For my 24th birthday my girlfriend and I went on a holiday. My first overseas holiday. It was late July and we were off to steamy Bangkok, Thailand. I understand Thailand is quite a popular tourist destination but irregardless of that it was pure wonder to me. I had always been afraid to travel and yet wanted nothing more than to see the world and this was the trip that transformed me.
The week before the trip I managed to get my passport. Yes, I know, it would have been smarter to organise this sooner, but I have never been one to make things easy for myself. Every day we crept closer the harder it was for me to sleep. It got to the point where I was going day to day with little more than 3 hours sleep and fueled exclusively by excitement.
I remember the fear I felt going through my first customs (I was yet to learn that no one cares when you’re leaving Australia, only when you’re returning do you need to behave). The idea that my first trip might be my last as they put on that rubber glove and order me away. Naive, yes, but honestly it’s all I could think about. My hands shook as I handed over my passport and a huge sigh of relief left my lips as I reached the duty free section (the three free shots of Ron Zacapa XO helped too). I want it know that I despise drugs. I’ve never done them, i’ll never do them, and i’d never be involved in anything like that, but the fear of someone slipping stuff into my bags remains a constant. Probably not for the worst either.
The flight was the worst. I’m tall and at the time I wasn’t particularly healthy either and the entire trip I was uncomfortable. In fact halfway through the flight my calves were killing me. The pain was immense and I had to constantly walk up and down the isle to get through it. It was all worth it in the end as we landed safely and I stepped out into the hot humid air of South East Asia for the first time. It was similar to that shocking sensation when you open up the oven and misjudge how hot the escaping air would be. It was beautiful nonetheless.
On our first night we took our transfer into the city and checked into our hotel. The room was nice and the bed was like a granite slab, a king size granite slab. The following morning, which happened to be my birthday, we sat down to our complimentary buffet. In the process we had our table stolen, coffee drunk, and food eaten while plating up and the awkwardness with the other couple even managed to make 8am entertaining.
The temples and city tour was first on our to do list and it was a fantastic start to my first ever trip. Our guide was the kindest old man who clearly took pride in his work.
Firstly, we visited the Temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit). A spectacular Buddha made of gold located on Yaowarat Road in Chinatown. It wasn’t to be the most beautiful temple of the day, but it was a great start. This was my first experience dealing with South East Asian market stalls and while off putting to begin with I quickly learnt I had a knack for bartering. A skill that i’m proud of and has helped me greatly on subsequent trips to the area.
The second temple we visited was Wat Pho or more commonly known in english as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This thing was impressive,mightily impressive. It was refreshing to see such a beautiful display of culture so accessible to everyone. A gigantic gold and bronze Buddha filled the main hall and the sheer skill involved boggles the mind and yet while being stunned at it’s beauty you were kept on edge by the “Beware of pickpockets” signs located every five metres inside. I guess you don’t get the good without the bad.
We then toured the temple grounds and explored all the historical artifacts and temples built through Thailand’s rich past.
The third and final temple’s name escapes my memory. We were lucky enough to witness a new Buddhist monk being inaugurated into his new life. It was very emotional watching his family and friends celebrate and cheer with genuine pride and joy. I stood by and watched this procession while also taking note of the two brothers practicing their Muay Thai on one another while the cleaning crew worked around them. This place was truly different.
After all the excitement (and 5 hours of walking in the heat) we were pooped. Luckily the tour had finished and we were dropped off back to our hotel. Another first occurred for me here, tipping someone. This is not a normal thing in Australia (most of the time) and I kind of liked it. Everyone knows where they stand.
As every holiday goer destroyed by the climate does we enjoyed drinks by the pool and naps in the bed. A rather chilled afternoon was met by a rather unfortunate night as Caysha found herself extremely sick from something we ate and I was left to play nurse and watch soap operas in Thai. Happy Birthday! Oh well there was always tomorrow…