Everything you've ever wanted & not wanted.
01.28.2012 - 02.11.2012 32 °C
The most pleasant surprise upon first entering Bangkok for me was: the sound of silence. Not what you normally correlate to the metropolis but let me explain. Ever since Dec. 10th when I stepped foot in Vietnam the chaotic driving and incessant honking have invaded my ear drums. Once I crossed the border from Cambodia into Thailand, pooff! Just like that the din was no more. Don't get me wrong, the traffic was still there, in fact even more conjested but the blatant abuse and leaning on the horn was gone.
Nothing stood out other than the fact that I had a great ease living in this city at incredibly low costs and great variety. I'm not suggesting that Bangkok doesn't have a special place in my heart but perhaps I've just acclimatised so much that this is my new norm. Driving on the right hand side of the road is an odd phenomenon. I escaped the humid heat everyday with a cheap movie, $3 in a fairly comfortable theatre in the Siam district. I was both tempted & shocked to know that just across the street at the super fancy Siam Paragon you could pay $21 for a VIP movie screening, which I figured I should just simply spend on watching 7 separate movies instead for the week.
This is Khao San Road, the backpacking district. The actual street itself was less than 500m, but you can find 3 7 Elevens, 2 McDonalds, 2 Starbucks and anything else you can think of crammed in. This was as slow as it gets at 7am in the morning. I stayed in the area only for it's cheap accommodations, anywhere else in the city hub was double the price. It was somewhat of a painful experience as listening to 90's music full blast until 3am in the morning just wasn't my cup of tea. Oasis, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ace of Base, put it on repeat and you get the idea.
Here is it's in the downpour.
I came across this monument at random, it wasn't so much the grandeur that caught my eye, but I saw a woman washing, in fact bathing, fully clothed, out one of the 4 lions' head spout. It was probably 8pm in the evening, this was a major roundabout in the city centre.
Locals often threw trash into the sewage drains. In a rather neat manner as well. I kept thinking about the kind of stew being concocted and how I should probably look into some sort of hazmat suit and rainboots once it starts to rain. But then I saw the rats. I've seen rats in NYC. I can say I've seen WAY more rats in Bangkok. The locals are happily keeping that circle of life alive.
A very fast way to get around the city are via the water canals. These are disappearing quickly due to the need to build, build and build. On buses and boats there are drivers and there are the "master & commander" who take care of handling the fees. They walk around with these cylindrical tins that open lenth-wise and rattle to indicate their presence. It's a rather intense job, as each & every stop, you have on average 10-15 people step onboard via both the front & back doors (or in the case of a boat, you can step on & off the entire flank) It's not a flat rate to ride, generally 3 price points, depending on distance traveled. The commander commence their shaking at each new customer, ask them the destination, calculate the price, and provide change & ticket stub for the rider. It was too complicated for me.
Here you have a glimpse of one of the operators on the canal boats standing starboard (why this complicated language once aboard a boat? Google just taught me starboard but now I might remember for life).
Temples were ubiquitous in Bangkok and I didn't step into a single one. Angkor was still fresh in my mind and everything else would have felt secondary. Here was one taken from a public transit boat.
Tuk tuks have been vamped up from the Cambodian style, the drivers themselves are sheltered from the elements.
On my bus ride from Siem Reap into Thailand I spoke at lengths with 2 separate men from Germany. Oddly enough they didn't even acknowledge one another even though I sat essentially in between them. Both were avid & extensive travelers. The first worked as a scuba instructor and had been doing some remote traveling for the past 20 years. Both leave on average for 6 months of travel while avoiding Winter in Germany. The second, quite his job on January 1st, 2002. I wanted to press whether he was just filthy rich but didn't feel it was my place. I got the idea to visit the Tiger Temple in Katchanaburi from the scuba diver. It was a sancturary for tigers and many other animals and supposedly through the calm of the meditative monks at the temple, all the animals, including the tigers were uncommonly docile. It's been suggested that they are drugged.
I have way too many photos posing with tigers, here's just one.
There were wild boars, deer, peacocks freely roaming about as well.
This calf kept nudging itself into my crotch even with my many attempts to back away.
A bandit bird or should I call him Zorro?
Out by the parking lot when a troop of cows stormed by out of nowhere.
Part of the tour I chose, included a lot of random other sites that I truly didn't care to see and obviously you don't always get what you want:
A war cemetery.
Some waterfalls that looked man-made but they were passing off as natural.
THE most random museum I've ever been to. It was called JEATH War Museum; I only bothered to remember its name to forewarn everyone else NOT to go! Partly war history, physical memorabilia of guns, shells, old soldiers clothes etc. There was a strange floor dedicated to stamps & coins, another floor for Miss Thailand Pagent jewelry.
This was a temple in the museum.
A model of... I don't know what to tell you. These live models just became silly.
This was a corner dedicated to prehistoric man and evolution. Seriously?. More than anything I was just plain confused.
This was the most fascinating thing I saw during my 30 minutes of roaming about (a lifetime if you ask me). This lizard was so immobile many of us stood around looking for signs of life. Including its long tail it was nearing 5 feet in length. After minutes of staring at it, it blinked.
I got the feeling that it had forgotten how to even move due to the lenth (and curl, please note the curl) of its nails.
I was looking forward to seeing the Bridge at River Kwai. My mother often sang & whistled the theme song from the 1957 award winning film. I still have never seen it, but I know the happy tune like the back of my hand.
We ended the tour with a train ride along what they call the Death Railway (yes, still part of the same tour). Due to the numerous lives lost from its construction.
This is me searching for Chinatown in Bangkok.
These dark alley ways had eyes that peered right back at me.
When you get random things gathered like this in front of homes you know you're in Chinatown. A bit of generalization but I'm Chinese, so I can say it.
Red lanterns still lingered from the celebration of the year of the Dragon. Guaranteed every Asian household was trying to bring a Dragon baby into this world for great future prosperity.
Fresh fruits and fresh fruit juices of every kind, and it'll maybe set you back 75 cents if you get ripped off.
This is how you clean up quickly when you are handling heavy customers. Toss it in the bin and deal with it later.
Strips of streets & buildings are dedicated to lottery tickets in Thailand.
This was the one place that I felt unsafe in Bangkok. There was no one in this subway station. It was 1:30pm in the afternoon. It just didn't make sense for a city center of over 8+ million inhabitants and not to mention the 10+ million tourists it receives annually. Not a soul.
A glimpse of the slums but as I've seen throughout Asia, even the slums have satellite dish. Priorities people!
This was the day that I celebrated my 3 months of traveling. February 5th was when I arrived in Chiang Mai. AND it was also the day I left Chiang Mai. I had lost my passport and leading up to it were 2 unlucky events:
1 - crazy stalker man (don't need to relive the experience by recounting it)
2 - my scheduled bus to Chiang Mai got into an accident. Leaving me having to find last minute replacement transport which always translates to more $$$. And so the French saying of "Jamais deux sans trois" is my best way of describing the events leading to the loss of my passport. I filled out a police report & a statutory declaration form, rushed back to Bangkok only to find out that I had left it at one of my hostels. I was simply being tested to see how to handle pressure & I guess I passed.
I entertained myself with a free Muay Thai Boxing exhibitions. I thought in the realm of competition and sports they would have been bigger or at least taller. I was wrong on both accounts. I watched 4 of the 8 bouts. There was 1 knock out, and 1 set of girls boxing all 5 rounds to determine the winner and 2 where opponents tapped out from sheer exhaustion.
This little fella peeped from behind the gas station and then when it stepped out we realized it was in fact a female and pregnant.
Me at a snake farm where they educated the locals & tourists on what to do when encountering snakes in the wild and snake bites. They also collected venom from snakes to create anti-venom serums. This was a 15lbs python which surprisingly felt much heavier as you can tell from the surprise on my face.
One of the hostels I stayed at. I had put the cup down for perhaps 20 minutes & it was swarming with ants. (ps It was place on top of the mini fridge and no where near the ground)
Perhaps it was the incident above or perhaps at the insistence of my friend Jenn from Toronto who flew out to travel Thailand & Lao with me for a couple of weeks. But it was due time to upgrade my accommodations with facilities that actually included hot water showers and less ants. Oh the luxuries I used to take for granted back in Canada.