Wow what a city.
The first few days of my journey was spent relaxing by a roof top pool overlooking bustling Bangkok. The calmness was a world away from the streets below, with the smell of noodles and spring rolls the only thing reminding me that I’m here. We had a fairly early night the first evening after a huge plate of Pad Thai from one of the many street food vendors along Khao San Road. Costing just 50 baht –which is around a pound – it is exceptionally cheap for dinner.
Cocktails are a little more expensive but roughly £3 for a Smirnoff espresso & coke (my new found favourite) isn’t what you call extortionate. I’ve also learnt that same Smirnoff flavour also goes nicely with Baileys and can only be the reason for my sore head the following day. Luckily we chose to stay in a hotel during our first week to help gently ease ourselves into the backpacker way of life. This brought many benefits including undisturbed sleep, wifi and most importantly a sun lounger with my name on it.
Like most meals in Bangkok, breakfast was picked up on the street and consisted of fruit smoothies and shakes. I decided to go for the healthy option of a ‘beauty detox juice’ with carrot, beetroot and ginger. Sadly healthy doesn’t always mean tasty and I much preferred Sam’s sugary banana smoothie. My juice contained far too much ginger for my liking and possibly even for my spice-loving friends Jill and Kate who I thought of when having to throw it away. I must also confess I also had a caramel latte from Starbucks on my first morning as jet lag meant I had been awake since 2am.
I love to try new food and drink so ordering the same thing is not something that would cross my mind (apart from when dining at my favourite restaurant The Five Fields). The second night I ordered Pad Pak Bung Fai Daeng which is called ‘Morning Glory’ in English. This is a typical Thai dish made from spinach and greens, fried like the majority of food in Thailand. The sparse but tasty prawns were a great addition, as were one of Sam’s spring rolls which I keep pinching from the poor fella.
The next day I stumbled upon a new little street lined with food vendors while Sam was nursing his hangover in bed. Once up, we took a short walk to see the standing Buddha and witnessed our first glimpse of the government protests along a barricaded bridge.
We returned to the street I had found that morning for dinner where I tried Tom Kai which is a creamy coconut soup containing tomatoes and pineapple. Although beautifully flavoursome the soup was far too rich and I had to leave it and pick up some comforting Pad Thai on the way back to Khaos San Road Palace, where we were staying.
Feeling refreshed after an early night we got up early the next day and headed towards the Grand Palace picking up a fruit smoothie on the way. As a mark of respect we had to cover up which made it a very hot and sweaty day with limited places to stock up on water. It was well worth it though as I caught my first glimpse of the beautiful Asian architecture.
That afternoon was spent chatting to some English lads by the pool before heading out for dinner. For a change, we went to a “proper restaurant” where I had Massaman curry which has a Muslim origin despite being popular in Thailand. It’s made from chicken, cashews, coconut milk and potatoes and was exceptionally good indeed.
It was our sixth day in Bangkok and by now I usually know a city like the back of my hand but this wasn’t the case as we had yet to venture out on foot and explore. I dragged Sam out for a “short walk” which actually turned out to be four hours long but meant we experienced the real Bangkok including a hectic electronic market, crammed back alleys and hustle and bustle like I’ve never witnessed before. I cannot explain how crazy it was.
On our walk I picked up a sweet treat in China Town which I later found out was a Mooncake. The weird textured pastry was just as dry as the flavoured paste inside and although odd and stodgy, tasted rather good. That evening I suggested we visit Ranee, a new restaurant near our hotel that I had found on TripAdvisor. After seeing one of my favourite dishes – blue cheese salad – on the menu I knew I just had to have it, no matter how non-traditional it was.
The night I had planned to go “out out” happened to be the only night where an alcohol ban was enforced and hardly anywhere was open. Luckily we found a couple of bars rich enough to pay off the police which led to my godawful hangover the following day. So much so I had to take a trip to none other than Subway!
My friend Lisa happened to be in Bangkok the same day so we met up with her for dinner where I tried Phat Si Io which is a Chinese-influenced stir fried noodle dish with green veg. I also got a stick of what I thought was grilled chicken which actually turned out to be grilled heart, something I didn’t realise until after I had eaten it!
After dinner we went for a couple of “quiet drinks” at a fantastic little cocktail bar which was set up in a VW camper van. I had the most delicious strawberry colada and White Russian. Sam picked up noodle soup on the way home and poured the whole bag of chilli flakes in which made his mouth swell up – rather funny indeed!
Our final day in Bangkok was what I call a “waiting day” as we didn’t really do much apart from a quick walk to the river and lunch while we waited until it was time to head to the train station to catch a sleeper train north to Chaing Mai. I couldn’t resist but pick up a small custard doughnut from a street food stand which was ever so fresh and just 10p!
If I had to describe Bangkok in three words it would be; dirty, hectic and patient. None of these are meant in a bad way as in my eyes all traits make a place unique which makes it so interesting. I also say patient as although everyone just does what they like here (set up business on the street, drive on the pavements etc.,) I didn’t see a moment of frustration, not like on my daily London commute which right now seems a world away.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my short account of Bangkok, there’s so much I could tell you but space just won’t allow. After just 30 minutes sleep last night I really hope I manage a couple of hours on tonight’s sleeper train before we head into the jungle for a couple of days trekking and taking a look around a few local villages in Northern Thailand.
Living life, loving travelling,