Bangkok

Bangkok – the central hub of Thailand. Busy, hot-as-hell, and absolutely awesome.

A lot of the people we spoke to before our three week vacation to Thailand told us that Bangkok was their least favorite destination of the places they visited. Bangkok was too busy, too loud, and too dirty – the characteristics that, for us, made us fall in love.

The city seemed to never sleep. Street food vendors were out from 7am until late in the evening, selling everything from Banana Roti, thin pancakes fried with bananas and condensed milk, to pad thai. We wanted to try everything, and we did – well except for insects.

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We travelled through Bangkok three times during our three week vacation and visited as much as we could while trying to avoid the protest areas.

Our first evening was spent taking a ferry ride up to the Khao San Road area, the backpacker haven of Bangkok. Walking around, we were surrounded by dive bars, fresh fish street food, and endless vendors selling the ever present harem pants and Singha beer tanks. We strolled, drank some beer, had some street food and took in the night. The following day we were off to Cambodia to continue our adventure.

Upon our return to Bangkok a week later, we saw the city in a different light. In contrast to our fresh memories of the developing Cambodia, the modernity of Bangkok made Thailand seem suddenly more familiar. Students in uniforms rode quietly with us on the skytrain and mischevious cab drivers tried to keep us from using the meter. People generally paid us little mind – allowing us to blend in while they went about their lives.

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We spent one steamy hot morning slowly trudging our way through the largest outdoor market we’d ever been to in our lives – the Chatuchuk weekend market. With over 15,000 stalls, this market has something for everyone – from miniature ceramic dollhouse food to live puppies to bring home and cuddle. We spent a good hour in the vintage clothing section before making our way to the food area to have Thai iced tea and stir fry. We ended the afternoon sitting in the shade listening to a dj spin great tunes.

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We brought home some silly vintage tees, a super cool scarf, beautiful ceramic serving pieces and a pair of earrings. We could have gotten anything, but our tiny luggage wouldn’t fit anymore than we already packed, and frankly with so many options, it was like shopping overload – I wanted everything and nothing. Plus Ken wouldn’t let me buy a tiny flying squirrel to bring home as a pet.

The following day we made our way to an outdoor floating market on the outskirts of Bangkok. The Taling Chan market wasn’t your typical tourist trap market. The market itself was on the street, selling everything from plastic orchids to flowers for the small spirit houses sprinkled around the city, plus tons of street food all neatly wrapped in plastic bags.

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At the end of the market was a pier surrounded by boats grilling all sorts of fish and meat, where we happily plopped down for my favorite meal of the entire trip – grilled salted snakehead fish stuffed with lemongrass served with the most amazing sauces that I’ve ever eaten in my life. After lunch, we took a tour of the canals.

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That evening after a short walk through MBK mall, we followed in the steps of Bangkok based food blogger Mark Weins and had the most amazing Pad Thai ever at Pad Thai Thip Samai. The line wrapped along the street, but since we noticed that most Thai people don’t dine (they just eat and then leave), the wait wasn’t very long. We had the best Pad Thai ever, wrapped in an egg omelet and made with shrimp head juices.

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The must see for every tourist in Bangkok is the Grand Palace. The entire temple, or wat, is tiled with glass mosaic patterns that glisten as you wander. The walls are painted with murals depicting Hindu stories of monkey kings and demons.

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We sat while people prayed to a small Jade Buddha, had delicious noodle soup and then meandered to the wat of  the giant reclining Buddha. The detail in the mother-of-pearl inlay in this grandiose Buddha’s feet is worth the visit alone, not to mention the somewhat dizzying experience of walking past hundreds of identical golden Buddha statues that line the walls of the complex.

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After a trip up to Chang Mai and some time at the beach, we ended our journey with one last night in Bangkok at the coolest hotel ever. The Loy La Long hotel is directly behind a wat, built on stilts, on the river. As we walked in, we could see the river sloshing under our feet through the slots in the wooden floor. We decided to walk around Chinatown as a final end to our trip, but instead we literally walked into a man who changed our last night plans completely.

We had been verbally accosted throughout our journey to SE Asia from those who were offering us tuk-tuk rides, to those who wanted to sell us 10 postcards for a dollar. We were somewhat tired of the same banter by our last evening, so when this man started telling us that we should go to the best seafood restaurant in the city, we were smiling and nodding in the hopes that we’d be able to just walk away. Instead, he hailed us a tuk-tuk driver, negotiated the cheapest price that we’d had for a ride throughout our SE Asia journey and sent us on our way to Somboondee Seafood Restaurant where we had grilled squid and the best Tom Yum Goong soup of our trip.

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Now that I’ve read reviews online, I see that it might have been a scam, but still, we were happy with the food and the excitement of being whisked off into the city to end our time in Bangkok.

Bangkok really has something for everyone, and we enjoyed every moment there. Despite our initial concerns regarding the political protesting that was scattered around the city, we felt physically safe and culturally exhilarated. I hope we will be able to go back some day.



3 Comments

  1. Auut Bev wrote:

    You must have excellent digestion! Your brave dining exploits really are impressive. I would LOVE to have tried all those amazing dishes. What a gorgeous trip! xx

  2. Uncle Norman wrote:

    Bangkok, how great. When I was in the navy, during the summer of 1959, North Vietnam was beginning to kick up their heals. President Eisenhower sent three ships, including mine, up the river into Bangkok, on his “Peoples to peoples” program. We first picked up the marine corp. band and drill team on Okinawa and, standing on the deck of our ship, blasted the theme from the movie, “Bridge on the River Quai” going up into Bangkok. I was the squadron public information officer. Have a picture in my office, in camp, with the queen’s sister, at the reception at the American embassy. Wonderful time. Loved the city as it was then.
    Hugs to you both.

  3. Linda Skye wrote:

    Thanks for sharing!!! Loved seeing u 2 on your ventures!!!!