Greetings once again from Bangkok, though I’m not in Patpong this time, but instead in Banglamphu a street down from Khao San Rd (THE tourist stretch). My plans did change again and I decided to stay in Bangkok tonight. I don’t think I’ll do the floating market this time around, as it’s a 2 hr bus ride from Bangkok and I’m going by to Hua Hin tomorrow as well, so I wasn’t really up for spending a full 6 hrs (at least) traveling tomorrow.
Anyways, the hostel last night wasn’t too bad. The biggest downside was that the beds were practically solid they were so firm and the walls didn’t actually go up to the ceiling so I heard conversations from my neighboring room after midnight, which made it difficult to sleep. I actually did have the whole room to myself, which was nice. Some other people came in at about 6:30am (though I awoke before that thanks to the people next door) and immediately went to sleep…I’m guessing they’d just flown in and I never talked to them as they were asleep when I got up. The other downside to the hostel was that there were no lockers and I felt better carrying my bag with me as opposed to leaving in a room other people (strangers) could get into.
Anyways, I checked out of the hostel shortly after 7am (I decided to stay elsewhere for tonight) and walked around a bit and got some breakfast. At precisely 8am, the anthem (which Lonely Planet says is the National Anthem, though I heard someone telling a friend it was the royal anthem..I wouldn’t know) played again over the loudspeaker and this time I was prepared for the people freezing. I should note that traffic of course does not stop and I doubt you could here it too well at street level. I ended up walking to the Vietnamese Embassy to apply for my visa. I do need to return on Thursday to pick it up. The visa cost 1,850 baht! That’s roughly $50..yikes! I guess it’s not horrible, as my Thai visa was $125, but that’s valid for a year and multiple entries!
Anyways, after the embassy I decided to visit Jim Thompson’s house (as seen on the left), which is now a museum. Jim Thompson supposedly made Thai silk famous around the world and worked to revive the craft. The house was really cool….he constructed it in traditional Thai-style, including being on stilts, yet it integrated some Western elements very well (like a first floor entry hall and dinning room). It also displays his collection of Thai art, including some incredible porcelain, and very old paintings and Buddha images. It was beautiful and really interesting.
I had lunch and then decided to relocate myself to Banglamphu, which is relatively close to the Grand Palace, so you can’t get there by Sky Train or Subway and I don’t have a map of bus routes. Fortunately, I used what is definitely the fastest and cheapest way to get there…via the khlong (canal) taxis, which cost me 8 baht! The khlong is a bit smelly, but I made it in less than 20 minutes, while a cab probably would have taken well over half an hour in traffic. The Democracy Monument, a major landmark of the area can be seen on the left.
I settled on a guesthouse that wasn’t on Khao San Rd, that was highly recommended by Lonely Planet. For 200 baht I get my own private room, with a big, clean, and comfy bed. There’s no a/c, just a fan (and that’s fine), and it has a shared bathroom, which is also fine. The only downside is that there’s no hot water, which I can live with…hey it only cost me 200!
After I settled in I took a walk to see some of the many surrounding sights. I visited Gold Mountain, which is this large artificial mountain that’s built on a collapsed stupa. On top of the peak is a large gold stupa, and the top provided excellent views of the city. I got a little lost on the way back, as I came down the other side from where I came up. Fortunately the free map of Bangkok I picked up at the airport has pictures of the big landmarks, and I spotted one in the distance…the Giant Swing, which resemble a large Chinese-looking arch, and apparently was a swing that people used to have contests on to see who could go higher, but Lonely Planet said that a bunch of people got hurt so it was discontinued.
Below: (R to L) Golden Mount, Monks Sightseeing at the Golden Mount, and the Giant Swing
Thanks to the swing I found where I was (and found City Hall in the process), and decided to walk over to Banglamphu to explore. If you can get over the touristy part (which is pretty significant, visually, this is a really nice neighborhood. I did walk around Khao San Rd a bit. Aside from books, music, DVD’s, souvenirs, and clothes, one thing you see everywhere on Khao San Rd are people selling fake ID’s…drivers licenses (International and from various countries/US states), college diplomas, and International Student Cards (I have a real one).
Tomorrow I’m planning on visiting the Grand Palace in the morning, and then Dusit in the afternoon, as the admission ticket is valid for both. Late afternoon I’ll head back to Hua Hin. And yes, I do realize that we’ll probably go to th Grand Palace again while you all are here, and that’s okay. Anyways, that’s today in a not so small nutshell!