08.08.2011 75 °F
Between getting my bearings of Bangkok and starting classes at Thammasat, I have not been able to do many cultural activities and have been so bummed about it! This past Sunday we decided to combat that, do as the Thai do, and make the excursion to Chatuchak Market, JJ for short, and explore this infamous outdoor bazaar! Chatuchak is abbreviated "JJ" because in Thai, Ch's and J's are interchangeable, as are B's with P's and R's with L's. And this is only a little preview of how tough it is going to be to learn the language. That'll just be another adventure, I suppose!
JJ Market wrapped into one word would have to be: insane. There are sections of jewelry stands and clothing, furniture and vases, but we somehow managed to get lost in the maze of exotic pets. It started out pretty simple with a lizard here and there, maybe some exotic fish. Then there were puppies...oh so many puppies! And then hedgehogs. Squirrels. Peacocks. This is when the market started to get a little overwhelming. There were so many large animals in such small cages that it just broke your heart seeing them all in a line. We had to keep reminding ourselves that it's just the culture of the people and that we were brought up very differently in America in regards to animals, sanitation, and the like.
When we saw a cock fight in action in the middle of the market, we knew it was time to go. The next visit to JJ will be much better though! Now that we know the layout a bit more, we can see the colorful scarves and hand-carved furniture instead. Much more my style! Of course a monsoon hit us right as we were about to venture across the street to the farmer's market section, so we waited the 20 minutes it generally takes to pass and viola! Were able to step outside and stay dry.
Coming home and having to stand on that bus after a day of such walking was a lot to handle, but grabbing street food on our block made it all worth it.
My favorite part about Thailand has got to be the convenience and price of meals. I eat at the carts twice a day, and pay no more than 30 baht per dish. That is one US dollar! This does wonders when it comes to saving up for weekend excursions! We had a nice plan to bus to Koh Samet for the weekend in honor of our friend Brian's birthday--we were going to catch a bus after class on Thursday and not miss any class Friday because schools are closed on account of the queen's birthday being a national holiday. But! Because we are in Thailand and things can change in a second, decided at the ultimate last minute that the Full Moon Festival on Koh Phangan was calling our names. By ultimate last minute, I mean that I was literally holding my phone and had 30 seconds to decide if I was in or out because the person on the other end was at a travel agency, ready to book it. We're leaving on a 12-hour overnight bus at 6pm today, catching a ferry to the island, and booking a bungalow on the spot. Sounds crazy, I know, but that is just the Thai way. You go with the flow and actually end up saving money that way! Booking in advance is almost double the price for hotels, and we are traveling in a group of almost 20 so we feel pretty confident that we can split into groups and stay sane through the chaos.
As soon as we're back (in 6 days, ahh!), I'm actually very excited to get into the routine of classes. I attended Thai Traditional Medicine this morning and our professor works for The Royal Institute of Thailand and has a scholarship from the King to conduct his pharmaceutical research! He's set up plenty of field trips to teach us about herbal remedies, including a trip to a public health facility, botanical garden, and zoo because there are some controversial drugs that come from snakes and crocodiles that are apparently a must-see.
Just a disclaimer to you all that I will be incommunicado until next Tuesday! And when I'm back home in Bangkok, I'm sure I will have a smorgasbord of island-living stories to share!