Well, here I am again in the top bunk of a sleeper train, the very best time to write home.
This time though, I’m on my own (and still loving it), in a very upgraded version of the India cart
and on my way to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand.
So goodbye Bangkok, it’s really been incredible. Bangkok has been street food, temples, malls, new friends, gay clubs, markets, busses, trains, ferries and metros. Let me rewind the last five days.
So on my first full day down Soi 4 on Sukhumvit road, I was feeling less pessimistic than the night prior - possibly because of a good nights sleep. The whole day was spent walking around the area and exploring malls, malls and more malls.
I found out that the reason the streets aren't flooded with street food stalls is because it has all been moved inside the malls in gatherings of small stands and food courts. I tried delicious grilled spicy mushrooms in Central World mall,
walked past Siam Square and into Siam Pentagon, where I found amazing mushroom dumplings.
After a good while I continued even further down the main street to Bangkok Art and Cultural Center, where I walked all the way up to the top, admiring the students’ modern art and film installations.
On wobbling legs I took the Skytrain back in the late afternoon, got disoriented and lost in the rain for a while (not for the last time, unfortunately), but made it back to CheQinn in the end, albeit wet and tired.
In the evening I went to my last mall of the day, Terminal 21, which was actually so freaking cool. Designed like an airport, with the doormen in pilot attire and with each floor elaborately decorated as a new destination: the Carribean, Paris, Rome, London, Tokyo, Istanbul, San Fransisco, the place was an attraction itself.
It was awesome, and I ended with a street food-priced meal in the food court, getting delicious grilled bananas for dessert.
The next day I was up at 5.50 am, ate my breakfast
and got picked up in a minibus for a full day tour to Kanchanaburi and the Death Railway. The day consisted of a lot of driving around. I slept most of the time - on the bus, not at the attractions.
I befriended a really sweet and smart Bangladeshi woman and a slightly weird and awkward Indian man.
We started in Kanchanaburi town, walking around the museum and across the bridge over the river Kwai.
I felt weird seeing everyone taking silly selfies, considering the tragic history of the place. Then we went on a one hour beautiful train ride on the Death Railway
and off we were for lunch on the river at a Thai restaurant.
We continued to the Sai Yoj No waterfall, a serene place for a relaxing sit down, before our final stop at the WWII cemetery,
where some of the prisoners who lost their lives while building the railway where buried. The bus ride back to Bangkok took forever and we got stuck in traffic as soon as we were back in the city, so I ended up jumping out early and walking to Terminal 21 for a late dinner before going to bed.
The third day was a bit of walking around, mostly running some errands and getting everything sorted, good food and so, so much rain. I got disoriented on my way out of the skytrain again and it was absolutely pouring down. As in I’ve never experienced anything like it. And. I. Was. Soaked. In seconds. With a rain jacket on.
It automatically became laundry day and stay-inside-and-relax-day. I went to vegan cafe May Veggie Home for dinner and had the best Pad Thai ever!
I was up early on Saturday again and took the BTS to Century Mall, successfully finding the Klook tour bus going on the full day tour to the floating markets. And let me tell you, for me that might as well have been a street food day tour, because I ate SO much good food.
Anyway, we started out at Damnoen Saduak floating market (the most touristed), where we went on a beautiful boat ride through the market, jammed in between other boats filled with goods, food or potential buyers.
We got a bit of time to explore on land
and on my walk I got noodles, deliciously sweet mango sticky rice
and mouthwateringly good (vegetable filled) steamed rice-skinned dumplings (Khao Kriap Pak Mor) made on the spot by a sweet old lady.
Next stop was a Muay Thai Temple (don't ask me why)
and then the train station, where we boarded a 10 minute train ride going through the famous Maeklong Railway Market.
I didn't enjoy the market much when we got off though, as I spent the entire time trying not to fall behind and getting lost in the crowds of tourists, all the while afraid that the stick I was following was not in fact my guide’s.
At the end there was nothing to worry about. It was a very narrow market, a bit claustrophobic, but definitely an experience, especially watching all the salesmen packing up everything and clearing away from the rails in a matter of seconds, as the train approached.
The space was tight, why anyone would start a market there to start off with is beyond me. I befriended three really sweet and funny teachers from the Philippines.
Picture: Mark, Karen, Neal
And then we were off to the third and last market, Amphawa floating weekend market (least touristy). We had 2.5 hours of freetime and I spent it walking in every direction possible, taking the atmosphere, life and hustle and bustle in.
I really liked it. I bought noodles and a little while later tried Khal Laam (sticky rice, sugar and coconut milk grilled in a bamboo tube).
I also learned that you’re supposed to stand still when the national anthem plays in respect of the King - confused and ignorant me got a lot of pissed looks from frozen locals.
When the sun had set we went on a firefly boat ride, Neal and I roasting the very sparse tiny dots scattered around the first bushes, although later shutting up as the last bushes were beautifully lit up by lots and lots of tiny blinking dots.
I talked to Karen on the whole ride back to Bangkok, as she gave me loads of recommendations on where to go in her home country. I hope that I make it to their part of the Phillipines on my travels.
Today was spent without doing much other than pack up, eat at Broccoli Revolution and May Veggie Home, walk around a bit and stay in the hostel lobby, before taking the metro to Hua Lomphong train station, getting my boarding pass and waiting for train 51 to arrive.
And that was it for Bangkok. And when I wake up tomorrow I will be 14 hours away in Chiang Mai, on my way to the countryside to stay with a Thai family for the next two weeks - I’ll be taking care of the children (Sophia (8) and Eden (1)), cleaning and making food. Helping out in any way I can, so Nathalie (the mother) can focus on her cancer treatments and Xavier (the father) can concentrate on work. I’m excited to see what the change will bring and crossing my fingers that I will be able to do a good enough job. Right now though, I’m just hoping for a good nights sleep.