thailand monks

Thailand adventures part 1 of 2

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Shadow of a black woman

I traveled through Bangkok as an “F. U.” to the corporate life I had been living. I was over and underwhelmed at the cut throat nature of working 40 hours a week just to pay bills. So I made a mental note that I needed to travel to a cheap country where I could leverage my money as a reward for not going crazy.

I went on Google and researched various countries and my list consisted of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. After doing deducting reasoning I selected Thailand.

I then researched Thai culture, their political framework, currency rates, touristy areas, etc. Within a month and a half, I had achieved my budget goal for the trip and it was off to the races from there.

I kept a low profile at work because I was going to quit and travel to Bangkok as a reward for quitting so stealthily lol. There really is an art to saying F U to your employer(s).

Before I traveled to Thailand I reached out to two CouchSurfers I had hosted several years ago because I knew that they now resided in Thailand. One guy was a British, young, well behaved, and adventurous. The other was an Afro-French, a programmer who seemed chilled and now had a super adorable baby and an American wife.

I reached out to them so they could obviously host me for a couple of days as a means of returning the favor. (Click here to read about some of the benefits of using CouchSurfing and click here to read things you shouldn’t do while CouchSurfing.) Which has helped me make the most out of my travels because I have more money to spend since I’m not spending any on housing (ie hotels, hostels, Airbnb).

I purchased my ticket, and now had confirmations from these two previous surfers that I could stay with one of them for a solid week for FREE but for the other surfer who was outside of Bangkok, we would be able to link up but he couldn’t host me. I was excited to see what Thailand was all about, around that point in time too I had just discovered Meditation so I figured why not head there, to one of the originating nations for Meditation, you know?

With just a day or two left to spare. I had mentally check listed all the items I was going to need for the upcoming trip. I like to take advantage of the complementary first checked in luggage that many airlines offer for international flights. Now, to pack everything into one luggage, hmm. (Click here to read this space saving travel hack…)

I was now on the plane equipped with my passport and boarding pass in hand and uber jubilee to explore this region. Thailand was the first Asian country I had ever visited; it was also the first for me in South East Asia. Let’s fast forward to the exciting parts…  I explored the huge international airport, I ate some not so pricey but tasty airport food I had a brief chat with a random Asian woman, lol, she initiated the conversation.

After being inspired by some of the historical and artistic exhibits that were on display at the airport, I stepped outside, connected to WIFI, and texted my Afro-French host to let him know that I had safely arrived in Bangkok. I forgot how exactly I got to his apartment lol -___- (useless short-term memory got replaced with more exciting memories ahah!).

downtown Bangkok
Downtown Bangkok

We were now inside his beautiful apartment in downtown Bangkok. He introduced me to his wife and their baby boy. I unloaded my stuff into one of their apartment’s spare rooms and I took time to soak it all in. I meditated for a couple of minutes, I prayed and thanked God for being here and for what I was going to learn throughout this experience. After maybe an hour or so, my host and I went to explore parts of Bangkok at night, and yo, it was a lot but also very eerie, slummy, and red district-ish. I’ll expand on that shortly.

My host and I walked around to one of the internationally popular touristy areas but it was overwhelmingly filled with white pensioners, older European males with Thai girlfriends/wives/ mistresses -___-, I was grossed out at those sights! I faintly recall reading something about that from a blog while I was doing research on Thailand. I’m not going to spend too much time on why its gross so yeah, to each their own. We stopped by a bar and we grabbed a local Thai beer, eh, it was ok, I’m not much of a beer woman, I prefer wine, but I drank the entire bottle. Despite Thailand being very diverse in terms of ethnicities it was still very homogenous, but you would see many European tourists/travelers more than you would see Africans or other ethnic people. *sigh*

We resumed our walk, I tried to absorb as much as I could, I was looking up, down, left, and right; listening to all the sounds, smelling everything LOL! You get my drift, no pun intended.

Staring circus ride clown

I started seeing something that made me feel very uneasy, it was something I hadn’t really seen much of in the US (unless in crime tv series/ movies). It was blatant, it was quiet, but its ugly head was everywhere throughout the rest of my stay in Thailand. It was —prostitution. Despite my host and I walking around for maybe an hour or so, we walked blocks, me walking besides him aimlessly of course. I kept noticing these long rows of Thai females who stood still and wore cheaply looking dresses, they were all super frail looking and carried small purses at almost every street corner we walked by. I didn’t have to ask my host, who they were, what they were doing, it was in fact Thailand- one of the leading countries in terms of sex trafficking and human trafficking in general.

I tried looking into the faces of some of them and it just seemed hallow, sad, and hopeless. $1 gets you 33 Thai Baht today in 2022, I visited Thailand several years ago which means that the convergence rate would have been even higher, back then which is one of the leading reasons many people travel to Thailand. You can leverage your dollar very well there without breaking the bank!

I saw mothers lying on the dirty cement ground with their babies lying on a towel besides her as the mother begs for money from passing tourists and residents alike. It was such an eye opener, I’ve seen desperation and poverty in Italy, the USA, Haiti, etc but the sight of poverty here was different it was soo old, so intricate to very systems that makes Thailand a huge travel destination. I’m going too deep here, my bad! I saw those prostitutes and felt pity for them while my host and I kept walking, we returned to his apartment, I said goodnight to him and his wife and quickly rushed into my room to mentally run through the next coming days adventures and surprises.

Day 1 of Bangkok was eye opening, thrilling and surprised me a bit but let’s continue with the rest of the adventures. I slept comfortably the night before and woke up feeling super pumped to explore the city for the entire day. I was graciously privileged to live with my host for FREE 99 because I had hosted him several years ago, so he was returning the favor. I had days 2 to 7 planned out on a digital itinerary (aka notepad app) I always make for my trips, to make sure I get as much out of my trips as possible. 

I ate a small breakfast at my hosts place and then dashed outside seeking Thai street food. At this time of my life I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian, so I was able to consume fish and eggs, so this helped me a lot throughout Thailand. I will loosely recall some of the memorable places I visited while there, they are by no means in order. Throughout this post I will try to state the exact names of those places to help you, should you choose to visit Thailand sometime.  You’re welcome. =p

I forgot what I ate but it was cheap, tasty and very hearty. After eating I walked to my first destination the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre.

It was large and housed hundreds if not thousands of local Thai art and sculpting. After that I dashed off to the National Museum of Thailand to learn more about Thailand’s colorful history in terms of Buddhism, meditation and everything in between. Visiting that museum was extremely captivating and relaxing. I only wished it was a bit larger and had more English translation of the sculpting.

Thai monks

I was hungry again and had drank all the water I had in my reusable bottle, it was time to eat more street food, lol! One of the aspects of Thailand I really liked at least in Bangkok was how on almost every major street corner you’ll find high quality street food vendors. Now, some people may complain about street food in general as being low quality but from what I discovered from my researching of Thailand is that their Government had invested (and still does) invest a lot of money into improving the quality of life especially for local entrepreneurs (i.e.. Food vendors, tourism); so as it relates to food standards in my opinion, Thailand was much higher than that of Beijing, China’s, Haiti’s and Benin’s street vendors combined. Again, I don’t recall what I ate but view the photo for context.

After eating, I was re-energized and took a moto to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA Bangkok). I held on to the moto guy for dear life ahahah! We road on a highway and luckily, we both wore helmets, I was still semi-scurred =p. 

This museum is one of my favorites, they exclusively showcased hundreds of local Thai artists paintings, sculpting, mixed media art pieces. Many of which honored and praised women, motherhood, girls in a way I hadn’t seen anywhere else in the world. I believe that too is linked to why transsexuals are as prevalent as they are in Thailand. Lady boys as they are commonly referred to as. I spoke with a local about why Thailand was rumored to have soo many males who dressed in drag or underwent sex change surgeries to become a woman/ girl and someone told me it was because many males felt like there is too much pressure on them to provide to the family, to be the provider, the be the protector, etc. So, they prefer to become a woman to not bear to all of those societal pressures. -___o I am not sure how valid that is and am being mindful to not generalize all of Thai’s Trans folk identity to this one opinion, but it nonetheless is interesting and highly memorable. But yeah back to MOCA Bangkok, I took several pictures.

I was exhausted after walking around this entire museum for hours, having taken so many pictures and being mentally stimulated I was done for the day. 

I wasn’t sure how I would be able to return to my host’s apartment so I walked around outside of the museum’s venue for a bit so that I could search for another moto guy. I aimlessly walked through this semi-slum like neighborhood and observed how dilapidated many of the houses were, many of them were makeshift homes that housed entire families, but be that as it may there was still a sense of order, uniformity, and mutual respect amongst the residents.

They didn’t bother or harass me, I didn’t take photos of their homes but made a mental note. I kept walking… a few minutes into my walk I found a moto person, I wasn’t sure if they were a female or male (they were a bit androgynous) so I approached them and smiled, I showed them a google translated picture I had on my phone because I didn’t have data… that said in Thai “Hi, can you take me home? Here is the address: …”To my surprise the person shook their head in the yes gesture and grabbed their motorcycle. Lol! 

I got on the back and held on to them lol! It was a fun ride, after maybe 30 or so minutes of riding we arrived at my host’s place, I paid the moto person and went upstairs to shower and later in the evening went for a swim in the pool. Yo, I was dumb exhausted but super happy!

Wat Pho Temple, Thailand

The rest of the night I was pretty chile, I had dinner with my host and his wife. We chatted a bit about life in Bangkok, what its like to be black there, life in France and the US, etc. Just general stuff ahah! I had a peanut curry w/ rice that night and it was super tasty! I thanked my host again for their generosity. The food was also FREE 99, they treated me.

Fast forward to the next day, I was off to a park, the Lumpini Park to see what was over there. Whenever I travel, I try to see as many aspects of a city as I can so that I can have a broad POV of the city/country. Lumpini Park was a popular place for many of the locals, it is where they would go to exercise, row boats, relax, and walk around. That park is super massive though, I walked a good portion of it but didn’t plan on being there the entire day so I explored half of it or less. 

That park also had these super large lizards that frightened me LOL! I obvi don’t read Thai so I overlooked all these signs that were plastered throughout the park that said be on the lookout for said lizards. It wasn’t until I walked towards and area that didn’t have many humans that I realized “oh shit, WTF is that!” there were these huge 5 feet long or larger lizards walking all around me, falling off of trees, swimming, and walking out of the surrounding lake(s). I felt like I was surrounded by small dinosaurs or enlarged Florida iguanas! I was scurred AF foreal foreal! Ahah! 

After leaving Lumpini I visited Khao San Road to buy small souvenirs and to eat more street food! Sorry, I don’t recall what I ate but it was tasty, cheap, hearty! I saw a lot of tour companies throughout Bangkok and was tempted to paying for some Bicycling tours but I didn’t sign up for any of them just cause. I walked around as much of Bangkok as I could so I could become familiar with what was where and so on. While walking an older Thai woman approached me and spoke some English. She stated that she was a teacher and then went on to hail a taxi for me that was supposed to take me to a random market to buy fabrics, (THIS IS A SCAM) I had read about it on some blogs its similar to the Tea Scams throughout China, where a stranger directs you to a place of business so you can spend money you don’t want to out of politeness. But because I had read about other travelers experiencing that and also didn’t need to buy much of anything aside from food I told her directly “no.” and walked away lol. Funny caveat though, I fell for the Tea Scam weeks into my stay in China lol, I ought the cheapest Oolong tea I could but w/e. *shrug & sight*

The next day I visited the Royal Grand Palace aka Thailand Palace on a whim. While there, I saw soo many tourists and saw another black girl. Lol, she came up to me and asked me if I too was traveling alone, I replied “yeah, you?” she smiled and said yes. We clicked and were a team for the rest of the day, lol! 

Wat Arun, Thailand, temple

This is one of the gems that does happen more times if you are traveling alone and are open to going off script for a bit. Said opportunity wouldn’t arise if you were traveling as a group or w. other people because other people might not feel comfortable being around a new person aka a stranger or w/e. Luckily it turned our quiet alright, she was a student fresh out of college and was doing a gap year as a means of celebrating. We hung out for the rest of the day, we visited several other nearby touristy areas and she invited me to her hostel later that evening. We chatted a bit and I left.

The remainder of my days in Bangkok were eventful but not as eventful as the first couple of days because I somewhat got into a routine though I never visited a place more than once, it was a bit unique though. The rest of the trip made me feel like more of a local but one who wasn’t working there but just observing and taking mental notes of what was there, the isms (i.e. colorism) observing the class divisions between Thai people, observing the sketchy or poorer sections of Bangkok; observing how many of the street vendors had poor dental hygiene. I later was told by an ex-pat who had been living there for several years that many of the street vendors used methamphetamine, so their teeth were super discolored or missing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading part 1 of my Thailand adventures. Part 2 will be posted soon.

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