couldn't figure out how to get in. So, I abandoned that idea and headed to Ginza - the Fifth Avenue of Tokyo which of course the shops don't open until 10:30 and I was there around 8:30am. So, that wasn't that exciting.
I then headed towards the Toyko International Forum because my guide book said it's worth checking out. Yeah, the architecture was neat but that's it. Not, worth trudging through the heat and humidity. I'm starting to think that I should have just taken a day tour. From there I headed out to the temple I've already mentioned. My intention was to take the river cruise boat and go to Shibuya (Times Square-like). But, I instead decided to give my legs a rest and headed back to the hostel.
I'll go take that cruise in a couple of hours and head to Shibuya and Roppongi (Western expat area) and then call it a day.
It's kind of difficult to travel here because of all the traffic- people and bicycles- and the fact that I wish I knew a couple of Japanese phrases. I think that will help a lot. Note to future Toyko (or Japan) travelers: learn some Japanese!! It will help tremendously. I feel like an idiot because I don't know how to say "excuse me" or "thank you". I've been smiling towards people all day and very (very) few smile back. I think it is "big city" syndrome- just put your head down, walk and get to where you're going.
All in all, Tokyo is just ok. I can't wait to get to Bangkok.
What a Long Day!!
After I landed the heat really set in- it is hot and humid. There was sweat rolling down my back as I was waiting in the Immigration line, which by the way was at least 200 people deep and only 6 officers checking passports. Everything else after that went rather smoothly. I got my bag, changed some money, and found the Skyliner train to Tokyo all with ease. I guess I was a little nervous about finding everything. I did have a time reading my train ticket. Luckily, being the cleaver one that I am, I compared the characters with the ones at the train station. The train was nice (air conditioned!!) and quick it took just over an hour to get to Tokyo. I upgraded to the express train-- the regular one would have taken 30 minutes longer and they do not have assigned seats.
After I arrived at Ueno station (the last stop on the airport train) I knew I had to find the correct subway line to my hotel. It really is a maze of signs and people (but not as crowded as I thought). Luckily I took my time and found the correct direction. And let me tell you it is at least 10 degrees warmer underground. I went to buy my subway ticket from a kiosk (in japanese no less) and I purchased the right one (yay for me!). Tickets are sold by how long you ride (I read on the hotel site that it would take 160 Yen). So, being the smart one that I am, I pressed the 160 button and viola! I'm on my way. Then I needed to make sure I take the subway in the right direction. Luckily, all the stations on numbered so that was easy.
When I arrived at my station I was supposed to take Exit 1B which I could not find. So, I refered to my handy hotel map and took exit 2 which was close by. I was thinking about how great I was doing finding everything until I reached street level. To make a long story short I went about 15 minutes out of my way and had to backtrack. I finally found the right street therefore the hostel with ease. I arrived completely soaked with sweat and exhausted. But, to my surprise a wonderful cool, air-conditioned room. Whew! I made it-- 3 hours after I landed.
I finally went to sleep about 7:00pm Tokyo (which is 3:00am Seattle time). I am up bright and early so that I could use the free hotel internet to put my mom's mind at ease. Now, I'm off to find this famous fish market. That'll probably smell wonderful...
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
How to Leave Comments...
1) At the bottom of each post there is a link labled "Comments"
2) Type your comment.
3) Under "Choose Your Identity" select "Other". Type your name so that I know who the comment is from.
4) Publish your comment.
Viola! It's as simple as that!
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
I worked with a travel agent (Adventure Travel Center, Seattle- Talia Kaye) and arranged a two-night stopover in Tokyo. So, now I get to visit two hot (literally and figuratively) Asian cities. It’s going to be a whirlwind of a trip but I know I will have so much fun.
Here are my travel plans:
Sunday, August 20th – Leave Seattle
Monday, August 21st – Arrive Tokyo in late afternoon
Tuesday, August 22nd – Tokyo
Wednesday, August 23rd – Tokyo; Leave for Bangkok in late afternoon
Thursday, August 24th – Start tour with Imaginative Traveller
Wednesday, August 30th – End tour with Imaginative Traveller, Overnight train back to Bangkok
Thursday, August 31st – Arrive Bangkok in early morning
Friday, September 1st – Bangkok
Saturday, September 2nd – Leave Bangkok in early morning (layover in Tokyo); Arrive Seattle in the morning
Here’s the map for the tour with the Imaginative Traveller:
Four wonderful nights on a beach in Southern Thailand. How wonderful!
The Winning Photo
It was taken in Pushkar, India during the Camel Fair. We were surrounded by at least 20 people who all wanted their picture taken.
Visit my India blog at: http://stacyinindia.blogspot.com