Dirty Deeds (done dirt cheap)
Trip Start Oct 17, 2009
19Trip End Ongoing
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We arrived at the station and were quick to do a thorough inspection of our bags, everything was fine so we sat at a street vendors cafe and waited for our train. It was only 10pm and our train didn't arrive til 11:25, it ended up the train was delayed an extra half hour, making our journey far more cooler as we were now catching the 'midnight train'
The sun hit the right angle to wake me up about 7am the next morning, the train still powering onwards toward the city. Our bunks were packed up, transformed back into chairs, our linen was whisked away by the attendant, and we went for a wander down to the diner carriage. Breakfast eaten, bags sorted, deodorant sprayed, we stepped off the train at Bangkok main train station about 11am. A taxi followed shortly after and we found ourselves wandering down Th Khao San looking for a place to stay. Khao san road is an iconic part of Bangkok, being the center of Bangkok's backpacker area for years, coming to Bangkok without staying there for a bit just wouldn't be right, just ask Jimmy Barnes. It's jam packed with hotels, bars, clubs, novelty shops and food stalls.
We walked the length of the street but were quickly distracted by our stomachs. To our utter excitement we had walked right into a Burger King restaurant, we hadn't seen a fast food chain since Kuala Lumpur
We got sick of walking around looking so checked into a place called Sawasdee House just for the sake of getting our backpacks off. Feeling decidedly lighter we continued our hunt and found a nice place by the river with rooms that had private bathrooms, all for 290 Baht a night(10AUD). That was a bit better than the 500 Baht we had just forked out for the room with shared bathroom. We moved hotel the next morning, our new accommodation was great, the New Merry V. If you've seen the movie 'the beach', it was the hotel straight out of the start of that, complete with dodgy electricity and mosquito net covered windows connecting the rooms.
We've done a fair bit of sightseeing while we've been here, our first explorations were a walk down to one of Bangkok most famous sights, the grand palace, and Wat Phra Kaew( the temple of the emerald Buddha). It was a hot day so we were wearing singlets and shorts, temple rules require sleeved shirts, long pants, and for Danni an ankle length skirt
After a few temples you start to get a little jaded, so our focus shifted to the stranger things. The morning after a solid night of drinking on Khao San we decided to check out Bangkok's forensic museum. What looked like a 20 minute walk on the map ended up being a couple of hours trudging alongside roaring highways in the morning sun. The museum was inside a hospital complex that stretched over a massive area, it took ages for us to find but we ended up going down random alleyways and finding it on the second floor of some building.
Already feeling seedy and now a little dizzy after sweating out the previous nights alcohol, we took our stomachs to a whole new level. The museum was like the website 'rotten.com' in the flesh, a macabre collection of evidence for different murder cases, predominantly preserved body parts with attached stories explaining the reason it ended up there
For one day we got to see what it was like to be a package tourist, once again Danielle wanted to see the animals so we booked a day trip to the Tiger temple. a temple a couple of hours out of town where monks look after tigers that have been orphaned. For some reason they don't attack so people can get close and pat them. As part of the day, we were taken to a bunch of other sites also, including traditional Thai floating markets and the bridge over the river Kwai, a world war II memorial.
At each sight there were more foreigners than Thais, we were shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of camera toting tour groups, the roads were lined with coaches and minivans. We were herded like cattle from one place to the next by crews of little tour guides. Despite that fact we still had a fun day. The floating markets were exactly what they sound like, thais on boats selling sunglasses and spring rolls to foreigners, so not really that fun. But the bridge over the river Kwai was good to see, its part of whats known as the death railway, of which 2815 Aussie POW's died building.
Bangkok isn't the skyscraping megalopolis we were imagining, it's more of a sprawling city, spreading outward instead of upward, much like Melbourne compared to Sydney. We arrived with expectations of pure chaos. After reading guidebooks and hearing travelers tales we had braced ourselves for a hard time, and were pleasantly surprised to find things a little easier than we were expecting. Our experiences in Jakarta had toughened us up a little, with Bangkok very similar to Jakarta with it's chaotic traffic, drivers following no rules, also in regard to it's touts and annoying people trying to sell you stuff or rip you off. There is a degree of order her though which makes the place tolerable, it has good infrastructure like Kuala Lumpur, highways dominate the city, the answer to congestion being simply to build a highway over the top of everything. Some areas have 3 or 4 highways crisscrossing over the top of each other, it looks like a giant slot car set, twisting and turning over the urban sprawl.
The train and ferry systems are also efficient which is great to have, relying on a taxi or tuk tuk driver around Khao san is impossible. They all hassle you to go to a shop or strip bar, scam you out of your money by not turning on their meters or doing laps of the city to clock up dollars, it's quite annoying. Thankfully most things are reachable by ferry or train
As a touch of randomness we were in one of the major shopping plazas in town cos Danni had to go to the toilet(shopping centers have the cleanest toilets). I was sitting in the middle of this plaza waiting for Danni to finish her business when who should walk past but the bass guitarist out of Greenday. If I wasn't minding the bags I would have gone chasing after him for an autograph, it turned out that Greenday was playing a concert that night in Bangkok, There were still tickets available and we could have gone and seen them play. The scabby bastards were charging 2500 baht a ticket though, the same as what it would cost in Australia, that's three days worth of our money so we had to miss out.
Not that we haven't wasted any money here, the Thais have it worked out on Khao San, they get you drunk then sell you junk, genius. The street is full of clubs, pubs, and little vendors selling beers, you sit in the street on little stools drinking whatever beverages are available, chatting to whoever you might be sitting near. The surrounding roads and alleys are full of guys selling all sorts of novelties, fake I.D.'s, over sized lighters, ninja stars and samurai swords, all sorts of cool pointless stuff. I fell victim to the trap one night and woke up the next morning with a 'clockwork orange' t shirt that was also a fashionable bright orange and a hand held laser pointer with different disco settings.
We decided back in Koh Phangan to live classy for a bit in Bangkok, so for our last 3 nights we moved to the other side of town. We're now staying in Citadines on Sukhumvit 11, where we have all the trimmings including the rooftop pool, buffet brekky, and hot water
After drinks at vertigo we threw away our dignity and went for a wander a few blocks away to the alleys patpong I and II, one of Bangkok's red light districts known for its displays of feminine absurdity. No trip to Thailand would be complete without seeing a ping pong show and this was the place to go to see one.It took a few laps around the block to work up the courage but we eventually went in and checked a few places out, as we were heading back to the train station we found a place called 'the kangaroo bar', of all the bars and clubs in the area the one place with Australian connotations just so happened to be a brothel. It didn't take long for us to realize the mistake and we made for the door in a hurry.
Being in the expat part of town brings the sex trade with it. We may be in the ritzy part of town but there's heaps of hookers walking the streets, you see lots of old blokes walking around with young Thai girls that they've rented out for the week. The whole scene leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth but I guess it's just another part of what is the overall Bangkok experience. Where else in the world can you see a pop star in the mall, an embalmed serial killer, and a girl shooting things from her nether regions, all in the same week.
Were on the road again tonight, getting the bus north into Laos. Were happy to be out of here, not the biggest fan of the place...
Over and out from Bangkok, Thailand.