Read this on galpod.com.
So, our annual family vacation this year was to Thailand! We were super excited (and, in my case, super anxious) about it. We went the spoiled way, and had a local guide both in Bangkok and in Chiang Mai, followed by an extremely spoiled week in a Koh Samui beach resort. I'll start with a "travel log" about Bangkok, and will write up Chiang Mai and Koh Samui in following posts.
So, travelling with kids always requires some preparations. In addition to packing ridiculous amounts of sunscreen (the privilege of having white skin is that we go from porcelain to bright red in five seconds flat), bug spray, and a first-aid kit that wouldn't go amiss had we gone to visit actual jungles, I also made sure we went to a travel clinic (in which the nurse basically said that I needed to update my tetanus shot and nothing else). However, despite my worst-case-scenario tendencies, I think I managed to be excited in addition to anxious. Granted, my anxiety levels were high taking two young children to a country where tap water isn't safe to drink, but I tried to stay calm and look at malaria maps which showed that really, we weren't going to high-risk areas.
We arrived in Bangkok after a 12-hour overnight flight. We actually had a pretty good flight, both kids slept a few hours on the plane and even my partner and I managed to get a couple of hours each. My observation on the flight was that the plane looks the same as in flights to Israel (which we've been doing A LOT of), but the "moving map" is very different.
In terms of jet lag, Thailand has a 6-hours difference from London, which is a lot. The night flight helped a little, I think, and having an evening tour scheduled for the first evening helped as well to get us to the first night nice and tired. The second night was rough, but after that, we settled into the new time with only mild issues of late-night-wandering.
Our guide (the amazing Pe!) met us at the airport and got us to our hotel, where we had time to rest and explore the pool until the evening. In the evening, we went to see Bangkok's China Town and explore the night markets there. I must say, as a tourist, the night markets were lots of fun, and make a lot of sense given the weather. It is almost cool after sunset in Thailand. But not quite.
Our one full day in Bangkok was packed with activities. We explored the flower market (where the kids, to their delight, made their own floral bracelets), the Reclining Buddha Temple, and the Golden Temple (Wat Saket). We took a boat around the canal and fed some fish. What I was struck most by were the smells. China town smelled like fish, hot oil, and feet. The canals smelled like water standing too long. Durian fruit (it is EVERYWHERE) smelled like sewage. And in every street of Bangkok, there's the smell of diesel smoke. After a few hours, you don't notice it as much, but it's there, at the back of your throat, the entire time.
Things I learned:
There are 8 million people who live in the city, but another 7 million commute into work in Bangkok, nearly doubling the "daytime population".
There are mopeds everywhere. There are even moped taxies taking people around the city. We've seen women dressed in skirt-suits side-saddling mopeds in high heels, presumably on their way to the office.
There are eight Buddha poses, one for each day of the week (two for Wednesday), and they mean different things.
There are over 40 thousand temples in Thailand, about 400 in Bangkok.
The concept of personal space and touching other people is apparently nonexistent in Thailand. My daughter was grabbed by random people based on her skin colour and her looks. Everyone had good intentions, from helping her to ring the bells in the temple to just being excited about how cute she is, but by the end of the day, she was so overwhelmed we had to shield her in the busy streets.
Thai food is incredible. I knew that before, but everything was so delicious. And the fruits are amazing. Except for Durian.
They really like things to be pretty. Flower arrangements are a big thing.
I think I would have liked another week in Bangkok to see everything, but I'm not sure I could have handled the diesel smoke for that long. We only spent two days in Bangkok, and I felt that, like London, it's a city in which you could live for years and still not have discovered everything about it.
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