We are just coming back from our last dinner in Bangkok. We downed a total of eight bowls of spicy soup with noodles, bean sprouts, chili flakes, cilantro, green onions, peanuts and pork and the total bill was less than $3. The soup was so spicy that Davey's eyelids were sweating. We felt a palpable, far-out energy as the only westerners in the restaurant, wishing our families could see us in this exotic environment.
We flew 14 hours from LA to Taipei (losing a day) and then flew 3 hours from Taipei to Bangkok, arriving Christmas Day. We slept most of the time even though our seats were not next to each other (Erin sat behind Dave). We got in around 11am and were shocked at how vast and sprawling the whole city is. Even a panoramic view is filled with columns of skyscrapers. On the street level, constant streams of people, cars and motorbikes generate a frenetic, hectic atmosphere. Modern cosmopolitan shopping areas juxtapose degraded third world housing.
On our first day we took an elevated sky train that weaves through skyscrapers 5 stories above street level to the Chao Phraya river. Most train cars are absolutely jam-packed with commuters. From there we hopped on a public ferry to the Grand Palace and the famous golden reclining Buddha temple Wat Pho. Although we sprinted in the intense heat, we missed the palace closing time by 3 minutes. We wanted to see another prominent temple at sunset so we tried to use our neophyte Thai skills to book a private longtail boat to watch the sunset on the river. Instead, the longtail pilot led us on a sketchy backchannel boat ride through ramshackle riverfront shacks. It was surprising to see children enjoying a swim in such derelict conditions in the polluted river. To access these channels we had to pass through a series of locks as part of a damn. Each section trapped us for a few minutes which made Davey feel uneasy as the sunlight faded. Although we didn't choose the canal ride on purpose, it was a good cultural experience, one that made us feel grateful.
The first day we gorged on street food - mango with sticky rice, pad thai, spicy noodle soup, fresh squeezed juices and fresh coconut - and everything was delicious. We came home and took a dip in our hotel infinity pool, perched 25 stories above the exhausting commotion of the city.
Yesterday we took the sky train to the Chatuchak weekend market - one of the biggest markets in all of Asia - covering 27 acres. They sell clothes, food, animals, furniture, housewares, art, really anything you could imagine. You barter for everything. We enjoyed trying different negotiation strategies. We found a variety of lightweight yoga and beach clothes so we went buckwild and came back with a haul of pajamas and beachwear.
We got there early before the crowds and stayed for four hours, taking breaks to eat more street food. Erin fell in love with fresh coconut ice cream served in a coconut shell with chunks of fresh coconut and topped with peanuts and sticky rice (thank you aub for the tip). We also ate pad see ew, spicy soup and more juice.
After the market we came back to the pool for a bit and then got Thai massages. The quality is appreciably better than thai massage in LA and at the price of $8 per hour, it seems too good to be true.
We then took public transit to meet up with our Midnight Food Tour, walking past a colorful, dreamlike Hindu temple on the way. On our small group guided tour each couple had their own private tuk-tuk vehicle (basically a motorcycle with a carriage strapped to the back) and driver. The tour went from 8pm-12:30 am and covered the best local's only Thai food, like a scavenger hunt throughout the city. We hit famous chicken and rice and pan fried noodles with egg where they cook everything in the alley out back on a charcoal fire. We hit one of the biggest flower markets in the world where all of the hotels buy their flowers in the wee hours of the night. Then our driver took us to a secret rooftop bar to watch a light show on Wat Arun temple. After midnight, the tour concluded at the best pad thai joint in Bangkok, where the pad thai is served inside a thin layer of egg. The tuk-tuks are super cool with lights and funny music but they weave through traffic at breakneck speeds.
Today we took the sky train back to the river to try once again to visit the Grand Palace. This time we were rejected because Davey was wearing shorts. He attempted to tie a sarong Erin was carrying (as one would do in Bali) but this did not please the palace officials. We weren't devastated to leave because the palace was overrun by an absolute mob of tourists.
We hired a longtail to cruise on the river and then explored off the beaten path towards a Buddhist temple in the heart of the city. We enjoyed seeing a slice of everyday life as we walked past local people and saw how they live and eat. We stopped along the way to try some impromptu street food alongside a group of monks and then we climbed a giant golden temple that was covered in bells and gongs. Some friendly Thai girls interviewed us as part of a school project.
As the sun started to set we went to one of the most famous rooftop bars in Asia. The Banyan Tree Moonbar towers 60 stories up, with panoramic views of the city in totally open air. It felt like floating on a cloud hovering over the city. It is swanky, and although Dave did not have pants again,, the hotel loaned him a pair on the way up. We savored the sunset and chatted with a cool couple we met on the tuk-tuk tour the night before. We finished the night off by hunting around Victory Monument for Boat Noodle Alley - well known for its soup served in small stackable bowls.
Next stop Chiang Mai!
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