Pad Thai and Wizards

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Friday, March 18, 2011

Yeah, I've gotten kind of bad at keeping up with this journal.  It's been hard the last few days, but now we're waiting at the Bangkok airport waiting for our flight to Phuket so here's what's been going on the last few days.Last time I wrote  I think it was the trip back to Bangkok from Cambodia.  So once we found our hotel, it turns out that it is a really nice small "green" hotel.  It is in a quiet neighbor with plenty of local "flair."  So once we got settled, we headed out to the Khao San road to see what all the fuss is about. Khao San Road is said to be the backpackers center of the universe.  It is a short road with tons of super cheap hotels and travel stuff.  At night it turns into a packed street full of shops selling 100 baht t-shirts, cheap street food, backpacks, stun guns, dresses, beer, bootlegged movies, incense, glowsticks, fake id's and diplomas, and just about anything a travler could possibly need.  It is really kind of overwhelming.  There are people from all over the world there, and every shop and bar is blasting music.  Tout's try to get you to go to all sorts of unmentionable places.  We made a short night of it.  First we grabbed some pad thai.  I love pad thai.  Then we walked stopped at a place with a Thai guy playing American music.  He really wasn't too bad at all, and played quite a bit of modern stuff like Kings of Leon.  But once he started into U2, we had to go.  So we walked to the end of the street, which has a huge Burger King sign at the crossroads, almost like a crown, and I grabbed another pad thai from a street vendor who tosses all the ingredients together right there in front of you for 30 baht.  FYI there is about 30 baht to the dollar.  Then we headed home.The next day we woke up and had an all vegetarian breakfast at our hotel. It was raining, so we made it a day to tie up loose ends.  We had a lot of hotels and a flight to book for later on in our trip, and just had a lot of stuff to do so we spent most of the day at the hotel writing postcards and whatever.  Not much interesting to write about now, but it was a good day.  I think we needed a day to kind of slow down and not have to worry about taxis and temples.  At night we headed across town to a night market called Soi 38 in the middle of the city.  Turns out that downtown Bangkok is a lot different than where we are staying.  There are skyscrapers everywhere and much more high end stuff than we expected.  The food situation was similar though.  In Thailand the thing to do is get stuff from street vendors, and they are everywhere all over town. We haven't eaten in a restaurant yet. Most of the carts specialize in only one dish and at this market we found one selling coconut sticky rice with mango. At all the street carts there are a couple small tables with crate seats to sit at.  Our mango rice was amazing, to my surprise.  I think I got some more pad thai later in the night though.  From the night market we walked a ways down the main street and ran into a big international food festival.  The American booth there was pretty funny, it was full of shampoo, ovaltine, and weird stuff like prune juice and stuff I've never seen before.  In the middle of the festival a Thai ska band was playing.  They were pretty good too.  It kind of seemed like they were playing American songs from the early 90's.  The rest of the main street was lined for what seemed like miles with tents selling stuff.  I assume if there was anything you couldn't find on Khao San, you could find it here.  They had counterfeit bags and watches, and also Viagra and tons of Spongebob stuff.  They had fake Harley t-shirts, fake burberry belts, fake Nike shoes, fake, well, I think you get it.  Finally after what seemed like forever we found a way to get to the other side of the street, stopped at a much nicer bar than we've been used to for a quick drink to do some people watching.  There were some interesting ones too, ask me about them later.  When we tried to find a taxi back to the hotel it was a little harder than expected.  The first guy said 300 baht, which is ridiculous, then the next guy refused completely, but luckily the 3rd guy agreed to take us and actually use the meter like they are supposed to.  I think since there was a lot of traffic the other cabs didn't want to get stuck on the other side of town.Our hotel is starting to get to me.  Everyone is super nice, but they wake you up early in the morning with "singing," and if that doesn't wake you up they call you to make sure you come down for breakfast.  Since its a 'green' hotel they make a lot of stuff there themselves so there is hammering and construction all day.  The beds are hard because it helps you "relate to older times," and the shower is absolutely freezing.  Jacki loves the hotel. So yesterday we did the typical Bangkok tourist thing.  We started by walking down to the Chao Prya river (which is the name of a chinese restaurant in Elyria) and jumped on the river taxi.  At the dock they were selling huge bags of bread crust and we looked over the rail and there were hundreds of gigantic carp flopping around in the water right under the dock.  There were also so weird seafood stands set up selling fish still wiggling.  The water taxi was fun though, and beat the heck out of dealing with the street traffic. I'll be honest, we're kind of templed out and the language and reading barrier is definitely a lot bigger here than in Japan, so I'm not entirely sure what we were looking at for most of the day.  Our first stop was the Imperial Palace where the King sometimes lives.  Since we're not really used to the whole king/royalty thing we were surprised by how just worshipped this guy is.  There are huge pictures of him across the whole country.  I guess he's in his late 80's now so all the pictures look like they were taken in the 1970's and he has these big coke bottle glasses on and a big camera around his neck.  Anyways his house is awesome.  It is absolutely nothing like anything we had seen in Japan, with their old wooden shrines, and Cambodia, with their old stone ruins.  This place was flashy.  Everything was coated from bottom to top in bright shiny colored glass or metallic gold.  There were huge pointy things that shot up in the sky, and an extremely graphic mural painted around the entire outer wall.  Most of the flashy stuff was around a shrine that held an emerald buddha statue that was discovered in the 1400's.  The statue was pretty cool.  They change its gold robes every season, and it seemed like it was a pretty big deal.  You couldn't take pictures inside the temple though.The king's actual house wasn't nearly as flashy.  It was just a huge palace.  There were guards at the doors that stood absolutely still, kind of like the ones in England.  There were a lot of monks wandering around sightseeing.  We're still not used to seeing them everywhere, but I guess these are temples, and that's kind of what monks do. We spent quite a few hours there then went out to the streets to walk down to the next big temple called Wat Pho.  On the way we grabbed a pineapple on a stick and a couple chicken on a stick.  The chicken tasted like fresh jerky, nothing like the chicken gizzards in Japan.  Wat Pho is pretty cool but there were a ton of people there.  It's a big draw because of a 50 meter long reclining buddha statue in one of the temples.  It is massive and barely fits in the room, they actually had to put a small hole in the ceiling to fit the tip of its hat.  As cool as it was, all the people kind of took away from it a little bit. We left Wat Pho and headed out for a late lunch to a place right on the river.  I got curry and Jacki, since it is a Friday in lent, got fried noodles with egg and a prawn.  So far when we've ordered prawns they've ended up being shrimp.  To my delight (but not really Jacki's) they brought out this huge crustacean cleaved in half.  It still had it's eyes and feeler sticking out of its head.  Jacki was good at keeping an open mind though and gave it a shot, finishing most of it.  My curry was awesome. Across the river is the last big temple we went to.  It was really tall and, again, decked out with colored glass.  On the way in we got scammed though.  There were wooden cut outs that you could put your head in and take a picture.  Immediately after taking a picture an old lady showed up out of nowhere and pointed to a tiny sign at its feet saying 40 baht.  Oh well!  We climbed to the top of the temple up a steep set of stairs and had a pretty good view over the city.  It had been a long day so we then headed back to the hotel to rest a bit before going out for the night. We were planning on going to a thai boxing match, but it turns out they were closed so we headed out to Khao San again and found that the streets around it were actually a lot nicer and less crazy.  I got some pad thai.  There are old ladies with wizard hats that walk around and try to get you to buy bracelets and junk.  They get your attention by hitting wodden toads that make a croaking sound.  I would always tell them "Mai chai khop khun krup" which means "no, thank you," but one of the wizards said to me "why you say mai chai khop khun krup, say mai AWL khop khun krup." I guess its more polite.  Funny though.  They were really nice wizards.  We stopped for a drink at a "bar" that was nothing more than a few wooden crates.  It was almost a full moon and it was a really cool and different experience.  Jacki gave a few baht to a guy with no legs pushing himself down the road on a skateboard and playing the harmonica.  It also reminds me of a funny question the girl in Cambodia asked.  She said, "The moon is out, what does the moon look like in America?"  Funny.  Anyways, we walked around for a little while, I got some pad thai, then walked back since no taxi in town knows how to get to our hotel. Today we went to the largest market in the world.  As you can expect it was really big.  It was a lot nicer than we expected too.  We expected a bunch of run down stalls, but part of it was actually a huge air conditioned mall.  One surprise thing at the market was that there were a bunch of booths set up asking for donationations for Japan.  Everything you can think of was for sale at the market from furniture and clothes to dogs and little sharks in plastic bags.  There was a lot of interesting food too.  Since it was scorching hot I got a iced grass jelly drink, and Jacki got a fresh homemade coconut ice cream.  We also found these little taco things that we like.  I think they are crepes with marshmallow on them.  From there we went to the airport and now here I am.  Waiting for a plane to go down to Phuket and all the beaches.  I'm looking forward to our little vacation in a vacation.  I could really use one.  The last few weeks have been crazy!!!
We suspect we won't have internet access for the next few days, because we are going to be staying on an island in a place called Viking Nature Resort in a treehouse room on a beach.  But honestly you never know.  So you might not hear from us for a few days.
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bcarnic on

Eric, did you happen to try some pad thai while you were there?

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