We’ve been in Bangkok for three days, and it is dizzying here. During our first evening, wading through alleyways and streets of food stalls with Steve, I kept repeating, “I feel overwhelmed.” It’s been a while since we were in a Big City, and Bangkok is definitely that. It has soaring tall Sky Train subway systems, skyscrapers and giant, shiny square malls home to stores like Hermès and Miu Miu, and countless tiny streets and alleys through which people, cats, scooters, tuk-tuks, and cars race at every hour of day. And we kind of love it.
We’ve been busy here: yesterday, we took a river boat to Wat Pho, home of the famous reclining Buddha who is about two stories tall, and ate lunch while looking across the river. When we got home, we had a barbecue with people from our hostel, long conversations with some travelers about their Peace Corps experience in Namibia, and stayed up until midnight to watch some livestreams of the men’s hockey quarterfinals of the Winter Olympics in Sochi (USA vs. Czech Republic). Today, with a fellow hosteler, we visited one of Bangkok’s cat cafés, which was incredibly awesome and swanky. Afterwards, we took public transit to Bangkok’s Chinatown and sampled some dim sum, strolling down covered narrow streets where you could buy anything shiny and plastic, and sipping on some freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. My feet are aching after everything, and I kind of wish those Japanese baths were also considered indispensable in Thailand!
We booked six nights at Siam Journey Guesthouse near Phaya Thai in Bangkok, and it’s a real treat. The entire hostel only sleeps fourteen people, and is immaculately clean and well-decorated. It is immediately surrounded by a sleepy but tight-knit Thai neighborhood. We can take a network of alleys and turns, which weaves between courtyards and houses, to a nearby street that has plenty of food stalls.
On the way, there are small front porches littered with sixteen pairs of shoes and flip-flops and large yards where the entire extended family is gathered watching the news and sharing dinner. One family has their pet iguana or komodo dragon in a cage against the fence, from which it stoically ignores passers-by. And inevitably, you will see about a dozen cats, washing their faces on a flowerpot, laid out and enjoying the sun on the ground, or poking their nose around for another meal.
Unlike what we found in the southern islands or Chiang Mai, most of the restaurants and stalls in our neighborhood do not have English signage or menus, so it’s considerably more difficult to order food. On our first night here, we walked up and down the streets for a good fifteen minutes, wringing our hands over each successively more obscure Thai sign and storefront and asking each other futile questions: what is in that plastic bag? Do they have noodles? What costs 25 baht, and is that a good idea for dinner?? I don’t know, your guess is as good as mine, Connie. At our chosen restaurant, we ended up having a hilarious back-and-forth and conversation with another customer who was enlisted by the owner’s two young daughters to help translate our request for green curry and chicken tom yum. Both were incredible and nearly flayed our tongues with the spicyness, and we thanked the woman profusely for her time.
Three days here has felt like one. Bangkok is very large, very vibrant, and I don’t know, even with two more full days to investigate the city, if we will get our fill.
More stories and photos to come,