A close girl friend of mine and I traveled to Thailand in 2011, when it was a little less mainstream than now, but still was no big deal. Add the fact that we scored $100 return flight tickets to Bangkok this trip was begging to happen. But this was no ordinary trip for us. One way or the other it was made up of many firsts, much delight, even much more disappointment, but overall it was a trip you should have once in your life on your way to becoming a seasoned traveler.
So here goes the highlights of this week long Indo-Thai adventure:
1. The $100 Air Asia flight tickets
A random ad by Air Asia led me to a casual search on their website and finding a return airfare to Bangkok for under $100. That’s a steal by any measure. So I rang up the BFF, said Let’s Do Thailand, and she said Okay! (Because that’s what best friends do.) So, we booked our tickets for a Kolkata-Bangkok-Kolkata flight, 6 months before the trip. The bummer? We travelled 26 hours in a train first to Kolkata, for a 3 hour flight journey onwards!
2. Couchsurfing for the first time
I’d been active on the local Couchsurfing scene back in India even before the trip, but this was the first time, I actually Couchsurfed with someone abroad. Johann our wonderful host, took us two girls into his not so humble abode, and turned out, we were not the only 2, but amongst the 7 odd other guests in his suburban Bungalow. So not only our 3 day stay in Bangkok absolutely free, it was lovely thanks to Johann showing us around a little, and mingling with his other guests.
3. Visited temples by day, drank by night
For us naive 23 year old girls, Bangkok meant temples, and Wats and some nightlife. So, like most “good girls” we visited temple after temple, fell pray to all the tourist traps and did the most conventional Thailand trip. What we didn’t do was see the infamous ping pong and the ‘sandwich shows’ (look em up!) in Bangkok, but had the famous “Bucket”, a deadly concoction of all sorts of alcohol for getting drunk quickly and cheap. Maybe this same trip, a few years later would’ve been a lot of different.
4. Sported a bikini for the first time
I’d seen bikinis in movies and shows, and that’s all that I knew of the not so modest piece of clothing. But here we were, two girls on a beach where everyone else was semi naked. So, throwing all (Ok most) shreds of our Indian modesty and self-consciousness from owning not so perfect beach-bodies, we found a pair of the most covering bikini (By Thailand standards) and took the plunge. Quite literally. What the hell? We went all out there in Ko Phi Phi, stripped and bared it, snorkelled, flirted with the hot men on the ferry, and lounged about on the beautiful Maya Bay, begrudging not being gay for each other on the most romantic beach in the world.
Being girls, we could’nt keep our claws in for too long, and while we marvelled at the bronzed athletic bodies all around, we privately ridiculed the 2 Indians who wore jeans at the beach (!), while secretly feeling totally uncomfortable ( Also, the 2 Indians were carrying suitcases the size of a Somalian Bungalow on the Phi Phi island )
5. Got robbed of our combined $350
We prided ourselves on scoring the flight deal of the century and gloated the entire time about how well and efficiently we’d planned the trip and how cheap it had turned out to be. Just then, the unthinkable happened. We’d been robbed. 350 US DOLLARS had been stolen from right under our nose ( waist?) under mysterious circumstances, and all we were left with was 1000 Bahts between us to last the 2 last days of the trip! So bye bye to shopping, drinking or any sort of commercial fun in the last 2 days of the trip, not to mention trying to shake off being glum every minute.
6. Finding a $1 on the road, after losing $350, and making it to the airport
On our last day, we had all of 180 bahts to get to the Bangkok airport, a commute which would need at least 200 bahts even by the cheapest way possible and then miraculously, finding a 20 Baht note on the road when hailing a cab to get to the skytrain for the airport! Not much luck, but we clearly had the God of small things on our side.
7. Going to the biggest shopping areas in the world. Not shopping
On our last day in Bangkok, we went to the famous Floating markets, followed by the Chatuchak weekend market, arguably the largest flea market in Asia, and then street shops at the Khao San Road, but thanks to the fresh robbery, couldn’t shop for a thing. And there were things to buy. Hundreds of rows of selling the most amazing street food, knick knacks, lights, and other traveler staples, but all we could do was stroll past the shops, disappointing every shopkeeper who’d try to get our non existent bahts.
8. Finding vegetarian food in a meat loving Thailand
Thailand being my first non-packaged tour trip, I was told finding reasonable vegetarian food would be a challenge. And while it wasn’t a breeze, sure, I survived. I scavenged for and savoured happily on a ‘Vegetarian’ Noodle soup for dinner/lunch all of the trip, apart from roasted/boiled corn, pineapple lollipops, and the famous Thai Papaya Salad.
All in all we got lucky, just before getting terribly unlucky. Got sunburnt, got scammed, robbed, bitten by a jellyfish, battered, exhausted, famished, but still had the best, the most unpredictable, crazy trip ever!