Thursday, December 13, 2007

3 Nights in Bangkok

OK, 80's aficionados will now have the Murry Head classic "One Night in Bangkok" stuck in their heads. Trust us, it's worse when you are here. You really do walk around with the song in your head. After getting into our first night's hostel by 1 am (5 pm Sydney Time, I think) sightseeing was out of the question. The next morning, we donned our backpacks and set out to find a cheaper place to stay that was more in the thick of things.

For the uninitiated, this is the point where the touts begin to offer you things. The tuk tuk drivers (3 wheeled motorcycles with bench seating in the back) want to drive you to your destination or to a gem dealer--they decide. People have the PERFECT place for you to stay, sight to see, breakfast to eat. It's never that pushy-just trying to make a living-but can become a bit much when you are drenched in sweat lugging 45 pounds of luggage on your back.

But once we settled into our new place, we were able to set out and explore in relative comfort. Despite the ubiquity of touts, the bulk of our walking in Bangkok has been through wonderful markets crowded with vendors, gawkers and shoppers. To give a sense of the experience (and to keep with the 80's pop culture theme) the experience of Bangkok is sorta like watching Bladerunner in smell-o-vision with the best food smells one second mixed with the worst smells of sewage the next. We especially enjoyed walking through Chinatown and Little India--just when you think there's no way you can get more narrow lanes and alleys with more vendors, you turn a corner and get to push yourself along an impossibly narrow market alley, dodging motorbikes every so often.

We also made it to Siam Square, which is in the more modern section of town (read giant shiny malls and with more teens break dancing, less street market action). Of course, the pace is just as frenetic, and the streets are still filled with people day and night.

What we quickly realized is that the further that you left the Khao San area (the cheap backpacker street) the more enjoyable. I think that the downside of guidebooks is that it drives everyone with the book to the same 10 hotels. The remedy is that we are quite capable of getting lost/ignoring the book. Stumbling onto beautiful Wats, Giant Stuppas and golden Buddhas is more fun when you don't entirely know that they are there. We especially enjoyed Wat Arun, a short water taxi across the Mae Nam Chao Phraya river. They allow you to walk the incredibly steep stairs towards the top of the towers, which gave a great view of the city and again gave Dennis the opportunity to conquer his fear of heights. So in summary, if "one night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble," three nights in Bangkok make two tourists exhasted and happy. So to wind down, we're off to a few days on the beach in Southern Thailand.

-K & D

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