Monday, April 22, 2019

Quote #54

"Your success in learning a language depends more on a technique than practice." - Klinsman Hinjaya
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Monday, April 8, 2019

Notes on My Bangkok Trip

From March 27 to April 4, 2019 my existence was mostly confined within the capital of Thailand, Bangkok. Since my experiences in the land of white elephants are still fresh from the oven, I thought, "Why don't I relay the insights I continually absorbed during the 9-day period?" So here we go!

Journeys to and from the 'land of smiles'

Malindo Air was my choice of airline to embark on my maiden voyage to the metropolis. Despite the many negative reviews I read on Malindo Air Facebook page, I found that the service was amazing and it was far from being terrible. I had plenty of space for movement and even got a free meal for each flight I took! And on my flight back to Indonesia, I was served with an old movie starring my favorite musician, Jay Chou, titled Initial D!

An in-flight meal consisting of a sandwich and a muffin from Malindo Air

A still from the 2005 movie Initial D on my flight back to Malaysia (before Indonesia) showing Takumi (Jay Chou) and Natsuki (Anne Suzuki) taking a photo on the beach

I had to be in transit for a couple of hours at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), Malaysia (round-trip). It's not as resplendent as its younger sister, KLIA2, but I did enjoy staying at this elegant airport.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA)

Me posing at KLIA Jungle Boardwalk

What is Bangkok like?

Firstly, Bangkok is a large city. But even larger is the Bangkok Metropolitan Area (BMA), which also covers its bordering provinces, such as Samut Prakan and Nonthaburi. I was lucky enough to be visiting Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani, as well as Ayutthaya, which is a province north of the BMA (around 1.5 hours' drive from Mo Chit BTS Station in Bangkok). Note: When I write 'Bangkok' in the rest of the article, I might be referring to the BMA instead.

Me at Zpell, Pathum Thani

Ayutthaya Floating Market

My Thai sister Pee Gift, me, and her boyfriend (Mr. Wang) at Ayutthaya Floating Market

What is the weather like in Bangkok? It is HOT!!! Scalding, scorching, roasting, baking, you name it! In fact, Bangkok is the most fiery city I have ever been to (it outheats Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon and Jakarta). On top of that, the air here is dry, in contrast to the Indonesian capital's moist atmosphere.

Me trying to resist intense heat from the sun at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok

In my view, Bangkok is a blend of Singapore, Manila, and Saigon. It also reminds me of my hometown, Jakarta, as it resembles the Indonesian melting pot to some degree. There are copious buildings all across Bangkok, most of which are huge, albeit old-looking. Nevertheless, they are well maintained and do not give a negative impression towards the viewers. The streets are generally clean and in smooth, shiny condition, although one or two homeless people can be spotted from time to time during exploration.

A view of Bangkok from an MRT train

A street side in Bangkok

A sleek street in Bangkok

The vast majority of Thais are Buddhists, so shrines are very common in the city. The smell that I inhaled when going around Bangkok is reminiscent of that of Saigon -- this is presumably due to pork (and perhaps other stuff too) being used a lot as a food ingredient.

Erawan Shrine, which was bombed a couple years ago, is probably the largest and most popular shrine in Bangkok. Smaller versions of this can be found throughout the city.

A famous spicy pork rib dish at Ratchada Rot Fai Night Market

When it comes to malls, I have to say Bangkok is unmatched! I even think those in Singapore cannot rival Bangkok's mostly enormous, exquisite-styled shopping centers. What also impressed me is the fact that they are highly accessible from BTS and/or MRT stations -- a short walk will take you to indulging in the many lifestyle options offered by Bangkok's malls.

CentralWorld seen from the Ratchaprasong Skyline Walk

The inside of CentralWorld

A panoramic view of Siam Center and Siam Paragon from Siam BTS Station

As a Jakartan, I envy Bangkokers so much in terms of transportation. If you come to Bangkok, you are sure to be spoiled by the train system duo: MRT and BTS. Although tickets could be a little costly, traveling here is much, much easier and more convenient with these services.

Bang Chak BTS Station

The inside of a BTS Skytrain

However, I still opine that the traffic in Bangkok is more murderous than in any other city I've journeyed to.

Traffic jams in Bangkok are the worst I've witnessed

Thailand was dubbed the 'land of smiles' for its famed hospitality. Nonetheless, I felt that people in Bangkok, in general, don't seem to be as warm as Saigonese, much less Jakartans. This is not to say that they are rude, belligerent, or whatever; they are certainly nice people. Additionally, Bangkok definitely ranks the safest city I've traversed, after Singapore -- or at least I feel that way.

Most Thais I have talked to cannot speak English well, so applications such as Google Translate will come in handy if you decide to travel to Bangkok.

Me on a GrabBike, traveling solo

Me on a BTS Skytrain, exploring Bangkok alone

Thai sellers at Ratchada Rot Fai Night Market

Highlights of my trip

The 9 days of my trip were devoted to visiting a good number of places of interest, quenching my thirst for my first Thai experiences. Here are a selection of my adventure highlights that may inspire you to do the same! (unfortunately, I didn't have time to get to the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and the other top tourist destinations around them. I would also like to visit Asiatique and Patpong Night Market the next time I go to Bangkok)

Bangkok presents you with an endless list of fantastic malls that are literally heavens for shoppers. You might have been excited by the popularity of CentralWorld and Siam Paragon, but Iconsiam, which is the newest one and one of the biggest malls in Asia, is absolutely a must-visit. It is one of the most majestic malls I have ever gotten myself into.

Me feeling exhilarated at Iconsiam

A delish fried banana snack on the ground floor of Iconsiam. There are countless foodstuffs to chose from on this level.

A mixed traditional desert from Iconsiam's indoor floating market

Iconsiam's luxurious interior

Me posing at Iconsiam's Apple store

Bangkok Snake Farm
The Bangkok Snake Farm is an awesome place to visit for those who are keen to learn about snakes. It displays many terraria equipped with information plates showing the snake's species name, its characteristics, habitat, etc. My favorite part is the first floor of the building -- it is beautifully designed and provides visitors with digital presentations, snake quizzes, an explanation about the evolution of modern snakes, and many more!

A golden spitting cobra

A kneeled rat snake (Ptyas carinatus)

The skeleton of a blood python (Python brongersmai)

An explanation about the origin of snakes

Museum of Sex Thailand
The most 'unusual' museum I've ever entered. However, the Museum of Sex Thailand is, in fact, one of the most insightful. Delve into the many aspects of sex of Thai people, and get a better sex education by feasting your eyes on sex toys and sex symbols that have ever existed in this world. This museum also displays exhibits of other sex cultures as well. There is no admission fee but you need to buy a tea (or beverage) to get inside.

The museum is located inside the Green Lantern cafe. You need to pass through a bookstore to get here.

Sex toy possession is illegal in Thailand

Japanese shunga. 'Shunga' is a Japanese term for 'erotic art'.

A multi-head Palad Khik. The Palad Khik is a phallic representation of Shiva and also an animistic symbol of fertility.

In ancient times, 'kob', which means 'frog',  was used to call the vagina because of their similar appearance.

Dasa Book Cafe
As a book lover, my instinct naturally triggered me to do research on great places to buy (English) books in Bangkok. Dasa Book Cafe turned up as my number 1 to-go bookstore. With fabulous, unique collections, a peaceful, quiet ambiance, and highly affordable prices for excellent book condition, one could spend hours scouring its numerous bookshelves for books to take home! I myself bought 11 books for only 1,580 baht (around 49.53 USD)!

The beauteous exterior of Dasa Book Cafe

Dasa Book Cafe is composed of three stories. Here is a pic of the first floor.

The scores of books on English language I purchased from Dasa Book Cafe have been wrapped up in cardboard, ready to take home by plane.

Chulalongkorn University Museum of Natural History
If you are a fan of nature, you must pay a visit to this amazing museum, located at Thailand's number 1 university. The Chulalongkorn Museum of Natural History is made up of two rooms: the main room is dedicated to showing a proliferation of specimens of organisms such as crocodilians, birds, and fish, while the other room is all about turtles.

Me at the Chulalongkorn University Museum of Natural History

The room of turtles (1)

The room of turtles (2)

Crocodilian skulls
A largetooth sawfish (Pristis microdon)

A taxidermic bat

Butterfly specimens

The skull of a modern human (Homo sapiens)

A comparison between the tooth of Carcharodon megalodon and that of the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

The skull of a water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis)

The skeleton of a chicken (Gallus domesticus)

As a dinosaur freak, I was tempted to visit this place in hope that I could see dinosaur fossils. Unfortunately, aside from modern dinosaurs -- birds -- I couldn't find any dino remnants, except for this suspectedly dinosaurian footprint:

The footprint of Caniosaurus? I have tried to find out about this 'dinosaur' but couldn't find any info about it.

Madame Tussauds Bangkok
Perhaps the most famous wax museum on the globe, Madame Tussauds also has a branch in Thailand's capital. Nestled on the top level of Siam Discovery, this museum houses a great many statues of prominent personalities from different fields: English soccer player David Beckham, world-famous scientist Albert Einstein, and the 'King of Pop', Michael Jackson, to name a few.

Me with Soekarno, the first President of Indonesia

Me with Albert Einstein

Me with Ludwig van Beethoven

Me with David Beckham

Me with Serena Williams

Me with BeyoncĂ© Knowles

Me with Katy Perry

Me with Maurio Maurer

Me with Captain America (Chris Evans)

Me with Anggun C. Sasmi

Me with Oprah Winfrey

Me with Daniel Craig

Nevertheless, my primary reason for coming to this place was, needless to say, the heavenly king Jay Chou! The ticket is quite exxy -- 990 baht (around 31.03 USD) -- but I don't regret splurging out that much money on meeting my music idol (albeit in wax form) and taking a bunch of photos with 'him' (that was my second encounter after the one at Madame Tussauds Singapore).

Jay Chou (full-body)

Jay Chou (half-body)

Information about Jay Chou

Jay Chou (side-face)

Me and Jay Chou (1)

Me and Jay Chou (2)

Me and Jay Chou (3)

Me and Jay Chou (4)

Me and Jay Chou (5)

Me and Jay Chou (6)

Me and Jay Chou (7)

Me and Jay Chou (8)

So that's it! All in all, I had a really nice and impressive trip. I feel that part of me has refused to come back home and is lingering there. Surely I will go back to Bangkok someday and perhaps explore other parts of Thailand, such as Pattaya and Phuket. I hope you get something from reading this article and don't forget to leave any comments below!
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