Our first day in Bangkok was amazing!
Despite arriving around 3 am, we managed to get a few hours of sleep at a hotel by the airport before beginning our first day. We took a train from the airport to the center of the city, and then a taxi to Khao San Road, a famous "backpacker ghetto" that caters to travelers.
We got our first meal just down the street, at a little restaurant that had a big vegetarian menu.
I got vegetarian pad thai for 45baht, or $1.48.
We took the rest of the day pretty easy, wandering around the Khao San Road area and relaxing in the hostel. We are staying right next to a girl who also went to a small liberal arts school, and she knew some people who also went to Pomona! Small world!
The girl we talked to has been traveling in Southeast Asia for 5 months and she told us that she has seen fewer than 20 Americans during her entire trip. I was shocked! The banana pancake trail is packed with Western travelers/backpackers, but very few Americans. The majority of people at our hostel are German, British, and Canadian. We spoke to a German guy named Marcus and he joked with us, asking "You are American, and you have a passport? Crazy!" There's definitely a stereotype that Americans don't travel, and we like to stay in our own little bubble. Marcus also asked us if we really teach creationism in schools in the U.S. He was incredulous that such a "developed country" could do such a thing. I had no good response.
The highlight of our day was going to a big spa for traditional Thai massages. We paid 450 baht ($15) for a 2-hour massage at a really nice spa. You can get 1-hour massages for about $5 at cheaper places, but someone recommended Healthland to us and we decided to splurge since we wanted to relax after all the flights. It was definitely worth it.
Thai massage is unique because you change into loose-fitting Thai fisherman pants and a shirt, and the massage therapists move you into different stretches as part of the massage. It was amazing and a perfect way to get rid of tension from traveling and help with jet lag.
It was also hilarious because my massage therapist was no more than 4'8". She was one of the smallest people I have ever seen and I think she thought we were freakishly large. She and the other massage therapists kept giggling at us when we tried to move into the different poses for stretching, either because we didn't know what we were supposed to do, or because we're so large/goofy. It was really funny.
Overall, we had a great first day in Thailand and I can't wait to explore Bangkok more over the next 4 days!