Month: February 2010

Bangkok, Tuk-Tuks and Bo!

I’m now in Sihanoukville, Cambodia but I haven’t written for so long, I’ll start with Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

The flight was only three hours from Guangzhou to Bangkok, but by the time I got off the plane, went though immigration, and got a taxi into the city it was about 3am. I had planned to stay in a hostel called Peachy Guesthouse, but then found out that it didnt have a 24 hr front desk, so when I got to Phra Ahtit Rd, right on the river, i was kind of wandering around trying to figure out where I was and where I could sleep that night. The area is kind of a haven for backpackers, all starting out in Bangkok and then spreading out all over south asia, so there are a ton of foreign people walking around and tons of guesthouses, hotels and hostels.

Someone yelled to me ‘hey, you look pretty lost!’ and I turned and said, I sure am, do you know where I can stay?, so he brought me over to a street with a bunch of stuff that was still open and helped me find an open guesthouse. I found one, deposited my stuff, and fell deeeep asleep, despite the 38 degree weather (90).

The next day I went to meet the friend that helped me out the night before for some lunch, then I decided to walk around a bit and get my bearings. I just went to find that famed ‘Khaosan Rd’ that was right near by. A lot of people have not so good things to say about it because its basically a lot of people selling stuff, and a lot of drunk foreigners making a ruckus. I thought it was alright, a lot of good people-watching and some tasty street food. I also wasn’t very used to seeing so many foreigners (Falang)  around, so I enjoyed it.

The day after I decided to get in contact with my friend Shay from Montreal, who was staying with her friend in the downtown. Neither of us had a telephone so we were using Facebook to send messages to figure out a meeting place. In the morning I sent a message suggesting we meet at the big democracy monument nearby at noon and then go eat some noodles. I went there without checking my Facebook again, figuring if she didnt get my message I could just go walk around that area anyway. I went to the democracy monument and sat there for about a half hour watching people and traffic go by, and then figured shay didnt get my message (she didnt), and so I went to this road called ‘mahachai blvd’ where I heard there was a really really good pad thai place. I got a little lost, and walked all around some little streets back there, which was behind a huge wat (temple). I tried to use some of the very very very minimal thai i had tried to learn in the past couple days, and finally I found out that the place opened at 1pm. I went to have some coffee and decided to take a tuk-tuk back to my guesthouse. I walked up to this guy lounging in his tuktuk on the corner and said ‘Phra Ahtit Rd 20 bhat?’ and he said no! 40! and i said no no, only 20! and he agreed so i hopped in. I chatted with him along the way and learned that he was about 30 years old and was from a town south of Bankok called Mahachai (same name as the road I had been on), and that he has no family in the world but now he has been driving his tuktuk for about a year. When we got to Phra Atit he said ‘why dont we go get a couple cans of beer and go to the park’. His English was really minimal, but he wanted to practice, so I agreed so long as he taught me some Thai too! We talked a while more and then Shay was coming to my area, so I went to go meet her. Dong (the tuk-tuk driver), said he had a day off the next day and so he said that he and his friend would bring me to the zoo if I wanted. He seemed pretty enthusiastic about it, I was up for an adventure, and Bo’s friend Peter wasn’t going to arrive until that night, so I agreed to meet the next day.

After that I went to meet Shay and we had dinner of some extremely spicy food, but extremely tasty, then went with her friends to a little bar near their hotel and talked to all kinds of people that were coming in and out. There was a dinner party happening for an indian guy and all his friends were speaking half thai half hindi, half i dont know, and they kept getting drunker and so became more liberal with their money. Needless to say, it was a fun time and we paid for very few beers. There were also some australians that came around and a mongolian and a british 14 year old who told me he was 26.

The next day I woke up a little late and then went to meet Dong at noon at the same park. He brought me over to his friend’s tuktuk and said we were going to take the tuktuk to the zoo. His friend was a 65 year old man who had been driving his tuktuk for 20 years in Bangkok. We zoomed out of the city, onto the freeway in the tiny little tuktuk, but the guy was an excellent driver and navigated the crazy Bangkok traffic really well. He and Dong were yelling and joking at each other in Thai over the sound of the motor, and I got to see all kinds of things on the side of the road.

An hour’s ride later we got to the zoo, which turned out to be the crocodile and elephant farm. We went to see some elephants play soccor, then some historical rendition of how elephants were used in wars. Then we went to see a crocodile show, where they guys in the enclosure would stick there arms in the crocodiles mouths and drag them around by there tails. Dong’s old friend bought a bucket of raw chicken to throw to the crocodiles. This must have happened a lot because none of the crocodiles were too interested in eating it. We walked around a bit more then got hungry and went to go find some food. I didn’t understand anything of what they were discussing, but just went along anyway. We left the zoo and got back into the tuktuk for another ride for about 20 minutes. Dong told me ‘We go to see Buddha, then we khin khao (eat food). We came to a wat and they said we were going to go in and pay respects to Buddha (or B’Dah as Dong says it), so he taught me what to do. We give some money to a monk, then get a bunch of flowers and three sticks of insence and a candle and go into the wat. You have to light your insence from a big flame and then light the candle and stick it to a ring that goes around the flame. Then you take your insence and flowers and clasp them between your hands and bow your head with your hands up near your head for a while. Dong was muttering something but I just kind of glanced around nervously and pretended. After that you put the flowers and insence in certain places. We also were given 4 little gold squares that you are supposed to stick to each buddha in the room, and then stick a little on your forehead. When that was all done we got back in the tuktuk and went off somewhere else. We ended up along a riverbank and I followed Dong and the old man through a bunch of wooden passage-ways that ended in a big covered market along the river. There was a restaurant in there and so we sat down and Dong ordered some amazing amazing amazing tasty red-brothed soup. We finished our food, and sat for a while since it was late afternoon and the river was really quiet and beautiful, then it was time to go back to Bangkok.

They dropped me off on my road and said good-bye since I had to go find peter. Since it was Dong’s few days off I invited him to come meet me and peter for some dinner later on.  I went to peachy guesthouse where i had gotten a room for him that morning, to see if he was there and he hadnt arrived yet, so I went to take a nap and go back later. I woke up and went back to Peachy and peter was there so we introduced ourselves and sat down for a bit in the courtyard. Dong came by and we all went to a local place to have some rice and chicken and vegetables. Then we asked Dong if he knew of any good thai places we could go out to, since neither of us felt like the craziness of Khaosan road that night. Dong brought us to this place that just looked like a regular shop front, but then you go past everything and through another small door and it was a little club that played Thai pop music. There were very few people in their so we all sat together and introduced ourselves and some of the girls spoke pretty good english. After we left we went to have more food on the street and then he brought us to an enourmous enourmous enourmous giant thai discotheque, that must have been the size of a football field and it was completely jam packed with people, but me and Peter were absolutely the only two foreigners in the whole place. There was 100% thai music being played and everyone was dancing around and having a good time. Definitely a crazy experience.

Dong had his last day off for the week the next day, so he invited us to come to his hometown with him to see his friend, this time in his own tuk-tuk, providing we pay the rental cost for the tuktuk for the day (he doesnt own his tuktuk, but rents it from someone every time he works).  We met him the next day and went on another (slightly scarier) tuktuk ride all the way to Mahachai which is just southwest of bangkok. It is a very small town, and we went to stop by his friend’s house to see if he wanted to come eat some fish with us. Mahachai is famous for its seafood because it is right on the water and is a big fishing town. Dong’s friend wasnt home, but we were invited in anyway and about ten minutes later there were some plates of steaming tasty homeade food in front of us. There were two girls there and they taught me some thai, how to say ‘hello’ and ‘beautiful’ and ‘dog’. There were about 7 dogs hanging around their house, and they kept barking at the zillions of dogs next door.

We left there and drove to a wat again where we saw some monks chanting inside. Some were wearing sunglasses and sure enough…buddha was too. The slickest pair of them all, of course. I got a picture…I’ll post it when i have the chance.

After that we had some tea on the river then went to get more food at a seafood place that was on the bay going into the ocean. The fish was covered in tons and tons of lemon and garlic and was super-tasty, and then Dong ordered some clam-type things, but they were smaller and a little bloody. Those weren’t so good, but I had a few anyway. Dong loved them and devoured half the plate. When we got the bill it was about 20 usd…which is extremely expensive in Thailand. Me and Peter covered the bill, and I figure Dong might have been thinking that day ‘Hey…I’m with some travelling foreigners..maybe I will bring them to this nice place and have a good opportunity to eat my favorite fish…’ I didnt mind too much, since he was so generous bringing us all around to places we would never have seen otherwise, and he is good company.

Bo was supposed to arrive that night, so me and Peter went back to Peachy where we were supposed to meet her and waited and waited, and she got there at about 1am. It was great to see her again and I gave her a huge hug and we had a Singha or two and then boxed a bit like old times and went to walk around the area and find some food. The next day we all slept a lot and then met up to go around to the markets and see what good things there were, and we met up with bo’s old friends that live in Bangkok. The next couple of days before leaving Bangkok were pretty relaxing and we didnt do much, since Bo was jetlagged and we were just getting ready to leave.

Two days later we shopped around for some cheap tickets to phnom penh, cambodia and got a 7am bus to the border, and another bus after that.  I’m racking up my internet time now and its gonna cost me a bit, so I’ll write another post soon!!