Same Same But Different

 

We were in Bangkok for Christmas, but you couldn’t have guessed it. Our way of celebrating a Southeast Asian holiday was to find one of the few Airbnbs in the area with really modern amenities, and then not leave it for five days. We spent our Christmas holed up on a couch, blasting the air conditioning, watching holiday movies and eating a fuck ton of homemade Christmas cookies, and we wouldn’t have changed a damn thing.

When the cabin fever finally got to us, though, we ventured outside to see Bangkok. On our first day we bumped into a local who started chatting with us about our plans, and eventually he pulled paper and pen out of his pocket and scribbled down, in Thai, a list of his favorite sights around the city. He said we could get a driver to take us to them all in one day no problem, but that we should haggle down to ฿40 ($1.25) and not a penny more, they always overcharge tourists. We really had no idea where we would go or what would happen that day, but we’re used to that by now - so we flagged down a tuk-tuk, handed him the paper, and got in. We went to that Khaosan Road, a bustling street in the city, then to Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Wat Intharawihan (the Standing Buddha), and to a small, local temple, where we prayed to a Lucky Buddha for luck in love, health, and work.

 
thailand emerald buddha
lucky buddha string Bangkok
buddha string in a temple in Bangkok
pattern detail on a temple in thailand
statue in emerald buddha city
 

Our next stop was Damnoen Floating Market, the best-known floating market in Thailand. We woke up early to beat the crowds, maybe too early, when we got there the canals were empty. We bought tickets for a long-tail boat through the market, they tried to charge us ฿3,000 (roughly $94), but managed to haggle them down to a few hundred. We coasted through the water, drinking from coconuts, floating past the handicraft stalls, eating pad thai.

 
floating market in damnoen floating market
damnoen floating market
 

After Bangkok we headed south to Koh Tao island - we’d heard it was a scuba diver’s paradise, and we hadn’t been since Mexico. Unfortunately our timing couldn’t have been worse, the area was in the middle of one of the worst storms Thailand has seen in decades. Most of the boats were cancelled for the entire week, but we were lucky enough to find one that would bring us out for a few shallow dives right off the coast. Choppy, murky ocean wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for, but it’s always worth it to get into the water.

 
ferry boat in chumphon on the way to koh tao
 

Our last stop was Chiang Mai, in the north and closer to the mountains. We played with elephants in the rain and took a cooking class where they’d yell at us to smile if we didn’t look happy enough while cooking.

 
cat in thailand
markets in thailand
soup herbs in thailand
holy basil in thailand
chilies-in-thailand
 

They have a saying in Thailand - throughout all Southeast Asia, really - '“same same but different”. Vendors use it a lot when they’re trying to sell you random knockoff shit on the street, but we heard it used all sorts of other ways too. It would pop into my head while we travelled here, while we met people from all over the world - from Thailand, but also tourists from Malaysia, Taiwan, Germany, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. We joked no matter what country we’re in, we end up learning as much about the local culture as we do about cultures from all over the world, due to the time we spend with other travelers. We went out for Chang beers and talked about the distinctions and similarities between ourselves and our respective countries, and realized deep down we’re really all just same same but different.

 
sunset in Bangkok