The Khoa San Road © 2010 . All rights reserved.

Welcome to Bangkok

Ten weeks of traveling, six countries visited, countless friend made and adventures shared, and more than a few mishaps along the way. This chapter of my travels all comes to a close in the bustling capital of Thailand. Welcome to Bangkok.

I arrived at the bus terminal very  early in the morning after an overnight bus trip from Koh Pha Nang. The bus was a VIP one, which was surprisingly comfortable, better than any of the so called “sleeper buses” in Vietnam. Thanks to Manex, a generic Thai version of Xanex, I was actually able to get some rest on the this journey and didn’t feel too bad on arrival. A short taxi ride later and Matt and I were dumped out onto the famous Khao San Road, only at 7am it just looked like any other road as none of the markets were set up yet. We made our way to the hostel Owen had recommended we stay at, NapPak hostel, which was a couple of streets back from Khao San. This place was almost luxury as far as hostels in SE asia go, though you paid for it with it. A 16 bed dorm room set you back about 400 Baht a night, but things cost more in the big city and hot water and decent showers almost made it worth it.

There are birds in Bangkok.

We started the day chilling out NapPark, we had no real plans for things to do in Bangkok. I had seen pretty much everything I wanted to see so all I wanted to do was take it easy, maybe wander around for a bit and take some photos, then spend all my left over Baht at the markets. Seeing a Ping Pong show was also a compulsory activity. While sitting around outside the hostel I saw Argentinian Dan whom I had met in Vang Vieng, and briefly bumped into again in Chiang Mai. I had originally planned on meeting up with him down in the Thai Islands for some partying, but he had left there early because of a motorbike accident in Koh Lanta. He was in a sorry state sitting in bangkok with his leg all bandaged up. Some serious damage had been inflicted on his foot and he had to visit the hospital daily to get it treated. To rub salt in the rounds I found out that the night before he had left his camera in the back of a taxi and lost all his recent photos from his birthday and nights out in Bangkok. It was a shit way to finish an otherwise amazing trip for him and understandably he was pretty depressed about it.

Man sleeping on a bench in Chinatown.

After the sobering reunion with Dan I then saw another familiar face sitting nearby reading a book. It was Christina, the German I had traveled with for part of Vietnam and Cambodia. She was also getting ready to go home, and was just taking it easy for the last few days of her trip in Bangkok. We caught up on what had happened in the month since we had seen each other last. We traded woes, my bad Happy Shake trip in Vang Vieng, and splitting my head open in KL. She on the otherhand had caught Dengue fever almost immediately after Chantel, Owen and I had left her in Phnom Penh. She was fine now but had had a horrible time in Phnom Penh dealing with it on her own.

The bustling streets of Chinatown.

With these two reunions over Matt and I decided to head out and see some of the city. We started following a walking tour listed in the Lonely Planet, but skipped over most of the attractions because we couldn’t be bothered. For starters we weren’t allowed into the Royal Palace because we were inappropriately dressed, but the entrance was so expensive we didn’t want to go in anyway. Eventually we wandered all the way to Chinatown and its dirty cramped streets lined with chaotic claustrophobic markets. We pushed through taking a long time to go only a few blocks due to the amount of people on the sidewalks. Eventually the combination of pollution and all the strange market smells started to get to us and we had to escape lest our nausea overwhelm us. We hopped on a boat heading back towards Khao San. Due to all the rain that had been happening in Thailand the river was really high, overflowing over the embankment in parts of the city.

Heavy rain equals high water levels and flooding.

With our site seeing over, now it was time to take it easy. The rest of our time in Bangkok mostly consisted of eating large amounts of delicious street food, drinking a lot of beer and Siam Sato, wandering markets and getting massages. On our second night while drinking at our hostel we rounded up a large crew to check out a Ping Pong. There were 3 Norwigen guys that were keen to go that night and they helped us recruit a bunch more people. At about 11pm we felt sufficiently drunk for the ordeal and flagged down some taxis, and at this point about half the people who said they would come conveniently bailed. There were still three taxi loads of people however, so it was a large enough crew. I was in the first taxi and we asked him to take us to a Ping Pong show, he said he knew a good place and off we went. The other taxis were told to follow. Ten minutes later we arrived in a dodgy back alley full of seedy looking Thai and Malaysian men sitting around on plastic chairs outside a building with blacked out windows. This wasn’t the red light district, it was some other place that the Taxi driver probably gets a commission from. Also one of the taxis had gone missing, the Norwegian guys were MIA.

Balloons seller in Chinatown.

The remainded of our crew waited for them to show up, but after 10 minutes we gave up on them and tried to negotiate the entrance fee. They pimps wanted 600 Baht and we would have none of it. They didn’t budge on the price so we decided to bail. One of our number started negotiating with a tuk tuk driver who was loitering around nearby and they said they could take us to another place in the red light district. We settled on a cheap price and took off, our crew filling 3 tuk tuks this time. The drivers drove like maniacs, flying down the streets racing each other. It was a blast! Eventually we found our way into a show. I can’t remember what we paid in the end, it was either three or four hundred Baht each and we got a free drink. The place was much like any seedy strip club, it was mostly empty except for our large group sitting on one side of the stage, and a group of Indian guys sitting on the other.

The giant golden Buddha in the only temple I visited in Bangkok.

For those who don’t know a Ping Pong show is essentially it’s a strip show, only its less about the fact there are naked women on stage, and more about the crazy things they do with their vaginas. We witnessed all maner of spectacles that night. It was kind of like a car crash, horrific but fascinating, only unlike a car crash it was disturbingly funny too. There was one main girl who did all the tricks here. It started with the obligatory shooting of ping pong balls out into the crowd, then she pulled out a string of flowers, followed by a string of razor blades. This one cause a collective cringe but apparently they are fake except for the first one which they demonstrate is sharp by cutting some paper. She also got people on stage to hold a balloon between their legs which she then popped by shooting blow darts with her privates. There were several other tricks I can no longer remember too, it was just too much to take in. It was seedy, and its not something I would recommend going to sober, or without a large group of people, but it is a necessary part of any true Bangkok experience.

One of the many market streets in Chinatown.

With sight seeing and the ping pong show done, all that was left of Bangkok for my final day was shopping. Conveniently I was there on a weekend, and their was a huge market on that was only a 20 minutes cab ride away from the Khao San strip. I went there with Matt, Kristina and a couple others from the hostel and spent several hours exploring the sprawling stores. This place had everything from your usual asian market clothes and jewellery to giant wooden elephants and home wears. It had a nice selection of semi designer clothing booths, which unlike most of your market t-shirts had some unique and interesting designs. I ended up buying a whole bunch of T-shirts and a few other souvenirs and presents. When I met up with Matt to leave the market he was carrying this giant blue plush toy octopus which had ridiculous pink sausage lips and looked like it came from a bad 80’s anime.

Statue with epic Fu Manchu beard.

Matt, myself and the giant octopus headed back to Khao San where we finished spending our money on some more souvenirs and a delightfully painful Thai massage. Now all that was left was to wait for the shuttle bus to the airport for our flight back to Australia. While waiting for our flight at the airport we needed to spent our last couple hundred Baht, but everything was triple the price or more than usual and it wouldn’t go very far. Matt and I ended up pooling our remaining money to splurge on Burger King. Sadly my last meal in Thailand was a Whopper, but I wasn’t going to pay 200 Baht for a stir fry that should cost 30. This was the only western food I had bought while in South East Asia, other than a slice of pizza in Chiang Mai.

Matt and his ridiculously Japanese octopus.

The flight home was long, and since I can’t sleep on planes I just watched movies. Matt who has anxiety about flying begged me for one of my Manex tables to help him sleep. It did the trick for awhile and he sat their looking sedated watching Sex In The City 2. I of course gave him a lot of flack about his choice in movies. A couple of hours later he begged for a second pill and then was off to dream land. When we arrived in Sydney airport I had a run in with customs when asking if I could bring some used bullet casings in which I had gotten in Vietnam when I fired an AK-47. I shouldn’t have said anything and they would never have known. Instead I got my entire bag emptied onto a table and searched, my bullets confiscated because they are classed as “fire arms” even though they are just an empty cylinders of metal, and a nice note added to my record saying I tried to bring said “fire arms” intro Australia. An hour later my bag had been sufficiently upturned and customs left me to repack it and I was free to go. My adventures in South East Asia were over. I was home.