CURRENT LOCATION: Bangkok, Thailand
Our day started in a pretty sweet way - we got to go to Ferndale Kindergarten to see Emmy's (my niece's) hat day. For those not familiar with hat day, sadly we did not get to wear hats. Emmy turns 5 on 21st February, and it was her last day of kindy. As such, she got to make a hat to wear for the class, she could invite guests (that's us), and she got to sit up the front and have everyone tell her how awesome she is. And she IS awesome. She's so friendly, kind and bubbly, with the biggest, brightest smile, and she has an attitude on her that assures me we're related. I'm really sad we won't be there for her 5th birthday, but I know she won't even notice since she'll be having so much fun. Well she might notice that Zev's missing - but me, not so much!
After a pit stop at the playground for a coffee with Dad, Dan, Mace and Pippa, it was time to go home and polish off the packing, and have some serious kitty cuddle time with the fluffiest guy we know.
Eventually, we had our bags packed - they both closed (just) and we could lift them, which was a good start! We were so excited to get out to the airport and check in, then have a last cuppa with Dad, Dan and Pippa before embarking on our long journey. But Qantas had other ideas.
We did some sneaky last minute bookings of a fully refundable onward ticket from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur to satisfy their need for proof of onward travel. While most websites we read said that Thai immigration rarely ask for proof, Qantas won't let you on the plane without it. However it wasn't until we were checking in that they told us that we needed either two legs of an onward journey, OR proof of travel to a country in which we can reside. Even the travel agent was baffled by that one! Cue panicking and flustered online booking of ANOTHER fully refundable ticket (this time Bangkok back to Auckland on March 5th) on my iPhone at the counter. Near tears (okay just me), we were finally checked in and ready to go! We made our way upstairs for the long awaited cup of tea, only to find that we only had time for a quick hug. In hindsight that was probably good. By this stage I was an emotional wreck, and basically spent the whole flight to Sydney quietly sobbing. I hate saying goodbye to people, and we've had such a great few weeks with the wedding and getting to see everyone that it was extra difficult.
I just didn't feel excited. Thanks to the Qantas encounter, I was sure that something would go wrong. However we made to to Sydney just fine (although my tray table broke, and both mine and Zev's entertainment systems played up a couple of times - tough life). We both watched The Judge on the flight by the way, great film. BUT disaster struck again!!!! NO PRIORITY LOUNGE IN SYDNEY!!!! What do you mean we have to sit with all the other plebs?! God Sydney, sort it out.
Next up, Emirates from Sydney to Bangkok on the 777. What an airline. While I still reside firmly in the Air NZ camp, the staff, food and plane were all outstanding - they had lights in the ceiling of the plane to look like stars!!! This time I watched Nightcrawler (excellent work Jake Gyllenhaal, but not quite good enough to make us forget Prince of Persia), and Whiplash (if you like music and haven't seen this movie, stop reading now and go and watch it. So good!). We both managed to catch some sleep, and arrived in Bangkok fairly rested.
Customs and immigration were a breeze - for the all the hassle we got in Auckland, the officials in Bangkok were lovely. We grabbed our bags and went to grab our 1am taxi to the guest house.
In the queue for the taxis, a guy asked where we were going, and if we wanted to share a cab. While alarm bells started ringing, they were pretty quiet. After all there were two of us, and only one of him, plus I saw him in Sydney airport, so knew he didn't live in Bangkok and wasn't trying to rip us off. What the hell, what's the worst that can happen right?.
Turns out..... NOTHING! The guy was lovely. He was an English guy who'd been living in Christchurch in NZ for three years working on the rebuild, had been to Bangkok loads of times, and was just a really nice guy. He even paid for most of the taxi.
We decided on a drop off mid way between our two hostels. We set off with our bags, armed with a map and directions. We found our accommodation and rang the bell. "Closed" a voice yells. "No, we have a booking" (accompanied by frantic booking confirmation paper waving. It was 2am and we were tired). "CLOSED!!". "NO, WE HAVE A BOOKING!!" (More paper waving). Finally, he opened the door, scratching all over like flea infested cat. He showed us a sign that informed us that they're full, and reception doesn't open til 7. We sat on a couch, slightly dejected. Zev had the intelligence to re-look at the booking confirmation since I'd stopped waving it around like a mad woman, and realised we were in the wrong hostel. Oh dear, how embarrassing. Luckily our Thai friend had gone back to sleep, so we snuck out without him noticing.
A few blocks further down, we found the right street. When we got to the end right where we thought our hostel should be, we were met by 4 enormous, barking, angry looking dogs. By this stage, Bangkok was really starting to piss me off. We decided to confirm we had the right street. We did. We hoped the dogs would have disappeared in the meantime. They hadn't. Then I had a brilliant idea - lets go back to the main road, and get a cab to drive us down so that it scares the dogs away!! Obviously, the cab driver thought we were nuts when we explained to him that we wanted him to drive us 200m so we didn't get mauled by a pack of street dogs. He obliged though, chuckling all the way. The hostel was right where we expected, virtually in the middle of said pack of dogs. Still laughing, the cab driver got out of the car, called me over and petted them all. Smug bastard. No tip for you.
By this stage, it was just after 3am. Check in was a breeze, and our room is great. It's huge, with a massive rock hard bed, and a balcony. Not bad for $15NZD/night! We hit the hay, and managed to sleep until 6.45am. After breakfast (included in our room fee), we tackled day one in Bangkok.
We started by walking down to Khao San Rd, the shopping street we're told. We were there so early that all the stalls were just setting up.
Now I am pretty cynical in my day to day life, but travel Sam has cynicism as a super power. I am convinced every person is trying to rob me, sell me something, take me to their uncle's shop.... And while this can be a pretty useful trait (I can ignore a pushy vendor better than anyone you'll ever meet), I don't really like it. I hate feeling like I can't trust anybody, and assuming that everyone who is being nice to me is trying to con me. I'd love to have a nice chat with a local on the street. Luckily, I'm travelling with niceness personified. Zev will talk to anyone who looks at him. While I'm sure Zev will admit that sometimes that's not the best way to be either, I think we balance each other out nicely. It was because of Zev that we ended up taking the advice of two independent locals, and went to do a longboat tour of the river.
It was pretty cool! We had a long boat to ourselves, and the driver took us around some little back waters so we got a different view of lots of different temples without having to do too much walking. It was a nice change of pace, and the motion of the boat and the wind were lovely. We ended up back at a dock quite far from our accommodation. We wandered home via Pad Thai for lunch. All the walking we did today has started to help us get our bearings too.
We decided to spend the afternoon out of the heat in our room in front of the fans, making some plans for the rest of our time in Bangkok, and trying to organise some stuff for Ko Chang where we're off to next. We'll head out again for dinner tonight, and perhaps sample a little of the nightlife - if we can stay awake!
I don't think either of us were immediately in love with Bangkok. I'm hoping it grows on us over the next little while though. I've spent the day feeling rather strange, which is maybe jet lag, or maybe culture shock, or maybe an inability to believe we're actually really here. I think it's important we learn to just live with those feelings though - to some extent I feel a lot of pressure to always be having the most amazing time every second, because I'm worried Zev will be disappointed if I'm not, or because everyone else thinks I should be. I'm sure he feels the same way (maybe I'll ask him!). But I don't think there's actually anything wrong with feeling a bit blah on day 1. We've been dreaming about this trip and planning it and organising for so long, now that it's finally here I have no idea how to feel about it!!! I'm also pretty worn out, and nervous about being able to find accommodation, and transport, and food, and money, and everything else. Oh, and we only got married 2 weeks ago!! I guess that's all part of it!
Anyway, I think that's a long enough story about the first 36 hours of the trip! Just thought you'd all like to know we got here safely, so we probably won't post again until we've done something fun! Hope you're all well - keep us up to date on the gossip from home!
Lots of love,
S & Z
(Original post date: 12th February 2015)