One Night in Bangkok
Elaine’s Journal, Midnight, Jan. 15, 2013
Damn it. A nap before dinner to try to catch up on sleep turned into a 4.5 hour snooze – again. So now it’s too late to venture out to Khao San Road, the nearby tourist ghetto for dinner. A banana in our room will have to suffice.
My body continues to fight the affects of jet lag three days after arriving in Thailand’s capitol. Combined with the woozy, disconcerting roll which lingers following our latest and hopefully last harrowing ride on a packed-to-the-gunnels Chao Prya River taxi yesterday afternoon, sleep at normal hours remains elusive.
This ancient/modern city feels so familiar yet so different after an absence of 16 years. While Bangkok continues to be a tremendous bargain for travellers on a budget – rooms with breakfast can still be had for less than $25, delicious meals for $2, quirky t-shirts for under $3, a mani-pedi for $6 (had one today!), and a ride on the aforementioned river taxi for 50 cents, it also remains a place where one doesn’t want to linger long. The traffic, the pollution, the noise, the trash everywhere you look, especially in the river (choked with fast-moving islands comprised of water plants, Styrofoam plates and bowls, plastic bottles and bags, mis-matched flip flops and menacing looking logs) all serve to create a feeling of unease every time one ventures out.
After three previous visits in total – the first 26 years ago during our one-year global backpacking honeymoon, the sensation that we’ve ‘been here, done that’ every time we venture outside our hotel is a bit mind-blowing. The dozens of new skyscrapers that have appeared since our last trip – including a plethora of hotels – a sleek new suspension bridge over the river, the brand new subway system and light rail transit route, have all altered the landscape making it easier yet somehow more difficult for us to figure out where we are and how to find our way around.
The huge influx of tourists – ten million a year! – has also added to our challenges here. Westerners are everywhere and the river taxis absolutely overflow with them. It’s high time that the powers-that-be add more boats to properly accomodate them all as well as figure out how to regularly troll the water to pluck out the mine fields of debris to make river travelling safer. Our river taxi ride back to our hotel today was ten stops long; the taxi we had squeezed ourselves onto swallowed an additional 60 people at one stop alone. A few stops later, it disgorged around 75 tourists onto a small floating dock jammed with about 75 more waiting to get on. One elderly woman fell onto her knees as she stepped off the taxi onto the pier (a real leap of faith!) and there were several near collisions between the coming and going groups. We were relieved and in fact almost surprised no one fell in!
In two more sleeps (or four, depending on how many naps we take), we will leave all this colourful chaos behind for a 6-hour train ride to Sukothai, an ancient ruin which we will explore for two days before continuing onwards to what we remember fondly as a more relaxing and peaceful area of the country: Chang Mai in northern Thailand.
Here are a couple of other stories you might enjoy about our previous travels to Thailand:
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.