The time had finally come – we had arrived in Southeast Asia. It was time for good food, cheap stays and beautiful beaches. We stayed at a hostel on a road filled with street food. The first thing we did was head to a local hospital to get the rest of the shots we needed for Thailand. The best part of going to get our shots was that behind the hospital was none other than a snake farm! Of course, Rob was ecstatic. I was, however a little weirded out that the hospital I was trusting with my wellbeing had a snake farm attached to it, but whatever, we were clearly not in America anymore… or Europe for that matter.
We knew we were going to be coming back to Bangkok within a month when our friend Matt came to visit so we wanted to save most of the big tourist sites for when he came. Instead we spent most of our four days replenishing our backpacks with all the things we had been running low on for the past few months. Literally everywhere you go there are market stalls filled with anything and everything you could ever want from socks to live frogs. There is street food everywhere, all delicious and cheap so we spent our days stuffing our faces and emptying our wallets.
We made a stop at a temple called Wat Saket that has a huge gold spire on top where we happened upon a religious ceremony that began as we got to the top. I was lucky enough to be invited to join in on this ceremony, the purpose to find peace within yourself and be thankful for all that you have in your life. It was quite beautiful and I was very thankful to be a part of it. It was inspiring to be a part of such a celebratory act, and the simple yet profound message definitely hit home.
A few “quick hitters” from our first stint in BKK:
Arrived during morning commute to work time and rode the train from the airport to a busy downtown area. We were literally the only people on a jam packed couple of trains to say ANYTHING. There was one man who answered his phone but immediately seemed to explain that he could not talk. He’s probably still being shunned. About halfway through our commute we caught on and shut up (well, started whispering at least).
Another common thing we found very quickly was the trend of unsafe motorbike practices. People riding 3 deep on a bike is unbelievably common, generally with no helmets and also quite common is to ride with your infant child on the front of your bike, again with no helmet. We were (and still are) shocked every time we see someone do this. We were able to experience part of these practices ourselves at one point during our few days in Bangkok when we went to go get a visa extension. (You get a 30 day visa upon arrival, we needed 45 days so off to the immigration office we went. It was a huge headache and we went to 3 different places before finding the right one and it took literally the whole day but the details are boring so we will spare you) The fun part of the story is when we arrived at one office that we thought was correct and a very nice officer of the law informed us that we were just a 10 minute drive down the street to the correct office and he would drive us – on his motorbike. 3 people, no helmets, on a motorbike, one of which was a policeman. Where else in the world would that fly?
Silom Cooking Class— We kept seeing flyers for Thai cooking classes everywhere we went so we finally decided we would go for it. We looked one up that had about 400+ reviews on Tripadvisor and 5 out of 5 stars. We were impressed already. We showed up in the afternoon and our teacher took gave us each a basket and took us down to a local market that was nearing closing hours, but had an area that was open later just for our class. He talked to us about all the different types of vegetables and spices that go into Thai cooking and let us smell and touch each thing as he explained their use in different meals. We gathered a few ingredients for the meals we would cook and headed to the classroom. They gave us aprons, a cutting board and knife and we got to work. Pad Thai was the first of our FIVE courses. Each person participated in chopping, mashing and mixing in some manner, whether it was chopping your own ingredients or if it was something we would all share, we would pass it around so everyone was able to test their skill. Then we headed to the skillets where we were instructed on the order of how and when to put each ingredient in the pan until we were left with the most delicious pad thai we had all trip! After that we made a massaman curry, which although tasty was a bit too spicy for me (I guess that is my own fault since I was the chef!) – Rob of course, loved it. Then were the dreaded spring rolls… We made the inside of the spring rolls, easy peasy. Then our teacher showed us how to roll them up and it looked simple enough but we destroyed them. Rob and I both butchered at least three of the spring roll papers each and had to start over and even the ones that we were able to put in the cooking pile looked like a 6 year old made them. A 6 year old actually could probably do a better job! They were still delicious though! We had a yummy papaya salad to go along side the spring rolls and then for dessert we made mango with sticky rice, which is a popular dish here and absolutely delicious, mostly because it’s 90% sugar. It was a 5 hour class, the food was delicious and we ended up with a recipe book on our way out so maybe we will be able to recreate some of these dishes when we get home.
Soi Cowboy- this area had been described as a vibrant nightlife hub, which had been around since the 70’s with great music and a steady stream of people looking to enjoy its laid back atmosphere. What we actually found once we got here was, best case, open, in your face sex tourism as women wearing less than your typical college girl’s Halloween costume congregated at the entrance of every club save one or two. Perhaps it’s because we went in stone cold sober and couldn’t laugh it off but it was a bit too much. Since we had trekked there for the specific purpose of a little night life, we stopped for a few beers at a severely overpriced (we were paying equal prices as we do in America for God sakes!!) bar with a great band. The band was vocalized by two Thai women who alternated songs and a man who looked like Flava Flav dressed up as Elton John. The guitarist was awesome and we enjoyed the songs enough to temporarily ignore the waitresses who seemed to be working for more than just tips. There was also an incredibly drunk man who was able to hang around all night ONLY by tipping 1000 baht (~$30 USD) about every five minutes. In between tips he managed to bash his own head against a ceiling mounted speaker, lose his shoes, attempt some unwarranted karaoke while the band was in session, dance with and actually repel various ladies of the night, and lose his shirt. Venturing to Soi Cowboy was an experience all right.
Koh San Road. This street is universally synonymous with backpackers in Bangkok and it’s easy to see why. Albeit a little cheesy, it has all the things you hear about when you think about visiting the city: lots of bars with cheap drinks, endless stalls to buy souvenirs and various knick knacks (while negotiating with a starting offer of max 50% sticker price), bbq’d bugs, crappy tailors, street food, offers for massages, ping pong shows, a rat sighting or two, bachelor and bachelorette parties, etc.It was what we were hoping to see with Soi Cowboy and Phuket but on a tolerable level. We definitely advocate going here, it’s a fun time just for a stroll or two but could easily sustain a night out for a couple drinks or a full fledged rager. Can’t wait to go back and eat some bugs.
Bangkok was great and we are looking forward to heading back in a few weeks!