Welcome to the circus
Trip Start Dec 18, 2011
38Trip End Feb 29, 2012
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Our flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Bangkok was short (3 hours) but was during the night and early morning. Bleary-eyed, we spent a few hours trying to decide how to get from the airport to our guesthouse (Buddy Lodge on the famous backpacker street Khao San Road). Worn-out and groggy, we finally broke down and took a public taxi (450 baht, about $12), which we felt was a good value, considering the distance and lack of direct public transit connections between the two points. Our guesthouse generously made a room available even though we arrived two hours before the normal check-in time. We then napped.
Out on Khao San Road, I commented to Nancy "Welcome to the circus." Indeed, the street is a swirl of mostly young backpackers, loud music, vendors, touts, food carts, beer and neon
I’m enjoying Bangkok much more this time than the last time I was here. Having Nancy to share in experiences, good and bad, probably makes the difference.
First meal: spicy seafood glass noodle salad for me, stir-fried “morning glory” for Nancy. For dinner, street food (chicken green curry and a deep-fried egg, with rice).
On our first full day, after making arrangements for a Cambodia visa and a flight to Siem Reap, we went on a tour of two unusual markets. At the first (Maeklong), we watched as a market set up over railroad tracks quickly folded up as a train passed through and then unfolded again after the train had passed. This happens eight times a day. Anthony Bourdain’s television program showed this remarkable scene.
Next was Amphawa floating market, where food vendors sell their products, mostly seafood dishes, from boats tethered to steps leading up from a river. The food is excellent, and there are few Western tourists due to its distance from Bangkok
As evening drew near, our group of about 10 (all Korean other than us) boarded a long-tail boat for a nice sunset and glimpses of fireflies from the water. A serene and pleasant trip that left me a little less hostile toward group tours. And a good value at 650 baht (about $22).
Yesterday was the high point of Chinese New Year, so Nancy and I boarded a water taxi to Chinatown. On our ramble through the area on side streets, we passed a temple and were blessed by being sprinkled with water by a monk.
Rumors that the Queen and Princess would be there for the celebration proved to be true, although we had quite a long wait for their appearance in a limo. We passed the time by chatting with a nice middle-aged Thai couple, who were very happy that we shared our Thai flags with them.
Photos were strictly forbidden, and there was a massive police and military presence to enforce the ban
As we were attempting to leave Chinatown to catch a tuktuk or taxi back to Khao San Road, we made a turn and ran into a tightly packed throng in front of a temple with camera lights glaring. A Thai man who spoke excellent English explained to us that the Queen and Princess were inside the temple. Jammed into the sweltering crowd, we had no alternative but to wait for the royalty to leave and the crowd to disperse.
As the Queen emerged, a military band struck up the king’s anthem and the crowd sang along enthusiastically. Cheers of “long live the King” and “long live the Queen” followed. It was a clear demonstration of the strong feeling Thais have for the royal family.
The street was so packed that even after the Queen and Princess had departed, we struggled to make our way. It was so densely packed, in fact, that I grew a little concerned for our safety and the safety of those around us. Had anyone stumbled and fallen, they could easily have been trampled.
Eventually, we made our way to a street where traffic was actually moving, though slowly, and flagged down a tuktuk for the trip back to Khao San. Three beers were required to slake my thirst and calm my nerves.