It was the best of times to travel, it was the worst of times to travel, it was the age of wisdom, and the age of foolishness (Thanks Dickens. Really appropriate). We have been discussing if starting this around the world journey in December was great timing or abysmal timing. On one hand, luckily, we landed in a safe, inexpensive country and we are still able to have some kind of life. Plus, the government extended the visa amnesty until the end of September so I can stay a bit longer! We may even take Thai language classes soon. On the other, 75% of our around the world plan has been corona-smashed, we can’t social dance anywhere, and we are far from the majority of our friends/family. Even when we consider the negatives, life is still pretty darn good and we are trying to make the best of it.
Continuing with our general life theme of having fun, we took a water taxi to visit Wat Arun at night, accidentally stumbled into a Japanese “Maid Cafe” (PG rated), sipped tea at a fancy fairytale tea shop, spotted wild elephants during a road trip through Khao Yai National Park, visited waterfalls, went to the largest outdoor market, explored malls, found many funny warning signs, had a salsa dance party for two in our apartment, had foot massages, visited the opening of the largest Apple store in Thailand, and of course, knitted.
The maid cafe… While scouring the web to uncover Bangkok’s hidden gems, we read about 2 separate 2D cafes. They are basically cafes that are designed to look like a flat black and white line drawing. I found a wealth of information on one cafe, but it was far away. The other was close, but I found limited information about it. We decided to hunt for the close one. After a lap around the Thong Lor BTS stop, we caught a glimpse of a black and white decorated exterior that is usually associated with a 2D Cafe. We were surprised that we found it and ran to the door. As I reached for the handle, the door opened and a Japanese girl dressed in a semi skimpy maid outfit invited us inside. That was the first surprise. Apparently, this particular cafe places more emphasis on 3D maids than 2D decor. It looked harmless and Jyn was up for it so we got a table in a room that did have a bit of the 2D flair. After we chose to have lattes, we rang a bell, and our maid appeared and took our order. When she returned with our lattes, she gave us bunny ears (not sure why), and then had us join her in casting a spell on the drinks to improve their taste. Things were already odd so this seemed appropriate. We spent time the rest of our special afternoon knitting and sipping on our magical beverages… while wearing bunny ears.
Another equally unique cafe that we uncovered was the “Sretsis Parlour .” It is a petite and whimsically decorated high-end tea shop located in the Central Embassy mall. Only four people were allowed in at a time. Thankfully, we were the only two customers in the small space and chose, naturally, the premier seating beneath the proud unicorn. Our lattes came with lion and unicorn artwork, a piece of pineapple cake with edible gold, and a set of exclusive teabags. Beside the couch was a secret door that blended into the walls. We had a fantastic time.
Since Jyn’s cousin has access to a car, we were able to join her and her husband for a road trip to Khao Yai National Park. The park is about three hours northeast of Bangkok. On the way, we stopped at a “floating” market (floating on land, not water… just a regular market), to have lunch and break up the drive. From the market, we went to a chrysanthemum farm and a visited a giant golden monk before arriving at our strangely hard-to-find hotel. We arrived at night and the GPS told us to drive down a short unpaved road straight into a huge dirt pile. We decided to ignore that part. When we eventually found it, the hotel was a nice place and a great value. Note from Chinda: I have heard the phrase “great value” coming from Mike so many times since we’ve been in Thailand! Ironically, we stayed in the room called “Key West” which was directly next to “Boca Raton” (I’m from Florida). We would have enjoyed hanging around the hotel, but we had a park to explore instead.
The next morning, we drove into the park and went in search of wildlife. Note: As a foreigner, you pay about 400 baht for entry. Thai citizens pay about 40 baht. That is typical dual pricing for the major destinations. I am ok with it because I don’t pay Thai taxes and I feel the locals should have incentive to visit their parks. As we drove through the park and stopped at observation areas, we were told about a sleeping elephant nearby. We drove to the area and a small cluster of cars and people lined the road. In the distance, at the edge of the forest, a wild elephant was scratching his back on a bent over tree. We watched… Creepily, from a distance.
After elephant number 1, we hiked to two waterfalls. The first one had very steep stairs (steep enough to be fun). Sadly, the park has not installed escalators to go back up. The second waterfall was more of a quick relaxed hike. From the waterfalls, we headed to a hipster coffee shop in the middle of nowhere called “Please, don’t tell”. As we left the park, we encountered another wild elephant who is appropriately called “Elephant number 2”, because he decided to take a dump in the middle of the road while he casually noshed on leaves. He weighs around 7000 pounds and has sharp tusks. Go ahead and relieve yourself whenever your little heart desires. Lastly, we passed multiple groups of macaque monkeys and a ~6 foot long cobra.
We are at the end of July and it is still difficult to plan more than two months into the future. However, we are still trying to stay here until we can safely resume our around-the-world trip. Since I am allowed to be in the country only until the end of September, I will need to go to immigration and apply for a visa that might give me permission to stay until early next year. I will need a bit of luck and an immigration officer who is having a good day.
To finish off the month, I got a haircut. It’s safe to say that I blend in even less now. I found this ridiculous hairdo almost exactly one year ago during my first visit to Bangkok. I thought that it was amazing, but did not get it. With so much serious and depressing news in the world, I decided that it was time to stimulate the Thai economy and have a lizard installed on my head. It makes people smile. I still laugh when i think about what i just did to my hair, but it was/is fun. It is important to have a little fun in life. Jyn enjoys my temporary (probably) new look, but she won’t be getting a lizard cut any time soon.