We left Thammarat around noon and headed towards the big scary capital city: Bangkok. The train ride was fabulous! The scenery was quite pretty, as the surroundings were a bit wilder than what you normally find next to main roads. The forests in this part of Thailand have a particular characteristic that I have noticed: You have the regular trees of all sizes, but between them cling climber plants with medium sized leafs that create a sort of mattress of greenery that almost swallows the whole lot and does not waste a gram of sunlight. In most places you cannot see the floor at all, and you have the impression a giant might come and lean on them to have a nap at any point. The other incredible sight, after over a month, was blue sky and sun light. We had finally put the wild fires behind and could enjoy the firmament clear again.
The train station was quite spacious and easy to navigate. A lady pointed us to the bus stop that would take us into the backpackers part of town, but there were no signs or any other form of markings to indicate where this actually was once we made it to the corner. Tim mistrusted the advice, as taxi drivers were lurking while offering their services, so we walked around the station looking for it. By the time we returned to the mentioned corner we saw the desired bus coming, stopping on the middle of the road to let people in and out, and going on its way. We lost that first one but at least we then knew where to wait. The next one did not take too long to arrive, and the ride was pleasant and took us through a lot of cool places we could admire from our window seats.
Half an hour later we arrived at our destination, about 5 blocks away from the famous Kao San Street. We found a cheap hotel very close to where we got off, with a mattress as hard as steal and shared bathrooms that were possibly cleaned once a month. After inquiring at a few others around the area we found that our place was by far the cheapest, as others charged about 40% more for a bed in a dorm. So we were satisfied with our choice despite its grubbiness. After a well deserved shower we set out to explore our surroundings and get some lunch. We opted for a place that sold typical Thai food, and ordered a green curry I was unable to eat because it was too damn spicy… I had been training myself to eat hotter food, but there was just no amount of water that would put the fire in my mouth out – quite an experience.
We returned to the hotel to sleep through the worst part of the heat and set out again shortly before dusk to wander the streets. We opted for the small alleys, surrounded by taunting merchants and wonderful food aromas. A grin painted on our faces, we made our way through the crowds, dodging the first drunks towards Kao San Road. Once we arrived we were surprised at the influx of white people there; we knew it was popular, but I don’t think either of us knew exactly how much. Browsing the stalls, I again had the impulse to buy many beautiful dresses and other stuff, but I settled for an awesome swimming suit after much haggling with the store seller – by her smile I take that what I thought was a hard bargain could have gone much lower, but I am still learning how to reach a fair deal…
We wandered around for quite some time, absorbing all the craziness around us. You can find a lot of strange stuff happening on this road. There was a stand that sold fake IDs, driver licenses, uni degrees- pretty much any fake documentation you can dream of. And it was right there! In the middle of the street out in the open with all the other stalls, trying to lure customers by yelling out loud as you walk past. We inquired out of curiosity and found that it was rather cheap as well and were astounded. There were also a few guys trying to convince you to get in a van to go see a ping pong show. Click there if you have no idea what I am talking about, but do it under your own responsibility. We were a little bit curious about them, but we had heard enough horror stories from other travelers and the multiple scam schemes that run through this form of entertainment, so we passed…
We eventually found dinner at a corner stall around the area, where we joined the popular sport of people watching. The endless strip of tourists from all around the world definitely provide enough fun for the whole family. I felt a bit like my parents in Villa Gesell, when they sit and do exactly the same but in a way different scale… Once we had enough, we quietly returned to our lair and to sleep for the night.
The next morning we set out as early as we could be bothered getting out of bed. We did not have a very clear aim for our walk, so we just turned left and hoped for the best. We soon stumbled upon a university, and decided to go in and check out what a Thai uni looked like on the inside. The cafeteria had cheaper prices than the outside world, so we had our morning coffee/tea there while we exchanged impressions and observed the students walking past. A section of the old Bangkok wall is preserved withing these walls, which makes for quite a stunning view. It is located on the waterfront, and a small shrine looks over the water. The uni itself had nothing to envy from its international piers – at least structural wise.
With the mighty river to our right, we made our way through the bank. We eventually came across a roofed market with big pictures of the VIP (Thai seem to love big photographs of important people in a golden frame) hanging from the roof. An upscale mall stood beneath this modest looking place, composing an interest contrast. We came upon a nice temple and a monk residency attached, which was completely full of beautiful stray cats ready for a belly rub. We eventually passed by the huge white walls of the Royal Palace, having little interest of spending the necessary money that would allow us to browse through the inside.
Instead we agreed to pay a reasonable fee to see the a gigantic reclining Buddha and a huge complex full of temples and shrines. The place was beyond fabulous. The very culprit of the bling. We spent over an hour visiting the different buildings and shooting tons of photos. They had a pretty high population of felines as well, which is always an added bonus to me.
Once satisfied with holiness, we browsed through a few more token places around the city – the flower market, monuments and the lot.
We also zigzagged along small alleys and found a quite pretty canal surrounded by plants and colorful flowers. At one point we stumbled upon this really old man with an awesome bike and a hardware shop that would make my dad drool all over it.
All in all, we walked for hours on end and were pretty tired by the time we made our way back to our awesome room – did I mention there was not even a power socket in it? We had not eaten anything substantial all day – because I don’t think our newly addiction to iced coffee really counts as food, so there was that added burden – We stopped to have some well deserved subsistence before finally plummeting onto our bed. The next few hours are in a blur, but I think we topped the food up with a smoothie a few hours later and called it a day…