…after a 12-hour flight that turned into a 14-hour flight due to a mechanical issue – really the kind of thing you want to hear just before your flight leaves.
Stepping out of the airport, it is not so much my brain that remembers this place, but my body. The humidity and the heat, the smock and the sounds. The way my fingers and feet swell up and my watch becomes to tight. My body’s way of trying to retain as much fluids as possible. My body remembers what it is like to walk around this type of heat with a backpack, to sit in a stiffingly hot taxi being jostled about. I remember the tuktuk drivers pestering you for a ride.
From this, one may deduce that I am not happy being here, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am finally back! Back where I ended my last big solo-trip to continue traveling through parts of Asia I haven’t yet seen. Back here on kao san road with Erik who laughs at the tuktuk drivers and shakes their hand as he has been travelling like this all his life. I am back having another travelling adventure!
This first day we haven’t planned a lot, other than to arrange a few things for the next t day and try to get acclimated. We drop our stuff at the hotel (rambuttri village hotel) and slowly make our way past a few temples and palaces – making sure to drink a lot (a lot a lot) of water – to the train station in order to get our tickets for the two overnight trains we’ll be taking his trip.
Thankfully, the company who’s website didn’t appear to trustworthy is totally legit. We get our tickets, an explanation of when and where to show up – there is assigned seating/sleeping, we don’t appear so clueless as to not have remembered our itinerary – and even a refund because the tickets turned out cheaper than anticipated.
After we make arrangements at co van kessel’s bicycle tours and a drink down by the riverside – which is around the corner – we take our first tuktuk back to kao san road. I’sure it will be the first of many. We speed through the traffic, looking at the controlled chaos and occasionally speaking to the driver who seems to find us hilarious as he keeps on laughing at us every time we say something.
We end up shopping a bit on our very first day, because the shirts look too nice to just let them hang, even though wearing them will mark us as tourists as much as white tennis shoes and zipp of shorts would have. Thank god neither of us wears white tennis shoes or zipp of pants – though the latter were recently contemplated for a possible hiking holiday.
We then have a refreshing swim in the swimming pool of our hotel and head back to kao san road one final time. We have our first Chang beer – probably the first of many – and then cocktail each with some spring rolls. We have fun looking at the different types of tourists – the blatenly drunk Englishmen, the doll-like Japanese girls, the Dutch you can pick out of any crowd – and talking about this and that.
Later, we both get a half hour foot massage that is bliss and drink some more at a place where ladyboys apparently are considered the “proppers”. We eat at the restaurant opposite from it and just as the Chinese guests are getting rowdy – singing along to a song, standing on a bench trying to get everyone to join in – we really are becoming to tired (ok, I am) and we get back to the hotel to get some sleep.
On our second day we sleep in a bit – trying to keep the jet lag at bay and keeping in mind the night we may have on the night train – and then head out for breakfast. As much as I love to eat local food, I can not yet bring myself to eat noodles or rice for breakfast and opt for a western style breakfast. Again lazing in our seats, looking at the tuktuk drivers in front of the restaurant, trying and failing to imagine what their lives are like, their hopes, their dreams.
We then get our backpacks and have a tuktuk driver take us to Wat Phra Kaew – a temple filled with golden Buddhas and one very big golden Buddha skilling down at us. Because it’s a temple we have to cover up and I am glad I brought one of my ugly loose fitting travel pants with elephants that every tourist in Asia at some point gets and that I bought during my last trip three years ago. Having got only one though, Erik and I have to go in separately – but I do manage to get him in the pants he hates on only our second day!
Inside the compound, the sounds of the chaotic traffic and many – MANY – Chinese tourist fall away, giving the place an instantantly calming atmosphere. I remember the wall with Buddhas, but the big one I don’t remember. It is so elaborately embellished that I have to suppress a laugh – it reminds me more of a catholic church then a Buddhist one. I see a girl, not yet 2 years old, being taught by her father not to show the underside of her feet to the statue and as she perfectly mimics her father’s prayer I cannot resist snapping a shot of her – after her mom’s permission of course, who is delighted by the whole scene.
After we’ve both seen the temple we carry our backpacks to the royal palace, but leave it for the crawling crowds of tourists who have more time to visit it. Because we,being quintessentially Dutch, are going on a biking tour of Bangkok with Co van Kessel’s company.
Going there, I’m not quite sure about this. I mean, cycling. In the tropical heat. And chaotic Asian traffic. For five hours. But having done this tour, I can only recommend it! We did the co combo tour, taking us into the heart of China town, via a long tail boat, through the old capital that is now a jungle to a tiny local restaurant by the river and back.
On the way, we cycled through tiny but busy streets – at times looking more like backyards – really lettig it sink in how many people live in this city. We visit a flower market, learning about the working hours (basically they make the flower offerings by day and sell them by night) and the different meanings of flowers whilst being intoxicated by the smell of jasmin and marigold. We drive through the old city that looks like a beautiful jungle placed on marshy lands with a concrete path lain in. Finally, we end the day visiting a tiny local restaurant by the river in this more rural part of Bangkok, enjoying (mostly) yummie home cooked food and getting to know the two families we shared our tour with a little better.
Returning to co van kessel, there is nothing left to do but to walk to the train station, find our way to the right train, the right carriage and the right seats to start the long ride to Chumpong and then Koh Tao! Our 36 hours in Bangkok are sadly up!