After about a week in Cambodia, the next destination on my South East Asia trip in 2009 would be Thailand, Bangkok. We started early in the morning in Siem Reap at 6am to travel to the small border town Poipet. I remember that the little bus was terrible; the driver switched off the air-conditioning mid-trip leaving us all to sweat in our tiny seats. Not to mention that I had an old Russian guy sleeping on my lap and I was too shy to tell him to sit up straight. It took us 4 hours to reach the border of Thailand.
Poipet is a very strange town. It looks like it came straight out of a Western movie. Everywhere around you, you can see people lugging big carts full of stuff. It basically looks like they’re moving their household items from one place to another. The whole city looked like it was in the midst of a big migration. The only thing missing to make the picture complete were the horses pulling the carts rather than people. After going through the “check-out-of-Cambodia, check-in-to-Thailand” procedure, we took a nice big car to Bangkok which took us another 4 hours but was much more pleasant than the first 4 hours of the day. Please note that if you enter Thailand by bus rather than plane you only get a 15 day visa rather than a 30 day visa.
Khao San Road
The car dropped us off in crazy Khao San Road, famous for its cheap accommodation and crazy backpackers. The first day of our visit in Bangkok we took it easy so that we could recover from the 8 hour journey. We simply enjoyed the food on Khao San Road and we walked past the shopping area for a bit. The area is quite nice, but in my opinion it’s not suitable for a very long stay. After one day of full time Khao San Road, we had enough so we joined a cooking course at May Kaidee’s Vegetarian Restaurant.
I could heartily recommend May Kaidee’s cooking course to anyone. The first part of the morning is spent following May Kaidee on her shopping trip to a small market where she shows you some traditional ways of making food and she teaches you some things about vegetables which are rarely seen in Europe. Then you go to the cooking stations which are already laid out with all the necessary ingredients. You cook in pairs, which is great because it doesn’t get too crowded around one station. She takes the time to explain to everyone how to create a great wok fry in only five minutes (obviously without using a ready mix sauce). Unfortunately, my friend and I mistook the chili for tofu (you might ask how we managed that… and I really don’t know). May Kaidee loved our concoction but advised us not to try it ourselves because the amount of spiciness would not go well with our western palate. Luckily for us, May Kaidee would also provide us with lunch in her restaurant. The reason this cooking course is so much fun is because the host is so entertaining. She’s sweet; she laughs a lot and after the cooking she taught us a Thai song (which I think promotes her establishment) and a Thai dance (I like to call it “the Hand-Dance-whilst-Stepping-Backwards-and-Forwards”).
After the cooking course we visited the MBK Center, a huge shopping mall. It’s nice, but there’s nothing noteworthy about this mall as a mall is a mall wherever you go.
In the trip in 2009, we actually visited Bangkok twice (three times if you count the time we only transited from the bus station to the train station). As described above, the first time we explored Khao San Road, we took a cooking course and we visited MBK Center; the second time we would only stay for a day. We decided to take it easy that day so we found a tuk-tuk and asked him to take us to Bangkok’s main sights. I don’t remember what our expectations were when we asked the tuk-tuk driver this (maybe we thought that this random guy we be as awesome as our friend in Siem Reap), but it ended in disappointment. First he took us to a giant Buddha which, I read on the internet while writing this blog, is one of the tallest Buddha statues in Thailand. The name of the temple was Wat Intharawihan. If you look at the pictures the 32m high Buddha might look impressively tall, but not very pretty; this is exactly what I thought when we arrived. Afterwards the tuk-tuk driver took us to a temple, which was still closed. Great, thanks… The last stop was a travel agent. In order for the tuk-tuk driver to get a commission we HAD to go in and listen politely to their sales story, then we had to politely decline and run out again. Not the most effective day spent in Bangkok to be honest.
My time in Bangkok would be marked by regrets. The first regret was that I was too scared to go to a pingpong show with my friends. It’s very well-known that tuk-tuk drivers will try to get anyone into to their tuk-tuks to take them to shows, but they all seemed shady and out for a commission. Next time I will review this better to ensure I know which pingpong show to attend and to make sure that I’m not visiting one that is mistreating their girls (let’s see if such a place exists, otherwise I’ll happily never visit a place like this). Another regret is that I didn’t visit the floating market and some other main sights in and around Bangkok. That’s what happens when you visit a place with two other people though. You have to make sure that everyone is happy and we were all three so different that we ended up with the above itinerary which suited all of us fine, but none of us perfectly. I am not at all done with this city.