6 Nights in Bangkok...
Trip Start Sep 15, 2008
122Trip End Jan 01, 2009
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In contrast with our assumptions we have to admit Bangkok is great. For a developing nation the capital is both efficient and clean. Our taxi ride from the airport was air-conditioned and easy to arrange. Our hotel was very nice and very clean. Getting around town was straight forward, the architecture and sophistication were impressive and the smells mostly mouth watering (peanut sauce, flowers, incense, or fruit juice). The only thing we had to get used to was being impressed.
We kept a low profile the first day, testing some street food, checking e-mail, and a little R&R..
Day two we had a mission to arrange our Vietnamese visas for later this month (it's supposedly easier and cheaper if arranged in Bangkok).
At our hostel (oh yea, it is also awesome to be back in a hostel) we got along really well with a Belgian couple. When they told us the last few days in town they had spent shopping we scoffed - shopping when there are so many sights to see??? After handing in our visa application at the Vietnamese Embassy we stopped by one of Bangkok's many malls. We're not sure how or why, but the Thai seem to have perfected shopping and shopping malls. In many countries we've felt the stores or malls could easily be transplanted into the west without anyone noticing....well not in Bangkok. Anyone of these malls is more amazing than any shopping experience we've ever seen, and we are both relatively well travelled by now. Not LA, not Vegas, not Vancouver, not San Fran, not Toronto, not Paris, not Berlin, not Milan, Not Buenos Aires, and certainly not Kelowna, could even begin to compete with the shopping mall excellence of Bangkok. There is one mall for computer and electronics (8 floors), one for fake everything (shirts, iPods, phones, etc. also 8 floors), one for all the big brands (Burberry, Louis Vutton, etc.), one with Asia's largest aquarium, several with movie theatres, and all with the best food courts imaginable.
Outside the malls 7-Eleven seems to own most of the city
The first full-day in town we had lunch in one of the Malls, as we would many times. Arik went for the beef soup, which actually meant cow part soup. Liver, intestine, some meat, stomach, and round balls that we don't want to know what it was. Luckily the next floor of the mall had an international food court where Arik could wash the stomach and intestine down with hummus, pita, and a plate of dolmantes.
Charis hasn't really been felling up to snuff since our Indian adventure, so we made a quick trip to the Christian Hospital of Bangkok. In and out in 20 mins, meds in hand, and attended to by a Dr. educated at Harvard - impressed again.
On our way to and from the hospital we were a bit shocked to be approached by men selling "Sexy DVD's" and asking us if we wanted to see a "ping pong and banana show". After re-reading our guide book it ended up the hospital was in the heart of the Bangkok skinworld..
To break ourselves from the mall culture we spent our third day in BKK checking out some temples, specifically Wat Pho with its large reclining Buddha. Charis clearly remembered visiting Wat Pho 12 years earlier. We snapped some picks, enjoyed the relaxing environment and were quickly over it. It is really annoying how de-sensitized we've become to this sort of opportunity. One day, and probably very soon, we are going to look back and regret we didn't spend more time in awe, more time gazing, or more time learning about these cultural sites. But the fact is we're burned out on history, culture, and old buildings.
The next day we visited Bangkok's largest Market, Chantuck Market. Even though many refer to the market as a flea market it was anything but. Funky food booths and trendy Thai's with their homemade designer fashions filled most of the booths.
We escaped the market and made it back to our hostel right before a crazy storm hit. We've never heard lightning so loud or seen rain so hard. The mornings here have started out blue skies, and then depending on the heat there might be a short rain at lunch. But then, as the heat of the day creates huge cumulus clouds (Geography 12) a massive lightening and rain storm would hit the city every evening.
In addition to the advanced mall culture of Bangkok, western comforts are readily available, more so than most countries we've visited this trip (save Europe). Within minutes of arriving in town Charis had spotted the first DQ, of course there are dozens of McD's, Starbucks, Pizza Huts, Burger Kinds, and to our complete amazement a real BC grown, Canadian style White Spot Triple O's! We didn't look for it, we didn't know it existed, but somehow fate brought us to the White Spot gates right at lunchtime. We enjoyed our taste of home, literally, eating BC Burgers, and shed a tear, figuratively, for Canada, for our home Province of BC, and for Nat Bailey and his delicious burgers. We don't even know if there is White Spot in Alberta, but we now know there is White Spot in Bangkok, Thailand. What will they think of next?
In the same mall on the same day we found a ridiculous movie theatre. The actual theatre rooms were separated by class. The first class theatre had beds to rent, food service, and expedited ticket lines. The "fun" class theatres had bean bag chairs and couches. We went for the normal / 3rd class theatre where the seats reclined and the arm rests folded up for extra cuddling. At the start of every movie is a dedication to the King where people stand and watch some clips on his life. The movie we watched was "New In Town", yes Arik is an amazing husband, about city girl Rene Zelweger being transferred to small town Minnesota. The snow, the hockey, the union workers, the Christmas carols, the small town gossip, it all reminded us of home. After the movie we wondered if the other mainly Thai visitors understood the jokes about hockey, hunting, surviving a snow storm, union and management tensions, or small town resistance to those educated city folk
The next few days were a mix of shopping, Asian food and backpacker chores. The only really interesting event was getting our computer fixed, after it had a little tumble in India. The hostel computer repairman said he thought our motherboard and hard drive were shot. We have all our pictures from the trip on that hard drive so that must be a lie (we prayed). We made the smart choice and took the computer to an official Acer support office. We dropped it off, filled out one form, and 1 hr later it was fixed free of charge, with all our pictures! Could there have been a better place to get this thing fixed? We are sure that even in first world Canada we would have to wait several days, if not a week. Here they took in the computer, verified our warranty without a receipt, and fixed the problem in less than 60 minutes.
We had drinks 61 stories above the city, only to find out there is another restaurant at 80 stories....we walked through Lumphini Park, and stopped by the Red Cross Snake Farm to round out the last few days.
Then we hopped on an overnight 2nd class train north towards Laos for the next stop on our South East Asia tour.
As Yogi Berra once said about a NY restuarant, "That place is so popular, no one goes anymore". We sort fo felt the same way about visiting Thailand and Bangkok, which seem to be visited by everyone and their dog. We also imagined Bangkok a polluted sprawling poorly developed city. What we found was a clean, organized, and modern metropolis. Bangkok surprised us in a way we needed to be surprised and we can't wait to go back!