Happy New Year!
This is part one of a recap of my bike trip in Thailand and Cambodia with my friend Lindsay, a fellow MPH student and kickass Crossfiter. We decided to go on this trip while we were on an all female 100k bike ride in October called the Tour de Femme with a couple of other friends we ride with. Both of us mentioned that we had wanted to do a cross country bike trip in southeast Asia, and after meeting up and researching our possible options, found this incredible supported trip in Thailand and Cambodia that started along the Gulf of Thailand, had us crossing into Cambodia and ending up in Siem Reap exploring the temple complex of Angor Wat.
After figuring out possible flights and determining if we could make it back by Christmas Eve (a stipulation required by both our families,) we booked the trip. After making it through a brutal last few weeks of classes, exams, group presentations, papers, and internship projects, I was ready for a break from the grad school grind. I went to my parents’ house in Dallas for a few days then flew to Bangkok via Dubai on Emirates on a massive and super nice Airbus. I actually watched some great movies on the flight, Boyhood being my favorite (see it!) There was a two hour layover in Dubai where I sat across from a caviar bar and saw that they were auctioning off a McLaren… plus it was festively decorated for Christmas, what an airport (and they’re building a new one!)
Upon arrival in Bangkok, after traveling for about 24 hours, it was just after midnight local time and my body had no idea what time it actually was. After customs and baggage claim it was closer to 2am, so I headed to the airport hotel where I had booked a room for later that day, to drop off my bag. Linsday didn’t get in till 6pm, I didn’t want to check into my room till 11am (because we were getting picked up by the tour company at 11am the next day) and the trains into the city didn’t start till 6:30am, so I had some time to kill. I basically read in the airport for a while, finished The Checklist Manifesto, a great read, and got some tea (the restaurants were pretty much all open at 3am.) Then at 6am I headed to the train station and looked at a map. After catching a train and getting to city center, I just wanted to walk in the sunlight. I walked towards Old Bangkok where all the temples are, and as I was about to turn a street corner a man spotted me and asked if I was heading to the temples. I said yes, he got really excited, told me he was a teacher, and wanted to tell me which temples I should go to. He then told me that it was a special day where the government was paying for the petrol for all the TukTuk drivers, so the drivers could take me to all the temples and a couple of export shops, for only 20 Baht (less than a dollar US.)
My new teacher friend flagged down a government TukTuk (it had to have yellow license plates and a Thai flag on it) and confirmed the 20 Baht price with the driver, Chai. Although I’d been happy to walk, it would be kind of nice to see more of the city in a shorter amount of time with a personal TukTuk. We darted off to the first temple where I touched a Buddha statue’s feet for good luck. All the temples and government buildings were still decorated from the King’s birthday which was just the week prior. The next temple I went to had a whole room of lucky Buddhas. While all these temples were elaborate and quite stunning, my favorite temple was the Marble Temple. The whole complex had these brilliant white and gold colors plus bright green landscaping and red bridges.
In the middle of visiting temples, Chai took me to a Thai fashion shop as he called it, where you can pick out fabrics, mostly silk, and have custom clothing made to measure. I got a skirt and blouse made that they were able to make and deliver to my hotel that evening! Finally Chai dropped me off in front of the Grand Palace, which is a massive complex with different types of palace architecture. I bought some delicious mango outside, and ate it so fast (I hadn’t really eaten that day after being so well fed on my Emirates flights,) I got mango juice all over my hands and mouth like a toddler!
Next door was the temple I really wanted to see, the Reclining Buddha Temple, Wat Pho. Once inside I was not disappointed. The Buddha takes up the entire length of the temple, it’s 160 ft long! I loved the different creatures guarding the various temples, as well as these sculptures outside that looked almost like Christmas trees in their greens, reds, and golds.
After walking around much of the complex, my feet were swollen and sore, not to mention I had been awake for a long time. I got a taxi to the city center where I could catch the train back to the airport, and although the taxi driver ripped me off since he wouldn’t let me just go by the meter, I was too tired to argue over a couple of dollars. I journeyed back to the airport, walked over to the very nice Novotel and checked into our room. I showered and crashed. I had an alarm set for 6pm so that I could be awake when Lindsay arrived, but I woke up just long enough to shut my alarm off, then slept again till Lindsay woke me up upon her arrival. We recapped travel stories then went to the hotel restaurant to get dinner and I picked up my clothing that had been delivered! We went back to our room and back to sleep.
Waking up around 5am, we actually went back to the airport for breakfast – fried rice, because we knew it would be cheaper than the hotel. We also bought some snacks from the 7-Eleven, we’d soon learn that they’re everywhere in Thailand. We had more time to kill so we went to the beautiful hotel pool and I jumped into the chilly water and swam a few lengths. At 11am we checked out and went to the front doors to meet our bike tour guides. Then our adventure with Chris and Gae began!