Water lily's at Jim Thompson's House
The bus ride went smoothly (out of sheer paranoia I'd packed everything of value in my daysack, locked it and had it sat on my lap) and we arrived at Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal around 5am. After a quick repack of stuff back into my large rucksack I hopped into a cab; firstly the cabbie tried the old flat rate trick so I told him I wanted to use the meter, second after telling him where I wanted to go he acted like he knew then got lost in Silom and then to cap it off when I did give him the hostel flyer he managed to take me to the wrong one! I felt like he was trying to get as close to his original fare as possible and when you're sleep deprived in the early hours of the day the last thing you need is a wise guy cabbie, when we did finally get to Lub*d (the right one this time) in my sleep deprived state I almost gave him too much money but after the cheeky bugger had given me the run around for over half an hour he wasn't getting a Baht more than he deserved.
In the courtyard at Jim Thompson's House
I had to pay extra to check in early but was happy to do so and crawl into bed for a few hours sleep in a comfy bed. After getting back up around 10am I got chatting to one of my roomies, a girl called Amy and we really hit it off. We both asked what the other had planned for the day and then arranged to meet later for dinner. I showered and had breakfast in the hostel before jumping on the Skytrain to get to Jim Thompson's house. This place hadn't even been on my radar the lawst time I was in Bangkok but I'd had it recommended to me by an architect friend of mine at home and Amy had said how good it was as well so thought it seemed worth the visit, particularly as both a Muy Thai match and hiring a long tail boat were now off the agenda due to cost, so I needed something to fill my day.
Jim Thompson was an American who moved to Thailand after serving in WWII and revived the cottage silk industry in Thailand and over time had some of the top names in fashion buying Jim Thompson silk. He mysteriously disappeared after going walking in Malaysia and has never been found, his house has since become a museum and the entry cost includes an informative 45 minute tour, after which you can wander around the ground floor and gardens of the house freely, all for a bargain price of 100B. Jim had amassed a beautiful collection of antiques from across Asia and the house itself was a bit of a gem. The shop was full of delectable items to buy but I managed to tear myself away as I persuaded myself that Chatuchak market the following day should be my first stop for shopping.
Next was a rather sweaty walk to get to Wat Saket and the Golden Mount; for once my sense of direction wasn't too off the mark and I managed to get tanalisingly close before having to ask for directions (I knew when I was walking down an alley way filled with locals staring at me that I somehow wasn't heading the right way), I tuk tuk driver offered to drop me right outside the gate for free with the offer to take me back to Silom after I was done, I politely declined his offer and thought I'd have to try and sneak off later to avoid any hassle and repeated offers of a lift. Lunch time had once again passed me by but I thought I should attempt to eat something and a handy fruit seller nearby presented the opportunity of fresh pineapple which I enjoyed as I climbed the steps of the Golden Mount.
I'd read that this place is worth a visit even if you've had enough of Wat hopping as the views of Bangkok are worth it, and indeed it was worth the trip (entry is by donation of 10B so this alone should be enough to entice people to check it out) as it proved to be something unique. The steps wind up past gnarled trees and the shade they provide is respite from the heat with ornate bells lining the pathways. The beautiful golden chedi at the top is simple in form but dazzles in the bright sunshine and the views, while not the best I've seen on this trip so far, are still interesting, the tops of Wat's poking out into the skyline as a contrast the western sky scrapers around them. I spent a fair bit of time up there enjoying the views and the breeze as although in terms of scale in can't rival that of Ko Ratanakosin it still has something to offer in the views in provides and I was glad I'd paid it a visit due to the fact it's just such a photogenic spot.
I was toying with the idea of taking a taxi back but decided it really that wasn't that far to get back to the Skytrain stop and as the heat of the day was finally abating I didn't feel quite as uncomfortable. Rush hour had started to cause the traffic to build, though I'm not sure when the traffic ever isn't busy in Bangkok, and it finally came to a stnd still with police directing the traffic. I later found out that this was to allow the King and his entourage to pass by and even the people in the street were stood still watching, no sooner had the King gone then the police moved out the way and the usual menagerie ensued. I walked up an overpass and stood just watching the traffic go by for a while, entranced by the craziness of it all. Having had my fill I walked back to the train station and headed back to the hostel to take a shower and wait for Amy.
She got back not too long after I did and as she was still feeling a bit all over the shop from jet lag decided we got for something simple in the food department and headed off to Scoozi, an Italian, just round the corner. The food was more expensive than your average Thai street food meal as you'd expect but still not outrageous, and the pizza's looked huge if you have a friend to share them with. I was starving by this point not having had any lunch and my pasta dish felt more like a starter as I pratically inhaled it so I had to pick up some additional street snacks to fill the void. On the way back Amy introduced to me to the rather handy and eco friendly water dispensers on the street which for a ridiculously low price of 1B will supply you with 1 litre of filtered water, they're the sorted of thing that you'd easily walk past and you need to know what you're looking for but once you've located them will save you a packet on buying bottled water and help cut down on one of the scourges of environmental pollution, plastic bottles, and I was definetly going to refilling up there again tomorrow on my way to the market.
After a good lie in, shower, heart breakfast and checking out I was ready to begin my assault on Chatuchak market (or JJ as it's also known), it was a simply but pretty crowded skytrain ride but after about 20 minutes I was on one side of Chatuchak park joining the throngs headed to the market. The place was filled with locals and tourists a like and I was trying to get some sense of bearings around this huge market. I noticed people wandering around with maps and decided that should be my first mission to get one so that I didn't miss any of the best areas. Determined to induldge in all things Thai on my last day I started off with my first fruit shake of the day, stawberry and lycee, mmmmm! Map located it was time to do some hard core shopping, I hadn't believed what I'd read that I'd be here for a whole day given that I didn't have much to spend, how wrong I was! This place has something for everyone from cheesy touristy Chang beer t-shirts, to local designers selling their wares, from flowers to furniture this place is a shopaholics wet dream and I was in heaven! In fact you really don't need much money at all unless you're planning on kitting out your house (there's freight companies in the market to help you get things home too, how handy!) or really going nuts.
Chatuchak is one of those places where if you came over here on holiday with the bare bones of your holiday waredrobe you could go and buy everything else you needed there, in fact next time I come back to Thailand I may do just that. My favourite two sections of the market had to be the artists section closely followed by the clothing section where all the cool kids had their stalls. There was some fantastic home grown talent in both parts and the paintings and photographic art really were impressive, if I'd had more cash and a house to put them in I think I'd have walked away with a lot of stuff. The local fashion stalls were almost as inticing with light flowing fabrics in funky designs and cuts. What also made the market fun were the street performers, some of whom were trying to earn money to pay for their education, and the plethora of food and drink stalks to keep you fuelled up and ready to shop.
Two works of photographic art, a dress, 4 statues of deities, a tshirt and several fruit shakes later I was done and all to the tune of about £15, I'd have spent that on one bag if I'd given in at Jim Thompson! It felt good to escape the heat and the busy market and enjoy the air-con on the sky train, and I went back to unwind at the hostel for a while before deciding what to do for dinner, I'd hoped to eat at the market but I'd left it too long to try and grab a combined lunch/ dinner as most of the food looked liked it had been sitting there all day and I didn't fancy a dodgy stomach on the plane journey home. I opted instead to go and try a local seafood restaurant nearby which I'd spotted on our trip to Scoozi the previous night; I was the only ferang in there and after getting used to the stares of the other local patrons set about ordering one of the specials, the waiter advised that a small version would be enough for one but clearly hadn't ever dealt with a hungry ferang who'd missed lunch.
Where Jim used to wait to catch a river taxi
It turned out to be a piddly and tongue-bendingly spicy meal that left me somewhat unfilled an disappointed, not wanting for that to be my last Thai meal I went off in search of the ever reliable street food and found a glut of market stalls down a side street off Silom road which provide a great Tom Yum soup in my favourite kind of surroundings, one that allowed people watching in a busy market setting where locals seemed to eat as well as the tourists. My game plan had been achieved so I decided to spend my last few hours before I needed to leave chilly out in the air-con haven of the hostel enjoying the free wi-fi to catch up on my blogs. I luckily managed to see Amy before I left who it sounded had had as equally a fun day as I had; she'd blagged her way into the swanky Sofitel round the corner to sit by the pool and ended up getting chatting to a bunch of Mexicans who she ended up getting drunk with for the day, I love randomness like that, she's a girl after my heart that one.
We chatted for a while then exchanged emails before I set off on my trip to the airport, to make my shopping budget go further I decided on taking the Skytrain and then changing to the airport train; Bangkok's airport train is something the Thai people should be proud of, it's quick, clean, efficient (everything UK transport isn't!) and my entire journey cost me less than £1 to get to the airport, now I know that its relative to how much the cost of living in Thailand is but still even by Thai standards I think that's pretty damn good value given a taxi to Silom will set you back 300-450B (about £6-9). Things just seemed to be going a little too well...I got to the airport to find my flight had been hit by a four hour delay, now I know 4 hours isn't much in the scheme of things but my flight's original time was just within the bounds of being civilised (12.
Main living area
45am) but now it was due to to leave at 4.10, hello sleep deprivation and goodbye any chance of a good nights sleep, I was going to be a jibbering mess the next day that's for sure. I fell asleep on and off and when we finally boarded I prayed I'd get the same kind of luxury I'd had on all of my long haul legs so far on this trip i.e. no one sitting next to me. I didn't quite get the three seats to myself but at least two meant I could stretch out...sleep however was nowhere to be found and I ended up watching five movies back to back to pass the time. Every so often I'd get a little teary about the thought of things not going to plan and returning with a tale between my legs but hoped that friends and family would make the transition a little easier and that this new chapter would hold actually as exciting prospects.