Rolling up to our swanky new hotel on foot, clad in a backpacker-esque get up (dryfit top, dryfit shorts, comfy white Birkenstock’s), I was suddenly self-conscious of my attire. Perhaps the washed out tops and casual shorts I had donned for the majority of the previous 30 days would no longer suffice in my new, more upscale, address. My friend Sadat instantly recognized me approaching from where he was seated on the outdoor patio of the ‘Mini Bar’ hotel restaurant. Both of us were excited to finally meet up and swap stories from the last month or so, while he ate breakfast and melted into vacation mode with a Heineken. After he finished eating and we caught up, we headed upstairs to check out the room. It reminded me of a compact pied-a-terre in one of Toronto’s more high-end buildings. I guessed it to be about 400 square feet. The entryway opened into a small kitchen, complete with cooktop, microwave, fridge, toaster and kettle. The small bathroom featured a benched shower and toilet, separated from the main room by a sliding door. The bathroom sink and kitchen were part of the main room, which included a desk and chair, sofa and coffee table. The sleeping area consisted of two separate beds and a wall-mounted tv, separated from the main area by a frosted tri-panel sliding door. Best of all, the place was clean and ours for the next 3.5 days.
After unpacking and cleaning myself up, we departed on foot to check out the nearby shopping centres Siam Paragon and Siam Centre. Siam Paragon is the more luxurious of the two with stores like Burberry, Chanel and stores selling brands I didn’t even know existed. We spent a short time looking around, but neither of us was interested in buying anything there so we continued on to Siam Centre, with a short stop at a local eatery to have lunch. Siam Centre is a really good mall for mid-range brand name clothing. For me, there was Zara and Forever 21, though both seemed a bit more expensive than at home. I wasn’t really in a shopping mood, so after we had walked around and determined that the mall was good enough to come back to on another day, we headed to a nearby theatre to see Hangover: Part 2.
I didn’t have very high expectations for the movie, but knew it was filmed in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand so we figured it was worth seeing. The movie had some funny parts, yet on the whole wasn’t as good as the first movie. It was cool to see parts of Thailand in the movie though. After it finished we were both pretty famished and had planned to eat somewhere around Pat Pong Night Market. It took an insanely long time to get there by cab due to the heavy downpour and insane traffic. Forty-five minutes later we arrived to the night market area and located a nearby restaurant where I had a delicious curry fried rice (I can’t get enough fried rice, when I’m back in Canada I won’t eat it anymore but on my trip through South East Asia it’s been a staple). After dinner we perused the stalls at the night market for a couple hours, which mostly sold watches and bags. I hadn’t particularly liked this market before because I found the stall people to be very aggressive but it was the only night market I knew of in Bangkok. Sadat only bought a few small things as he was unable to get the ultimate bargain on a watch. We were both pretty exhausted and decided to return to the hotel.
The next day we took it easy in the morning. We slept in, went to the gym (a pretty impressive rooftop gym), had some eggs for breakfast, and lay out by the outdoor rooftop pool for a short while (we also made reservations to eat at Sirocco, the upscale outdoor rooftop restaurant featured in the Hangover: Part 2 movie, and the world’s largest all open-air restaurant). Our plan was to hit up the Grand Palace that day. By the time we left the hotel, it was early afternoon and we were hungry for lunch. We took the transit to Hua Lamphong station and located a tuk tuk driver to take us into Chinatown. We took a few photos and then headed into nearby restaurant. We shared fried morning glory, fried vegetable spring rolls, shrimp fried rice and fried shrimp (by the following day I had a pretty awful case of Traveler’s D which I was pretty sure came from this food). During our giant meal we realized that the Palace was probably already closed and decide to nix that plan and instead go there first thing the following morning. Instead, we decided to head back to the Siam Centre, to do a bit of shopping. I was hoping to pick up a few nicer things for the islands and wasn’t keen to pick up these items at the markets where you don’t have the option to try them on. I know it’s a bit strange though to be in Thailand and buy things that I could get at my neighbourhood mall in Ontario. After we had spent several hours in the centre, we raced over to nearby MBK mall which was more of a bargain mall with lots of shop stalls. The mall was mostly closing so there wasn’t much shopping we could do. By 10pm we were wiped. We headed back in for the night.
Me in Chinatown; me and my friend with a wax Tom Cruise at one of the malls
The next day we rose early to make the trek to the Grand Palace. Fortunately it was a Saturday so taking a taxi from the end of the subway line didn’t take very long or cost as much. It was scorching hot at the temple, and there were many more people visiting that day (versus my visit a few days prior during the week). Sadat took the requisite number of photos and we were finally on our way. I took him to the same air-conditioned restaurant nearby for lunch, and I ordered and enjoyed the same curry. We headed next by taxi to one of the raised train stops, so that we could take the train up to Chatuchak Weekend Market, a 35 acre market located north of the city. The trains cars were packed, which was impressive for a Saturday. As our train approached our exit stop, I could see building after building of the market, and people everywhere. It was certainly a bit intimidating. Once we arrived, we located a map and began to navigate our way through the complex array of identical looking buildings, making certain to avoid the ‘animal’ section where I was certain you would see all manner of animal squished into cramped dirty cages. The quality and price of the merchandise was generally quite good at the market. There were lots of knock-offs of course, but there was also tons of boutiques selling more creative artsy-fartsy uniquities (this isn’t a word but I think it should be). We both really enjoyed the afternoon. After a few hours we were pretty hot and tired, and didn’t want to be out too late before our big dinner reservation that evening at Sirocco.
Despite a long rest back at the hotel, we were pressed to make our 10pm reservation at the restaurant. As soon as we got there we saw a poster in the main lobby showing scenes from Hangover: Part 2 that had been shot at the restaurant, we both thought it was pretty awesome. We rode the elevator up 64 floors to the rooftop restaurant and bar. We exited the elevator and walked out onto the rooftop terrace. A lovely jazz banding was playing and the moon was shining, which made me feel like I had walked into a movie. We were shown to our candle-lit table on the edge of the terrace, overlooking Bangkok below. It was magnificent. We had a very nice dinner and a bottle of wine. I was infinitely glad we had decided to go there.
Crazy traffic in Bangkok; street called Soi Cowboy which has many prostitute clubs for westerners
Beautiful view of Bangkok from Sirocco; shot made famous by Hangover 2
The next morning, we packed up, checked out, and taxi’d to the airport for our afternoon flight to the island of Koh Samui, to start our Thai island adventure.
Sunday, my only full free day, and what did I do? Sleep and sleep, luckily room service woke me up eventually. I guess all work along with sleep deprivation do that to you, that and the fact that I was out the night before and tend to sleep in at weekends.
I went to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, which I was advised to by my local friend. I thought, yeah, maybe one hour. One hour became 3, where I rushed, ran in circles found and lost many things, but really experienced Bangkok. There was so much people, I even got a map for navigation, but unfortunately the map diffused me more than it helped me. I didn’t buy that much, mostly because I felt overwhelmed, stressed out due to time (I really wanted to see everything). Again, they had E V E R Y T H I N G, some really nice art, pets, furniture etc. etc…
The reason why I was rushing was because I really wanted to see the Emerald Temple (Wat Phra Kaew) during daytime, which is supposed to be really beautiful. So I rushed home, all sweaty, took a shower, which showed out to be redundant because it started raining. When it rains in Thailand during rain season, it rains, a LOT. When I got there, they had close, apparently they close by 03:30 pm. But nevertheless, we went out and had some dinner by the river, with a view of another temple (one of the pictures).
We continued to the backpacker district and found our fair share of tourist, massage places and cheap t-shirts. I even saw a “fish-treatment” basically, you put your feet in a aquarium and small fishes eat your dead skin. Not really my cup of tea. Neither was the insect snacks that were served on the streets. But don’t worry, they had other things to eat.
That was my Sunday, and if I have time during the week (highly unlikely) I’ll visit the temples during day time, when it isn’t closed. I definitely have to get back to Bangkok, the city needs more time than I have spent on it. Hopefully I’ll be back soon enough.
An antiques and oddments shop in Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok, Thailand.
The market is an organised maze of shops in specialist sections. I gravitate towards the clothes section, full of boutique shops selling clothes that I usually prefer to admire than buy (partly because I’m a size or two too big for most Thai women’s clothes); the main street cutting through the market, lined with food stalls, especially the ones selling fried quail eggs; and the antiques section, which sells a fascinating array of things. Old coins and notes, stylised fake-teak spirit houses, silver hilltribe earrings, kitschy school rulers, packets of saffron, and countless statues are only some of what I’ve found there. Getting lost in Chatuchak is obligatory (and usually inevitable).