It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single traveller in possession of a nearly filled passport, must be in want of a visa free country to visit next.
My passport was getting dangerously close to filled, so I needed some countries that wouldn’t take up a full page, and preferably that I didn’t have to pay to go to. I would, however like to give a shout out to Nepal, Bhutan, and India for stamping pages that European countries and the UAE went crazy on. I have three crooked UAE stamps on three separate pages but they worked around it. The only page left with one stamp is the page with Kosovo – it’s like every country is worried about catching territorial ambiguity if they get too close.
I was very excited to move on from India and begin my Southeast Asia adventure, and what felt like the beginning of the end of my trip. I was hesitant about getting too excited for Thailand because it seems to be the most popular and touristy country in the area and I was worried it wouldn’t live up to all the praise. Like Dubrovnik, in my opinion it lived up to expectations.
Before arriving I was connected through my cousin Barb to her friend Brad, a professor in Bangkok. I met up with him and his girlfriend Annika on my first full day there for lunch where I was able to ask a lot of questions to plan my time here.
Bangkok is a very busy city that after Delhi felt peaceful and quiet. Somehow, the masses of cars were able to get to where they wanted to go without trying to deafen everyone around them with constant beeping.
I was lucky enough to meet a local guy named Nate who had some free time and showed me around the city. We were going to see each other in the afternoon the next day so I took that morning to explore. I think I may have set a record that day for amount walked now that my phone keeps track of steps. I walked over 35,000 steps that day, and my feet hurt a lot.
I saw a lot of temples that day, and really loved the Thai style which I’d never seen before.
One temple that stood out was Wat Traimit, the temple of the Golden Buddha. The Buddha statue was originally in Ayutthaya, the former capital, but before the Burmese came and sacked the city it was encased in plaster so it would not be stolen. Its identity was forgotten for many years until it was rediscovered in 1955.
Thailand is 93% Buddhist, making it second percentage wise to Cambodia. China has the largest Buddhist population, but they only make up 18% of China’s population. When it comes to number of people, China and India really are in a league of their own.
My walk took me through Chinatown and some very narrow covered markets.
I stopped for lunch and was happy to find that not only are the smoothies real, they’re also super cheap compared to Canada, somewhere from a third to a quarter of Canadian prices.
I’m sure this cat considers the opulence of his perch to be nothing more than his due.
After lunch I finally met up with Nate and we headed towards the Royal Palace. At this time though it had been almost a year since Thailand’s king passed away, so it was a time of mourning. The palace was closed to visitors and there was a line of black clad mourners that seemed to stretch on endlessly.
I was alright with not seeing the Royal Palace because it gives me a reason to return to Thailand. It also got me thinking though that I’m seeing a lot of places that I’ll never see again in my life. I’m happy to have seen them in the first place, but it bothers me not knowing which ones I won’t return to.
We went to the nearby Wat Pho, (wat = temple), which was my favourite place in Bangkok. I was just completely impressed with the entire complex.
Wat Pho was Thailand’s first university, and is considered to be where traditional Thai massage originated.
It also has a really big reclining Buddha.
We then went to take a boat across the river. At this point I was enjoying the perks of traveling with a local by not worrying about where we were going or how we were getting there. After so many days of figuring that out for myself I will always take the opportunity to turn that part of my brain off for a while.
We visited one of Bangkok’s more famous temples: Wat Arun.
According to Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist cosmology, the centre of all universes is the 5 peakes Mount Meru; and this mountain is symbolised here by Wat Arun.
It was about to start raining hard so we called it a day and I returned to my hostel.
The next day I met up again with Brad and Annika, and went on a day trip to Sarika waterfall. The first stop was a cafe though, which I hardly need to justify, and we stopped for lunch before arriving.
I loved all of the food in Thailand by the way, especially Pad Thai.
Sarika Waterfall is a 9 level waterfall in Nakhon Nayok that is absolutely beautiful, and well worth the drive from Bangkok to see.
Upon returning to Bangkok I said my goodbyes to Brad and Annika and went to check out Asiatique.
Everything looked really expensive but it was cool to wander around the city at night.
I was lucky, because Nate had some free time and had suggested checking out a place I hadn’t even heard of: Ayutthaya. It turns out that Ayutthaya is a very important place in Thailand, as it used to be the capital of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya which comprises most of modern day Thailand.
The Kingdom of Ayutthaya was known to foreigners as Siam, and was one of the most powerful entities in Southeast Asia.
They were enemies of the Burmese to the west, and fought with them frequently. There are 20 distinct Burmese-Siamese Wars between 1547 and 1855!
The water market was our first stop, and quite a nice place to walk through.
The Sixth Siege of Ayutthaya resulted in an overwhelming loss for the Siamese. At the time, Ayutthaya was as large as London and Paris. The Burmese burned the city down, destroyed the royal palace, and effectively ended the Kingdom of Ayutthaya.
We then went to the main ruins, and before entering went to this pagoda. The water had dragons in it.
As terrifying as that is, we continued on our way.
The destruction of Ayutthaya ended the kingdom, but the Thai people were soon united again with their new capital in Bangkok.
Thailand had the distinction in Southeast Asia as being the only country that was not colonized. The French colonized Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, while the British got Myanmar, Malaysia, and Singapore.
What’s also interesting is that Thailand is among Japan, Romania, and Italy, as a country that was on the winning side of WW1 and the losing side of WW2. (Let me know if I missed any others.)
We went for lunch after seeing the temple, and I finally got some Thai spring rolls.
After further ruins exploring, we took the 2 hour train back to Bangkok. It’s free for Thai citizens, and 60¢ for me.
As usual, after meeting someone as awesome as Nate, I had to sadly say goodbye and journey onwards. Another reason to return to Thailand!
Before switching countries though, I travelled north to Chiang Mai!