I haven’t written on this blog for a while because I wasn’t in a mood to write and reflect on my experiences. Since I came to Thailand, I have been in a weird mood. I’m not exactly happy, but also not totally unhappy. I just feel – indifferent. I don’t really care I’m here right now.
I haven’t really had any “high” experiences in Thailand – experiences where you have to wonder whether yore actually living in this moment because it feels too good to be true. In Thailand, everything has either been too much for me or too little. The islands in the south in the Andaman Sea are beautiful. Koh Kradan looks like paradise. But there is nothing else to do than hang out at the beach. And if you’re traveling by yourself and there are only couples and families around, this can get lonely.
I’ve also felt like I’m living in the Truman Show, it just doesn’t seem real to me on the islands. On Koh Lanta, every shop is either a restaurant, a laundry, a scooter rental, a tour agency, a Thai massage, an Internet cafe, a guest house or everything combined. This didn’t give me the feeling that this is the real Thailand.
I was excited to go to Sukhothai in the North of Thailand, as I hoped to find a “real” Thai city there. I wasn’t disappointed. While traveling to Sukhothai, I was the only foreigner on the train and bus – a good sign. Sukhothai is not too big, it was easy for me to get around on a bike (finally I could ride a bike again) and I could see that it is a city for Thai people, and not set up for tourists. I stayed for 5 nights, apparently this was very special since most guest only stay one or two nights. The best moments in Sukhothai were when I joined a bicycle tour to Old Sukhothai, the ancient Thai capital, and when I spend time in my favorite coffee shop. I was the only guest there, always. But the interior design of this shop was so beautiful, the cappuccino super yummy, the Wifi connection was good and best of all, it was air-conditioned. Other than that, there was little to do and I got bored again.
On Tuesday, 1 April, I finally made my way to Bangkok. Bangkok is definitely too much. This city is so chaotic. And big. And it takes forever to get anywhere. The bus I took from the Northern Bus Terminal to Hua Lampong train station took me 2 hours – for a 10 KM drive. I’ve read before that it’s difficult to figure out the bus system in Bangkok, but I wanted to try it anyway. You need to buy (!) a bus map to be able to find a bus to your destination (you can use Google Maps as well, but I don’t have a Thai Sim Card and thus no Internet on my phone).
The biggest problem is that neither the directions of the bus, nor the bus stops itself have any English names or writing. And the operators on the buses don’t speak English. I have a killer sense of orientation, so I managed to arrive everywhere I wanted to go so far. Basically, you just look out the window, and when you have the feeling you arrived at your desired destination, you get off at the next stop by standing up an pressing the stop button. However, I can only take direct busses. I could never recognize a stop where I would have to change busses as the operator doesn’t announce the stops in English. This limits me, of course, in getting around, but at least I’ve saved countless taxi and tuk-tuk fares already. It also feels great to be the only foreigner on the bus and acting like you totally figured out their bus system and don’t need any help
Bangkok is exhausting in more ways than just the transport nightmare. People don’t really speak English here. It might be that I’m just in the wrong places, but I’ve had serious problems communicating with people. (The lack of English might not be a problem if you’re prepared to find such a situation, but when Thailand is always praised as “so easy” to travel around, I would have expected this includes being able to communicate with most people) When I went to the 7-11 to buy the bus map, the guy didn’t understand the word „map“ and gave me stamps instead. He ignored my attempts to explain what I want to buy (I assume because he wanted to “save his face”) and just cashed up the other items I wanted to buy. I was already on my way out when a Thai girl, another customer, approached me and asked if she could help.
As soon as you leave the places for tourists, you might have a hard time communicating. I always thought that it was difficult in Taiwan. Now I think, Thailand is way more difficult. I don’t know why Thailand is always referred to as the best country for backpacking beginners. It has been the most difficult country for me so far, and I’m not a beginner. If someone would ask me which country in Asia I would recommend for „Asia beginners“ I would choose Malaysia. English is widely spoken there, and it’s easy to get around. The public transport in Kuala Lumpur is a blessing compared to Bangkok.
Of course, I also think Thailand is a beautiful country in many places, people are usually very friendly and it’s cheap to travel here. Still, Thailand and me, we haven’t hit it off.
I might come back in summer, as there is one place I really, really, really wanna go: Chiang Mai. I couldn’t make it this time, since I know I want to stay at least two weeks up there.
I hope the next country on my journey, China, will take me out of my travel blues. That is if my Chinese visa gets approved. I’m very much looking forward to going. Another German girl on my bicycle tour in Sukhothai was totally shocked when I told her my next country will be China: “China??? Why do you go to China? What do you want to do in China???” I was shocked in response to her question. What can you do in China? Probably much more than you can do in many places in this world. My answer was: “I’m just really interested in China.”