Bangkok, Generally

I started my trip in Bangkok feeling like the most useless tourist, and by the time I departed Thailand two weeks later I felt like I'd really got the hang of the city.  What changed?  Essentially, just having a local guide.  For the majority of my time in the capital I was staying in petit-bourgeois luxury with my friend Amy that I knew from my time studying at the University of California, where we'd both been exchange students.  I stayed in her family home not far from Chatuchak Market (which I'll talk about in another post), and as a result had my own custom itinerary drawn up for free.  I was given a list of attractions to visit each day when my friend was at work, got driven to the BTS Skytrain station by her driver, breakfast made by the housemaid.  When Amy had time off work I never knew what to expect, but would follow her from one Bangkok spot to another.  It was unlike any trip I'd had before and I loved it.

I started my two weeks in Thailand by flying into Bangkok Don Mueang Airport late in the evening, and hopping in a Taxi Meter - something at least Thailand does have on Indonesia, you don't have to haggle the price.  However, the driver will pretend he can't read the map and take you on a long unnecessary detour.  I was meant to be staying in the Khao San Road area and meeting up with a couple of lads I knew from my farm work, but stupidly had not looked up the specific place ahead of time and ended up wandering around the same 2 blocks for an hour before finding them.  I have no pictures of this night, it was an absolute mess.  I do know I went to a couple of different clubs and one of them was called Levels which is apparently good?  Genuinely do not remember any music, because in Thailand you can buy towers of beer and knock back four pints before you realise it.

So, not researching my destination did waste a lot of my time, but at least I had done one thing.  I checked the cost of a shuttle bus into the city and immediately felt it was too high, because I had checked on an online taxi calculator how much it should put me back from Don Mueang to the Khao San area.  I was vindicated when I checked with my friends and they'd definitely payed more, HA.  However, I did return to silly tourist mode the next day, although I partly blame my hangover for that: I eschewed street food for an a la carte Thai meal on Rambuttri Road, a nice bar with wifi I returned to several times in my trip, which cost far more than street food would have.  I also overpaid on a taxi, since I was supposed to meet my friend at BTS Ari, and instead of getting a taxi to the nearest Skytrain station I just took it all the way to Ari.  My spending in those first few days made me panic...and then luckily Amy took over.

We went to street cafes where the menu boards were all in Thai and ate Chinese-style pink noodles.  Her dad recommended the most interesting temples and museums and a public transit route to get to them all, and even dropped me off at the first one.  We went to an ancestor blessing ceremony at a Buddhist temple in town, and I sat at the back while several branches of the family sang and left offerings with the monks.  We unexpectedly went for a Thai massage, where I seemingly had all my limbs stretched behind my head even though Amy asked the woman to "go easy" on me, but left with the satisfied feeling you get when all your muscles have been successful unknotted.  Amy haggled with the tuktuk drivers in Thai, which is so important - I never took a tuktuk without a Thai person negotiating the price, they're a fast easy method of transportation but also an easy tourist trap.

There are many things I would not be able to replicate from this trip if I returned, simply due to lacking a local's ease with transport - speaking Thai to tuktuk drivers is an obvious one,  I never did work out the buses, and our one riverboat excursion (NOT the tourist boat) made me feel like a child on a school trip.  But my set-up was perfect for allowing me to explore on foot, get to know different parts of the city and the sacred sites, while having a piece of modern Thai life to get into in the evenings.  Staying with Amy was one of the highlights of my time in Thailand, and that's why I couchsurf, particularly with old friends.

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