Friday, August 21, 2015

Bangkok, Thailand: Shopper's Paradise

The Myanmar adventure is officially over - our tour ended yesterday morning in Bangkok.  I have mixed feelings because I loved the people I met, we bonded greatly, and we had such an amazing & ridiculous time together. It was like being in summer camp.

On that same note, traveling with a tour lets you relax and be totally lazy about details - someone tells you what time to show up, there's always buses that take you places, and half the time we had no idea what our itinerary was for the next day or where we were headed next because we didn't have to. I loved that sense of freedom, but at the same time - I usually like to figure things out on my own, and know where I'm going, and get a sense of what's going on and problem solve to figure out how best to execute what I want to be doing. So I have mixed emotions about it all.

For now, I'm back on the solo train. Post-tour, I took a couple days in Bangkok just to adjust before hitting the ground running again.

What It's All About:
Bangkok; capital of Thailand.  I love Bangkok. The well-known, crazy, insane sprawl of a city - and probably the most developed city in all of SE Asia. Like Chiang Mai, I visited Bangkok over a decade ago, so I didn't pressure myself to have to see and do all.  I think I love this city so much because it has both sides of SE Asia - the chaotic loud markets, where vendors are selling anything and everything you can think of, the cheap massages, street food, gorgeous temples, etc. But also the modern shopping centers and international brands and all the fanciness you can opt for if you wanted to. You can do Bangkok any way you choose, and that's why I really enjoyed my time here.

Cliffnotes of the Day (over a 2.5 day stay):
  • Our group had one final hurrah together at Khao San Road the last night of our tour. Khao San Road is a road that has, over time, come to epitomize all the backpackers who hit up this area. It is a chaotic street with the awesome, the weird, and the crazy - there's a huge outdoor market, tons of bars, guesthouses, hostels, party stations, etc.  Going down there is like seeing all the backpackers of the world coming together in one place - it's a big place for foreign tourists (and late-night, it's a huge party scene).  By the last night of our tour, it was down to only about ~10 of us, as the rest had already departed for their respective destinations.

Sunset over Khao San Road

Last ones standing

  • After some drinks, we all decided to indulge a vendor who was selling fried bugs on sticks

Stephen ate a scorpion

Our group leader Matt got a giant spider, while I stuck to a tiny silkworm

Matt eating his spider. Not to get too graphic here, but its legs were too big and he had to shove them in after biting into the spider and I am not sure this mental image will ever leave my brain

I was apparently not a huge fan of the silkworm. I take that back - it didn't taste bad (it was actually pretty ok), but the spindly antenna consistency is what got to me I think 

Khao San craziness

  • The next day, I spent taking it easy with one of the girls from the tour, Claire (Ireland). She was also doing a couple days in Bangkok before her next stop of Japan.  We hit up an area near our hostel called Siam Square/MBK.  You guys. This place was IN.SANE. There were like, 5 or 6 huge-ridic-modern shopping mega malls all together - the fanciest, nicest, coolest malls ever.  And each of them had like, 6 levels.  Malls on steroids. High-quality, the-best-money-can-buy steroids.  I couldn't get over it for the longest time - it probably didn't help that I started my trip in the least-developed country in SE Asia, and then moved on to the most-developed.  I can't even describe to you how sad and weird the small "shopping malls" we encountered in Myanmar were in comparison.

We first indulged (heavily) in an all-you-can-eat sushi and shabu-shabu restaurant. 

First ridic shopping center - MBK Plaza

Second ridic mall - Siam center. With the trendiest boutiques ever. Like all of Brooklyn in one mall

Third ridic mall, Siam Paragon. This one was full of high fashion brands. Oh, and Laduree, because of course this mall in Thailand would have the best French macarons ever

  • There was even an entire mall just dedicated to beauty products. HEAVEN, IS THAT YOU?

It was also around this time that I realized that deep down inside, I have the most Asian soul ever. Blinged out ridic nails? YES PLEASE. 

On second thought, I might want the peacock nails. YES PLEASE.

A cafe themed after teddy bears and trains and orphanages? YES PLEASE.

Said teddy bear cafe with an assortment of insane cakes? YES PLEASE.

A tea party after we'd spent the entire afternoon shopping and shoving our faces? YES PLEASE.

Rando Thai fashion show we came across

  •  The one thing I will say, however, is how rampant the sex tourism here is. It is literally everywhere.  We somehow ended up later that night on one of the streets. The girls basically sit outside their respective bars in bikinis and themes with numbers pinned to them. Shady old men can go into the bars and order the girls by their number to come talk to them, hang out with them, etc.  On that same note, you won't believe the number of 60 year old Euro men + their young pretty Thai girlfriends I've seen walking through the city.

You get the picture

  •  The next day, to make up for all my failings as a "do-all-the-things" tourist, I went on a crazy self tour to the famous temples of Bangkok.  I think I walked like 15 miles today.

Riding the public ferry up to the temples

  • First up was the Grand Palace; built in 1782 and where Thai kings lived for 150 years

Entering the Grand Palace

This was also where the government and head of military were housed

Everything was so bling-y

Detail of one of the columns

The famous emerald Buddha - it was so TINY

Post office worker shirt courtesy of the palace's strict dress code and limited shirt offerings to those wearing tanks

Right at home

  • Hit up Wat Pho next, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.  I went here on my last trip to Bangkok, but seeing as how it was over a decade ago and nobody had digital cameras or smartphones yet (oh my God how are we so old and how did we survive back then), I'm not sure I have a single photo of my visit.  Or I have one photo and that photo is the only thing I remember. Something like that.

    HUGE. HUGE RECLINING BUDDHA. 15m tall, apparently
I look like a lime-green whale, courtesy of the temple-provided robes

Giant bod. Meant in the most complimentary way possible

Back of his head. I don't know why, but I loooove the curly corkscrew gold hairs

Wat Pho also has the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand

Monks chanting inside a temple in Wat Pho

The outer corridor of the temple. Wat Pho also has the city's first "university", a massage school that is still open today. Is there anything Wat Pho can't do

  • Had a drink overlooking the River Phraya Chao, then met up Clair near Khao San Road for dinner, shopping, and the cheapest facial ever.

Drink overlooking Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) - which is covered in scaffolding and under construction

Bangkok street at sunset - the streets were all decked out in Christmas lights for the Queen's birthday. There were also giant blown-up photos of her everywhere.  I like the way these people do birthdays.

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • As a small side note to those who are up-to-date on the news, the bombings in Bangkok happened the night before we arrived. While I think some people were worried, we didn't notice any huge differences when we got into the city, except that Khao San Road was definitely a lot more muted than usual (apparently it's usually like Bourbon Street).  Also, while we were there, one of the country's top generals walked down the street with tons of news cameras following him, as a way of being like "I am here on Khao San Road; see all the tourists are safe; I'm not scared of being here either."
  • SE Asia loves Taylor.  At a bar the first night, three Taylor songs came on within half an hour - first time I've ever been in a bar that plays that much Tay that wasn't a result of me or my friends convincing the deejay that she is appropriate bar music.  One of the girls in the group commented "oh my God, they play Taylor Swift in every bar in Asia - they love her here."  I think I've found my place.
  • Chinese culture has had a big impact on Bangkok - way back in the day, Chinese people were brought in (I can't remember to do what; but I'm sure it was something like build roads or buildings or something). Afterwards, they settled in certain neighborhoods in Bangkok - the Chinatown here is huge.  Many of them became traders and merchants, and developed a newfound class of wealthy that were not royalty - my Lonely Planet said this combo of the elite Chinese amongst the Thai people, and a preference for Chinese men to marry Thai women, led to a mingling of Bangkok's heritage.  Today, over half of Bangkok's population have some ethnic Chinese heritage

Such a great downtime in Bangkok - and off to Laos! <3


  1. Great stuff....

    you get robbed of all of your riches yet?

    Just FYI, I am taking care of your resto list and putting it to good use

    1. Yay you're alive!! I would never get robbed of all my riches, because I know how to diversify. Obvs.

      I'm so glad you're looking after the list! I was so worried it would become obsolete. I want to see the new version when I swing by NYC again - I will be judging.

      Hope all is well!!