The first thing I thought when we stepped off the plane in Bangkok was how peaceful, quiet and clean the city was…not necessarily how it’s been described in the past…but compared to India, it was serene and organized. Joshua’s grandparents visited in the 90’s and all they could remember were the ping pong shows. Add the recent Hangover Part II buzz and Bangkok gets a rambunctious rap…but it’s full of anything one could want in a city…from exotic newness to old comforts. I seriously loved it, immediately. So much so that after the first day I was making Joshua look up properties to buy!
Look at these motos obeying traffic laws and waiting in a line!
We sped through the city to the Khao San area where all the grungy backpackers stay, and found a respectable guesthouse close enough to the action and all the attractions but with only half the trashiness we expected (despite lots of outdoor massage).
We ate our first bowl of noodles and refreshed from a long flight with a Thai massage.
I can’t believe we paid a woman to roll around on top of us and twist us like pretzels, but at least we were limber from the Rishikesh yoga or we could have been in some serious pain.
As soon as we woke up, we took the shiny metro to the Vietnam Embassy to secure a visa. We encountered our first Thai scam near the embassy where a friendly gentlemen offered to get our visas faster and for a small processing fee. We knew the trick, so we politely declined and kept on our mission. We spent the few hours wait visiting all the Bangkok malls, complete with fancy shops and lots of AC.
We visited the Jim Thompson House, a pretty epic story about an ex US military guy who fell in love with Thailand and restarted their silk export business. He later went missing in Malaysia and was never found. He was a collector of beautiful things and pieced together a gorgeous house from reclaimed Thai artifacts which now serves as a museum.
On our way back from the museum, we stumbled upon a crowd of Thai teenie boppers outside the Magnum Cafe which didn’t turn my head until I realized it was the ICE CREAM Magnum…where you can create your own ice cream bar, coating, toppings…the whole bit.
It wasn’t the only ice cream we ate in Bangkok…the only city where the number one ice cream shop is called Nuttaporn and looked like this!
But, it was excellent (especially the mango) even though I’m a total chocolate person.
It was disappointing that the shop was so hard to find because we wanted to take our friend Thara there, who we met in Patagonia. We met him for lunch after a morning at the National Museum. He showed us the ropes of Thai-style food ordering. Order a lot, share everything, don’t pick up or pass anything, just dip your spoon (never your fork) into the dish and ENJOY! My cousin Ella would die because our curry was served in a fresh tender coconut (one of her daily vices in India).
The National Museum was over-filled with artifacts and details about Thai history…an overwhelming introduction to this new culture. But it gave us a glimpse of the dynasty that has been in power since the 1780’s. A group who has constantly worked to preserve Thai culture while maintaining a certain Western standard in their urban planning and transportation.
But, the Grand Palace was overwhelming in another way…like in a gold, sparkly, tiled, incredible detail way that blew our minds.
We planned ahead and dressed the part (long pants and no tank tops even though it was scorching). We heard you have to cover up…it’s true! If you don’t show up in the right gear, they make you put on the most embarrassing pants, so it’s easy to spot anyone who wasn’t prepared.
Like this guy!
Just down the street is Wat Pho, another site, where we encountered our second Thai scam. A guy near the entrance tried to turn us away because the temple was “closed.” He wanted us to visit something else and come back after 5pm…except we knew the temple was, in fact, NOT closed. So we thanked him for his information and walked inside. The whole thing was so calm…but had we not known any better, we would have taken his advice and ended up paying some crazy fee to see something else nearby and missing out on the 43m reclining budda!
We took our chance to be thankful by dropping coins into the 108 bowls that run the length of the Buddha’s backside representing each of his incarnations. There is a constant clinking in the temple with people dropping the equivalent of $0.60 spread among the 108 bowls…so a lot of noise for a little $$.
Afterwards we sat down for our first Pad Thai (a classic dish)…and yes, those pink things in the dish are dried shrimp to sprinkle on top…for texture?!
The street food in Bangkok is amazingly delicious, clean and cheap. You do see some weird things too–tarantulas, bugs, octopus and lots of innards. But my favorite part is that everything is served in a bag or on a stick.
The range in Bangkok is huge…from street stalls to five star hotels, like the Oriental, where we couldn’t even enter in our shorts, flip flops and tank tops. The hotel is located directly on the Chao Praya river. This was once where the poorest in the city lived but has now been rebuilt by several of the fanciest hotels.
In no time, we were going to the train station to leave Bangkok (and I wanted to cry). We planned a short diversion to Cambodia before continuing to explore the rest of this amazing country. At 5:55am, the train station was easy to navigate, our train was labeled, really nice and on-time! We spent the 6 hour ride visiting with two exchange students from Europe who gave us all the ins of the city for when we return (I can’t wait to return!).
No morning in Thailand has been complete without an amazing yogurt drink called Meiji (also known as Yakult). I bought us two for the train ride…although I had to fight through all the Thais buying their Red Bulls and M180s. The amount of energy drinks (and insanely cheap prices, like $0.30) keep these folks going at all hours. I wouldn’t want to miss a minute of this city either!