Sunday, July 29, 2012

This One Time I Went to Thailand and Japan

I had a convention to attend in Thailand in May, and as it turned out, none of my regular travel companions were able to come with me at the time. I ended up going by myself. I was a teensy bit nervous, but it all turned out okay, and I had a really good time. Here are some photos of the trip:

My hotel was on the river in Bangkok. It was beautiful. I stayed at The Chatrium Suites, and I can definitely recommend it. Where I ate breakfast sometimes:

I ate a lot of brie for breakfast. I am a sucker for that cheese. My room:

Outside on the way back from the pier:

The traffic was terrible, and when I didn't take a bus provided by the convention, I took a water taxi provided by the hotel to the train station and a larger pier and took the public transportation, either the train or the boats. What the water taxis basically look like:

The train station and larger pier:

The public transportation train:

I was in meetings most of my stay there, but don't worry, I was able to go shopping. Okay, so I didn't really buy hardly anything. I'm not much of a shopper.

Convention meeting room with approximately 20,000 seats. Yikes!

The Asiatique outdoor night market:

It had just barely opened, and there were a lot of vendors with booths outside, but they also had more permanent structures. It really reminded me of an outdoor mall. That's basically what it was. It was probably less than a mile from my hotel, so I walked there, but then it started to rain a little, so I got a tuk tuk to take me back. I took a couple of rides in a tuk tuk while I was in Bangkok. Average street view with tuk tuks:

I tried to go to the Grand Palace one of the days, but it closed before I got there. It really took a long time to get anywhere because of all of the people and the traffic. Anyway, there was a guy who told me that I could go to these other sights (I was only mildly interested) and that it would take me an hour and for a really cheap price. I didn't really want to spend much time sightseeing because I was hungry, so I thought an hour sounded fine. Well, the tuk tuk driver actually took me to some sights AND to shops where he could get fuel vouchers or whatever. I was no stranger to this type of tourism, but I really wasn't in the mood to get dragged to all these shops, as I wasn't really inclined to shop at all, so I got kind of ticked off at the driver and told him to take me back to the Grand Palace. I also hated the fact that I was by myself, and he wasn't following the map at all. I didn't really feel like being abducted in a strange country. He got mad at me, but he could tell I was really mad and took me back early, anyway. They should just tell people the truth. I'm sure there are plenty of people who want to go to jewelry and linen shops. Just not me. Anyway, we were stopped in traffic for a while kind of in front of the Grand Palace, and this taxi driver who actually spoke English stuck his head out the window and told me we were waiting there because the king was leaving the Grand Palace. Sure enough, I looked and the king and his auto entourage were leaving. A drive-by photo of where the king came out (sorry I didn't have my camera at the ready when he was actually leaving):

Here were some of the sights that the driver actually took me to see. The first one was the Big Buddha. Here is a small Buddha in front of the Big Buddha. I wanted to post this so you'd get an idea of how big the Big Buddha actually is. Smaller Buddha in front of Big Buddha:

The Big Buddha:

It was actually hard to get the angle to fit the thing in one photo. I think I had to sit on the ground or something. I also saw some old-looking building. I can't remember what it was, but I ran into an older gentleman that I had met earlier here, so I actually spent most of my time at this building either chatting with him or taking photos for other tourists. Here is the old building. I think it might be a religious building of some sort. Sorry I'm so dumb about it.

Another thing I did that was really fun was taking a river cruise at night. It was cool seeing the buildings at night. There was something really romantic about the night river cruise, even though it's pretty much the same route I took every day on the river taxis. Just look at how cool structures look at night:

That was some building. Some cool building. This next one is some bridge. Some cool bridge. I am a fan of bridges.

I actually met some people on the dinner cruise that I recognized from other meetings. I had probably met them before or at least seen them before. So, it was nice to hang out with some familiar people. The buffet was pretty good, too. In fact, all the food was good in Thailand. Here is some of it:

I'm not sure that I had ever had dragon fruit before, but it was ... well, it was just okay. I didn't love it, but it was good enough. Here is some crappy mall food. It was Tom Yum soup, and it was really good, so I do not care at all that it was crappy outdoor mall food. All food that I ate in Thailand was delicious, even the mall food.

I ate at this dim sum place at the Asiatique mall. I wasn't really sure what I was ordering. I just pointed to stuff that looked good, and they thought I was crazy that I didn't do the dim sum, but what I got was good, so they can shove it. And also, I was hot and didn't want hot dim sum. I chose wisely. My beverage was a tall glass of kiwi juice. It was amazingly good, and I would drink kiwi juice like that anytime. Oh man. It was so good. Okay, so maybe I was still hot from my walk to the Asiatique that the drink seemed 10 times better than it would have been otherwise. It's sort of like the camping effect on food.

And of course, I had to check out the Lays Potato Chips flavors. They featured one called Lobster Hot Plate, another called Extra Barbecue, and one called Nori Seaweed. I didn't eat them, though, so I can't give you a review. Sorry. I know you so wanted to find out how they were.

Oh, and of course, they do have McDonald's. I thought it was interesting that they had a McD Namtok Rice. Again, I didn't try it, but I can tell you that the McDonald's ice cream is delicious and creamy in Bangkok, just like it is in the U.S. Did I ever tell you that I tried Shrimp McNuggets in Beijing? No? Well, they were pretty good. And I'm pretty sure they're made of real shrimp and not of pink goo shrimp or something like that. Also, I think chicken McNuggets are tasty. End of McDonald's tangent.

So, that was my trip to Thailand. Oh yeah, and I took a couple days of a layover in Japan. I guess I should blog about that. Here we go!

I stayed at a Hyatt by Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, and I rather liked it. It was nice, had a pretty good location, and probably my only complaint was that they didn't have wifi in the rooms. I mean, really, if you're in the business district, why would your only internet access be in some creepy closet-like room with a really slow connection? Even my hotel room in Bangkok had free wifi in the rooms. Tokyo just seemed like they should be more with it. A couple of photos of the lobby:

Lovely chandeliers:

Here is how I mostly got around:

They have different lines with different maps, so maneuvering around the different lines was a little tricky, but there was always someone helpful working at the station that could help me figure out my fare and which lines I needed to take.

The first night I went here:

I was so glad that I did. It was such a peaceful, awesome experience. And then afterward I was hungry, so on my way back to my hotel, I walked along the street until I saw photos of the food I wanted to eat. I went in, and it was kind of a seedy-looking bar, but the food was good, the help was really nice, and I was able to chat with the random strangers sitting there. I practiced some of the Japanese that I had learned from the tutorial in my seat TV on the flight over. It ended up being really fun, and the food was good. I had a variety of gyoza, which was for sure what I wanted to eat at some point when I was in Tokyo. Night street view by one of the stations. Can't remember which one:

The next day I had booked a Viator tour to Kyoto. It was nice because I didn't have to worry about making the arrangements, but it was also weird because I was the only one who showed up for the tour. I toured by myself. They had people waiting for me at each stop, but it was kind of awkward because I felt like I had to wait for them a lot of the time. I'm not sure what I would have done differently if I were to do it again, but suffice it to say that it was weird. In Kyoto I met up with more people and had a proper tour. Here is my tour guide. She was so cute and knowledgeable. Just think of a stereotypical cute Japanese tour guide, and that's who she was. She did a great job.

We went to the Heian Shrine first, which is a Shinto Shrine. And let me just say that in my travels and in going to various places of worship of different religions, I really see a lot of commonalities in religious traditions and practices. Much of the world sees the diversity, but I see the similarities. It was a big place. There was a gate, a place to wash your body to cleanse yourself, and here are some doors going into a courtyard:

We walked around and saw a lot of beauty:

And of course, there was a bridge. Oh, how I love bridges:

I wish I had been able to get a photo without people on the bridge. Alas. Tourists.

There was even a couple getting married while we were there:

Oh wait. Please allow me to interrupt this beauty to be a little tacky and post a photo of typical toilet controls that I could have used in Japan. My favorite part was that you could make a flushing noise and change the volume thereof.

Now back to the regularly scheduled blog. The next place I went was to see the Sanjusangen-do National Treasure. There were about 2000 statues in this place that were basically all the same.

It was, well, it was crazy. Most of the time I was there, I just kept thinking about Avatar: The Last Airbender, the cartoon. This place really wasn't very beautiful or peaceful to me, but it was kind of cool and kind of weird to see. They didn't allow photos or I totally would have tried to capture it.

After that we went to Kiyomizu and Teapot Lane. Here is my seat mate, Elsa (from Indonesia), with her green tea and vanilla ice cream:

She was a nice bus seat mate and totally reminded me of traveling with my friends. It could have been the ice cream fixation. Who knows? Anyway, we went up to the top of Teapot Lane to a temple or shrine or something. It was a nice place and very touristy, but I could have actually spent more time here, as there was a longer hike I could have gone on, and I think I would have liked to have taken my time a little bit more. Here is a place to wash, similar to how it was in the previous Shinto shrine.

People would typically wash their hands and their mouths. I was glad that I got a photo of someone in their traditional garb. On the short hike I took, I took a photo for a girl and guy that were there. They were both wearing traditional clothing, and it was a cool photo if I do say so myself. Of course, it is on their camera, so I don't have it.

Well, that was basically the end of my Kyoto tour. A lot of the time I spent that day was on the bullet train to and from Kyoto. I was glad I did it, but if you ever plan a trip to Tokyo, give yourself more time to spend places. Stay overnight in Kyoto.

Can you guess where I went on my last day? I'll give you a hint:

Did you get it? Here is another hint:

Did you get it yet? How about this hint:

Okay, yeah, I went to Tokyo Disneyland. It was convenient because it was on my way to the airport, and I could leave my luggage in lockers while I visited. I rode all the Mountain Rides (Space, Splash, and Thunder) and Pirates of the Caribbean. Splash Mountain was so cute how it was like half English and half Japanese. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, Japanese singing here, wonderful day! And another funny thing is that I was the creepy single rider a la my Mr. Toad's Wild Ride experience! (Sidenote: they don't have Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in Tokyo Disneyland.) I totally shared a splash mountain seat with this probably ten year old girl. Except, I think she was really there with her dad because she was waving wildly at this guy who was taking her photo once. And actually, she wasn't creeped out by me because she kept smiling at me and screaming for joy at the hills, so that's good. I guess I'm not a creepy bomb-wielding seat mate.

And now my Disneyland cravings have been satiated for a while. I could go back to Tokyo Disneyland, though. They had some kind of adjacent Sea World-esque park, too, and it seems like it would be fun to really take some time to explore.

Anyway, my conclusion to this tale of my travels is that I had a lot of fun, even though I went by myself. I can recommend visiting both of those places, but I suggest taking more time than I did and seeing more of the countryside.

And I lived happily ever after. The end.


Mellissa Hunt said...

I grew up having never traveled anywhere exciting. I didn't leave the state until I was about 12. Seeing all your adventures is great. I can live vicariously through your journeys!

And so gross on the potato chip flavors. The extra barbeque is fine, but the seaweed one?! Gross!

Roger Dodger said...

When I retire I really thought about traveling. It's also nice to see people write good things abut places like Thailand that don't always get the good press. There are some amazing places out there that only a few know about.

tearese said...

yay! I'm glad you finally blogged about it. I'm also glad you took pictures. And i know I said it on fb when you were there, but it went through my head again.."On the way to Delhi, you will go to Bangkok." Haha.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your pics. I know what you mean about traveling alone... When I went to Arches alone that time, it was fun, but I was a little uncomfortable at times. Traveling just seems to be more fun with a buddy. It takes the edge off the safety issues. Same with running. I'm fine running alone, but last night I went running after dark and freaked myself out a couple times.

Cardine said...

Mellissa - Normally I would have tried the potato chips, but when confronted between the choice of eating the chips or other Thai food, I went with Thai food all the way! And what in the world is Lobster Hot Plate?!?

Roger - Welcome! I agree that there are a lot of amazing places that are relatively unknown. I find that no matter where I travel, there is always something interesting to learn or see.

Tearese - Thanks, Tearese. I'm glad I finally blogged about it, too. I don't know why it takes me so long to go through photos, but it does!

Sarah - Thanks. Yeah, I'm usually fine with being alone, but sometimes uncomfortable situations are that much worse when you're alone. It reminded me of that time when I was in Lima by myself with the driver who kept taking me to places like the Park of Love and ended up basically proposing to me. Uncomfortable.

rosann said...

Love the pics... glad you had a good time and got to see some cool stuff even if you were solo!! Next time... :)

dub said...

Yay! Great trip summary! I'm sorry I couldn't join you this time. But I'm glad you had lots of fun experiences and enjoyed the food.

banana said...

No strange underwear stories this time??