The Nervous, Jetlagged User’s Guide to Bangkok (Part 1)

Greetings from the veranda outside our hostel. There is a bazaar directly to my right, which stocks live gerbils, and a coffee shop to my left, which doesn’t. So far as I know.

Thank you to everyone who saw my last post – if you’re family and you’re new here, please be aware that I swear here more than I do in front of you.

I am slowly starting to make friends with Bangkok, although I doubt we’ll ever be on as good terms as I am with, say, London. I suspect this is because even the thickest motorists in London usually observe lanes, traffic lights, zebra crossings and the difference between the road and the pavement. But we’re getting there. It’s been nearly a week since we left home, and I’ve learnt a lot since then, for example:

  • It’s possible to crack the code on your own padlock, which you accidentally reset
  • Tuk tuks are terrifying
  • I mean if one crashed and- I don’t know how they don’t – every person inside would be toast
  • McDonald’s in Asia is identical to McDonald’s everywhere, down to the smell (although the one we popped in to seemed to serve more fish)
  • It rains more in South East Asia than it does in England, which I did not think possible
  • Boat taxis are cheaper than taxi taxis
Bangkok River Taxi
I couldn’t take more than a couple of photos because that is not somewhere you want to lose your phone.

We’ve started to get our tourist heads on and been exploring too. We’ve seen a lot, so let’s call this part Francesca’s Edited Highlights (because the forty minutes we spent at the Vietnamese Embassy, or the forty minutes we spent stuck in a taxi on the way back from Chinatown does not make good reading).

Bangkok’s Malls

If you hate Westfield, do not try the Siam Centre, MBK Mall or Siam Discovery. They are air conditioned to a t, absolutely bloody enormous and include everything from contemporary art galleries to supermarkets. They remind me simultaneously of Debenhams and Are You Being Served, and feature many Starbucks.

Starbucks in Siam Discovery Centre, Bangkok
It really is the same everywhere…

Jim Thompson House

CULTURE TIME. A US soldier, Jim Thompson, was posted to Thailand during World War II, but I think the war ended by the time he got there or something – he had a lot of free time, so he explored Bangkok and fell in love with it, returning to live and transform the local silk industry (he came up with printing onto silks directly with moulds; previously patterns were woven in). He built himself a house and a reputation, went to Malaysia on a trip and went missing. Now his private art collection is on display in his house, which his family gave to Thailand. No one knows what happened to him, although one therory is that he was assassinated by the CIA (is anyone else getting serious Leonardo diCaprio blockbuster vibes?). Anyway his house had a pond and a potty shaped like a frog so I like him.

(I was not allowed to take a picture of the frog.)

I’m trying to keep these blogs short like me so I will leave this here… part two coming soon! Or when I’m next in a decent wi fi zone…

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South East Asia T-Minus – Wait We Arrived Yesterday

Afternoon, Internet. Or morning, if you’re in the UK. So, we made it to Bangkok! After a 4am alarm, two long haul flights, a delay at Muscat airport which I will look upon fondly when hell freezes over and several moments where I thought ‘I am really not sure about all this.’ (More on that later.)

We arrived in Thailand at about 7:30am local time and we were more interested in sleeping for a week than exploring, but we had to wait around until about 1pm for our hostel, so we found a cafe with wifi and chilled out, aka messaged home and read a book (Maxim) or Private Eye (me). I will be honest with you, reader: I was really, really not sure about this. Somewhere amongst all the planning and and organising and job-leaving I forgot that I was leaving home for three solid months. It was only when people started saying goodbye that it sunk in that I was heading to another continent for a quarter of a year. It really sunk in somewhere around the stop off at Muscat airport and I am not too proud to say that I considered ringing my mum and asking her to pick me up. I know anyone who’s heard me moan about my jobs/life/itchy feet will find this deeply ironic; I will reflect on this as we go along… possibly appreciation for one’s bed, routine and family is one of those growing up things everyone’s said I’ll do while I’m out here.

Anyway, back to Bangkok. Here is what I’ve learnt so far:

  • Dry heat (Mediterranean) is not the same as humid heat (South East Asia)
  • Marks and Spencer is everywhere, and costs about the same here as it does at home
  • 7-Eleven has a grip on the convenience store market
  • Corn soup is tasty
  • If you’re crossing the street and a moped comes towards you, keep walking
  • Every few cars on the road (and there are a lot of roads) has a custom set of wheels or rims. Maxim is fascinated by this.

I reckon it will take a couple of days to feel human again, but in the mean time I draw great comfort from the fact 7-Eleven sells cornflakes.

Room WIth a View Silom, Bangkok, Thailand
My view from the room we had last night. Thank God for air conditioning units.

We’re going to hunt out mobile phones now, so I will leave this here. The plan is to chill out today and plan where we want to see. If anyone here’s already been to Bangkok, where would you recommend? We definitely want to see the floating market and some temples, but we’re not sure where else to go before we head to Cambodia next Saturday. Any suggestions?