Bangkok, Thailand — Days 2–5: Tuk-tuks, Street Food, and Tourist Claustrophobia

Brittany Swanson   December 14, 2017   Comments Off on Bangkok, Thailand — Days 2–5: Tuk-tuks, Street Food, and Tourist Claustrophobia

We started our first full day in Bangkok with yoga and meditation at our Airbnb’s rooftop pool overlooking the city. I’m not going to lie, I could have gotten used to a morning routine with that view everyday. Spec-tacular!

A view of Bangkok and the edge of an infinity pool from a high-rise apartment building.

Our morning view from the rooftop pool of our Airbnb in Bangkok, Thailand.

Ale consulted good ole TripAdvisor for things to do in Bangkok which pointed us toward Wat Saket or The Golden Mount temple. We were staying in the northern part of Bangkok so we took the subway into the city center. The subway was SO NICE! It was clean, on time, air conditioned — including the stations underground, and everyone was quietly commuting. Pure public transportation perfection.

The Golden Mount was on a hill and had some pretty stellar views of the city. I could have done without all the bells on the way up which pretty much every tourist insisted on clanging the entire way up and down, but hey if that was the price for the view, so be it I guess.

View of Bangkok from the top of The Golden Mount in Bangkok, Thailand.

View of Bangkok from Wat Saket (The Golden Mount), Bangkok, Thailand.

Once we’d finished checking out The Golden Mount we were both hungry. Since our attempt to find food on our own the previous night ended rather comically Alex looked up the best places for pad thai in Bangkok which led us to Thipsamai. Oh. My. God.

Thipsamai employees cooking pad thai in front of the restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand.

Thipsamai employees working like clockwork to deliver delicious pad thai to all their patrons, Bangkok, Thailand.

In retrospect, it’s possible that Thipsamai was only amazing because a. we were expecting it to be the best pad thai in Thailand b. there was a line before they even opened (good sign, right?) and c. the previous day’s dinner was such a let down that the bar wasn’t set very high. Whatever the reason, this dinner was magical. We each had a plate of vegetarian pad thai for 60฿ ($2!) and shared a bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice that was like nothing we’d ever had before. It was like drinking pure joy. The whole meal we just kept smiling at each other with stupid grins on our faces, like, well, this is it, this is our life now: delicious pad thai for $2 and orange juice so good it makes us want to cry because we’d never had it before. Before we left we ordered another order each to have for breakfast the next morning.

We left Thipsamai and headed to Khaosan Road. On the way there I took my first tuk-tuk ride. Alex had insisted and said it was an experience I had to have. Despite my misgivings, I honestly really enjoyed it. Granted we didn’t figure out until the end of our time in Bangkok that most of the tuk-tuk guys totally overcharged us — we tried negotiating for fairer prices, but some just said no, so what could we do? At some point we took a long taxi ride and then used that as a price point for the rest of our time, though why we didn’t use the taxi ride from the airport from the beginning is beyond me…oh well. Live and learn I guess. Anyway, in the commotion of getting out and paying at Khaosan Road we left our leftovers in the tuk-tuk! I was so disappointed, but rather than let it ruin the night I just insisted we go back to Thipsamai again before we left Bangkok.

Street view of busy Khaosan Road in Bangkok, Thailand.

Busy Khaosan Road, Bangkok, Thailand.

Khaosan Road was weird. Alex told me it was known for being East meets the West and I could tell. It’s a busy road with lots of tourists, restaurants, shopping, and places to get Thai massages, with street food vendors all over. As we walked down the road it felt familiar because it vaguely reminded me of Times Square. There weren’t nearly as many people, it wasn’t as large or as advertise-y, but still there was that feeling of raw consumerism versus everyday people just living their lives and working. Fascinating, isn’t it — how different places, on opposite sides of the world, can feel so similar?

I saw a street vendor was selling coconut ice cream and I couldn’t resist. This was such an excellent food day. The ice cream was so creamy and delicious! It melted in my mouth the way cotton candy does only this was way way better and melted into milk instead of sugar. A perfect end to a pretty stellar day.

My best friend and former roommate, Meghan, went to Thailand during her semester studying abroad in Israel. She always raved about this pancake thing she had while in Thailand and insisted I find it and try it, only she couldn’t remember what it was called… As it happens, our third day in Thailand we were walking to the train station and passed a street vendor with something that looked like a pancake. I got really excited and ordered one and sent Meghan a Snapchat with the caption “Is this your pancake?!” It wasn’t. Good thing too, because I didn’t like whatever that was. It was like a sweet roll, but still doughy, and the texture totally wigged me out. Oh well, the search continues…

We started day three in Bangkok at Chatuchak Market, dubbed the world’s largest weekend market, and as we wandered around and started to get hungry we came across another contender for Meghan’s pancakes. We figured a snack would be good and give us more time to find somewhere to eat breakfast so I ordered my second pancake of the day. This one was thick maybe 1/2″-3/4″ and probably 4″ in diameter. The vendor cut it into pieces and put it in a little plastic bag for us to take away. We found a place to sit and people watch and then, excited, I took my first bite of Meghan’s pancake. I immediately had to send another SnapChat following up the one I’d already sent saying: nevermind…that definitely wasn’t your pancake either… That was a fish patty. Yeah… It tasted like fish, was almost the consistency of tofu, and originally had the shape of a pancake. Not my favorite…

Street view of people and stalls at Chatuchak Market, Bangkok, Thailand.

Chatuchak Market, the world’s largest weekend market, Bangkok, Thailand.

We continued wandering around Chatuchak and eventually found the food area and ordered things from different stalls. I had vegetables in a clear broth while Alex tried some sort of gyro. Both were tasty and cheap which we appreciated. We wandered around the market a bit more and then headed to The Grand Palace.

So. Many. Humans. I am really not a fan of tourist sites. They are overwhelming and make me feel claustrophobic and usually, almost immediately, I want to be back in my pjs watching Netflix. Alas, we came and paid 500฿ ($15) so we stayed and checked it out. I didn’t know the exact dates the Palace was built, but I knew it was old, really really old, and I was super impressed. So much detail and gold and jewels. At one point I told Alex it was too much and that I felt desensitized to it all. Every building was coated in gold and inlaid with jewels. It was mesmerizing and overwhelming.

Golden Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Wat Phra Kaew, The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, The Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand.

Wat Phra Kaew or the temple of the Emerald Buddha surprised me. I don’t know, I guess I just expected the Emerald Buddha to be bigger. The temple was pretty huge, but the Buddha was only maybe 12-18″ tall. It was hard to tell exactly how big the Buddha was because it was so far up on the altar. The altar, which was at least twenty feet tall, shaped sort of like a pyramid, and made up of gold and jewels reminded me of the scene in Aladdin where they’re in the Cave of Wonders and everything is piled up and glittering.

After visiting The Grand Palace we found out that the massive crowds of people we’d seen the day before who we assumed were attending some sort of event, were actually visiting The Royal Crematorium for His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej who passed away on October 13, 2016. We also learned that The Royal Crematorium was open to the public for one month following the Royal Cremation ceremonies before it would be destroyed. This massive structure they’d built was fleeting. It would only exist for this short period of time and then it’d be gone forever. Seeing it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The Royal Crematorium for His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Royal Crematorium for His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Bangkok, Thailand.

The Crematorium was really something special. The grounds were very somber as people paid their respects. In the buildings where officials had sat during the cremation ceremony they had museum-like exhibits explaining past crematoriums and the design and building process of the current one. The whole thing was really very impressive, especially since the whole thing was so elaborate and came together in such a short time frame.

That night we went back to Khaosan Road to find something to eat and after some pretty tasty pad thai at Magic Thai Food by Max. We wandered down the road and for the third time that day I saw something that might be Meghan’s pancakes. The vendor started by stretching a little dough ball much like one stretches a pizza crust. Then he put it in the frying pan and started folding it into a rectangle. So I rescinded my third SnapChat of “is this your pancake?!” and sent a new one: nevermind I don’t think this is it. How could pancakes be square? It was called rotee and I got one with Nutella. Whatever it was, it was delicious! This had to be Meghan’s pancake! Even if it wasn’t, I’m glad I tried it because it was delightful! Then Meghan replied — that was it! I’d found her pancake! Yay! Finally! I shall forever remember this day as: Bangkok day three — in search of rotee.

The next day we were pretty lazy. We started watching Breaking Bad in the morning and got sucked into a Netflix binge. It happens. Even in Bangkok. We did leave the apartment (once) to go to dinner. We chose somewhere nearby where we were staying. We’d walked by this place, Belong Bar & Bistro, a few times on our way to the subway. Over the weekend they had live music and seemed classy but hip, a younger crowd of business professional types. We went on a Sunday night so it was pretty dead, but we enjoyed the duo performing Thai covers of English songs. It was definitely the perfect spot for a date night.

The next day, to make up for the previous day’s laziness, we went to a coworking space called The Work Loft. I loved it! Especially the tall tables with stools so I could go back and forth between standing and sitting, which I do a lot when I get in a groove. We got free day passes from their website and if you’re in the area and need a place to get busy without getting distracted you should check it out. They even have a café on one of the floors to refuel you if you need it.

View of tables and stools in coworking space, The Work Loft, in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Work Loft, coworking space in Bangkok, Thailand.

As a reward for our productive day we went back to Thipsamai and had another round of the best pad thai in Thailand. This time we didn’t make it in the opening line, so we had to wait for about an hour to get in, but once in the service was pretty fast. The orange juice was just as delicious and this time we didn’t forget our leftovers in the tuk-tuk. Huzzah!

We had our leftovers for breakfast the next morning and then headed to the airport to catch our flight to Chiang Mai.