I used to tell myself that if I were to visit any of the neighboring countries, Thailand would be the first one. So when I could see that I could slot in at least another oversea trip this year, I browsed through the Airasia.com and decisively booked a return ticket to Bangkok.
My Thailand trip turned out to be an interesting one. Errrr, not everything was in a good way anyway. Just a day before I was set to leave for Bangkok, some stupid rash had started to grow just under my nose. I knew that thing was going to spoil my close-up pictures. It was so obvious that it was impossible to take a close-up photo of me without looking like Charlie Chaplin in the Three Stooges. Even the antiseptic that was prescribed to me by a doctor friend had failed to save me from the ill-fate. Thanks to the H1N1 furore though, I could at least wear a mask to cover it without being called a paranoid geek.
So, with a Charlie Chaplin face and without proper planning and research, I went to Bangkok expecting the unexpected. True enough, Bangkok is nothing like how I expected it would be.
Firstly, Bangkok is a huge city. Unlike KL with all the hills such as Bukit Nenas, Bukit Antarabangsa, Bukit Bintang and many more bukits, Bangkok is a sprawling metropolitan located in a sprawling flat area so huge that you can’t even see the edges of it in any direction. It makes the city look so big that I kept convincing myself over and over again that it was nothing bigger than London or Paris. But seriously, it is just so BIG. Other than that, it has a lot of similarities with KL – crowded (and smelly) streets, traffic jam, high-rise buildings, big shopping malls, peddlers, homeless people, etc.
We stayed at a hotel called Samran Hotel. With just over 800 baht per night (RM 80), it wasn’t bad a room to crash in after a long tiring day. Facilities are basic but at least it has a free WiFI to update what is now the latest craze of everybody, Facebook. Ahaks!
The moment I entered the room, I ran over to the veranda expecting a good view of the busy streets from the 6th floor of the hotel. Unfortunately, this was what came up.
But then what the heck, I didn’t come to Bangkok to savor a veranda view.
Located in the Petchaburi Road, I was glad we had stayed there. It is so close to just about everything especially the one that I like most – street foods!
It is also just a few minutes’ walk away from the Ratchathewi BTS Skytrain (Bangkok's version of LRT in KL) station. So, going everywhere from there was pretty much easy.
When it comes to foods, Bangkok is superior. It has everything that you can never imagine unless you go there yourself. Their street foods are said to be the best in the world and I couldn't agree more.
They are so irresistible that I had to forget about my ongoing diet programs for awhile. Foods are mostly hot and spicy but that makes ‘em all the much more appealing to me.
And almost every meal has to come with this – called the 'Thai Basil', the Thai version of mint. It is something that you’d hate for the first few seconds and like it the next.
I had a good taste of one of their local beers Leo and it had tasted good to my Tiger tounge. Here in Malaysia, we like it chilled but in Bangkok, they like it extra-chilled that they pour beer in a glass of ice cubes. Unfortunately for me, the beer became less tasty and I had to say no to 'em, eventually.
Food hawkers in Bangkok are so creative that they can always make something out of everything.
I was once served with one of what they call the Thai Seafood Salad. It is a combination of raw shredded crab (yes, with the shell), sliced mango, peanuts and some other ingredients that were less familiar to me- something that would be considered a weird combination if found in any Malaysian dishes. But I have to tell you, it ain’t taste that bad.
Thailand is also the origin of Tom Yam - a spicy soupy cuisine that is so hugely popular in Malaysia. I took the opportunity to have a taste of the original Tom Yam. True enough, the original is always the best. Any sign of flu that was beginning to show in my very first day in Bangkok had suddenly disappeared after I had had a bowl of it.
We loved Thai foods very much that we decided to spend our last evening in Bangkok trying to stuff in as much food as possible into our stomach. I never ate so much in my entire life. No kidding. With my stomach so full to its capacity, I had to DRAG myself back to the hotel room.
I can say that Thai people really really eat A LOT. By 4pm, almost all the streets that were empty in the morning would turn into a vast carnival of food stalls. Tables would be set up and by night most of them would be occupied and filled up with all kinds of foods. Bangkok locals like to feed themselves with foods up til late past midnight. Amazingly, despite eating a lot, overweight figures are rarely seen around in Bangkok.
The only overweight people that you’d probably see around are the foreigners. But again quiet amazingly, size doesn’t really matter in Bangkok. That’s why it is also known as the City of The Beauty and The Beast and this picture here says it all.
In Malaysia, 7-Eleven is some kind of a second choice to all other minimarkets because it sells stuff relatively in more expensive prices. People come to 7-11 to buy either, err condoms of when all other shops are already close (it’s a 24-hrs shop). But I noticed in Bangkok 7-11 outlets are everywhere, selling all kind of goods, from candy bars to household tools.
(Yes, can't help but noticing the tangled cables - wonder if their electrical technicians have got their brains as tangled)
Errr, you’ll just need to know how to order things in Thai language. We had to ask the receptionist at the hotel to write this for us..
That means, plug-in socket..
Bangkok is probably one of the cities with the most number of taxis in the world. There seem to be more of them then the private vehicles. And most of them are pink in color. Yes. I mean it. PINK..
But the easiest (and probably the cheapest) way of getting around the city of Bangkok is by using the Tuk Tuk . You’ll just need to use a little bit of your negotiating skill to get a good deal. Believe me, they are the real masters of Bangkok mind-blogging traffics.
And they are smart. Most of them earn extra income by being a promoting agent to at least to one or two tailors. With over 1000 tailors all over Bangkok, competition in business is stiff. That’s what they come in for - to promote a tailor and get a commission for it. Each time you take a Tuk Tuk, it is more likely than not that you’ll be taken to a make a brief stop at a tailor. There’s nothing wrong about it, just look at it as a 5-minutes of charity work.
People wearing sunglasses are seen just about everywhere in KL. So much so that it is safe to wear sunglasses in a shopping complex there– you’ll still be spared from being called nuts. Despite the swelteringly hot sun, people in Bangkok don’t seem to like sunglasses that wearing them while I was there made me feel like an alien among homo sapiens.
If there was something the KL people should learn from the people in Bangkok, it would be to be more patient on the roads. Just head to any of the road junctions in the Star Hill area and you’ll be instantly thrown into a deafening honking war. People in Bangkok don’t blow their honks unless necessary.
In Malaysia, women riding on a bike can only be seen in oil palm estates or probably in remote villages where a possibility of an encounter with policemen or traffic authorities is almost zero. But in Bangkok, it really is quite common. And they do it in style. Just like this one here.
Bangkok really is a tourist magnate. The whole city seems to be swamped with tourists and it isn’t difficult to understand why.
The City of Bangkok provides something that most other cities can’t provide – or at least not up to its par. But let me write more about it in some other blog entry. After all, this is a U-rated blog entry ;-)