Backpacking in Bangkok

February 22, 2012 § 5 Comments

However baboy this sounds – this Bangkok trip is the fulfillment of my friend and I’s daily high school daydreaming of eating and traveling some place far off from the school canteen. We’re matakaw like that.  hahaha.  Rosali and I should have gone with Nuggy, but she beat us to Bangkok already! I guess we’ll have to set another food trip in the future somewhere else. Please excuse our appetite. :p

The plan to go to Bangkok started sometime after College, during constant reunions and talking over the usual restaurant fare how we’d love to go travel on our own and fulfill our foodtrip daydreams.  Sometime last year, Rosali finally spotted a promo fare for Bangkok and I was the only one who could say “yes” at that moment from our group of friends.  So she bought our tickets, and I kept this entire plan a secret (for almost 3 months) from my parents until I passed the board exam.  When the results came out, I told my parents over dinner that I had to tell them something.  My dad responded with a “hindi! hindi pa pwede!” admonishment and I proceeded to drop the bomb and tell them I’m going to Thailand with my friend.  Wala na silang choice, so approved! :D  Plus I think they were half expecting a more undesirable “buntis ako” or “may boyfriend na ako” hahaha.  Rosali did most of the arrangements because I am so unreliable hahaha.   Thank you Rosie for being patient with me hahaha!!!!! :)

Anyway, here is what these two overgrown kulasa girls did in Bangkok: Save on comfort and splurge on food.  Our entire expense for the 5 day trip including the airfare was less than Php20,000 each.  That already includes modest shopping. :p

DAY 1

From the airport, we took the Airport Rail Link Train to City.  For just 40 baht (60pesos), you’ll be within reach Bangkok’s organized and expansive train system.  With my bag bearing on my back and Rosa dragging hers, we braved the city streets with just a map on hand and dared to take a bus instead of a taxi going to our hostel.  When going to Thailand, don’t expect a lot of people to know English.  We didn’t take this seriously until we started asking people where the bus stop was.  It took us about 3 people before we found someone who understood what a “bus” was.  By some stroke of luck, upon reaching the bus stop, we decided to ask this Thai guy if he knew what bus to take to go to Khaosan.  The question turned into a conversation, and Tar, our new friend, was gracious enough to offer to accompany us to Khaosan Road! :D  Though it pays to be cautious at times, we didn’t have a choice as we knew we wouldn’t be able to easily find another English speaking Thai.  Anyway, the trust paid off because Tar turned out to be a really great person and guide so we ended up eating lunch together and him taking us to our hostel, Khaosan Baan Thai!

Rosa with our new Thai friend, Tar :D

papaya salad

first authentic pad thai

tom yum soup

After checking in and catching our breathe from the 2 hour long walk (we got lost looking for lunch with Tar haha), we decided to walk some more and of course, eat on the way.  We got home from wandering around 9:30 in the evening.  Needless to say, we were damn tired from walking the entire day! haha

we ate at a restaurant by the canal (beside the bridge in Samsen Road)

Thai Milk Tea – made from real tea and lots of Carnation Evap and Condensed Milk

pineapple fried rice – I did not like this particular version

binatog – thai style

with weird looking dolls being sold at the Phra Arthit Pier for the Boat Express

at Khaosan Road

really yummy roti! especially with the nutella :p~

a wat (temple)

according to reviews, the best pad thai: at Thip Samai.  was okay.  we walked kilometers to look for this.

Khaosan Baan Thai: true to its claim: cheap, cozy and clean! :D

our room: we survived with just a fan in the hot Bangkok weather

DAY 2

The next day, we woke up early and was the first to eat breakfast at the hostel. haha.  We got out 8am and proceeded to walk to the Grand Palace.

breakfast at Khaosan Baan Thai! :)

On the way, we met a Thai couple who told us we were too early for the Grand Palace so we decided to detour to the National Museum first.  For an entrance fee of 100 baht, you get to have a glimpse of Thai culture and the role of the royal family in Thailand.  The architecture and art pieces were very intricate and beautiful that it left me and Rosa wondering if we had this level of art in the Philippines and why we don’t remember studying about Thailand in high school. We have yet no answer for the first question, but for the second question, I think we never did take up Thailand in Asian History. :(

a bust of a previous king

Mr. Paiboon Boonchan

After the museum, we went out looking for a nearby place to eat lunch.  There was none however, so we ended up drinking this leaf-based green juice and flower-based yellow juice.

We were able to talk to someone who turned out to be a professor in music at a nearby university who helped us hire a tuk-tuk driver for just 100 baht to take us to several places.  Because Nuggy told us about her “scam experience” with a tuk-tuk driver, we were very hesitant to take the tuktuk ride.  Tuktuk drivers are notorious for overpricing rides by up to 200% and taking you to jewelry shops where you may be forced to buy just so they can get fuel coupons.  But left with no choice as the professor guy was kind enough to hail a tuktuk and do the haggling himself, we rode Mr. Paiboon Boonchan’s tuktuk and zipped off to a jewelry store, several wats (temples) and finally, end at the Grand Palace.  We gave Mr. Paiboon some of the food we bought to create some “goodwill” and avoid getting scammed. hehe.  Fortunately, Mr. Boonchan was in fact a very silent, nice guy. He only talked to us once, he asked us “where you from?”. hehe.

At the Grand Palace, which is very much like Beijing’s Forbiddden City, only smaller, make sure you are not wearing shorts or fitted pants as you will be asked to either rent some appropriate pants or be refused entry altogether.  Don’t wear rubber shoes like me too, as most temples require you to take off your shoes before going inside.  Also, be aware that it is prohibited to take pictures with their gods like Buddha, etc.  For foreigners, the entrance fee is 400 baht, whereas its free when you’re Thai.  If you’re up to it and look like it, you can try walking straight up into the gates and pretend you’re Thai.  We were too chicken to do this though. The palace was illustrious, with an influence of both Western and Eastern styles.

at the Grand Palace

inside the Grand Palace

with temple guards

are we still in Thailand?

After that, what commenced was our very funny experience with another tuktuk.  Because the professor guy told us they show these “finger dances” in the Vimanmek Mansion, we took a tuktuk to catch the last show after going around Grand Palace.  The first few tuktuks we hailed were charging us 200 baht the moment they heard us speak English.  Our practiced “tao rai kha” (how much) and “pang pai” (too expensive) did not bring the price lower than 150 baht.  But after a few more tries, we hailed a tuktuk who agreed to a 50 baht fare from a 200 baht fare.  Talk about in-your-face-taking-advantage.  So while on the road, this tuktuk guy suddenly acts fishy and asks us if we want to go to this temple blabla and jewelry shop.  We told him “no, we want to go to Vimanmek Mansion now” but he did not stop there and started pleading and bargaining with us to agree to go to this jewelry shop and look around for 10 minutes so he can get a fuel coupon and he’d only charge us 40 baht.  “For you, for me”, he kept repeating.  We finally agreed so he took us to this Duty Free Thai Gems store where we looked around for 10minutes and were lucky enough to get out without buying anything. Not that the goods were fake, they were just overpriced and simply out of our foodtrip agenda.  The detour made us late so when we got to Vimanmek Mansion, we ran like crazy thinking we might miss the dance show.  Upon reaching the mansion and following the arrows around, we realized we were just going around the exhibit in the mansion.  We asked a lady where the dance show was, and it turned out the show has been cancelled 5 years ago already. pfft.  Talk about luck.  So we then walked to the National Assembly and looked inside the exhibition hall too.  After that, we decided not to take another tuktuk anymore and just walk from the Dusit Area back to our hostel.  That took us about 40 minutes, so after resting for awhile at out hostel, we got out to eat some serious dinner and go back to Khaosan Road and take some night pictures.  We were supposed to get a Thai massage as well, but we couldn’t bear the thought of sleeping without taking a bath after all the day’s sweating.  Bawal maligo after the massage kasi.

National Assembly

Khaosan at night

our favorite Thai pork sausages (pork with vermicelli stuffed inside guts…quite sour)

grilled chicken, grilled corn, AND GRILLED RICE!

all kinds of gross stuff: insects, small frogs, and the king cockroach :-&; I tried eating some worm-looking bugs, it tasted okay since it was fried, but after some thought AFTER EATING, I realized that these fried critters might be months old already because I doubt nauubos paninda nila! yuucccckkkkkk.

oodles of noodles

DAY 3

We changed hostels after 2 days so that we could be nearer the sky train.  We took the Chao Praya River Boat Express and went down the central Saphan Taksin station where Bangrak Guest House was.  Since it was a Saturday, we made haste and headed out to the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market to do souvenir shopping and more eating!  Chatuchak (or Jatujak or JJ) is walking distance from Mo Chit station of the skytrain.  It’s a really large market where you, as the reviews have repeated time and again, find almost anything under the sun.

moving out…walking to the pier

 a lot of people use the boat as a means of transportation to escape Bangkok traffic

found our new place: Bangrak Guest House # 32

took the train; the train system in Bangkok is so organized, clean, convenient and amazing

Chatuchak Market

don’t even think of counting the calories: fried squid eggs and quail eggs

grilled bananas

juice ice drops…take your pick from the sticks :D

tried this Thai dessert: coconut milk with ice, sago and water chestnuts…hmm, okay lang. haha

a new kind of ice cream, it’s shaped like an egg :o

Around 4 in the afternoon, we met with Nat, Rosali’s couchsurfer friend.  At first, it was a bit hard communicating in English because Thais, like everyone else, have a different way of pronouncing certain words that it’s hard to understand them.  But because Nat was extremely warm and nice, we eventually got the hang of it, and we managed to carry on with a lot of conversation. hehe.

We left Chatuchak around 6pm to go to the Riverside Dinner Cruise where Nat invited us for Dinner.  We pretended to be Thai so that we could get tickets at only 160 baht/person instead of the 900 baht/person for foreigners.  The difference was that the foreigners had a dinner buffet included, whereas the 160 baht was only for entrance and we had to order a la carte.  But in the end, we felt like we ate from the buffet as well because Nat ordered sooo much food.  As in seriously so much food that we could hardly breathe after! haha.  What’s more, Nat paid for the entire thing, we were just so grateful for her generosity.  The dinner cruise was a beautiful experience.  It took 2 hours, and the night view along the river accompanied with the cool breeze was definitely worth it.  My favorite parts were when the boat passed under the bridges, the feeling of being so near the underside of the bridge was surreal.  After dinner, Nat brought us to a Sky Train (BTS) station where we took the train going home.  Oh, I forgot to say, we bought Adult SmartPasses (375 baht for 15 rides, definitely worth it if you’re going to use the train a lot).  We got home around midnight.

with Nat

at the dock of the River Dinner Cruise

Nat ordered A LOOOOOT. :D  thank you so much, Nat!

going under the bridges

DAY 4

Nat offered to drive us to Ayutthaya and see the temple ruins.  Ayutthaya is a 2 hour drive from Bangkok, but you can also take a non-airconditioned train to go there.  Much like the PNR here in the Philippines.  Before going to the temples, we passed by their floating market and elephant village.  It wasn’t an authentic floating market, because although there were indeed floating stalls, they were all docked.  But the place was nevertheless vibrant and lively, food was still everywhere and there was a lot of interesting things that you can ogle or buy. Nat was like our tour guide along the way, commenting on stuff and helping us try some snacks we were hesitant of buying. She even treated us to this “feed the carp” thing where you fed large carps from baby bottles. haha.  She was like our mother while we were there. :)

at the floating market

fish spa

Nat made us try this; it’s like crepe with these sweet firm strands of sugar inside. matinik siya pero nagmemelt naman agad. Rosa liked it so much, she bought her own pack to take home. haha

feeding carps from a baby bottle…10 baht per bottle

elephant rides..

the buddhas in Ayutthaya had no heads because the Myanmar people chopped them off during the war

we went around in circles looking for the right temple site for this

temple ruins

After Ayutthaya, Nat dropped us  off at Chatuchak again where we took the train to go to the infamous Thai restaurant, Cabbages & Condoms.  It’s under the Population Institute of Thailand, and that restaurant is an effort to promote awareness on safe sex.  After eating Pad Thai for the nth time, we then went to Patpong to see what Bangkok’s red light district is like.  But I’ve never been on a red light district in the Philippines either, so I really don’t know how to compare them. hahaha.  Patpong wasn’t so vulgar as I expected, you can walk along the street and see from outside the women pole dancing inside the bar.  There was however a lot of people selling pornographic materials along the street, and Rosa and I had to walk fast just to avoid them talking to us.  We had occasional hair-raising experiences with those men making us buy whatever but we just laughed them off after running away and making sure the coast was clear. haha.

durian sticky rice at Cabbages & Condoms

eating pad thai for the nth time

Rosa with Captain Condom – made out of condoms (unused I hope)

Patpong

DAY 5

We expected a long and boring last day since there was nothing else left on our list to go to and our flight was midnight that day.  We still woke up early to go to Jim Thomson’s mansion.  It was so unfortunate that we decided to visit Jim Thomson on our last day because it was there we wanted to spend all our money, but since it was already the last day, what was left was the last drops of our budget.  The shirts, scarves and bags were all beautiful and unique that we even went to a factory outlet of Jim Thomson just to see more.  After that, we decided to go to the Bangkok Art and Culture Center but discovered it was closed on Mondays. So we had no choice but go a mall, and we decided to go to Siam Paragon, which was a really large high-end mall that beats Greenbelt and Rockwell combined.  Underground Siam Paragon even houses Bangkok’s Ocean World.  But what we really enjoyed in Siam Paragon is their food center and grocery which was just filled with so much food that we were able to spend around 2 hours just looking and eating around.

at Siam Paragon’s Food Center…eat while staring at the fishes

After grocery shopping, we decided to go home and just waste the time away there since we were really tired from walking for 5 days already.  But the unexpected happened, and we met our fellow hostelmate, David, an American who we ended up having a 3 hour conversation about India, South America, and so much more.  David was so animated and lively that we were laughing most of the time.  He knew so many things that in 3 hours, we felt like we’ve already been to Brazil and Bolivia just from his stories.  We left for the airport around 9pm  and eventually got to our boarding gates around 11:30pm because of the long lines in the immigration.

last picture before going to Suvarnbhumi Airport

EPILOGUE

And so we’re now back from Bangkok, tired, darker and fatter, but clearly more aware of a vibrant, beautiful and non-utopian world out there waiting to be appreciated, understood and discovered.  Bangkok did not fail our expectations of a food-culture rendezvous filled with learning, loving and laughing.

Thank you to my parents for allowing me to go on this trip.

Thank you to Rosali for being a great travel companion.

Thank you to Tatar, Nat and David for being the best strangers-turned-friends.

Thank you Thailand for not eating us alive.

POST SCRIPT

Tapioca is like just 4 pesos per piece in Thailand. I. just. love. tapioca. (its the corn filled jelly topped with salted coconut cream served as dessert in Thai restuarants. Don’t forget to eat that if you plan on going there! :)

this is all I lived on for 5 days. :D

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