Bangkok 1 – Khaosan Road
January 5, 2012 4 Comments
I’ve waited far too long to write about Bangkok Thailand. So while I’m only working about four hours a day for summer camp I think I’ll take the time now to introduce the second country I went to on vacation. I should start with the place I hung out the most, Khaosan Road. This place has been dubbed the Gateway to Southeast Asia, and it was a bright colorful street full of interesting characters sights and sounds. And albeit a very ‘touristy’ part of the town it was an experience just visiting.
When I first arrived in Thailand with my traveling buddy (I will refer to her as that in order to keep her anonymity as well) and I found ourselves in an airport and hopped a cab to get to our hostel.
As we drove through the city it became apparent to us that although it was a large bustling city with many people, most of whom spoke perfect English I got the same feeling that I often have in Washington D.C. It’s that feeling in your stomach where you see nice things, because you are literally riding on a highway built on top of the slums. You start to realize that some of these people make a living taking advantage of wide eyed tourists like you. The cab driver (and every subsequent mode of transportation we took following that) were quick to disable the meter and haggle about the price of the ride, hoping to score a little cash under the table. It was our first time dealing with the Bhat, Thailand currency, so we got taken for a ride, literally and figuratively. But that was to be expected. We were on vacation so our wallets were loose and as with any country you slowly start to figure out what things are really worth only after dealing with the people. And to be honest everything in Thailand was so cheap (even compared to Korea) you don’t much mind.
After arriving in our Hostel we immediately set off for Khaosan which was practically walking distance away. The place was jam packed with people from all over the world. Out the corner of my ear I could hear French, German and English all melded together. There were tons of western style bars and shops lining the street and tons of American based businesses and restaurant. I must say I am always confused by that. Why would someone go so far away from their country to buy the same KFC Double Down they could find back at home? Then again I suppose Thai people want a footlong every now them.
Commerce here was very heavy. Every now and then as I walked I could hear someone shouting “OBAMA! HANDSOME! YOU NEED A NEW SUIT!” at me as I walked by. I would turn my head to see a salesman standing proudly by his store with nothing more than material samples in hand. I would be approached by women covered from head to toe in handmade bracelets, hats, charms and other assorted trinkets. It was hard to decline, and I knew I could name my price and have more than I wanted, but I am proud to say I was a mostly intelligent haggler.
I also noted the complete lack of regulation for items sold. In addition to prescription drugs it was pretty easy to buy fake I.D.s and Passports on the street as well.
If you haven’t noticed, this is the first post I’ve made using my fantastic new camera. When I went to Thailand I was eager to test my skills at photography so I tried to snap as many pictures of the Thai people as I could. I honestly believe they’re a very beautiful race and I was glad every time I was able to point to my camera like some sorry tourist and get a smiling nod in response.
After walking the length of the street bogged down with legal gifts and souvenirs, my companion and I found ourselves feeling peckish. We were delighted to find that there was no lack of food stands. When I compare the notion of a snack in Southeast Asia to that back at home it becomes really easy to explain the difference in average weight. Fruit stands were the cheapest alternative and fruit pops were easier to come by than bottled water. (The fruit pop is simply a sliver of sliced fruit jammed on a wooden kebob stick.) I’ve often thought about how much easier and cheaper raw unprocessed whole fruit must be there in Thailand, since I am sure they grow it at farms nearby (considering the prices) and they had varieties of fruit I’ve never even seen back in the states before. But I wish I saw these that frequently back at home.
After a light snack my companion and I decided to relax for a bit. On nearly every street and corner there were parlors for feet rubbing and full body massages. Now, initially when we arrived my companion and I had planned to travel to many different places in Thailand. However, plans changed quickly and we found ourselves with little to do, so nearly everyday we found ourselves here. It was the least disappointing disappointment I’ve ever had.
Many of the massage parlors also had special tanks of cleaner fish. I know they have these in some places in the states and they also have them in Korea. But my advice to anyone that sees them is to try it. It’s fantastic. When I stuck my sweaty sandal clad feet in the tank dozens of tiny fish swarmed on me. Their hungry mouths sucked dead skin cells from my flesh in a feast that was as relaxing as it was entertaining. It takes a second to get over the tickling feeling, but it’s the coolest exfoliation I’ve ever had.
If you haven’t noticed before, Bangkok is known very well for this very unusual form of transportation called TukTuk. It’d pretty much a scooter that was torn apart and outfitted with a small passenger area. For a negotiable fee you can wiz through the streets of Thailand to famous destinations with the cool summer wind blowing in your hair. The first time my companion and I went for a ride we were hooked. We took TukTuks everywhere in Bankok with the exception of the return trip back to the airport and we only did that for our luggage.
After riding around for a bit we finally decided to get a filling meal and turn in for the night. I’m very disappointed in myself for not taking more photos of the food. The stuff those people can do with curry and coconut milk will blow your mind. But one thing that really caught my attention was the fact that the dishes seemed so simple and rudimentary. It reminded me of a conversation I had once with a co-worker. The best tasting food comes from (for lack of a better word) poor places that improvise (like southern comfort food, Italian, Mexican and French). Food in Thailand was very simple. Take some noodles splash in some oil, chicken and local easy to grab spices squeeze a locally grown lime and you have something that is so cheap but so delicious. When I first bought the pad Thai at the stand below I was excited because I wasn’t even sure the cook washed their hands, and it was without a doubt the most fantastic thing ever eaten in the history of food.
The sad ending to that story is that eventually my companion, concerned over the clenliness of our hostel, convinced me to move our temporary residence to an upscale hotel. The food was barely edible…
Well thats all for now. There is a lot that happened in Thailand. I might just split one day I had there into three different posts. I have some video to post up as well so check back when you can.
OH! And also Happy New Year. Seems I never wrote a post about that.
I Love you all!