I told my good friend Ava last year that I’d like to do something different for my birthday this year. That’s when Bangkok entered the picture. I made travel arrangements, researched on the hotel, the train systems, the currency, listed places to see and shop at and picked up a few useful phrases. I also attempted to make an itinerary…”attempted” because with so much information, I pretty much gave up on the idea and decided we’d just wing it when we got there. We were already ticketed a month and a half before our March 15 departure and I was crossing off the numbers on my desk calendar until finally the big day has arrived!
Day 1: We arrived at PAL Terminal 2 pretty early–about 3.5 hours before our 1030am flight. It left on time and it was actually smooth flying–so smooth that I dozed off after the meal was served. Ava on the other hand spent the hours watching Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill on the flight.
Upon setting foot in Thailand’s Suvarnumbhumi International Airport (I can finally spell it without googling it!) we were totally floored at how big and beautiful it was. Took a while to get past immigration (long lines!) and find my suitcase so our tour guide had already been waiting for us for a good 30 minutes before we showed up at the exit. In the van, we were also joined by a Filipino doctor and his Spanish wife. They were pleasant people and even if we weren’t billeted in the same hotel, we would see them throughout our entire stay.
That’s my buddy Ava leading the way…though admittedly we both didn’t know where to go to at first so we just followed the flock of people heading in this direction.
Once outside, this was the first thing we saw…colorful Bangkok taxis! According to our tour guide, each color corresponds to the company of a particular taxi operator.
While waiting for our van, the doctor’s wife was kind enough to offer to take our picture. This was the first of only 2 pictures of us during the entire trip that was taken by another person. The first few minutes of travel from the airport was pretty fast. There were hardly any bumps or cracks on the road so it was a comfortable ride. When we got to the city proper and near our hotel, that’s when the bumper to bumper traffic appeared. It gave me a chance to look out the window and take in the surroundings. Bangkok reminded me so much of Manila–the traffic, the motorcycles that weave in and out of it, the little eateries along the road, the signs on the shops (they look the same except I don’t read Thai), the graffiti on the walls, the laundry hung outside of windows and yes, even the occasional man walking shirtless inside his property haha! Though I must take my hats off to Bangkok for being a very clean city. Even the markets, when they’ve already closed shop for the day, seem cleaner.
We arrived at our hotel, Citin Pratunam about 4 in the afternoon. Pratunam is a shopping district located in Ratchathewi. Who needs a 5 star hotel when this budget hotel is just as comfortable? It’s clean, quiet and the staff are all smiles and always very helpful. You can read about my review of this hotel here or you can visit their website.
When we finally settled in and did a quick freshen up, it’s time to explore the streets! As soon as we stepped out of the small street where the hotel was located, we went wherever our feet took us. There were so many street vendors selling clothes and some knick knacks that it’s hard to focus your attention on just one stall in particular. Amongst the throngs of shops selling clothes, we finally found some vendors who sold food. Apart from the shopping, we were really looking forward to the food! And what better way to start the food adventure than by trying this:
Crickets. Yes, crickets. When Ava first whipped out her camera to take a picture, the lady vendor violently refused so my friend said, “If I buy, can I take a picture then?” The vendor still refused. She probably didn’t understand the question so another vendor nearby explained it to her and eventually she smiled when she realized we were buying. There were all sorts of crazy insects on her basket…but these came highly recommended. She was also pointing at the worms and giving us the thumbs up sign (which Ava wanted to try) but we ended up not buying it. To be quite honest, it didn’t taste bad….it tasted like barbecue flavored chips actually. The pandan leaves that it was cooked with gave it some flavor and good aroma too. The only thing I had a problem with is that when you scoop them up on the spoon, some of them had their eyes on you which creeped me out a bit. So, my eyes were always closed every time I’d put the spoon in my mouth. This entire bag costs 10 THB.
A few stalls after the insects, I found some dumplings…fresh off the steamer! You get 5 pieces also for the price of 10 THB.
We walked some more down the small street until we reached the intersection with the main road. Across we found the Platinum Mall. This was taken at the foot bridge as we made our way towards the mall.
After going around the mall for about an hour, we got hungry (crickets can’t really make you feel full after all) so we went up to the food court and ordered veggie dumplings and a plate of pad thai. This is the first of 3 pad thais that we’ll eat during the trip and honestly this first one only gets a bronze medal from me.
After a long hot day, I couldn’t resist the urge to open a very cold can of coke. We later on found out that Thailand is a “Pepsi Country” so finding a can of coke was hard to come by.
Day 2: The tour that came with the package was scheduled on this day. Our guide picked us up at 8:30am and first on the agenda was Wat Intharawihan or The Temple of the Standing Buddha. Here you’ll find a golden Buddha statue that stands 32 meters tall and 10 meters and 24 inches wide. The place also had other versions of the Buddha statue.
To enter the plaza where the giant golden Buddha stands, you’ll have to pass by a blue and gold gate with marble walls on each side. These walls are also used to hold urns though I’m not quite sure who gets the honor of being laid to rest here.
The craftsmanship on these doors is really amazing. It makes the entire structure pop even if you’re still some feet away.
Next we went to Wat Traimit or The Temple of the Golden Buddha.
Here is our friendly tour guide No. 1 Lok. At the time we arrived, monks were still praying inside. People can go in and stay in the back while they pray. Although make sure you read up on the rules of temple etiquette. Lok mentioned that her son, who is about 20 years old will become a monk in a few months time. I asked her how she felt about it and she smiled and said that she’s truly honored. Even if her son will leave her and can no longer experience the comforts of home, she considers it a blessing.
The last stop was at Gems Gallery, which according to their website is the “world’s biggest jewelry store”. It was a pretty interesting place. I’d never seen so many shiny things I can’t afford in one go…but they truly are very pretty (albeit some of the pieces bordered on “too much”). After some welcome drinks, we were ushered into a small theater where a short film was shown about Thailand being known for their sapphires and rubies. After the 15 minute film, you’ll be taken into another room where you’ll be shown how a raw stone is turned into something you’ll readily see on the red carpet at a Hollywood event. Think of it as a small assembly line for jewelry.
Now, Ava and I are also fans of Kpop and we were delighted at the news that one of the groups we liked, Super Junior were also in town for their Super Show 4 tour. We didn’t buy tickets online so we decided to take our chances and see if we could score some at the Impact Arena.
It was way past noon, the weather was extremely hot and we were terribly hungry. We saw a McDonald’s but it was still closed so we just took pictures of Thailand’s Ronald McDonald doing a gesture one does when greeting someone. We ended up eating KFC instead.
There were fan booths and sponsor booths. Here’s Ava posing with characters from a local soft drink commercial.
This is probably the closest we’ll ever get to the boys…
While waiting for the show we hung out at the airconditioned food court and tried this. I’m not sure what it’s called but it’s got crushed ice, syrup and gelatin.
We enjoyed the show (which lasted for about 4 hours) and luckily got a cab that agreed to take us back to the hotel. The sad part was that the driver was asking for 600 THB which, if converted to pesos would make it THE.MOST.EXPENSIVE.CAB.RIDE.I.EVER.TOOK. But it was late, we were tired and the hotel was very far…oh well… It had been a long and eventful day but we’ll only get a few hours sleep (just 2 actually) before we had to be up and ready again for Day 3!