Amanda: The Travallure
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Bangkok, etc.
Hello! My name is Amanda and I’m originally from the Midwestern state of Minnesota in the USA. After graduating from college in June 2013 and having no real job prospects on the horizon, my boyfriend Casey and I decided it was time for an adventure. We saved up for a few months and officially made Bangkok our home in January 2014.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I’ve kept blogs off and on for nearly 12 years! I’ve always loved having an outlet to be creative or just vent what I’m feeling. The Travallure was started in September 2013 as a way to share our trip and travels with the world and inspire others to get out of their comfort zones.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I’ll admit that I’m still trying to find my voice with this new blog, but I’m really liking the more visual approach I’ve taken since we got to Bangkok. I have a tendency to be a bit verbose so it’s been a nice to change to let the pictures do the talking. I really like this post because I feel that it really captures what it’s like to be a new expat in Bangkok, and this post is my favorite aesthetically.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Bangkok differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Honestly, I think the most major change has been in the way that we eat. I’ve had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of snacking all day on street food or eating out for nearly every meal. We do a bit of cooking, but the kitchen is so small and there’s no oven so it’s been really limited. Plus, sometimes it’s cheaper to eat out than it is to cook at home! As far as culture shock goes, I have yet to really feel it. I think it helped a lot that I’d been to Asia before (China in 2011), so I had some idea of what to expect. I’m also an avid reader so I did a lot of research on different travel blogs and websites. My aunt gave me the book Very Thai by Phillip Cornwel-Smith right before we left, and it has really helped to fill in the gaps for a lot of the quirky cultural differences that make Thailand so unique.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Bangkok? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Casey makes fun of me all the time that I didn’t let him bring more long sleeves. To be fair, we were already overweight on our packing, but it definitely gets a lot chillier at night than I expected! And the air-con is always on full-blast when you’re inside, so it’s nice to have a little extra cover sometimes. I also wish I would’ve had a few more Thai day-to-day phrases under my belt. “Sawatdee ka” and “Khop khun ka” help me get by in a lot of situations, but I really wish I would’ve known how to ask for less spice in my food and directions back to our apartment when I first got here.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
After a particularly rowdy night out, we woke up to discover that Casey had left his phone in a cab. We were able to locate it thanks to the Find My iPhone app, but unfortunately it was on the move somewhere in Nonthaburi. Not afraid of the challenge, we decided it was worth a shot to try and get it back. We rushed out the door and jumped in a cab, frantically telling the driver to follow the moving dot on the map. Just as we thought we were zeroing in on it, we watched it speed off further away from Bangkok. Surprisingly our driver, who could barely speak a word of English, didn’t kick us out when we encouraged him to continue following the car. Fast-forward three hours later when we finally swallowed the pill that the phone was gone after a wild goose chase all the way out to Ban Pong, a random district 80 km outside of Bangkok. The other car was on its way back to the city and we felt defeated. Every time we thought we were getting close, we’d get stuck in traffic or our cab driver would pull over to try and get an understanding of what was going on. It seemed like a completely lost cause. After another two hours stuck in traffic, we found ourselves back near Nonthaburi and tracked the phone to an electronics shop on a nearby soi. We decided it was too close to not give it one last go. “Find phone!” our driver said excitedly as we asked him to pull over, thanking him profusely for putting up with us and going along with our crazy adventure. We ran down the street as fast as we could and turned the corner of the quiet alley. Thinking we would have to confront someone trying to sell the phone at the shop, we prepared for the worst. As we got further down the soi, two men started calling out to us. To our complete and utter shock, one of the men pulled the phone from his bag and handed it back with a smile. Somehow, despite the language barriers and our complete lack of direction, we actually got the phone back. Not only did we get to see a little bit more of our new country, but we also learned just how hospitable its people could be.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Bangkok?
- Scope out different neighborhoods before deciding on a place to live. You can get a totally different experience from one part of the city to the next, so make sure you find a place that’s right for you. But no matter what, you’ll definitely want to be close to public transportation!
- Pack light. It’s hard to walk a block without running into some sort of market where you can stock up on inexpensive clothes, accessories and home décor. Not to mention there are like five 7-11s on every street corner. Despite what you may have heard, everything you need is here.
- Never stop exploring. There are so many hidden nooks in this huge city—make it a goal to wander down one new soi or try a different restaurant every week!
How is the expat community in Bangkok? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Luckily for us, Casey’s best friend from home put us in touch with a family friend living in Bangkok. Before we left, we reached out to him and asked the millions of questions that were on our minds. He actually moved back to the US a few days before we set off to Thailand so we got to meet him in person. He set us up with a few phone numbers of friends and colleagues that he thought we would get along with and we’ve had a blast getting close with them. I’m so grateful that it all worked out so well and that we all really seem to click. It’s been my experience that most expats you meet are extremely welcoming and friendly. There have been times when we’re out and about and other English speakers will hear us talking and strike up a conversation. They all seem so interested in hearing how you ended up in Bangkok and are equally willing to share their stories and experiences. I think this is a great place to be an expat in!
How would you summarize your expat life in Bangkok in a single, catchy sentence?
Bangkok is a huge, hot, hectic city that inspires me to live life all the way turnt up.