Tuesday, December 16, 2014

12/1/14 Day 319 Bangkok-Our Southeast Asia Chapter Begins

Our flight with Emirates Airlines from Istanbul was comfortable, and complete with unlimited wine and movies on the way to Dubai and onward to our destination, Bangkok. Getting through customs was a short wait, maybe twenty minutes tops. We wrote a fake flight number for our outgoing flight so no questions asked, 30 days granted for free. After the baggage claim the three mobile carriers stands appear and in ten minutes we have 1 gigabyte of data with our new Thai number for less than 400 baht with True network, they are super simple and have great reception throughout the country. Each US dollar is equivalent to about 33 baht and if you use ATM's anywhere in Thailand they ding you a whopping 150 or 180 baht fee...that is almost 6 dollars on every withdrawal, even with a no fee card like we have, brutal! If you physically go to a bank and pull out a larger sum than the ATM can dispense (usually 20,000 baht allowance here in Thailand) then you can continue your transaction fee-free and perhaps 3 large Changs richer. We have been invited to stay with the sweet and generous Alison, a friend Julie met at Burning Man this year. Julie will be flying into BKK airport only 12 hours after our flight arrives and meeting us at Alison's after a 3 month hiatus back to the United States after our adventures in Europe! After meeting Alison the first time and a quick jet-lag-be-gone cat nap we were off to experience the nightlife around Sukhumvit (one of Bangkok's primary streets) and Soi 31 (in Thailand cross streets are called Soi). We made our way down Soi Cowboy where ladies and ladyboys alike hollered and flirted from within their bar boundaries. This well known red-light district has dozens of bars, all with feminine fashioned females parading around to attract clientele into the depths of the racy bars. We politely dismissed the hundreds of pairs of false lashes batting our way, enticed instead by jet lag relieving sleep before Julie arrived the next morning. A slamming fast introduction to Southeast Asia, Bangkok! With traffic screaming down the left side of the street, home of 30 baht street phad thai (1$) and never ending markets full of anything you may or may not need: stereos, rubber stoppers, buckets chocked full of mystery meat alongside gutters humming the smell of untreated sewage existing seamlessly with a rainbow myriad of flowers being delicately strung into offerings for the love of Buddha. We covered our shoulders even in the muggy 30+ degree Celsius weather and paid our 100 baht entrance fee for the Wat Pho where the Reclining Buddha rests in all of the golden glory adorned among many things in: flower offerings, a bowl of rice with a can of Fanta for a spiritual lunch and after my visit one additional small stone Buddha relic (a monk gifted me the offering earlier the same day). The whole city is wrapped in a palette of gold, the color of royalty to celebrate King's Day which we are just in time to sit down in the park for a free Thai boy band concert in honor of the King. A beautiful night to wander the city through endless lights streamers and countrywide festivities. It is widely known that many Tuk Tuk drivers have a tendency to scam tourists boldly lying about temples being closed, specific guest houses burning to the ground and or making multiple "shopping" stops where they pull over at particular stores for you to look around and earn a commission from the shopowner for anything you buy. We took one Tuk Tuk ride and made very clear that we wanted a ride for all three of us to Khao San Road, and no shopping on the way for 80 baht. We had no problems and gave our weary legs a break for once arriving among a sea of backpacks and street vendors. For our last night in Bangkok we found a room right on Khao San, famously known as the backpacker stomping grounds, inlaid with dingy guest houses to accommodate the hordes of jet lagged world travelers starting their SE Asia backpacking circuit. The bars offer buckets of alcohol and the street vendors are mostly unwilling to move on their 100 baht (3$) hippie pants, elephant slings, Chang tank tops and sarongs-that is fair though as these are pretty much the cheapest prices for these exact same articles throughout the rest of the country. Buy anything you might want in Bangkok, you won't find it cheaper anywhere, shopping spree!

Emirates Airlines dinner
Complete with wine and beers!
We decided to leave a few things at Alison's for the duration of SE Asia: my down jacket, down sleeping bags and panda hoods. 
Our bags are substantially lighter and now I am not fighting with my panda hood every time I need to fish my raincoat out. 
An amazing authentic weekly market right by Alison's house, pretty sure we were the only farangs (vernacular term for tourists) in sight. 
Huge smoothie for 30 baht and my lunch is poured  
This is actually the Monk that gave me a Buddha relic, taken before I knew he was going to randomly give me a gift

The famed Tuk Tuks of SE Asia

Floral offerings

Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha

Soldiers dressed to the nines and ready for Kings Day

Banana leaf table surface
Noodle soup
The Giant Swing, surprisingly after multiple deaths they have stopped the giant Swing Ceremony
We have monk socks, sweaters, aprons, mittens and booties in a fabulous shade of monk 

Keeping it classy with that Buffalo Trace that Julie brought us from home

Only 30 baht
Khao San after hours
Scorpions, cockroaches, grasshoppers, which crunchy critter gets you salivating?

Bracelets, bangles, glowing ears all for sale

Everything is shiny for the king
Free concert celebration in the park

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