“Don’t let Finnegan out of your sight and don’t let anyone touch him,” was the last piece of advice that my father-in-law bestowed upon us before dropping us off at the airport for our flight to Thailand. We were in the country for less than 60 seconds when we ignored the second half of his imparted ‘wisdom.’
Thailand is often called the Land of Smiles, but we affectionately dubbed it the Land of Babysitters because we met friendly Thais everywhere we went trying to make Finnegan laugh or volunteering to entertain him while we dined. We knew we would love Bangkok as soon as we landed. Upon approaching customs and immigration, one of the agents held out his arms asking to hold Finnegan and promptly walked us over to an empty line reserved for diplomats. Another agent grabbed a puppet from under the desk and put on a show while our paperwork was being processed and our photos were being taken. It was our first introduction to the kid friendly culture of Thailand.
This attitude permeated the city and we found everything about Bangkok to be Finnegan-friendly. Here are ten reasons why:
- He loves boats and one of the easiest ways to get around Bangkok is via water taxi.
- There are koi ponds at every restaurant. One of our favorites was at the Jim Thompson House restaurant.
- Food is available everywhere. Toddlers can go from being not hungry to completely ravenous in a millisecond so we appreciated the endless street food options. Besides having really great food, including the best sticky rice ever, the floating market experience obviously includes boats too so it’s a double win.
- Finnegan happily followed the Thai kids walking home from school and the ritual always involved stopping for an ice cream cone. And we appreciated that at 25 cents per cone this daily habit only added up to a $1 over the four days we spent in the city.
- The train market. I think trains are universally loved by all kids – especially boys.
- Swimming monkeys. He loved them IN the water – not so much when they started coming into the boat.
- Exploring the temples. Well maybe we appreciated the temples a little more than Finnegan, but there was plenty of outdoor space to explore at all of the temples and he was never bored. The Grand Palace and Wat Pho were amazing.
- Going on tuk-tuk rides. No carseat and open air.
- Swimming in the hotel rooftop pool. We stayed at Centre Point Silom hotel right next to the river. The location was convenient and there was a small washer and dryer in our room, which was a nice amenity to have on a two week trip with a toddler.
- The nurses and gift shop at the Saint Louis hospital in Bangkok. Finnegan spiked a fever on the plane ride over to Thailand and he couldn’t seem to shake it. We were getting nervous since he had the fever off and on for 6 days and was sleeping a lot more than usual. We were leaving for Cambodia the next day and had far less confidence in the Cambodian medical system. Our hotel recommended Saint Louis Hospital, which was a first class facility. The physician that saw Finnegan was trained in the US and did his residency in Westchester, NY. He said Finnegan most likely had a virus, but ordered some blood work just to be sure since he was also concerned about sending us to Cambodia without a good diagnosis. I know some parents would freak out about having blood drawn in a developing country, but we quickly relaxed when we met the nurses. They made such a big fuss over Finnegan and drew his blood without him even noticing.
While I don’t want to make a sweeping statement about the Thai medical system because I’m sure there are many Thais that could not afford this private hospital, the care we received was far better than any experience we’ve ever had in a US hospital. Within an hour, we were back sitting with the doctor reviewing the blood work results, which confirmed that Finnegan had a virus. The doctor said his fever should be ending soon since they typically don’t last longer than 7 days. Right on cue, his fever disappeared that night and never returned. In the end, the hospital visit wasn’t really necessary, but it was money and time well spent for the peace of mind it provided heading into Cambodia. The total bill was $17.
While I’m typically not a city person, Bangkok won me over and I really hope we get a chance to go back again soon. With so many treasures spread over a large area, there is still a lot more to explore and experience. Thailand proved to be the perfect introduction to SE Asia – there is a well traveled tourist trail, but with the opportunity to experience a non-Western culture. Buddhism is the primary religion, which is practiced by ~95% of the population and it’s fascinating to see how the religion is woven into the fabric of the culture. Every morning, even in cosmopolitan Bangkok, the monks walk through the streets to collect food to bring back to the temple. Experiences like these, which provide little glimpses into different cultures, is one of the things that I love most about traveling.