The Adventure Begins
After a staggering 24 hours of flying and stopovers I had finally made it from my home in Toronto to the beginning of my adventure in Bangkok. Inside the airport I met up with 2 new friends on the trip and together we found our trip leaders, Bertus and Jemma. We had some time before the rest of the group arrived yet so we went out for a beer and some introductions. We were very excited at this point and were brimming with questions. We could instantly tell our new leaders we’re awesome people and it put any nervousness we had about being on the other side of the road at ease. The rest of the group arrived shortly after, it was really awesome to see everyone for the first time, we were made up of 10 guys and 10 girls all around the same age. It was interesting to finally meet the people we would be spending the next 40 days with.
We had arrived at night but the atmosphere of being on the complete opposite side of the world could be felt as soon as we stepped out of the airport. It’s such a wakeup to the system to begin looking at everything with fresh eyes. When you grow up in a certain place you become used to everything so stepping into a new country and looking at everything as something new with newfound interest in normal things feels really cool. Even familiar things like coke and chips are new and interesting because they are a little different.
The leaders took us out to a cool restaurant for our first taste of the phenomenal Thai food. Despite how much I’d grow to love the Thai food in the next little while I wasn’t too sure if I liked it or not at this dinner, new foods can take a bit of getting used to even if they are really good. At the dinner we had some typical Thai favorites like pad Thai, a couple kinds of fish, rice with chicken and a few dishes of green red and masumann curries.
Next we headed to the Wild Orchid guesthouse where we would stay for the next couple days. This guesthouse was really cool, it was the first time I began to understand the vibe of the country. Because the climate in Thailand is so beautiful year round, everything is built incredible free and open. A roof over your head is all you need making everything have that fresh patio feel to it. We had all just arrived from a cold Canadian winter so we marveled in how amazing the weather was for a while. The guest house was very beautiful and had cool statues and little ponds around. We all grabbed some drinks, at incredibly cheap prices and relaxed in the awesome environment. This is when it started to sink in that I really was on the 40 day vacation I had planned so long ago.
The following morning we headed out on a trip to a large Buddhist temple. Seeing Bangkok in the day was stunning. The amount of action and motion in the city was far greater than anything I had seen before. The most stunning of all was the amount and the pace of the traffic on the roads. The driving was frantic and fast paced with cars, tuk tuks and bikes filling up every inch of the road.
Riding on the tuk tuks was an awesome experience, they feel more like a roller coaster than a car and you really do need to keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times because only inches separate you from the passing motorbikes. To make things even more interesting they also drive on the opposite side of the road than North America.
After a short ferry ride we made it to the temple. It was the first Buddhist temple I had ever visited and was quite memorable. There were many really cool looking and very detailed warrior statues guarding the entrance to the temple and placed throughout.
Many of the Thai people strong embrace their Buddhist religion and it was very neat for me to see them praying in the Buddhist way to the various golden statues. Before you pray to these statues you take a piece of golden foil and place it onto the statue adding to it. I thought this was really special as it’s like you connect with the energy of the statue and add to its awesomeness before you pray to it. Flowers and burning incents also play a role in the praying in ways I’m not too sure of.
Out of all the worlds established religions I would have to say Buddhism seems to align closest to my beliefs. Although it has its issues, I like Buddhism because it teaches that the power to affect one’s life is within oneself. It is not about devoting yourself to some outside higher power. It also teaches the importance of meditation which I think one of the most powerful tools to personal growth. Buddhism is based on principles of ethical conduct and altruism, and is about awakening from the false self. I believe it is the practice of Buddhism that helps contribute to the friendliness and happiness of many Thai people.
The temple consisted of many different structures inside a larger square. Along the various walls were maybe about 100 different golden Buddha statues of different shapes and sizes and in different poses. We learned a little about what the different poses meant, although I can’t remember now.
There was also a couple beautiful fountains with nice plants and a few interesting statues built around it.
The highlight of the temple tour was the massive Buddha in a horizontal lying down position. This thing was pretty huge and the sight of it was very humbling. It looked quite peaceful yet powerful which seemed like a perfect representation of what practicing Buddhism can do for people.
Around the outside all the way around the Buddha were pots that you place small coins into. As you move from pot to pot placing the coins you can focus on that which you are wishing for. I used this opportunity to wish for a phenomenal next 40 days.
We finished the trip in another small area where we read our fortunes for the future. Rather than just getting a fortune you grab a container with many different sticks in it. Each stick has a different number on it. You shake the container in your hands back and forth until one of the sticks slowly vibrates to the top and falls out, you then get the fortune that corresponds with that number. I don’t really remember but I’m going to have to say mine must have said something about being totally awesome! 😀
The temple was a really cool start to our trip and a great way to experience something uniquely Thai early on.
Next we’d see more of Bangkok before moving south!