After an 11 hour flight we land in Bangkok at 9 am local time. We go stand in line for immigration, which unfortunately is quite long. After an hour and a half we’re only half way, so this might take a while. We send Pitcher a message to let him know. Pitcher couchsurfed at our house in the Netherlands about one year ago, together with his brother Putter and a girl friend. We knew they’re from Bangkok so of course we asked for their plans at the time we would be there (they both study in the US). We were lucky! Pitcher came home to Thailand on his summer break. He sent us a map to a Starbucks in Bangkok where we will meet him.
While waiting in line at the airport, we already see a lot of different things. Commercials for skin whitening cream, warnings about not using buddha figures as decoration and propaganda for the king. Meanwhile we’re getting stressed about all the paperwork we need to show to be let into the country. A sign says we got to have a plain ticket out of the country, which of course we don’t have. After an hour of stressing, luckily, the lady at the counter doesn’t ask for anything. In fact, she really doesn’t say one word at all. Not the most pleasant person, but we are happy enough that we came through without any problems. We exchange our last euros and then look for a metro station.
Two metros and a lot of searching in a giant mall later, we finally found Pitcher. We feel like he’s been waiting for us endlessly, but luckily he has forseen it all and has only been at Starbucks for 30 minutes. We walk to his car and he suggests to first get some food. Seems like a nice plan! From the car we get a first impression of this city. It’s truely enormous, but doesn’t seem to have one big center. Sky scrapers are widely spread, together with the tempels, flats, houses and shopping malls. Oh and of course nicely smelling food stands and food places and (sometimes a little less nicely smelling) wide, brown rivers.
We enjoy our first Thai lunch at the diner Pitcher used to come in between classes. Noodle soup with home made noodles, and with chopsticks. Ok and a spoon for the wet part. You know, one of those flat bottom scoops you sometimes get with your soup at a sushi restaurant.
After lunch we visit Pitchers mom, who’s working in her office in the city. She’s very kind and, luckily for us, she speaks English. We’re trying to learn a few Thai words, but it’s hard. We arrive at Pitcher’s house late in the afternoon, where Pitcher shows us his room, the room we get to sleep in during our stay. Just as the house, the room is quite big. It’s quite luxourious with airconditioning and our own bathroom.
We fall asleep as soon as we touch the bed. Luckily we’ve set the alarm and we get to the dinner table a little less tired and freshened up. The live-in-maid prepared a meal for us: noodle soup with cabbage salad. Very tasty.
In the evening we join Pitcher to a soccer game of his favourite club. We even got our faces broadcast on Thai television! I guess they don’t see foreigners at a Thai soccer game that often. We noticed this already by all the staring… Luckily Pitchers club wins and we all go home happy, right in between two massive rain showers and thunder storms.
On Thursday we sleep in, by accident, even though we were in bed at 9 30 last night. We still need to get used to sleeping with these temperatures. We didn’t want to sleep with the ac on, so we don’t use up too much energy and we don’t wake up with a cold. Unfortunately this was impossible and we ended up sleeping with the ac on at 26 degrees Celsius. For breakfast we get to taste Thai porridge. As Pitcher described it, it should be something that we have in the Netherlands too, called rijstepap. This is porridge made of milk and rice, and you add sugar, syrup or dried fruit to make it sweet. Well, this was not what Pitcher meant, haha. We got a sort of soup with rice, garlic and herbs. Not really my cup of tea in the morning, but hey, we’ve got to try everything, right?
After breakfast we drive to Pitcher’s mom’s office again to park the car. They have their own parking space, so this is the cheapest option in the middle of the city. We take the metro (MRT) to a very fast boat, which basically functions as a bus. About every 50 meters the boat docks for a few seconds, and in that time everybody who was waiting at the stop got on and everyone who wanted to get off did also get off. Amazing! Especially that no one falls in the water in the meantime. The boat is very loud and to make sure you don’t get a splash of water in your face, there are ropes with a piece of plastic tied to it that you can pull up. A great experience for not even 10 euro cents a person.
Today’s the day of the temples. We arrive by boat at our first destination; first out of five temples. Each one of them is absolutely gorgeous. Almost all of them our decorated with gold and lots of color. Apparently every day of the week has their own Buddha position. Wednesday night even has a separate one. Pitcher teaches us that the position of Buddha on the day you were born is your symbol.
After our visit to Golden Mount temple, we go to the Grand Royal Palace, which indeed is enormous. Next to the temple there’s a huge line of people, waiting to pay their respects to their late king. They need to be dressed appropriately for this, totally in black and formal. At this time it’s not too bad to wait in line. Last October, when the king just passed away, the line was as long as one day! This king was very beloved, more than his sun who is now on the throne, who still has to earn the people’s respect. All over the city there are pictures of the last king, and only a few of the current one. About a year after the passing of a king, he will be cremated in a specially built temple. From that time, Thai people can still pay their respects for about one more year, until the temple in all his glory is demolished.
The outside of the palace is gigantic and the price for visiting the inside has gone up with 150% in the last few weeks. Probably to raise more money for the building of the temple we described in the last paragraph. Unfortunately the palace closes in one hour so we decide not to go inside, but instead visit a temple which is across the river.
Crossing the river by boat is fast and practically free. Too bad though that it started raining, so we have a quick look around and then take the boat back. Once we’re back on land we take a tuktuk towards the MRT station. Riding a tuktuk is a must do experience when you are in Thailand, since we had never done this we could not skip it. It is a nice experience but for me it can be a one time only. Especially during rush hour. Most of the time you end up next to a stinking van or car, breathing in the exhaust air directly.
We take the subway to the parking lot, have a fine Thai meal and then straight towards home. We need a shower badly since we are all sticky. It was again a very warm day and because of the humidity you start sweating as soon as you leave your ac room.
Day 3 alreay, friday.
Today Pitcher and a friend of him are taking us to the old capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya. After a drive of about an hour we arrive at the first temple. Actually these are more like temple ruins because the city has had multiple attacks of Myanmar, back in the days.
They are no longer (if they ever were) gold and colorful like the temples we saw yesterday. These temples and statues are ‘simply’ made of stone and bricks. Everywhere we look there is still debris of the old temples, jedi’s and Buddha statues. Almost every Buddha statue has been decapitated, all except for one out of 6 temples we visit today. The ancient temples are absolutely stunning to see and the size of the city must have been enormous since we sometimes had to drive quite far in between two temples.
For lunch Riny is having noodle soup, they seem to be huge fans here of those. I am having my first Pad Thai, delicious! Then a few more temples to visit before heading home. Once again today was a hot day so we take a cold shower when we get home. That is, a cold shower in Thailand isn’t as cold as it sounds haha. For the evening we have plans to go to the cinema, because the cinema is very cheap here, about 2 euro’s. But unfortunately traffic in the city is bad because of a Britney Spears concert and it would be impossible to get to the cinema. So we will go tomorrow, since we are close then anyway.
Day 4, saturday.
Pitcher and a few of his friends are going to play basketball together and we are going to the biggest outdoor market of Thailand, the Chatuchak weekend market. An experience on its own. We have seen markets like this before but never this big. It is really gigantic and they have everything you can imagine. Of course there is the usual tourist souvenirs and clothing, but also art, furniture, tableware and lots of young animals stuck in way too small cages. I was not amused when I saw that! I even saw up to 12 baby rabbits stuffed into a glass box which, in Holland, would be considered just big enough to house 4 mice. They were all lying on top of each other in this heat, because there was no other free place left in the box. At least puppies were kept in shops with ac, but they were also chewing the bars of the cages and looked all but happy. Not nice to see at all!
The food stands sometimes also had curious looking animals on their barbeques. I decided not to pay too much attention to it. Luckily we had lunch in a shopping mall next to the market, since we were seeking shelter for the heavy rain. We bought a few colorful items here and my oh my, they do have a lot of pretty clothes here. Actually I would have loved to buy it all, especially since it is practically for free. I scored 2 shorts and a beuatiful dress for under 6 euro;s in total. And then my guess is that this is one of the more expensive places in Thailand to get these sort of things.
For less than 50 eurocents we take the metro for 8 stations towards the mall with the cinema. Unfortunately the good movies won’t start until late, so we decide to walk around a bit in the mall. On the 7th floor we find an ice-hockey and ice-skating rink, a big arcade hall and karaoke booths that you can rent so you can play some sort of Singstar with your friends. We laughed loudly at the people that were in the booths but apparently this is quite normal in Thailand and even pretty popular. When we reach the point that we would like to go home we actually run into Pitcher, what a coincidence! We drive home, eat some and then it is time for bed.
Day 5, Sunday.
Today is our last day in Bangkok. Tomorrow morning at 6 we fly out to Bali. It’s a 4 hour flight so at least we will be arriving at a decent time. For breakfast is leftover from yesterday, which was really nice by the way. After breakfast we drive to Bangkrachao, a peninsula in Bangkok. We park at the riverside and cross the river by boat to get to the peninsula. There we rent a few worn down bikes to explore the island with. On this ‘island’ is one of the famous floating markets, which Thailand is known for. Nowadays there isn’t that much trading going on anymore on the actual boats, but the kitchens of small food stands in this market are located on a boat in the river. The tables are on the shore next to the river. Too bad we did not get to experience an actual floating market but all in all it is a very nice market to see with a lot of typical Thai delicacies. A lot less touristy than yesterdays market.
Our last Thai meal consists of a wide variety of small dishes back at Pitchers’. Once again amazing! We say goodbye to Pitchers’mom and the maid before we go to bed and in the morning we say goodbye to Pitcher as well, when he drops us off at the airport at 4 in the morning. Bali, here we come!