Monday, July 4, 2011

Honeymoon Day 19 – June 19 – Bangkok, Thailand

We started our second day in Bangkok with another relaxing morning, though we did manage to make it to the hotel restaurant before the free breakfast buffet was over. The buffet was impressive – it had breakfast options from all different countries – miso soup from Japan, dim sum (including pork rolls) from China, boiled rice from Thailand, bread and cheese for Europe, and bacon and eggs for the Americans. Jeff and I basically tried a bit of everything, so there was no need for lunch that day.

After lunch, we caught a ferry on the river, which is supposed to be the best way to navigate from our area to the temples, which is where we wanted to go. If we hadn’t read the warnings in our guide book, we may have fallen prey to a common scam in Bangkok – apparently people tell you that the place you’re trying to go is closed, and then they try to direct you somewhere else – to their friend’s shop, or something like that. But when a random guy on the street offered to “help” us, asking us where we were going, telling us the ferry was closed, and saying just to follow him as he went down a street that we knew was the wrong direction, we politely, but firmly declined. My tactic from this point on was to always tell people who asked that we were “just walking,” because you’ve technically answered their question, but it’s basically impossible for them to tell you that it’s closed or to try to give you directions, and that tactic worked pretty well for us the rest of the time we were there. (And we saw this sign later in the day giving the opening hours of the palace and warning not to listen to strangers.)

The ferry was awesome (and cheap – about a dollar each to ride as far up the river as it goes). It was so great, that we decided to continue on past our own stop just to see how far it goes and get a little river tour, and then we got off at the temple spot after it had turned around and started going back. The river is lined with really fancy, tall hotels and also really ramshackle houses on stilts, with laundry hanging out front – it’s a really interesting mix.

The temples are really amazing. They’re really big complexes with lots of different buildings and statues. The architecture is really interesting, but it’s the details that are the most incredible. Every building is really, really intricate. It’s also covered with shiny metals and stones, so it just sparkles like crazy in the sun. It’s literally dazzling. I must have taken hundreds of pictures.

After seeing the temples, Jeff and I decided to get some sight-seeing variety by walking the three miles or so back to our hotel. Our route would take us through Chinatown, which we thought would be fun. The streets in Chinatown seem to be completely lined with people selling things. Some stands are like a mini garage sale, with a completely random collection of things – one pair of rollerblades, some jewelry, cups, etc. – while others sell tons of the same random thing – kitchen faucets, cell phone covers – we even saw a stall selling guns, ammunition, and crossbows. We didn’t buy anything until we passed a store with giant bags of tea for sale outside. Jeff couldn’t pass that up. Only after he’d bought the tea did we learn from the bag that we’d purchased tea from the Korean store in the Chinatown area of Bangkok – it’s practically the definition of pan-Asian. There were food stalls interspersed in all of this – Jeff tried a dish that looked like it might be fried rice and big noodles, but wasn’t – we’re not sure what it was, actually, but it tasted pretty good.

Eventually, we got back to our neighborhood, and we felt ready for dinner, so we just made our way back to the alley that we’d liked so much the day before. We tried a different set of linoleum tables this time – across from the ones we’ve eaten before. The people were different, but the menu seemed to be the same. We ordered the red curry again, along with a chile sauce dish and pad thai. We shared a bottle of Singha – a Thai beer. The food was all great, again, and somehow the price was exactly the same as the day before.

Back at the hotel, we decided to check out the sky bar. It’s on the roof of the hotel – essentially the 65th floor. The view is incredible, but dizzying. We enjoyed two nice cocktails as we admired the view.

(We would have ordered champagne, which has been our honeymoon thing, but for some reason, while the cocktails were a reasonable $9 or so, even the cheapest glass of champagne was about $50 – and that’s for one glass, not a bottle. We learned later that in Thailand there is a 450% tax on wine and champagne, which must be the reason.)

Luckily, either wine at the liquor store isn’t subject to the same tax, or we managed to get a wine whose base price was just a couple of dollars, because the price of the wine we’d gotten the night before was much more reasonable. We headed back to our room to enjoy the bottle and the view from our own balcony.

Eventually, Jeff decided we needed a midnight snack, and he went out on the streets to find something fun. He ended up buying these plastic bags that were filled with noodles and some other things (maybe veggies and some tofu?), with spices in the corner, and another plastic bag of sauce to put on top. Again, we didn’t know exactly what we were eating, but it was really good. (And now Jeff has cravings for it, but we don’t really even know how to describe what it was like!)

Also, around this time, I had turned on the TV and gotten sucked into the only English-language programming I could find – Terminator 4 (the recent one with Christian Bale – is that four?). By the time I finished my midnight snack and a bit more of the wine, I realized that there was no chance I was going to have the energy to pack, so Jeff took over that job while I finished watching Terminator and started on Ninja Assassin (which was the next thing that came on the same channel). I also had a stomach ache at that point – not super surprising given the random agglomeration we’d been eating, though Jeff was totally fine.

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