Dipping my toes in Thai culture

I know i know, this post is waay overdue but the last 10 days have been overwhelming to say the least.

17 hours of traveling left me remarkably jetlag-free, but I was more than ready for a hot shower so I was ecstatic to spot the driver with my name board as soon as I approached the exit at the airport.

2 nights in Bangkok served one purpose: Reaffirming my opinion that Bangkok is a crazy city best left to the young and (very) adventurous, and bored retirees looking for submissive wives.

I did however meet some awesome people who shared my weeklong cultural orientation with me and together we braved the trains, caught the river ferry and trudged the streets of Chinatown.

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Louise and I also felt the need to tick one place off the list, and visited the famous Skybar at Lebua Tower on Saturday for a ridiculously overpriced cocktail. The view was almost worth it.

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On Sunday night Candice and I took on the rather raunchy Silom district. It was an interesting night which included watching a pretty good drag show, dancing like crazy people and being left in a gay club by our rather intoxicated chaperone whom we later found in the lobby of our hotel, clueless that he had deserted us.

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By Monday morning I was more than ready to wipe the Bangkok dirt from my shoes and head to Hua Hin,  a lovely beach town 2 hours from Bangkok and a popular royal retreat.

This is where our Thai cultural orientation officially started, and we were shipped off to the mall right away to start sorting out sim cards and bank accounts. Afterwards some folks checked out the beach, but I was feeling lonely and homesick so locked myself in my room to feel sorry for myself.

We received some Thai language lessons and it seems easy at first, but two weeks later, and the only words I can remember are for drunk, chicken, rice and importantly don’t want (comes in handy when people try and sell crap to you at bars)

There was much excitement in Hua Hin during this first week, as the king was discharged from hospital for the first time in years and arrived at the royal retreat in Hua Hin to recuperate. People lined the streets to welcome the royals and it was great to be a part of it.

As part of our orientation, we went on a few excursions, the first of which was a Buddhist temple, where we picked fortunes, attempted to meditate and were blessed by the monk.

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On the same day, we visited an elephant sanctuary, where one of the elephants is more than 80 years old! It was an amazing experience to be able to touch and feed these gentle giants, but I also felt a little sad about the fact that these beautiful creatures are chained during the day and taught to perform tricks for tourists amusements (and the mahout’s pocket of course) I guess it’s about accepting that working elephants are an integral part of Thai culture and that travellers like us can make a difference in the conditions of the animals, by our financial contributions and more importantly by questioning, checking and applying pressure for humane treatment.

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On Thursday I was told that I had been placed in Phang Nga, in the south of Thailand, and that I could leave on Friday or Saturday. I was not going to forfeit my braai broodjie at the beach braai on Friday night, so I got a ticket for Saturday night. This left plenty of time for one last hoorah with the amazing people I had spent my time in Hua Hin with. After our beach braai, we had a bit of a night out on the town, concluding with terrible karaoke (we thought we sounded great)

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On Saturday, after a final bit of shopping, I packed up all my stuff (amazing what a mess I can make in a room in just one week) and all too soon it was time to board my VIP bus to Phang Nga, where the real adventure starts!

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