Our last stop, so we made it a good one.
Tuesday 22nd August –Bangkok arrival.
What a hot surprise Bangkok is! I’ve just spent 13 weeks in the summer of Scandinavia and it never got this hot or humid.
Our mid afternoon arrival meant Nathan and I were out and about on the streets of Bangkok by late afternoon.
First stop a meal at a local eatery. Thai food in Thailand puts the YUM into Tom Yum Seafood soup, our first meal here. A fresh watermelon icee drink followed and we were off to an exquisitely flavoured start to our 4 days here. The purpose of our visit is to go mad on Thai food, my favourite national cuisine. I have been here before and know there’s several days of flavourful indulgence ahead of us. Wandering the length of Silom Road, browsing the street trader’s wares, what did I spot but the “Barber and Massage” parlour I’d had a foot massage at just before leaving Bangkok on my visit 2 years ago. We strolled in and before long, were reclined on a comfy chair having our feet massaged! Bliss! I almost went to sleep!
MMmm! Did someone say “Beer”? We stopped at some tables outside. What a price difference! Beers are only $1.50 here for 640 ml 6.4% alc instead of $13 for 400ml 5% alc in Norway.
My favourite dish is Thai Red Duck Curry and the best Thai Red Duck Curry in the world is served at a restaurant nearby.
The Mango Tree was still there and so too is their Red Duck Curry. Nathan and I had one each. Served in a carved out pineapple, with bits of pineapple in it too, with Jasmine Rice on the side, this dish is divine.
Wednesday – Day of wandering, by foot and riverboat.
After a great buffet breakfast to start the day. Nathan and I began our wanderings by catching the sky train, from the nearby station to the central pier on the River Praya. From there we jumped on a passenger riverboat north near to the Grand Palace. The short walk there was an interesting mix of vendors and we sampled many items of food as we grazed our way along the kerbside offerings of things as varied as chicken skewers to sweet little pancake bites.
On entering the palace grounds, I was once again in awe of the massive tile mosaic covered structures, the statues and the temples that make up the palace. During our visit a tropical downpour struck and it poured, and it poured, for about 30 minutes. The place suffered a mini flash flood and impatient people started wading around. We waited and eventually the rain stopped and as the waters drained quickly away, we continued wandering the grounds of the Grand Palace.
From the palace instead of returning south by boat, we instead continued heading north as far as the boat went. It wasn’t long before we were the only foreigners on board. From the palace the journey to the northernmost pier took a very pleasant hour as riverfront Bangkok was on show for us.
On arriving, we went wandering the streets, as the Wandera likes doing. (This journey is like ‘tramming’, only I used a riverboat. Same principle – catch something to the end point and wander around.) In a place not frequented by tourists, it was a great opportunity to see what the Thais sold to the locals. Mostly similar stuff to down town.
I found some soaps that made interesting claims. One bar claimed using it on your breasts would make them grow bigger and had pictures on the box to ‘prove’ it. The other claimed using their soap on your body would make you slimmer, and again had the pictures on the box to ‘prove’ it.
Poor women. What if they DID work and you mixed them up in the shower so not only do you get fatter, but your boobs shrink?
On visiting a bakery there, we decided that whilst the Thai make many great foods, baking is not their forte.
We timed it perfectly jumping on an express boat ferry just as it was leaving. This meant the 90 minute trip north only took 60 minutes heading back south along the River Praya.
Skytrain to Silom Road markets. An aroma oil massage beckoned and we thought why not. An hour of relaxation later we continued our wandering of the night market area.
What an assault on the senses Bangkok is! Amazing things to see, the noise of traffic and busy people, the flavours of the food, and the smells, both unpleasant ones jumping at you from stormwater drains, to the aromas of another street stall.
Can I find room in my tummy for this treat?
I like this city a lot. Sure it’s crazy, and I wouldn’t want to live here, but it is a fun place to visit. Again I wished I had two tummies, as the food is Delicious. (With a capital D!)
Tonight we sampled a restaurant on Silom Road, beginning with a memorable Green Mango Salad. Heavenly mains followed and satisfied, we called it a night.
Thursday – the ‘hidden’ Bangkok.
It’s nice being on holidays that your first plan today was to be across town for 1pm.
Yes! I know that a tuk-tuk ride is a must-do Bangkok experience, but as you sit there in the back of a three-wheel 250 CC motorbike, the noise and traffic fumes mingling with the chain smoke of the driver you really aren’t convinced. Why cross town?
We were going bike riding in Bangkok!
For those of you who know how crazy Bangkok’s traffic is, this idea is not as silly as it sounds. An afternoon with ABC – Amazing Bangkok Cycle Tours will take you to places in Bangkok you would never have dreamed existed, let alone find them. I did a tour with them in 2004 and it was a highlight of my Bangkok visit. Today did not disappoint.
With just six clients and two guides, our afternoon cycle began with a visit to a garden glove factory. Fancy a day’s work in a hot building for $6? Thought not.
Sometimes when travelling, I get a real sense of how lucky I am and we are in Australia. This was one of those times.
Narrow lanes and convoluted pathways through slums full of happy people led us to the 24/7 fresh produce markets. Not sure of their name, but they run every day and night selling all manner of produce. Fantastic fresh fruit was purchased and sampled. On seeing the poultry vendor, selling chicken pieces, whole plucked chickens and live chooks made me glad chickens aren’t smart enough to put 2 and 2 together and see what’s coming. We cycled through the markets, our noses assaulted by an array of smells, both good and bad. Sight and sound play a part, but in markets, the smells are amazing.
A visit to a Buddhist monastery provided a loo stop before we crossed the river by ‘long tail’ boat, bikes and all. On the other side, there’s not a high rise to be found. Instead the swampy land is dotted with poor housing connected by a labyrinth of concrete walkways. Just one metre wide these pathways were perched several metres above what varied between mud and clay, and putrid water. Neither appealed so we concentrated on staying on the path. The places here that ABC tours take you are the Bangkok I’d never visit if they didn’t take me. The pathways really are like a maze – with no answer sheet. The solitude of green plants and no traffic noise is beautiful, especially knowing manic Bangkok is so close, just over the river.
Before we knew it, we were chugging back across the Chao Praya to the Bangkok we’d been able to leave behind.
We didn’t need to catch a tuk-tuk and the traffic is mad now with peak hour. We decided to catch the skytrain back the Dusit Thani Hotel. This hotel and location are perfect. We’ve treated ourselves to a 5-star finish to the holiday. The room and beds are huge and comfortable. The service? I feel awkward when there’s a bloke waiting in the lobby, no matter what time of night it is, to push the ‘up’ button on the lift. Yikes! I’m happy to do that!
Quick relax, shower then out for dinner. Tonight we chose a restaurant very close, a place that was more up-market and funky than most. This place would not have been out of place in any western city, yet it wasn’t expensive. Another couple of Thai meals shared and these two travellers knew why they’d come to Bangkok. Now where did I put that other tummy?
Time to explore some bars on Patpong Road. Oops! The first bar was full of dirty old men and had girls wearing numbers swinging on poles. Not what we wanted, we skulled our beer and ran!
The next bar was the famous Elvis bar, not sure of its name. Elvis had been on earlier in the evening, but we got….wait for it…..Tom Jones. Unless that was the real Elvis, this probably wasn’t Tom Jones either. I wonder if that means the $3 CDs, DVDs and games being sold up and down the street aren’t the real thing either? This bar was fun and a nice mix of people.
Friday – our last day in Bangkok and the last day of my holiday.
Recovery began with an al-a-carte breakfast of Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, a favourite. Returning to bed we slept until 1, then went for a swim in the hotel pool. The afternoon had us returning to the local restaurant we’d had the soup at the first the first arvo for another Tom Yum, extra yum, before we did some shopping. A foot massage sent us to Blissland and was a great end to our time here.
We have the room booked tonight so we didn’t have to check out earlier.
Beers and remaining mangosteens (fruit) were consumed as we showered, changed, then packed a holiday’s worth of stuff into our bags for our flight to Perth.
Our car met us at 8:30 as planned, and we said good-bye to Bangkok as we took of just prior to midnight..
A short overnight flight and I will be home to Perth, the greatest city on Earth.