Seven nights in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Day 1,968 since October 10th 2013: 173 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross)
I did not know what I was doing! ;)
It doesn’t seem apparent to me that we can all become highly skilled top professionals in whatever we practice hard and long enough. However there should at least be some visible progress. I was green and very inexperienced when I first came to Thailand in 2006. It was my first solo travel experience and everyone had a bite of me.
Thailand has got to rank on a world top five list of favourite travel destinations - don't you think? The country with about 66 million beating hearts receives around 36 million tourists every year! And it is no wonder as It is SUPER easy to be in Thailand. The food is generally safe to eat and almost always delicious. You are likely to find more smiles in Thailand than in any other country. Politeness and hospitality are important features of the nation’s culture. The nature is magnificent. I have never gone south of Bangkok (the capital) however the beaches down there are legendary and frequently feature in movies and travel tales. In 2006 I went exploring in the north and that was unforgettable. It is mountains, forests, temples and nature up there. Thailand is a real case of: “whatever you want, whenever you want it, wherever you want it”. Just stop for a while and within seconds someone with a smile will approach you to see if you need help. Some will naturally seek to take advantage of inexperienced tourists - however being treated with respect and courtesy is far more common. If you want to succeed and have the best possible time in Thailand then you should return the favour: be kind, don’t raise your voice and smile. You may in some situation get frustrated and raise your voice towards a local which in response you are likely to observe a timid and apologetic person in front of you. If that is how you experience the situation then I can’t say that you are wrong…but you very well could be! Thai’s are very proud and that is not without reason. They come from a remarkable and beautiful country which is loved worldwide. If you raise your voice to a Thai and that person looks timid then it may very well be that he or she feels embarrassed on your behalf, that you have not yet learned how to control you temper. Let that sink in. Think about that just a little longer.
Right…let’s get back to 2006 and you will see how green I was. In 2006 I had been hired to work as a logistics manager on a construction project in a foreign country. A project which I was competent for. The project was interrupted due to politics and we all had to take a break for some time while management renegotiated contracts. I returned home to Denmark for debriefing and was told that as the break was unexpected I would have a month off at full pay and the company would cover my flight tickets to and from any destination (within reason) which I chose. I was young, single and had my heart set on seeing the world renowned Angkor Wat complex (wat means temple). So naturally I asked for my tickets to be booked to Bangkok in Thailand (Angkor Wat is in Cambodia but I did not know that). And I brought malaria pills (which I did not need). On arrival at the airport in Bangkok I was immediately approached by a horde of people who wanted to sell me accommodation, transport, daytrips and what have we. And as I was very inexperienced I bought the lot thinking that it was better to be well prepared before heading into the city. As such I ended paying at least ten times more than what I should have…but hey…I was green.
I was driven to the hotel I had booked at the airport. When I got to my room I panicked as I had not taken my malaria pills and according to the manual I should have taken my first pill before arriving! So I scanned my room for mosquitos and pondered if I should simply remain in my room for the first 24 hours!!! (None in the cities and major tourist resorts have malaria in Thailand). After a while I worked out that I would be safe from malaria in Bangkok and ventured outside. Out on the street I met a curly haired Australian named Cam (Cameron). He was looking for new accommodation but once he heard how much I was paying Cam quickly lost interest in staying there. We however began speaking, quickly became friends and eventually decided to head out for lunch together. Cam showed me the ropes and seemed like a nice guy…so I invited him to join my pre-booked personal taxi ride sightseeing the following day. I would after all have the car and driver to myself. Cam must have thought that I was nuts to have arranged for something like that – but he happily joined the following day. Cam and I became very good friends and years later we joined forces on a four month motorcycle adventure though India, Nepal, Iran and Turkey. I also flew to Australia to attend Cam’s wedding several years later. Back in Thailand I eventually realized that Angkor Wat was in Cambodia and booked a bus to go and see it (Thailand and Cambodia fortunately border each other). Back in 2006 I also headed north in Thailand to visit Chiang Mai. On the train ride there I met a Thai catholic nun who worked at an orphanage in Chiang Rai and extended me an open invitation to visit. So after seeing Angkor Wat I returned to Thailand and visited the nun, played with the children, was introduced to some Buddhist monks who were excavating an ancient jungle city and much more…the adventure continues. Today I have reached 173 countries in a single unbroken journey completely without flying. Who would have guessed?
They keep giving me chopsticks? As if I know what I'm doing ;)
Yeah…life in Thailand is easy for visitors. Let’s fast forward to today (2019). Most things are still quite affordable and a lot of effort is put into cleanliness, quality and good service. After crossing the border from Myanmar to Thailand (at Myawaddy) a motorcycle taxi got me to a nearby bus terminal. A minibus then got me to Tak from where I could board a bus to Bangkok. On route I also arranged for a simcard and had my first lunch in Thailand since 2006. It was late when the bus reached Bangkok and a tuk tuk brought be to a metro station. From there I went with the metro to a station nearby my hostel of choice and walked the rest of the way. At my hostel I was welcomed by more smiles and friendly faces and went to sleep.
Tuc tuc's are not as common in Bangkok anymore as they have been regulated heavily and alongside the public transportation has become great. However they still exist and are often seen with tourists within them.
The following day I applied for the Chinese visa at the Chinese Visa Application Center and then later on headed out to meet with Maersk where I was making a presentation of the Saga. After five years, four months and more than 250,000 km (155,000 mi) of logistic I reached the Maersk office in Bangkok. I bet they’ve never had a visitor do that before!! :) Lars Denta is the country manager and he has an amazing team!! We laughed, we learned and we took a lot of selfies together!! As the global leader in shipping services, the Maersk company operates in 130 countries and employs roughly 70,000 people. In my experience there’s a really strong company culture and walking into these offices feels a little like coming home. This was my 86th public speaking engagement across schools, companies and events on three continents.
Thank you guys for everything! ;)
The next day I checked into a special hotel. A fellow Dane had sent me a message telling me that what I am doing is massively impressive, slightly crazy and that it makes him proud to be Danish. Therefore I was given three nights at Stable Lodge, a Scandinavian Hotel, which offers traditional Danish food!! There won’t be much you can’t find in Bangkok. It’s a city of cities and on my way to the hotel I walked past both an Italian bakery and a sign pointing towards Argentinian steaks. So can they make proper Danish food in Thailand? They definitely could. It tasted like being back home!! Gravy and everything. I washed that Danish meal down with a cold Carlsberg as that’s a Danish beer. I figured I might as well go Viking all the way!! Thank you so much for the accommodation my friend!! And I respect that you wish to remain anonymous.
Do you remember Louise? Not long ago I was in Dhaka (read Bangladesh blog here) and I was staying privately at Louise and Peter’s place (back in 2011 Louise and I used to work together on a project in Bangladesh and she still lives there today). Louise just happened to be in Bangkok for a week of shopping and relaxing while I was there too, which gave us the opportunity to meet up again. It was great having her company while I waited to hear back regarding my Chinese visa application and meanwhile also was re-exploring Bangkok after thirteen years away. I was given a tip to go and see “the airplane graveyard” and Louise, who formerly lived a year in Bangkok, was game in joining me. We decided to take the waterway there and the canal boats of Bangkok will surely put a smile on your face. At least the first time you ride one. I imagine it quickly becomes routine for the many who rely on them every day?
Great to see Louise again!
It's not much of graveyard. However it is still quite a sight within Bangkok.
The Saen Saep Canal (which we went on) was built on the order of King Rama III during a conflict between Siam (former name of Thailand) and Annam (former name for a part of Vietnam) over Cambodia in order to establish water transport for soldiers and weapons. Construction began in 1837 and was finished after only three years. Today Khlong Saen Saep is “just” a canal in central Thailand, connecting the Chao Phraya River to Prachinburi Province and Chachoengsao. A portion of the canal is used for public transport by an express boat service in Bangkok. The 72 km (45 mi) long canal passes through 21 districts and is connected to more than 100 smaller canals. I’d really recommend you to hop on board one just to see the city from a different perspective. “The airplane graveyard” is however not something I think is a must see. It is a large open wasteland in the suburbs of Bangkok that is now home to an assortment of deteriorating aircraft. Rumour has it belongs to a Thai businessman who has been gradually selling off the valuable parts of the airplanes for scrap.
Bangkok was once known as the Venice of the East for its network of canals. With today’s explosive development many of those waterways have been filled with cement. With nowhere for water to go, Bangkok has become notorious for frequent destructive floods - sometimes after as little as 30 minutes of rain. The reality is that this city is sinking at the rate of more than one centimetre (0.39 inches) a year and some say it could be below sea level as soon as 2030. It was after reading that, I learned about Chulalongkorn University Centenary Park which is a highly innovative park. The park is part of a new wave of design that aims to increase urban resilience and to protect vulnerable communities from the devastating effects of climate change. During rainy season the park collects and stores water that is then used for irrigation in the dry season. The park can hold up to 3,785 m3 (1 million gallons) of water. It does this by using various floodwater-management systems: a green roof, wetlands, a lawn with a detention basin and a retention pond. Three large tanks below the roof and museum can hold up to 946 m3 (250,000 gallons) of runoff from the green roof. During the dry season, these tanks will provide enough water to keep the park irrigated for up to 20 days. And then of course it’s also a nice and functional park too ;)
Chulalongkorn University Centenary Park.
It is highly efficient. Surprisingly efficient I would say!
I think Bangkok is MASSIVELY impressive! Maybe not for the most common reasons though. The logistics of the city is mind boggling!! There are SOOOO many people in Bangkok and yet it all kind of all works out. I mean...don’t get into a car during rush hour (I made that mistake)...but the public transportation is great! As I already mentioned, each year about 36 million tourists visit Thailand. And that number continues to grow. Bangkok alone has some 11 million non-resident visitors each year: tourists, family members, business people etc. In perspective Bangkok has a population of about 6 million while the country rings in at about 66 million!! Bangkok’s metro (MRT) and Skytrain (BTS) do a phenomenal job in connecting much of the city efficiently. The queues grow long during rush hour but it still moves along nicely. And compared to the city’s size and population it’s remarkably clean too. It is usually all the things you don’t notice which make a city run efficiently…well…you notice when it doesn’t work ;)
I had a very unique Red Cross experience when I visited the Thai Red Cross Society (TRCS). I have visited the Red Cross or Red Crescent in 169 countries which overall has been quite interesting and very educational within itself. It is the world’s largest humanitarian organization and worldwide its activities span across ANYTHING you can think of in relation to humanity. However visiting the same organization in 169 countries eventually becomes repetitive: neutrality, volunteers, first aid, disaster prevention, disaster risk reduction, disaster response, blood drives, water and sanitation, hygiene, education, vaccinations, prison visits, restoring family links, psychosocial support….yeah…just so you know…that list would go on for several pages but what I just wrote is among some of the very common aspects of Red Cross work. Thailand has something unique!!
Holding an albino Burmese Python. They are native to Thailand.
I was welcomed at the TRCS and immediately brought to see the world’s second oldest snake farm! This facility was developed by the Thai Monarch back in 1923 making it the second snake farm in the world after Butantan in Brazil. So how the heck does the Red Cross relate to snakes? Well. Thailand alone is home to more than 190 varieties of snakes of which 61 are venomous. Imported antivenoms are not effective in neutralizing Thai snake venoms necessitating the establishment of a local production facility that utilizes the venom of snakes from Thailand for making antivenoms. THAT is something I have never come across before within the Red Cross!?! The snake farm also functions as an educational center for anyone who wishes to learn more about Thai snakes and it is very popular with visitors. In fact I would highly recommend that you make it a stop on your visit to Bangkok. Furthermore the center also serves for purposes of research in collaboration with WHO (the World Health Organization).
What you see here is a TINY part of the TRCS complex in Bangkok. High rises included! Very impressive.
The TRCS is more than 125 years old and enjoys a lot of support from the monarchy which is a highly integrated and out most respected institution in Thailand. As such I think the TRCS might have had one of the most impressive headquarters I’ve ever come across. It encompasses a huge area in the heart of Bangkok and features a large hospital, the snake farm, research centers, office facilities, training centers, a Red Cross College of nursing, an organ donation center, a blood transfusion services and A WHOLE LOT MORE! To list up all the activities and programs which the TRCS encompass would be a book within itself. I haven’t even mentioned the children home or the home for elderly. And then keep in mind that with the Red Cross and Red Crescent present in 191 countries a single country such as Thailand only represents about 0.5% of National Societies world wide. That should officially blow your mind.
Back in July 2016 I was in the Seychelles when Ric reached out and did a podcast with me. He is the host of Counting Countries, he authored three books and he is also the producer of two travel documentaries. Ric is further more on his own quest to visit every country in the world and you can keep up with him at www.GlobalGaz.com. Ric partially lives in Bangkok with his wife - a favorite city among many worldly people – and invited me to join Travel Massive for happy hour one night. Travel Massive is a network of 50,000 travel professionals from around the world and the Bangkok chapter was a lot of fun! The next day Ric decided to do another podcast with me which I look forward to sharing with you. He has done around seventy interviews with a great deal of people who are far more traveled and far more interesting than me…so you might want to take a closer look for some inspiration.
Louise and I also visited the Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World which is a great place! And located under a mall!!
I really feel like I have a long journey between good movies these days!! And I just found one!! Bohemian Rhapsody was mind blowing!! I’m a grown man and I’m thankful for cinemas being dark. Because for about 30 minutes I was emotionally unstable and a tear or two might have run down my cheek. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!! And in Thailand they do this thing before the movie where everyone needs to stand before it begins and pay respect to the king. This happens by announcement while a short movie runs across the screen. I love little differences like that. The ticket ran me 140 bath ($4.45) which in Copenhagen (Denmark) would cost $16. Just makes you think. What a movie!!! What a story!! Now I need to listen to some more Queen.
Yeah that's right!! The Chinese visa is in da house ;)
It has been a “slow week” for me without much more than 40-50 hours of work so that has been good. Bangkok is a cool city and I see why so many chose to make it their base. There’s another interesting traveler in Bangkok called Drew Binsky. He’s from Arizona, USA, and has been to 161 countries since 2012. In his own words: “I work as a full-time video maker, travel blogger and content creator with 1.7M+ social media followers and 400M+ video views. I am also a 5-handicap golfer and a 2X Guinness World Record holder”. Yeah…I’m a pretty small fish and definitely suck at PR in comparison. Drew is doing a great job. He reached out to hear if I was interested in being featured in one of his videos and the answer to that would be: “WOOOOAAAAAAHHHHH YEAAAAHHHH!!!” However at time of writing we hadn’t met yet. Drew is based in Bangkok and we agreed to meet so that should be interesting. Another thing which hadn’t happened while writing this is a speaking event which Ric organized for me in which I would talk about the Saga. And furthermore; Thomas Engelbrecht from Blue Water Shipping has arranged for a 4WD to bring me up to Vientiane in Laos which is our next country. I could easily have taken the train, however the 4WD offers more flexibility (and luxury too) ;) I guess I’ll have to tell you more about all of that next week.
Let’s keep keeping on.
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - We've got this one!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga