When I was growing up, missionaries visited our California church often to participate in annual missions conferences and to raise support. My family often took these missionaries out for lunch after church on Sundays and hosted quite a few of them for short stays at our house. I think all the time we spent with missionaries played a big role in God’s call for us to become missionaries when I was in high school. (I talk a little bit more about that in this post.)
There is so much to see and do in Bangkok; after 8 1/2 years here, I still have so much to experience, but we were able to check one more thing off the list last weekend. Some of Worchihan’s sweet, sweet former English students took us to Ancient City (known as Muang Boran or เมืองโบราณ in Thai) to experience as much of Thailand as you’ll ever be able to experience in one day.
If you read the first George Town post, you’ll know our trip was last-minute. You’ll also find out where we stayed and what we ate. I wrote about what we did in the second post, but decided Armenian Street (and what I bought) needed its own post.
(Disclaimer: I am not a shopping advocate. I try to buy what I need, as well as chocolate and local art and books when I travel. I am including what I bought on this trip because I was impressed by the amount and high quality of the local products made in Malaysia by Malaysians.)
On our first morning in George Town, I went for a walk and stumbled upon this little street, which I didn’t know anything about, because, again, I hadn’t done any planning for this trip, which, as I’ve discovered, is the best way to be pleasantly surprised!
Bangkok is the perfect
springboard for exploring southeast Asia. Flights are short and inexpensive. Since
I’ve lived here, I’ve visited Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, Singapore, Malaysia and
the Philippines – 6 of the 11 southeast Asian nations. (Of the remaining countries,
Laos is at the top of my list.)
So I now know how to plan a I-have-to-leave-the-country-in 5-days trip. My first thought: I need to go somewhere where I don’t need a visa and Worchihan can get one quickly. That meant Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos were out — Americans need visas for them all — so Malaysia it was. I had heard that George Town in Penang was a cool place so I headed straight to Agoda and then to Google Flights, which is clearly out of order (no one makes me feel more like I have to do something RIGHT NOW than Agoda). It wasn’t until we got to the airport that I looked up how we could get to George Town from the airport — and that’s all the research I did. (Old Susan may not have been friends with new Susan — I mean, come on, I did have 4 full days to plan the trip!)
So, I come to lesson 1: You can have a great time on a trip whether you research the heck out of it or not.
I moved to Bangkok in August of 2011. Moving overseas is a pretty overwhelming experience, especially for a 25-year-old who had never even been to Thailand (and who had eaten pad Thai only once), but I was ready. My move was made easier by good friends who had moved to Bangkok 6 months before, so I had someone who could answer my questions, like What should I bring? (My friend’s answer: a top sheet!, but don’t worry, readers, we have IKEA now.)
Now that I’m on the other side of that question, I’m ready to help with a series of blog posts for people moving to or new to Bangkok, starting with looking for a place to live. Let’s get to it!
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it took me eight years to visit Phuket. It’s not like it’s a hidden jewel or anything; after all, almost 9.3 million people visited Phuket in 2017, making it the 12th most visited city in the world that year. I just didn’t go to Phuket because I’d heard it was really expensive, and it can be, but, as I learned, it doesn’t have to be.
Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and the flight time from Bangkok is only an hour and twenty minutes (yes, we’re already planning our next trip). After doing some research, we decided to stay at Kata Beach — or was it that I found a cute hotel on Agoda and wanted to stay there? Either way, the first thing we had to figure out was how to get from the airport to Kata, which is on Phuket’s southwest coast and is about an hour’s drive from the airport. I knew that taxis are incredibly expensive so they were never an option. I read in Lonely Planet’s Thailand guidebook (Lonely Planet is my go-to source for reliable travel information) that a shared van (or a minibus, as it’s often called in Thailand) from the airport to Kata was 200 baht per person. It was too easy. We saw the stall as soon as we walked out of the terminal — a ride to Patong was 180 baht, Karon or Kata 200 baht.
So folks, we find ourselves with another holiday (and another three-day weekend, at least this year) in Thailand. On May 14th, the birthday of the newly-crowned Thai queen, June 3rd, was declared a public holiday. Since we got out of Bangkok a couple of weekends ago and learned how bad the traffic is on three-day weekends and just found out that June 3rd is a holiday on May 31st (we’re not often the first to find out what’s going on here), we decided not to waste the day but to spend it in the sweltering heat of Bang Kachao.
Bang Kachao, otherwise known as Bangkok’s Green Lung, is actually an island formed by a sideways U-shaped bend in the Chao Phraya River and a canal at the mouth of the U. It is accessible by car, but it’s more fun to take a boat.
If you can handle the traffic, it’s best to get out of Bangkok on a three-day weekend. Which we have a lot of in Thailand (though contrary to the belief held by expats in Thailand, Cambodia, at 28, has the most public holidays — Thailand apparently has only 16).
So this past weekend, we got out of Bangkok. We made the mistake of going to Cha-am instead of Hua Hin, though I should have known better. I’ve been to Cha-am twice, including a solo trip my first Christmas in Thailand. I blame nostalgia.