Thai Horse Racing and 80 Cent Whisky

When our new friend asked if we wanted to join him and his rowdy British mates to the Thai horse races we said: “is that even a question?”

The horse races here are just like home…but with a twist. Sure you have the jockeys and yes you have the gamblers but in Thailand you also have utter chaos and… suspicious odds. We were informed very early on that the races are, for lack of a better word, fixed. There are two ways the races are fixed:

  1. The jockey throws the race, or
  2. The race is packed with old, decrepit horses that can’t even challenge the “fixed” winner

Despite this information we couldn’t resist betting. Here was our formula for the day:

Try to understand program…

Program

Make it through the chaos to place bet…

Chaos

End up picking a random number and hoping for the best…

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Cheer on the number (because can’t read Thai and therefore don’t know horses name)…

Horsies Racing

Thanks to BC we got lucky once and won about $6.

But the real fun of the day was the 80 cent whiskies and the incredible time we had with our new friends. And did I mention 80 cent whiskey? There were 80 cent shots of whiskey there.

*disclaimer: poor photography due to 80 cent whisky

Ratatouille – the Thai Version

I hate rats. I know, shocking right? I had never seen one before coming to Thailand so when it finally happened I was nauseous for about 3 hours.

This rat was huge. I have seen chihuahuas that are smaller. But, there he was just scurrying along the street as if we actually wanted to walk with the thing. Thankfully that was my only sighting for about 3 weeks…that was until the “why the shit is this happening to me!!” night happened.

BC and I were walking home from dinner when it all began. First, let me say, that there are plenty of dark places for these rodents from hell to live in:

Flowers

 

Gutter 1

 

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The first one popped out from a gutter and I freaked out. My macho “rats aren’t gross” BC told me to chill. I stared back at him coldly.

The second one was scurrying along the side of the sidewalk. Just like the demon rat in Bangkok, this one thought we wanted to merrily stroll along with it.

The third creepy creature of the night peeked his head out of a hole in the sidewalk but he was at least smart enough to go back in to the dark abyss from which he came.

The fourth (yes, fourth) was the sickest. He had himself submerged in a trash bag. What made it worse was that his gross little tail was sticking out of the bag like this:

Tail

 

That is a total of four rats in the course of about 10 minutes.

Now everywhere I walk I can’t not look for those damn things. However, one thing is for certain: the stars of something must have been aligned that night because it was by far the sickest, most disturbing night of my life…ever.

What is a Wat?

Hold any map of any city in Thailand and it will become apparent right away that there are a lot of things called Wats…

Wats

They are everywhere. Heck I am even writing this post right across the street from one. See there it is:

Across the street Wat

I am kind of embarrassed to admit how long it took BC and I to figure out what they were so I will just say that (hooray!) we figured it out.

In short a Wat is a Buddhist temple housing monks and large idols of Buddha. It’s also where believers pray and where tourists make it hard for said believers to pray.

Tourist

Wats are also incredibly ornate and breathtaking; an impressive feat considering how many there are.

Ornate 3

Ornate 2

Ornate

Thailand’s Buddhist tradition truly is remarkable. We learned that all Thai men must spend at least a week living as a monk. We even saw a young monk who couldn’t have been older than 10.

Unfortunately we don’t have pictures of the monks; you’re not supposed to photograph them. We were told that if we did we would get on Buddha’s bad side and you don’t want to mess with the 62’ tall Buddha…

Big ass Buddha

But we did get a picture of a monk in a box…

Monk in a Box

Navigating a Parade

Love them, hate them, or just don’t have anything better to do parades have been a source of community gathering dating back to the earliest civilizations.

Every year Chiang Mai has their famous flower festival parade.

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Imagine if you will rows and rows of massive, ornate floats adorned with breathtakingly beautiful Thai women and millions of flowers.

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Although unique and amazing in its own way the formula of the parade remains the same: floats, marching bands, flare, and wide eyed kids. But it just wouldn’t be a parade in Thailand if we didn’t have this:

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In the midst of all the beauty cars and motorcycles attempt to squeeze their way through the festivities simply because they’ve got places to go.

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The lesson learned today is that in Thailand, traffic stops for no one.

A Lot of Feed for Very Little Scratch

When living in another country it’s amazing how quickly your attitude changes about money. When in Europe, things tend to be a bit more expensive. When you get back to the U.S. you are just relieved to be spending $8 on a hamburger again.

In Thailand, this effect is the opposite.

For our very first Thai dinner we bought noodle soup (insanely abundant in Thailand) off the street.

Noodle Soup

When our delicious meal cost only 60 baht ($2 USD) for the both of us, we were shocked. After we didn’t get the stomach bug we thought was inevitable, we just kept coming back for more.

A few more days in we bought BC a pair of flip-flops

Flip Flops

When we were told they were 150 baht ($5 USD) we didn’t even negotiate.

“What a great price…that was such a bargain! Why would I even negotiate?”

On the second week we rented a scooter.

Our Scooter

For 250 baht ($8.50 USD) it was ours for 36 hours.

“Can you believe this? What a steal!”

By the third week things started to…change.

Get some noodles: “60 baht each! Are these people crazy? I am not paying $4 for this incredibly delicious, made-with-grandma-love food. Psh.”

Buy a handmade, 100% cotton shirt: “250 baht ($8.25)! No way. We aren’t paying more than 200 baht ($6.50) for that wonderfully good looking shirt. We can use that extra money for dinner!”

Rent a scooter: “You want to charge us what?! 200 baht ($6.50)? I thought it was 150 ($5). You are just totally ripping us off. There is no way we are paying $6.50 to use your very efficient, easily accessible mode of transportation for that much.”

I fear for our mental health when we get back to America…

Thai Commuting – Part 3

In our opinion the most unique way to travel in Bangkok is the river taxi. At the bargain price of $1 these workhorse boats will take you to pre assigned stops along the river. This is literally a form of mass transit in Bangkok; it’s like a bus but on the water.

River Taxi 2

You begin by standing on a large dock that just won’t sit still because of all the waves. The iPod sporting boat attendant will make a spider-man leap from the boat, holding it just long enough for you to make your own spider-man leap on. And once you’re in the real fun begins.

Spiderman

You immediately feel bad for the boat whose engine struggles to propel all the passengers to their destination. When you reach a stop the boat is lurched into the dock forcefully hitting the well placed tire buoys.

Tires 2

As more people join the more entertaining this party becomes. “Can you hang on to the back of the boat while clinging for dear life? Yes? Great, get on!”

If you ever make it to Bangkok, you have to try this out. And beware of the long-tail boats that will convince you they are better. They charge roughly $30 and it just wouldn’t be as fun. Happy floating!

Overcharge

Thai Commuting – Part 2

As a tourist, the “easiest” way to get around is on a tuk tuk. They are little 3-wheeled motorized vehicles that drive around as crazy as the scooters but are the size of a Smart car.

tuk tuk

You must negotiate the price first and never, I mean never accept their first offer or you will get insanely overcharged.

It’s difficult to explain how they drive but it’s almost like they think the back seat is on fire and the only way to put it out is to get you where you’re going. Whenever I would see one go by I thought “I will never step foot into THAT”. BC on the other hand couldn’t wait until we did.

One day we were on the other side of the city doing our first touristy thing and eventually ended up on Khao San Road (made famous by Leo DiCaprio’s “The Beach”).

Khao San Road

To refresh your memory we were staying in a non-tourist part of the city so we had yet to even see a sit down restaurant. On Khao San Road however we could finally sit down in AC and have a beer. So we had one…and then another. Oh wait did you say one more?

chang

Needless to say I was feeling good about life.

…and BC jumped on the opportunity:

Him: “Hey, want to ride a tuk tuk back?”

Me: “You mean all the way across the city? Sure! Why not.”

And here is how it went…