Except it’s not because everything was closed for the King’s Coronation. It’s weird being in a country that has a king. His face is everywhere. One the money, on TV, on giant shrines all over the cities. Everywhere. It might have just been because he was being coronated but yeah, lots of shrines to him.
Even though a lot of stuff was closed, we were leaves on the wind and made the best of it! A lot of people talk mad smack about Bangkok saying that it’s just a gross big city, which it is, but we had a great time! Alright, here’s the break down:
B A N G K O K
D A Y 1
After our delightful flight with Korean Air we headed to our hostel which was surprisingly easy to get to, we just took the BTS which is Bangkok’s public transportation train, and it was so great. Aspen & I are a little concerned that we got spoiled with our first hostel and nothing else will compare awesome wise/ cleanliness wise (I forgot to take pictures but it’s called Bed Station. It’s the one at Ratchathewi). After we claimed our beds and got settled we went downstairs to get a map and decided to walk to Chinatown to get food. So we are wandering around the streets of Bangkok, exhausted and hungry. We had to cross our first street which was TERRIFYING. Trying to cross the street in Bangkok is like when the grandma in Mulan covers her eyes and steps into traffic to see if her cricket is lucky.
Not only are there cars but there are scooters. The scooters are what you need to look out for. There are so many, they move like a school of fish and there are absolutely no rules. None. So we defy death and cross the street, we can’t find Chinatown ANYWHERE and we are getting annoyed. After wondering around in the “78% humidity, feels like 104” heat for who knows how long we decide to call it quits and get food by our hostel. We got this really delicious Pad Thai for .56! And the day ends there.
D A Y 2
Here comes the full circle when it comes to Chinatown, on day 2 we find out from the hostel staff that Chinatown is absolutely WAY too far to walk. Did you know that Bangkok has 8 million people? I didn’t. That’s a giant city. That’s an unwalkable city. No wonder we couldn’t find Chinatown! We ended up having to take two BTS trains to get there! But I’m getting ahead of myself. On day two we decided to head to Lumpini park and Chinatown. To say we were feeling a little overwhelmed by Bangkok is an understatement, so we were excited to get to a park and just chill. Lumpini Park was very beautiful and relaxing. It was cool because we were surrounded by ponds, trees and grass but could still the sky scrapers of Bangkok. People were riding bikes, working out in the outdoor gym, doing Tai Chi. We walked around for a little bit and then just chilled on a bench. And sweated. We are ALWAYS sweating.
After spending the morning at Lumpini Park we decided to head to Chinatown, which was the exact opposite of relaxing. First we got on a boat that took us a few stops up the river. People speak just enough English for us to kind of get by but also not… We mostly have to point and smile and nod, and they usually look confused so then there is more miming and smiling and nodding. So we get on the boat and off we go up the river. If you’re wondering, yes the boats drive just as crazy.
When we got to Chinatown I had what I thought was a brilliant idea. I would take a picture of my compass and then we would follow the compass back to the same point, that way we don’t get lost. Does this sound like a smart idea? I don’t know because I have no idea how compasses work and WE GOT SO LOST. Very, very so very lost.
Chinatown swallowed us whole and we wandered the crooked, narrow alleys (that’s really the only way to describe them, they really weren’t streets), eating stem buns, looking at all the things for sale and dodging scooters. Because, even though we mostly had to shuffle through, had to move out of the way for carts, and couldn’t walk side-by-side OF COURSE scooter were still driving through. After I don’t even know how long of wandering we decided to bust out the compass and head back to the boat. Except jokes on us and the compass didn’t work at all. We had wandered so insanely far. Most of the time we couldn’t see any other tourists and at one point there were barely people on the street (we assumed the market had spit us back out at this time). Our hands started to hover over the panic button, but before we pushed it we decided to step into 7/11. Through traveling I’ve realized that every country seems to have a different convenient store that is a godsend and has everything needed. In Thailand it’s 7/11, which so happens to be run by teenagers? I’ve never seen an adult working there or supervising. It’s all teenagers and they are all super helpful and sweet even though sometimes they just smile and stare because they have no idea what we are saying. After minutes of charades they pointed us in the right direction and we were off. When we finally made it back to the river we realized we had somehow made it to the Grand Palace. I still have no idea how!
As we were walking to the river, people kept coming up to us and telling us that the river boats had stopped running for the coronation. I thought they were trying to scam us so I just smiled and kept walking. Turns out it was true! SO! Now we are stranded with little money and don’t know how to get back. We pool our money together and go to see if we can get a tuktuk. Here’s how the conversation went:
Tuktuk: 370 TBH (Thai Baht)
Us: we only have 280
Us: we only have 280
Us: we only have 280
Tuktuk: Okay, get in
I’m really not sure if we got ripped off, but the tuktuk was fun and really our only option. We stayed close to the hostel for the rest of the night, got yummy noodles for $1! Though we did wander down to get the best foot massages ever for only 200 TBH ($6). It said a foot massage, but after about 45 minutes of massaging and stretching our feet and legs, they sat us up and then massaged our heads, necks, arms and hands. It was mostly relaxing, though at some points I felt folded into a pretzel. They also cracked our backs which I hated. After we got a cup of tea. It was awesome. After dinner we met this girl in our room named Xuan (Swan) and she invited us to go to the weekend market the next day with her and some other girls from our hostel. BOOM like that, we had a plan.
D A Y 3
We started off the morning by going to the weekend market with our new Girl Gang.
• Xuan (Swan) – Toronto
• Maria – Boston
• Paula – Barcelona
• Yung – South Korea
Picture any market you’ve been to, then times that by 1000, squish everything into a tiny space and add some bad smells here and there, and heat. That’s the weekend market. We mostly just walked around looking at everything and eating. When we got back to the hostel Maria headed off to get a foot massage (from the same place) and Xuan headed to the gym so Aspen, Paula, Yung and I played Idiot (dad, look here!). It was so fun. To end the day we headed to the Night Market which we soon discovered was a mistake. Two markets in one day is way too much. As soon as we got to the Night Market I wanted to go back. It was packed with so many people we could barely move and were standing in line to walk through — to buy all the same foods and look at all the same things we had seen that morning! We all quickly realized how tired we were and how much we were not enjoying being exhausted and smashed up against tons of sweaty people, so we quickly got food and then left.
It was so much fun meeting new friends, and is exactly why I love staying in hostels. Some of the girls had already been through Thailand, were ending their travels, and so they had a lot of cool suggestions of where to go, what to do. It was fun to have a little bit of a tribe, even if just for a few days!
D A Y 4
This was by far my favorite day in Bangkok. Aspen decided to head to this really fancy gym with Xuan and I asked Yung to go biking with me on this artificial island called Bang Krachao (or Bang Kachao? It’s seems to be spelled different ways) which is also known as “The Green Lungs of Bangkok”. Wow, it was so much fun and I couldn’t believe we were still in Bangkok. To get there we had to take the BTS and then a scooter taxi from the station to the pier. This was my first scooter taxi and it was so much fun. I was nervous because, as I said above, the scooter drive like crazy people but this driver was really slow and smooth. Yung and I squeezed on and I held on tight, which I then realized no one does. No one actually holds onto the drivers, WOOPS!
Mom, before you flip a table, there was no helmet available or else I would have used one. SO THEN, we got on a little ferry and across the river we went. Once we got to the other side we rented these rust bucket bikes for 50 TBH each for the whole day ($1.58), also no helmets available, and were given a map. A really bad map. All the maps are really bad and unhelpful. Good thing Yung had data and could guide us around because I’ve learned I am very bad at directions. We spent the whole day riding around and around and around. What was really cool was that there were these paths that cut through the jungle (video below) and a lot of them were built on stilts. And yes, of course scooters also drove down these teeny, tiny paths.
We rode to a national park which was very pretty, lots of ponds and bridges. At this point we were really thirsty and just happened to ride up on these people’s house, in the middle of the park, who were making all kinds of smoothies. We each got a coconut one and asked if there was a bathroom/washroom. I think they got confused by Yung rubbing her hands together because they gave us a bowl of water to wash with, ha. Yung typed on her translation app that we were looking for a toilet, and once we all understand each other the lady kindly lead the way. Surprise! It was a squatty potty, that we had to get to by walking across these sticks laid above a muddy ditch. It really wasn’t that bad, it was really clean and the worst part was trying to brave the ditch.
Once we had finished our smoothies we decided to start heading back to the pier because we wanted to find this tree house, but along the way we found a market! This market was a lot more laidback than the weekend and night markets we had been to. It wasn’t quite a floating market, but it did have little canals to walk across. We got a traditional Thai snack (I forgot the name) and lunch! When we were walking through the market we both got startled because we felt water slap on our face, we looked up to see a monk who smiled, gave us a thumbs up and continued blessing people as they walked by.
Shortly after leaving the market we found the Bangkok tree house, which was cool but not exactly what I expected. It wasn’t really a treehouse at all, just a cool building in the jungle.
It was such a lovely day!
D A Y 5
Aspen & I started off our day by getting our Japanese encephalitis shot. Ouch! It was a stinker. Our travel nurse recommended that we get it in Thailand because it’s only $16 as opposed to the $650 it costs in the U.S. plus the dose is better/stronger here. The hospital was very clean and efficient. I was impressed. After we got delicious stem buns from the cutest old lady and headed to the temples.
I should really say temple because we only made it to one, Wat Arun. I’ve been to a few temples since and this one is my favorite. It was so beautiful and peaceful. The grounds were really pretty and it wasn’t crazy crowded so we were able to wander without feeling overwhelmed.
We bought jade bracelets and once we were done wandering the grounds we took off our shoes (when visiting a temple we have to wear long pants/skirts, cover our shoulders and take off our shoes before entering) and stepped inside.
It was so beautiful and peaceful, and there was a cat lounging in the middle of the temple wanting pets which made it even better. The best part was that we received a blessing from a monk, who chanted and sprinkled water on us with a broom, and then tied a sai sin bracelet around our right wrists. A sai sin bracelet is cotton thread that has been blessed by a monk and gives protection and good health to the wearer. You can read more about Sai sin bracelets here.
We were both feeling really good and peaceful when we left Wat Arun and hopped on the boat to cross the river over to Wat Pho. That lasted about until we walked up to the gate. Wat Pho is the second most famous temple, behind the Grand Palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha, and therefore was not quiet and serene. After peeking through the gates we decided to call it. We were tired and hot and didn’t want to stand in line and smush up against sweaty people. So, instead we got homemade coconut ice cream!! Which was really the perfect way to end our day of training and boating all over the city. On our way back to our hostel we were Z O M B I E S we realized that all we had eaten since breakfast was coconut ice cream and could barely function. We got on the wrong train four times but couldn’t even be mad about it because we were so tired. We were supposed to go to Khao Son Road that night but were too tired so we called it and early night and went to bed.
D A Y 6
Last day in Bangkok! So, this day went 100% not according to plan and it was awesome. Our original plan was to go to the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. We train, we boat, we do all the things and show up at the Grand Palace to be told by some other tourists that my skirt, that almost goes to my ankles but not quite, isn’t long enough. We go to the shops and I barter for the first time on these really cute tie pants (pictured below) and we head back to the Grand Palace. We get to the Grand Palace and see multiple things:
1. THERE IS AN INSANE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE. A join-the-stream-or-get-run-over amount of people. We join the stream.
2. The Grand Palace closes at 12, it’s 10. Not great.
3. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is closed because of another ceremony for the King. Double not great.
Aspen and I try to fight our way up and out of the stream so that we can regroup. With the palace costing $15 to get in, Wat Arun cost $1.56, it only being open for 2 more hours and the temple being closed it doesn’t seem worth it and we decide to scrap that plan. Our new plan? Wat Saket (The Golden Mountain). And we’re off, again, looking for a scooter to take us to Wat Saket and we find one within five minutes. After negotiating price Aspen and I hop on and Zoom! Away we goooo! Except there is a ton of traffic so we are going really slow. Which ends up being a good thing because (parents look away) our driver accidentally gives a little love tap tap to the scooter in front of him. Oops. After some arguing between the drivers we get dropped off at Wat Saket and start climbing the 344 steps to the top. Once again this temple was way more our vibe. Really quiet, not a lot of people, lots of pretty sounds and flowers.
We also saw little kids monks and they were so cute. A nice surprise about this temple was that it was really easy to get back to our hostel. There was a canal that had a boat taxi that ran right by our hostel. We had no idea!
And so needed our days in Bangkok. We spent our last couple hours hanging out at our hostel and at 6:10pm we boarded the night train to Chiang Mai.