Monday, July 15, 2013

Two Nights in Bangkok

I have a confession.

For the longest time, whenever someone spoke of Thailand I would say "oh that's nice" and other polite things but secretly I would think about how it was overrated and surely not as great as everyone made it out to be.

Turns out it really is all that and a slice of cake.

We left Phnom Penh late Saturday night, after a horrendous few days that involved packing up the house I've lived in since I moved to Cambodia, some teary goodbyes to colleagues, friends and children I taught, buying of last minute travel items and driving home in the pouring rain, wearing a torn raincoat and bearing a dud dinner.  

Boarding a sleeper bus we set off on the first leg of our journey, Phnom Penh to Bangkok.  The sleeper part was a bit of a misnomer as the speaker near our heads blared distorted Khmer songs alternated with  a Cambodian David Attenborough narrating a documentary on Angkor Wat until past midnight with the accompanying visuals on the grainy TV turned up to the brightest setting possible. And then the border. Surprisingly quick and painless with a short wait and then we were on a minibus to Bangkok.  The only drama came just before we left when a wild eyed young man started yelling about his friend not being able to fit in the bus as we were full.  A mumbled comment from another passenger. "I'm sure he's on drugs." He soon disembarked to wait for the next bus and we proceeded in peace.

I noticed an incredible sight as we drove. The roads were smooth and wide, perfectly paved and lined with street lights. The drivers followed the road rules.  The countryside was green and bright. Where was I? And then Bangkok! Bangkok is just pretty dang cool.  It's contradictory, a little wild with a sleazy and very large underbelly.  It's exciting and full of secrets and my brief stay of 2 nights was a brief glimpse into a city that would take years to uncover.

Here are some things I did:

Sat and watched throngs of people passing while waiting for a bus at the Thai border

 Walked along Khao San Road with a massive backpack perched at an odd angle on my back

Ate breakfast at our hotel which was chock a block with weird and wonderful retro furniture, knick knacks and decor

Rode the Skytrain multiple times to get the most out of the day pass

Admired the many wonders of Chatuchak Market, including this beautiful crockery

Rode down the river on a ferry before disembarking to do a walking tour of the palace and surrounds

Slept in a bedroom that contained this mural on one whole wall

Experienced a tastebude explosion in response to these banana and Nutella pancakes

Had to cover up because I was inappropriately dressed and then didn't get the memo to smile in a touristy fashion

Saw a plethora of stunning temples, a fantastic gallery of some of the Queen's immaculately preserved outfits and the Royal Palace

Another highlight which I couldn't find a photo for was our dinner in the Arab Quarter.  You walk down a street similar to any other in Bangkok and with a mere turn find yourself immersed in a different world.. shop signs are in Arabic, women are clothed in chadors, wisps of smoke from hookah pipes curl upward, the sizzle of grilled lamb kebabs is enhanced by the scents of lime, yoghurt and coriander.  It's incredible and the meal of grilled lamb, chicken and beef kebabs, feta salad and beer was a feast; and a fitting last dinner before the following day's journey to Chiang Mai.

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