My apologies for being so tardy in posting about my trip to Bangkok. So, in an effort to make it up to you, I’ve written all about it. Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seat-belts. This is going to be a long post.
Beth and I flew to Bangkok Wednesday night and stayed through Saturday evening. We stayed at a guest house near Siam Square, which is one of the central downtown areas in Bangkok. I was thoroughly impressed by the Wendy House. It’s clean and inexpensive. It has all the amenities, has breakfast included, and has extremely kind people working there. All in all, I would suggest this place to anyone staying in Bangkok.
Near the guest house, we also discovered a fantastic restaurant: Pisces. It serves all sorts of curries and yummy food. The ambience in the restaurant was wonderful. It was on a covered patio and the owner’s dogs were usually resting in a corner of the patio. At one point, we heard meowing. We saw the owner, a very nice younger lady, climb up on a stool in the kitchen, reach up, and pull a cat out of a cupboard. Apparently the cat was whining because it wanted to come outside, but the owner wouldn’t let him because of the dogs outside. Occurrences like that could never happen in the US. This restaurant is where we first discovered how inexpensive food and alcohol are in Thailand. A good curry with rice costs about US$1 and beer costs anywhere from US$1-2 (depending on the size of the beer and if it’s imported or not). Mango sticky rice also costs a little more than US$1.
On Thursday we hopped on the skytrain (an above ground metro) to a water taxi station, then took a water taxi to the Ko Ratanakosin area. We went to Wat Pho Buddhist Temple, walked the grounds, and saw the largest reclining Buddha statue in Thailand. It’s 46 meters long and covered in gold leaf and mother of pearl. After Wat Pho, we had lunch at a nearby market. For the record, the pad thai we had in Thailand was very different from the pad thai we have in the US. In Thailand, it has way more vegetables, a bit less sauce, and they put lots of tiny shrimp in it. The shrimp are really salty and fishy tasting. They add a great flavor to the dish; but, by the end it gets to be overkill, so we picked them out. I also tried mangosteen at this market. Mangosteen now hold a place in my top ten favorite fruits. (The other nine include grapes, pears, mangos, strawberries, cherries, peaches, bananas, pineapples, and limes… but not in that order.)
After our lunch, we went into the Grand Palace grounds, but didn’t go into the actual Grand Palace. Museums and monuments close early in Thailand at around 3:30pm, and it was about 3pm when we arrived. After walking the grounds for a few minutes, we left to walk to a nearby park. At the park, we saw lots of people running and training. In most of the parks we saw in Thailand (and Singapore), there are weightlifting areas with all of the equipment free to use. We also saw a group of youth practicing what seemed like a song and dance routine. At the time, I thought this might have been one of their first rehearsals, judging by their inability to move like a cohesive group. But, after watching live music performances elsewhere, I think this group may have been doing a dress rehearsal.
On Friday, we ventured an hour west of Bangkok to Nakhon Pathom. It was nice to leave the city and get a different feel of Thailand. We went to the Phra Pathom Chedi Buddhist temple. This temple is the oldest in Thailand and has been renovated and expanded a few times over centuries. After walking through the temple, we trekked out in search of lunch. Somehow we ended up in a market selling all sorts of produce I’d never seen and meats I’d never want to eat. You can buy frogs, eels, mudskippers, snapper, chickens, and any number of unidentifiable meat products. Where the meat products looked completely unappetizing, the produce looked absolutely delicious. I recognized about 10 percent of the produce for sale and wanted to eat the other 90 percent. Eventually, we found the prepared food section of the market and sat down for lunch. We found a stall where everyone seemed to be getting delicious looking food. Lesson of the day: just because everyone else seems to be getting delicious food from a place, it doesn’t mean that you’ll receive delicious food from it. I have no idea what was in our lunches, but it didn’t look like the other people’s lunches, it was barely edible, and I could only identify two or three ingredients in it. At least it only cost about US$1.
After our so-called lunch, we took a tuk-tuk (tiny 3-wheeled taxi) to the Sanam Chandra Palace. It is a royal retreat built in the early 1900s for the king and his family. There are a bunch of different homes on the property, which I assume is due to the fact that Thai royalty tends to have a large family and needs space to accommodate everyone. We spent the afternoon walking around the property. Nearly every home on the property is built in a different style. Some are traditional Thai architecture. Some are English. And, some look like the Disney Magic Kingdom Castle.
Eventually, we headed back to the bus stop and rode back to Bangkok. We went to the Night Market in Bangkok. The market is full of all sorts of touristy gifts, knock-off goods, and really nice clothes that come in only one size. (Interestingly enough, that one size is an extra-super-duper-small.) There’s also a beer garden in the market, where they have lots of stalls of delicious food and an equal amount of drink vendors. The best part of the beer garden is the live music. Imagine people singing covers of songs that they don’t even know the words to. So good. To be fair, there were a few singers who could carry a tune and dance to the music. But, there were enough performers who could not.
On Saturday, our last day in Bangkok, we went to the weekend market where it was a lot of the same goods for sale. We had a great time shopping around and eating lunch for less than a dollar. After we tired of shopping, we ventured back to the hotel, freshened up, and went to the spa across the street for Thai massages. It was 250 baht (US$7.57) for an hour long massage. Just so you know, they aren’t like Swedish massages. The masseuse simply puts pressure on different points of your body for a few seconds, then moves on. It was relaxing, but it definitely wasn’t as relaxing as I’d hoped.
The last thing we did before leaving Thailand was buy some mango sticky rice, bring it to the airport, and eat it while waiting for our airplane. You really just can’t beat mango sticky rice.