Sawasdee Krap! Bangkok is our last bastion of good food and living before heading into the more backward Laos. I am really impressed with their new MRT and LRT systems which covers the newer part of town. They may never extend into old Bangkok due to the heavy concentration of buildings and wats but perhaps there is actually no need. The water taxis and water buses that ply the main river and some canals cleverly unite the land and water transport systems into an encompassing whole! Taxis are cheap (fares take a long time to make their 1 Bhat increment!) and reliable. Tuk-Tuks on the other hand usually try to ‘ke tok’ you and sometimes refuse to ferry you to nearby destinations. We asked one to take us to a police station near Khaosan road and he told us that he did not know where it was. Another wanted B$100 for the ride. We took a cab there in the end for B$41.
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is not to be missed. Here the Thai artistic talents manifests itself in the unique handicrafts and paintings. These makes the pasar malam products back home look even worse. Some animal shops in back alleys would anger animal lovers with their half strangled squirrels, caged bunnies and parakeets. There are also snakes, frogs, porcupines, iguanas, tortoises and probably some endangered species here among the regular pets!
The Grand Palace was thronged with tourists even early in the morning. It was nice to watch the locals pray and anoint themselves with lotus buds at the Edmerald Buddha Temple. The paintings on the Palace walls telling the long story Ramayana on his rescue mission to save his wife from the Demon King are impressive and go round the whole palace! We revisited the reclining Buddha at Wat Po, the source and the oldest school of Thai massage and got so ‘templed out’ that we decided to save the 82m stupa at Wat Ajun for another time. Khaosan Road, the backpacker haven was farang(foreigner)-filled and we were happy we weren’t with the crowds here even though it would have cost us less than half of what we were paying at Wendy House(B$700). We found our second-hand Laos LP here for B$535, saving some B$260! Khaosan, the once notorious drug area feels cleaned up now and there is a big police station at one end. In some backpackers, blatant notices barring guests from bringing in ‘1 hour guests’ are displayed. Still we saw several European-Thai pairings on the street and at eating places…
Wendy House (no ‘s) is highly recommended and shares a little of Mayfair Hotel’s OCD in the cleanliness department. The staff here are so overly polite that it is a wee bit unsettling. Who’s to complain for B$700 for a room 10 minutes from Mahboonkhrong Centre the GIANT shopping complex. We had almost street-like quality food in it’s foodcourt which has a sensible coupon system in place. The prices are reasonable and the variety spoils you. Among our other conquests are Japanese food, (The iced green tea here was a first), ostrich black pepper steak and a Thai-style Korean BBQ. All these splurges shamefully is very unlike true backpackers!
Bangkok is indeed refreshing after 2 months in Malaysia and we now get ready to enter Laos where stress of any form is deemed to be unhealthy.