Bangkok (Dec 23-27): Needles, Christmas, and Temples

After my 4-hour flight from Shanghai to Bangkok, I took my time going through border control, waiting for my bag, changing clothes, and then standing in line for at least half an hour to get a SIM card. Normally, I just live off of wifi while I travel but since I had some appointments the next day, I wanted to make sure everything went smoothly. Also, SIM plans were so cheap that it was hard to turn down. My SIM card with the dtac provider cost me 179 Baht ($7.45AUD) for 9GB during 7 days, so essentially a dollar per day. I got a coffee from 7-11 and then figured out how to get to my hostel. It actually wasn’t too difficult once I was led in the direction of the bus. I had to take the A1 bus to Mo Chit Station, which cost me 30 baht ($1.25AUD) and then I had to get a ticket to my station (Chong Nonsi), which included a transfer at Siam Station and cost me 44 baht (1.83AUD). I probably got to the Lub D Silom hostel a bit before 2pm but they let me check in anyway. The hostel was nice in that it had air conditioning in the room, which is very necessary in 33+ degree weather! I had a much-needed shower after my all-nighter in the Shanghai airport, and then another girl arrived. She was meeting up with friends so I joined them for lunch. I soon remembered why it’s so difficult for me to travel with other people. They chose a nicer, more expensive restaurant so my meal came up to 360 baht ($15AUD), which is still a steal of a deal if I was having dinner in Australia, but it’s the most expensive meal that I’ve had here so far. I do everything as cheap as I possibly can and for this trip, I’m trying to stick to a $30/day budget (although I’ve failed miserably up until this point). My hostel was relatively pricier to begin with (just over $17AUD/night) so that really limited the amount of money that I could work with. I already came into the trip knowing that I’d be spending more money than normal during Christmas and New Year’s, so it didn’t come as a surprise. Anyway, I decided to take it easy that evening and plan out the following day before getting some sleep.

The next day (Monday), I decided to make it a Christmas Eve to remember. Back when I was in Australia, I was looking at travel clinics to get my vaccines but none of them listed any prices. I was nervous that it would be another London situation, where I would spend hundreds of dollars on a few needles. The only vaccine I needed (since I updated all of mine last year when I went to Africa) was Japanese Encephalitis. I was thinking of just not getting it but then an outbreak happened in Bali so I figured I’d rather be safe than sorry. I did some research and found out that there’s a Thai Travel Clinic in Bangkok, and they charge $16AUD per vaccine! I booked an appointment weeks ahead of time and I’m sure glad I did cause when I came at 9:45 for my appointment, the place was full of walk-ins (and they were booked all day for appointments as well). When I got there, they checked my passport and then tried to get me to fill out all of the paperwork (which I already did beforehand because c’mon, it’s me). Then I had to go to the blood pressure machine, which printed out all of the relevant numbers and then I had to go weigh myself and give back all of the information to the front desk. I then went to my consultation, which they actually do in depth – I was quite impressed! We went over everywhere I was going, down to all of the cities (luckily I brought my itinerary!), and went over my medical history and any medications I’m on. What I forgot to bring though was my vaccination record, but I still remembered all of the ones I had gotten. After about 15 minutes, the nurse recommended that along with Japanese Encephalitis, I should also get the influenza vaccine. Now, I’ve never gotten the influenza vaccine as the flu is constantly changing, and I seldom get sick anyway, but she said there’s a lot that goes around Asia so I should get it to be on the safe side. As a matter of fact, I’ve constantly been sick while living in Australia and I’m wondering if it’s because there are different viruses going around than I’m used to, or maybe it’s because I’m constantly around snotty-nosed children. Anyway, I agreed that I’d get it. Then she asked if I had gotten the chicken pox vaccine. My sister and I had both gotten the chicken pox when we were younger but our mom said that we had only gotten a few pox each. For some reason a couple of years ago, my sister got a blood test to see if she had built up the immunity to chicken pox and she hadn’t, so I’ve always been paranoid that I’d be the same. I asked if they’d be able to do a blood test and they said they could but it would take a week to get the results, which was fine. Anyway, after the consultation, I had to go pay for everything (which came to 1437 baht, or nearly $60AUD). I then had to go sit in a waiting room for about 15 minutes before they called me in. Once they called me in, I warned them about my phobia of needles before they did anything (as I alway do ever since one nurse learned the hard way when I nearly passed out). They started with the blood sample and she told me to look away, but it took forever! I felt her poke me at least five times and I almost got to the point of telling her not to worry about it cause I couldn’t stand it any longer. She said she couldn’t get any blood out of my right arm so she tried my left arm and got it out soon enough. The vaccine needles are now easy for me, so those weren’t as bad. After all of the needles, they told me to go sit in the waiting room for the next half hour so I could be observed. The thing that happens with me is when I get a needle, I’m so nervous that my hands get wet as if I ran them under a faucet. Then, after it’s all over with and I calm myself down, I get freezing cold cause my body just went into overdrive. So I sat there shivering for the next half hour, feeling somewhat silly as it was a 33-degree day that day. I asked about how I’d get the blood test results and they said I’d have to come back in. After saying that the next time I’d be in Bangkok wouldn’t be until February 22 and them still refusing to email or phone the results, I decided to just book another appointment.

Anyway, all I had consumed that day was a cold latte, which was probably my first mistake on a day of getting needles. My second mistake was instead of going to find food right after my appointment at 11:30, I decided to walk towards the dental clinic that I had an appointment at for 1pm. I had gotten a quick check-up in London about two years ago but I was overdue for another appointment and since I’m not covered in Canada or in Australia for the dentist, I’ve been holding it off. My friend suggested that I just get everything done in Bangkok so after plenty of research, I decided to go with Thantakit International Dental Centre, which often works with Australians who specifically fly to Bangkok for dental procedures. Anyway, the walk to the dental clinic was about 40 minutes and once I got close, I really didn’t feel very well. I started losing my vision badly, and it wasn’t the normal type of migraine I get. I saw a McDonald’s window out of the corner of my eye but my vision kept leaving so I couldn’t find the door. I was walking through a market and could see a window and then all of a sudden, it would disappear. It was so bizarre, and I knew I needed food as soon as possible. I finally found the door, ordered a combo meal (for less than $5), and chugged the coke so I could at least get some sugar in me. After eating, I felt normal again and I made my way to my appointment. All that I had to get done was a check-up and a cleaning (no cavities, yay!). However, the dentist told me that if I needed him to stop during the cleaning, to raise my hand, which I thought was weird because normally cleanings are the easy part when going to the dentist. That cleaning was like no cleaning I’ve ever had before – it was so extremely painful (and I have a high pain threshold!). There were a couple of times when I almost stopped him, but I made it through. When he was finished, he told me to rinse out my mouth and spit, and when I did, it was completely red! “Are you okay?” he asked. I nodded, as I think I was just shocked. He definitely did a deep cleanse! However, my teeth did (and still do!) feel so smooth and clean. At this dentist, if you pay with cash, you get 10% off so my bill came to 1080 baht ($47) – cheaper than the vaccines. After my appointment, since I was in the Siam area, I continued walking to the Siam shopping centres, which are huge!

They have stores from all over the world so you can find pretty much anything you need. Plus to top it all off, all of the shopping centres were decked out in Christmas trees and decorations, and Christmas music was blaring non-stop. I got a portable keyboard from the MBK Tower as a Christmas present for myself, so I wouldn’t have to type up all of my blogs on my phone. I spent the entire afternoon there and since I had already spent so much time walking that day, I decided to continue to Chinatown to go for dinner.

However, I had difficulty finding the exact location of Chinatown and as I was already hungry, I looked up ‘cheap eats near me’ (as I always do when I travel), and went to a restaurant called Supa, right across from the main train station. I got prawn pad Thai and a watermelon shake for 120 baht ($5.24)! I walked back to my hostel, exhausted from doing 26,000 steps, and got ready for bed.

The next day was Christmas! It honestly didn’t feel any different than any other day, and many times during the day, I had to remind myself what day it was. I first FaceTimed my parents for about an hour in the closest McDonald’s that I could find. Then I walked to the Sathorn Pier and my hope was to walk along the river until I reached the temples. However, the city didn’t really allow for people to walk along the river until further up, so I zigzagged my way through streets, often getting lost, but that’s one of my favourite things to do in a new city – you see so much more when walking randomly.

I walked by many markets and street food vendors, which was cool to see. Then I started to get hungry for lunch, so using my trusty ‘cheap eats near me’ search, I walked to Chinatown and ate at Nai Ek Roll Noodles. It was so popular that there was a line-up outside the door! I didn’t have to wait too long to get in and was seated between two people, right in front of the ‘kitchen.’ The specialty is obviously roll noodle soup, so I decided to get it with minced beef, and it was delicious!

The broth had a peppery taste, the rolled noodles were just the right consistency, and the meatballs had good flavour to them. I got my soup with a Pepsi for 100 baht ($4.36). I continued walking through random streets, stumbled upon the flower market, and made my way up to the Grand Palace.

I didn’t go in, but I was so thirsty by the time I got there since the heat had reached its peak. I found the nearest 7-11, found some stairs in the shade, and tried to cool myself down. I then walked to Khao San Road, which seems to be a street specifically made for tourists. It’s full of restaurants and vendors selling clothes, but I was still so hot so I just got a sundae at McDonald’s and waited for the sun to start setting. I walked back towards my hostel and stopped for dinner at an Indian/Thai restaurant called Home Cuisine. I got Tom kha soup, which is made with coconut milk, which wasn’t too bad although I still prefer Tom yum.

My soup along with an apple soda was 145 baht ($6.33). That was another huge day of walking, with 31,000 steps, so I slept well again that night.

On Boxing Day, I FaceTimed with my family for awhile since it was their Christmas. Then, I decided to check out the temples. I walked towards the Sathorn Pier, and got something to eat on my way there. I went to another Chinese restaurant called Prachak and it was another full restaurant. Thanks to the recommendations of some people sitting next to me, I got noodles with roast duck and shrimp dumplings, as well as a red pork bun.

Those along with a juice cost me 105 baht ($4.58) – the meal prices here are insane! I continued to the pier and went on the hop on hop off boat. For an unlimited pass, it costs 150 baht, but I decided to just get a one-way pass for 50 baht. I stopped at Wat Arun and went in for 50 baht ($2.18). They check to make sure you’re dressed correctly (I knew this beforehand) so you have to make sure your shoulders are covered and your knees are covered. This is why almost everyone ends up buying a pair of elephant pants when in Thailand, as there are numerous shops there to sell them to you. Wat Arun is absolutely stunning; it’s another one of those buildings that take your breath away.

You’re not allowed to go inside, but you can walk around the entire thing. After that, I took the ferry across the river for 4 baht to go to Wat Pho. Wat Pho costs 100 baht ($4.36) and you get a free bottle of water with your ticket! At that point, the water was necessary cause it was another hot day with no air-conditioning. I started by going to the reclining Buddha, which is a massive Buddha lying down, and takes up the length of the entire building.

They give you a plastic bag to put your shoes into at the entrance and then you walk through, getting as many pictures as you can along with all of the other tourists. This place was busy! It was so hard to squeeze in to get a picture, plus it was really hot in the building, so I didn’t spend too much time in there. Then I went to the actual temple of Wat Pho. The line-up was quite long so I took my shoes off, waited for about 15 minutes to spend ten seconds at the entrance to take a picture and leave (you’re not allowed to go inside).

Basically two people would stand in the entrance at a time to take as many pictures as they want, and then would go. Anyway, between my time at the two temples (aka on the short ferry ride across the river), I decided I should book a pedicure since a) I’ve never gotten one before, b) I’d be going to the beach the following week and c) I had been doing an awful lot of walking. I had searched for a good nail salon near my hostel and found one called So Good Nail Spa. I made an appointment for 4:30pm so after the temples, I slowly walked my way back towards my hostel, buying some flip flops on the way. I got to my appointment a bit early but they fit me in and the whole thing lasted just under an hour and a half; it was so nice!

The pedicure cost 450 baht but I also tipped the girl 50 baht so I spent 500 baht total ($21.81). I went for dinner at an AMAZING restaurant near my hostel called Mama Mia, which is basically a street food place that has seating. This has definitely been my favourite meal that I’ve had so far! I finally got to have my Tom yum soup and ordered it with seafood. Therefore, I got to eat my first octopi, which actually weren’t that bad! I also decided to try the mango sticky rice since I’ve heard so much about it and all I can say is: wow! The saltiness of the rice goes with the sweetness of the mango and the coconut milk so well!! Every bite is different – you never know if it’ll be more sweet or more salty.

I hung out at my hostel for a couple hours and then made my way to the airport. My flight wasn’t until 5:30 in the morning, but that meant I’d have to check in at 2:30 and since there were some complications about my booking (which I’ll write about in the next post), I wanted to make sure I had enough time just in case anything went wrong. I got to the airport at about 10pm and killed the time as best I could until check-in. And that’s Bangkok! Love always.

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