Thailand: The Bangkok Edition.

BACKGROUND: When I was planning this trip, I strongly took into account what I had heard from others, but I also knew that Siem Reap was a big “attraction” that I didn’t want to miss, so with that, I figured it made sense for us to stop in Bangkok for about a day & a half on the way. I felt like that was all we really needed because people either love it or aren’t into it. …and most people I talked to weren’t into it.

When we arrived in Bangkok in the early evening, we had a driver waiting for us once again. I didn’t trust hiring a taxi in case we couldn’t direct them to our hotel. Being lost in Bangkok just didn’t sound like a good idea. Once we were in our car our driver informed us that it would be a long ride because of the King’s death. …Apparently, certain roads had been closed, so it made it more difficult getting us to our hotel.  It really didn’t take too much longer than anticipated though, which was nice.

Once we got checked in at Aurum The River Place, we dropped our bags upstairs and were able to change and unwind for a few minutes. However, we were both hungry as it was still relatively early, so we hit the crazy streets of Bangkok. (Our hotel, sat near the Flower Markets, and Wat Pho which was great.) We went out and headed right, only to find a crazy interaction with lines of locals waiting for their scooter ride to their next destination, and traffic being directed by cops. It was very confusing, and at first made me feel a little anxious until I realized what was going on. Eventually, we made our way into the Yodpiman River Walk.

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Doesn’t it look amazing!?!?

We didn’t walk very far when we found The Grillery. I wasn’t sure, but then again I had no idea what I wanted… Brad wanted it so, I was just like “what the heck”.  It ended up being one of the most memorable & best meals of the whole trip.  They had an all you can eat option, and I feel like they probably didn’t anticipate us eating as much as we did. Basically, they bring you a list of uncooked meats, and turn on your personal grill. A little bit later we had raw beef, raw chicken, a medley of raw vegetables, rice and we were cooking up a storm. The sauces were amazing!, and we also ordered some seriously delicious deep fried sushi that changed my life, in fact, I crave it now …and I don’t even eat sushi! TIP: If you are in Bangkok & you want to have a good time at dinner, GO HERE!!!  I love that the meal was so interactive. Brad & I definitely had a lot of fun & it just brought our dinner to life & forced us to really engage with each other. (Sometimes, you just feel tired and drained, and you can sit across from someone and hardly say a word.)

After dinner, we were incredibly full, so we decided to walk (shocker, right?). We ended up heading down to the Memorial Bridge, and crossed over toward Wat Prayoonwongsawatiphone-2-166We wandered the grounds for a short period. Neither of us were dressed appropriately, nor were any of the places open. Also, they had a memorial for the King happening as well, so we were trying not to be disruptive. As we found our way back out we ended up on a small street where I was trying to not get hit by the many cars going by. You have to move quick there… Really you have to move quick anywhere other than North America, it seems like. After grabbing a couple quick photos we weren’t sure what else to do, as we weren’t fully aware of the area, so we made a mutual decision to head back across the bridge toward our hotel.  Thankfully, we made it back in once piece, and decided to just chill out and watch a movie before we passed out for the night.

The next morning, once we were ready, we headed downstairs to the cafe across the street, where we were served our complimentary breakfast. FACT: This was my least favorite of the breakfasts because it’s not a normal breakfast. They offered coffee/tea.. had toast, had cereal (I think), but other than that option included ham sandwiches (which were terrible), and soup, and one other dish that I cannot recall.. All in All… I would have rather had something else for breakfast.

iphone-2-309Afterwards, we headed to Wat Pho which I have decided is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It was like one giant mosaic wonderland. Great for anyone who appreciates a fine ceramic! It is also home to legendary Reclining Buddha. iphone-2-183FACT: This is the largest Buddha in Thailand, and is 150 feet long. We spent probably 2.5-3 hours inside of Wat Pho just out of sheer admiration for the intricate detailing. There were hundreds of Buddhas everywhere, and several gatherings of stunning mosaic pagodas. The rooftops of the temples sparkled in the bright sun, and it was wonderful to a catch a breeze in my shawl, and let it inflate with cool air. It was so hot, that entering the temples for break from the sun was slightly refreshing, however, none were air-condition… soo a breeze in the shade made for the best cool down experience. TIP: Bring shoes that are easy to slip on and off if you are planning on popping in and out of temples, not all but some do require that you remove your shoes & leave them outside. In my case, I always pack Tom’s… I like that they flatten out so well, which makes them easy to stash in backpack or purse when need be.  Thankfully, they had complimentary water at the entrance/exit so we loaded up before and at the end of our experience, just to ensure that we didn’t dehydrate too quickly. TIP: Make sure you are drinking plenty of water when visiting SE Asia because you have to compensate for all the sweating you do… We were burning through liters of water like nobody’s business. Here are some of the pictures, click to enlarge:

We were starting to get hungry after Wat Pho, so I removed my shawl, and we began the hunt. We headed down to Tha Tien, which is a small, and crazy, market that also, houses the ferry that goes across to Wat Arun. We were happy to figure that out, but we still wanted food first.. We ended up at a small Thai restaurant just off of Thai Wang Alley. The food was delicious- Brad got a noodle dish, I got a rice dish, and we kind of just shared.

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iphone 2 219.JPGIt felt so good to sit for a little bit, but I was definitely excited to check out Wat Arun, so we headed back to Tha Tien & paid the small fee to take the ferry to the other side of the river. As we got off the boat, Wat Arun was directly to our left. Once we were inside, it seemed like a beautiful park with magnificently detailed structures, green lawn, and trees that look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book. Brad went to the coffee shop to get himself an energizing snack, and I wandered the grounds a little bit by myself until he was ready.  Then we were off together.
First to the right to see the small temples and pagodas. iphone-2-240We saw many random cats, just resting in the shade, and even discovered a tree with many Buddha flowers blooming. It was beautiful. We continued on, ready to hit the big “tower in the middle”, and probably the most iconic structure of Wat Arun. We had to pay a small fee to enter this portion, but I thought it was worth it. The steps going up were incredibly steep, but I loved seeing the mosaic caricatures that appear to be supporting the structure, and again the intricate detail that had been put in. It was beautiful, but sadly, it was under renovation, so most of the top was were covered scaffolding & the upper steps were closed off. Click below to enlarge the photos:

Brad had abandoned me about 1/2 way through so that he could use the restroom, so I spent time taking it in before I wandered back down to find him. We sat on a bench in the shade feeling overheated and worn down, and decided we wanted to head back to our hotel to rest for a little bit, and maybe change. I think Brad wanted to change out of his pants… I know I did! We also were very curious about the “Backpackers Street” which had heard about from a couple of Dutch girls on our zip-lining adventure.

1Soo… After a little bit of downtime & changing into shorts (we both did), we began our journey in search of the Backpackers Street. We headed back down to the last corner of Wat Pho and swung a hard right. We kept on going, and ended up at The Grand Palace, where we had to cut through. (The palace was closed 30 days after the passing of the king, so we were unable to tour it.) At this point in time, because of the passing of the King and what we would later find out would be the funeral, we had to first go through metal detectors. The area surrounding the palace was packed with locals dressed in black to mourn their king. There were people handing out bottled water, and people were able to get free food as well. Police cars were moving through and monitoring the action. Eventually we made it to the other end, where we had to cross a couple of insanely busy streets that were also being monitored by police.  Finally, we were near, as we round a turn we began to encounter a major tourist area… What I could only assume was the Backpackers Street, Khaosan Road.

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This street was insane!!! It was lined with small hotels, hostels, a miriad of restaurants, and the street itself was lined with vendors selling cl0thing, accessories, knock-offs, hand-tailored suits…. and food! We walked all the way to the end, and along the way I found a great pair of “Thai pants”that I wanted …but then we walked back in order to seem not fully interested in hopes we could get a better deal.

We ended up stopping at a road side restaurant where Brad decided that we needed a bucket of booze, and I decided that we needed food (I don’t remember what we ordered though – may be we ended up cancelling it???) With a great buzz happening, we decided to go find my Thai pants… We couldn’t find the place, and Brad ended up getting distracted by noodles… So he got some street noodles, which were really delicious, and then we continued to try and find my pants… Finally, we found them, but it was a different person, so our plan back fired. Brad clearly loses his edge to negotiate after drinking because he basically said “okay” and then we left with pants.

2Still not ready to leave, we just kept wandering in and out of shops, and exploring the different vendors products.  We ended up wandering down an a small street running opposite, and ended up on another amazing street! This one was also line with restaurants, and we ended up stopping at My Darling for a real dinner. They offered multi-cultural cuisine, and we ended up with pizza, which was fair… Then we made the mistake of ordering a lava cake because I was craving chocolate… It had to be one of the worst lava cakes in the world! haha. I don’t even think we finished it. But the atmosphere was fun, and it was nice to relax again…

After dinner we wandered back down the street, and eventually attempted to make our way back to our hotel. We ended up stopping at the 7-11 (they are everywhere in Thailand), for more water and an attempt to find some more J Fruit Chew dehydrated Mango (it was the best!!!). We got the water, but no mango. With our needs met, we continued on our way back the way we came. It was pure mayhem. The streets were filled with Thai people dressed in black on scooters whizzing by as cops directed traffic. With in a moment, everything stopped. Traffic froze, and the people sat and kneeled all around the palace, as suddenly a line of cars was escorted by police from inside the palace walls. It was the motorcade, and a beautiful moment to experience while we were in Bangkok. Never had I witness a moment like this one. I truly appreciated being able to share this moment with the Thai people in respect of their deceased king.

After the motorcade was through, everything went back to normal. It was utter chaos. Within seconds everyone was back on their feet, and we did not know which direction to go… We ended up going a different direction than we came thinking it would be easier. It was a bit in the end, but I think we also felt a little bit disoriented while walking strange streets. Eventually we found an area that we were able to cut through, and we finally found the walls of Wat Pho again. We were back on track.

After an incredibly exhausting evening we were so ready to be back at our hotel. We did our usual afternoon showers, and waited for our room to cool back down ( it was one of those, where all the electricity shuts off when you remove the key from the wall holster). Finally, we were able to sleep soundly.

The next morning was rather eerie. As we sat and ate our breakfast… The whole city resonated with the sounds of voice over the loud speakers. It was strange to be in a city where the government can make an announcement that everyone can here…. It was an odd sense of control that I did not have.

iphone-2-308With breakfast over, and our bags mostly packed, we headed off on another journey. We went a different way in an attempt to search for something great, but instead Brad was leading us on what felt like a wild goose chase. We were so hot, and sweaty… and we were finding nothing. …so, we ended up going back to our side of the bridge, trying to find something great to do. My body was tired, my back was killing, and I was just being a flat out cranker-puss. We were going everywhere… exploring the flower markets, and back roads… and eventually ended up back at Yodpiman River Walk. We stopped in Starbucks for a cool drink, and a brownie… and then kept going, a bit more… but an early lunch time called & we ended up upstairs at the River Walk at a restaurant that specialized in seafood called Bangkok Seafood. I am not a fan of seafood, and they didn’t really have anything on the menu with chicken… So we asked if they could make something with chicken. Welllllllll, they did it wrong. I ordered chicken pad thai, but it had prawns… the tiniest little prawns I ever did see. i was wondering why it tasted like an aquarium, and then I saw the prawns. I tried to eat around them, but was just over it. I ended up having Brad eat part of it.

iphone-2-306After our lunch, we had to go check out of our room, we double checked we had everything & brought it all downstairs for the staff to hold. We still had a few hours until our car arrived, so we decided to head back down by Wat Pho & Tha Tien. Brad wanted a coffee so we stopped in a great cafe called Elefin Coffee. It was beautiful inside & very comfortable. It was fun to just sit in a nice cafe and enjoy each others company while goofing of on our phones. The drinks were so delicious, and Brad insisted that I bring his glass coffee bottle home for him. We iphone-2-307continued on… We popped into a couple shops, and watched the local vendors and examined their boothes.. We ended up in a very potent fish market made up of  dried out sea creatures, and the smell was so strong that we had to leave. We popped into a shop, and decided to buy a variety pack of dehydrated fruit… but as we discovered in Cambodia – they did something unconventional with it, and it tasted terrible! .. so only J Fruit from now on. Eventually, feeling like there was nothing left to see or do, we went back to the hotel with the intent to sit and wait… Finally we were en route to Bangkok airport, and on the next destination.

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LESSONS LEARNED: 

1) You just don’t stop sweating

2) Getting yelled at by old Thai women is kind of terrifying

3) there is nothing worse than the smell of old dehydrated sea creatures… nothing!

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The Compulsive Traveler

out to see the world, and snap beautiful photos while doing so.

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