When we left Koh Tao we took a bus back to Bangkok, choosing to travel during the day instead of the all-nighter we pulled on the way down. It felt like we could travel a little safer and keep more of an eye on our stuff, but it was also a little easier getting into Bangkok at 9:00pm instead of at 5:00am.
The bus trip was uneventful except for our lunch stop at a large restaurant/treat emporium. They had every type of thai sweet treat imaginable (and some unimaginable). We had fun wandering the aisles, guessing what things were and marvelling at the general splendor.
Our bus actually dropped us off back at our old pal Khao San Road-instead of at the Hunglamphong Train station where we had departed from a month prior. However, we were prepared from our last stay on Khao San, and knew that we wanted to try staying at the Sleep WithINN hotel, instead of making our way to another part of town at that time of night. We strolled on over through the crowds and hawkers to the hotel, and checked in without issue (or reservation). It couldn’t have been simpler.
It was while we walked down Khao San Road, after 2 months in Asia, that I realized how far we had come from our arrival in Bangkok in June. We weren’t intimidated or turned off at all by the huh-bub and noise, we just glided through it finding it more interesting to watch, than feeling any aggression from anyone. We couldn’t tell if all the tout’s had just calmed down since June, or if we were just acclimated to the culture of hawkers and street vendors, tuk-tuk drivers and partyers. It felt like no one was bothering us this time and we just took it all in like we were watching a movie we’d seen before. We even celebrated our return by enjoying some more street food and walking through the crowds and people watching.
The next morning, after I did a little souvenir shopping and Eric did a little computer time, we made our way by canal boat back to our old standard, the Bangkok City Hotel. You can read my previous review of the hotel right here. Again, we checked in with no issue and took up a lovely and admittedly swanky room for just $33 a night.
This being our third time through Bangkok in two months (if you can believe it), we knew everything we wanted to do. We headed over to our favorite restaurant, Tartine and then over to the Emporium Shopping Center (home of the Thai Creative and Design Center) for a little coffee and to see the new Captain America movie (loved it!)
The next day, we checked out a place we hadn’t been before: Chinatown.
Bangkok’s China Town makes San Francisco’s Chinatown look like Disneyland. This Chinatown is For. Real. It takes up a large chunk of town; intermixed between large boulevards filled with all sorts of shops, from gold dealers to Chinese apothecaries -touting all sorts of herbal and traditional remedies-to creeping, low-ceilinged alleyways stuffed to the brim with all flavors of wares. We passed gem dealers and whole sale shoe sellers, food stalls consisting entirely of fried oddities and fish mongers. I spent the majority of my time in “fashion accessories” area (naturally) and walked away with a big lot of awesome “Cath Kidston” bags, and a few small treats. Eric was a trooper but I kept thinking how much all my girlfriends would love trawling these shops and scooping up cheap accessories for just a few dollars.
Another interesting part of the Chinatown market was the funeral paper goods section. As part of the funeral process, the Chinese burn paper replicas of goods they think the deceased will need on their journey to the afterlife. I had pictured intricate origami paper creations, but what we found instead was a lot funnier.
Our flight out to Prague was at 5:00am, so we decided to go to the airport several hours early while the trains were still running and just camp out for a few hours in the airport. We marveled again at the Bangkok Sky Train system and Airport Rail Link, that use the ingenious method of plastic tokens with RFID tags (like in your FastTrack placard) as tickets, instead of wasteful paper.
Eric and I differ on how rapidly we feel our time went by in Asia. I feel as though we had been there a very long time, and felt like I was really acclimated to the climate and areas. Eric feels like the time flew by, and we had only just arrived. After two months in Asia, and having traveled to a few different countries, I can say that it was not what I expected at all. To be honest, it took me a while to warm up to how different society and climate was. I had imagined lounging on the beach for months and unwinding, but I found that living in tropical climate is really hard work, actually. I had expected Thailand to be nothing but smiles and happy people, but what I found was a population of people who work endless hours and because tourism in the main industry there are plenty of people working in hospitality that frankly just shouldn’t be. I had no idea that the culture of pushing wares and services would be so aggressive, and how much that constant pressure would affect us.
But let’s be real friends, the whole time it’s been vacation and travel-so in the end it hasn’t been that hard at all, has it? This is infinitely easier than the real pressures and problems of actual work, where you are working on serious important matters that affect people. I don’t write this to complain, because I’ve got no room to complain on a 6-month round the world trip, but just to give an honest account of our impressions.
It must be said, that there was so much that we enjoyed, immensely, in Asia. In many places, I found there to be a real reverence for spirituality and a constant respect for Buddha that made a big impression on me. So much of Asia is untouched and the natural beauty of the beaches, jungles and forests is so striking. Despite the aforementioned negative people, there were many people who were so friendly and kind, the memories of whom will long outlast any negative memories. And honestly, most people’s ambivalence makes sense when you think about how many tourists pass through their cities every year. The cheap food and lodgings are a huge plus. We were finally able to take the time to relax and work on projects we’d been meaning to do for a long time.
I can also say (since in real-time I’m just leaving Prague) that I’m so glad we went to Asia, because it has made us really appreciate how easy traveling around Europe is. Obviously the culture in any European country is more familiar to us than in Asia, but it’s also a relief to blend in with a crowd. The fact that everything is fairly and equally priced, whether you are a foreigner or not (not true in Asia), is a huge relief; whereas before, it’s something I took no notice of. The small cues of society and the well established infrastructure, are things that we wouldn’t have thought to appreciate before Asia. Walking down a lovely old cobble stone street in a temperate climate feels like a gift now.
After two months going between traveling around to temples, beaches, ruins and frantic cities, we are ready to set out on the European leg of our journey!