Between Thai language lessons and technical sessions, the PCTs of group 129 spent most of week eight excited about the weekend’s trip to Bangkok. A lot of the week’s language sessions revolved around travel, transportation and directions, as we were expected to use our newly polished vocabulary and phrases in the big city.
Week eight’s technical sessions were entirely about camps, which are a big part of what YinD volunteers work on at site. Our YinD group was divided into two groups of 15 trainees and each group was in charge of planning and facilitating a camp before the week’s end. My camp group decided to plan a teamwork camp for approximately 120 students from our practicum schools.
We hosted our camp on Friday afternoon after a morning “Travel in Bangkok” simulation with our language teachers. My camp station partner, Justin, and I facilitated team building activities for high school students. We especially liked how each activity not only required a fair amount of teamwork, but forced the students to communicate with one another, which proved to be especially difficult for students from different schools. Overall, the camp was a success, but we certainly learned important lessons about planning and detail oversights along the way.
Friday night brought butterflies as I was both anxious and excited to visit Bangkok for the first time. Packing was an especially interesting task because I’ve been wearing “riap roy” (appropriate, per Thai standards) clothes since arrival in Thailand. Our 30 hours in Bangkok would not only be our first taste of freedom, but it’d also be our first opportunity to show the world our knees and shoulders! (gasp)
I woke up at 4:30am Saturday morning, as a friend’s host mom was to pick me up at 5:00am. Most of the YinD group met at the local post office, where our reserved vans picked us up for transport to Bangkok. My plan was to sleep on our way there, but I totally oversaw that I a) get carsick, especially on winding roads and b) I’d be too excited to sleep. I did manage to “rest my eyes” (still trying to determine if that’s actually a thing or Grandpa Wayne has just been faking it all these years) for an hour or so before I let the excitement get the best of me. After everyone else in our van woke up, the 7:00am dance party started, rap music and all. Perhaps the most exciting part was when one of our van-mates broke out the Thin Mints she received in a care package from home. Girl Scout cookies for the win!
The whole purpose of our group traveling to Bangkok was to visit the Peace Corps office. To get there as quickly and efficiently as possible, we arranged for our van to drop us off right at the BTS “Mo Chit” station, where we were easily able to board the Bangkok Sky Train. What an easy metro that is! It’s my new favorite metro (if that’s even a thing…). We took the BTS to Victory Monument, which is the station closest to the Peace Corps office. The morning was a bit of a rat race because we were all trying to get to the Peace Corps office in time to make the first IT training session. In a nut shell, we had a couple of tasks to accomplish at the Peace Corps office before we were allowed to explore the city on our own. I ended up in the first IT training group and quickly circulated through the other stations before heading out for our hostel.
Because check-in wasn’t until later in the afternoon, a group of us stashed our things at the hostel, changed into our shots and tank tops and set out to find lunch – anything but Thai food! I was on a mission to find Fatty’s Bar & Diner, a Wisconsin-themed bar in Bangkok. Weeks prior to our trip , I found Fatty’s on Facebook and was instantly determined to find the real deal after reading about their jalapeño poppers and burgers with bacon .
After a complicated taxi ride and a short stroll, we found Fatty’s and folks, I’m here to tell you it was tear-worthy! I literally had tears swelling and pride pulsing through my veins when I saw the Wisconsin flag on the wall and a New Glarus Spotted Cow sign on the door. Among our group of hungry trainees was another Midwesterner from Chicago (but she’s half Sconnie, too) and the two of us throughly freaked out at every little slice of home we found on the menu.
Instantly I ordered a Bloody Mary, cheese curds and poppers, which were shortly followed by a cream cheese bacon burger and fries. It turns out the owner of Fatty’s is a Milwaukee native, who completed the perfect picture by sporting a throwback Brewers t-shirt. Additionally, we talked to other Fatty’s-goers from Chicago and Minneapolis. It’s truly amazing how at home I felt in one afternoon in a big, strange city.
A lazy afternoon in our air-conditioned hostel was followed by my first real shower in eight weeks, which was even more amazing than it may sound to you. Not only did I have hot water, but I finally had a shower head and a real shower floor. It’s the little things, people, it really is! A lot of fellow Thailand PCVs from the previous groups met up with us in Bangkok, too, so a lot of us spent time meeting and getting to know them during the afternoon.
Dinner was an exciting and eventful evening, complete with a mojito (my favorite cocktail) and Mexican food! That’s right, MEXICAN FOOD in Bangkok! As luck would have it, my friend Sarah’s step-brother was in Bangkok the same night we were, so we had dinner and drinks with him Saturday night. After dinner we even enjoyed a cocktail at his hotel’s rooftop bar, which provided spectacular views of the city.
Sunday was the definition of a lazy day, but that was perfectly okay because it was one of the very few “off days” we’ve had during PST. I spent most of the day lounging around the hostel and trying to rest my eyes after my short four hours of sleep. To make it back to our host houses by our 6:00pm curfew, we had to leave Bangkok in the early afternoon, but I made sure to enjoy at McDonald’s Oreo McFlurry before leaving for good.
My short “one night in Bangkok” was literally spent eating and drinking, but I am really looking forward to exploring Bangkok’s many sights, bars and restaurants over the next couple years, especially with visiting friends and family.