January 27, 2015 – February 4, 2015
After spending two and a half weeks exploring Sri Lanka we boarded a plane to our next destination of Bangkok, Thailand! We had been moving around fairly often in Sri Lanka, not spending more than two or three days in once place, so we decided we wanted to spend a week in one spot without moving and where better than Bangkok, an exciting city with tons to do! So we got on airbnb and booked a week at a great little apartment with a pool and a view!
Bangkok would prove to have lots to offer, great food, markets, sites and every modern convenience you could want, but first we had to get there. We boarded a Sri Lankan airlines flight and much to my excitement our flight over the Indian Ocean flew directly over North Sentinel island. Most of the world has probably never heard of this little island, but it is famous not for being known but for being unknown. Its a place I’ve personally been fascinated with ever since I heard about it several years ago. North Sentinel island is one of last unexplored places on the planet, with a tribe of inhabitants which has remained completely uncontacted. No one has ever successfully made contact with them, their language and culture and everything about them remain totally unknown to the world. Many attempts to make contact have been made, but the islands inhabitants have repelled all comers with spears and bows and arrows. It is now a protected island and there is no way to get anywhere near it unless you happen to be on a flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Bangkok, Thailand. We flew directly over it, the closest anyone can hope to get (safely) and I snapped some pics out the window.
Anyway, after nerding out a bit over North Sentinel Island, we landed in the humid heat of Bangkok, Thailand and one of the biggest cities so far on this trip. We took a cab to our Airbnb apartment, a great little place with a pool, a view, and most importantly A/C. Again Airbnb proved to be a great way to get a nice place to stay for a much better price than any hotel. Unfortunately our apartment did not have much of a kitchen, only a water boiler for coffee/tea, a fridge and a microwave. We found out after we arrived that most new apartment buildings in Bangkok do not have full kitchens, in fact in many buildings cooking is not allowed. It seems that Thais, particularly the younger generation, doesn’t cook. With the abundance of street food and restaurants it seems everyone just eats out, everyday.
We decided to see a movie at a theater near our apartment and were asked to stand before the movie, while the Thai national anthem and accompanying video dedicated to the King were played. We learned this happens before every movie showing in Thailand.
After getting a hang of the public transportation system, a network of express buses, subways and the skytrain, we headed downtown. Mention Bangkok, Thailand to many people and it will elicit visions of an unsavory city full of scams, poverty and a seedy red light district. While that may have been true in the past, today downtown Bangkok is a clean ultra modern city teaming with high end malls, people wearing all the latest fashions and tons of family friendly attractions. Everywhere we turned there was new skyscrapers going up, high end shops, malls, apartment buildings and friendly Thais always happy to give directions or answer questions.
Our first stop downtown was actually the US embassy, where Krista had an appointment to have more pages added to her passport. One hour and US$82 later 48 new pages were added, which should be plenty to last her until her passport expires in 2022!
If you are after street food, one of the best places you can go is Chinatown, were you can find a dozen straight blocks of nothing but street food!
Durian, the controversial fruit, can be found here and we saw lots of street vendors selling it. It has been called the “king of fruits” and the best tasting delicacy one can eat, and by others it has been called the worst tasting and most awful smelling food they’ve ever encountered. Having heard of this love it or hate it fruit we were both excited to try it and render our own judgements upon it. The fruit is a semi solid sort-of slimy yellow mass around large seeds, inside of a large spiky rind. We both agreed it smelled and tasted a bit like fermented or rotten onions. What we did not quite agree on was whether it was good or not. Turns out Krista liked it and I did not, while I wouldn’t say I hate it, I would not seek it out. Krista however did seek it out and has eaten it multiple times since, along with other durian flavored items like ice cream, coffee and cream puffs! Gross!
The Golden Mount Temple
Near the center of the city on a small rise is the Golden Mount Temple, one of the city’s oldest and most visited. It is now actually a complex of temples and shrines along a path which spirals up to the top. There are beautifully colorful buildings spread out around the hill and of course great views of the city from the top.
Wat Pho Reclining Buddha
We visited the Wat Pho Temple complex to see the famous Buddha statue there. At 15 meters tall and 43 meters long it is one of the world’s largest ‘Reclining Buddha’ statues and is a truly impressive sight.
Wat Arun Buddhist Temple
Across the river from the reclining Buddha is the Wat Arun Buddhist Temple, a large stone pyramid temple you can climb up for great views of the river and the surrounding city. The stairs are extremely steep, it is practically a ladder. Some people were nervous climbing up, but if you’re not afraid of heights it’s worth the climb!
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Every weekend northern Bangkok fills with people going to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Easily accessed by the skytrain, this enormous market is full of anything and everything, from puppies and rabbits to clothing, household items, pet food, souvenirs, etc. The shops were surprisingly upscale, while the deals were still good, so we ended up buying quite a few souvenirs to ship home before departing the city. If you are in Bangkok over the weekend and enjoy markets, be sure to check out Chatuchak.
Cooking Pad Thai in Thailand
After our new found love of cooking classes we couldn’t leave Bangkok without taking a Thai cooking class. We learned how to make several typical Thai dishes, including pad thai and Krista’s new favorite dessert, mango sticky rice. We also learned that it is popular for Thai’s to take the cooking class, not just foreigners, as so many Thai’s (especially those in the city) don’t know how to cook anymore.
Super Bowl in Bangkok
We were in Bangkok for the Super Bowl this year, and since the Seahawks were playing of course we wanted to watch. The only problem was it would start at 6:30am. There were however several sports bars around the city opening early to host Super Bowl viewing parties. We made reservations at one of them downtown and got there around 6am to watch the Super Bowl! The biggest difference, besides the early hour, was that there were no commercials. When everyone back at home would be watching a commercial the camera would just switch to a view of the entire stadium from a distance and sit there for several minutes until going back to the action. The bar was filled with traveling Americans and a few curious locals, most of the crowd was Seahawks fans, and we learned that the locals generally only watch it for the half time show. It was strange drinking beer so early in the morning and watching the sunrise rather than the sunset.
Heading South to the Beach!
After our slow paced and much needed relaxing week in Bangkok, we headed to the train station for a surprisingly comfortable train ride south to the islands and beaches of southern Thailand.