Sawadee Ka, Thailand!

Arrival in Bangkok.
We flew out of Paris on a Friday morning, had a short layover in Milano, and continued on to Bangkok around 2pm in the afternoon. This means that we were awake for most of the 11-hour flight! One kid didn’t sleep at all (can you say binge watching airplane movies?!), one slept a bit and one had some sort of – very short – nap. As for me, I managed to doze off for about maybe 2 hours in total. Lucky thing that I’m a natural night owl and can go without sleep for a night somewhat easily. We landed at around 6.30am, so it was off the plane and right on with the day 🙂

First thing we did, after passing immigration, was get a Thai sim card for my phone, as I absolutely could not imagine not having access to google maps on the way! The process of that was pretty easy:

*walk up to a counter at the airport
*choose which plan you want (there are several, very cheap phone credit+data or only data)
*pay and hand over your passport and phone to sweet Thai clerk
*not understand anything that’s going on or what she is doing to your phone
*get phone back with original sim card in small plastic wrap
*still not understand what she did to your phone, but be able to access Internet by 4G from now on

I chose a plan that had 30-days unlimited data but no phone credit, as I don’t really need to call anyone anyway. The carrier is AIS and so far the coverage has been really good. Price of the plan was something like 800THB, which is roughly 21EUR/24USD.

First Impressions!
We were continuing on with the sleeper train to Chiang Mai the same evening, so the plan was to just walk around Bangkok and spend the day seeing a bit of the city. Well. Noob alert, big time. None of us were prepared for the temperature shock and the heat was unbearable for the kids especially. Add to that the enormous amount of noisy cars, the smell of exhaustion gas and the extremely dense and seemingly utterly unorganized traffic, making you feel like you were risking your life at every intersection…and you have what some would call a recipe for disaster. Lol. Welcome to Thailand!

Lumpini Park.
We had planned to go straight to the Baiyoke Sky Tower, to see the view from the rooftop, but we were there at 9am already and they didn’t open until 10 plus the pricing info found on google turned out to be wrong, outdated by at least 10 years according to the lady at the entrance, making it almost the double of what I thought. Everyone was tired, overheated and starting to get irritable – so we changed plans and sought refuge at the first café we came by…..McDonald’s, of all places. Well, the air conditioned room was a welcome relief (as were the toilets in the mall) so spending a couple of hours there wasn’t all that bad. After having rested a bit and had something to eat, everyone felt ready to venture out into town again. We headed straight to Lumpini Park, thank you google, where the shade of the trees made the heat just a little bit less challenging.

The park is lovely. Well laid out and beautiful views. You can rent Swan paddle boats and at the entrance there’s a whole array of food stalls (which we didn’t dare to try though, still newcomers). The park is also home to the magnificent Monitor Lizards of which we were lucky to see a few, as well.

A Day in Transit.
Because we arrived so early, jet-lag began to set in towards the end of the afternoon. We were all tired and still trying to adjust to the heat and the traffic and just the general newness of it all. The day in Bangkok therefore didn’t include much more than the park, dinner at a local restaurant and heading to the railway office to collect our pre-booked tickets for the sleeper train to Chiang Mai. The process of that was smooth and quick. I had bought the tickets in advance from a website called 12go.asia which I had seen recommended on both TripAdvisor and The Man in Seat 61 (amazing website full of detailed information on train travel world wide). I have later been told, that tickets are a good deal cheaper if you buy them directly at the station, which is likely true, but coming for the first time, I liked the convenience of it all and knowing that I had my tickets secured and paid for. However, now that we’re on site in Chiang Mai, I will definitely go to the station and check out the prices for when we go south again. More on that in a later post.

Once our tickets picked up, we found a cozy looking restaurant next to the train station. Pad Thai and fried rice for all of us, for just under 300THB (8EUR). It was raining cats and dogs by now, so leaving the restaurant, we got nicely wet just in time for hopping on the train. The train was a 2d class sleeper and an experience in itself. For one, I LOVE traveling by train. I much prefer it over flying, which I will always try to avoid if there are other viable options. Once you find your seats, you wait for the steward to come and convert them into beds. We had lower and upper berths, and the kids obviously wanted to sleep in the upper ones. I didn’t let them though. The only security there are two straps pulled diagonally in front of the berth, with a huge hole in between. A fair sized adult won’t slip in between, but I definitely wasn’t going to run the risk with my two mini-size monkeys. Uh-uh. But, Mom….I said no.

Getting all the seats converted is a bit of a hustle and bustle; the last passengers still getting on the train, the lady from the restaurant wagon passing through to take your orders for breakfast (a bit pricey for the local standard), other stewards offering juice and fruit on small trays and people walking back and forth between the sleeping wagons and the toilet area. Now those aren’t for the faint of heart. I can think of more than one person in my circle of friends and family who would have the challenge of the century, were they to use the toilets found here, lol. Basically, it’s a hole in the wagon. So you try to stand still (squatting) while the train is moving and sometimes shaking, aiming for the hole and all you can think of is “just DON’T lose your balance”….trust me, you don’t want to slip and fall on your naked bum here. Ahem.

Rustic. But functional.

Arrival in Chiang Mai.
After a good nights sleep (the berths are really quite comfortable, and if you’re like me, the steady humming and movement of the train will lull you to sleep in a heartbeat) you arrive at Chiang Mai station in the early morning.  Tuk-tuks and red trucks (taxis) are waiting outside and it’s easy to get one into town. Price is 30THB/person, more than reasonable. If we didn’t love to walk so much, it would be totally affordable to get around this way, which is also what most tourists do. We’re going to stick to our daily walking though. Just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Whether that’s a thing, a meal or a drive in a cab. We’ll also be here for a while, so our lives will have to resume some sort of daily routine at some point anyway. We’re not on holiday – we’ve just taken our everyday life to the other side of the planet 😉

                                                                                                                                                     Luna

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