Oct 6-20, 2014
Bangkok Revisited 3
GPS waypoint: 13°45'43.4"N 100°29'35.1"E
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
3 Visits and Counting
Bangkok is one place you'll never tire to visit. This is my third and it won't be my last. This time though, given the 14 days I got on my Thai visa, I can explore the place on my own - no girlfriend, no production crew. The first visit was a treat from a girlfriend...thank you! I was practically tagging along just grateful to be given the treat. The 2nd time, I was a castaway in the tv production of Survivor Philippines, the Philippine version of the popular Survivor show franchise. That time, I was kept in strict quarters due to show confidentiality. I didn't get to roam at all. Now, I have my chance, finally.
Getting off at Khaosan Road, the infamous backpacker haven of Bangkok, I didn't waste time looking for a place to stay - it was getting dark. With my heavy and bulky pack, I didn't have the luxury of pounding the pavement for the cheapest deal. I went for the $10/day room at Sawasdee Guesthouse, right along the Rambuttri Road, just parallel to Khaosan. I would be at ground zero for the renowned night life. After 2 days, I found a cheaper $5/day a/c dorm lodging at Baan Chanachongkram. I would stay there for a few more days until I move to a luxurious hotel that would see value in my internet service - Riva Surya Bangkok.
Thais generally don't speak and don't understand English - very little at best. And with English as a global language currency, and Thailand as a global destination, it means increased challenge and difficulty for the traveller/tourist. I got lost so many times because I couldn't even ask the locals what bus to take to a particular city destination. If the restaurant menu has no pictures, I'm lost if everything is written in Thai. If I want to go to a bar across town requiring several bus transfers, it's a game of Russian roulette if I get to that place and still come back home without cabbing it. Somehow, I manage...and seeing the glass as half full, I take it as part of the Thai experience (but it can really be much better).
Raising the Ceiling
In my very humble opinion, Bangkok is a global city with a low ceiling. Global because it's an international destination whose sights, sounds, food, beaches, dive spots, temples are worth going half-way around the world for. Low ceiling because there is this apparent language barrier serving as a bottleneck. I'm not sure if it is nationalism that keeps the Thais from adopting English as a second language. But I could just imagine how Thailand can exponentially grow as an international player without the language issue. If English is introduced in the school curriculum at day one, in only one generation, Thailand becomes English-friendly. This opens up the floodgates of tourism and more global opportunities. Again, just my humble opinion. Apologies if I sounded like a wise-ass know-it-all.
As my mantra goes, at the end of the day, in any place, it's not so much about the waterfall or the cave or the coral reef. It all boils down to people and the connections you forge. I had been fortunate to cross paths with people who shared their time, assistance, friendship and goodwill - my cousin Sheila and Moe who took me to Chinatown for a sumptuous dinner treat, Paola Galan who introduced me to her friends who in turn, introduced me to their friends, Edith who gave me tips and info about various places, Ellen and Jovain who offered me their place to crash-in, Kansuda who took the time to tour me around the shopping malls along the Sukhumvit area, etc. The locals I've had conversations with, my fellow travellers who share their experience and insight, etc. Indeed, without these wonderful people, Bangkok would not be as magical.
Riva Surya Bangkok Hotel
I was impressed by this hotel on the banks of the scenic Chao Praya River - Riva Surya Bangkok. It's a stylish boutique hotel complete with a swimming pool, a gym, resto-bar and outdoor garden-dining alongside the river. At over US$100/day, it was not cheap. But this is the type of hotel I'd like to showcase for Bangkok. I was able to meet with the forward-thinking marketing director and showed her what I could do for the hotel to enhance their internet profile. Our handshake gave me a luxurious roof over my head and a wonderful project to work on. I would like to see how far I can push the boundaries in ensuring increased bookings for them. I see this not simply as a web undertaking but perhaps a start of a beautiful business relationship that may grow in time. Already, Bangkok and its abundance is drizzling on me.
Muay Thai Live (the stage play)
Abundance continued to rain on me. While at Asiatique, I wanted to see the Muay Thai Live stage play, but at B1500, it was too rich for me. Instead, I wrote the organizers with a barter offer - good looks on the internet (through my web machinery) in exchange for 2 tickets. These guys appreciate the internet and wisely said, "yes". Woohoo! It's a good thing Ellen was available to see the play with me. The stage alone was impressive - open concept viewable in 3 quadrants. Instead of props, they used background photography and video to make a realistic set. Synchronized with powerful sound scoring, the play came alive with all the muay thai action you could ask for. But beyond the action scenes, the play gave an insight about Thai history, culture, devotion and its people. I would recommend it.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Despite becoming more touristy than a local cultural immersion, Chatuchak Weekend Market remains a must-do in Bangkok. For sheer animation and size, comprehensive wares for sale, a wide array of food to choose from, you have to set aside a weekend for this. Notwithstanding walking around it for the best part of the day, I was left exhausted without even covering half of it. This place is huge!
Adhere 13th Street Blues Bar
Having abruptly left the blues scene in the Philippines, I was beginning to hurt for this fix. After Googling, "blues, Bangkok", just walking distance from my hotel, I came upon a blues bar - Adhere 13th Street Blues Bar. How cool is that? It was a small nondescript hole in the wall, a kind of neighborhood secret only the local denizens frequent (thank God for Google!). When the band played, I was kid with KitKat on the left hand and Reese cups on the other! Yes, there is a God.
After 20 days in Cambodia, it felt like leaving behind a mini-life, only to start a new one in Thailand. That's how it felt when my minivan reached Bangkok and I could see the skyline, knowing well, it would be another mini-life for the next 2 weeks. As a traveller, life is always on fast-forward. I initially thought about exploring the whole of Thailand - Bangkok, Chiangmai, the beaches, etc. But 14 days were hardly enough to scratch the surface of Bangkok. I decided to spend the entire 14 days in Bangkok instead - no extended road trips to the monk-tamed tigers, no beaches, no temple visits. That way I got to immerse myself more into the rhythm of things, getting the city a little more and getting my bearing - the mall, the street food, the popular markets, a stage play and meeting new friends.
Unlike most travellers who need to cram as many tours, sights and activities as they can squeeze into their limited time before heading back to their country, I in turn, have no plan to return 'home' as I don't have any. Any place I end up essentially becomes home where I try to settle down until I feel the restlessness to move on again, or when my visa expires, whichever comes first. Bangkok remains an unfinished business...as it will always be.
Adventure Hostel Bangkok
Location: 1541 Phahonyothin Rd., Payathai, Bangkok, Thailand
Tel: 062 527 2581
Hours: open 24 hours
Features: central location by the N7 Saphan Khwai BTS train station, clean aircon rooms, fast and reliable internet, staff who will go the extra distance for you, reasonable rate
Nawa Sheeva Hotel Chiangmai
Location: 184/2 Ratchapakhinai Rd, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, 50200 Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tel: 061.272.8008 / 053.326.583
Features: salt-water swimming pool, expansive space, big luxurious rooms, great hotel cafe using top-of-the-line espresso brewer
Nawa Saraan Hotel Chiangmai
Location: 37/1 Singharat Lane 2, T.Sriphum, Muang Chiangmai, 50200 Chiang Mai, Thailand
Features: upscale container-themed, luxury appointments, central location
- one mug draft beer
- 1.5 liter drinking water
- one hour massage
- muesli breakfast
- pad thai
- cheap dorm lodging
- Adventure Hostel lodging
- laundry, coin operated machine
- bus ride
- You can get around Bangkok using the trains, buses, tuk-tuks or the boat. Here is the transport map to give you a heads-up.
Oct 6-20, 2014
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