I often pride myself on the research skills I’ve acquired over the years, and with the added bonus of having a PI license, one might assume I spent a lot of time researching all the places we intend to visit on our adventure. Well, one would be wrong. Quite the opposite happened, as we made a point not to over plan our trip, and in doing so, we weren’t prepared for the chaos that awaited us in Bangkok: Chinese New Year and the 825,000 additional tourists that flooded Bangkok to celebrate during the week of Jan. 28 to Feb 2.
Let me take you back to our first few days of traveling. Instead of reading the Lonely Planet Thailand (Travel Guide) already downloaded on my Kindle app, or current news on our first destination, I picked up Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast at LAX before the 14+ hour flight to Taipei (which was followed by a 3-hour layover* and another 3+ hour flight to Bangkok). I didn’t even open the book during our flight simply because there was too much to talk about with Danica and too many movies to watch, all of which took the sting out of such a long flight. One topic of discussion was my inadvertent booking of our hotel in Bangkok for the day after we arrived because even though technically it was booked for the day we arrived, it was only 12:05am, which is a bit early to check in. We didn’t think it would be a big deal since it’s a huge hotel in an area surrounded by many other huge hotels, but alas, we were wrong. Our hotel had no availability, nor did most of the hotels around because everything was sold out due to the spike in tourism over Chinese New Year.
We ended up at a decent place within walking distance, took hot showers, and slept until check out. In the very late morning, we went back to our nice hotel up the street, dropped of our backpacks, and took a taxi towards the heart of Bangkok. Over the course of our four day, we hit several of the major sites: Wat Pho, the Grand Palace, Wat Arun (which was under construction so we couldn’t climb the infamous stairs), Chatuchak Market, Chao Phraya River (canal tour), and Chinatown – check out my pictures on Flickr. We had other places on our list that we didn’t get to see, but plan to make our way back there when we travel through Bangkok to other destinations. Of all the sites we did see, they had one thing in common: crowds full of tour groups from Chinese New Year’s travelers.
Of course, there were also many Thai mourners coming from other parts of the country to pay respect to their beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016 after 70 years of reign, and who will be mourned for an entire year from his death at age 88. With the heightened security at the Grand Palace, the closed off areas that were previously open to tourists, and the additional tourists there to celebrate Chinese New Year, it felt very claustrophobic and we found it difficult to enjoy the normal peace that surrounds such a historic monument (Danica visited two years ago around the same time of year, although not during the week of Chinese New Year, and while there were other visitors as expected, it was much less chaotic). That being said, the architecture and history in this city are truly remarkable, and the market scenes provided great people watching and tasty food! And during our visit to Wat Arun, we both received a lovely good luck blessing from a monk who sprinkled us with water and tied a white string around our left wrists.
Anyway, back to Hemingway…I hadn’t read more than a few pages after our short stint in Bangkok when I came across these words: “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” Here is the truest sentence that I know as I leave Bangkok: Research is necessary as it is so important to understand the culture of where you are going and what to expect when you get there. In hindsight, we might have pushed our trip a week or started in another city to avoid the crowds so that we could’ve taken more time to enjoy the sites in Bangkok in a less congested setting. Bangkok is a bustling city, with smells and sounds you wouldn’t be able to place anywhere in the states, amazing sites to see, wonderful people and delicious cuisine, but after a few days (and nearly 40 miles walked), we were ready to move north for a more quiet adventure in the mountains. Hopefully Hemingway will continue to inspire me to write, and we will spend more time researching our future destinations.
*Yes, we enjoyed our first of many massages, and this one supported the Blind Friend Massage Service Center.