Upon arriving in Thailand, the first stop for most people is the capital city of Bangkok. In my case, it was Ko Samui and then Phuket.
After living in Thailand for nearly five months, I was growing tired of the looks of surprise when I told people that I’d never been to Bangkok. Problem. Solution? Take the last 3-day weekend I had (until October) to visit the city of prayer and sin; of outdoor markets and tuk-tuks; of east meets west.
Flying is affordable, but no matter where you are, the bus is always cheaper. Morgan and I stopped home after work, showered and boarded a large and surprisingly comfortable coach bus to begin our 12-hour ride to Bangkok. We slept most of the way and arrived at one of the city’s many bus terminals at 6:45 am the next day. We hadn’t really put that much planning into our trip (except for my long-burning desire to visit the famous Chatuchak Market), so we owned up to being the only farangs in the bus terminal and took a peek in a Lonely Planet. What opens before anything else in Bangkok? Temples… and lots of them.
In order to sight-see in the most cost-effective way possible, we took the ‘tuk-tuk deal.’ The driver offers, “I take you many temples for 80 baht. In between temples you go look at jewelry/suit shop?” Basically, the shops you are taken to give the driver a cut of whatever you buy or the shops give the driver a coupon good for five liters of gas for each batch of farangs he brings in. In short, two non-Thai people in backpacks are a hot commodity. For the greater part of Friday, we toured Bangkok tuk-tuk style.
We polished the night off greasily at Bangkok’s Siam Discovery where we watched a Thai pop band perform, ran into a friend from Phuket and Morgan and I sank our teeth into a Bloomin’ Onion and a plate of Cheese Fries at Outback Steakhouse. (We also shared a Coldstone Creamery‘s Peanut Butter Cup Perfection the next day… SO good.) You see? East meets west.
And Saturday was the day I met my Bangkok destiny: Chatuchak Market. 35 acres, 8000 stalls and a crowd of 200,000+ people. Morgan and I hopped the BTS Skytrain (best bang for your buck to get around select areas of Bangkok) and arrived before 10 am. The goal was to spend as little money as possible and get gifts for everyone on my list, neither of which happened. While I did get some great stuff for about half the price that I would in Phuket, at the end of the day, it was Chatuchak that conquered me. The crowds, the heat, the overwhelming selection of anything and everything I could imagine. I threw in the towel after only four hours, knowing quite well that people often spend between 10 hours and an entire weekend exploring and purchasing.
Until next time, Bangkok.