Tourist Heaven/Hell

Trip Start Mar 11, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2006

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Wednesday, April 19, 2006

We landed in Bangkok on a hot and humid afternoon and immediately caught a minibus to where all tourists end up in the city: Khao San Road. It was interesting as I had a certain pre-perception about how Bangkok would be (admittedly mostly based on 1970s travel literature before it got super popular), which did not exactly jive with what we found. Settling into a small, cheap, dirty room and walking the main strip, it was fun at first to people-watch and indulge in my favorite mango sticky rice but I soon felt like we had somehow taken a wrong turn and ended up in Venice Beach on accident, only a cheap and suffocating version. I'm told you either love Bangkok or hate it ... we decided we'd be out of there headed south the next day. We did want to enjoy the city for what it was first, so we met up with the Finnish guys we met on the plane and a random Aussie and a Brit named Dave who knew the place scarily inside out. We cruised for a while all over town, where the scene was still kickin' despite an official prohibition day because of local elections (didn't vote but if I had I would have written in Gary Coleman) as the larger joints were able to pay the police enough to let sleeping and inebriated dogs lie. Finally unable to match Dave's zeal for Soi Cowboy, we headed home to our cell.
The next morning we made it a priority to arrange our journey south so we flagged a tuk-tuk, an old motor-tricycle with a cart built around it. Tuk-tuks can be a tricky proposition, as if they quote you a price that sounds too good to be true they are liable to make a stop at every gem, tailor, and massage shop along the way so that you'll go in and they'll get their commission or gas coupon. As we knew of the system, we agreed on a fair price "with no stops". Of course we ended up at the driver's friend's travel shop outside the train station and he cajoled us into one further stop but he was a good guy with a young family so we didn't mind. It ended up being good for everyone, as both Ryan and I decided that the tailor was offering a good deal and got a custom-made shirt and jacket apiece and shipping home for a fraction of the cost in the States. We also got him to take us to a real, traditional (read: no funny business) Thai massage, and I got twisted in ways I can't even point out on a map for a good two hours, it was rockin' by halfy.
We only had left to find the Citibank (we were getting quite good at finding the one in each major city), collect our bags, and catch our seated sleeper by the door to paradise down the Malay Peninsula!

Moral of the story: Bangkok is not a quaint and colorful 17th century trading port at all ... darn romanticized imagination ...
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