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Published: November 30th 2014
Smile Society Bangkok Style
So a positive of the horrible road to Bangkok is my landing space, Smile Society hotel and hostel in Silom. A diminutive Thai woman checks me in, but I soon find the only thing meek about her is her stature. She is a business woman to the core, has me pay up front with multiple deposits, and insists on reading me the details of her policy of no tourist sex "No Thai Boys, no Thai Girls" which makes me chuckle. She turns out to be extremely helpful and accommodating, so I can live with the schoolmaster strictness. And would never mess with this broad.
The hostel is designed well. 4 floors, and on the second floor is a common room of hard dark wood floors, a flat screen TV, sofas, and a table with a fridge with bevvies for sale. I lug my stuff to the 4th floor girls dorm where I am staying for 2 nights until Cam arrives. The area is small like all dorms, but there is A/C and the beds are comfy and we each have our own dresser and light. I'm paying $20/night which is pretty
pricey by Thai standards, but it's worth it. I make a quick walk through the nearby Patong market to get a lay of the land. I am unimpressed. Overpriced trinkets and stock food, go go bars and men trying to sell other tourist men prostitutes. No thanks. Though I must say, some of the Thai lady boys are impressively attractive.
I head back to the hotel and meet some of the fellow guests. There are two guys from Germany who just arrived, two male nurses from Canada, and a guy from Holland who is still on the mend as he woke up in Thai jail that morning. He doesn't remember the details, but sounds like he got drunk and aggressive and woke up in jail and paid his way out. He's not too bothered by it, as if that's just normal for a night in Bangkok.
So we decide to grab some street food and we bobble around the Patong market until a local man asks us what we are looking for, and leads us to a side alley street market selling pad thai and fried chicken. The woman slinging pad thai is impressive,
just slaying the noodles and eggs and sauce on a flat skillet. At the end she dumps a heap of sugar and some chilis on top and puts it on a plate. 50 baht. That is about $1.50. And it's delicious. My first experience with street food - A+. The man who directed us to dinner now thinks he is owed for the kindness, and tried to force everyone to go to his bar, and I escape from this situation as fast as possible and have an early night. The rest of the crew ended up at a Ping pong show (google it, I won't explain here) and it seems like a bit rough of a night. Bangkok sees tourists as a big dollar sign and really nothing more, and they aren't particularly nice about extracting your money. Two of the girls left before even seeing the show because the bar staff was so rude and pushy.
The next day I wake up and go for a run in Lampini park. It is nice and there are a lot locals joining me. Thai people love to exercise, though the effort exerted is sometimes pretty comical to me.
There are old men going at approximateLy 0.5 miles/hour, and people doing Thai chi in small groups. I head back for a free breakfast of white toast, instant coffee, a boiled egg and a flesh colored floppy hotdog. Delish. There was also a tray of bitter mango out... Again, eh.
I shower and head to the river for the ferry, about a 20 minute walk away. Bangkok is bustling, but manageable. The ferry is only 10 Bhat or so (30 cents) and takes you up and down the river to multiple sites and tourist destinations. It's a bit chaotic, and I sort of just sit around until a bunch of like-appearing people board a certain ferry, and I pay on board. Fortunately I chose the right one. If you go, know that the ferries with no flags or orange flags are what you are looking for. I go to two temples, Wat Bo and Wat Arun, and the royal palace. All are impressive and worth a visit. It's a bit underwhelming after Angkor, but they lend a different, more modern charm. There are more colors and gold ornamentation, and the small statues are cute and friendly appearing.
I head back on the ferry, pay another 15 Bhat for the ride back, and walk back to the hostel. I meet the crew in the lobby for a night out in China Town.
Our group has expanded, now including a Malaysian 21 year old, 2 more Canadian nurses, a Brit, two South Africans (one now living in Spain) and two Americans. The average age is around 29, which is rare in a backpacking type of community. One of the Americans was an accountant in Alabama who just had it, quit his job, and has been traveling for 3 months and plans to be abroad for 18 months or so, or until his money runs out. We are an eclectic group, but we all belong. It's nice.
Probably not a surprise to most, I spearhead the beer charge and we get big beers from 7-11. 7-11s are ALL OVER Thailand, and your best bet for cheap drinks. We choose Chang, a Thai beer, though other options include Leo, Singha, Tiger. All taste like Budweiser, but are cold and satisfying. We decide to catch a metro tram to a stop near to Chinatown. So we thought. We
end up nowhere near our intended destination, a flaw of traveling in a large group of all tourists. So we then decide to catch a bus to Chinatown. So I once again lead the charge to buy beers off the street vendors while we wait... And then 7-11... And the bus never comes. But now we've all had enough beer, so we decide to walk. It turned out to be an awesome time, and we bought some street kabobs to tide us over en route. If you are hungry in Bangkok, there is always some random meet on a stick calling your name. We somehow arrive in Chinatown...less than soberly..but all having a helluva time. We find a place that can seat all of us, and I don't know if it was the Chang or the wait or if it truly was the food, but my meal is amazing. I have crab curry on rice and practically lick my plate. Huge chunks of fresh crab in a sweet cashew curry. Around $7.00. We then get tricked into having some cabs take us to some touristy overpriced bar, and then just decide to walk to the girls' hostel instead. They have
a rooftop bar with cheap big drinks and we close the place down. A ridiculously, epically fun night spent with the city lights at our feet.
Needless to say... I didn't leave the hostel the next day until 4pm. I missed breakfast, somehow managed to check into our private room, as Cam was arriving late that night. I subsisted on Thai television and Ritz crackers I found in a tin in the lobby. I eventually headed on a free ferry to Asiatique, a tourist's dream of a destination, just south of Bangkok on the river. It's filled with shops, wine bars, beer gardens, and a Ferris wheel. I have an interesting dinner of a salty/sour/sweet papaya salad with candied fish. Honestly, dried pieces of a small fish covered with honey and sesame seeds. Good, but a bit palate overwhelming,and too much fish sauce. Worth the 2 dollars either way. I head back to Smile Society and wait for Cams arrival!
stay in silom, chiller than kho San road but still bustling
Eat street food, particularly in china town
Great hostels - smile society and we boutique
River ferry is a
great cheap way to explore the city
Asiatique, unless you like minimalls
Directions from strangers, particularly those who try to walk you there. They are looking for something in return. Also, in Thai culture, it's rude to say "no", so they will always give directions, even if they have no idea.
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