09.24.2014 - 09.27.2014
9/24/14 at 1618 (Bangkok time)
After over 24 hours of travel, I'm in Bangkok, Thailand! The public transit is amazing and the directions were pretty spot-on. I did get a little lost trying to find the house though, as it's in a maze of streets behind a cluster of giant, shiny malls. It didn't help that it started to rain a bit. I took shelter in one of the mall entrances and tried to mime that I wanted an umbrella for purchase. I think I was expecting the streets to be like Hanoi, with vendors readily available selling small bright colored umbrellas to soaking tourists. Ended up . . . it's not. According to my AirBNB host Rob, it's exceeding difficult to find a good quality umbrella as most are small breakable things from China that perhaps last one day. The staff at the mall was so sweet; a lady motioned for a gentlemen to come over and he proceeded to pick-up a giant picnic umbrella with clunky metal base so that he may walk with me to my imaginary car. They didn't quite understand at the time that I wasn't headed to a car but actually to the maze of homes behind the mall. Once the man understand, he smiled and shrugged and walked alongside me with the giant 8-foot umbrella over me as far as he could go.
When I got to the correct street, I still couldn't find which house it was and was lucky that Rob was home, able to find me looking lost and wet with cell phone in hand. He's a super-nice guy although a tad OCD . . . right away, he explained his color-coded Post-it system where he keeps track of his AirBNB guests. After this, he proceeded to clean bits of the house that he told me he had cleaned the day prior but stated it needed to be cleaned again.
No trip to a non-English speaking country would be complete without a little Engrish
Yes. Yes, I do.
How I live my life, baby . . . or don't live because I'm too fast. I'm not sure actually.
So far, first impression of Bangkok: I like it. A quiet hustle, friendly people, grime on the walkways, and a great public transit system. The streets are crowded with cars and there are densely curled electricity cables that remind me so much of Vietnam. I feel privileged to have already witnessed one public urination and it's only my first day . . . but that reminds me a little more of China, not Vietnam. Or New York. =P
I'm now out wandering a bit through the malls. There's so many floors! I chose a random little restaurant to have my first Thai meal, which is beef udon with guava juice. I'm kinda tired and looking forward to a warm meal.
First meal in Thailand
Who doesn't want a Durian Mon Thong?
Oh, one other bit of excitement . . . I think I met a future Philippine superstar. Rob rents multiple rooms and one of my roommates is JP from Oregon. He recently traveled throughout Asia and fell in love with Thailand. He returned to the states, sold all his belongings, and came back to figure out his fate. He has many offers, including English teacher, hostel owner, or Philippines singer/performer. He's got the blue eye-blond hair look, I think he could go far. I just have to remember him in case he goes for that absurd singer/performer offer that makes him laugh.
Bangkok in the rain
9/25/14 at 1842 (Bangkok time)
Last night, I met another rooommate: Faine from Cambodia, but originally she's from Northern California. She works as a journalist in Cambodia and is quick to sing it's praises, encouraging me to take the train or a quick flight to see Cambodia. I'm already hearing from several people that I need to travel to Laos or Cambodia. I'm not sure if I'll make it on this trip but definitely in the future. Faine, JP, and I walked around Bangkok, shared Leo beers, got caught in the rain, and picked up some random snacks to chow down back at the house. We enjoyed spaghetti pockey, garlic seaweed strips, cheeseburger with American cheese sausage chips, scallop chips, and lime Mexican chips, washed it all down with some Cheers beer and honey collagen water.
Today I went with Follow Me bike tours as suggested by Romeo. With the heat and humidity, it was nice to get a little breeze by riding through on the bikes. There were several couples, including a German couple and a young Scottish couple on their honeymoon. One of my favorite stops was the Old Custom House. We also went to the famous flower market, rode along the Chao Phraya River, came across a Chinese festival, and learned how to fold a lotus flowers within a temple as an offering for the Buddha.
My folded lotus flower, given as offering to Buddha
After the tour, I explored Lumpini Park where I saw two Gila monsters and a small handful of residents enjoying the shade and benches. Afterwards, I returned back to the room for a nap.
Sweets from the Chinese festival
Free soup from the Chinese festival
I am now headed out for dinner and the famous Soi Cowboy walk. We shall see how this goes. ;-)
9/26/14 at 1256 (Bangkok time)
Just purchased and devoured my first Thai butter bun (a soft bun stuffed with butter, slathered in butter and coated in sugar) and I feel so American. Also have a side of Thai deep fried street vendor chicken and an iced coffee latte. This is officially the worst meal I've had yet. =P
I'm sitting at Hua Lamphong train station, having just purchased my overnight train ticket for Chiang Mai. I got second class, as was suggested by many for the social interaction. I took top bunk for the claustrophobic experience although bottom bunk was offered. I'll be heading off in a bit to see Wat Pho and Wat Arun, as well as Nang Loeng food market. This should be interesting. =)
Variety of delicious unrecognizable crispy snacks from Nang Loeng
9/26/14 at 1716 (Bangkok time)
I was excited to see fresh pomegranate juice, as it was very reminiscent of my favorite drink in Turkey. I was so sad when I realized it was diluted down!
The food experience proved more challenging than I anticipated. Without menus, visuals, or other patrons' plates to point at, I am finding the majority of Thai food establishments difficult to order from. I went ahead and booked a food tour from 8 PM till midnight, which includes transport via tuk tuk. I'm excited for the night view of Wat Arun, and excited to ride my first nighttime tuk tuk ride. It'll also be nice to have some food other than the Thai street food I've been mainly getting. Off to rest for a bit, pack for a bit, and plan for a bit before I meet up!
Delicious Thai tacos, a sweet treat made of spun sugar and egg yolk
Our food guide Mod took us into the "kitchen" area of a restaurant, which was an open back alley where we were able to see the food prep and firey cooking that brought us chicken and crispy noodles
9/27/14 at 0213 (Bangkok time)
Settled in after finishing the food tour, crawling underneath the large grimy gate that closes off the neighborhood from the mall traffic, and uploading some videos for the friends and family. I am sooo full! It was fantastic with lots of different types of food and at different locals-only type places. So grateful for the wonderful tour guide Mod too. Preparing for the weekend market tomorrow and then Wat Arun and the sleeper train to Chiang Mai. It's been fantastic. =)
Nighttime tuk tuk ride with our food guide Mod
Sweet sticky rice with mango
9/27/14 at 1513 (Bangkok time)
Went to Chatuchuk Market and got lost. Ordered a noodle broth dish with beef prior to my endeavor, surprised to find it had little bits of unrecognizable prawn-type creatures mixed in with the beef. Once walking around, I picked up a fresh coconut ice cream dish and loaded up the unrecognizable toppings to enjoy as I walked around in the morning sun. My favorite was the artists within Chatuchuk . . . there was some of the most amazing artwork I have ever seen, sold tiny little sections made of aluminum for a fraction of what they were truly worth. I wish I had a convenient way to ship home some of the pieces I found . . . perhaps wish even more I had room in my home to display some of the sculptures and paintings.
If only I had a way to transport Mark Ruffalo home with me . . .
Fresh coconut ice cream to munch on while walking around
Somehow I found my way to the animal section of Chatuchuk where stall after stall was filled to the brim with owls, hedgehogs, puppies and kittens, turtles, horned beetles, chipmunks, various birds, numerous types of fish, frogs, snakes, and even small furry creatures I didn't recognize. Although most had fans on them, some had been placed in shirts and suits, had bows glued to them to increase their cuteness I guess. Many were shaking, frightened and obviously wild. I was uncomfortable, tried to escape the area but each turn led me to more creatures, more collars, more cages. None were obviously abused, none looked ill, but I felt nauseous and tried to duck out, return to sections of lamps or cheap imitation purses. The animal section took over numerous blocks, separated somewhat by type of animal and I wasn't able to find my way out. Somehow I became turned around, headed away from Chatuchuk towards an adjacent mall.
I tried to turn back towards the market, but found myself on a long stretch of road that was gated off from any connection other than a large dusty overpass where I was forced to traverse a gigantic nearby park. The park was lush and beautiful, even somewhat enjoyable to walk through, but it felt abandoned. With the stifling heat and the cloudless sky, I became thirsty and desperate to return to a train station or any other touch of urban living that might include a water bottle. I truly appreciated the 3 baht public restroom I came across, not only for a bathroom stop but also grateful to see another person within the park.
I had planned on exploring Wat Pho and Wat Arun but after that adventure, I'm back in my AirBNB room, fan on full blast and sweat freshly cleansed & wiped from my face, arms and legs. No one is checking in today and so (luckily) Rob is allowing me to relax in the room until my train at 1935. I think a nap is in order . . .
9/27/14 at 1659 (Bangkok time)
My "kinda hungry but not really" phase of the day led me to eat an entire box of strawberry flavor Pocky with a can of lukewarm Chang malt 'export' beer. Sometimes I disgust myself.
Now to get ready for my train ride to Chiang Mai . . .