A Travellerspoint blog

March 2008

Wat Phra Kaew

finally...some sights from bangkok

My first time in Thailand, I had literally one night in Bangkok.

This time I took at least a full day. Heeding the suggestion of the lovely Thai lady I met on the plane, I decided to go to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or Wat Phra Kaew, considered the most sacred temple in Thailand. With this significance comes measures to keep it that way. One must wear long pants and have his or her shoulders covered properly, a fact I learned the hard way. There are long skirts and uniform-looking shirts for rent.

It is indeed impressive...there are mosaics made of mirrored glass adorning most buildings, gold sparkling stupas (also known as chedis). There are guardians and Thai mythological statues scattered throughout. There is even a scaled model of Angkor Wat. Most importantly, there is the Emerald Buddha (actually made of jade). It has a long history, originating in Cambodia, given as a gift to a Thai king, robbed by Burmese invaders, resurfaced in Thailand and moved from Thai city to Thai city, seized by the King of Siam, returned to Thailand, and is still claimed by many Laotians to have its proper place in Vientiane. It's actually quite tiny (between 60 and 75cm, or 23-29in) and hard to see...

Less talk, more pictures...



And some pictures from around Bangkok....

Posted by lrbergen 16:18 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

A Beginner's Guide to Getting Scammed


There are all kinds of scams when you're traveling.

You get hassled to come look at your tuk-tuk driver's friend's tailor shop.
You spend all day on a trip that is made as uncomfortable as possible to ensure that you will stay at the "right" hotel.
And if you're naive, and you don't watch it, you will be overcharged like crazy.

That being said, I have never fallen prey to any MAJOR scamming. I'm almost positive that I've paid a bit too much for a bag, or a book, or even a bottle of water. A few cents here and there is no problem...traveling in Southeast Asia, I know that these people need the money more than I do.

To an extent.

Crossing the Thai border into Cambodia at PoiPet (from the Eastern island Koh Chang), we were overcharged for our bus (my companion paid 600Baht, I paid 700, and everyone coming from Bangkok, much farther away, was charged 400). When we reached Poi Pet, we were taken to a "travel agency" that was going to help us with our Cambodian visas. In every guidebook, from every traveler, we knew that the visa would cost $20USD. That's 600 Thai Baht. We started filling out the form and a woman told us that it would cost 2400 Baht each.

That's right...they wanted to charge us not double, not triple, but FOUR TIMES what it actually cost.

When we started questioning them, they made it very obvious that this was a scam and that the jig was up. The woman became very rude and muttered that we should have started the visa process 3 days ago in Bangkok...because without their help, that's how long it would take. "1...or...2...or 3 days." Another man actually raised his voice and started shouting. We continued to refuse to pay the inflated prices, and they continued to be nasty.

Eventually we made it to the "courtyard of shame," where there about 10 other people who were willing to take their chances at the border. We were branded with yellow stickers, while the "suckers", as I like to call them, were given pieces of red tape.

It all worked out in the end...we ended up paying 1000 Baht for the visas, but at least we were extorted by the Cambodian government who did it with a smile.
- AND we were on the same bus going over the same endless bumps and covered by the same dust from the road as the red-sticker suckers. We all spent the same 4 hours at the Thailand-Cambodia border. The road was terrible, but we made it Siem Reap...a little wiser, a little dirtier...but with 1400 extra Baht in our pockets toward the high Angkor Wat fee.

Which is totally worth it.

Posted by lrbergen 23:54 Archived in Cambodia Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (1)

Leaving Korea

...does that mean i have to change the title of this blog?

-17 °C

Well, folks.

It's been 2 and a half LONG years in Korea, but I've made it.
Korea has always been a temporary place, and it's been hard to see people come and go. It was easy to get settled in, but with the knowledge that it couldn't be forever.

I've taught lots of kids, made lots of friends, drank lots of soju, gone to lots of countries, read lots of books, eaten LOTS of kimchi, and taken TONS of photos.
Now comes the time to move on to the next place. It's time for a new adventure. I don't doubt that I'll be back in Korea...just hopefully not for a few years. This country can get to a person, if one really allows it to happen.

It's time to post some photos.

Things I will NOT miss:

Trudging to work via the subway EVERY MORNING during rush hour. It is so miserable.

Dodging cars on the sidewalks. There are technically traffic laws, but they seem to be more guidelines than anything.

The massive amounts of pollution; on the sidewalk, in the air...everywhere. It's especially bad during "Hwangsa" or the yellow dust storms that come from the Gobi desert, picking up heavy metals along the way.

Beondaegi. Silkworm pupa. I don't encounter it on a day-to-day basis, but come on. I've eaten centipede and I won't even CONSIDER this.

The same apartment buildings everywhere. And I do mean everywhere.

Traffic. Traffic. Always with the traffic.

Terrible fashion. But to be fair, I will also miss it. It's so absurd sometimes.

Being attacked by Christian propaganda. If a stranger approaches you on the street, in the gym, or on the subway, it is either to practice English or get you to come to church. Even if you have a constant scowl on your face and headphones on. Agh.

I will not miss being stared at, though I will find it odd that everyone ignores me back in America. I will not miss being pushed around by old women and men, I will not miss the whiny girls, the crowds, the trash, how it's ok to spit in public but not blow your nose, being told to go home, being discouraged from speaking the little Korean I know, the pushy mothers.

I really could go on. It IS time to go home. So just to prove that it hasn't been ALL bad, here are:

The things I WILL miss:

Insadong, where they have changing displays in the Andy Warhol factory. It's just a really nice area.

Bundang in the spring. Since Korea doesn't get a lot of snow, there's no slush. It's beautiful.

Even though they take it to the extreme sometimes, Koreans can unite like nobody's business.

Konglish. Engrish. Call it what you will...it's funny and it's everywhere.

Old fortresses everywhere.

Riding my bike into Seoul and aside from the wandering children / ajummas / couples, being completely safe.

Buddha's Birthday celebrations. We get a day off of work AND there's a really cool parade.

Drinking outside. Legally. At a convenience store.

Korean baseball games. Even though I really only went to one...

Dogs dressed up. Ok, most of me feels bad about having to see a dog suffer this. I love dogs. I do. This is just absurd.

Kimchi...kimchi mandu. Kimchi chigue. Kimchi fried rice. Kimchi, kimchi, kimchi.

When it does snow, it looks really nice.

Mandu ramen.

Sam gyeop sal and kalbi.

I will not miss the subway, but I will miss cheap access to reliable and efficient public transportation.

Rafting weekends in Gangwon-do.

Proximity to lots of OTHER really awesome countries:

And last, but certainly not least, my students:
John K
John C

I've taught them well.

I will of course miss my friends, but I know we'll meet again.
Don't know where, don't know when.
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day.
Keep smiling through
Just like you always do.

Compliments of the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash.

I (We) made it!

Tune in next time for my 2-week vacation to Thailand! Woohoo!

Posted by lrbergen 05:38 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

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