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Thailand Day 2-3: Sawa-dee Kap, Bangkok!

Posted by evankessler on December 27, 2008

Sawa-dee kap, Thailand!  Sawa-dee kap! Translation: Hello Thailand!  I’m not exactly sure how long I’ve been in Bangkok at this point.  It’s not so much the jet lag that’s killing me, so much as the crossing the International Date line confusion.

After leaving New York at Noon on the 24th of December, I arrived at the Bangkok airport past midnight in the wee hours of Friday, January 26th.  Of course it was only just past noon on the 25th in New York.  In adddition to a thirteen-plus-hour flight to Tokyo’s Narita Airport, Morwin and I had to switch to a Japan Airlines flight that was slated to leave three hours after our arrival at 6:45pm Tokyo time.  I had no concept of the time difference between Tokyo and New York, so I didn’t even try to calculate.

Having heard so much about Japanese efficiency, I was shocked to learn, as we sat at gate 92 waiting to board JAL flight 707 to Bangkok, that our plane was late and our boarding process and subsequent departure would be delayed 45 minutes or so.  This wasn’t too much of a bother as I sort of enjoyed being in the Tokyo airport.  There was a certain cuteness to the employees of the convenience store located at our gate. As I purchased my brown rice iced tea I gave a subconscious semi-bow accompanied by a hesitant “hai” which was duly reciprocated.  It filled me with a little rush of joy that made me want to repeat the motion all day.

Unfortunately, (but fortunately) our plane eventually boarded and we were whisked away to Thailand on a massive double decker JAL jet that was quite the marked improvement over our aged American Airlines plane that had brought us halfway around the world.  Whereas the American Airlines plane was equipped with video screens that were displaying operating systems with copyright dates of 1997 and took a fair amount of time to load, by contrast JAL’s systems were all high-speed and first-class.

American attendants would show up with food or drink just when you were seemingly on the brink of starvation, JAL stewardesses would constantly keep your glass full.  While the JAL food was a bit too Japanese for me, as I can be a picky eater at times, I could at least tell that the contents were higher quality than my mystery pizza and meager rice and beef portion on the first leg of the trip.

Mystic Pizza

Mystic Pizza

The entertainment options were also better on JAL, from the Fasten Your Seatbelts video to the availability of films like The Dark Knight, Hellboy 2, and Wanted.  For some reason I decided to watch The House Bunny instead. I wanted to sleep more than think, that was probably the reason.

I actually slept a great deal of the 2nd flight thanks to seats that were considerably more comfortable, though the small bottle of wine I imbibed probably helped a bit.

When our plane finally landed, it didn’t take too much time for us to deplane and we more or less breezed through customs.  After a bit of a walk, we finally reached the meeting point where we were greeted by a driver holding a sign reading, “Mr. Evan/Mr. Morwin.”  It was safe to assume that was for us.

We followed our driver towards the exit but decided we should go to the ATM’s  so we could pay him for the ride.  The only problem was that after we loaded up on Thai Baht we couldn’t find our driver.  We stood around dumbfounded  wondering if we’d find him, but he eventually found us. It was an uneventful drive to the Royal Suites hotel.  When we arrived I wondered if I should tip the driver, but he had left before we could.

Morwin and I checked in and the bellhop took our bags up in an elevator with us.  I wondered again about tip etiquette and not knowing the answer I handed him 100 Baht.  This, as it turns out is less than $3, yet is considered a very fine tip.  It didn’t really put a dent in my savings, but it more than pleased him.  I considered this little event a “Baht Mitzvah” or sorts.

Our room was one of the nicer rooms I’ve stayed in, or at least one of the most complete setups I’ve stayed in.  It was like an apartment, with a living room, refrigerator, washing machine, tv, stereo, an alcove with a desk and a separate bedroom with two beds; not to mention the bathroom.

Our fridge was stocked with water, beer and other assorted drinks, each costing a dollar or so, if we were to choose to  to partake in them.  We had some complimentary drinking water and wondered if the tap was potable.  We didn’t chance it.  We also looked through our gift bags Jason and Kayvalyn had put together complete with personalized city guides, diarrhea medications, herpes cream, mints, Thai Red Bull, and Thai Whiskey. It was about 3am when I went to sleep.  Morwin stayed up at the hotel’s business center working on a paper he had yet to finish.

Friday morning we awoke around 8am.  Jason had called us the night before to tell us about breakfast, but before that we walked to Kayvalyn’s house to say hello and exchange phone chargers.  We somehow got lost along the way encountering a few stray dogs, but eventually making it to our good friend’s childhood home where we were greeted  by the groom to be along with the bride, her mom, dad, and cousin.

There was some jovial conversation prior to heading back to the hotel to eat with everyone on hand including Jason’s parents and sister.  Breakfast was an array of Thai staple noodle and beef dishes as well as omelet options, spaghetti in cream sauce, fresh fruit and cereals.

From breakfast we tried to work out a day activity.  We ended up just tagging along with Jason and Kayvalyn  at first.  We went with them to the Emporium Mall to get a cell phone that we could use for the remainder of our trip.  The mall was in full Christmas swing as was most of Bangkok despite having a 95% Buddhist population.  Christmas trees were everywhere and carols blasted from speakers in almost all surroundings.

Christmas after Christmas in Bangkok

Christmas after Christmas in Bangkok

Morwin and I split up with Jason and Kayvalyn and came to the Siam Square shopping area as was recommended via the Sky Train.  The area was commerce central.  Multiple malls lined the streets.  It was a paean to Capitalism and not exactly super appealing.  It wasn’t as if I’d come all this way to see malls.  Though everything was mind numbingly cheap, it was sort of boring to shop when I didn’t feel like shopping.  Morwin and I eventually got hungry and miraculously found a restaurent mentioned in  Kayvalyn’s brother’s handy-dandy list of food options.

The restaurant we went to was recommended for it’s Chicken Papaya salad and sticky rice.  That’s what we ordered, thinking it was one dish.  In actuality, all three were separate, so we got Papaya Salad, Fried Chicken things, and sticky rice.  While the food was decent, the service was crap.  We asked for the bill four times and no one reacted, though we’re pretty sure they understood.

Also there were at least three ladyboys in plain sight that were restaurant employees.  That was kind of funny. All of our friends had made plenty of jokes about ladyboys prior to our departure and here they were in the flesh, serving us food. Morwin apparently spotted more on the way to the bathroom, but I suppose only he can confirm those sightings.

Our chicken adventure ended eventually when we finally were allowed to pay and so it was off to our hotel yet again.  We jumped in a cab that took us a roundabout way that cost us 160 baht ($4.60 or so).  We felt as though we had been both literally and figuratively taken for a ride.

Quite The Culinary Spread

Quite The Culinary Spread

Upon our return we showered up and went back to Kayvalyn’s house for a big dinner with everyone who was at breakfast and one of Jason’s co-workers, Andy and his wife Tracy. Most of the catering was done by a relative of the family who had invented one of the dishes that was now widely copied…I think.  I’m not so sure I got that story right.  The more amazing of the culinary delights, at least to me, was the bizarre fruit selection.  The array of juicy treats were utterly foreign to me.  There were Jackfruit, Pomelo, and a mystery brown star-shaped fruit.

Strange Fruit Indeed

Strange Fruit Indeed

Jack fruit was odd-tasting and had the flavor of at least two different things.  It brought my tastebuds on a roller coaster ride as it resembled everything from cotton candy to peaches, to utter nastiness. Pomelo was a delightfully less tart grapefruit-flavored thing and the mysterious star-looking fruit was kind of bland, but a little too sweet.

Jason’s dad was amusing as we both seemed to be picky eaters who had distastes for the same types of food.  We both don’t like fish so we were okaying certain foods with each other.  Meanwhile, his mom was describing all of the new mystery fruit to me with pinpoint accuracy  At one point she described one of the other fruits as tasking like perfume.  I challenged her assertion and tasted said fruit for myself.  Much to my surprise, she was dead on.

The Night Market...Well Not All of It

The Night Market...Well Not All of It

I previously did not have any post dinner plans, but that quickly changed as Andy, Tracy, Kayvalyn’s cousin Valerie, and myself all went to the Night Market, which was at first glance a bazaar of stalls selling stereotypically funny or stupid touristy t-shirts, thai craft souvenirs and whatnot.  I bought two shirts . One was of a Thai beer called Chang and the other was a Red Bull shirt written out in Thai.  I also came upon an awesome bunch of shirts from a company called Clayland, but none of the shirts I liked were available in my size.  Andy and I also happened upon a shirt that said “Kill Mechnic” and had a bizarre picture on it.  It didn’t seem to make any sense and thus had much appeal to us.  Unfortunately, they only had the shirt in one size and the shirt Andy had his heart set on was a no go.

Tasers!  Get Your Tasers Here!

"Tasers! Get Your Tasers Here!"

In addtion to t-shirts, the Night Market also had an abundance of weapons being peddled.  Chinese stars, swords and *gasp* Tasers, were all available for the purchasing.  A guy kept showing off his taser to me asking me if I wanted to buy it.  Even if I did, I doubt I could get it past customs.  At around 11:30pm, we finally headed back to the hotel after quite the ordeal to get a metered taxi to take us.  When I returned back to the room I was exhausted and went straight to bed.

I woke up bright and early this morning at 7am and went to the hotel’s gym, getting a bit of a workout staring out over the the Bangkok Highway system while using the elliptical and listening to my iPod in an empty fitness room.  After dressing I went downstairs to see an even larger crew of breakfast buddies.  Miller, Andrea (BK related), Jen, Justin, Meghan (Syracuse-related) and Luis (Jason’s sister’s boyfriend) had joined our wedding party overnight.

After breakfast a big group of us went to the famous Chatuchak market , the world’s largest open air market, via the subway.   The ride over was fun and we tried to keep our group together, but split up pretty early into our market foray.

Morwin and I bought nothing; Miller bought two shirts assisted by Andrea, not to mention a hat that made him look like the Marcus Brodie of the Thai markets.  We repeated lines from the last crusade about how Miller would be blending into the Thai scenery and no one could ever find him.

En Route To Go To Chatuchak Weekend Market...Or Something Else

En Route To Go To Chatuchak Weekend Market...Or Something Else

Riding On The Subway

Riding On The Subway

"Miller's got friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan, he speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom, he'll blend in, disappear, you'll never see him again."

"Miller's got friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan, he speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom, he'll blend in, disappear, you'll never see him again."

We also sat down and had a really great authentic Thai meal at a tiny restaurant in the market. I had a chicken dish with basil leaves and chilis that was extremely spicy.  I was a little worried at first that I didn’t have enough water to beat the heat, but I settled down after a bit.

Food, Glorious Food

Food, Glorious Food

From there Miller, Morwin and I took the Sky train to the National Stadium and attempted to walk to the Jim Thompson House.  However, the map we had wasn’t nearly descriptive enough, as it avoided identifying smaller streets and what had seemed like just a short walk from a subway stop turned into a nomadic expedition.  We wandered from sidestreet to sidestreet and back alley to back alley looking for somewhere matching up to the words on our map, but to no avail.  We got lost and found ourselves exploring some seedy areas for a look at the real Bangkok.  Miller bought street meat from a lady in one of those alleys and apparently his intestines held up.

Where The Back Alley Begins

Where The Back Alley Begins

Miller Waits for Street Meat

Miller Waits for Street Meat

Morwin split up with us after our bout of fruitless exploration and Miller and I made our way to Siam Square.  He was looking for cheap computer equipment, but couldn’t find what he was looking for amongst the the zoo of electronic parts that is Patik Plaza, though we did encounter some people trying to sell us porn using fake windows programming disc boxes as camouflage.

With our largely unsuccessful escapade to the market, we decided to reconvene back at the hotel, and that’s where we find ourselves now.  The rehearsal dinner is just a few minutes away and I must be getting ready.

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3 Responses to “Thailand Day 2-3: Sawa-dee Kap, Bangkok!”

  1. perfume said

    good thank

  2. […] Thailand Day 2-3: Sawa-dee Kap, Bangkok! « Evan Kessler Dot Com « Yeast Free Bread – It’s Expensive, So Bake Your Own Commercial Coffee Machines And Their Benefits » […]

  3. […] me for instance, I’m thirty-two years old and I’ve been to Bangkok, Thailand and Paris, France (amongst other places); I’ve been to summer camp and driven a Smart Car– […]

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