Returning to Bangkok from Mae Sot was similar in ways to returning to Pokhara from Annapurna (for those loyal blog readers this may make more sense.) It felt like returning home, to a place that is welcoming, familiar and comfortable. Yet at the same time, it is only when returning to this homely place that you appreciate the experience that you have just come from.
We arrived in the early hours after an awful overnight bus journey and were very glad to get into bed after sleeping on a bamboo floor for a week. Whilst unpacking and sorting out the mountain of laundry we had accumulated, I discovered I had accidently packed a frog from Mae Sot and brought it back with me in my bag. Chris quickly sorted the situation out, I.e. evacuated the frog and told me that everything was going to be ok! For our first day back in the city I was particularly keen to go and see the temples around the area of the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace wasn’t open when we arrived- something to do with the king- so we headed to its neighbor of Wat Pho to see the Reclining Buddha. The grounds in which this Buddha sits are simply beautiful. There are pointed top temples decorated delicately with colourful mosaic tiles all sat amongst water features and trees. As we usually do, we just sat and soaked up what was around us. The huge Reclining Buddha (46mx15m) was incredible. It completely filled the room in which it sat, so much so that a section of the ceiling had been removed to make way for the spire on top of his head. I was very impressed and would recommend to anyone wanting some culture whilst in Bangkok. We spent a long time there observing and photo taking. Once we dragged ourselves away from this beautiful place we hopped aboard our first Bangkok ferry, which we learned is the best way to get around in this part of the city, and observed the sights of Wat Arun being lit up as the sunset.
That night ended as many seem to, with a beer! Although this one was different because the bar that we had chosen (or rather Chris has cunningly chosen) had the football on and Liverpool were playing Sunderland. Afterwards we went in search of some street food as the choice in Bangkok is endless, we hadn’t been disappointed with a single meal up until this point when we foolishly ordered blind and went for Thai soup. Imagine porridge with salt and meat. Luckily the following morning we were woken by Co and Thomas who had just returned from Mae Sot and brought breakfast of eggs and bacon to our door. You win some you lose some! We chatted over our breakfast and they informed us of Yak Sant which is a holy Buddhist tattoo. These tattoos which are only ever given by Monks or Holy Men are meant to be a blessing and contain prayers which give the owner empowerment. They’re not given using the traditional tattoo gun method but instead using a long piece of bamboo with a needle attached to the end. Co and Thomas said their plans for the day were to go and get one done so me and Chris tagged along to see what it was all about. We turned up at what looked like someone’s house with half a dozen Chihuahuas sitting outside. Inside we saw the Monk sat on a cushion armed with his bamboo tattoo device finishing off someone’s Yak Sant. We positioned ourselves on the floor and watched intently. Before the tattoo is done a prayer is said whilst holding incense sticks, the Monk says a prayer before he starts his work and another prayer is said afterwards. Its very spiritual. With their tattoos done we toasted the occasion over a bowl of noodles!
The following day we decided to try for a second time to go and look around the Grand Temple, this ended as smoothly as the first attempt did. As with any major tourist attraction there were hoards of Chinese and American tourist groups being led by a guide holding up some form of umbrella or cuddly toy, being loud and getting in everyone’s way. You know the type. So we wilted away to a nearby tree in some shade and sat and ate ice cream. With our courage built back up to brave the crowds we headed to the ticket booth, where we got scared away by the price never to return to the Grand Palace again! None-the-less it looked nice from the outside. That night was another of the get-togethers that occur at Phiman including lots of food and alcohol (see Bangkok Pt.1.) Chris did the BBQ chicken and in typical “man does BBQ” style was drunk before the meat was on the table. He wasn’t the only one worse for wear though as he, Co and Thomas drank large amounts of (disgusting) Thai rice whisky and were all in bed come 9pm. Much to the amusement of me, Rene and Jane! Good night had by all.
Keen to explore all that Bangkok has to offer we decided to move from the area of Banglamphu to Silom. In simple terms we moved from the backpacker area to the middle of the city surrounded by high rise buildings. We came across two hostels opposite each other on a narrow street, with one saying there was no room at the inn we decided to stay in the other. To our delight this place was newly opened (Cooper Hostel) and had a lovely female owner who had attention to detail down to a tee. Everything had been thought through it seemed. The place was decorated in a contemporary design with exposed concrete walls and tiled flooring, all taken from pinterest apparently. It was such a nice place to stay, a little over our budget- it was a definitely treat! With its close proximity to the metro station we thought that the next day we would purchase a day pass and see Bangkok by sky-train. Occasionally we would get off and explore a new area, such as Lumphini Park where we sat on the grass amongst the buildings for a while, Siam Square filled with Chanel and Dior type shops and Ari the ‘hipster’ area where we got a beer.
High on Chris’ to-do list was to visit a Sky Bar in Bangkok which we got ticked off on our 3rd night in Silom. We chose Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel. As I’m sure you can imagine, this place wasn’t somewhere to spend much time on a backpackers budget. As we made our way through the swanky reception area and up to the roof the host at the bar noticed that the flip flops I had stupidly decided to wear were inappropriate for the venue and gave me some ill sized hideous dolly shoes to wear instead. Luckily they had alternate footwear instead of flatly refusing us entry. The panoramic view over Bangkok from the bar was so impressive and made the hefty drinks price worth paying. The landscape was lit by lights for as far as we could see. The only thing spoiling the atmosphere was the pretentious British crowd that had gathered around us but I suppose this is what we should have expected for the type of place.
The last few days in Bangkok consisted of a visit to Chatuchak Weekend Market, which I would recommend to anyone! That place has everything, ranging from vintage clothes to street food, from soap stalls to pottery stalls… just everything. We managed to lose a whole day there without really buying much. Self restraint at its best or perhaps just the fact that I had no room in my rucksack was reason enough.
Our final day was a busy one. We started the day visiting an exhibition at the National Science Museum called “Dialogue in the Dark” in which you are led through a series of rooms in complete darkness (as in you cannot see a thing) to give the illusion that for the duration of the exhibition you are blind. The guide for the exhibition was a blind man named James who had lost his sight at the age of 29 due to a problem with contact lenses. James took us through a variety of different synarios such as being in the theatre, the park and the supermarket. It was such a bizzare experience but really opened up the mind to the difficulties faced by someone without sight. Another for the highly recommended list! The afternoon was spent in Chinatown where we met up with Hannah who we met briefly for one night in Nepal back in October. Although our encounter wasn’t a very long one we had stayed in touch and our paths crossed for just one day so we arranged to meet up to catch up on what we’d been up to since we met two months ago. It was great to get together and hopefully our paths will cross again on our travels around Asia. For the evening we met with Chris’ university friend Mike who is living in Bangkok for a year teaching English. We went to the area of Sukhumvit where we mostly wandered around aimlessly before settling at a bar for a beer before deciding to head to a place called On Nut where there was a street market. With the backdrop of the Man U v Liverpool game, a bar and some street food we settled under the large marquee of the street market for a few hours chatting about life in Bangkok. I’m sure this won’t be our last meeting with Mike throughout our time in Thailand.
Now we drag ourselves away from Bangkok and head to Hua Hin for Christmas where we are very excited to get a visit from Chris’ Mum!
See photos here: