Well, I’ve now been in oppressively hot, steamy Bangkok, for the last few days. Time to update everyone on what and where I have been the last few days.
After my last entry I was off to explorer downtown Siem Reap.
They had an “old” market area which had interesting nick knacks, handicrafts, an array of fruits and vegetables, various animal parts, and finally deodorant. The market area is located near the tourist hangout “Pub Street” a wide range or restaurants and bars can be found here, but with the combination of H1N1 and the economy, the bars, the restaurants, and the streets are empty. I picked a great little French Khmer restaurant and had a four course breakfast for $3.50. It seemed a great location, but with the lack of other tourists I was the target for many orphans selling bracelets and mine victims selling books. It was a tough meal to enjoy. At around 11:00am I made my way to the airport to try and jump on an earlier flight.
China Air needs to take lessons from Bangkok Air.
Upon arrival at the airport I quickly made it over to the nearest Bangkok Air desk to see if I could change my return flight from 9am to one of the three earlier flights. Not only did they hook me up with the first flight out of there, they also gave me a a full refund for my missed flight from Bangkok. Rock on. After a 55 minute flight I was in Bangkok, through customs in a snap, and in a cab on my way to New Siam II. A nice little place in an incredibly convenient location down a quiet alley, just steps away from Khao San Rd(the backpackers strip), the Royal Palace, Wat’s a plenty, the river, and the occasional rat the size of a small cat.
Talk about a small world. After throwing my bags in my economy room, I was off to get my bearings and check out the local scene.
After walking 100 feet down the alley you come out on a street made of red stone, on one side are bars, restaurants, massage parlors, and travel shops catering to western travelers. On the other a beautiful Wat with street vendors and food carts lined in front of it. After a few hundred meters you make it out to Khao San rd. which has become a haven to foreign backpackers.
Fake Rolex’s, cricket on a stick, and 25 Bhat($.60 USD) Pad Thai a plenty. About 5 minutes on the street, in a city of 6 million, with sites to see everywhere, I run in to the Taiwanese brother and sister couple from Beijing again. What are the chances. After some catching up, and an invite from them, we hop into a cab to go see a Thai Cultural Show. The show was Broadway quality and equally enjoyable. Afterward we made it to one of the many night markets where we perused knock-off “fill in the blank” brand items. By midnight I was asleep only to be awoken at 2:30am by Brittany, my cousin, and Bryan, her boyfriend, who arrived on a late flight from California. They will be joining me the next few days before I head off to Laos.
Bangkok on about $20 a day.
It is amazing how inexpensive Bangkok is, even with all the westerners here. A quick breakdown of my daily expenses. 350 Baht($10 USD) for my room, now this isn’t even a budget room, I have air conditioning and my own private shower.The truly frugal can find beds for under $1 USD a day. Breakfast included two eggs, two pieces of toast with jam, bacon, juice was about 100 Baht(under $3 USD). Only one of the numerous Wat’s we went to had a fee and that was only 50 Baht(~$1.50 USD) this one being unique housing the reclining gold Buddha, all 145 meters long of it. After going through the local vegetable market and through Chinatowns Sampeng Lane(An endless lane of vendors in a ridiculously tight walking path) we ended up at the only Chinese restaurant we could find that had an indoor air-conditioned area. 7 Dim Sum plates later and 100 Baht(under $3 USD) later we were off back to our room via water taxi for 13 Baht($.30 USD)for a nap.
That evening we headed out to Khao Son rd were I enjoyed Pad Thai for 80 Baht($2.30 USD) before heading via taxi for 100 Baht(Under $3 USD split three ways, my share $1 USD) to Soi Cowboy, a famous sex-tourist strip, where we gawked(free) at business men as the entered empty armed and left with their female and sometimes she-male(wonder if they knew ahead of time, they’ll find out soon enough) entertainment for the evening. Another 33 Baht($1 USD) share of a cab ride home and an entertaining walk down the intoxicated Khao San rd, we turned in for the evening. Including three 1.5 liter bottles of water throughout the day at about 12 Baht (~$.30 USD) a day and you were set. An entire day of entertainment, with room and food, for the price of a movie, small popcorn and small drink at home. Not bad.
The next day we decided to make it to the famous outdoor Chatuchak market, via the Skytrain.
The market had 1000’s of vendors and went on endlessly. We had been fortunate the last few days that we had not had any rain with it still being rainy season, but that changed today. The clouds rolled in and the rain fell sideways. When it first began we were still sheltered by the awnings of the market, although a bit crammed now that everyone was seeking cover. The rate of rain was unusually hard and with in 20 minutes the drains began to backup. The walkways between stores began to become canals which gave us no other option but to wade through them only to occasionally find the dry spots. The dry spots seemed to be already reserved by the cockroaches and local Thai’s doing a dance to try and keep them off their feet. Our canal safari through the market we continued to see small water snakes(or leaches), rats, and the occasional animal or human excrement floating by. The crazy thing was, in the deeper sections, some locals decided this would be a good place to cool off and were swimming in this. When we finally did make it back to our hotel there was a fight to get to the shower, where we all spent to long, in to hot of water, with to much soap.
That evening we went to see Thailand’s national sport, Muai Thai Boxing, a unique style and version of kick boxing.
Before each round, each fighter works there way around the ring doing different prayers, dances, and meditations that are unique to whatever fighting school they come from. When the round begins so does music, a pulsating drum and a whiny oboe type instrument are the boxers background music as they begin their dance. They bounce and move with the music as each round goes on, the first rounds are tame and docile as each fighter is simply feeling out the other fighter, the last two rounds is were it becomes amazingly intense frenzy of fists and feet. The local Thai’s scream with every blow and as the place wagers on the different fights.
The age and size of the fighters was a wide range from 12 to around 18 years old. The most bizarre event was witnessing a knock out. In the U.S a doctor would have been there to check them out before being moved, and they would have had an EMT standing by to put them on backboard with neck-brace. Here, as soon as the ref declared knockout, they rolled most of the young mans body on to a stretcher, one arm and half his leg hanging limp off the side of the stretcher as they quickly slid him off for the ring for the next fight to begin. After five fights, a 100 Baht taxi ride, and a couple hops over chihuahua sized rats we were back in our beds for another enjoyable rest in our air-conditioned room.
Tomorrow we are going to spend a bit more time seeing some of the wats, temples, and palaces. Until then…