Bangkok Diaries

So I am finally back from my 22 days trip in Thailand. I had a 2 week SGU program in Krabi.  I had never been to Thailand before so I used this opportunity to travel to other cities as well before heading to Krabi. It was definitely the most exhilarating and different experience of my life. I am used to traveling in Europe so it was wonderful to be able to travel in Asia. Thailand had been on my list for a while but I am glad I was finally able to travel there thanks to SGU’s selective. I will have to write few blogs for this trip since one won’t do justice.  My first stop was Bangkok. I flew by Jet Airways from New Delhi. The flight overall was alright because there were too many loud Indians at 2 a.m. on the flight which was not fun. I arrived in Bangkok on 2nd June and I spent 3 days there. I ended up coming back to Bangkok on one of the weekends during my selective.

Day 1 :  I was a bit nervous because apparently the visa on arrival is only for 15 days and my trip was going to be 22 days long. So as I arrived at the Bangkok airport, I followed the signs for “Visa on Arrival” . It was probably a good 10-15 minute walk from the gate. The area was crowded but not as bad as I had heard. There were two counters with a long line and the visa was 2000 Baht and the other were express counters and the cost was 2,200 Baht. I had all my documents ready but the lady at the pre check in was already apprehensive when she saw my return ticket for 23rd June. As expected, the lady at the immigration counter refused to listen to my side of the story and was not ready to give me a visa until I showed her a return ticket for an earlier date. I booked a ticket to Kuala lumpur since its only a 1.5 hour flight from Krabi and the visa is online for Indians. The lady finally approved and I was able to get a visa within 10 minutes. I got a local sim AIS when I was collecting my luggage. I got unlimited 4g data for 30 days for only 500 THB ($14.7). I was the first person amongst my friends to arrive in Bangkok. My day did not start on fun note because I was stuck in a traffic jam at 7 a.m. on my way to the hostel. Well, Bangkok has the worst traffic in the world so it was not a surprise and I was already in the mindset that no matter what I would keep calm and just enjoy every moment. So after searching for a while, the uber driver finally found Bob Hostel. The room and bathroom were great and the staff spoke English too which was nice.

After a 2 hour nap and quick shower I was ready to explore what the city had to offer but I guess the traffic had something else in mind. My first stop was going to be Grand Palace. So as you may know I am not a summer person and I hate the heat so I decided to just uber it to the palace instead of taking the metro. Also, everything seemed to be cheap as I was converting it into USD(thankfully I stopped doing later). So after almost 2 hours I was at the majestic Grand Palace. First and foremost there are no shorts, tank tops etc allowed. I was wearing comfortable pants and a top but they thought it was inappropriate. There are clothing stores right outside palace so  I bought a top to cover up. By now I was drowning in my sweat. It was 35 degree Celsius and 90% humidity. The palace was flooded with tourists from all over the world. It was incredible. I wish I could stay longer and learn more about this magnificent place but I could not adjust to the heat and hence I had to leave early.

IMG_1873
Sawadika Thailand
IMG_1870
Wat Phra Kaeo
IMG_1869
Grand Palace

IMG_1887.JPGIMG_1882

My next stop was going to be MBK center. They say every Indian who comes to Bangkok definitely comes here. I was actually amazed by how huge this mall was. There are almost 2000 shops in this mall. I didn’t really know what I wanted so I just started walking from ground floor which had lines of stalls selling fashion, shoes and handbags, fast food outlets and a supermarket.  Part of the fun of MBK is exploring the long straight paths looking out for things that take your fancy. So basically I realized first few floors were for fashion and then 3rd and 4th floor have electronics and 4th and 5th have home furnishing and souvenirs. After a lot of bargaining I was able to buy shoes and bags. I was already exhausted from my day and my friends were about to arrive too. I stopped by at Samui Restaurant in MBK center for some green curry and rice. This was my first time eating authentic green curry so it was definitely exciting. The flavor was amazing but I knew there was a better green curry out there waiting for me.

The weather was pleasant now so I decided to take the Tuk-Tuk back to the hostel. I agreed to pay 250 THB to the driver. I was close to the hostel when I was stuck in a long jam. The tuk-tuk driver told me to hop on to one of the two-wheelers to reach my hostel faster. Apparently this is a thing in Bangkok but I had no idea about it so I refused. No way I was going to trust a random two wheeler. After a long day I was finally back at the hostel and met

By the end of first day I learned that Sawadika(hello) is said to Females and Sawadikhap to males :).

Day 2 : All my friends were finally here. I was so excited because I was meeting my friend Avashi after 3 years and John and Leo after 6 months. I was so glad that we were able to plan this trip so well. We all got ready and it was time to head to Chatuchak Weekend Market. This market is open on the weekend from 9 am -6pm and has more than 8,000 shops. Initially we just wandered around confused where to start and what to look for and then eventually we found a map for the market online and just used that to navigate. In Thai “Soi” means street so we just picked a random soi and then just walked until we came back to the same spot.

map-of-chatuchak-weekend-market.jpg

You can literally find anything here from clothes,accessories, home furniture etc. It is a wholesale market basically and the prices are reasonable. This place is so huge that its highly unlikely that you will see the same store twice so if you like something buy it right away unless you want to see another store. Despite the heat, I absolutely loved this market. It’s definitely a must to attend if you are ever in Bangkok for the weekend. At 6 pm when all the stores had started closing we were really exhausted so we finally stopped for a foot and shoulder oil massage. It was 250 THB for 30 minutes and I am telling you it was totally worth it. I took the best nap of my life in those 30 minutes. I wish I had taken more pictures in this market!

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

IMG_1908
Happy after shopping

Day 3 : John and Leo left for Phuket and Avashi and I had an extra day to spend in Bangkok and we moved to Movenpick Hotel. This hotel is located in Sukhumvit soi 15 which is close to all the restaurants, malls and hotels in soi 11. It was a good change to move from the hostel to a hotel and especially the fact that we would not be wasting too much time in cabs. We went to checkout the rooftop pool at Movenpick which was decent and then we walked to Terminal 21 which is a huge mall in Sukhumvit 19. What made this mall different is that every floor is actually built like a huge terminal with different cities as the theme.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 10.37.22 PM

Ground Floor : Rome – plunged with sculptures, paintings and ceilings. You can find luxury boutiques on this floor

Upper Ground Floor : Paris – mini Eiffel tower. You can find some Thai boutique and salons on this floor.

1st floor : Tokyo – Mostly women fashion

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 10.36.48 PM

2nd Floor : London: from telephone booths to 2 storied buses – most men fashion on tis floor

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 10.36.14 PM

3rd Floor : Istanbul – jewelry, leather goods, and decoration shops

4th Floor : San Francisco –  mini replica of the Golden Gate bridge which is adorable and this floor mainly had Thai restaurants.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 10.35.21 PM5th floor : San Francisco Pier – this floor had many other International cuisines to offer.

6th Floor : Hollywood : dedicated for cinema, spa and gym.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 10.35.42 PM

I came back to this mall with my cousin when I had the weekend off in Krabi. We didn’t really know what we wanted so we just walked and explored around. This mall pretty much had every brand and designer boutiques so it would definitely take a day here if you really want to shop.

I left for Phuket the next day with Avashi – I will write a separate blog on that experience. I came back to Bangkok for a weekend during my selective to chill with my cousin. We had a blast in this city because there’s so much to do. I had seen many posts about the Husky cafe in the city so we decided to go there. The cafe is called True love @ Neverland. I was really excited I wouldn’t lie. So here is how it works – they have 3 timings during the day when you can play with the dog for an hour. We went there around 3:30 pm and the next play time was at 4pm which worked out perfectly. The cost is 350 baht per person and that includes either a free drink or a slice of ice cream cake. We could hear the dogs running around and barking and I was getting really hyped up. At 4 pm – we watched a 5 minute safety video on how to treat the dogs. The place was well sanitized- we removed our shoes and wore foot covers and then we had to wash our hands before interacting with the dogs. There were alot of people waiting to pet the dogs. There were huskies running everywhere and it filled my heart with joy. WordPress does not let me upload videos but I have some really cute videos of those dogs. I know it’s awful that Huskies are not supposed to be kept in Thailand weather but I was quite impressed with how they were kept. They were all healthy and happy and their fur coat was amazing too. The only downside I think was that the dogs were not as playful which is understandable but I really wish they would respond more to petting. Overall I was really happy with this cafe and I would definitely recommend it to people visit it if they are in Bangkok and love dogs.

That’s all I have for Bangkok. It was a chaotic city but I loved it because it was unique in it’s own way. I have a lot of stories( and more pictures!) from Phuket and Krabi and I am excited to update everyone in the next few blogs about it.

Advertisements

Sometimes I have a life outside the books

What’s the first thing I did after I finished my physiology exam? I napped! Sounds cliched but I really needed some sleep before getting  a headstart for my weekend.

My first stop after napping was to grab lunch at container park.  So basically, container park  is true to its name, there are bunch of cafes and restaurants in huge containers. My favorite is Mocha Spoke for their delicious smoothies and iced coffees andContainer Park Friday Food Fest also Island Fever because they always have a trendy menu. There is Shawarma King too and their food is amazing! It’s such a good break from the food options available on campus.

I did not know what to do first so I just decided that it was time to HIT THE BEACH FINALLY. As I said, I had not been to the beach in over 2 months so I could not miss the opportunity. How I missed the water – so calm and so warm. Surprisingly, the weather was not too hot either which made it even great. All FTMers were just cooling off in the sea. I literally just relaxed for few hours on the beach until it got dark and well it gets dark at 630 pm here in Grenada. I just ended my Friday evening at Bananas with some good food and good music.

Saturday was the most relaxing day I have had in months. I woke up at 7 am (usual time for classes), realizing that I had no classes and I didn’t have to study for anything. It was the best feeling and hence I went back to sleep. I stayed in bed till almost 1pm, something I had not done in forever so it felt great to be lazy. I finally got the energy to get ready and head to the beach again. I went there around 4 pm when the sun was not too bright All my friends had gone for snorkeling but I chickened out because I remember how sea sick I was the last time I went. I just laid on the warm sand and enjoyed the mesmerizing sunset with some music. I never realized how amazing it can be to just sit and not do anything. Sometimes, you just need one of those days. The great thing about the caribbean sea is that it never gets a high tide(atleast in Grenada), it’s always calm and peaceful. I think that’s why they call it the “Island time” here. Just going off topic here but the days are long and slow and so is the service at any restaurant/supermarket etc and hence the term the “Island time” was coined to describe these situations. No matter how much you really complain, it’s not going to change anything but only increase your frustration so you might as well stay calm and enjoy your time here.

img_0508

Well after my introspective evening, it was time to get some dinner and my roommate and I headed to Yolo Sushi. Asian food in Grenada is very average and this place proved my point. I miss good Asian food and I guess I ll get my fix for it when I am back in New York in 2 months.

I wanted to spend my Sunday exploring the ‘Carenage’ but I did not realize that it’s closed on Sunday. I will have to go back after finals. Carenage is in the heart of St. George’s . It has beautiful houses, spice markets and restaurants. My roommate and I gathered a group of 7 to go hiking instead to the “Seven Sisters Fall”.

img_0552
Carenage looks like a painting

img_0533

img_0535
Empty streets of St. George’s

A little background here, as the name suggests, you can hike up to 7 waterfalls and it takes at least a day but our plan was to cover only 1 waterfall. So we called Sheldon. Sheldon is a reliable taxi driver and he literally reminds of my driver Manoj back in India. He is extremely resourceful. Also he charged us 40 EC each(~15USD) for roundtrip to the falls and also for being our guide during the hike. Usually this trip would have been at least 50 USD.

Interestingly, one can go from one part of the island to the next in 1 hour. In other words, you just need to fill the gas tank once to complete exploring the island.

img_0543
Port Louis

As we progressed uphill, our view changed from the buzzing ports to empty roads with abandoned houses and cars. The views were breathtaking. There was just so much greenery around us which was remarkable. I have lived in big cities all my life and honestly seeing so many trees around me is kind of a big deal. img_0541

 

img_0542

img_0539
Entering the dense rainforest

My previous blog had pictures from “Grand Etang” so this time I wanted to make sure I went to a different waterfall. Our hike was only an hour and the trail was not too bad. Honestly this was the second hike of my life. My first hike was literally 2 months ago to Neuschwenstein Castle near Munich. I never considered myself as an ‘outdoor’ person. I was concerned that I would be out of breath and I would slow others down during the hike but I was actually impressed with myself that I was able to complete it without any issues. I actually enjoyed myself. The path was really muddy though and my shoes were completely ruined and my feet were just filled with dirt but I guess that’s the trade off for hiking in a rainforest, right? I also learned that Grenada does not have any poisonous creatures which was a relief. Surprisingly, I did not encounter any bugs or even mosquitoes while hiking.

We could finally hear the falls as we got closer.  So we skipped the Annandale Falls and went to the 2nd falls out of the 7. We decided to go here instead of the touristy/crowded Grand Etang. This area was secluded and we were the only group there which was nice. We relaxed at the falls for maybe an hour.

img_0538
Finally made it!
img_0537
The water was cold

The water level was fine near the rocks but apparently closer to the falls was really deep so we did not even bother going directly under the falls.Also, the water was really clean and refreshing. I would not dare do this anywhere else in the world(especially India) but in Grenada as I said there are no poisonous creatures and there are no reptiles(except for lizards). My friends found a  spot for cliff jumping. I just stayed on the side to get their pictures. I have decided that I will cliff jump after I complete my 2 years here in Grenada 🙂

img_0531

img_0527-1
Post-Midterm relaxation 🙂

We had a nice day out at the falls and shout out to Sheldon(the guy in green t-shirt in the back) for guiding us throughout the hike. I can finally say that I do enjoy outdoors as long as it’s not too hot(hah). 14697322_10154603998969579_987161173_oWe did not go to the other falls but we did end our hike by stopping at the Grand Etang Lake. You know the cool thing about this lake? It’s a unique crater lake and no one knows the depth because of that.

img_0526

IMG_0534.JPG

We were starving by the end of this day so Sheldon took us to a Grenadian buffet called Creole Shack in St. George’s. This was my first time trying Grenadian food and it was rather interesting. My plate had veggie rice and noodles, plantains spicy eggplant and a potato salad. Grenadians use a lot of spices and I realized these spices are similar to the Indian ones. Almost every dish has turmeric in it and so does every Indian dish. This restaurant did not have doubles but if you every come to the Caribbean, I would highly recommend it. It’s a local dish with spicy chickpeas wrapped in a roti. I would compare it to Chana Masala wrapped in a Roti(indian bread).

I had a pretty adventurous day in Grenada. I still have a lot to explore on the island but I just want to take it slow. After returning home from that long tiring day, I just spent rest of my evening catching up with all my friends in Boston and Delhi. I realized how much I miss them and I am looking forward to meet them again in December.

I really needed this weekend to recharge and be geared up for the last 2 months left in this semester. I have 2 more round of exams so I just need to come up with a new study schedule but continue using the same strategies that I have been using.

Unwinding

Wow, I don’t know how to begin describing my last 3 weeks.  I spent in a small cubicle in a study hall with my laptop and white board(my new friend). I had 5 midterms last week and now I am finally free. I just did not get time to update my blog. Honestly, I felt like eating and even taking a shower felt like a waste of time sometimes because there was so much work!

Since my first round of exams, I made sure I was on top of all my material in my classes and I was reviewing over the weekends. I did not want to cram anything last minute so I was whiteboarding a lot. I realized that since I did well in my first round, I wanted to make sure I continued my strategies for the midterms as well. I made sure I was reviewing the new material everyday and going back to the old material on the weekend. I am really not into group studying since I find it distracting but I did find a study buddy. Her name is Tamseela and she is the nicest person I know here. We made sure that we studied on our own during the week and did not lose track and then over the weekend we used to quiz each other. If one person was behind, then the other made sure that they were caught up. I think this strategy really helped me. I had 22 lectures to memorize in Anatomy(including both old and new material). I made sure I did not ignore anatomy at all and reviewed atleast 2 lectures per day. Closer to the midterms, Tamseela and I were able to summarize most of the lectures into 1 white board session (like our 3 embryology lectures below).

img_0465
Hard work will pay off?
img_0547
I literally drew out muscles on myself to memorize them x_x

I also made sure I did practice questions for physiology every day since I did not do as well I wanted to in my first round. Over the weekend, I just went over all lectures from biochemistry and molecular biology. There was no time to waste, not even time to cook or do groceries. I was told that Foundations to Medicine is probably the hardest course and they were right. I think more than testing our knowledge in our science courses, SGU is trying to test how we manage our time, stress and workload. It is really important to have a positive attitude to keep yourself motivated.

Anyways, in the last 3 weeks I made sure that I was never stressed out or demotivated.  I kept myself focimg_0469used by finding different ways to unwind. Well to begin with, I have always hated running. I don’t mind working out but I am not a fan of running . I did not have time to go for my boxing classes so I found a new way to get my workout in. Whenever I felt like I was loaded with work, I put on my running shoes and just went around the campus and then realized how hard it was to go uphill(picture below). Well, my aim is now to be able to run up these stairs without losing my breath by the end of this month.

I found a cliff on my campus and it has the most amazing view. The cliff is extremely peaceful. You can just hear the waves hitting the rocks and the gushing wind. Since I had not gone to the beach in over 2 months, I started coming to this cliff to ‘unwind’ every weekend morning.

img_0404

img_0321
Away from the crazy life

As I said I always studied in a quiet study hall and it used to get depressing at times to be stuck in the same cubicle for 16-17 hours in a day :/ . If I was not working on my laptop, I used to take a break from the study hall and study by the docks if the weather was pleasant.

img_0545
Studying with a view 🙂

 

I have only spoken about studying in my whole post but that’s my life right now and there is nothing else exciting going on. The only thing different in the last 3 weeks has been my room! I moved out of the room at Grand Anse dorm to a dorm on campus. I could not have been happier. My roommate and I found 3 roaches in a span of 1 week in the old dorm room. I AM TERRIFIED OF BUGS. I know I know, India has a lot of bugs too but I am still really scared of them. We had to call different people each time to kill the roaches for us and it was really affecting our studying time. Whenever I was in that room, I could just sense a roach was nearby. You know what made it worse? These creatures can fly…Anyways we told the housing to fog our rooms or relocate us. Luckily they had a double room open, so we got it. The room is small and I don’t have the beach view anymore but I can’t complain because I have my own kitchen now and I literally wake up 40 minutes before class.

img_0544
New view from my new room 

I finally signed the lease for a condo for next year so that is exciting and I can’t wait to move in!! I will have my own room and my own bathroom finally!

I am just glad my midterms are over. I am literally impressed that my brain could hold so much information, now I just need an external hard drive to store that extra information I will learn in the next few weeks 😛 . I had the best post midterm weekend too and I can’t wait to upload all my pictures and update everyone about it in my next post 🙂

Whole new world

I have always been curious to try snorkeling, diving or any water-related activities but I never got the chance. I know I would get busy once classes start and would not have any free time, so there was no better day to try out snorkeling than a day before classes start.

We had a group of 9 and made a reservation for  a snorkeling tour at the Allamanda Resort, Grand Anse. The tour is 4 hours long and costs $125 EC ( ~ 45USD) which includes lunch. Since we had a big group they gave us our own boat which was exciting. I woke up at 6 am on 14th August when we were scheduled for our 9 am tour and the weather was terrible. Grenada has a bipolar tropical weather. I thought New England weather was unpredictable but in Grenada, it is hot and humid one moment and the next moment there’s almost a hurricane-like storm. Anyways, I was kind of hoping at 6 am that our tour would get cancelled because I was getting worried about being in the sea(hah!). The weather cleared up quickly and we headed to the resort which was just 2 blocks away from my dorm.

The resort had arranged a mini bus for us and the driver drove unto Port Louis where our boat was. The boat was huge and everyone was getting excited. I have motion sickness and I usually take my medicine for it which puts me to sleep so I did not take any medicine before getting on the boat. I was a little worried but as the boat started sailing, I felt comfortable and I was so pumped for a new experience! The view from the boat was spectacular. We saw the Carenage finally from the boat (picture below) which is also SGU’s main logo! As you can see it was still cloudy.

IMG_0004

13920512_10154348665031635_1157549400472562423_o
Abandoned ship

As we went farther and farther, the winds were intense and it was drizzling. We couldn’t see the shore anymore.

We finally reached our first stop which was the Molinere Underwater Sculpture park. We saw couple of other boats with people who were there for diving and snorkeling (yay we are not alone!). Oh! So here is a little background of what we were about to witness  – This is the world’s first underwater sculpture park and I think it was build in 2006. You can get more information here http://grenadaunderwatersculpture.com. Anyways, I was worried now because I was in the middle of a sea with no escape! I was glad I was not the only one on the boat who had never snorkeled before. It was so hard for me to breathe from through the tube and the mask was irritating me. The diving instructors were extremely patient with us though and made sure everyone was safe. Half of us went into the water with a life jacket but the other half were good swimmers. I was pleasantly surprised when I got into the sea. The caribbean sea is warm so even though the weather sucked we were fine. I had an irrational fear of drowning which was stupid because I had  a life jacket and fins on.

Anyways my friend had already started swimming towards the sculpture but I waited for the diving instructor to direct me. As I looked down, I was amazed by the sight. I had never witnessed anything like this before! They literally had a sculpture park underwater, HOW COOL IS THAT? I don’t have a lot of pictures but I am using my friend’s GoPro pictures in this blog.

13913996_10154348666841635_1907702667314076951_oAs we swam ahead we also saw individual sculptures which apparently signify the slaves that came from West Africa to America.

It was getting harder for me to breathe and I had to remove my mask which was a terrible mistake! Obviously sea water was extremely salty and my eyes could not stop burning and I could not open them anymore. I had to swim back to the boat to wash them with fresh water and then joined my friends again.

13958234_10154348666901635_7941924784170317712_o
As you can see my friend’s went deeper to get a good glimpse of the sculptures

13925775_10154348667611635_4257361948633713766_o

Now it was time to go back on the boat and go to our second location which as the Flamingo Bay Reef. The waves were crazy now and as I got on the boat I got sick. One of my other friends Lauren also got sick when she saw me which was gross haha. As we reached the spot for the Reef, my head was spinning.

I am glad I still went for it though. Some of the reef that we spotted included were – sea urchins, Manta Ray and tons of fishes that I can’t even name them. The instructors used to throw food in the sea and these beautiful fishes used to rush towards us

14047162_10154348668686635_8997966710597007696_o

13923471_10154348667756635_8169759876206266209_o
HOW GORGEOUS IS THIS?

13909385_10154348667936635_3837941668203473382_o

It had started raining now and the waves were bad. I could not go any longer and I had to return to the boat and as I got on the boat I saw another friend swim behind me because he was also getting sick. There was something about the Flamingo Bay area that was making everyone sick.

It was time to head back home. I was so glad I went snorkeling and did not chicken out. Everything was worth it and I would have never experienced this otherwise. I think everyone should atleast once snorkel or dive in their life. I cannot put the experience in words – to realize there is another world out there and how we need conserve it. Anyways I need to get back to studying now(week 1 just started!). As I sign out, here is a picture of me all happy and snorkeling for the first time 😀 13963037_10154348668206635_780111196907366807_o

Photo credits : All photos were taken from my friend Hassaan Yousefi’s GoPro. He let me use these photos for this blog. I cannot upload videos on this blog but I would upload it to another site soon 🙂