Thailand 2012-onward

Do a trip report here....go to another city and want to relate it to what KC is doing right or could do better? Give us a summary in here.
IraGlacialis
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Thailand 2012-onward

Postby IraGlacialis » Fri Oct 19, 2012 10:05 pm

So I got accepted to grad school in Bangkok, thus will be staying here for the next couple years.

Probably good place to start as any would be the trip.

Departing Kansas City.
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Landing in O'hare.
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What boggles my mind about this airport is that at Terminal 5 (the international terminal), there are no places to eat past security. Think of KC, how there is a couple fast food places pre-security and a single kiosk past security, but expand it for the entire terminal (btw, the number of kiosks doesn't expand with the terminal size, there is still just one single kiosk). So one has to choose between getting a bite to eat and hoping the lines will be decent, or biting the bullet and waiting it out. The thing is that one can't give the excuse that it is for security as international flights depart from the domestic terminals, which are full of dining places past security.
My distaste for that airport seriously knows no bounds. The only upside of the experience was since I got there early, there was nobody going through security, which made that part a breeze.

Possibly the only cool thing about the airport is that it has a Brachiosaurus skeleton from the Field Museum on display in the United terminal.
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The international leg of the voyage was done by Asiana, which is a South Korean airlines. In general, my experience with them is one that was exceedingly positive.
It is clear that they take service very seriously. This is to the point that if you get to the check-in early (while my baggage was checked-in and taken care of at KC, I was required to check-in at O'hare to receive my boarding pass), when the attendants come out to start working the counters, all will simultaneously bow and do a Korean greeting. They were also very professional and friendly when dealing with the travelers. I did not realize that there were stricter weight requirements for carry-on (10 kilos) on international flights than on domestic, so I was a couple kilos over the limit; however they just provided me with a shopping bag to redistribute the weight and get around the weight limitations so I wouldn't have to gate-check.
The service on the flight was also top notch, even enough for me to overlook my general problems with traveling on long-haul economy flights (practically zero leg room, stiff seats, etc). The food (I got bi bim bap, which apparently is the one constant on that airline), was actually pretty good, as was the entertainment (interactive setup with movies (edited of course) airing before home release, plus games). The attendants were very helpful as well (sometimes as much as they can due to occasional language barrier), constantly doling out snacks and drinks throughout the flight (which you also get at the galley). All in all, I can see this becoming my go-to airline.
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Entering Korea.
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I made my feelings on O'hare very clear. Seoul-Incheon is a complete 180 from that. It, by far is now probably my favorite airport. Very clean, has free high-speed wifi, and, like many Asian airports, the departures terminal is practically a mall with Plaza-caliber stores/restaurants that are actually decent priced. This among a whole lot of other amenities: smoking rooms (which were interesting in that they had living walls), playgrounds at every other intervals, fully-stocked cafes at every interval, etc. Oh and the airport was very aesthetically pleasing.
The only issue I had with the airport is that after you land, all the people needing to transfer to another international flight are forced to go through a single security station, which naturally causes quite the traffic jam. The nice thing though is that once you reach the station, the process is very smooth and the people recognize computer parts as legit instead of requiring you take it out to physically examine.

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Probably the most interesting part about the airport is that they have a Korean cultural center (where you can make little free pieces of art or trinkets), sell crafts, and do cultural events throughout the terminal.
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Tired and sick (a combination of allergy season back home, lack of sleep, and the conditions of airline travel), I arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport. Fortunately, since I got my student visa, the immigration process was very smooth. Baggage claim... not so much, as apparently my two checked luggage got split to different sections of the plane.
A part of a mural at the baggage claim.
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Coming up: settling in Bangkok.

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Re: Thailand 2012-onward

Postby Roanoker » Sat Oct 20, 2012 6:51 am

Thank you for posting your experience and lovely photos, Ira. And congratulations on your grad school acceptance. Looking forward to your Bangkok settling-in photos. (You promised.)

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Re: Thailand 2012-onward

Postby grovester » Sat Oct 20, 2012 8:58 am

Great, I'm really looking forward to your posts!

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Re: Thailand 2012-onward

Postby IraGlacialis » Sat Oct 20, 2012 8:08 pm

Roanoker wrote:And congratulations on your grad school acceptance. Looking forward to your Bangkok settling-in photos. (You promised.)

Thanks, and I did sort of promise didn't I. 8-[

Well, in any case.

The area of town I'm staying in, which I term Asoke (named after the road and the station, which is to the left). This area (namely in the vicinity of Sukhumvit soi 16) is a fairly affluent part of town, with a combination of skyscrapers and walled-in houses with land around them (the properties usually containing extended families). In general, a lot of westerners of the working sort (vs expats, backpackers, or missionaries) tend to reside here, which, along with a lot of house-owning Thai families, contributes to the affluency.
The nice thing is that I am staying with relatives, which eliminates the issue of housing.
Panorama was taken at Benjakiri Park, adjacent to the Queen Sirikit Convention Center.
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Another view from the BTS (skytrain) station.
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On a previous album I made my views about Bangkok traffic clear. Well as you can see, it is not any different; ie it still sucks. A trip that should take 30 min can sometimes almost take 2 hrs. It is not just due to the number of cars but also the sheer laissez-faire nature of Thai drivers, as well as obstructions such as vendors walking their carts in the streets. Seriously, unless you know how to handle yourself in an extremely aggressive driving environment (which ironically does not translate to road rage; likely due to the face-saving culture), do not even attempt to drive there. Also, as in a good chunk of countries, pedestrian right-of-way is a laughable concept; if at a busy road, it is almost always to preferable to take a skywalk vs taking a cross-walk.
And as can be seen, motorcycles are used to bypass traffic (again, something best handled by the locals). It is for this reason that motorcycle taxis (recognized by the orange vests worn by the drivers) are common place in this country; you will usually find these guys congregating on strategic street corners; you simply tell them where you need to go (sometimes they may have a certain radius in which they operate) and negotiate the price.
Some shots of traffic. As can be seen here, many of the lights will have numbers to tell you how many seconds you have left on a light.
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And not even emergency vehicles, as seen by this ambulance, are immune to the whims of traffic.
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grovester
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Re: Thailand 2012-onward

Postby grovester » Sat Oct 20, 2012 8:58 pm

We lived at soi 39 and sukhumvit, I remember them filming a Bond movie at the intersection. Our area was pretty industrial, a coffee factory and a Wat just before the klong (river).

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Re: Thailand 2012-onward

Postby IraGlacialis » Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:07 pm

grovester wrote:We lived at soi 39 and sukhumvit, I remember them filming a Bond movie at the intersection. Our area was pretty industrial, a coffee factory and a Wat just before the klong (river).
So I take it that this was back in the 70's? I'm guessing the movie was Man with the Golden Gun.
If so, and you haven't returned since then, then Sukhumvit has changed a whole lot since you were there. The main thing being that there is now a skytrain that extends all the way over the road from the commercial center (they have yet to extend rail transit past Khlong Kasem into the old city, if ever) to the southern reaches of the city. Not to mention the development that has gone on. If I got your location pegged correctly (Phrom Phong), then it is now filled with condos and an upper-class shopping center (Emporium). As can be seen, that area also hold a lot of westerners and mid-to-upper class Thais.

On a random note, Bangkok had Street View done a year ago, so one can look around that way.

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Re: Thailand 2012-onward

Postby grovester » Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:38 pm

yep 74-76.

Haven't checked out steet view in a few years. Our block was owned by Madame Prachunkadee (sp), I could totally see her selling out for condos. We were pretty far from sukumvit. Used to take the klhong boats from the end of the soi to my friends house a few miles down river.

I remember one of my greatest lessons in bartering being asking for a discount on the normal 5 baht fee from sukumvit to my house. The guy did it but was obviously pissed. Dumb ass American kid.

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Re: Thailand 2012-onward

Postby IraGlacialis » Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:00 am

A view from my school, Mahidol University. Named after a member of the Royal Family who, besides being the father of the current king, was considered to be the pioneer of modern Thai medicine, MU is a large public research university that started as a med school but expanded to your large varied university (along the lines of Mizzou or K-State). In any case, it is considered a top-ranking school not only in Thailand (top 3) but Asia in general (top 100).
Due to how land is utilized, the university is split up into different campuses, with the new flagship campus actually in Salaya, which are the outskirts of Bangkok (about 25 km == a 1 hr drive on a decent weekday). However, the Faculty of Science is fortunately in Phayathai, which is in the urban core of the city. This means that I can easily take a train from Asoke (the station only being a block or so away from where I'm staying) to Victory Monument Station, which takes about 10 min. From there it is a kilometer-long walk, which is about 15-20 min (which is still faster than taking the road), to the campus.

View from the Bio concourse. Most buildings close together will have walkways in between them as many campus buildings are at least 4-6 floors high due to space. One things that I'm still going to have get used to is while rooms will have air-conditioning, that buildings themselves are open and not air-conditioned; something which is really fun when going up the stairs.
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The commute back.
Looking southward from victory Monument station.
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The train arriving.
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Nana, a neighborhood which is not only known for being popular area for foreigners in general (many times for less-than-savory reasons) but is also where the Middle Eastern and some South Asian community resides. The well-known Soi Arab (Soi 3/1) is actually one soi to the right of this pic (which is of Nana, or Soi 3, itself).
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Looking east from Asoke.
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Re: Thailand 2012-onward

Postby IraGlacialis » Mon Apr 15, 2013 8:05 am

It's been a while since I posted here, but might as well start now:

Just got done with Sonkran, or Thai New Years, which you can say is the complete opposite of Chinese New Years.
The purpose of the water is for the sake of purification. Though as time passed it went from simply pouring floral water over the hands of your elders (which is still done) to the extremely festive atmosphere that wonderfully coincides with the hottest time of the year. Incidentally, we just had our first rain in while.

This was taken in Silom Rd (Bangkok's version of the DT Loop), which is closed to vehicular traffic during that weekend. Let's just say that the crowd takes up the entire km stretch of the road.

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Re: Thailand 2012-onward

Postby cknab1 » Mon Apr 15, 2013 12:31 pm

I remember the water festival from my days at Ubon Ratchathani. I was at the RTAF base there in 1971. Us GI’s got a little carried away and went way beyond the sprinkle of water for good luck in the upcoming raining season. It was all great fun. The air base is now their airport. Many towns in Thailand inherited some nice airports after the Vietnam war.

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Re: Thailand 2012-onward

Postby IraGlacialis » Wed Apr 17, 2013 2:53 pm

cknab1 wrote:I remember the water festival from my days at Ubon Ratchathani. I was at the RTAF base there in 1971. Us GI’s got a little carried away and went way beyond the sprinkle of water for good luck in the upcoming raining season. It was all great fun. The air base is now their airport. Many towns in Thailand inherited some nice airports after the Vietnam war.

I thought the airports in Isaan looked like military relics...

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Re: Thailand 2012-onward

Postby IraGlacialis » Mon Jun 17, 2013 5:56 am

Presidential visit back in November for trade relations. Heading out from Wat Pho.
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King's Birthday in Dec 9. Was an interesting ordeal to get to the front of the crowd, but ultimately worth it.
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Re: Thailand 2012-onward

Postby IraGlacialis » Fri Dec 27, 2013 2:25 am

As is the case of Thai politics, there is another anti-corruption rally going around and heating up against the current prime minister.
So there have been more than a few demonstrations going past my house.

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