Since I'm currently working at a university in China, I get the Chinese New Year off! That's SIX WEEKS of holiday time. I'll take it :) Being already in the Eastern hemisphere, and with so much time to kill, my roommate and I decided to take a month and visit some sights in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Enjoy the fourth installment of that decision involving Bangkok, Thailand:
We booked a night ferry/bus combo from Koh Tao to Bangkok. The night ferry was the best mode of long distance transport yet, because we slept hard the whole time. Do recommend.
The ferry took us to Chumphon, and from there we were on a bus most of the day until we arrived in Bangkok (a bit later than predicted for whatever reason). We shared a cab with a nice girl from Korea to the area where our hostel (Bewel Hostel. LOVED it. Calm but also good for meeting people. A difficult balance to strike.) was, close to famous Kao San backpacker road. Tip: just get a metered cab. Always. It’s the only way to ensure you’re paying a fair price.
On Couchsurfing, there’s a Thai lady named Jekky who hosts an international dinner every Saturday. We joined the event online, and as soon as we got to our hostel and showered we headed out with our new friend Mari from Norway (Also staying in the hostel. Have I mentioned I love hostels?) to try and find the event. We took a tuktuk, and later found out we were waaaaaay overcharged. But the ride was kind of fun, so whatever. You live and you learn. It took us a while to find the event because it’s a Jekky’s home and not on any main roads. So that coupled with our late bus meant we were pretty late and most of dinner was gone. But Jekky was very kind and found us something to eat and we stayed for several hours chatting. Jekky was extremely helpful in general, I would highly recommend trying to meet her and learn from her should you ever find yourself in Bangkok. She’s has a couple rooms in her home for travelers and is on Couchsurfing and Travee. Travee is a fairly new site where you can get shown around some places in Thailand by local hosts that have signed up. We never got the chance to use it due to our limited time everywhere, but it seems like a great site. I wish I had known about it sooner.
In Bewel we met Mari from Norway. She had just spent three weeks volunteering on a Greek island helping refugees coming on boats from Turkey. The stories she told...that is a very dire situation for hundreds of people. Even though we are having fun, it's important to remember not every where in the world is fun right now. And other humans in those places need our help. Mari was sweet, compassionate, and inspiring. I'm so glad we met her.
Because of our extra day on Koh Tao and or visa date for Cambodia we only had one full day to spend in Bangkok. We woke up early and walked about 30 minutes to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, a reclining Buddha, two of the biggest must-see historical impressive thingamajigs in town.
We didn’t enter the Grand Palace, because it is 500 baht and we are on a pretty tight budget. But you can walk inside the main gate and still see a lot of the architecture over the tops of the walls. You can get the gist. They’re pretty serious about the respectful clothing though. No shorts, shoulders, or leggings. My pants came past my knee but apparently not far enough. They’ll let you have suitable clothes for free though, just put down a 200 baht deposit you’ll get back when you return the clothes. I learned how to tie a sarong so that’s cool I guess.
The main historical emphasis in a lot of places is some version of a big palace. The Grand Palace in Bangkok, the Forbidden City in Beijing, Madrid. I think it’s interesting to see them and compare extravagance, architecture, time periods etc. It’s telling as to what is important to a certain culture at certain times. What is beautiful, grand, symbols of wealth. It’s interesting to note the differences and even more so the similarities.
We did pay the 100 baht entrance fee for Wat Pho And that was pretty cool.
We then walked away from the old cool stuff towards the train station, and stopped in Bangkok Bed and Bike hostel for a cool down and some lunch. It seemed like a very nice place. The décor was cool, the staff were nice, and the food was pretty dang good.
We then walked on about 30 minutes to the train station. We wanted to double check what we would be doing the next morning. We happened to accidentally walk through Bangkok’s China town on the way so that was cool. Very crowded, and swarming with the strangest food and lots of red and gold décor for the new year. So yeah, like any China town in the world.
Turns out you can’t buy a ticket the day before to Aranyaprathet (the closest stop to the Cambodian border), but we did double check the time (5:55 am) and price (48 baht) so I’m glad we went. We also got a metered cab on the way back so we knew about how long to allow for the cab ride the next morning (20 mins) and how much we should pay (70 baht). Which was good, as you’ll read shortly.
That afternoon we took a little rest in our hostel, then went to Rambuttri road with Mari for dinner. A cool walking street near Khao San road with lots of restaurants and things. We had been told of a weekend market that was the biggest in Asia, so we took a cab there after. Well……apparently it’s not open very late on Sunday. So it was basically closed up by the time we got there around 8:00pm which was kind of disappointing. But oh well, what can ya do.
Now the reason I’m glad we went to the train station the day before. The driver we got Sunday morning wouldn’t turn on his meter (I asked so many times and he laughed at me. It was right there, just turned off!) and tried to charge us 500 baht! I was so not in the mood at 5:00 am, and since I now knew the value of what we were asking for I was not having it. I told him 100 baht or we were finding someone else. I was kind of a bitch about it honestly, but 100 baht was still more than what that ride was worth. Jackwagon.
We got our tickets and found the train no problems at all. Except Emily left her phone in the cab so that sucked but transport-wise, no problems.
Check out my next post for a more detailed description of how we crossed the border into Cambodia. It was kind of a process. One I would not necessarily call simple.