Entry by Ryan, additions in italics by Kayleigh. Check out our pics on https://instagram.com/get_lost_insta/
19.05.2015 - 25.06.2015 38 °C
Bangkok (part 1)
After landing in Suvarnabhumi Airport, we boarded the SkyTrain (BTS) to Makkasan station, which was fairly close to our hostel and a lot cheaper than a taxi from the airport. We made our way out onto the street and tried to get a taxi from there, but the driver refused to take us. Turns out he wouldn’t make enough money if we wanted to go on the meter (cheaper than agreeing on a fixed price) as we were fairly close and there was a lot of traffic! He directed us to the MRT (metro/underground) which could take us the one stop we needed to travel to arrive outside our hostel. It was all very easy to use. Inside the station it has a map of all the stops and their respective prices; everything is paid in single journeys.
We arrived at Sukhumvit station and walked the 2 minutes around the corner to our hostel, called 3Howw. It seemed fairly empty, but looked very clean and was central to all the attractions in Sukhumvit. Once in the room it was an extremely easy decision to have a nap. It had been a very long two days travel, and the bed felt like heaven! It’s not surprising the two hour planned nap turned into four.
We woke up hungry and excited to explore! Last time we were in Bangkok the coup happened and we weren’t allowed outside of our hotel (it was 5 star, so no big hastle!), but this time we were ready to see the sites. Our first stop was a restaurant called Dine in the Dark, in the Grand Sheraton, which was a super posh hotel. The concept for the restaurant is really cool, the whole place is in pitch darkness and you are served by blind waiters! We chose a set menu but couldn’t see what we would actually be eating. I chose vegetarian and Ryan picked Asian. We had our own waiter just waiting on us and met him at the entrance, his name was Bin and we all put our hands on each others shoulders and went through several curtains into the dark restaurant. Because talking was the only way to know where people were, we ended up having a lot of conversation with him! The food was really great but it was so difficult in the dark to know what you were eating or where things were so we ended up eating with our hands a lot! I had a dish with carrot in and didn’t even know what it was, even though I recognised the taste, and Ryan got told by mistake his beef was lamb and was then convinced it really was lamb! It was expensive but some of the proceeds went to charities for blind people in Thailand, so definitely worth it.
We walked back to the hostel and the area felt really safe to walk in even in the dark. We had to walk past an infamous street called Soi Cowboy, a neon jungle of sleaze but quite fun to walk down! It was a massive shock to us even though we knew what to expect. There were dozens of girls outside the bars barely wearing anything and a lot of single men on their own wandering around. The whole street is basically strip clubs and brothels. We walked up and down the street and then wandered back to the hostel, still knackered despite our nap and slept for about 12 hours.
I am in no way at all ashamed to say we basically spent a whole day in a shopping centre. About 5 minutes walk from our hostel was a place called Terminal 21, an 8 floor building, with 3 floors of restaurants, a floor dedicated to men’s clothes, one for women’s clothes, a floor for accessories, one for a bit of everything, and the top floor was electronics, a gym and a MASSIVE cinema. The best part about this place was that it was set out like an airport, and each floor was modelled after a destination. Women’s was Paris, men’s was London, the cinema was Hollywood etc. We had a window-shop in every stall and shop in the place, but didn’t dare buy anything as it was way, way over our budget (Sukhumvit is the business district of Bangkok, and one of the more effluent). We had a drink break mid-shop, in a cafe set out like a tram in San Francisco. Leaning out over the window you could see right the way the basement floor (the Caribbean), which was 6 floors below. It was pretty cool. We carried on mooching about until we got hungry, and eventually settled on a sushi restaurant (also in San Francisco). We had a feast! For about £10 in total we each had a main dish, a side salad, miso soup, rice, a small dish of spicy stuff, and to accompany that, an extra side of California rolls. After a long day walking about, we got back to the room about 8ish, watched some Game of Thrones, and Kayleigh packed for her trip back home.
I had to go home for a biopsy, which I actually only found out I needed the day before we left (my birthday!), which was pretty stressful but the doctors and nurses assured me that whilst it was something that needed to be done soon, it was pretty routine and nothing to worry about. We had been travelling for only about three weeks at this point, not quite long enough for homesickness to kick in but I was definitely looking forward to some English food and seeing my family (and Emma). My flights were with Emirates so they were pretty nice, with a stop over there and back in Dubai. It was weirdly upsetting leaving Ryan in Bangkok airport, even though it was only for a week. I got the appointment over and done with, drank a lot of smoothies with my mum (she had just bought a smoothie maker), smothered my dog in cuddles, and drank a lot with Emma. I headed back to Bangkok extremely hungover and the journey took thirty hours in all. But here’s more about Ryan’s much more interesting week.
After getting the BTS and MRT back from the airport, I packed my bag and killed an hour in the room watching some random movie on tv before having to check out. I’d already done some research on where I wanted to have a as a base while Kayleigh was away. A hostel called Bodega was only about 10 minutes walk away, so still very central, and was apparently very laid back and a social. I turned up without a reservation and was put into a 16 bed mixed dorm. I was still pretty bummed about Kayleigh heading back home, so I thought I’d go catch a movie at Terminal 21. As I set off a couple of guys from the hostel were also heading out, I got chatting to them a little bit. There was Raffi, Ryan, and Brian. Apparently I was the fifth Ryan staying at the hostel in the past few days, along with four Brians. They were heading off to a pharmacy to try and get some Valium for the long overnight train to the islands down south. I said I’d catch up with them later and headed to the cinema. The plan, as I am a massive nerd was to watch the second Avengers film again, but I decided on a whim to watch the new Mad Max: Fury Road. Absolutely mind-blowing film. When I got back the guys were having a few beers in the bar area, I joined them. This drinking started about 3/4pm-ish. This carried on slowly until the beer pong tournament started at 7pm, which was followed by a game of Ring of Fire (a.k.a. Kings Cup). I don’t remember much of the later stages of the drinking, but apparently the elderly Chinese man in the bunk below me had to point me to my bed when I stumbled up to the dorm.
The hangover was pretty bad, but not to the point where I felt sick. It was more like a dull ache in the base of my head that would not go all day. For some reason that is still unknown to me, I decided a great way to cure my hangover would be to walk 3 miles in the blistering Bangkok heat to a place called Purr Cat Cafe. I’m not sure if this is a high or low point in my life. I was sat on my own, with a cake and iced coffee for one (actually on the menu, not surprising for a cat cafe), clearly hungover, playing with cats. I should point out that there were several couples here occasionally throwing me sympathetic looks. I skyped Kayleigh, as she would’ve loved it! Also I felt a bit less lonely :p. The cafe itself was very cool. There was lots of toys to play with the cats, they had a run which extended all the way along the ceiling, and the cake was very good. I walked back to the hostel and bumped into Raffi. I mentioned I wanted to have a look a Chatuchak weekend market tomorrow. This is a market with 8,000 stalls, and is advertised for being the only market in the world where you can buy anything apart from people. He was intrigued and said he’d like to see it as well, so we planned to head out at 11ish, as he was leaving Bangkok that day and needed to pack.
The next morning I got up about 8am, had some breakfast and walked the 10 minutes to the closest gym I could find. It was honestly one the best stocked gyms I’ve been in, and it was completely dead. After about an hour in the terrible air-con I was sweating like a pig, and decided to call it a day. I grabbed some street food on the way back, probably Pad Thai (I can’t remember), had a shower and met Raffi in the bar area. Two girls from his dorm, Ffion and Mali (sorry if I’m spelling that wrong :p), wanted to join us, so we took the 45 minute BTS journey to Chatuchak station and followed the crowd into the most confusing, disorientating market I have ever seen. It was like a maze; a lot of stalls sold very similar merchandise, living up the popular saying in S/E Asia “Same Same, But Different’. A lot of what we saw was counterfeit or ‘copy’ versions of watches, bags, hats etc. There was numerous stalls dedicated to bathroom soaps, and a surprising amount of penis shaped products, ranging from ornaments to candles. We sat down for a bite to eat, with several different menus thrust in our direction, ordered what we wanted, and then had to avoid the squabbles between stall-owners who were adamant we chose from their menu. The good thing about this was it made bartering the price extremely easy, it seemed the owners were more interested in getting one up on the neighbouring stalls than making the most profit. After we’d wandered round for about an hour we became determined to seek out the pets and exotic animals that we’d heard about. Chatuchak is not completely disorganised, there are about 30 sections, in which there are many sois (roads/streets). Maps were located throughout the place, with signs telling you where you were and what was being sold nearby. We found some extremely cute puppies, on sale for the equivalent of a few hundred pounds. We kept looking and found another stand. This is where I lost my enthusiasm for trying to find the animals. These puppies we’re not in good accommodation, only had one or two fans to keep them cool, and this place was HOT! The owner of the stand refused to allow you to take photos, obviously to stop any bad press getting online, and would charge you a hefty fine if you did. It was quite upsetting and if possible, I would absolutely boycott the buying of animals from there until better standards we’re available. A bit downhearted, and exhausted, we decided we’d have a final look around before we hopped back on the BTS to the hostel. Chatuchak was definitely a unique experience, and although the poor state of the puppies put a dampener on it, I’m glad I got to witness the market in all its madness.
When we arrived back, the others wanted to go for a full thai massage. After hearing the story of another girl staying at the hostel, in which she was “touched down below” for a few seconds, Raffi and I were a bit apprehensive to say the least. We went round the corner to a place the hostel recommended (unfortunately I can’t remember the name). The girls opted for the full, Raffi and I bottled it and decided on a foot massage. We were led through the back of the building and up three flights of stairs into a seedy looking room, with only curtains separating mattresses on the floor. If everybody I’d seen in the building had not been wearing identical uniforms, I would have been a lot more concerned. As it turned out, the place was legit. This being my first massage ever, I couldn’t understand how anyone could have their feet rubbed for an hour! I put my headphones in, listened to some dance music (which was surprisingly relaxing) and shut my eyes, it was actually a very nice experience. The staff were all very professional, and the time seemed to fly by. I had about 25 minutes spent on each leg, and for 10 minutes at the end had a quick neck, head and arm massage. We’d only spent 100 baht (£2), so it was a bargain. That evening was very relaxed. Had a few beers, said bye to Raffi, and went to get an early night. In the dorm I got chatting to a guy called Rory, and told him I was going for a walking tour of the temples, near the Khao San Road area tomorrow. He seemed keen on the idea, so we decided we’d go at early the next morning.
Up early as planned, Rory and I decided we wanted to try and get to the start of the walking tour without use of a taxi. This is considered the standard way to get there from the Sukhumvit area, taking about 50-60 minutes, depending on traffic and costing about 100 baht. We took the BTS to a station called Saphan Taksin, a location near the river. We found a cheap river taxi which took us up a few stops to right outside Wat Pho (a.k.a. The Temple of the Reclining Buddha). The trip probably cost us 80 baht each, and took roughly the same length of time, but was a lot more fun and we got to see some of Bangkok from the river. Wat Pho is a very large area, consisting of lots of smaller buildings containing other shrines to Buddha where people can pray; a historical building, showing the changes in the depictions of Buddha and the building of Wat Pho; as well as other structures that looked incredible, but I have no idea what purpose they serve. The main chamber itself was about 70m long and the reclining Buddha was HUGE! Some pictures taken show its size, but to be next to it was amazing. Unfortunately, it’s feet were under restoration so we couldn’t see it in all its glory, but it’s understandable that something made in 1788 would require some upkeep. The next stop on the tour was the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the Grand Palace (the previous home of the King of Thailand). Rory had already been, so opted to find a coffee shop with air-con while I went inside. Entry cost 500 baht, and I was required to borrow some ‘long trousers’ to keep to the dress code. It was about 35 degrees and I was sweating profusely, but it was worth it. You walk through the entrance gate into the open complex of the Emerald Buddha, the main hall is directly in front of you with large statues of dragons and other impressive buildings everywhere! The Emerald Buddha itself is tiny, the hall in which it’s located was rammed full of people praying, and first time walking through I didn’t even spot it. Second time I noticed a small glass container (like you would have for a lantern) and inside a statue of Buddha, carved in pure emerald. Must be worth a mint, as there was lots of security. In the complex there was a vast painting along a long corridor depicting an epic fight that happened centuries ago, after following that I came to the entrance of the grounds of the Grand Palace. It puts Buckingham Palace to shame. The two buildings were comprised of several different styles, representing the different religious building styles throughout the ages. It is the most Thai thing I have ever seen. I’d been looking around for about an hour and felt bad for leaving Rory on his own, so I handed back in my long pants and met him in a well needed air-con cafe. Next step was the Khao San road. Using an app on my phone (pretty much Google maps, but offline) we walked for 20 minutes, over some VERY busy roads, and found it. Vaguely remembering it from last year, when Kayleigh and I had a fleeting visit, it is the heart of Bangkok’s backpacker scene. Although because of its reputation as such, prices for hostels, beer and food have skyrocketed from what they once were. But the place has not lost any of its sleaze, tuk tuk drivers seemed to all double as sellers for the classic ‘ping pong pussy show’. Needless to say there was lots of “no thanks”, “just walking thanks mate”, “nope, no pussy today thanks”. It looks a bit pathetic during the day, all of the neon signs ready for that night switched off, but makes up for it with the many street food and market stalls. After trying to shake a tuk tuk driver who followed us for about 100 meters trying to get us to use his services, we walked to Phra Sumen Fort, an old 18th century fort in a nice park area. There wasn’t a lot to see so we chose to move on, with the next stop being Democracy monument. This is an impressive monument that occupies a large roundabout in the centre of Bangkok, to commemorate the Siamese revolution in 1932. Again, there wasn’t much to do apart from take some pictures so we decided to head to the closest BTS station and go back to the hostel. We were almost caught in a scam from a local who seemed very friendly, offering us advice on which temples to see (as some where open today only!! NOT) and his friend could take us to them for a reasonable price. I have very quickly figured out that these scams often rely of the politeness of tourists. They will keep on at you, often walking with you for quite a while trying to sell you this ‘not to be missed experience’. Occasionally when you refuse they will accuse you of being rude, and tell you they’re only trying to help; if not for the extortionate price this could be true, but it isn’t. We got away from the scam with a sigh of relief, which was short lived as we had about 3 miles to walk to the station. I reckon by this point we had walked about 6-7 miles already, but we powered on, determined not to get a taxi or tuk tuk. We found ourselves in a strange area, without a single tourist in sight. There was busy traffic and road works but still heaving markets on either side of the roads with locals doing business, we got a lot of stares. I had a feeling that this area wasn’t visited by tourists much, this felt like real Bangkok. A long walk down this straight road brought us to the MRT station Hua Lumpong. We hopped on, glad for the air-con, and stopped off at Lumphini Park on the way back. This is a beautiful, massive park area in the middle of Bangkok. It is a hidden treasure, with open grassy areas, picnic tables, tennis courts (whoever would play tennis outside in that heat I do not know) and a large lake in the centre. This was the highlight. Roaming about in the lake were wild Monitor lizards and terrapins, they would just climb out of the lake and saunter about. A local told us to be careful as they like to climb trees and sit on branches for shade; but as they are so large it has been known for branches for snap, and fall (with lizard) onto people chilling below. We finally made it back to the hostel, absolutely knackered. Me, Rory and a guy called Billy decided we’d go to the cinema that evening and watch the Avengers. I decided to keep it a secret that I’d already seen it, didn’t want to scare off my new friends with my excessive nerdiness. We got back from the film and Billy said he was going out to the Khao San road to meet some guys he’d previously been travelling with for drinks. Rory passed, but a girl called Hannah (who is also weirdly from Oxford) in the dorm, said she was up for some drinks, so we got a taxi and headed out.
It was about 10pm, and everyone else I saw on the Khao San road was clearly very drunk already, apparently everything shuts up and finished by about 1-2pm so people start early. We met Billy’s mates and sat in a bar that was ridiculously loud, it seemed to be having a bass war against the bar on the other side of the road. We had a few drinks, and noticed there was a birthday party happening on the table next to us. Now this wasn’t an ordinary birthday party. This was a ladyboy birthday, it was odd to say the least. Lots of very tall ladyboys, not wearing a lot, doing shots and dancing on their chairs; and then at the other side of the table was their families! There was elderly relatives and kids, most definitely too young to be in a bar amongst drunk and drugged up people. The birthday ‘girl’ took a shine to Billy’s friend Toby, and he even got a slice of cake off her (not a euphemism). A few buckets of Sangsom rum and Redbull later, we decided to head to the ingeniously named club, “The Club”. Things start to get a bit blurry here for me. I was a bit taller than everyone so it took more to get me drunk. Everyone else seemed to have had enough to drink to be ready to dance, or maybe just don’t feel as embarrassed as me when I try to dance sober, but I tried to play catch up. A few shots and another bucket later, I was just about ready when the lights came on, and everybody had to leave. Grabbed a tuk-tuk back to the hostel, and went to bed. The next day wasn’t a fun hangover like the one with the cat cafe. I slept a lot, grateful for the fan right next to my bed. I think I left bed three times that day. Once to get water and Pringles, once to get some street food for dinner, and once to shower before going back to bed. I didn’t mind though, because as fun as it was experiencing being a backpacker on your own, I couldn’t wait for Kayleigh to get back the next day!