07/09/2014 - 07/16/2014
A week in Bangkok left us scratching our heads a bit. It's becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between the cultural, historical, and culinary dynamism that is the 'real' Thailand, and the exotic playground for foreigners that we are continuously presented with. In Bangkok, cheap accommodation is found on Khao San road, which is a chaotic mess of guesthouses, restaurants, bars, clubs and massage parlors. There are swarms of backpackers everywhere, with an almost equal number of vendors selling clothes, street food, fake IDs, mass-produced trinkets, roasted scorpions, and an abundance of bracelets with offensively vulgar phrases written on them. After a night of live music, buckets of vodka, and maybe a famous Bangkok ping pong show, a typical daytime activity might be sharing space with Buddhist monks at one of the many beautiful temples in town.
After the resorts of Railay and the debauchery of Khao San road, we were ready to discover some of the real Thailand. But alas, some things are not meant to be, as we both picked up a stomach bug, which for Abby included a fever and became bad enough that a trip to the hospital was in order to test for malaria. Luckily it was just a virus, and we spent the next few days taking it easy, watching movies, catching up on some writing, and being extremely grateful that travel also means sleeping as much as you want.
We did get a chance to do some exploring though, and here are some tips we've put together:
The best authentic Thai food in the Khao San area is centered around the 7-11 at the east end of Rambuttri road. Here you can find sukiyaki, red curry, green beans and pork in sweet and sour sauce, rice porridge with pork and salted duck egg, thai fried chicken salad, pumpkin with egg custard, random little finger food desserts, stir fried fresh clams in a thai basil sauce, and all variety of skewered meats and innards, grilled to (often well past) perfection. Check out the places with a ton of different dishes in metal pans and just pick two or three to put on top of a bed of rice. You'll have no idea what you're eating or what it's called but it's awesome and NOT the Thai food that you'll find at a typical Thai restaurant in America.
Also check out Yaowarat rd, which is Bangkok's Chinatown. We had a great day of visiting Chinatown in the morning and for lunch and then getting a riverboat from there to make stops at some of the temples and the palace along the river. My biggest regret is not trying Hoy Tod, which is a Bangkok Chinatown oyster omelette - supposed to be really good. Chinatown is also known to be the best place for fresh seafood.
For most people, a visit to Patpong rd for a ping pong show is a quintessential part of a visit to Bankok. It's best to avoid all the tuk tuk guys on Khao San and just go to Patpong on your own. Negotiate everything up front - we paid 300 baht for entry, including the first drink. Pay for each drink in cash immediately before taking a sip so you'll have no tab and know how much you're being charged. Also have them let you look inside first so you can see if there is a crowd or if you'll be the only ones there. A girl will perform some stunt and then walk around for tips - we tipped 100 baht as a couple if it was good, 20 baht if it was lousy. Don't expect sexy, just a novelty act really. Worth your time to look up some info online about ping pong shows as these places are scam central.
Also not to be missed is Chatuchak, the largest weekend markets in southeast Asia. Some advice we were given and foolishly did not follow is that if you find something you want at the market, buy it, because you'll never be able to find that stall again.
For Mike it's now time to say 'goodbye' to Thailand. For Abby it's just 'see you later,' as she will be back for northern Thailand a month or so from now. Our next stop is Siem Reap, Cambodia, and the famous temples of Angkor Wat.
Here is a string of far too many only mediocre photos taken with Abby's iPhone: