Tuk-tuks, temples and tours in Thailand

Following an hour drive to the airport, a 13-hour flight to Beijing, a four-hour layover plus a two-hour delay, a four-hour flight plus an additional two to three hours going through customs, finding our Affordable Asia pickup and driving to our Bangkok hotel, we had a two-hour sleep before waking up and hopping on the tour bus for a full morning and afternoon of touring.

Despite my delirium as we toured the Temple of Golden Buddha and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, otherwise known as Wat Pho which is home to the world’s largest Buddha which measures 10-feet high, weighs over five tons and is worth an estimated $14 million, I realized as we walked around how accessible this trip really was.

Temple of the Golden Buddha. (Photo by Jenna Intersimone)

Many people – myself included – have spent thousands of dollars on trips to places like Aruba and Cabo, where the activities generally include sitting on a beach, getting a tan and doing some snorkeling and drinking. However, here we were in a destination on the other side of the world – a place where most Americans will never go – spending thousands of dollars less with the only real obstacle being a long flight.

Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Photo by Jenna Intersimone)

I felt like such an anomaly at home as people asked Why would you want to go to Thailand? However, once here, in our tour group of 40-or-so people from every corner of the world, every age and every background, I realize that it’s not such an anomaly to want to go somewhere cool where you’ll spend thousands of dollars less anyway. These people just tend to be a little more scattered than within my very small world in New Jersey.

Mike was hesitant to go to Thailand with a tour group, but I knew from study abroad that even though people in these groups are vastly different, they have one thing in common – they’re incredibly outgoing, adventurous, friendly and curious. Two days in, we feel closer and more interested in these peoples’ stories than most people we know at home.

There’s Natalie, a tiny ray of sunshine with a big laugh who jet sets off to Florida most weekends to be with her boyfriend G.R., a Uruguayan voice of reason who, being a very young-at-heart man, occasionally surprises us all with a bottle of vodka in his backpack. There’s Heidi and Brandon, an all-American Southern-drawled blonde couple who have two kids and work as a cop and nurse, but quickly let loose with their big voices and stories and generosity. And there’s Erica and Jordan, a very young Buffalo couple who despite their short 23 years, have no fear and no reservations and are more than happy to try anything and do anything here in Thailand.

Our tour group friends. (Courtesy of Natalie Hecker)

Following a nap after our touring (which may be better characterized as a sleep since it lasted six hours) Mike and I woke up around 9 p.m. With only some hesitation, we take a cab to Khao San Road, a legendary road for both backpackers and Thai people looking for some fun. Reminiscent of Bourbon Street, the road is already full of life at 9, with simmering street meat, buckets of tropical drinks, crowds of people dancing in the street to hits from at least five years ago and Thai tourist classics like Thai massages, elephant souvenirs and ping-pong shows.

Mike having the best time ever on one our many tuk-tuk rides. (Photo by Jenna Intersimone)

Even though only moments ago I was afraid I would fall asleep in the cab, I quickly feel like I’m coming back to life with a Chang in one hand and a bag of unidentifiable street meat in the other. A woman who negotiates a price with me via calculator since she speaks no English draws a henna tattoo on my ankle and Mike and I get the best massages of our lives for three dollars each on the street. A few Changs in, Mike and I decide to retire and we take a tuk-tuk home, a glorified golf cart that goes as fast as any car. Zipping through the dark, still very much alive streets, the drive is better than any Six Flags ride. I think I am going to like Thailand very much.

CONTINUE READING HERE: From the gold of the Grand Palace to the grime of Chinatown

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