Arriving in Bangkok felt like heaven. We landed early in the morning, tired and exhausted from the long trip, and we had to wait the whole day until our Couch surfing host could meet us. We really wanted to get out of the airport and start exploring the new city and the new country, but as soon as we found the bench we sat down and … slept. After about two hours of sleeping, we managed to get on the metro and went straight to the famous shopping centre about half an hour drive from the airport. But don’t get misled: although Bangkok IS famous for its countless shops, shopping wasn’t what we were about to do. The thing that led us to the MBK centre was its really enormous food court.
The first sight of the Thai capital made us feel extremely happy. The streets are made out of concrete, there is no dust in the air, there are skyscrapers and real buildings all around the city, and all this was completely “new” to us. After five months of India and Nepal, we were glad to be in the “civilized” world again.
Even before coming to Thailand, we were really looking forward to try its food, and entering in the MBK centre opened another door to heaven for us. The huge food court on the 6th floor was offering all types of Thai food, from noodles to stir fried, curries, noodle and rice soups, Pad Thai, salads and seafood. Believe me, after seeing all this food I was feeling freaking hungry! I felt like I had been hungry for the last five months when I had to be very lucky to find a dish which fitted me, and discovering the Thai cuisine for the first time was a whole new world for me. It was clear from the beginning: Bangkok, I love you!
After various lunches we had there, it was time to find our Couchsurfer’s place. Here, another awesome thing that we discovered about Bangkok: moving around the city is EASY: buses have numbers, the names of the destinations are written in Latin alphabet, the only thing that might make it a bit more difficult for you is the lesser knowledge of English of the locals. But the Thai people are so incredibly kind that they would do anything to help you, so, a little bit of English, a few phrases in Thai and lots of hand movements will get you anywhere you want :).
Our host Paul lives a bit outside the city centre, and we needed to take the sky train and the bus to reach his place. He greeted us with a smile and took us to his small, but very cosy apartment. Our bed was actually the floor, which took away a few hours of sleep from us, but the experience was worth it all! We exchanged a few words and then went to rest, so it wasn’t until the late evening when we really managed to have a conversation. We went for dinner and it was then when we also met Paul’s roommate Kaew. I have no words to explain how generous, kind and beautiful persons these guys are. From the moment we met it felt like we have known each other since forever, and we immediately became friends. They took us around their district to have some delicious street food and we tried many different dishes.
After we got well rested, we went exploring the surroundings of Bangkok. The first crazy thing to see was the famous Chinatown. It is a big district full of Chinese shops, hotels and stalls. The whole area is actually an enormous market where you can find typical Chinese products like plastic dolls, jewellery, clothes, but the far most interesting things are, again, the food stalls. You can find EVERYTHING there. There is seafood, fresh and dry, all kinds of fruits and vegetables, different kinds of chips, and many other things we don’t even know what they are. There, we tried (and well overpaid) the famous durian fruit, drank fresh pommel granite juice, ate some strange mix of couscous with beans and coconut milk, wrapped in the banana leaf, and millions of other things. We were really amazed by the variety of food products Thailand has to offer, and we enjoyed every single bite of it. Now, if you ask me for my favourite dish, I would absolutely say mango with sticky rice (sweet rice, cooked in coconut milk).
The next day we walked along the famous Khao San Rd., full of shops and restaurants. It was very difficult to resist buying all the clothes they sell, but we were saving our energy and money to spend it on the market instead. Walking around the very centre of the city was nice and interesting, but soon we discovered it is way too busy and touristy for us. However, our mission of that day was to find cheap accommodation, because Paul and Kaew live quite far from the centre, and we also wanted to enjoy the city vibes later in the evening. And it is not just that they live far away, the major problem in Bangkok is its traffic. There are traffic jams everywhere, at any time, every day of the week, and it took us more than two hours to get to the centre, and then another two or three to get back to their place, so we decided to spend the last two nights on Khao San. But we still had some nights to spend at their place, and during those days we went to see the Muay Thai (thai box), which was a very interesting experience indeed. We also witnessed a knock out which was pretty scary I must say! But the most wonderful day was when Kaew and Paul took us to Ayutthaya, a city with ancient ruins about an hour and a half drive from Bangkok by car. It was a very hot day, but what we saw was really amazing. It was actually so hot that I suffered a minor heat stroke (remember that Bangkok is one of the hottest cities in the whole world, and April is the hottest month in Bangkok :)). But the best part of the day came after all the sightseeing: we spent the afternoon in a small village close to Ayutthaya at Kaew’s family house. It was truly one of the best experiences we’ve had in long time.
They live in a small village where all the houses are interconnected by a wooden walkway. The houses are also made of wood with a typical Asian architecture, which gives them a nice and very cosy atmosphere. The place is peaceful, just next to the river, and we really had a wonderful time there, watching the moon eclipse, eating Thai food and cooking a Slovenian dish called “šmorn” (a kind of chopped pancake) with “čežana” (apple sauce). We were very excited about being able to cook again, but after our meal was served we were surprised about how tasteless it was. After all the different combinations and spices we tried in Thailand, we realized for the first time how plane Slovenian cuisine actually is. In Slovenia, the food is either sweet or salty, while in Thailand you will always taste an explosion of different flavours in your mouth: pineapple with chicken and cashew nuts would be my second favourite Thai dish, but it barely beats the spicy papaya salad.
We are still very grateful for this experience because that was the only that way that we were able to feel and get to know the real Thai culture, even if it was just for a few hours. In general, Thailand is very touristy, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to find an authentic place on your own. We were also very happy to be able to spend some days away from the city centre. You can’t completely get to know how generous and warm Thai people are until you get out of the “tourist pocket”. The endless smiles on their faces and their willingness to help you even if they don’t speak a word of English, gives you another perspective of how all the people in this world should be, and you have no other choice but to be happy and just … smile back. And what should I say about Paul and Kaew? Among all the people we met, they are certainly the most special ones to us. They are so warm, kind and dedicated persons. While we were staying with them, they were taking us out for dinner, giving us directions of what to do in Bangkok, and sharing many interesting conversations with us. They helped us to plan our trip through the Thai islands, and they even offered us to use their tent while travelling around Thailand. They let us leave some of our things at their apartment and agreed to host us for one more night when we came back to Bangkok. We felt really welcomed at their place, and we are very grateful for having two wonderful new friends.
The day before moving to the city centre we visited the biggest market in Bangkok, the Chatuchak Weekend Market. They sell all kinds of things, but for buying clothes, this is probably the best place in the whole world to do it. Of course we couldn’t resist from buying some things for ourselves, too, but only those we really needed.
The next day we moved to Khao San Rd. and settled ourselves in the cheapest guesthouse we found. The room was nice and clean, but soon we found out what was the catch with the price.
Khao San is one of the loudest streets I’ve ever been on. Yes, it is even louder than ANY Indian street, but in a different way. It is full of bars and pubs, which turn on the volume of the music to the maximum, and you can hear different types of music all along the road until 2am. So, the money you save on the cheapest room in Bangkok equals the hours of sleep you loose while staying there. Fortunately, we managed to find another room still for a reasonable price, and with air conditioning, which is almost a must if you visit Bangkok just before the monsoon time.
We spent the last days just cruising around, observing thousands of foreigners with hangovers, and realizing that we didn’t really fit into that atmosphere. We also visited the Bangkok palace for which we had to pay the highest entrance fee in Asia so far, but at least we managed to see also something cultural.
The architecture of the palace is really impressive, very Asian and colourful. We truly enjoyed walking around and observing many, many different details on it. It is very different from Indian or Nepalese architecture where the images are minutely carved into the stone; here, the tiny colourful details are carefully scattered over the base, which gives the palace a really majestic look.
We spent a week in Bangkok, but finally we also left the heat of the city behind us and headed towards the south, to the beautiful Thai beaches.