Bangkok (Thailand)

Arrived in Bangkok.  I have been to this action packed Asian city about about a dozen times and each time is just as eye opening.  You will either love or hate Bangkok.  At first glance, you will probably dislike Bangkok.  It’s kinda dirty, a bit polluted, but truly exhilarating.  Once you peel back its layers, give it a chance and learn your way around (which is key), you will be absolutely fascinated.  If you are traveling around Asia, you will find yourself here a great deal as it serves as the hub of SE Asia.  Consequently, we will be coming in and out of Bangkok many times throughout our trip.  With the introduction of many budget airline carriers to the area (Air Asia being the most prominent), travelers have really benefited.  Airfares to Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Singapore, Myanmar, Vietnam, Philippines can be as low as $20 one way.

Bangkok is a sprawling city with many different areas each with their own distinct character.  We will attempt to stay in as many districts as possible in order to experience as much of Bangkok as possible.  When I first visited Bangkok in 1991, it was clearly a Third World country.  Development over the next 25 years has been truly astonishing and has catapulted it into the present through super-charged economic growth.  Modern airports, Futuristic shopping malls, New skytrams, Internet everywhere, etc., in many ways Bangkok has outpaced development in many major cities in the United States and I feel like the US has been kinda left in the dust.  The dumbasses in Las Vegas cannot even get a proper monorail running up and down the strip or any sort of functional public transportation system off the ground for that matter.  We utlilized the BTS skytram quite often as it is the most efficient way to get around central Bangkok.  It is simple to utilize, it is super clean and eliminates the need to really have to step in a taxi or tuk tuk.

Upon arrival, we headed straight to the Khao San Road area in the Banglampu District. Khao San Road is the most famous backpacker ghetto in the world and is the epicentre of Southeast Asia’s backpacking universe.  Here you will see an unbelievable amount of travelers from all over the world including many burnout hippies on the ‘Pancake Trail’ backpacking their way throughout Southeast Asia.  If you’re young, on a budget and looking to mingle with other fellow backpackers and flashpackers, staying in the Khao San area at least once is a no-brainer.  At sundown, Khao San Rd is probably one of the most action packed, eye opening streets in the world filled with tons of food, neon lights, live music, tuk tuk’s, touts, bars, guesthouses, international hippies, massage parlors, street clothing shops…..just pure unadulterated fun and complete utter mayhem.  I guarantee that you will feel alive visiting this area at nighttime.  A scene everyone must experience once in their lifetime.  To escape the absolute craziness of Khao San Rd. at night, the surrounding streets (i.e. Soi Rambuttri) offer a bit of a respite and slight bit more mellow scene.  After a few nights in the Khao San Road area we switched our tack to the Sukhumvit area which is more upmarket and is one of the busiest tourist districts in Bangkok and is where a ton of expatriates reside.  It is also home to the red light areas of Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy.  Some might find them repulsive and others consider it the worlds greatest adult male playground in the world.

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One of the many things sold on Khao San Road are fake ID’s.  You can get fake drivers licenses from every state, fake airline employee ID’s, fake college diplomas…..and they look 100% real.  I may get a Lufthansa employee ID and an updated International Press pass.  Barbie is contemplating whether to get a diploma from Harvard University only because she has no shot at getting one in real life and thinks by holding this diploma, it may increase her brain cells without having to attend class.

A benefit in staying in the Khao San Road area is its proximity to the Chao Phraya River which serves as the main water canal to take river taxi’s without having to deal with car traffic.  Boats run up and down the river and it is a high energy, fun and efficient way to get around with the locals and monks.  It’s a great means of transport to visit the famous Bangkok temples (Grand Palace, Wat Po, Wat Arun….etc).  The piers at each stop are bustling with activity with vendors selling assorted crap and tons of street food stalls serving up awesome and sometimes unidentifiable food.

As many of you are aware, Bangkok is famous for its nightlife and offers an abundance of female companionship for the foreign traveler looking for a ‘girlfriend experience’ with a beautiful young Thai princess.  It is a paradise for single men or even men looking for an escape from their nagging wives.  You will see many western men hand in hand with Thai girls.  Upon checking in to our hotel, Barbie and I laughed at a sign prominently posted on the hotel wall.  (see pix below)  Barbie did not quite understand the meaning of the sign and I explained to her that ‘guests’ or ‘friends’, really meant hookers.  She laughed it off in disbelief thinking I was bullshitting her until last night as we were walking up to our room and she was abruptly stopped and asked to show her passport in order to avoid the 500 Baht ($15) surcharge.  I just wish I could have captured a picture of Barbie’s face……As they say, “Only in Thailand”.

I am not going to list all our daily activities but let’s just say there is so much to do and you never seem to have enough time to do everything.  I would even consider in the future, renting an extended stay condo and get into a daily routine in order to experience this fascinating city like a local.  I have never lived in Manhattan but I sense that an extended stay in Bangkok would provide a similar high energy experience….but with a significant added ‘edge’ to it being foreign with a much different way of life.  Not having english widely spoken, kind of makes it more challenging but in a fun way.

Regarding food, I must mention that the super modern malls in Siam Square all have their own food courts which are so damn good and nothing like the cheap fast food sold in American mall food courts.  They are an absolute foodies delight and this is where we feasted everyday for our lunches.  We visited most of them for lunch including:  The Emporium (Quartier Food Hall) (TheSiam Center (Republic Food Court), Terminal 21 (Pier 21), Central Chidlom (Food Loft), Central Plaza Food Court, Siam Paragon Food Court, Emporium Food Court.

We also visited many street food markets where the locals chow down.  They are dirt cheap and are located all over the Bangkok.  They are a great way to experiment with various local foods.  Cleanliness at times may be suspect so you really have to use your judgement by visiting the ones that are crowded with locals and food turnover is high. Missing out eating at these street markets would be a shame.  I would eat at them more often but Barbie being a picky eater, put a bit of a obstacle on my adventurous side of food exploration.  However, on the positive side, she probably saved my Loose Stools Index from plummeting to super low levels.

Lots of videos below on this entry, so check them out.  I am trying to get them to work on the iPhone but if you are having issues, they can be viewed on your computer for the time being.  Our time in Bangkok is up after 6 nights and it was alot of fun as usual.  Now onto our next destination in Thailand.

Soshana, The Connection, Tom Yum Kung, Ranee’s, Chomp, Roti Motaba, Nai Soey Beef Noodles, Chabad House, La Table Dee T, Soul Food Mahanakorn,  Tim Ho Wan Dim Sum, Hua Seng Hong, Villa Napoli, Pizzeria Limoncello All major mall food courts, Tons of Street Food.

LOOSE STOOLS INDEX – 8  (Real pleased with this considering all the varied street food eaten)

The magic of technology:
As previously mentioned, Bangkok is a sprawling city with traffic and street signs written in Thai and with sois going in every possible direction.  In the old days, to navigate around by foot, you needed to be street smart, have a good sense of direction and rely on a shitty paper map (usually not to scale and not very accurate).  However, with the indispensable Google Maps on your iPhone, you cannot believe the hassle it takes out of locating all points of interest without having to constantly ask for directions to local Thais who speak no English and subsequently driving yourself freaking nuts.  Yes, it was a huge sense of accomplishment to get to your destination back in the day.  However, with the iPhone and Google Maps app in hand, it removed all the hassle and made it completely unintimidating even for simpletons to find their destination by foot.  You would have to be absolutely crazy or one serious Bad Mamma Jamma to even to attempt to drive yourself around this city.

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