When we started planning our TaiThai adventure, all I really cared about was getting to Taiwan to see my friend. You could have told me that I was going to sit in a box at the bottom of a river with her for a week. I didn’t care. Fortunately, my husband was more invested in planning an actual holiday. You know, where you leave the room? And Bangkok was on his list for the floating markets.
I knew nothing about Bangkok (except a bad Confuscious joke). So, my expectations hovered at exactly zero. After about 20 hours of flying, we landed. From there, it’s a blur of ATM’s, tourist desks, bubble tea kiosks (damn, it’s hot there), and trains. Many trains. Air-conditioned trains, thank goodness. As soon as we got to the area with the hotels (Sathorn), it started to BUCKET down. This did not bode well. My husband left me in a mall, while he found a good hotel just down the road (are you starting to understand why I married him?).
And that’s where the magic started. The rain eased and we headed out into refreshing drizzle, laden with luggage, to get to our room. The little street to the hotel was lined with food carts, massage houses, homes, alleys, and a school. Scooters zooted past us (literally no-one on a scooter cares about one-way roads), people called to us to taste their pork skewers and whole grilled fish, and the humidity settled on us like a really awkward hug that you didn’t ask for. Still, a hug’s a hug. It wasn’t the worst feeling.
Our hotel, the Grand Sathorn, was beautiful. The room was massive and had icy air-conditioning, a fridge, a clean bathroom and a bay window that looked out onto the city. There was also a gym (hahahahaha), a rooftop swimming pool, and a restaurant. Now, good views of the city mean different things to different people. Bangkok City is not obviously beautiful. It’s grey, massive, busy, and not traditionally pretty. But, there’s something. A vibe, a buzz…something. It’s irresistible. It’s also Thailand, so the people are friendly and the food DELICIOUS.
Woah, that stuff is delicious. Everything. Everything is good. They just “get” flavours. Everything except durian. Don’t do it. Don’t give in to the temptation just because it’s everywhere and made to look exotic. It is vile. You’ll know it when you see it because it’s literally at almost every food stall. And it’s packaged so that you can’t smell it. It just looks innocent and exotic. So, you fork out a year worth of college fees to taste it. I mean, it must be good if it’s so popular, right?
Moving on, there were other incredible foods. I would definitely, without a doubt, recommend sticking to street food. We didn’t once feel sick or get the idea that the food wasn’t clean. It was hot, fresh and SO yummy. The restaurants tend to serve blander stuff because they’re catering to tourists that may not be used to the sweet, sour, tang and spice of Thai food. I didn’t find it particularly hot, but it was all kinds of delicious.
We didn’t get to the floating markets because they were too far away, but we spent a day on the hop-on-hop-off ferries. The river is so busy, and there is just so much going on. The ferry stops at loads of markets, temples, restaurants and malls. It’s a great way to see Bangkok. We’re not super-into temples, but we went to the one because it was ornate and had a cool market outside. We didn’t go in, but it was gorgeous to see the gardens and the intricate way they design everything – from roof tiles to bridges.
Also, the massages are amazing. We were kind of warned about the “dodgy” aspect of Thailand, in terms of girls that are not, and massages with happy endings. Obviously, we went into massage places that were open to the outside (we didn’t want to miss the party outside anyway), but we really didn’t see much in the way of dodge – whatever that means to you. The women were friendly, respectful, polite and SO good at what they do. There was no time in Bangkok (well, Sathorn) that we felt like we were being offered something we didn’t want or made to feel awkward. I don’t want to go into it too much, because I don’t know what my readers consider to be dodgy. Know what I mean? Still, it’s safe to say that Bangkok really was about incredible food, lovely people, and a vibe I just can’t describe.
A side note: The city is full of fairly clean public toilets, and spots with free Wi-Fi. It has a completely different feel to the big cities in South Africa. Not better or worse. Just completely different.
More on our amazing TaiThai adventure to follow!