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July 22 - 25

After first landing in Bangkok, Thailand, I was afraid. Truthfully I was terrified. I had been picked up from the airport, driven to a hotel about ten minutes from Mahidol University, and left alone. My roommate would be arriving the next day, and I was told there was one other girl in the program currently in this hotel, though she was in her internship.  In my room I found only a envelope that contained a phone (that I couldn't use because it required a pin) and a letter that said orientation was Sunday. I had two days in a country where few I met spoke English and I had no idea what to do or where to go. I was entirely alone.
I was afraid when I first arrived at Thailand, but walking down the street that day made me more relaxed. Though no one I encountered spoke much English, it was comforting just being around others. Only four days have passed, and though I have not started my internship or class yet, I have enjoyed the last few days in Thailand.  Our orientation was more of a tutorial on how to use the bus system and the sky train in Bangkok. During this time we saw the enormous weekend market at Mo Chit, Victory Monument (a towering pillar) and took a boat a ways down the canal. This led us to the most important part, the temple of Wat Phra Keo.

This monumental structure shimmered and sparkled in the sun due to the numerous colorful tiles it was decorated with Small bowls helped decorate the lower sides and chimes clanked softly as I walked around the temple. I then decided to climb the first flight of stairs to enlightenment. These stairs were simple and easy to climb. However, the next set was far worse. The stairs had handrails on the sides and so highly separated that when I was climbing my hands had the strong urge to help by stabling myself on the step 3 above my current platform. The climb was well worth it. The top level of the temple that was able to be reached was still far below the top of the temple.

My next day was an extremely interesting day. My roommate and I went to a part of Bangkok known for temples and a street market. After being told that the temples we were planning on visiting were already closed for the day, we were told of something that seemed to be a huge scam. However, after walking awhile we were approached with the same deal by someone else and decided to try it. The deal was that it was a special holiday, certain Buddha's were open that normally weren't, which was true. According to those who told us, all government vehicles, the ones with yellow license plates, would take you to all the temples for only 10 Baht. Gas would be paid for. We got in the Tut Tut, a three wheeled motorized cart that is a lot of fun to ride in, and left for the temples.

We first went to the Giant Buddha temple of Wat Intharawihan. A beautiful house was on one side, with a Buddha inside. Across the street was a courtyard for the Giant Buddha, multi-colored paper lanterns waving from strings that spread from wall to wall. Half of the courtyard was lined with Buddha's, one being a beautiful jade. One of the side walls displayed orderly rows of vases behind glass, creating a checkered pattern on the wall with multiple colored jars. Each vase was filled with ashes and a picture of the departed individual sat beside them. Once reaching the front, we were instructed to take a stick of incense and light it with the lantern. This incense was then held in our hand as we bowed three times to a statue of the Buddha before my roommate and I placed the incense sticks in a bowl of ashes in front of the Buddha. We were then told to place gold flakes upon the Buddha. Lastly, the women picked up a small cylinder with red wooden sticks inside. She shook this tube until two of the sticks fell to the floor, one landing behind her and towards my roommate who was standing opposite myself. We picked up our respective sticks and red the numbers on them before removing a prayer written in Thai from a box with our numbers. The prayer was interesting to perform but left me with an amazing feeling. Next we moved to stand in front of the main attraction. There was a standing golden Buddha facing the center of the courtyard. This Buddha is 32 meters tall and entirely gold. WE were led in another prayer for this Buddha, adding a flower that was placed in a pot at his feet.
We then moved to a series of Buddha's that were right next to a school. To get to the Lucky Buddha we had to walk through a playground, interrupting a group of boys game of soccer. This Buddha was much smaller but just as beautiful. The building was also elaborate and richly decorated. Once leaving this building we were led to another in a smaller part of the school. Here there were mainly Mae Chi and Monks walking around, though in small numbers. This Buddha was very simple in comparison to the last two. We talk a little bit with the school teacher near the Buddha before moving to the next building. This building was being prepared for a public ceremony that would take place later that night. In the corner was the Happy Buddha, also known as the Blue Buddha. We were led in another individual prayer, bowing three times to the Buddha.
We got back in our Tuck Tuck and were told that the other Temples were closed for an hour for prayer. Thinking it would be fine we agreed to go to an export shop while we waited. After going in and talking about expensive custom made western clothes that were supposedly tax free, we left. The driver took us to another shop which was the exact same. Annoyed at this point we told the driver to take us to a street market we planned on attending. Instead he took us to another export shop. The driver then explained that if we spent ten minutes in the shop he would get a card that would pay for his gas. We forced ourselves to spend 10 minutes in the store, along with many other Western tourist that fell for the same scam. After enough time we left the shop and the driver took us to the street market we wanted, where we paid the agreed 10 Baht. After researching I discovered that it is common for taxi drivers to take part in such things where their ride is discounted because the shop owner pays their gas for taking you to the shop.
The night got much better after that. We went to a fish spa and had the fish eat the dead skin off our feet. It tickled and felt creepy but was fun to do and relatively cheap. My roommate couldn't stop creaming for the first 8 minutes and couldn't look down at them after that. We then went to a rock bar but the live music wasn't going to start for another half hour. While we waited we went to an antique shop, where we talked to one of the owners, Tang, for an hour. He taught us Thai words and was very entertaining. The band in the bar played great music and Tang later walked with us to the main street where we would catch the bus, unfortunately we found out the busses were no longer running. After calling a taxi for us, we said good bye to Tang and headed home.

Unfortunately, the taxi driver new the city but not the location of our hotel. Even worse, he spoke no English. He soon went into hysterics and talked very fast trying to figure out where we were heading. When my roommate and I talked he raised his voice a few octaves. It was very entertaining. After learning the words for straight, left, and right, the driver dropped us off at a hotel a little ways from ours. He seemed so happy about finding the right place that we told him this was our destination and then walked to our hotel after he left.

Though the scam was very annoying, the day was still amazing and I met a series of very interesting characters.


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