Bangkok has been a learning experience. This is our first city in SE Asia and is a spectacular one at that. We left our first guest house (Wendy House) to try staying in another part of the city.
We enjoyed our accommodations, but after being sick for several days, it just felt like time for a change of scenery. Our next place sounded pretty cool, plus I got the recommendation from Nomadic Matt. We stayed at a little place called Suk 11. It is a hostel built of Teak and surrounded by a ton of greenery and plant life along a back street that is closed off to cars at night. The inside ambience of the hostel was pretty awesome and looked like it took many years to get that way. If it was in the US, the owners would have spent a ton of money to try and get it to look like this.
I’m getting ahead of myself a bit though. We had a fairly interesting and significant experience when I was sick. I was trying to tough it out by drinking a TON of water and ORS (oral rehydration solution/salts). The ORS is as bad as it sounds – not at all sweet like Gatorade (which we all know is too sugary anyway), and a bit too salty to be enjoyable. In any case, on day two of being sick with the added bonus of some pretty intense stomach cramps (I could barely stand up straight), Jesse wore me down enough to visit the doctor at the hospital. After checking to see which hospitals were covered by BCBS, we settled on Bumrungrad International Hospital, which was also rated well by expats and other non-natives. The total visit took less than two hours and included two vitals checks, a visit and exam from the doctor, a shot in the bum and five different prescriptions (including more ORS, yum!). All of this in a hospital that was nicer than any US hospital I have ever been to! The total cost was $87 (USD). Yes, you read that right. I visited a hospital for treatment that took less than two hours, included the cost of five prescriptions, a doctor visit plus a shot in the bum and I paid only $87. In the US that would have been hundreds of dollars and I would have received 17 different bills. I think we can all agree then that US Healthcare has a problem. Inefficiency, 3rd party payers, insurance companies, overuse of unneeded procedures, underuse of affordable and effective procedures… you name it, the US is one of the worst at it. This trip combined with this short hospital experience has convinced me that any non-emergency medical expense I will have in the future should happen in another country. Central America is looking pretty good right now.
Anyway, after my hospital visit I found some easily digestible soup from the cafeteria, which included so many yummy foods I was considering visiting once I had fully recovered! I ended up with a vegetable soup with rice and managed to eat a few of the veggies and all of the rice and broth before deciding that was a good enough amount of nutrition for my stomach. After that we went back to Wendy House to recover and sleep for 1.5 days before heading to Suk 11. I was still not feeling super awesome by that time, but well enough to carry my stuff (slowly) to a new place.
Our first night at Suk 11 included a dinner close by. We ate at their own restaurant and had a decent meal before heading back for more sleep. The next day we headed out and decided to play it safe by heading to the big fancy mall, Siam Paragon. We found a nice little spot and enjoyed some pad thai, which was delicious. It would have been mediocre at best in a US mall, but this is pad thai’s home country! After lunch we wandered around the mall for awhile and ended up at their movie theatre. I had read that the movie theatre experience in Thailand was something worth checking out, so we bought tickets for the IMAX theatre, which ended up being US $38.94.
The tickets we purchased weren’t just for any old seat though… we had a private, comfortable two-person love seat with a soft fuzzy blanket included (much needed with the a/c at full blast!). We got some goofy looking 3D viewing glasses and settled in for a couple hours of entertainment. After the movie, I decided it was ice cream:30 (what time is it? Ice-cream:30). We headed back to the food area of the mall and I made a beeline towards a place I had spotted earlier when we were having lunch. I bought a delicious cone of soft serve without knowing what exactly I was getting. I later realized the green color was for green tea and the black color was for red bean – both great flavors that I have enjoyed already in mochi.
This was so good that I think I am going to be disappointed when we are back in the states and these flavors don’t exist anymore in ice cream. One more reason to visit Thailand again, and eat more mochi ice cream in the meantime. We headed home after I finished my delicious dessert and grabbed some dinner on the way.
The next several days were filled with plenty of sightseeing. We visited:
The Buddhist temple, Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and took lots of pictures! We wandered around for a couple hours, soaking in the size, history and reverence for this temple and the Buddhist religion/culture.
- The National Discovery Museum Institute, aka Museum Siam. We visited while a junior-high aged school group was there and one of the young men asked to take a picture with me. It seemed a bit odd in such a touristy spot of Bangkok, but maybe not many tourists visit this museum and the school group was from somewhere a bit far away. My first encounter with someone apparently in awe of blue eyes and blonde hair!
- We took the water taxi a few times up and down the river, ending up in Asiatique: The Riverfront, filled with tons of shops, restaurants and the show Calypso Cabaret, where one of the so-called “lady boys” paid special attention to Jesse!
We had a great time at the show, though the money-grabbing at the end when all the lovely ladies stood by for pictures and begged incessantly for tips was off-putting. We had dinner before at a nice hot pot restaurant where you order small ingredients that you cook in a hot pot of broth, like noodles, salmon in the shape of goldfish crackers, fish balls, chicken, mushrooms, baby corn, etc. Basically… delicious!
- Visited the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, a 35+ acre open-air market where we saw tons of clothing, food, every other imaginable product and pets! My heart ached for all the little puppies, kittens, sugar gliders, bunnies and other assortments of pets that looked like they were dying in the humidity. I wanted to buy them all, but I’m pretty sure the airlines wouldn’t have approved.
- Massage parlors! I got an interesting oil massage, which included a boob and butt massage. Jesse’s foot, shoulder and head massage was painful, apparently. At another massage parlor I got a painful foot massage while Jesse got a nice and pleasant one. I went back to the same place for a $10 mani/pedi that was OK.
All in all, Bangkok was an interesting city to explore and we really only scratched the surface. We didn’t visit any of the area around Khaosan Road, the infamous backpacker area of the city, nor did we visit any of Soi Cowboy. We DID visit the Patpong district, which is the original red light district, but were unimpressed. Plenty of annoying hawkers of shady shows, but the dancers were wearing more clothes than you would find on a hot day at the mall.
We decided to book overnight train tickets to Chiang Mai a day in advance, so stopped at the train station before going to the Calypso Cabaret show. It turned out that we should have booked those tickets with more notice as there weren’t any seats across from each other anymore. We ended up sitting diagonal from each other, but paid only $26 each for the overnight trip. That was dirt cheap considering we didn’t have to pay for a room and we managed to get to Chiang Mai as well… a 430 mile trip!
After 9.5 days in Bangkok, we boarded the Special Express 1 train to Chiang Mai in search of adventure and cheaper places to stay!