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By: Jack Ellis
To date, I have traveled to
Thailand five times. The fascinating
and exciting culture of Thailand is
what keeps me making that 18-hour
flight across the Pacific - from
Washington D.C. - to Don Muang
International Airport in Bangkok.
As soon as I return home, I begin
planning my next trip to the
"Land of Smiles." My first Thailand
trip was in April 1998, and what follows is a brief
description of that experience.
When the plane landed at Don Muang at midnight.
I was one of the first people off the plane.
I found myself in the lead of the large group
of passengers scurrying through the airport
in search of Immigration. I immediately
began to worry that perhaps I would lead the
group in the wrong direction. It seemed that
almost everyone following me was a tourist
like myself - and as equally clueless.
My worries were unfounded as all the signs
were written in Thai and in English - I got
us all safely to the Immigration desk.
Getting out of the airport went smoothly and as
planned. My Thai friend, Oh, was there waiting
for me. What I wasn't prepared for was what
you are hit with as soon as the doors open and you
step out onto the sidewalk. I first noticed the
smell of pollution and then I felt a tremendous
wave of heat. Despite being nearly 1 a.m., it
was still so very hot and humid. Oh led me to
her car and I was soon sitting in a nicely
air-conditioned Mercedes and was being whisked
away to my hotel in Bangkok. As we rode into
Bangkok, I was surprised to see so many 7-Elevens
they are practically on every street corner, but
unlike in the U.S., you won't find any Big Bites
or day-old pizza places to eat at.
Because Oh had a full time job with the Ministry
of Finance, she couldn't take off everyday. I was
mostly by myself on those days. I'd walk to Ma
Boon Krong (MBK) which is a large shopping mall
where both tourists and locals go. Whatever you
could possibly want, you will find at MBK. I also
learned to take a taxi in Bangkok. Oh would write
down a location for me in Thai and then I'd hand
it to the driver. This system worked well - but
when I didn't have a note scribbled in Thai, I'd
rely on my own limited knowledge of the Thai
language. While you'll find many taxi drivers
with at least a rudimentary knowledge of English,
sometimes knowing a few basic Thai phrases can
help you from driving around and a around in
circles. On one occasion however, my Thai wasn't
helping, so I had the driver pull over to the
curb and I asked the first local I could find
who spoke some English to please help us find
Because this was my first time in Bangkok,
I went to all the major temples like,
Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Po, and Wat Arun,
which are all a must see. I did manage to
get out of Bangkok for a two-day trip to
Hua Hin as well. Hua Hin is the beach
resort that the Royal Family frequents.
Probably the most endearing part of Thailand I
experienced on this trip was the Thai people
themselves. They were friendly, polite, and always
ready and willing to help. It is this quality that
keeps me going back to Thailand, and enduring that
18 hour flight - and one that you will surely
experience if you decide to take a trip there.