Wednesday, February 17, 2016

One night in Bangkok

Cliché title I know, but what else can you put if you literally have one night in Bangkok?

I join you from a plane 10667 m up, just off the north-western coast of Australia, on the way between Bangkok and Auckland. I swear everyone else on board is asleep and mocking my perpetual inability to sleep on planes. Especially the guy right next to us, who is indulging himself in some loud, wet, gurgly snores. 

I didn't even try to sleep on the first leg, Brussels to Bangkok - we left at 1.15 pm and arrived just before midnight, Brussels time (6 am Bangkok time), so I knew there was no hope of that. I was more optimistic this leg, since we left at 6.45 pm, but 6 hours later, the only sign of sleepiness I've had was while we were waiting for them to take away the dinner trays. As soon as they did, and I could actually theoretically lie back (well, perform a token incline) and relax, I was wide awake again.

Anyway, one night in Bangkok, or 36 hours in Bangkok to be precise. Everything went smoothly with our arrival. I had the bright idea of leaving our large suitcases in the airport left luggage, so we didn't have to bother hauling them back and forth. Less than 10 euros and a few minutes later, we were disencumbered and on our way on the train into the centre. It was all a lot less daunting and confusing than I had anticipated, and we even managed the 10-minute walk from the train station to our hotel with only minor stress and major sweat. 

It was so hot in Bangkok. When I saw the forecast was for 33 degrees, I knew it would be hot, particularly coming from 2 degree Brussels, but the humidity was killer. Every time we went three steps out of the hotel, we were absolutely dripping with sweat. 

So as you can imagine, first step when getting to the hotel was a shower, and then bed. We had booked for the night before, so we were able to go straight in when we arrived around 7:30. We managed a disciplined 3 1/2 hours sleep or so and dutifully peeled ourselves back out of bed at 12 to try to not get too messed up with jetlag and have some time to see the city.

The plan for day 1 was deliberately low-key, by which I mean a two-hour massage - Thai style, hot oil and with some sort of heated bag thing (?) Whatever it was, it was pretty good. Favourably compares to the last massage I had in Marrakesh, which I realise was over a year ago! We were warned that the massage would be medium intensity, strong at time, and it did have its moments which bordered on painful. Some spots I barely even knew I had muscles, let alone tight muscles, but they do a good job squirrelling out any trouble spots and then elbowing you hard in them. 

After the massage, suitably relaxed, other than my general awkwardness over how much and how to tip, and also what to do with the disposable (I hope disposable) G-string I had to wear), we took a taxi to Chinatown (Yaowarat Road) to feast on some street food. (Actually, I forgot, we also ate lunch at a weird canteen-type place down a back alley, which was good if liable to make a health inspector faint.) By the time we crawled there painfully slowly through Bangkok traffic, with me regretting at every moment that I hadn't gone to the loo in the spa, and wondering if the traffic was going slowly enough for me to leap from the cab, find a loo, and come back again before losing Jules in the city, it was around 6 pm and getting dark. 

A sample of Bangkok traffic

It wasn't quite as "market-y" as I had been hoping, but Chinatown was a pretty good place to experience the hustle and bustle of the city and get a vibe of the energy in such a huge, crazy metropolis. It was pretty crowded and touristy, but there still felt like there was a certain authenticity in the stalls serving up simple dishes in, again, pretty terrible hygiene conditions. We just went for it and ate everything from meat on a stick, to dumplings, to pork noodles to spring rolls. I'm usually blessed with a pretty cast iron stomach, and thankfully it hasn't let me down (yet). Seeing the meat just sitting out with no refrigeration, and the cooks just chucking in meat, noodles, veg etc. with their hands might trouble the delicate, but we are made of sterner stuff :) I did draw the line at seafood, however, and neither of us was up for the much-advertised shark fins, bird's nest soup or durian. This latter was being hacked up on the street - I can say it did have an unusual overly sweet, verging on rotten, smell, but, at least at a safe distance, it wasn't nearly as fearsome as reputation has it. When we were checking in for our flight this afternoon we did see a "no durian on board the aircraft" notice though, so I do suppose it must be quite something in confined environments.



Street durian
A cook at work

The fruits of another chef's labours


Yay meat lollipop!

Jules navigates Chinatown

Tuktuk eye view

Our lack of sleep caught up with us after a couple of hours, and we finished off the evening with a tuktuk ride back to our hotel. This was pretty hair-raising, and fun. Jules's side was protected by a chicken-wire grille, but I had nothing keeping me from flying out of the tuktuk should we encounter a particularly sharp bend. That made it all the more fun though, I'm glad we tried it!

8 comments:

  1. Glad you enjoyed your time in Bangkok. I spent a few hot days there back in 2012, and I wasn't a fan at all. I learned quite quickly that it was just too big for me. And I had a lot of bad experiences with people trying to cheat us (or leaving us in random places). I enjoyed other places in Thailand much more.

    Even though I was careful what I ate, I fell ill less than 24 hours after arriving. It was not fun in the heat and humidity. You're so lucky!

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    1. Yeah, I think for such a brief trip it was okay, any longer and the traffic and crowds and heat would become way too much. We were lucky not to be driven off somewhere by one of the taxis, it would have been a major issue since we had such limited time. Really glad we didn't get sick, that would have been a nightmare on the plane!!

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  2. Ah good ol' Bangkok. I practically spent more time there than in Paris last year lol. The city has really grown on me, but the humidity never did, nor did having to leave the hotel at 5am every day in order to beat traffic. What a great idea to do a stop-over though, I never think to do that on my long flights.

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    1. Yes, it really is a good way to see a little of somewhere without paying more. NZ being so far away, that could be Asia, the U.S. or the Middle East. It's the first time I've done it really, not counting when I visited Canada on the way to the UK, but that was more than a couple of days. It was nice to break up the trip, I wish now that we were doing the same on the way back.

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  3. I feel you on that car ride.

    I enjoyed the Chinatown pictures. Those hanging lamps are so festive.

    That’s funny about the prohibited durian. I wonder what initially happened to make them put up that sign.

    Hard to believe how hot it is there when it’s freezing here!

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    1. Yes, Chinatowns are always so vibrant and colourful. I think durian just really smells. We mustn't have got close enough for the full effect, because I just googled it and people say things like "rotting flesh" and "sewage", so not something you want next to you on a plane!

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  4. You were wise to start your vacation with a Thai massage. That's what helped my body stay mobile while unpacking boxes and pushing furniture around after our move. Did you try any durian?

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  5. You were wise to start your vacation with a Thai massage. That's what helped my body stay mobile while unpacking boxes and pushing furniture around after our move. Did you try any durian?

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