Big John's, Palaces and Full Body Massages
Bangkok Travel Blog› entry 7 of 17 › view all entries
Spent the weekend in Bangkok. Probably the best weekend of my life to date.
We left on Thursday immediately following class...the professor even started lecturing early so we could be sure to make our flight at 5:35 (class got out at 3). The plane trip was pretty uneventful (it is only 2 hours to Bangkok from Singapore) until we got into Thailand where we went down to land and then suddenly decided to come back up...pretty scary. The pilot got on and said that the weather was making the runway slippery (it was raining) but I think he misjudged the landing strip. Either way.
Thailand is much more of a "foreign" country than Singapore.
Couple things about the hostel. First, it was called Big John's Guesthouse. Both hilarious and sketchy. It also cost about 5 American dollars a night.
We basically all passed out on Thursday night when we got there. We were tired from studying for a test we had had that day and all of the traveling.
Not surprisingly, we all were up and showered by around 8 a.m. on Friday. The time change to Thailand was an hour difference plus we had all gotten decent rest. We wanted to head down to the major touristy area down by the water and see the palaces and temples. We hopped on the skytrain (like subway but way above ground) and took it down to a specific stop an American we had run into in the hostel suggested and then rented a boat to take us across the river to the Grand Palace. The boat was really fun, it went really fast and you could see a bunch of stuff on the sides of the river. Cheap, too. Everything in Thailand was cheap. Their currency is baht and the transfer rate is about 38 baht to one American dollar.
When we finally got the the Grand Palace area we ended up in a kind of market area. Thailand is overwhelming. The language looks like a bunch of curly cues thrown together and is everywhere. When walking down the street you can see and smell hundreds of different things...street vendors selling something that they had made on a mini grill in the streets, dogs and elephants just walking along on the sidewalk, tons of fruit stands selling fresh fruit and people everywhere. Add in the motorcycle and regular taxis rushing by and you can imagine a little bit of Thailand. So different than anywhere I have ever been.
We immediately almost got taken in the number one tourist scam in Bangkok (as we found out later). When walking towards the front of the Grand Palace a well dressed Thai man came up to us and started to tell us how today was a special Buddhist holiday and that we wouldn't be able to get in the temple till 1...and that we couldn't where the sandals we were wearing (even though we had read in our guidebook that we could). He then wanted to put us in these tuk-tuks for 20 baht a person and take us on a tour of the city that would end up back at the Palace at 1 (when we could presumably go in). Luckily, most of us had the sense to tell that this guy was not the "manager" of the Grand Palace and walked away quickly. When we walked up to the entrance we could immediately see how easy it was to get in, definitely not any kind of holiday. After that, I pretty much felt like a walking target whereever we went. We tried to avoid maps from then on.
The Grand Palace was amazing. Coolest place I have ever been. The amount of detail on everything was ridiculous. Everything was made up of these tiny tiles and little gold statues that must have taken forever to put together and collect, etc. The emerald buddha was quite cool as well. No pictures of that because no cameras were allowed but the altar it was on was absolutely ridiculous. The craziest part to me was that the entire palace complex had been built in 1736 for a certain King of Thailand...that was 40 years before the Constitution of the U.S. was even written. Anyway, fantastic place. Everyone should go there.
The heat was pretty intense as we had walked around the palace (I have a great farmer's tan) and we were hungry so we sat down in the first air-conditioned restaurant we could find. Most of us got Thai food -- I had authentic pad thai...not the kind you get in the states. It was a little different, it had a big egg on the top and tofu instead of the chicken I was used to but overall it was very good, and way less likely to give stomach problems than the food from street vendors.
After lunch we split into two groups. One group wanted to go gem shopping (apparently Thailand is the place for cheap gems....emeralds, rubies, sapphires, etc.) and the other group headed out to look for clothes and other random shopping. I went with the clothes group and we went to the Siam area malls to look around a bit. Most ridiculous mall I have ever been to. There was an entire floor of cars...Porches, Maseratis, etc. Someone in Thailand is living the good life. I am not exactly sure who it is, but they exist. We obviously didn't buy anything at these malls and went to a clothing wholesale mall a couple of blocks away to look around a bit. Much more our speed, very cheap. Got some cheap Thai purses and jewelry and looked around a lot. They had some neat stuff.
We eventually headed back to the hostel to get ready to go clubbing..we were meeting the other half of the group at Q Bar at 10. Conveniently, Friday happens to be ladies' night at Big John's and all ladies got free drinks at the restaurant downstairs from 5-9 p.m. Pretty amazing. Carlanna and I headed up the free drinking madness...we had a lot of Thai beer with one of the girls that worked there. Eventually, we left to meet the other group and ended up going to Santiki, a bar recommended by Big John himself that ended up being ridiculous. There were probably 500 people there and there was a band and a couple different DJ's. The drinks were very cheap too, only about $150 baht for a mixed drink ($2.50) and about 100 baht (about $2) for a beer. We all had a lot of fun!
Saturday the plan was to head to Chutuchak Weekend Market...one of the biggest and busiest markets in Thailand. Over 200,000 people visit the market every day it is open. We took the skytrain there and it was very hot...the market was almost unbearable. We spent a few hours winding our way through the maze of stalls, food vendors and people. The air was full of dust, etc and it wasn't too pleasant walking among so many people. The different areas of the market ranged from pets to clothes to food and back to clothes. You could see turtles being sold right next to a stand selling some kind of food item. There were vendors with everything from fruit and popsicles to roaches and worms and squid cooked on a grill on the street. Altogether a very interesting day...I actually didn't end up buying anything but it was a very eclectic mix that definitely allowed me an inside view of Thai culture.
Afterwards we went back to the gem store that the other half of the group had hit the day before and looked at gems for awhile...they were really good deals and this place definitely wasn't a scam...they allowed you to return the gems if you found out they weren't real and each one came with a certificate of authenticity. One of the girls spent almost 700 American dollars on jewelry...she did get a lot of stuff though!
We had dinner at a very nice sit down restaurant near the gem store and then went back to the hostel to unwind. Some people were going back to the club again and another group went to see X-Men instead...we were a little tired from the night before. The movie was good...theaters are very different in other countries. The craziest thing happened though. Right after the preview on the movie they showed a 3-4 minute video about the King of Thailand. The first screen said "Please stand and pay your respects to his majesty the King" Everyone in the theater stood for the whole length of the movie which consisted of many shots of Thai people bowing, the King and the King helping the old and the young...I don't think anyone from ages 20-40 was in that movie..just above and below that. I got the feeling that all of the Thai people in the theater had seen the video before, they all knew exactly when to sit down. Interesting approach to nationalism. If a movie like that about George Bush was shown in the States I think that people would boo and throw stuff at the screen. Nationalism is completely different on this side of the world. For being form such a wealthy and prosperous nation, we aren't nearly as respectful of government as anyone in any of the Asian countries I have been to.
The movie was good and on the walk back we almost ran into a baby elephant on the street. Ahh. Crazy.
Our flight left today (Sunday) at 3. The morning was spent having one last Big John's breakfast (eggs and toast...tasted just like the states) and getting full body Thai massages. They felt amazing. I don't think i have ever spent a better $6 in my life. A full hour body massage for $6. Crazy. If we would have gotten them earlier I think i would have gotten one a day. I think my back cracked like 3 times.
Back now, Singapore felt like home when we were driving in. Still can't get over how clean it is. Long week ahead...2 papers due on Wednesday and a last test for the history class on Tuesday. We start Quality Control on Thursday and the plan is Kuala Lumpur for the weekend, maybe the Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo on Wednesday.
I miss you all!