Bangkok; a flying visit
The next day I left Pai and headed back to Chiang Mai on the bus to catch a connecting night bus to Bangkok. I wanted to do the night train but it was fully booked until early Jan due to the holiday season. The bus was actually quicker than the train, and apart from being rudely awaken at midnight by the driver turning the lights on full at a rest stop, it was a pretty good journey. No luxury South America bus though; man do they know how to do buses over there! I jumped on a tuk-tuk to my hotel and enjoyed the fact I was up unusually early, to see Bangkok winding up for the day; it was a crazy rush as I imagined! I was now looking forward to a hot shower and rest but when I arrived at Hotel de Moc I discovered that although they had told me early check-in was an option, it was not. They gave me a towel and said I could shower at the pool and leave my bags wit them. The shower was cold and in an open washroom, but I didn’t care at that stage and it was too early for anyone else to be there so I washed my hair, got myself together and headed to Khaosan Road – the famous part of Bangkok.
I had pancakes (no eggs) for breakfast with fruit, which in true Asian style, had to be ordered separately (you can’t change what's offered on the menu even if they serve both!) I then wandered around the stalls and took a ferry ride to the giant gold Buddha that was on my list of must-sees for Bangkok.
Well it was pretty damn huge, bigger that I imagined, and so cool. Obviously due to this it meant you were on a tourist conveyer belt, but in Bangkok I guess this is unavoidable. The grounds of the temple were beautiful too! I also saw the huge cremation site built for the King when he passed away (bottom right pic). Also huge!
Meeting Thip and getting my card
The next day I met Thip, my Mum’s friend and old colleague, who works for Westbridge Foods Thailand. She met me at the office in Circumvit, which was the business part of the city. Her and her friend then drove me to a lovely restaurant nearby and we shared a number of yummy starters, mains and deserts. It was like I had known her for ages and we laughed all night. We arranged to meet up when I came back to Bangkok later in the year, and for her to come and visit the UK when I was home, and this time let me treat her to a beautiful evening.
The train market and floating market tour
I spent the next few days seeing various parts of Bangkok, including the floating market, the train market and China Town. Unfortunately I remembered why I always avoid taking the organised tours when travelling when opting for the easy option to see the floating and train market. The train market visit was fine, this couldn’t really have been any different. It was a market along the train tracks and when the train came along, they railed their stalls off the tracks and pulled up the stall rooves. It was a marvel to see. The floating market however, was NOT the market you hear about and that we intended to see. We thought we were visiting the one in the photos, which is a traditional local food market in the mornings, but what we actually were taken to was a tourist stall market on the water, with arranged tour times and a lot of patrol powered long boats, causing a fume filed chaos that really didn’t show anything as it was clearly set-up just for this. Be aware of this when booking tours. The genuine floating market is early in the morning and be sure to check that it is indeed the food market that is used by the locals that you are going to see.
Knowing that I would be coming back and so could see some of the other sights then such as the Grand Palace, I prioritised finding some of the kit I needed for Kilimanjaro in the shops here, which were likely to be better than in Uganda. After some hours trying on various fake backpacks, all of which seemed to be made for giants, I settled for a fake Deuter bag at 40 liters, which was the advisory for my day pack for Kilimanjaro. I was now ready to head to Uganda and get acclimatised and get training for the challenge of my life, which was now only 4 weeks away!
I headed here on my last night and discovered this was also somewhat an unusual thing to recommend to someone to see. It was just a road with Chinese hotels and restaurants on it (I’m not sure what I had expected, this is why it’s good to try and not have expectations when visiting places), some of which were serving Shark Fin soup etc, so I was not impressed, and needless to say didn’t eat here! It was cool to have seen it I guess, but not really something to go out of your way for.
The Starbucks along this road had live music, which added a whole other idea as to what Starbucks does! I think it was because it was part of a hotel though, but still, it was strange enough seeing Starbucks here, but with a band and outside veranda; bit different.
Khao San Road
I found a hotel that had a roof top pool to get a view over the city, then went for a delicious Thai Jungle curry; so goooood! Khaosan Rd came to life at night, with more food stands popping up, as well as lady boys ushering you into bars for a bucket of beer, guys offering laughing gas and women branding scorpions on sticks for you to try. It was as bizarre as I had read; what a mixture of offerings, people and tourists!
I bumped into a friend from school James Istead too, what a small world! He was here with his bro for a few weeks and promised to let me know how the islands were so I could plan my trip when I returned here in April/May.