And I’m back from Bangkok! Well, I have been for four days. I know I have been complaining to my friends about how fatigued I am about travelling (I got a death stare from my lovely friend and future Bangkok vacation-mate Audrey) when I said that — but… I’m eating my words.
Shoutout to my Grandpa who now reads my blog! HI GRAMPIES I LOVE YOU <3
As a kid I hated Bangkok. Crowded, dirty, hot… My parents opted for the beach resort of Hua Hin and it was a great yearly vacation. My only decent memory of Bangkok is being stuck in a three-hour jam trying to get to some seafood place. But I suppose being a 20-something in need of new clothes makes Bangkok a very viable weekend destination. Flight tickets are affordable + service is still the gold standard in Asia. AND THE FOOD. I love Thai food and I can eat it almost everyday… (It has reached the point where the waitresses at the Thai restaurant near my uni automatically give me the condiments I would otherwise always ask for.) In terms of holiday goals I was very specific: (1) GET A NEW WARDROBE. (2) EAT ALL THE AWESOME THAI FOOD YOU CAN.
Which we did. Marcus helped himself to fried frogs (ugh), we had some pretty delicious fried chicken, as well as one of the most amazing bowls of pork noodles ever. I would like to tell you where we found these dishes but most of them were food carts. If not, they were located on random sois. Disappointingly, I only had tom yam goong once, but I was super happy I found a more-than-satisfactory yam woon sen (seafood glass noodles) cart right outside Pantip Plaza, aka the IT Mall, aka the Thai equivalent of Sim Lim Square. Marcus discovered something new too at the stall right next to mine: gyat goong (?), or mushroom soup with what must be crack cos it was totes tasty.
I also found out why the country is known as the Land of a Thousand Smiles — I certainly left grinning from ear to ear. Travelling has made me very cynical person – most good deeds are just a preface for some material transaction, which just leaves a very sour taste in your mouth and leaves you lamenting the state of humanity blahblahblah. Not so in Bangkok.
- Marcus had been carrying empty bottles for a while (he could not find a trashcan), and we were trying to navigate our way through the narrow, crowded Chinatown streets in Yaowarat. We heard some waiters from Hong Kong Noodle call out to entice us in but it was raining and we had eaten so we declined. Suddenly one of them reached out and took the bottles from Marcus’ hand and waved us on our way. Marcus would not stop talking about how nice they were and inside I was like, whatever, they probably wanted us to eat in there, and then…
- Because it was raining, my legs were ridiculously filthy from the mud. I think I must have been stomping around like an elephant cos the mud reached the back of my thighs. Anyhow we were shopping in one of the night markets in the Siam Square area when one of the stall owners I walked past ran up to me with three wet wipes and proceeded to point out all the spots I had missed. SO TOUCHED. T_T And I didn’t even buy anything!!!!
One thing I kinda learned the hard way was that the Thai people don’t really negotiate hard and I felt super bad cos I think I insulted one of the shop owners at Siam Square by remarking how expensive his clothes were. At Beijing’s wholesale markets (DONGWUYUAN ftw) or Silk Market, you negotiate or you lose — sometimes slashing as much as 90% of the asking price. At Platinum Mall (my absolute favourite, 2500 shops — 2 days isn’t enough), the prices are already pretty fair at about 200-300 baht (S$8-12), so you can cut around 50 baht per piece. Which is good, cos bargaining is such a draining affair. And also for the less garang, or the shy, you know you’re more or less getting a decent deal.
We also found this slightly more upmarket place called Asiatique, which offers the same clothes with a cleaner editorial cut (less cluttered walkways, higher quality clothes) but at a slightly higher price than you would find at Platinum. This place can negotiate more I think, and apparently it’s good for guys’ stuff (though I got all my guys’ clothes for Alan at Platinum). Marcus preferred the place because it was just a lot less chaotic:
Anyway, I shopped like crazy. At one point of time I was wondering whether I would ever finish spending the money I brought over… And then post-lunch, I proceeded to drop S$120 in 45 minutes hahaha. Which may not be a lot to some people’s standards I guess, but it was still relatively ridiculous. Mainly I bought tops with collars. In fact, almost every piece (save two) had collars. I also bought a lot of face masks at the Korean beauty store Karmart (there are several branches). The masks seriously work — ask Marcus, who proved his masculinity by donning one for 20 minutes haha. No pictures to preserve whatever’s left of his dignity. They also work out to about S$2, which is reasonable!! I bought most of mine from this particular brand called “My Scheming” (like it translates to wo de xin zei in Chinese, which is just weird) and I love that they have this plastic foil you have to peel off before you put on the mask so you know which side to slap it on your face. Also the cartoons on the packaging are super cute. And it works!!!! My skin was so blotchy and red after indulging in spicy food and then after 20 minutes, voila!!!
So I first got Marcus started on masks when we found out our hotel (Metz Pratunam, which is awesome!) offered room service massages. I know some people will think it’s freaking dodge, but it’s not, and it more or less marketed at the same price as the massage parlors. We paid 250 baht (S$10, not including tip) and our masseuses were so awesome.
I thought the photo above accurately captures how embarrassing a massage partner Marcus is. He looks like he’s running away (he isn’t) but he might as well have been with his GIGGLES. I don’t know why anybody who is ticklish would subject himself to 60 minutes of FOOT MASSAGE. Anyway, another Marcus quote to add to the one I posted on my Facebook.
Marcus: (sighing contentedly) This is better than clubbing.
Rachel: Um, massages and clubbing are two very different things, why would you compare them?
Marcus: It’s quite similar, what. There’s music, and people touching you.
I DIED WITH LAUGHTER. I think I freaked my masseuse out. Oh one thing to note about our hotel: the bathrooms are frosted. For non-lovers (i.e., colleagues, families with teenage kids, etc) this can make for potentially awkward situations. I think Marcus and I circumvented that but still. Go in with your eyes open. Hurhur.
And just in case all you judgy people think this is a very scandalous arrangement… We were eventually graced by the presence of my BFF Ying, who is now a certified Office Lady and had to pangseh us for the first two days of our trip. I have a picture of our classy OL stripping in the elevator but I’ll preserve her dignity. First stop as soon as she arrived… Saphan Phut Night Market, which sells clothes at even more ridiculous prices than Platinum does (80-120 baht for most). Quality is lower, but even if you don’t buy things, go there for the food.
I have no idea what Ying was eating in the photo on the right (was exhausted from the shopping by then) but the crispy pancakes in the first photo were amazing. Marcus got 8 pieces for like 32 baht or something (just over S$1). Following the night market, we found ourselves at…
The Iron Fairies, a hipster “DIckensian-like factory atmosphere-ish” pub filled with expats and locals with extra swag. Not really my cup of tea – it was crowded and cramp and loud but I think it fulfilled Ying’s required Hipster Quotient for the day. It was very dark. I could not see many things. But I liked the bathroom which had an appropriately hipster bathtub sitting in the corner.
But I think the Best Night Market award goes to… Talad Rot Fai, or the Train Market. It’s also very hipsterishy with people selling empty coke bottles and creepy monkey stuff toys out of old Volkswagens but it’s a good place to look-see. What I liked was that the market got more alive as the night wore on (I’m an owl!!!!). More importantly, locals as well as tourists hit the place in search of bargains and random stuff to keep. Here’s a suitably artsy photo:
Anyway, we ate pretty well. Two recommendations in particular:
– GREYHOUND CAFE, a few branches. Recommended by my aunty. Thai fusion, and had the best Strawberry-Mint smoothie I had. S$10-15 pp on average.
– SOMBOON SEAFOOD, a few branches too. S$20 pp for seafood – we had a small chili crab, raw marinated prawns (yum), an oyster each, and giant fish (we had a local one; would have gone for the seabass instead).
- Travel by motorcycle. It may be slightly more expensive ($3-5 pp, but you can squeeze up to 2 people in one), but it 1) gets you through the jams quickly and 2) is hella fun.
- Print or screenshot addresses on your smartphone, preferably in Thai. No matter how many times you try to pronounce Talad Rot Fai in your most authentic accent, you will sound like a farang. Or, if you’re like me, a ladyboy. Haha.
- For some reason, entering Chatuchak by “Gate 2” is like stepping into the armpit of the famed market. It was actually kinda boring and I don’t remember much of what I did besides what we ate, including a meh bowl of beef noodles which we forgot to pay for and had to have the poor cook chase us through half the stalls to remind us:
- Plan ahead if you’re gonna get a suit. Marcus went to Jhasper’s (TripAdvisor it! — I’m not recommending anything for sure till the final piece comes in) and the nice owner told us it takes about 4 days (excluding a Sunday) if you want a suit to be done and in your hands. Otherwise you can make S$80 to have them deliver it to you…
Sigh. It’s not like I have withdrawal or anything but I loved the city. The weather was surprisingly cool while we were there so I don’t have too many gross photos of me haha. When I enter the workforce next year and struggle to pay my bills I can always comfort myself that there’s Bangkok as solace!!!