You are likely familiar with the protests occurring in Bangkok. The height of the violence, with several bombings, occurred right before our arrival.
Okay, I’m not being fair. I have lured you here with a trick, intrigue, the promise of violence. It is not so. But a fitting trick for April 1st 🙂
Although David was hospitalized in Bangkok, it was not the protests, nor bombings, or any sort of violence that sent him there. It was hand, foot, and mouth disease. We no doubt picked it up in Laos. But David healed quickly and we kept out of the hospital for another week … until venturing into the wilds of Cambodia, but that is a story for another day. First, we explore Bangkok!
ARRIVING IN BANGKOK
We had an interesting start to our adventures in Bangkok. We arrived tired at 6am after an 11 hour train ride from Laos. I was itching head to toe with 42 mosquito bites and David was covered, hand, foot, and mouth with stinging welts. We wanted nothing more than to find our comfortable hostel, take a nap and find a hospital for David. Plans thwarted, we arrived at The Overstay. An inviting, rainbow colored exterior gave way to a seedy nightclub, still thumping from the night before and completely flooded, electronics singed, from a water fight they’d just had. We were escorted through the flood, up several dimly lit staircases and dank hallways before finding our room – a graffiti painted hovel with a stained, moist mattress, no window, fan, or AC, and a broken latch on the door. Our overstay lasted 30 minutes, the amount of time it took us to find a different hostel. And then, we were off again! Luckily, the next destination was much more acceptable. We took our needed nap and made our way to the hospital.
After the Overstay, most everything else went smoothly in Bangkok. The hospital was beautiful, clean, and fast. David was seen and diagnosed within an hour. And it was affordable. The visit cost us $40 in total, with doctor visit, medication and all. If you are ever in need of a hospital in Bangkok, go to Siriraj Hospital – a private hospital with affordable, 5-star service.
I mentioned that violence preceded our visit to Bangkok. Preceded it, but luckily for us, no violence took place during our stay. We arrived in Bangkok on a Friday and by Saturday morning the protestors announced that the “Bangkok Shutdown” was over. They peacefully left the protest sites and inhabited government buildings and relocated to Lumpini park. This was excellent timing for us. For our time in Bangkok, I had insisted that we stay in Thonburi neighborhood, far from the city center and protest sites. David was less than thrilled to be on the outskirts of the city. But, with the Bangkok Shutdown coming to an end, we ventured into the city for our last few nights.
DIFFERENT SIDES OF THE CITY
I’m glad we had the opportunity to see both sides of Bangkok – the less touristy Thonburi and the more touristy and bustling downtown. Staying in Thonburi was a lovely experience. After being in several touristy places in Laos, where English was readily spoken and the primary language on all restaurant menus, it was nice to be in an area where we were with the local people. We got to see how locals lived and ate with locals instead of westerners. With that came its own struggles and mishaps, but that is part of the fun of traveling. In downtown Bangkok, there is more catering to westerners, more English menus and signs and you meet more people who can speak English, but being a huge city where the Thai locals live, work, and eat, you still find yourself among locals and not in a sea of westerners, which is more than I can say for many of the other places we’ve visited.
LEARNING THE LANGUAGE
Although it was lovely staying in Thonburi and seeing more local culture. We weren’t prepared for it. We came into Bangkok expecting English to be prevalent, as it had been in most other touristy places. But we quickly learned that was not the case. This wasn’t really an issue except when ordering food. With David Jewish and me a vegetarian, we are limited in our Asian cuisine choices as Asia is a pork-lovers paradise.
For our first attempt at ordering vegetarian, we quickly referenced google translate for “no meat” = “ni neux satw”. That did not go well. Although the food stall owner shook his head earnestly in understanding at our pronunciation of “no meat,” we were served a steaming bowl of beef, pork and noodle soup. I wonder what “ni neux satw” actually means. After one more failed attempt at ordering vegetarian, I learned a helpful Thai phrase that did work:
– I do not eat pork/beef/chicken: Mai kin moo/neua/gai.
And thankfully, I was not served meat for the remainder of my time in Bangkok.
One of the most beautiful Wats I have seen in SE Asia is Wat Po. It is a large complex with dozens of beautiful temples nestled in among shade trees, which are a blessing when you have the hot summer sun beating down on you. The main attraction of the Wat is a huge, golden, reclining Buddha. It is breathtaking. If you venture to Bangkok, I would highly recommend a visit to this Wat.
More pictures of our time in Bangkok coming soon!