Bangkok; 10 days, great food, hotel and relaxation.
14.10.2010 - 22.11.2010 32 °C
13th of october until 22th of october
Bangkok. Back in Bangkok. First, I had to find my way to Khao San Road. Taxidrivers started to offer me rides for 500 bath (12,50 euro). I knew that was too much. But, anyone (except the people of Bamboo hut) are friendly int Thailand. So, in contrary to Egypt, you can smile when you negotiate with taxi drivers. In the end they offered 200 bath. But by then, I talked to one guy that gives information trough a speaker (DJ style), and he told me there would be a bus at 5.30 am. That was just 15minutes from now. So I walked to the bus station and took a bus to Khao San Road. Price was about 25 baht (0,60 euro). From there, early morning, I walked along Khao San Road towards Soi Rambuttri. On the Khao San Road I saw a few hoes with a white tourist. Regularly you see the older or ugly guy with a young good, or bad-looking Thai girl. This time I was surprised to seee the goodlooking young player-style guy; the guy that goes to a club and always gets a lot of girls, actually paying a girl. Wow, who is controlling who?
The Lamphu house, where I stayed before, was fully booked, so I walked on, trying to find another place. It turned out most places around were booked. I walked a bit away from the main streets and found a nice hotel to stay ….......................
This would be my hotel for the next 10 days. Free internet, my own fan room and a hot shower for 200 bath. (5 euro)
10 days? Yes, well I didn't know that by then. My idea was 4 days. I would meet up with Pong and see some of the surrounding area and get my India visa done.
After some extra sleep I went to find mister Thai Travel. My bonita advised me to get my visa with them. I actually found the place. But their prices were quite hight. I tried to negotiate, but they didn't go with it. I ended up going to ….. travel..P.K.B travel. They arranged my India visa (10 days) and Cambodia Visa (1 day). Also, I booked a few day tours with them.
So, 10 days in Bangkok. What am I going to do? First day, I needed rest after a 12 hours bus ride. The cold was almost over. The day tours would take 3 days; Ayutthaya; the former capital of Thailand, the floating market and a day tour to the River Kwai Bridge. Also, I intended to work a bit on my websites for 2 or 3 days. By then., most of the 10 days would have been used.
I could have been going to Chang Mai, where they have the village with the long necks. I don't know when they say this, they mean this distrespectfull, or just as a decription of the fact that these people put rings on their necks, to make their necks long. But to Chang Mai would take 10 hours one way by train. By then I didn't kow that in a few days there would be immense floodings in the east and north of Bangkok, so Chang Mai was only reachable by bus or plane. But I didn't feel like going 10 hours one way and back 10 hours. After a while you just want to have rest instead of going Amsterdam – Bordeaux and Bordeaux-Amsterdam in 4 days.
So I dropped this plan and just settled down in Bangkok.
The next 3 days there were day trips. Every morning starting at 6.50. Oeeff..that's not really what I think of by having holiday. But then, it has a good reason.
The first day was Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya is the former capital of Thailand, or Siam as it used to be called. Here I went to some of the old Khmer Temples and an immense buddha. Well, actually Gato and I went to Ayutthaya, with a tourbus. Most of the temples were not too spectacular. But nice to see. But one was really good. This is the temple were we, luckily, could spend a lot of time. Also, there was a shrine close to here. It was very interesting to visit this sacred place. After, on walking distance, there is a place with elephants. I did have a look, but didn't ride the elephant. I already rode on camels and horses. For me, it is not so spectacular to try to ride every ridable animal. They also let the elephant do tricks. I did look, but this is a reason why I don't pay or make a picture of this. An elephant standing on its two rear legs, or with its front legs crossed with its back legs, nos hight, is not an elephant. It's something that is created to please the audience, but not the elephant.
So no pictures of that.
During the trip we also had an incredible lunch. Included in the tour. The tour was 450 baht; 11,25 euro.
14th of october:
Today it was another early day to get up. 6.20. I walked toward P.K.N (by Ms. Kookkai) Travel and on my way, as yesterday, I took a delicious yoghurt (by mr Yin-yes, they know marketing) with fruit and muesli. 30 baht. 0,75 euro. + a mango shake for 30 baht. So, with a delicious breakfast, I went to the travel agency to be picked up for the second tour-day. The floating market. My bonita already told me that it would be super super touristy and nothing authentical.
When we arrived there, a lot of busses were already wating. All tourist went into boats and were driven to the entrance of the floating market.
My first look upon it was already; damn..what a shit.
Imagine, a floating market with more white than black or brown faces in Southeast Asia. A super big shop, of Paew company, food by Paew company, Paew icecream and Paew boatrides. I bet that this ms or mr Paew is doing great. The floating market is promoted everywhere.
Floating market where on boats, or huge shops, you can buy all you need for a 'simple village life'.
Yes, there are postcards, paintings, wooded garbage puppets or elephants (the so-called lucky elephants- are they really so lucky now that they are almost extinct?), clothing, but I am talking western fashion. Food. (ok, reasanable on a local floating market). A stupid guy with a snake around it's neck for 'picture with snake'. What if we would tie his hands and cut his teeth and say; you want picture with Thai?
Yes, foot massage..or foot massaaaaaaage. Sir, you want boatride? Cheap cheap.
SO, I walked down, climbed over the brigde. Walked on. Then, just 10 minutes later, walked back, had a lunch and went to the bus. Because if we arrived at the bus at 10.45 we could go somewhere else. So I asked the driver what that place would be. Is it nature? No, its a snake farm. Ok, sounds interesting. What does it look like? It's a snake theatre. A theatre? So he showed me a picture. Yes, indeed, a snake theathe. A half circle, like a half colosseum, with a snake as the object of the show. But of course it is trained, or tortured, to 'make a show'. Have you ever seen a happy snake stretching itself and put his tong out? No..well, that is because they only do that when they feel endangered or are in fear.
So no..i didn't go.
Instead I walked away from the tourist trap and walked into the real village. The houses are build on poles in the water. On wood you walk along. Most of it is fairy stable. Some are almost loose. So it was very cool to walk here. I saw the real village life and a lot of people greeted me. I guess not a lot of tourist go in this area. In the end, I had a nice day. Not great, but nice.
In the evening, I had dinner in my favourite street restaurant on Rambuttri street. For 65 baht you have a delicious mango shake/ coconut shake or a broad selection of shakes and a green curry (my favourite). That's about 1,55 euro.
This place is open 24/7. I wonder how long they work. It is incredible, because most often I see the same faces. They do work in shifts, but still.. very long days. They get my respect.
There are about 10 people running the business. I don't know who is the owner. But they always serve with a smile. I would definitely recommand this place. About 2 older adults work here, 2 lady-boys, and a few young guys and girls. I think it are actually 2 or 3 families working together. Great food, great service and very cheap.
The third day I had a trip to the river Kwai bridge and it's surroundings. This is the place were during World War 2, the famous brigde was build. The Japanese took over South East Asia with ease. Because they needed to transport goods, military equipment, food and water trough the countryside, they let a railroad be build by the prisoners of war. The rail went trough the most remote areas and the prisoners worked under the harderst of conditions. Limited supply of foods and treated like slaves by the Japanese. In a while, the monsoon came, and the tents and clothing were just rotted away. Malaria brought dead among the prisoners and Japanese. Thousands of people have passed away building this train rails. Not only the locals. Also English, Australian and Dutch were captured and forced to build the rails. The museum near to the famous bridge is very interesting to see all of what happened around this area.
Suprisingly, when you go up in the museum to the second floor, there is a room that shows about miss Thailand from the 1930's till now. I don't really understand the reason behind this.
After this, we went to an elephant farm. Well, farm. You know where I am going . But at least the animals were fairly natural. No stupid tricks. They just walked with some of the tourist on their backs and the baby walked along. The baby elephant already was immense. And even when an elephant is facing you, standing silently, it has an aura of respect. This animal is so huge. Can you imagine how it feels when one or a group of elephants comes running towards you in anger?
Just a small sidestep now. An elephant is the largest land animal. But it is nothing compared to the Whale. Or to a Whaleshark. I have seen a movie, made in Koh Tao. 6 weeks before I arrived there, there was a whaleshark over there. The movie is absolutely incredible. Under water you will see the biggest and most bizarre animals. I haven't seen super big animals yes. Just some groupers (80 kg). But I am certain I will see more.
Back to the elephant. When the rest of the group was riding the elephant, I was walking in the nature. But soon I was back. I noticed that there was also a monkey in this place. Captured, with a ring around it's neck. I have to admit that I am a bit hypocrite when talking about the captured elephants, because I started playing with the captured monkey. And monkeys are remarkable creatures. I could watch and interact for hours with them. This was a small one. About 2 kg. He used the rope around his neck to lift himself up and to slide from one place to the other. He would jump, climb and run and had absolutely no problems. I was watching this, and he was observing me. I found a long stick. And since the monkey had a wooded place, I lay the stick down on this wooden place and held the other side. The monkey walked on it and tried to come close to me. But I stayed out of his reach. Then he walked back and we repeated this a few times. Then I gave the stick to the monkey and held it myself with very little force. The monkey took the stick and started to take it closer to him all the time, forcing me to come closer and closer. I knew, and I came closer. Then he quickly run on the stick and onto my arm. He was watching my back and I showed him how to open and close the back. And this monkey was learning! Absolutely an intense learning process. The best student. All was fine and both he and I were enjoying. He sat on my shoulder and tried to take my glasses. This I would't let and I put my glasses away. And we continued class. But then the owner, the women, came with some peanuts and for some reason the monkey became very excited. I became a bit scared. And the monkey tried to bite my left arm. I put my arm up and down, but since the monkey was actually holding on to that arm, it didn't make sense. Then he jumped from my left arm to my right arm. And until now, no damage. But on my right arm, he kept on biting. I duck back and just before, he managed to give me a small bite. Because I duck back, he line on which he was tied, was not long enough and he had to climb back to his own area. I don't blame the monkey. He was just excited and I got scared because of his response. The monkey has a rabies injection and so do I (three in fact). And since there were only a few drops of blood, all will be fine.
Later, I coudn't resist just sitting. So went back to the monkey and from a distance, I showed him how to open and close my camera pocket. Again, he was the best student ever. Then I tossed him my camera pocket. After I took out my camera of course. A Japanese girl was watching now too.
The monkey opened the camera pocked and found a small pocket. Shit, I didn't realise. In there, there was a bit of plastic to put another SD card in. He was looking at this pocket ( I have a picture of this). This monkey was learning, learning. Wow! But I got a bit anxious. Because, yes of course he would open this pocket very soon. And yes, in 30 seconds, it was open and he took the plastic out. Fine as long as he...noooo...fuck. He puts in in his mouth. So me and the Japanese girl started to freak out. Noooo.nooo..nooo. The monkey hold on to his rope, made a monster jump towards me. Tried to hit me with his hand. I saw him in a swift moment, duck back, hit the fence behind, almost fell behind, over the fence. Then resettled, and quickly took the plastic from the ground. It was already out of reach of the monkey. The owner came and took my camera bag back. The monkey was relaxed already. It is really true. When you get scared, they get scared. The owner was very relaxed and patient, and the monkey became relaxed. So, I have to admit I am a bit hypocrite with the wild animals thing, because although I didn't ride the elephant, I did play with the monkey and in a moment made him angry (or greedy).
There were six more days in Bangkok. I don't remember the exact order in which everything happened, so I will just write down what happened.
After the 3 day tours, luckily, I could sleep as long as I wanted. What a luxury. It also gave the great possibility to talk with my girlfriend often. Since the time difference is 5 hours, when she is home from her work, it is past 2300 here in Bangkok. And I had free wireless internet on my room. What a luxury. We talked very often and long. That was great.
Also, since I had so much time, I could really settle down here. This room, room top with a lookout over Bangkok, was my home for 10 days. There were 2 rooms. Mine and another one. In the other one was an older American guy, Mel, that was with pension already. (no not the dirty old guy looking for a cheap girl). He was a volunteer for a school to teach english. And he has fought in the Vietnam war. He also had training on Antartica and went to Siberia for the army. We had some great conversations. About virtually everything. About the wars. About alien life (is there or not?). About life in general, politics etc. It was great to have some time just to settle down in one place.
Also, I went to my favourite street restaurant. 4 times a day. A few times I managed to have green curry for breakfast, lunch, 4 o' clock, dinner and second dinner (in the night around 1.30 after talking with my girlfriend)--> so that even makes 5 green curries a day . Yummy.. I really love the Thai food. I tried more. Like the fried cashewnuts. Delicious. The fruitshakes. The sweet sour mixed vegetable. Yum Yum. Pad Thai (nice, but not the best). But the best is still the green curry.
Often I sat down in the open street restaurant, watching all that passed by. Locals, tourists, hippies. Women trying to sell wooden frogs that they scrape with a stick, so it sounds like a real frog. Dogs. Rarely a cat. Women trying to sel....massaaaagee. Old dirty guys with too young girls. I chatted with tourists from different places of the world. Tuk Tuks. 'Where are you going Sir? You need Tuk Tuk?
Famous here is also the fish massage Fish maaaassaaaage? These fishes eat your skin. The same fishes swim near Koh Tao (cleaner fishes). So I already had my free fish massage. → Lud why don't we take an aquarium in Geneva with those fishes? They scrub very well
What else? The dog with puppies. First 8, later 6. Some people took the puppies to take care of. I say, take care, because people here respect animals. Luckily. The birds that were the lucky ones having green curry with rice every day. The occasional rat. The drunk people on the opposite of the street, sometimes with a (probably coke sniffing) hoe.
Three of these last days, I worked on my websites. Mostly I planned all the mailings until january 2011. And I worked on datesingles.be. It was great to have this time. And when hungry, I walked 5 minutes to Rambuttri street, paid 1,50 euro and had a mango shake with green curry and rice. Delicious!
I have to say I didn't really explore Khao San Road. I just didn't feel like going to the pub or disco. Maybe I am getting a bit old. I just enjoyed relaxing and hanging around the place were I stayed.
One evening I went with Pong to a muay thai fight. Pong, Pongtharin, I met in Amman- Jordan. He lives in Canada, but he went back to Thailand until next year. So we met up and went to the muay thai stadium. We paid 1000 baht (25 euro) and had front seats! Incredible. For 9 fights we were 5 metres away from the fight. It was great! With a beer (finally, after a very long time) and the camera in the hand, we totally enjoyed this evening. I guess it is something typically for guys to enjoy fights. Pong was hoping for a knock-out. And yes, in the third fight, there was a knock-out. It was so quick though, that it was hard to see how it happened. I thought it was a knee in the kidneys. But some other people in the stadium showed an elbow. I quess it was an elbow on the sleep.
Fight number 7 was the best. It was very intense and with great techniques. Also, it was great to just look at the coaches and the crowd. Yes, we had a great evening!
Another day I went with Pong to the Thailand national museum. Here it was very interesting to see the past of Siam. There were a lot of fights between what now is Thailand, Birma and Cambodia. There were fights with horses and elephants. War elephants. In the maquetes this is shown very well. Furthermore it shows about the kings. Now it is Thailands 9th king. This one takes great care of his people and the country. And in general, people love him. Yes, there are the red and yellow shirts. But in general, the educated people support the current king.
We visited some temples and we went to Chinatown was very interesting. A lot of food of which you have no idea of the origin. The flavours (even my nose was able to smell these), the atmosphere. Absolutely great.
Another day I went to the best Pad Thai restaurant with Pong and his mother. I have to admit, normally pad thai is not my favourite dish, but in this place it is incredible tasty. This restaurant has won prices year after year. A lot of international magazines have praised this restaurant for their Pad Thai.
The last evening I met up with a spanish-argentinian couple from the hotel. I knew them already for a while. The last evening in Bangkok we had dinner together and we wanted to have a very gross Thai experience. So after normal dinner, we went for our dessert. Bugs. Yes, grasshopper, white worms and something else.
With a Chang (beer) in one hand, and a bag of fried bugs in the other, we were ready to try them. It took me quite a while to try. But Gustavo (the argentinian guy) very easily ate some bugs. His girlfriend Anna had some difficulties. I was number two. After a few minutes I tried. Grasshopper I ate some years ago with the Africa day in my home town (Almere). It is not too bad. But I would not order extra. The white worms were ok. But no, not delicious.
Then we were finished. But Anna said now we should go all the way. So as our final dessert we ordered the fried scorpion. A black, fried scorpion. You could see the claws and the spikey tail. Just when we ordered the scorpion, a thai girl ordered a bag full of bugs. And she told, for her it is very normal to have bugs. She actually likes it.
The scorpion took all of us some more time to eat. Gustavo was the first. With not too many difficulties, he bite of the poisonous tail. Then, after some minutes, I was ready to take one of the claws. Anna took the last claw. And then we shared what was left.
It was an interesting experience. And we had a lot of fun. Like teenagers trying to make each other do stupid things. Yes, we enjoyed. But food quality-wise, I would not recommand it. It doesn't taste as bad as they look, but no, not high cuisine for me. Instead of 3 scorpions, I rather order one mango juice and one green curry with rice
Some other interesting things happened in Bangkok. In the hotel I had the top floor. But I was not alone..No indeed, I wrote about Mel. Yes, that's true, but I am not talking about Mel. The people that do the wash? No..actually also not them. There were two room, but in the night there were 3 occupants. Ok, reasonable. But one of them was not a person. What was it then? It was something running on 4 legs and with a large tail. Black and brown, and it liked to sniff trough the bins. Yes, we had an amigo on the top floor. Mister Rat. On the first night I was very, very sleepy. I heard something scraping my door, but I was too sleepy to bother. It went on for a few hours. But every time I heard it, I felt asleep straight away. The next morning I did see some wood next to the door. But even by then, I didn't realise. Actually I thought it was a lizard, as in Koh Tao. But lizards don't live in the city. The next morning Mel walked towards me and said 'You had a problem yesterday evening'. What happened? 'You had a rat in your room'. Finally, I understood. And yes, the rat had eaten trough the door in the night. A 3 cm thick door. That explained the pieces of wood. And some nights I saw him running away when I went to the toilet. Mister Rat enjoyed being here. We blocked some of the entrances and I haven't seen him anymore. But Mel did see him a few more times.
While in Bangkok, I also went to Siam Niramit. A beautifull show. This is performed on the biggest stage of the world. The price is 900 bath (21 euro). Quite a lot for Thai standards. But I really liked to go. The place was about 20 minutes by taxi from Khao San road. I took 1 hour just to be sure. Due to the traffic, we were not even on half when it was 20.00 – showtime. I called with PKN travel to see what we could do. And actually at the start I was a bit annoyed, because they told me with taxi it would be around 20 minutes. So in my perception 1 hour should have been enough. The women, ms Kookkai (the owner, I later found out), picked up the phone. It was unbelievable how helpful she was. I started realise that it wsa also my fault. I mean, this is Bangkok, with traffic jams everywhere. I went back to Khao San Road. (Rambuttri Street to be exact) and a few days later, they could book me in in another show. I paid half the price extra. But the way they helped me shows the great character of the Thai.
A few days later I was going to the show. I took 3 hours just to get there. 2,5 hours in total it took me to actually arrive at the place, just 20 km away from Soi Rambuttri.
Arriving in the show, already you feel the perfection. I was happy to be dressed up in long jeans and relatively nice t-shirt. The doors are hold open for you. The theatre just breaths poshness. The show itself is outstanding. Great dancing and music. The storyline a bit thin, but who cares? I have seen a minimum of 2 elephants on the stage. A few chicken, goats. It rained and the water was kept on the stage to represent a lake. On that lake the performers went with a boat. The show shows the ancient Siam. The Chinese entering. Buddhism and hell, heaven and in between. Actually I prefered the in between, because there were really cool animals on 4 feet (a bit like dragons). Heaven was too dreamy for me. I mean, the show was great. But if one asks, you want to be in Buddhism heaven, hell, or in between, then for the cool animals i'd like to be in the in between.
Hell, some of the tortures:
Drinking: you are boiled in a pot with intensly hot water and you have to drink boiling water.
Adultry: you climb a thorny tree and be hit with spikes by the demons.
Hitting your parents: you are hit by thorny spikes by demons.
I forgot the other ones.
Find the website of this beautifull show on:http://www.siamniramit.com
On the 22th of october in the evening I had my passport back . Yes, with India visa. Valid for 6 months from now. Multiple entry. Not that I intend to use more. But 3 months would have been very very exact. Because it was stamped on the 20th of october and I leave india on the 20th of jan to go to Nepal (more to tell about that later).