I had a rough introduction to Bangkok. After getting off a VERY long overnight ferry-bus-train combination from Koh Samui, I was looking for a ride to my hotel. I negotiated a price with a tuk tuk driver (which was more than fair as I was too exhausted to do much haggling) and jammed myself and my bags into the tuk tuk and headed towards my hotel. For those of you who have not been to Thailand: tuk tuks are little three-wheeled cabs –small passenger cars attached to a motorcycle. As far as I can tell, they are all driven by INSANE PEOPLE. This driver was no exception.
He alternately slammed on the gas and the breaks, swerving between lanes so violently that even the other crazy tuk tuk drivers were yelling at him. I was smashed in between my bags at an odd angle, and every time he slammed on the breaks in a particularly violent fashion, my head snapped back. He started screaming that there was too much traffic – he wanted to drop me off at a Sky Train station (about half way to my hotel) for the same fee that we had agreed upon for him to take me the entire way. I refused– there is always traffic in Bangkok, and I expected him to honor our agreement. This made him angry. He started talking to himself (or maybe to me?) excitedly in Thai, then he started shouting in English “I so perfect! I so perfect!” The gas-brake slamming increased. I was like a bobble doll. When we finally arrived, my neck and back were all knotted up and I was having painful muscle spasms. That jerk gave me whiplash! I was in extreme pain for two days, downing major doses of ibuprofen just to be able to sit upright or walk around at all. After that, I started taking the dang Sky Train!
Despite my initial introduction to the city and the accompanying stiff neck, I spent five days exploring Bangkok and loving it. First of all, the street food situation is out of control. I read that there are nearly 500,000 street food vendors in Bangkok – that means that every few steps you are stumbling upon delicious grilled meats, tropical fruits, dumplings, noodle soups, and refreshing chilled coconuts. I did quite a bit of sampling.
I even stumbled upon a vendor selling fried green bananas that were battered and covered in nuts. She had a line down the block because she had recently been featured on a Thai TV program. I had to wait nearly 40 minutes because she kept running out and having to make new batches, but it was worth the wait!
I also hit all of the major tourist sights – Wat Po, the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the floating market, and took a boat ride down Chao Paya. I even had lunch at the Mandarin Oriental, overlooking the water and a drink at the Sky Club at Lebua overlooking the city (a scene from the Hangover 2 was filmed there).
I had a few too many drinks on the neon-y Soi Cowboy strip (I am officially go-go bar-ed out, BTW – it gets depressing and repetitive quickly).
Bangkok is a big, international city with a lot going on. But it also has retained some of it’s original charm and is surprisingly affordable – especially the delicious food. I hope to sneak in a few more days in Bangkok before I leave Asia.
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