I can’t believe our first week of this trip is almost over! Since arriving in Bangkok, late Tuesday night, we spent the first few days with Laura (Al’s niece) in her neighbourhood of Nichada which is about an hour outside Bangkok. It is a very interesting area in that it has a large expat community of mainly international government employees and their families as well as International School of Bangkok teachers. Although beautifully landscaped and housing every comfort of home in easy walking distance, it felt very culturally sterile. Laura refers to it as the “Nichada Bubble” stating that it feels like North America in the middle of Thailand. A nice place to get our bearings but we were happy to move on to Bangkok proper on Friday. We spent the weekend in the city and loved it. Many travellers say “a city is a city is a city” and this is very true of Bangkok – if you don’t like city life in a city like Toronto, you definitely won’t like Bangkok. It’s busy, loud, dirty, smelly and overwhelming and we loved every second of it! The transit system is easy to navigate and much more civilized than the TTC in Toronto and the street food is incredible. The two biggest challenges we experienced were not being acclimatized to the heat and humidity and jet lag. Our jet lag has manifested itself in a strange manner – we don’t have the usual drunken, spacey feelings and we’re doing ok with being hungry at times when we should be. But being exactly 12 hours ahead of our circadian clock means that we struggle to stay asleep at night because our systems believe we should only be taking an afternoon nap! So we push ourselves to stay up past 10 pm and we’re still wide awake by 4 am. Not great when visiting a city that comes alive with nightlife at about 9 pm! We’ve decided that we definitely need to enjoy another night out on the town when we transit through Bangkok again on this trip in order to really experience the city at night.
During the day in Bangkok, we enjoyed visiting some tourist sites like the Grand Palace and the Reclining Buddha and we will include some pictures here but overall the most memorable experiences were, taking the river ferry to these locations and eating the street food nearby. One of our favourite activities is to buy a chilled bag of freshly cut pineapple from a street vendor and eat it by piercing the pieces with bamboo sticks. Laura told us that eating fresh fruit in this country will spoil us towards all eating any tropical fruit in Canada and she’s right! The pineapple, banana and mango we get in Canada is like drinking instant Nescafe when you’re used to drinking Kicking Horse Kick Ass organic coffee from a Moka maker. (Yeah, we’re ending up in Starbucks here more often than we’d like to admit because instant Nescafe sucks!)
Our top experience in Bangkok was Sunday. We started the day with a visit to Lumpini Park (largest urban park in Thailand with a similar vibe to High Park in Toronto or how I imagine Central Park to be in New York).
Here we enjoyed watching a dance troop practice their traditional Thai dance routines and were amazed to see locals undeterred by the oppressive heat, humidity and air pollution, using the outdoor exercise machines, running, practicing Tai Chi and participating in bicycle races while we were drenched with sweat sitting on a bench in the shade!
After escaping the heat with yet another trip to an air conditioned Starbucks, we met up with Laura for adventures in Chinatown. It was here that we ate the best street food meal yet! Seated on plastic stools at a makeshift table, we ordered 3 different dishes to eat over rice from a large picture board and drank large bottles of Chang beer (640ml of 6.4% local lager for about $1.50).
It was the best food we’ve had so far and the experience of dining in the middle of an alley surrounded by local Chinese-Thais with motorcycles and scooters weaving through the maze of tables was unforgettable and not at all diminished by the stray cats rubbing against our legs and cockroaches the size of mice scurrying from one discarded food container to the next in the gutter beside us! Certainly not the sanitation standards we’re used to in Toronto but the Chinese who settled in these parts in the 1700’s have been eating like this daily and seem no worse for wear! Besides, that’s what Dukoral is for!