I have safely arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand! During my travel, through the plane window, I swear I saw the curve of the earth as we landed in Thailand… it was probably just how the clouds, mountains, sunlight, and horizon had mixed together, but the sight gave me a chilling thrill I’ll never forget 🙂
The area I am staying in is called Hang Dong, kind of like a suburb of Chiang Mai. It is beautiful here. Currently it is 86 degrees at 11:05 AM, and I am loving it! Yes, it is hot, but with a fan going and light clothing it is pretty comfortable.
I have learned so much about Thai/Asian culture! For example:
- The architecture an culture is like a wonderful mosaic of patch worked collages between old and new, traditional and modern, cultural and westernized… it’s a massive photo shoot that I can live in :)!
- Basically everyone smiles and is friendly… and nodding/bowing is common.
- Tourists are sort of expected to tip, but in general, tipping is not a part of Asian Cultures.
- The double pricing system is in place here, so for many activities (ex: entering a national park) the price is 2x or 3x as expensive for visitors than if you were native.
- Items imported are 2x as expensive – so (in general) an American item is expensive in USD that in the US, but things made in Thailand are very inexpensive.
- Math is useful in travel for calculating exchange rates while shopping 🙂
- If you make more than $10 a day here, you are rich – so many Americans (usually retired men) are seen as tickets for a better life (esp. for younger Thai women)… it’s hard not to judge when you see that kind of couple here.
- “Pedestrian right of way” does not exist here – so watch out for motor vehicles!
- If you are a foreigner and you get into as accident, you will be at fault.
- White is “beautiful” and dark is “not” – “whitening cream” is advertised and sold like it’s normal (see below).
- Woman add “kha” to the end of sentences, while men add “krap”.
- Labor is very inexpensive, so it is very normal to hire a domestic helper.
- Haggling in the markets is expected/needed because the prices are high.
- When purchasing a SIM card, you need to share with the carrier your passport so the government can track your mobile actions (to detect foreign illegal business).
- Everyone drives a motorbike.
- They have small salamander/geckos that like to sneak inside of the house and be chased around.
- The bird calls here are so strange/beautiful…sometimes it sounds like a strange instrument is being played because I am not used to their calls.
- … and much more to come in later posts!
27.5 hours of travel
Here are some things I learned on my travels. I flew Qatar Airways from Chicago to Qatar to Bankok, and then Bangkok Airways from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Below are some things I learned/experienced on my travels 🙂
Items you need at an easy reach: Passport, airway ticket, and visa (which was put in my passport – I’m assuming that’s how it usually it). My US ID was never required.
For Qatar Airways, they supply you with a blanket, sleeping mask, a pair of soft socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste, earplugs and headphones – so I didn’t need to bring my own 🙂 Most of the passengers from Chicago to Qatar were middle eastern. I was seated next to a very nice father and daughter who lived in the Middle East, but had a family vacation house in Indiana – who knew, the Midwest is a hot spot for international vacations :)! They also informed me that Turkish Airways has the best food and customer service.
All of my flights offered complimentary food and beverages. The food was interesting because they included a breakfast-like item and dinner-like item for each meal to cater to whatever time zone your pallet was used to at that time.
The Hamad International Airport was incredibly clean and modern. They had Apple Internet stations with desktops for use, plug in stations in seating areas, and even a hotel and spa within the airport! One large difference at this airport was they didn’t let passengers into the waiting area until an hour before departure. While entering the waiting area (that was surrounded by glass) they scanned your ticket to check you in. Once you entered the seating area, you sat according to your designated zone, and were not allowed to exit the area (even if you had to use the restroom…). Another realization I had was that in the future I should pack my electronic transformer charger into my carry on so I could use it in the airport. Without it, I was stuck with charging my phone in the computers with a USB cord.
The signs and announcements – both at Doha, Qatar, and Bangkok, Thailand – were first in the international language and then in English. Most of the airline employees spoke English was well. This was a huge help in navigating through airports and baggage claim.
The tricky part was when I arrived at Bangkok, because I had to transfer flights – which means getting a new boarding pass as well and transferring my luggage to the new airline. With the help of airport staff, I learned that I needed to follow signs to the Transfer Counter (not transfer gate) within my new airway’s location (Bangkok Airways). At this counter I received a new boarding pass and transferred my bags (once I produced the luggage tickets I had gotten in Chicago, which they stuck to the back of my passport).
Then I went through customs. During the flight from Doha to Bankok, I received a customs form to fill out, which was pretty simple. The customs guy made me smile for him and commented on my different hair cut – but otherwise is was pretty simple and quick.
When I arrived in Chiang Mai (CNX) I went to International Baggage Claim (NOT domestic). After grabbing my bags off of the belt, I went through the security line that was for not declaring anything (because I didn’t have anything alive, of great value, etc). Then I went outside to be picked up 🙂 Fun note, if you go outside at CNX, you can’t come back in (at all) unless you go through security again.
Wearing layers was a great idea, as well as having facial wipes, oral hygiene, and deodorant for freshening up during lay-overs… so were the sleeping pills and complimentary coffee.
Well, that’s the basics to my travels 🙂 Now, I’m just battling jet lag, which is actually a lot harder than I thought it would be… it’s like constantly feeling like you’ve pulled an all-nighter, even though you just slept for 8 hours… but it’s worth it :)!