by Kate Sisk, Greenheart Travel Scholarship Winner in Thailand
Travel is my passion. I’ve studied and interned in London, traveled to over ten countries in Europe, road-tripped across America, participated in a summer university program in Brazil, and helped build a house in Guatemala. But, this is my first time in Asia, so there was still a bit of anxiousness in my excitement to travel to Thailand for my language exchange homestay program! I thought I had the hang of things since I have traveled before, but I still left my phone charger on the plane in Japan, left my debit card in the ATM at the airport in Bangkok, was scammed by a taxi driver and fell in a hole in the street in Chiang Mai all before spending the first night at my host family’s house!
Those silly little mishaps have had no effect on how amazing my first week in Thailand has been though! After all, travel is about learning from new experiences! My first few days were spent in Bangkok. During my orientation and exploring the city, I have learned that Thai’s love three things very much: temples, shopping, and food!
My two favorite things I did in Bangkok were shopping the stalls of the Chatuchak weekend market and visiting the famous temples.
The Chatuchak weekend market is the largest market in Thailand and has everything: food, clothes, pets (including puppies and kittens wearing tiaras!), art, handicrafts, antiques, and more.
One of my favorite stalls was full of colorful treasures from Afghanistan.
The temples I visited in Bangkok were the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun. It was breathtaking to see the incredible detail and beautiful colors of these temples.
One highlight was visiting Wat Pho with the giant Reclining Buddha (160 ft long!)
Female farang traveling alone in Bangkok?!
I wanted an extra day to explore Bangkok before my two-day orientation, so I decided to come early. Exploring the city alone for the first two days was a little overwhelming. The most challenging part was not only the language, but also being a female “farang” traveling alone. Farang is the word in Thai for foreigner. I got the impression that I looked like walking Baht (Thai currency) to many of the Thai’s on the streets of Bangkok.
Getting around was also a bit difficult because taxis and tuk-tuks will try to overcharge, not use the meter, or take you to a “Thai Factory,” which is a shop selling jewels. Half the time I tried to use a taxi or tuk-tuk, the driver tried to make stops at these places. They said the government gives them free gas, but I am pretty sure the jewel shops just give them a commission.
A view of Bangkok from my window of the office at orientation.
The tourist traps were frustrating, but once I had orientation and a lovely staff member and Thai native to show me more of the city, things were super smooth! We spent the day at the Grand Palace, had lunch at the pier, saw Wat Arun, and took a water taxi back to the office. Then I took the overnight bus to Chiang Mai to meet my host family!
Exploring the Grand Palace.
Wandering through the garden at Wat Arun.