The first few days: So out of my element

During the flight over, I still couldn’t believe that I was actually going.  When the plane was landing and I saw Bangkok for the first time I was still in awe that I would soon step foot in Thailand.  I couldn’t believe that I actually did it.  I actually followed my dream!  I met Jeff, the AYC Intercultural Thailand Human Resources Manager, after customs and I began my adventure.  We headed to Khao San Road which is the backpackers district and the place where I would be staying.  We found a place and I was shown to my room.  My jaw almost hit the ground when I saw the size of the room, oh and no window!

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After Jeff left, I broke down.  What have I done?! I suddenly felt so alone even though I had been in Thailand for maybe two hours.  I felt so out of place and impossibly overwhelmed.  I quickly  went down to the internet room where they conveniently have cameras set up for skype purposes and I hoped that Kyle would be on.  Thank God he was because I definitely needed someone to cry too and he talked me right down from it, something he has always been good at.  He can talk me out of all my frantic moods and this was probably the worst of them.  He told me that this is the first time I’ve ever been alone and that its going to be great for me!  I was so nervous slash uncomfortable slash upset that I felt sick to my stomach.  Then Miley Cyrus “Party in the USA” came on and I felt more at home.  Thank you Miley!!  I calmed down and once I returned to my room it didn’t seem so small anymore. 

The next day I woke up at 6 after a night of waking up every single half hour.  No idea why, I wasn’t that uncomfortable.  I think it was just the shock of being in such a new place.  I finally decided to just get out of bed and start my day.  I walked around and happened across a Wat (temple), which is a commonplace in Bangkok, there seems to be one on every corner. I went in and sat in on their morning prayers.  It was very peaceful and it was amazing how it was just one continuous prayer for probably a good twenty minutes, and I’m sure they went on much longer after that, that just happened to be the amount of time that I watched them.  I kept wandering around a bit and decided that this cart on the side of the road looked like a great place to stop for breakfast.  Naturally I had Pad Thai, a wonderful breakfast, and while I was eating I met a guy from California as well, Stephen.  He was on his way through Thailand to visit his family in India and after talking briefly he told me he could show me the ropes a bit on the public transportation.  I told him that I had to stop by the AYC offices and he still agreed to go with me.  After almost THREE hours at the office, I was finally finished and I felt SO bad, especially since it happened to be his birthday!  We decided to head over to the Chatachuk Weekend Market, which is the biggest flea market/swap meet that I have ever seen.  Its just miles of amazing handmade crafts and knicknacks and I just wanted to stay there all day and spend every last cent, but I knew I had nowhere to put my treasures so I decided that I would have to come back before I left to stock up on wonderful souvenirs.  I wish I had a house to decorate in Thailand because there was some of the most amazing furniture and household items.   We spent the rest of the day exploring a little bit in the downtown area, including their malls, which are utterly ridiculously huge and there are about 5 of them right next to each other.  This is also where I discovered the absolute insanity of Bangkok traffic and driving.  They don’t use lanes and if they want to go they’re going to go.  Stoplights pretty much don’t do anything.The basic laws of traffic don’t abide.

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  After that, Stephen decided to go get a massage and I wanted to head back to Khao San to relax for a little bit.  A new adventure was ahead for me because I was about to man the bus alone.  On my way to the bus stop, there happened to be a concert going on in the pavilion at one of the malls.  It was hilarious.  The group that was singing was like the Backstreet Boys or Nsync (of course 10 years ago boy bands) of Thailand because as soon as they took the stage all the girls started screaming.  I had to stop and watch for awhile because it was just so intriguing.  It made me remember when I was 13 and would scream when the boybands came on stage.  I pulled myself away from the show and ventured to find the bus stop, which I thought I found.  45 minutes later all the other buses had come except for mine so I decided to just take a cab.  Well instead of a cab stopping, a “tuk tuk” stopped and I decided that I needed even more of an adventure especially because tuk tuks try and fit between traffic and NO ONE in Bangkok uses lanes, it seems to be a lost cause there.  On my ride I saw a few interesting things: an entire family on a motorcycle, dad driving with little boy in front of him and mom on the back carrying the little girl, incredible, a lady riding side-saddle on a motorcycle (which I have seen countless times since then) and a tuk tuk with twelve little boys in it!  Transportation is insane here!!

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I relaxed for a bit and later I met up with another AYC teacher named Sean to have a few drinks.  It was nice to meet someone else in the same situation as me.  

The next day I ventured out again with the intent to take one of the river boats down the river to the Grand Palace and see the place.  Well, that didn’t quite happen the way I planned.  As I was trying to find my way to the river I ran into a Thai man who started talking to me and insisted that I take a Thai boat on the river.  I didn’t quite understand what he was saying but he planned this whole route out for me where I would do the river ride, go to a tourist office (yeah no idea why this happened) and then go to the Golden Mountain where the Golden Buddha was.  Without really letting me protest he called a tuk tuk driver over, negotiated that the driver would stay with me the whole time for only 30 baht (which is pretty ridiculous keeping in mind that my tuk tuk ride the night before was 100 baht).  So off I went not sure where I was going or what I was off to do.  I ended up in a weird part of town and somehow by the river where the driver took me to another Thai man who told me that a river boat ride was 1500 baht.  Definitely not what I was aiming for since the public river boat was maybe 15 baht.  This ride was different since it was in a longtail boat and it went down the canals so I thought it would be interesting, so I agreed to do it.  It was of course totally worth it!!  I got to float down the canals and see some pretty cool things! 

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The only part of it that made me sad was that other boats were passing by with couples and groups of people and I was all alone.  It was actually really nice alone and I didn’t mind it, but it definitely would have been nice to have someone along for the ride.  Its been really great to have some time to focus on myself.  I need to do some soul searching for sure and find who I am and this is going to be a great opportunity for me.  I have months and months ahead of me as well to do just that!  I took a lot of great pictures on the way.  When the trip was over I got back to the dock and found that the tuk tuk driver did indeed wait for me!  He insisted that we go to the tourist office, which I really didn’t need to go to, but I said fine ok and he drove me through a really interesting part of town yet again.  I guess its fun to do that because I never would have seen that part of town otherwise, so it was exciting nonetheless.  When we got to the tourist office, it was a hole in the wall and I was literally in there for five minutes and we were on our way again.  This time to the Golden Mount and I thought our agreement was that he was going to wait for me and take me back to Khao San Road but when we got there he asked me to pay and that was it. Soooo I was stranded and I wasn’t exactly sure where I was.  The beauty of living in the backpackers district is that everyone knows where it is so I didn’t worry too much.  I continued onto the Golden Mount and found an amazing view of Bangkok. 

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I’m beginning to find that most Wats are pretty similar, but they are all beautiful, so I guess that never gets old.  When I was finished I decided that I wanted to try and find my own way back.  After wandering around for a good 45 minutes and not able to find even where I am on the map I decided to get a tuk tuk back (I’m already pretty comfortable in them).  I found a free wifi place (which hasn’t worked since then) by my hostel and got to call Kyle on Skype when I got back so that was great.  I still tear up a little when I talk to him because sometimes I just feel super lonely.  And yes I know at this point its only been TWO days but its been a real overwhelming experience for me.  I also have found that living in my little room I have had to become very resilient to unidentifiable bugs. 

Monday I was supposed to substitute teach at this school completely on the other end of Bangkok.  After a 500 baht taxi ride (which is ridiculous) and a ride on a muddy dirt road, I made it to the school and was showed to a classroom.  I was given no direction and no materials so I was a little lost.  I had a few lesson plans  but I needed paper and a photocopier so I was a little panicked for I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, but I guess that’s the excitement of the first day teaching.  Well a teacher came in and told me that I wasn’t needed and that it was a big misunderstanding and I was left in the middle of nowhere (something that happened again on Thursday)!  I called Jeff and he had me come into the office, where we were going to sort things out.  Another long taxi ride back and I was there unknown of the other little adventure I was about to take.  Working for AYC I need my own bank account so they can just direct deposit money into my account.  To get to the bank, I was to take a motorcycle with a Thai lady I didn’t quite know and who didn’t speak much English.  Grrrrrreat….. Mind you this is my first time ever on any type of motorcycle.  I grabbed a helmet and latched onto the back of the bike because I wasn’t too comfortable clinging to her for my dear life in the crazy Bangkok traffic.  To give her credit, she didn’t drive too crazy and my first motorcycle ride wasn’t a traumatic one, I made it back in one piece (I’m sorry I don’t have a picture from this momentous occasion).  Back at the office I found out that I needed to go out to a school on Chonburi and do an interview/demonstration for a teacher.  The only reason why I was going to go was because they didn’t have any other female teachers in Bangkok yet and I was to represent AYC.  I was set on going to Chumphon (who wouldn’t want to live on the beach?!), but all the ladies at AYC kept asking my why I wanted to go there and not to Chonburi.  I think they just didn’t want it to look bad when I interviewed, was offered the job, and then it was a different girl that showed up.  I didn’t let them talk me out of it but I of course agreed to go with them, especially since I was going to get paid for the day anyways.  At the office, I met these two UK guys that worked for AYC in the office and we shared a taxi back to Khao San and I we got along great.  One of them, Steve, had a couple friends in town and I told him that I’d definitely meet up with them later.  When we made it back, it was absolutely POURING!  This was the first time I’ve seen it rain here, which is pretty common I hear, and it was definitely a baptism by fire because we had to walk through Soi Rambuttri road (the actual road we’re staying on near Khao San) while everyone watched us as they sat under covered areas.  When I made it back to my room, I literally looked like I had jumped into a pool.  It was absolutely insane!  Steve called me a few hours later and I met up with the him and the girls and we boarded the Chao Phraya River Express and took a trip down the river.

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 I loved the two girls that were with him, one reminded me of the sister in Notting Hill and the other was absolutely amazing.  She took a sabbatical from her job in the Fire Department in the UK and was taking a nine month backpacking trip through the South of Asia, New Zealand and then ending in America.  It was a trip she had been saving for a planning for over twenty years and I was completely in awe.  She had just come from India and Nepal and I was of course hanging on her every word.  It made me want to go to Nepal SO badly and even though she said India was depressing and shocking she told me that everyone should go there at least once in their lifetime.  She was doing a bunch of organized trips so I feel like that’s the great way to do it when you’re alone.  Her stories just completely made me dream to do that one day!  I don’t really want to do it alone so I might have to convince Kyle to do it with me years and years down the road.  We grabbed some dinner and few beers and I had such a great time with them.  They were going on a three day trip the next day and I really wish I could have joined them but I want to try and work as much as I can before the teacher’s seminar.  They’re getting back in town on Friday so I hope they call me!

Tuesday had an interesting start with my cab ride to the office.  My cab driver got completely lost and I ended up being late to meet the girls that were going to take me to Chonburi.  I was completely frantic, which I need to learn to control especially here in Thailand.  I’ll work on that.  On the way ot Chonburi, I actually had a lot of fun with the girls in the car.  They were really sweet even though at times hard to understand.  One spoke pretty good English so she was kind of a translator.  Once we got to the school the teacher was extremely late so we just had girl bonding time while we talked about our boyfriends and shared pictures.  When the teacher finally came we began the interview.  Her first question definitely stopped me in my tracks: “What would you do if one of my students fell in love with you.”  I literally stammered and said “I obviously …uhhh…wouldn’t condone that….”  I really had no idea what to say to that!  She went on asking me question after question and then talked in Thai with the girls for a long while.  Apparently, she loved me and wanted me to teach at her school.  When I got back to the office they of course told everyone about it and a few of the other girls approached me and sounded like they wanted to get me to go to that school, but I stuck to Chumphon and its pretty set that that’s where I’m going to go.  Coming back to my little room makes me especially lonely.  I’m fine all day but when I’m reminded that I’m alone here I get upset.  I finally got to talk to Kyle after a few days of not talking to him and I found that if I have Skype up when my computer time runs out I can still use it, so I got to talk to him for an hour and a half!! It made me feel so much better!  Its great having him in life to calm me down and always be the voice of reason haha. 

I set out Wednesday to explore the Grand Palace and the Wats around it.  I didn’t end up going into the Grand Palace because it was 350 baht and I felt like that was an investment I should make when I have someone with me to take actual pictures of me in front of things instead of me holding my camera out (There will be lots of those once I post my pictures on facebook).  I stopped off at Wat Pho which is the home of the Reclining Buddha.  Now this was one of the most ridiculously huge things I’ve ever seen!  Pictures can’t even capture how big it is (I guess I’m not a good enough photographer yet to capture it but I’ll get there). 

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After exploring Wat Pho I set out to go to the Grand Palace and it started raining.  I passed a tuk tuk driver and he told me that the Palace was closed right now and that he would take me to a few other temples while it was raining and then take me back (Later that day I was reading my Lonely Planet book, which said that tuk tuk drivers use this as a ploy to get tourists in their tuk tuk where they can bring them to certain stores that give them a commission if they bring people there…which mine did but he told me that he would get free gas if I got something, which I didn’t.  Later on my way to the Grand Palace I ran into another that did the same thing, I kept walking and the Grand Palace was of course not closed.  I just thought that it was hilarious that I read the book after it actually happened to me!)  Even though I fell for it, I had a blast and the tuk tuk driver was super nice and everytime we drove by something he would tell me what it was so it was worth it.  He took me to a few temples, which I love and I got to get out of the rain as we drove around.  It was a cheap way to pass time and I got to make a wish on a Buddha that is supposed to bring good luck in business.  I was in a temple all by myself and I knelt down and prayed that I would find happiness by myself.  I’m frustrated with the fact that I’m not doing so well at this whole being by myself thing.  Because this is a trip for me to become dependent on myself, I felt I needed a little help, especially because I wasn’t doing to hot at it so far with little breakdowns almost every night.  I decided that I would do this in every temple I visited.  

Wats are my favorite part of this crazy city.  They are nestled in the middle of the hustle and bustle and they are extremely peaceful.  So far I haven’t been the biggest fan of Bangkok, but I’m sure it would grow on me.  Too much is going on and people are in a hurry ALL the time.  The city is completely overwhelming, there’s ten times the pollution than Los Angeles, the traffic is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen and people are everywhere.  Wats are where everything stands still and I can actually think.  I love that.  I really need time for myself and even though I’m spending all day by myself some days this city still doesn’t allow me to be by myself.  I can’t wait until I get down to the south where I’m teaching and I can just sit on the beach or go on a hike and really focus on myself.  That is what this trip was about.  Seeing the world and finding myself.  I guess I need a little more than four days to do that so maybe I should give myself a break.

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2 thoughts on “The first few days: So out of my element

  1. I don’t know why but I do understand the pull and tug of emotions you’re going through. All your life you’ve considered others in your plans. While sometimes burdensome you never realized how comforting it was to have others helping to set your day-to-day. You seem to be doing well accepting your emerging realizations. Each day will be more comfortable. Love to you!

  2. I have so much respect for you arriving in Bangkok alone. I have traveled a lot, but I was a nervous wreck on my flight over from Chicago. I have lived in South America for the past two years, and many people speak enough English that it’s easy to communicate. Being thrown in a country where not many people speak English–and you’re along–is so intimidating.

    I had to laugh at your Miley Cyrus comment because that song would have comforted me as well. 🙂 The first night I was here I woke up every hour. It’s like our brains are keeping watch.

    Your photos and comments on Thailand are really beautiful, and I look forward to reading more. I arrived in Bangkok on Jan 1 (Happy New Year!), and I’m learning about life here as well. I can’t wait to see the reclining Buddha in person–it is much larger than I imagined.

    Safe travels. Let me know if you ever have any questions on South America. You are a rock star for traveling alone.

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