Okay, so I started writing this one shortly after the last, but with the whole mugging and broken charger incident, I haven’t been able to get back on it until now. Without further ado…
Another installment has arrived! Life is just too busy at the moment; I never realised how difficult it would be to keep a travel blog whilst actually travelling? Being constantly on the move, wanting to fit in as much as possible and see all I can isn’t really conducive to sitting down at the end of the day and writing about it. It’s more conducive to me stumbling into my dorm late in the evening, having a quick shower and falling, already half asleep, into bed. With perhaps a bit of added, pointless faffing about on my phone.
Yep, definitely some of that.
On Monday morning – or rather, closer to noon after the excesses of the previous night – I checked out of my Khao San hostel, and left my bags there in order to go and enjoy another day of unburdened (physically, at least) exploring the city.
Also, I’d mention that I wasn’t really hung over, just quite tired. And that it had taken the grand total of one mixed drink, half of a vodka and Red Bull bucket, one Smirnoff ice, and a pink cocktail, to get me well and truly drunk. Understandable, since I haven’t been drinking at all in India. And it makes a night out cheaper, I suppose? I’d gotten to that point at uni where nothing at all seemed to get me drunk except the magic vodka and Red Bull, discovered by accident one night at a gig with… questionable and hungover-ridden results.
It was another pad thai for breakfast – 30 Baht, not bad – which I made the grievous error in spicing FAR too much and having to choke it down with a brave face in order not to look like a total newbie tourist. I managed. There were a few tears but I managed. Following the suggestions in the Lonely Planet guide for Bangkok, I decided to tackle a couple more of the Bangkok districts. There are quite a few and though I didn’t manage to see every area of interest, I hope to be able to explore a little bit more when I stop there before flying home in August.
I wandered away from the now sedate Khao San Road, across a “khlong” – one of the canals which criss-cross the city, and passed numerous vendors and people going about their daily business. It’s pretty hot in Bangkok but really nothing compared to India, so I’m not complaining! Golden Mount is a temple atop a large hill overlooking Bangkok; you can climb up a winding staircase to see the amazing views. Once I started walking up the steps, I immediately felt a change in atmosphere from the busy streets – the plants on the hill and the steam given out from mini waterfalls gives the impression of being in a jungle, shrouded from the rest of the world. There weren’t many other people around, which is always a bonus.
At the top, you can choose a “fortune stick” which which corresponds to a message written on a board on the wall. I can’t really remember what was on mine, but I remember that it was a bit disconcerting… Probably explains why I didn’t keep said fortune. Apparently if it’s inauspicious you can burn it at the temple, but I think that probably seemed a bit overdramatic, not to mention a bit more effort than I am willing to expend. I don’t believe in it anyway… I think.
My next stop was Soi Ban Baat; a tiny community comprised basically of one street a few blocks away from Golden Mount. It’s the last of its kind in Thailand for one special reason. The alms bowls used by Buddhist monks to collect their one meal of the day from lay Buddhists in the early morning are traditionally made from hammered sheets of steel, but there are very few families still making them by hand; these days, nearly all bowls are mass produced in factories.
There are five or six families continuing the trade, in the last community of that kind, in Soi Ban Baat in Bangkok. I didn’t one but I was lucky enough to see one of the craftsmen hard at work. Don’t get me wrong; if I had the space in my bag, I totally would have! And perhaps if I weren’t so stingy… I’m on a budget, okay?
I was sort of following a recommended walking route from my guidebook, and continued past a few religious shops; this was a lot more interesting than it sounds. These shops are where all the temples buy their supplies of idols and decorative statues. Everything seems to be gold and glittering and it’s interesting to see the idols being delivered wrapped in monks’ robes.
Next stop; a fairly well-known sign with Bangkok’s full name on it. Which is… You ready for this?
“Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.” WELL.
What it means is “The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (unlike Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.”
Thailand doesn’t mess around when it comes to names, clearly… Of course, I HAD to take a classic tourist-y photo with the sign…
I then visited Wat Suthat, which is another temple in the Banglamphu district; but far, far less congested than Wat Phra Kaew, and in my opinion, far more beautiful. I’ve never felt entirely comfortable in places of worship but there’s something about temples in Thailand which makes me feel at ease. After a quick wander around, I made my way back towards Khao San Road along the khlong – small canals running down the roads in Bangkok, these waterways used to be the city’s main method of transportation and khlong boats can still be seen in use in some districts.
After getting back to my hostel, it was time to head to my next accommodation; I was moving to stay with another Couchsurfing host, and to be honest, I was just about ready to get out of the backpacker area of Khao San Road. I’ve since been back and enjoyed it a lot more, but I’m glad that my first week in Bangkok was spent being based in the Sukhumvit area – far calmer and a more pleasant accommodation experience!
I took a taxi and the BTS to Sukhumvit, where I followed the directions to where my lovely Bangkok host, Joanna, lives. Once again, I got extremely lucky with my host, and it turns out we have loads in common; we talked for a long time about our interests and travels, and I was lucky to be able to stay with her for a week.
It’s very hit-and-miss with Couchsurfing, I think. A lot of people, especially solo female travelers, are wary of it, but single travelers are more likely to be hosted as many people can either only fit one person in or feel more comfortable only letting one stranger into their home. Hosting can make you just as vulnerable as surfing if you come across someone dodgy… But thankfully I’ve had good experiences whenever I’ve used Couchsurfing. Check out my tips for first-time surfers here!
I hope my next post will manage to be a bit more succinct, but as I’m home now, I hope to get my journal entries up fairly quickly!