Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Thailand, Bangkok: A Brief Visit

My "Spring" vacation this year, as has often been the case before, was a trip to tropical Thailand, a welcome break from the bitter cold of February in Seoul. I spent my first few days in Bangkok, as well as my last day awaiting the flight back.

Frequent visitors to the Seoul Patch may recall the last few trips I have flown in directly to my favorite island haunt of Koh Samui, but this year I wanted to do it differently: visit a new little bit of quiet beach heaven, and also revisit the night train trip south, for which I had such fond memories in years past.

In addition to relaxing by the waves, one of my favorite things is Thai food--curries, exotic fruits, of course, but also super-fresh fish, particularly red snapper. Fish is popular in Korea, but the red snapper a rarity--Thailand is awash in it. To wit:

This little beauty was 400 Bt at a quirky restaurant of Susie Street, a block away from Khaosan Road. In addition to the massive grill laden with seafood,

the place was decorated with some interesting statuary. That last one is actually not a statue.

I also wanted to do some touristy things I had foregone in previous trips. For example, I took a dinner cruise on the Chaophraya a few years ago, but that was obviously at night. So I took one in the daytime. It was called "Rice Barge Cruise", and here's what I have in my journal:
I've tried numerous times to describe the riverboat cruise yesterday, and the madcap tuk-tuk ride that preceded it, but the iPad keeps crashing. It's now a little after noon on Wednesday and I'll be taking the train south to Surat Thani and ultimately Krabi this evening.
So the boat tour was fine, but I don't think it was worth all of $28. The first hour and 20 min was on a sightseeing boat, and included a chance--gasp!--to feed River catfish for 20 Bt in bread pieces. We then transferred to a rice barge for the remainder of the trip, which included a snack table bearing seven different fruits, sticky rice and some pandan custard. Also free drinks, any kind you want, as long as what you want involves some combination of rum, vodka your Thai whiskey, and orange juice or maitai mix.
The tuk-tuk ride was thirty minutes of excitement as we raced down every tiny alley in the region between starting point and destination. This was the second driver, of three, I noticed to have a cough; I suspect that being constantly at exhaust pipe level is an occupational hazard.
My photos mostly didn't turn out as I sat on the wrong side of the boat, except a couple great shots of the palace complex on the way back in.

Another thing I wanted to do was visit the Chatuchak Market, open Saturdays and Sundays, according to some sources the world's largest open-air market. Again from my journal notes:
Well, the Chatuchak Weekend Market is entirely a tourist trap--the only thing that's authentic is the food, and quite a lot of even that is crap. In two hours, I saw most of it, and ate some pig's head and feet, then hobbled out to find a taxi (200 Bt), because my big toe is throbbing.
My toe was throbbing due to a flare-up of "metabolic arthritis", aka gout, which hasn't bothered me in years. I found a druggist who had some over=the-counter anti-inflammatory that worked within two days (I got some more to bring back with me just in case). Anyway, the market was a vast disappointment. I remember it very differently from my childhood: the smell of mosquito coil smoke, dried fish and durian. This place had designer boutiques!

All in all, my Bangkok time felt less-than-amazing, but fear not! Things definitely take a turn for the more amazing when I venture south to Krabi Town. Stay tuned!

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