For those of you who hadn’t heard, I decided to go to Bangkok for the weekned with some friends of mine from school here. We left pretty early yesterday (Friday) as it is a 3-4 hour trip from Hua Hin. We arrived in Bangkok around noon and then spent nearly an hour in a taxi trying to get into the city.
We found this really neat hostel off of Sukhumvit road, which is great, as it’s a really short walk to the Sky Train (One of Bangkok’s public transit systems…pretty self-explanatory). The hostel is actually sort of themed in a garden sort of way. They’ve combined all these various buildings on the block which makes for a really interesting look in the hallways, as walls have been torn down in between them. It’s great, they’ve got insence burning in the halls,and these little wooden walk ways and some gravel. It’s like being outside in a remote place, without any of that being true!
We got there and my friends had reserved a room but I had not. Apparantly it’s a really popular place, as they had no vacancy! I was walking up to my friends’ room to use the bathroom and some guy, who i guess overheard my problem of them having no room for me, approached me and explained he was staying in a double room by himself and wanted to know if I’d be willing to share with him, which would save both of us money. We talked for a bit and I agreed to it. Figured I could leave any valuables in my friends’ room. So far it’s worked out really well.
Yesterday we sort of got oriented to the town and decided to venture via Sky Train over to the river, and then catch the river boat up to the area of the Grand Palace. Unfortunately, when we got there the Grand Palace had closed already, but we eneded up visiting Wat Pho, home to the famous, very large and impressive Reclining Buddha. While we were there we also decided to try a traditional Thai massage, as that is supposedly one of the best training programs for people to perform them.
We tried a one hour full body massage (it was only 250 baht…roughly $6.50). It was quite the experience! Lonely Planet wasn’t kidding when they described it as “passive yoga!” They were bending my limbs in all sorts of odd directions and working with various pressure points throughout the body. And they’re serious when they say full body…from the toes to the head. It was so differnet from a western massage! Lot’s of stretching and cracking my back/fingers. But I really enjoyed it, and would highly reccomend it to anyone! It’s not exactly relaxing…but boy does it make you feel good!
On the way back, we took the boat to Chinatown and walked around a lot there. Lts of little alleyways with various stalls selling food and pretty much anything you could imagine. We walked over to the main train station and caught the subway back to the Sky Train, and then back to our hostel. We also saw a bit of this tourist market along Sukhumvit road…lots of unimpressive souveniers and pirated/pornographic DVD’s. Did I mention there’s a lot of prostitutes around here? And were not even close to the official “red light” district! These Soi’s (streets…I think) are quite lively after dark…lots of tourist oriented bars and clubs and stuff.
Today we got up bright and early to go visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market, billed as the largest weekend market in the world! It was pretty amazing, and huge! One could easily spend a full day there! Luckily we got there at 8am and were able to miss the crowds and the heat, at least for a few hours. There you really can get anything you ever dreamed of! They even had pet kittens, puppies, and a wide assortment of reptiles as well! We spent the entire morning there and I got a shirt that was pretty cheap.
In the afternoon, after it got unbearably hot and crowded, we took the Sky Train to Siam Square (the shopping district) and went to check out a few malls. We spent a long time at a mall called MBK, which had a very similar feel to the market, but was indoors and had air-conditioning! The prices were also far lower than the other malls, yet not as low as the market was. I got a pair of jeans, also very cheap, and they tailored them to my length. One thing that was particularly impressive at the mall were the DVD stores! They carried perfectly legal videos far cheaper than they would have been in the U.S. Most were under 150 baht ($4). Most amazng was that they had the full extended version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy for 1,400 baht (about $35!). I didn’t buy any though. We also went and checked out another, much more expensive mall nearby.
All the shopping was incredibly exhausting! We returned to our hostel around 6pm to shower and relax for a bit, then went to this Pub next door for dinner and so that Jost, one of my friends (he’s German) could watch a football match on TV. And that pretty much wraps up our day! On the agenda for tomorrow is a visit to the National Museum, which back over by the Grand Palace. We can’t visit the palace because my friends didn’t bring appropriate clothes, as they have a sort of dress code (no shorts, sleeveles shirts, or flip flops). Then we’ll catch a van back to Hua Hin in the early afternoon…they leave every 30 minutes.
That’s about all from here. Bangkok is an incredibly exciting city. I’ve only gotten a small taste of it as well. We’ll definitely see more when you guys come to visit. Oh, one other side note. In my Thai class, we started learning the first four consonants of the Thai alphabet that are actually still used (some letters are now obsolete and rare, so were not learning those). We also learned 6 different vowels as well (the Thai alphabet has 44 consonants, and something like 39 or so vowels!). It’s been really exciting for me to be here and look at the signs written in Thai and start to recognize letters! I still haven’t got a clue what the whole word means, but it’s all very exciting!