Well, it’s been one whole month in this beautiful, incredible place called Thailand. I had intended to write my first blog post much sooner, but, truth be told, the past four weeks have been such a whirlwind of working hard and playing harder that time has slipped through my fingers. But for my own records and to get you up to speed, I want to share a summary of the past four weeks!
Te Wiki Tuatahi – Week One – Settling In
After a long, long flight from Auckland to Sydney to Bangkok, we settled into our apartments. We headed out with our guide Aaron (whom we have fallen into the habit of calling matua Aaron) and Jirawan from our host company for a welcome dinner. The jet lag was reeeal, so I crashed pretty hard!
The next day was New Year’s Eve, and I woke up in an unfamiliar apartment surrounded by lots of foreign sounds in smells. See, in Bangkok, the population is roughly 10.8 million, whereas, in Auckland, the population is 1.67 million. Back in Auckland, I live in a tiny house on wheels on a lifestyle block with my kurī (dog) Melanie, and the only sound I wake up to is wind rustling through trees and the occasional screeching of a Pūkeko. So being in an apartment in central(ish) Bangkok has been quite an adjustment! I was pleasantly surprised to discover a dog training centre across from our apartment. This means I get to stare outside my window in the morning and watch all the dogs going on their morning walks!
New Year’s day consisted of getting acquainted with the local railway system, the local mall (where I picked up my first pair of elephant pants) and Lumphini Park.
For New Year’s night, I and some of the other group members decided to head to Siam to see the fireworks! I was so excited to see what NYE in Bangkok would look like, and Bangkok did not disappoint! We spent our evening walking through Siam, admiring the different displays. This included a giant Netflix couch, a winter-wonderland-themed show (which was quite humorous to me as I battled with the 30-degree weather), and numerous street stalls selling light-up headbands that read “Happy 2023”. For five people who had just arrived, though, the crowds got a bit too overwhelming for us Kiwis, and we decided to head back to a local beerhouse we had seen up the street from our apartment.
So when I discovered I would be spending New Year’s Eve in Bangkok, I had grand ideas of sipping champagne on a rooftop while fireworks exploded around me. BUT as it turned out, the best NYE celebration would be the one spent in a little beerhouse with five people I had known for barely 48 hours while a live 3-piece Thai band played absolute bangers, including Lynyrd Skynyrd, Frank Sinatra, Eagles and more. New Year in a foreign country with people I barely knew really put into perspective what I value. Not a fancy night out, just a night with good people and good music.
The next day we went to Maeklong Railway Market and Floating Markets, and it was fun doing something ‘touristy’. There were so many smells and sights to take in, and I had the absolute best time!
The following week was spent getting accustomed to my workplace. As a takatāpui/queer, neurodiverse, alternative person, I have been so lucky to have been paired with an innovation-based non-profit organization focusing on empowering queer communities in various humanitarian areas. During my first week in my office, I got taken out for lunch every day and was gifted some welcome presents by the company’s CEO. I have never felt more welcomed by a company which makes me so incredibly happy to feel accepted by them.
Te Wiki Tuatoru – Week Three – Krabi
Skipping forward to week three- KRABI!! WOW!!
Some of my group wanted to go to Krabi for the weekend, so I decided, “why not.” I’d never even heard of Krabi before, but the goal for this trip is to say yes more! I’m so delighted that I decided to book flights (only NZD 130 return!) and accommodation ($15 a night!). Without knowing it, we booked one of the best hostels in Krabi, which was the best decision we could have made! Some of the greatest friends I have made were from striking up conversations with people in hostel common areas, and this trip was not going to be any different! Our hostel (Pak-Up if you’re looking for the best hostel in Krabi) had its own suggestions, so we decided to join the island-hopping tour for approximately NZD 75).
This tour consisted of the following:
- Tuk-tuk ride to and from the boat
- Seven different islands with the ability to snorkel near two
- Lunch on the most beautiful island you’ve ever seen, nestled between other islands
- A BBQ/dinner on the beach with a sunset view of the islands
- Witnessing (and swimming with) bioluminescent plankton
All for roughly NZD 75!!
Saturday, we jumped in a Tuk-tuk to take us to our boat. While we were riding in the tuk-tuk, we struck up a conversation with a group of French friends who were also holidaying in Krabi for the weekend. We packed into large boats and eagerly made our way to the first few islands. Our guide was a knowledgeable man who enthusiastically took photos of people. The other staff member was a young intern who was the nicest girl who spoke to our group- mostly about how we were settling into Thailand. The point is- the people were so lovely and genuinely kind. I enjoyed snorkelling in the shallower waters- as somebody with Thalassaphobia (a really intense fear of open waters), I was genuinely surprised when something in my brain said, “you’ll only ever have this opportunity once in your life”. While I was TERRIFIED the entire time, I can now say I snorkelled in Krabi! Crystal clear, blue waters made it that much easier, and I’m so proud of myself for facing my fear!
AAt the sunset dinner, we bumped into our French friends again, discussing the differences in our cultures and sharing stories of our time in Thailand. Later we went out to Ao Nang with them and actually just met up with them last weekend as they were passing through Bangkok! The island hopping tour was breath-taking – I’m absolutely in love with the stunning islands and the kind people that come along with them!
The next day was more of a ‘relaxed full-on’ day. We checked out of our hostel and caught a boat over to Railay beach, where we took a stroll to the beachfront. I’ve always prided myself on coming from beautiful Aotearoa, New Zealand. Still, something about these pristine waters that played home to fish of every colour just took my breath away. After face timing my family back home and swimming in the crystal clear waters, we returned to our boat. I had asked to leave early, and our lovely boat driver had organized for his brother to charter us back early for no additional cost. See, I had asked for an earlier boat as there was one last thing I wanted to squeeze in before our flight back to Bangkok.
Twenty minutes later, I was in a tuk-tuk on my way to Wat Tham Suea, The Tiger Cave Temple. The Tiger Cave Temple is an ascension 309 metres vertically along a 600-metre-long path with a total of 1,260 stairs. I was the only person in my group with enough energy to do the hike, and there were a couple of times I didn’t think I could do it. At about 200 steps, I had a monkey rush me and steal the hand sanitizer attached to my bag and then at roughly 400, another one backed me into a corner, hissing at me, trying to jump on me. He eventually chose to snatch my water bottle out of my hands. I won’t lie; I was terrified and started to cry from fear and exhaustion. I was so scared that I considered giving up altogether and even said, “I’m going back down”, but the people I was on the hike with from my hostel encouraged me to push through and keep going. Lucky for us, this was the worst of the pesky monkeys, and it was just another 860 steps before reaching the temple. At about 900 steps, it got so steep that I was going up on all fours, using all my energy to keep putting one foot in front of the other and regulate my breathing. About 40 minutes after the first steps, we made it to the top, where the most breathtaking view of Krabi greeted us. Sunset was approaching, and the glow over the mountains was that of a fantasy film or, perhaps more fitting- a painter’s depiction of Nirvana.
I’m glad I decided to push through because the view from the top was the most stunning view I’ve ever witnessed, and it made it all the sweeter, knowing that I had kept pushing to get there. There was a guy who arrived shortly after I did who did the whole thing in a moon boot, though, which I think deserves an honourable mention!!
These experiences in the first few weeks have solidified my love for this incredible country! From the tuk-tuk and boat drivers in Krabi to my wonderful co-workers and supervisors back here in Bangkok, I am convinced that Thai people are some of the kindest people in the world! Despite language barriers, I have learnt that a smile says much more than words can.
I can’t believe I’ve already been here a whole month! I’m looking forward to the next month, though, including my 26th birthday in two weeks!