Leaving the Xi’an Airport to Thailand was expectedly more complicated than it should have been. When we arrived at terminal 2, we didn’t see any signs for international departures, so we asked a woman at the information desk. She said we had to go to Terminal 3. We walked to terminal 3 and again didn’t see any signs for international departures. Employees insisted that we would find the check-in at terminal 2. We walked back and stood in the Air Asia line but the man thought we were going to Taiwan, not Thailand. When he couldn’t find our information, he left the desk and asked another employee for help. He then came back and walked us to a very narrow, unmarked hallway that would take us to the international departure check-in. These types of organizational difficulties are all too common in China.The Xi’an airport had signs for their sleep boxes (¥150/hr), but no signs for international departure check-ins.We arrived in Bangkok very late, we took a cab to our hostel and went to find food. Just a few doors down we found a lovely restaurant with delicious curry, fried lemon grass, and Leo beer. Thai green curry is one of our favorite foods so having it in Thailand was a real treat!
We went back to the hostel and met a our only roommate, Sjur from Norway. We had so much in common that we became instant friends. The three of us stayed up late talking about everything from politics to our mutual love of the TV show Lost. We decided that we would go sightseeing the next day together. We took the subway to the train station to book tickets to Phuket, then hopped on a tuk tuk (a three wheeled auto rickshaw) for a tour of the city. The tuk tuk driver dropped us off at a small pier so we could go on a boat tour of the canals of old town Bangkok.
We saw lavish temples every 100 meters which clearly took a lot of money to build and maintain. Surrounding these temples were dilapidated houses with children running in, out, and around, while the adults would happily smile at the tourists snapping photos of the disparity.
We then headed to the Grand Palace, which was built in 1782 as the residence for the Kings of Siam and later it was the residence for the Thai kings. The current king lives in a private palace, but this one is still used for special events and is open to tourists year-round.
This is a monitor lizard, the second largest lizard species in the world. They were everywhere in Bangkok, especially near the waterways. We found them basking in the sun beside the canals or sliding into the murky water to swim, their bodies oscillating like a snake. They have powerful limbs, long claws, and long necks, which makes their head resemble snakes, which are close relatives of the monitor lizards. Unlike most other lizards, monitor lizards are venomous, an indication that snakes and monitors share a common ancestor.
Relaxing in the park while Sjur worked out at the free outdoor gym. This gym was so cool- there were weights of all varieties, large mirrors, and other exercise equipment that were free for the public. We were disinclined to join him because the place was filled with really muscly guys who made us self-conscious. Plus, it was Thailand in the middle of the afternoon, so it was very hot outside.
After visiting the Grand Palace, where we had to wear long sleeved linen shirts and pants, we decided to explore a little. Sjur really wanted to check out the Muay Thai boxing arena so we took a Tuk Tuk to the Lumpinee arena. There we discovered that the tickets for the night’s bout were $75 per person. Disappointed, we started to walk to find something else to do. We had walked for about 5 minutes when Sjur turned to us and said that he really wanted to see the match but didn’t want to go alone so he offered to pay for our tickets. Astounded by his generosity we objected until he convinced us that he was more than happy to buy our tickets because he could afford to do so and he enjoyed our company. The icing on the cake: he decided to go all out and buy us front row seats.
Muay Thai is a form of martial arts that is popular worldwide for its kickboxing technique that combines punches, elbows, kicks, knees, and foot thrusts. The most special part is the ritualized praying and dancing that occurs before each match, when the fighters are praying for victory as well as psyching out their opponent. At this arena, the fighting was accompanied by a special song that played during each match. Each match was five rounds and the matches began with younger fighters and progressed through the weight classes. Because the matches were each five rounds, the first few rounds were calmer and the last two were where the action happened. The spectators would place bets on whichever boxer had proven himself worthy in the first few rounds, and would become louder and louder as the match progressed. The fourth and fifth rounds were electrified with energy. Everyone screamed one word in unison for punches, and another word for kicks. We soon joined in choosing sides and screaming with them. Some of the fighters left the ring bloodied from elbows to the face and one was knocked out by repeated knees to the kidneys.
We found this amazing vegan restaurant around the corner from the train station. Coconut curry served in a coconut! You can find it, and other vegan restaurants in whichever city you want, on happycow.net.
The train ride was fun for the most part. Although it was old fashioned, with a wooden paneled interior, ineffectual rotating fans on the ceiling, and kind of rickety, we were amused by the prospect of traveling in this way. Less amusing was the fact that we were delayed by two hours because one of the train cars had to be changed because its brakes didn’t work, resulting in us missing our connecting bus into Phuket. We were shuffled from bus to bus by drivers who just wanted our money and who didn’t even look at our tickets. This took hours and was extremely frustrating. Plus, Mi’s ankles got really swollen from being on the train for so long. By the time we got to Phuket, we had been traveling for about 24 hours and just wanted to shower and sleep so we didn’t bother trying to find the hostel we had booked that was far out of town and went to a hotel in town instead. We met some Chinese girls who had booked a room at a nice hotel and were kind enough to let us tag along with them. We saw signs like these in most of the places we stayed in Southeast Asia. Apparently, durians smell really bad (and some locals told us that they also have the capacity to make you drunk). Not sure what the problem was with mangosteens because we thought they were delicious. According to the in-flight magazine on our next plane trip, mangosteens also have medicinal properties that have been used in traditional Asian medicine for centuries. “It is due to xanthones, that mangosteen has antibiotic, antiviral, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. One of the most important mangosteen health benefits is its effect on the cardiovascular system. It is believed to be effective in preventing diseases, like arthritis, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, kidney stones, cataract, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s, neuralgia, and the list goes on! It is also said that this fruit can be effective in treating depression, aging, obesity, skin diseases, allergies, ulcers, diarrhea, fevers and pain. This website calls mangosteens the Queen of the Fruits!
We woke up early the next morning to make our flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We will be posting the pictures next week.
We also want to give a shout-out to Mi’s brother and sister who are shaving their heads tomorrow to help find a cure for cancer. Mi’s sister Katie has really long, beautiful hair and has raised an impressive amount of money. You can check out her photo and help her reach her goal (She is 95% there!) by donating. You can also find Patrick’s donation page through Katie’s.
Way to go, Katie and Patrick Furlong!! Click Here to Donate!.