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Published: August 23rd 2012
Bustling Bangkok. Where to begin? I spent six nights here following my stay in Cambodia, and it served as a transition in my trip from sort of roughing it with my adventure travel group, to a more comfortable journey with the long awaited arrival of Kayce!
I’ve got to say, if you get bored in this city of 7.7 million in central Thailand, you may want to check your pulse. There is a mountainscape of skycrapers, neon lights galore, and a rich cultural history tucked into it all. I thought it interesting too that Thailand is the only country in the region that has never
After pulling into town from Cambodia, we found our way to Khao San Rd to start things off. From what I had heard, and now would have to agree, this is the craziest, most crowded backpacker ghetto in the world. It is a pedestrian only road of maybe a half-mile, stacked with bars, clubs, hostels and delicious Thai street food. Our favorite nightly activity here was to grab a high (or very low) stool on the side of the road and try to pick out where in the world each group of
passersby was from. Occasionally somebody from our group would even jump out into the street and question the people directly. The responses to this ranged from some flattery (“Oh, well thank you…I guess I do look quite Swedish”) to angry retorts (“English! A damn pomme
! Hell no. I’m from Australia mate”). As you can imagine, one could actually have too much fun here and we saw more than a few disoriented backpackers stumbling through the streets, bloodied knees and elbows, perpetually in search of their next pint.
I do want to say a word about the transportation in Bangkok, because it can be equally vexing as well as thrilling. There are all kinds of options, ranging from boats, to trains to motorcycles. One night when we were in a hurry to get across the city, we really ran the gamut. Hurriedly running out of our hotel, we were first hawked by a tuk tuk
driver (three-wheeled hot rods with a canopy and bench on the back). After getting in, and negotiating a price he obviously deemed to be too low, he first offered us pictures of the "prettiest women in Bangkok", then moved on to tell us he would
be stopping off at his friend's place for "cheap” jewelry shopping. We had not gone a block before I advised my buddy we should get out. From there we got in a taxi that refused to use his meter. We had not gone a block before I advised my buddy we should get out. Next up was another taxi that did actually agree to use his meter. I should mention the traffic is so bad at times here that I can't really blame them for not wanting to use the meter. Supposedly there is a function that tacks on more fare for traffic, but for many drivers this doesn't suffice. After getting completely stuck in gridlock, we got through two blocks before I advised my buddy we should get out. Finally, we found our transportation savior. The moto-cy boys. These guys (not exactly “boys”) congregate in wide spots in the road and are for hire. After negotiating a hell of a deal to traverse the city, we hopped on the back and began carving through the previously impermeable gridlock of Bangkok.
After a warm up on Khao San on one of the nights, six of us made our way
via one tuk tuk
to one of Bangkok’s two large muay thai
arenas, Ratchadamnoen (the one with air-con). For those not familiar with muay thai
, simply put it is Thai kickboxing. It really is so much more than that though. Muay thai
is over 2,000 years old, and was even part of the country’s public school curriculum up through the 1920’s. Each fight begins with a ritual dance called the ram muay
, as each fighter honors his followers and his god. This alone was mesmerizing to watch as each fighter prances around the ring, limbs flying in all different directions, then goes into a bow to pray. It is one of the most brutal of all the martial arts as well, as roundhouse kicks with the shinbone and knee and elbow blows to the face are commonplace. I can remember vividly the “clap” that one of these made when connecting with the face of another fighter. In addition to the excitement in the ring, the fans are going absolutely nuts, seven nights a week. The gambling scene is absurd too, as there is money and odd hand signals going across the crowd at all times. To top it off,
there is a large sign when you enter for “FOREIGNER” seating, apparently for safety concerns more than anything. Riot police came into the ring once to remove an irate manager who didn’t like the judge’s decision.
Beyond the party scene and the kickboxing the cultural sights in Bangkok were endless. We had a really nice river boat ride along the canals in one of the V-8 long tail boats (Bangkok was formerly known as the Venice of the East), checked out heaps of mind boggling architecture inside and outside of the city and enjoyed far too much Thai cuisine on the streets and lesser so in the restaurants.
I need to also mention the extraordinary hospitality of my friend Fai’s family. Fai is from Bangkok and had been traveling with me since north Vietnam. Upon arriving in Bangkok, her family had us out for an afternoon in their home in the suburbs (not just in America folks). Her mom put together a phenomenal meal of what she said was the current trendiest “top ten” foods in Thailand. I wish I wrote them all down, the pictures sort of speak for themselves though. The more I travel the more
Ayutthaya Historical Park
They actually built this whole mountain temple from the ground up.
I realize how much I enjoy these visits into people’s homes more than the typical tourist trail. Thank you again Ratanapapat family!
Now, off to Chiang Rai in the far northern reaches of Thailand.
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