Sleep, sleep, I just want to sleep. It’s Friday morning, early Friday morning, like, 5:00 AM Friday morning. I can’t sleep. My mind is racing, the sun will be up soon anyway, I may as well get up and get some things done.
On the list of things to do today, my first day in Thailand: Eat, get data service (internet) on my smart phone, and check on availability of a train ticket to Chiang Mai, a smaller city in northern Thailand.
A quick look at the hotel’s culinary offerings sent me looking for something cheaper. The hotel’s breakfast buffet was $12. I was heading out to the streets to see what else I could find. This was my intended plan from the start. A bit of research before my travels taught me that eating what the Thais eat will be the best value, and I bet Thais don’t eat $12 hotel buffets. As I exited the hotel, I felt the warm morning air, it was 72 degrees F at 6:30 in the morning. The forecast was for a high of 92 today. After a short walk to the right and finding only a Seven Eleven convenience store, I back tracked to the hotel and went left. Within a block I found a restaurant with an espresso machine sitting on the counter. On the menu were several breakfast offerings, including an “American Breakfast”. Not sure if the lady understood my English, I pointed to my choice on the menu. She nodded and proceeded to make me a coffee.
My breakfast arrived at the table where I was flipping through a Thai newspaper and drinking the coffee. A sunny-side-up egg, half a slice of bacon, two sausages that resembled foot-long hot dogs, and two slices of toast.
The coffee was excellent, the bacon was a bit under-cooked for my liking, the egg was very good, though I don’t usually order sunny-side-up and the sausage (hot dogs?) were tasty. I had my first meal in Thailand and it was good!
After breakfast I went for a stroll, and in the back of my mind thinking about what I just ate. Hmmm. Within a block I came upon a pharmacy. I knew that antibiotics were over-the-counter here and I decided to stock up on some ciprofloxacin, a common prescription for lower abdominal issues (traveler’s diarrhea). As it turns out, my fears were completely unfounded. I have not been sick at all since I landed in Thailand and I still have all 20 tablets of Cipro, 500mg, that I bought for 110 baht ($2.80).
With breakfast done, I headed on to the next task, a train ticket to Chiang Mai. With the pending protests threatening to shut down Bangkok, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to leave the city in a few days as I had planed. I chose to advance my schedule and head to Chiang Mai a couple days early.
Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand. It’s about 430 miles north of Bangkok, and is a popular destination for expats and tourists. From the beginning of this trip, Chiang Mai was to be my primary destination due to it’s size, not too big and not too small, but it’s growing rapidly.
Looking at a map, the train station was only about two and a half inches from the hotel, so I figured I’d walk on over and see about buying a ticket to Chiang Mai. After about 45 minutes of walking in the sunny 92 degree heat and realizing I was only half way there, I needed to get into somewhere air conditioned. I also wanted a Gatorade or something similar to quench my thirst. Looking around I saw a big grocery store right in front of me, a Tesco. Once inside I discovered it was a massive grocery/department store that also hosted smaller stores and restaurants on a few different floors. Serendipity, as it turned out, one of the stores was True, the mobile phone service provider I had gotten for my phone while in Thailand. I needed to go there to add internet service. With the data package up and running, I now had Google maps available. With digital maps and GPS in the phone I could now navigate around Bangkok with relative ease.
In the grocery store it took me a couple tries to find someone that spoke English to point out the location of the Gatorade.
Now that I was hydrated, cooled down, and finally connected to the internet, I set off for the train station. As I exited the Tesco I saw a Tuk Tuk driver waiting for a customer, I decided that would be me since I wasn’t looking to walk another 40 minutes in the heat. I got in and told him where I wanted to go, but before we started I knew I needed to get a price set for the trip. He said 100 baht. Hmmm. A 25 mile taxi ride was 270 baht, I think 100 baht was a bit steep for the 2 miles or so to the train station. I got out and said no, I’ll walk. He stopped me and asked, how much? 50 baht I replied. 60?, he asked. I agreed, and we were off.
It was my first Tuk Tuk ride. They can be a bit noisy, and smokey if it has a two cycle engine, but I’ve heard that two cycles are being phased out. They maneuver into anyplace there’s room, and they’re just plain fun to ride in.
At the train station I headed to the information desk. The pretty Thai girl was eating her lunch, but set it aside and smiled. She spoke good English which was great because I speak very little Thai. I asked how to get a ticket to Chiang Mai, and she walked me over to the ticket booth. Speaking in Thai, she told the agent what I wanted, a sleeper compartment (they call them 1st class). He replied, saying that all the sleeper compartments were sold out and all that was left was 2nd class sleepers. Second class sleepers are sort of like two bunk beds side by side separated by a walkway. I figured that was very likely to be noisy and getting sleep would be a problem. It looked like I might be flying to Chiang Mai, a more expensive option at about $100. After thinking for a moment, the Thai girl smiled and said I might be able to get a 1st class ticket at a tour travel agent upstairs. The tour companies buy up tickets ahead of time and resell them at a profit, but apparently they are only allowed to do it if they sell the ticket in combination with a tour or hotel. Serendipity again, I needed a train ticket and a Hotel in Chiang Mai for two days since I’d be arriving two days ahead of schedule. The price for this package? 5,000 baht or about $156.00.
I had walked about half way back to the hotel when I came upon a BTS Skytrain station. It’s an above ground rail system that makes getting around Bangkok a breeze. All the maps and signs are written in both English and Thai. I had to go two stops to get to the hotel, the ticket was 22 baht ($0.69) and was probably the cleanest and most hospitable mass transit train I’ve ever been on.
Now back at the hotel at 4:00 PM, I really just wanted to go to bed. I had hoped to stay up until seven or eight, but knew there was no way that was going to happen. I headed out to the streets again, in search of dinner. This time I chose a meal from one of the ubiquitous food carts that line the streets. Roasted fish from one cart and pineapple slices with a sugar/hot chili pepper mix for dipping in, from another. 20 baht for the fish and 10 for the pineapple, $1 for dinner.
I was completely wiped out now and turned in at only 5:30 PM, hopefully I’d be able to sleep 12 hours or more.
Tomorrow I’d go have a better look around Bangkok.