Our last stop in S.E.A. before we head to India!
29.01.2010 - 02.02.2010 32 °C
We chose to go to Bangkok for two reasons. One, we found a reasonably cheap flight from Bangkok to Kolkata, India, our next destination. Two, I wanted to go back to further explore the city and enjoy more Thai food. I said “I” wanted to go back because Thanh was reluctant. Thanh and I had been to Bangkok less than a year ago, and she had also been there five years before that. Never the less, we were going back and we agreed to stay for four nights.
Besides eating at a local food court near our inn, and Thanh realizing that she left half of her wardrobe in a dresser drawer at our B&B in Gili Trawangan, there’s not much to report about our first night in Bangkok.
The next day however was a different matter, as we did some shopping, visited another aquarium and went to visit the very touristy Jim Thomson House Museum.
After a continental breakfast at our inn, we took the Skytrain to shop at the Siam Center and the amazing Siam Paragon. The food court is found in the basement of the Siam Paragon and it is out of this world. It is huge and has all kinds of local and international eateries. The choices are so overwhelming that it took us a half hour just to decide what we were going to eat. We settled on some basic but delicious Thai food; Tum Yum Soup and Chicken Curry. Yummy!
After lunch we explored Ocean World, a nice, but expensive aquarium located in the basement of the Siam Paragon. There we saw a lot of species that we had already encountered at Underwater World in Langkawi, but we did see some new species we hadn’t before like these crazy massive crabs that live along the ocean floor, some blue scorpions, funny worms, and an endangered Blue Fin Tuna frozen inside, so they say, the largest block of man made ice on earth.
Before heading back to our home away from home, we toured the Jim Thompson House Museum. This famous Bangkok landmark was the former home of an American expat, ex-CIA agent, architect and business man who introduced the Western world to Thai silk. Today, his company still exists and there are many outlets across Thailand. Thompson was passionate about architecture and in 1959 he built an authentic Thai home for himself and his servants. The place is completely made of teak and there beautiful flowers everywhere. Mysteriously in 1967, he went missing in Malaysia and was never heard from again. The government took over the home, left it untouched, and made it into a museum.
The following morning we took the advice from one of my friends from MTA, Natasha, and we headed to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Wow! This market was a good one. It’s Thailand’s biggest (maybe S.E.A.‘S) and most intense market. This market had lots of clothes for sale, and the t-shirts for sale there may have been the nicest and most creative I‘ve seen in a long time. Aside from the clothes, this market had some great food and snacks for sale. Our highlights were popsicles made in front of your eyes (frozen with this crazy contraption), and the freshly made coconut ice cream served in a coconut shell.
Again, following advice from another friend of mine, Chris, this time from home in Montreal, Thanh and I went to watch professional Thai boxing at the Ratchadamnoen Boxing Stadium. After buying our tickets and before taking in the matches, we went to a restaurant next door that it famous for it’s BBQ chicken.
Once seated, we ordered the delicious chicken and also a plate of fresh spicy shrimp to go with it. The waitress looked at me funny and tried to tell me something but I couldn’t understand her. Well we discovered what she was trying to tell us….the thing was that “fresh” actually meant raw and we were quite shocked to be served the uncooked crustacean topped with an extremely fiery chilli sauce. The waitress saw it in our eyes when she served it and was a little hesitant to leave us alone with it. LOL!! I love sushi but raw shrimp has a buttery texture that both Thanh and I do not enjoy. To be polite we had one raw shrimp each but left the rest there.
The boxing was more entertaining than I had hoped for. Even Thanh, who was unenthusiastic with the idea, had a good time. The crowd was divided into two; the local side and the foreigners side. The local side got pretty rowdy as most everyone in that section was betting on the outcomes. There is also a live band, that plays traditional Thai music with flutes and bongos while the fighters are going at it. So there were seven match ups in all, but because of supper, we only saw the final five. Upon entering the arena each fighter starts off their routines by doing a dance, some stretches and some prayers, before the bell is wrung. Each match consists of 5 rounds, 3 minutes each, with a two minute breaks in between rounds. Although we saw no one get knocked out, we did see some great action with some violent exchanges of punches and legs kicks, as well as a few TKOs. Shockingly (or maybe not because Chris warned us) the last fight was between two kids not older than 12. These kids were fierce and I’m sure no one messes with them at school.
We left the stadium and embarked on a crazy taxi ride to Patpong, Bangkok’s “Red Light“ district, known for its infamous “Ping-Pong” shows . Our cab driver must be new in town because he had no idea how to get there and had to consult his friend on his mobille the whole way. Anyways, we avoided the ping-pong shows last time we were in Bangkok because Thanh had already experienced it several years ago, and I had no real interest in it, but this time we were going for the full Bangkok experience. The show was a real disappointment to say the least, and was a big waste of time. Adding to our regret was the fact that the club tried to screw us big time. To make a long story short, we were hustled into the club offering us a free show as long as we bought a drink. After finishing my first (and only) beer, the old hag of a waitress came up to me and told me that we had to pay 1300 Baht each (2600 total which is the equivalent of $87CAD) to cover the cover charge and show. I was quite insulted and frustrated, but being quite used to liars and crooks in the car industry, I kept my cool, rolled my eyes at her, and told the lady that I wasn’t having any of it and that I was leaving. As I got up and went to the cash pay our bill, the lady was then trying to create a scene to further pressure me into coughing up the cash and two ladies blocked Thanh from leaving. Unimpressed, I explained to the clerk working the cash that I was lied to, that I didn’t appreciate their sleazy tactics, and that I was only going to pay for our drinks (200 Bhat, $7CAD, for two drinks) and leave, which we did. The lesson learned from this is that one should never to go to a Ping-Pong show in Bangkok.
We had one day left in S.E.A. before heading to India for 6 weeks. Having visited a countless number of Buddhists wats on this trip, we ventured out to go see Wat Arun, and important Bangkok landmark. This place of worship sits along the Mae Nam Chao Phraya river bank and the main stupa, which measures 82m tall with plenty of steep stairs to give you vertigo, dominates the river landscape.
Later we shopped some more, but this time at Central World, where Thanh finally bought a few pieces of clothing to replace the ones she left behind in Indonesia. The funny things was, or not so funny, was that during our few days in Bangkok, we thought that the shopping in Bangkok was a great bargain. We made a crucial mistake in our currency conversion believing that the Canadian dollar was 1 to 40 Thai Bhat, but in reality it was 1 to 30. It was only during our final hours in Bangkok we realized our mistake. So it turns out that things were 25% more expensive than we originally calculated. Needless to say that error hurt our budget.
Although we have been travelling for a little over 6 months now, it is only now, heading to India, that we feel that our adventure is really taking off. We have heard so many stories about India, good and bad, that we are both a little nervous and anxious about the expected and unexpected. India will certainly be an experience unlike that of East Asia.
See you from Kolkata and GO HABS GO!!!