Edit Blog Post
Published: January 23rd 2012
All dressed up in newly purchased attire, we set out for our New Year's Eve dinner date.
Back to Bangkok
In traveling south we had the luxury of booking and being looked after by a single tour operator. Our return trip was booked in a beach-side travel agency, involved us finding a woman named ‘Miss Kay’ and transferring onto a bus in a city the Government of Canada said we probably shouldn’t be in. The joys of traveling. Our day started with us being crammed with a hundred other people onto a high-speed ferry that was supposed to hold only 70. Although it should have been the easiest part of our journey, we managed to almost get off at the wrong pier, on another island instead of the mainland. After two hours on the water we arrived in Pakberra and found Miss Kay. She filtered us through the mob of people arriving and departing and escorted us to our mini-bus. After another two hours on the road we were dropped off on a busy street in the bustling city of Hat Yai. Although our travel book said it had a population of 194,000, we could have sworn it was at least one million. With a couple of hours to kill before we had to leave to
The beginning of the end.
catch our bus to Bangkok, we decided to wander around downtown Hat Yai and find some lunch. Buried in one of the deepest southern provinces of Thailand, Hat Yai did not provide the luxury of having many (any) English-speaking people in the service industry. We managed to find ourselves a decent-looking food court for lunch. Choosing a particular vendor was based entirely on which stall had pictures that we could point at expressing our desires. We ended up eating a bowl of noodles filled with some (but not all) identifiable vegetables, and the largest array of mystery meat either of us has come across. The noodles were accompanied by bowls of soup that resembled dirty dish water with “meat” balls that we decided were testicles.. so we ate around them. To further enhance the spectacular lunch experience, we chose an empty table right next to the “regulars” that show up at lunch hour to serenade the food court with amateur karaoke. We made our way back to the meeting point for our bus station transfer and were picked up by a songthaew, which is essentially a covered pick-up truck with benched in the back. He weaved from side street to
Our Party Crew
Liza posing in front of all the people drinking at our bar.
side street, pulling U-turns every now and again to gain an edge on rush-hour traffic. We he stopped and told us to get out, we thought we were in a back alley and that we had been swindled. He then proceeded to escort us to the bust station which was further up the road, get our tickets and make sure we were at the right platform. Despite his good care, we remained anxious about which bus we were supposed to get on once he departed, as one after another, Bangkok-bound buses pulled in and left. Lucky again, a nice young lady played translator and looked after us the entire trip. We boarded our bus and then slept for the majority of the 14 hour ride. Upon arrival in Bangkok we unknowingly got off at the wrong bus station, which likely ended up saving us money on our taxi ride into town. As it was only 6:30 am, we gathered ourselves in the bus station and killed time while the sun rose. A taxi driver approached us, but not speaking a word of English we had an extremely difficult time explaining to him where we wanted to go. He recruited a
young group of Thais to assist and after a little hand-waving and map-pointing everyone was on the same page. Our taxi made it to our destination flawlessly and the driver was visibly and audibly extremely pleased with how we managed to transcend our language barrier. He left us with a ‘Happy New Year’ (the first and only English words we heard from him) and we found ourselves ad bed to sleep in and regain some energy.
Tourists Once Again
We had returned to Bangkok for a New Year’s Eve celebration, but with more than twenty-four hours to kill we decided to take in a bit more of the big city. Deciding to go against the grain, we sought to explore some of the city’s massive shopping malls that we had heard much about. Our first stop was the MBK Center, which didn’t seem like much as we entered.. until we looked up. The square footage of each level seemed no different than any other average mall we had been in. What set the MBK Center apart was that there were seven of those levels. As we ascended towards the higher levels the all morphed into more of
Kao San Road Madness
Celebration at the crack of midnight.
an outdoor market.. but indoors. Hundreds of individual stalls each selling seemingly identical merchandise to those around them replaced the standard retail store layout. On one floor, all of the stores sold clothing. Another floor housed foods. Another was electronics, and so on.It was incredibly overwhelming.
Needing a break from shopping malls, we crossed the street and took in the Bangkok Art & Culture Center. The highlight of this stop was the exhibit showcasing photographs of the most recent Thailand flooding crisis. The prevention and recovery process in Bangkok (at least in the tourist-populated areas) was so effective that we could not tell that there had been any issue whatsoever and we were interested to learn more about how people had been affected. We were shocked to see the photos dated only two weeks prior to the present day of streets 3-4 feet deep in water, of the ways in which people coped, and of the rescue and recovery operations that were required.
Sufficiently re-energized, we headed back for more shopping mall madness. Kitty-corner to the MBK Center, the Siam Discovery Center again resembled your run-of-the-mill shopping mall on the lower floors. As we made our way higher in this mall, however, it transformed into an entertainment playground. One floor housed a Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, another a video arcade. There was a karaoke area complete with a sizeable stage, and a floor above there was a bowling alley. The piece-de-resistance was found on the upper-most level, which was an artificial skating rink jam-packed with mediocre to terrible skaters. Deciding against dropping the money to rent skates we descended back to street level and made our way down the road to our last stop, the Siam Paragon.
The Siam Paragon was more of a look-but-don’t-touch shopping mall and was by far the most impressive mall of the bunch we saw that day. Like other malls in Bangkok, each floor was themed. What set the Paragon apart were the stores found on those floors. With five floors of retail space, every single store was an authentic high-end retailer. The first two floors above the food areas housed luxury brand clothing and accessories, and had stores such as Armani, Rolex, Chanel, Jimmy Chu, Versace, Dolce & Gabana, Yves St. Laurent, Burberry, and many more we didn’t even recognize but knew that they were fancy. The third floor was the one that nearly gave Matt fits. Life style and Leisure. The floor began with high end sound equipment. Sony, Pioneer, Bose and Bang & Olufsen. Getting even better as we went along, at the end of the hall we found a number of CAR DEALERSHIPS. On what amounted to the 5th
level of a shopping mall, we perused BMWs, Aston Martins, Porsches, Lambourghinis and Mazerattis. Matt’s jaw was on the floor the entire tie. Feeling that things couldn’t get any better and with the daylight escaping we decided to make our way back home. Content with our ability to navigate Bangkok thus far, we opted to challenge ourselves with the public transportation system. We jumped on the skytrain with the rush hour traffic and made our way towards the Chao Praya river. We transferred successfully to the ferry and enjoyed our sunset cruise up the river. We jumped off at our stop and walked the remaining five minutes to our guesthouse. Although it cost us a little more than the ridiculously cheap taxi fares, we felt rewarded by our ability to DIY in the big city.
The following morning was NYE day. As excited as we were to spend the night celebrating in Bangkok, we had a BIG market to experience first. Thankfully our second trip to Bangkok brought us the chance to visit the Chatuchak weekend market. We both fancy ourselves as experienced market-goers, but this was nothing like we’d ever seen before. The Chatuchak arket covers 35 acres of Bangkok and sells anything you could possibly desire. Ever. You want clothes? Got it. You want food? Got it. Pythons? Got it.. the market had everything. We entered the first of the stalls with our minds (and wallets) open and our bargaining skills at the ready. The previous day we had each made a list of things we wanted to get for friends, family, and personal souvenirs, so as to not get overwhelmed when we got there. We were still overwhelmed. The market came with a poorly detailed map of where we could find all the goods we were looking for. Determined to find the best bargain, we opted to avoid any purchases at first glance. This later proved to be detrimental. We arrived around 10:30 am and had our arms full with bags of goods by noon. We had found a good stall early in the day with souvenirs that we’d wanted, but avoided the first-glance purchase. Little did we know that finding that stall again would prove impossible. With 35 acres, 8000 vendors and a maze of people – most of whom didn’t speak any English, we were doomed. Around 1:30 we admitted defeat, grabbed lunch at a roadside vendor and took the skytrain back to our guesthouse to rest up for the big night.
New Year’s Rockin’ Eve
After a nap and some refreshments, we got in gear for the evening. We began with a roadside brew at our favourite spot on Soi Rambuttri. We then migrated to dinner down the road. We each ordered another 640 ml/6.4 %!b(MISSING)eer with dinner, but considering our absolutely lovely ladyboy waiter/tress took 50+ minutes to bring us our food, yet another bottle each was required and enjoyed. After dinner we sat again at our roadside spot on Rambuttri and enjoyed a few more Chang each while people-watching. Then to Kao San road.
Kao San road is insanity at any given time, let alone New Year’s Eve. Catering to tourists, it is a 300-400 m stretch of road that is at all times a market, a bar district, a guesthouse district, and a mess. Even when we arrived in Bangkok at 7 am it was still heavily populated with bargoers from the previous night. We figured that this would be the ideal location to bring in 2012. As Kao San road is just around the corner from Soi Rambuttri, we made our way there around 10:30 pm. Although already packed, the bars had anticipated the madness and had wooden tables and chairs spilling into the street. We grabbed one of the few remaining tables and stayed put for the rest of the evening. The bar (which was actually a push-cart filled with booze and buckets – to serve the booze in – accompanied by several endearing yet persuasive servers) sold “buckets” filled with the Thai whiskey Sangsen and coke for a meagre 250 Baht ($8.50 CDN). Being our first experience with buckets, we were unaware and unprepared for the power that they held. As our intake increased, our memories of the night faded. We both recollect the strike of midnight, the wave of noise progressing down the street, and the firecrackers and fireworks exploding all around us. There were a couple of hours beyond that which are still unaccounted for. We woke up the next morning much worse for wear, but with our passports and wallets still in possession. Knowing that after enough nights like that, Bangkok will eventually catch up with you, we said goodbye once again and made our way west.
Tot: 2.398s; Tpl: 0.067s; cc: 10; qc: 45; dbt: 0.0599s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb