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The Mystical Adventures of Tess and Jack

Bangkok: Banglamphu and ping pongs too!

THAILAND | Sunday, 7 February 2010 | Views [1213]

Our trip from Don Det to Bangkok involved 3 bus rides. Everyone else on the island booked a joint ticket but we saved about $10 - woohoo - doing it separately for not much more hassle. We are soooo intrepid these days. As mentioned in my previous entry, poor old Jack was a bit green for the first leg (another broken air con, no windows deal) and was trying desperately not to spew or poo his pants the entire time. Luckily by the time we crossed into Thailand he was well on his way back to perfect health and we had no further issues. There was a more drastic change than I expected when crossing the border - the first thing we noticed was that there were ATMs galore (which is good news for bad advanced planners). The other thing that we noticed was that the whole place was swarming with farang - mostly annoying (except us of course) - which is part and parcel of being on the tourist trail. This isn't all bad because since we've been spending entirely too much time together we have discovered that imitating annoying fellow travellers is a great conversation filler. Thailand is proving to be full of prime material!

After an 8 hour night bus trip from Ubon (near Laos border) we arrived in Bangkok in the early hours of the morning. After 2 months in the (relative) wilderness it came as a huge shock to the senses: it was stifling hot and ridiculously humid, glaring yellow lights shone from every direction, a high-pitched voice screaming directions in Thai blared from a megaphone, and we were swarmed by tuk-tuk drivers trying to snatch our bags from every direction. Feeling dazed, we wandered around the dark streets looking for an abode. As expected, this was no easy feat, and we were turned away at the first 4 or 5 places we tried. Finally, our explorative efforts paid off when we came to shore at the Marco Polo hotel ("There is no evidence to suggest that Marco Polo ever visited Bangkok, or that he stayed at Khao San Road...but if he did we can guarantee he would choose the quality low budget accommodation available at Marco Polo Guesthouse!"...how could we not?). Our room was extremely basic - a long narrow little cell which had obviously been tacked on to the side of the building in recent years, with a bare concrete floor and king single - but we got aircon and a good deal so were as pleased as ever! It was also in a great location just off Khao San Road in Banglamphu, which is Bangkok's major backpacker hub. It has become pretty famous in recent years (especially because of The Beach) and is a pretty fun place to be - if you can ignore all the hassling - women selling wooden frogs that make a croaking noise when rubbed with a stick on the back - very annoying after the first 100 times you hear it, men selling cheesy glow in the dark cube clocks, children with roses and tailors galore (flashing picture of incredibly buff black man in Armani suit: "I can make you like this!"...Jack's response: "I am like that!")

Our first day was just spent relaxing, recovering and acclimatising to our new and very bizarre surroundings. On one of our first outings, we were accosted by some Indian fortune tellers in turbans who insisted they would give us a free introductory reading. Knowing that they were scammers but interested to see what bullshit they would come up with, we followed them into a back alley (where we saw a rat the size of a small dog). My guy told me Jack and I would return to Bangkok in 2012, but Jack's told him I was not his soul mate and he would return in 2010 with his new true love. Harrumph! Obviously I was quite offended and we refused to pay, at which point mine changed his mind and told me Jack was bad for me and some bad karma was coming our way. Luckily we're not superstitious.

On day 2 we ventured further into the city to the famous Siam Square. This involved a canal taxi ride on some of the most disgustingly polluted waters I have ever had the displeasure to witness. They smelled like a sewer and the taxi was surprisingly fast, splashing our faces in the grey stew. Siam Sq is packed with 5 or 6 huge shopping centres (the biggest I have ever seen!) packed with Bangkokians sniffing a bargain. It was a lot of fun and an interesting clash of east-meets-west. We didn't buy too much but J got a good trade off for a new phone. I could have spent many many hours here (in another dimension where I have a bottomless bank account and a boyfriend who relishes being dragged around clothes stores listening to his indecisive girlfriend). When we were satisfactorily shopped out, we returned to Khao San where we discovered our Bangkok culinary gem - not Indian this time but a tiny Israeli restaurant tucked behind the police station with amazing baba ganoush and falafels!

We packed in quite a lot on day 3. First up was a visit to Bangkok's forensic science museum (not its most famous sight, but we were up for something a little unusual). As it turned out, we got much more gore than we bargained for! The museum is packed with:

  • An abundance of deformed fetuses in jars
  • Crushed severed limbs suspended in fluid
  • Mummified capital punishment candidates, dripping unidentified bodily ooze into turkey basting trays
  • Decapitated heads
  • Heaps of organs and bones riddled with stab wounds, bullet holes, ruptures and car accident inflicted damage (not nice)
  • An astonishingly wide array of murder implements (such creativity), including various nooses, bullets, knives etc etc and most interestingly a dildo (yes a dildo) and the bloody shirt of the victim who was stabbed by it (how exactly you could use this to STAB someone is something I try not to think about whilst lying awake on larium-induced sleepless nights)

There was also a tsunami victim display which I won't go into in any great detail (I feel I've been gory enough for one entry) but I will say it involved a lot of bloatedness. Particularly harrowing considering that the disaster area is one of our up and coming destinations. Hmm! After we were guts-ed out we paid an obligatory visit to the not-nearly-as-interesting adjoining parasitology museum (cos we felt sorry for it), which was only worth it to show Jack what would happen if he refuses to wear his mosquito repellant and to laugh and the ridiculously poorly scaled dioramas.

It was lunch time but strangely enough we weren't feeling too hungry so we pushed on to the amulet market. This is just a street lined with dozens and dozens of stalls selling nothing but tiny buddhist and hindu talismans. Of course we had no idea what any of them meant so didn't buy any, but it was interesting watching all the pros sifting painstakingly through them and putting their various choices in little red baskets. Afterwards we had a big hike to Wat Pho. By this stage in the trip we are a little watted out to say the least, but this is one of Bangkok's most famous and has a huge gold reclining buddha so we thought it worth a squizz. We put in some real effort to dress respectfully despite the suffocating heat, but as soon as we were through the gate in our t-shirt/sarong combo we found we were surrounded by westerners in shorts, thongs and singlets. Buddha would not be pleased.

After this busy day we retired to our favourite watering hole (with the subtle moniker 'Cool Corner'; it has the cheapest Beer Chang on Khao San and is packed with ladyboy waitresses, the tallest and most masculine of which developed a little boy crush on Jack and would flirt with him when he went to the toilet) for a Chang or two. Once we were toasted enough to be able to handle it, we hopped on the sky train to Patpong Road, Bangkok's famous red light district, to see our obligatory ping pong show (classy I know, but you gotta do it once). There were thousands of options, but we eventually settled on a club called Super Pussy (figured it was a safe bet). Tricks went beyond your standard ping pong; we were also treated to cigarette smoking, drawing, blowing a horn, the production of impossibly long streamers and chains and, most impressively, the popping of balloons with darts. We were in a prime position for the show but luckily narrowly avoided being hit with some of these objects upon expulsion. The female employees were uncomfortably friendly and money hungry (yes, we did get offered a threesome) and kept encouraging us to hold the ping pong paddle, smell the darts, etc. The height of personal space invasion occurred when one of them pointed out that my white underwear were glowing through my (kind of thin) dress under the UV light. "You show me yours, I show you mine!" she squealed, before promptly pulling down her own underwear in my face despite my desperate protests. Because I wouldn't hold up my end of the bargain she grabbed me in the crotch - slightly violating to say the least! Only in Bangkok!

After all this hilarity we were exhausted and spent day 4 taking it easy and completing various chores in preparation for our island sojourn. The only minor adventure worthy of mention was the sampling of some unusual Thai culinary delights from a street stall: grasshoppers and scorpion. Both were surprisingly tasty after overcoming the mental hurdle!

We are now in beautiful Ko Tao and begin our diving course tomorrow! Very excited and busily reading up on our anti-decompression tables. I discovered this afternoon that I have lost my camera cable somewhere along the way, which I am extremely disappointed about as I have a wonderfully expressive photo that Jack took of me eating a scorpion. Sorry folks - it will give you something to look forward to upon our return (in addition to our glorious company of course!)

Much love from your happy travellers,

T & J xo

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