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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.

Chris checks out the sights and sounds of Khao San Road, including the ubiquitous Tuk Tuks during one of our day-time explorations

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.

a river taxi approaches a dock while avoiding a debris field of water plants, styrofoam, glass bottles, plastic flip flops and pieces of wood

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!

Chris at the threshold of a Bhuddist temple, a short walk from our hotel in downtown Bangkok

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:

Bangkok Bound – April, 1987

Travels with Barney – 1996


3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Julia #

    Wonderful. I would not like those boats. And I can almost smell the place from here. The country side sounds much better. Get out of Dodge.

    January 15, 2013
  2. Murph #

    Looks like a fun albeit crowded, helter-skelter kind of city. The Shamrock beckons …… an island of sanity in a tumulus sea of pandemonium? Bangkok is a place I wouldn’t expect to stumble into/out of an Irish bar. Have fun, stay safe, and keep writing!

    January 18, 2013

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