Leaving Nepal was a sad goodbye but coming to Thailand was like a breath of fresh air. Both of us have visited Thailand a few times (Dave – more than a few) and we knew what to expect but even so, we were so happy to land in a ‘civilised’ country.
While India was certainly exotic (take that as you will) and Nepal was fantastic there is something quite modern and metropolitan about Thailand, especially Bangkok.
The rough plan was a few days in Bangkok before we headed to Ko Chang, an island paradise in the Gulf of Thailand about a days travel away from the capital to the east. Like most travellers we were partying a little too heartily and had decided we needed to stay put for a bit to try a bit of clean living and to stop spending so much money and we figured a tropical island sounded like just the right place to chill for a couple of months 🙂
After all the developing countries we had visited in the last few months Bangkok was such a relief. Anything you want you can find in that city, apparently there is even vegemite to be bought in the big supermarkets.
We based ourselves in Khao San Rd in central Bangkok. For those not familiar with Khao San Rd it is the place of all backpackers. The whole road and now the 2 adjoining it have been backpacker hangouts for years, and lined with guest houses ranging from the boutique to the tawdry and bars and restaurants galore it is a great spot to stay.
On the first day there we headed in to Chatuchak markets. Now I have been to many markets, indeed I would call myself a market lover but Chatuchak is something else. It is massive. Ok, make that even bigger than massive at a grand size of 27 acres!!!!! It is so big that they have maps to help you find which area of the market you might find your prospective bargain. And bargains they have. It is a huge building with mile after mile of stalls selling all manner of things at great prices.
We wandered the market for about 3 hours before the heat started to get to me. There is literally everything there from puppies to silk flowers, antiques to jeans, jewellery to wedding supplies. It is a treasure trove and worth a look if you ever get to Bangkok. I have been twice and it never ceases to impress.
Another day we headed into the main part of town where all the big shopping malls are. The 2 biggest are Siam Centre and Siam Paragon Mall, 2 side by side multistorey shopping meccas. Siam Centre is the ‘normal’ shops that we would see at home and in most shopping centres around the world. Lots of clothing, shoes, electrical etc. And a great food court where it seemed like everything was cooked fresh with ingredients you select yourself. It was fantastic.
But then we went next door to Siam Paragon Mall and oh, wow!!! This was like walking onto Rodeo Drive. Every shop was a Gucci, Prada, YSL, Hermes etc etc and some of the most exotic jewellery and watch shops I have ever seen. And the shoppers, another wow! I have never seen such beautiful and beautifully dressed people anywhere in the world. Shopping not for the unrich likes of us but certainly there seemed to be many who could afford such luxury 🙂
It felt as though everyone we saw had just stepped straight out of a fashion magazine – a far cry from what we had been seeing everyday for the last 4 months. It was fabulous.
Under the mall is a massive aquarium so we wiled away a few hours there looking at the amazing fish and aquatic creatures before heading upstairs to take in a movie. Now that all sounds really mundane but the idea of seeing a movie was fantastic. We had not been anywhere with accessible English speaking movies for months and indeed, even English speaking tv was as stretch in most places.
I think sometimes that it is only when you are unable (for whatever reason) to do such simple things that they become so much more pleasurable. I mean, going to the movies at home, while pleasurable, was no big deal but somehow it was just that much better in Bangkok 🙂
Another day of general organising (banking, postage that sort of stuff) and we figured we were ready to head out to Ko Chang. And then we discovered that the next night was State of Origin (for those that don’t know it is a grudge match football game held over 3 games each year and must watch tv for anyone from Queensland or New South Wales). So of course we delayed our departure, talked a bar into changing off the soccer highlights onto Australian football and settled in for an afternoon of beers and cheers. Sadly our team didn’t win but I would still say that it was a simple pleasure that reminded us of home.
Thus with no small hangover we hit the bus and headed to Ko Chang. But I’ll tell you about that next time 😉
(This one wasn’t mine – I always forget the piccy and start to eat – and it isn’t chicken but you get the idea 😉 )