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Here's Cindy on Khao San Road. Ko-san (you get a lot of spelling variations) is more of a place than a street. It's just a long row of cheap hotels, cheap eateries playing pirated foreign movies, and everywhere, backpackers. If you've seen or read The Beach, Ko-San is the place at the start that the character thinks is a sell-out zone at heart. He's partially right, of course, but it's cheap, safe and exotic enough for most folks, including us.

Cindy's journal

Bangkok

July 14-July

Flew to Bangkok from Singapore via Kuala Lumpur. We arrived and found a cheap little place, the Viengtai Hotel, one block off of Khao San Road, the big backpacker’s hangout. A very interesting place full of travelers, shops, street vendors, and bar/restaurants with people hanging out watching pirated movies. What a scene. It was also incredibly hot and we were glad that our hotel room had aircon.

Breakfast for us is tea, watermelon, and toast. They serve all kinds of things like rice and noodles and soup, but first thing in the morning, it was a bit more than we could handle.



Here's the market. Once you go into those stall areas, they wind back for just hundreds and hundreds of yards. In all, the complex is about a mile square and totally dizzying. Of course, we did manage to find the food stall area. Check out the lady with the hat at the front. The one wearing the sweater. Now consider that it was over 100 degrees. Wackos...

Cindy's journal, cont.

Our first morning, we took a taxi to the Chatuchak Weekend Market (since it was a Sunday). The market is huge, overwhelming, stifling, unforgivably hot. There are 6,000 open air stalls that sell just about everything. Pets, clothes, jewelry, music, plates, miscellaneous trinkets. Everything non-electric, as Dmitri says. So we did that for a few hours and then took the Sky Train to Suan Pakkad Palace and walked around there. It is quiet, well-kept, and they have a great many bowls, lacquer, inlaid pearls. It was hot and there were bored people working there. I guess they don’t see too many people. There was a good description of the Ramakian. Cool masks.
It was too hot to do anything after that so we took a taxi back to the hotel and crashed out. We ate at La Case Italian restaurant on Khao San Road and it had good lasagna and very bad red wine. Had chocolate fettucini for dessert. Very different.

The next day, July 16, we tried to go take a peek at the Oriental Hotel since it is supposed to be beautiful, but we couldn’t get in because of the dress code—they don’t allow either shorts or backpacks. We took a longtail boat on the Chao Phra River to Wat Arun and then over to Wat Po. We ate at a sidewalk stall and enjoyed the garlicky chicken they served us. At Wat Po, we saw the large Reclining Buddha. We hired a guide who walked us around. After that we walked all the way back to the hotel in what turned out to be a very long walk. It was stifling hot and we were drained.

View from the longtail boat, crusing the Choa Praya River.

Wat means temple in Thai. They have a lot of wats. Here's Cindy at Wat something-or-other. Wat Arun, I think.

The outside of Wat Arun.

We'd been eating at these outdoor places on Ko San for a while and ordering things like chicken cordon blue because it was all so cheap. But we hadn't had much Thai food, so I persuaded Cindy to join me at one of these little working-person's eateries across from the big temple of Wat Po. We didn't speak Thai, and they didn't speak English, so we just pointed at things and paid a bill. So I can't tell you what we ate but it was good.

Inside Wat Po there's a big budda. A really big buddha. This is a country that prides itself on as many buddhas per square foot as is physically possible, but once in a while they go for size instead of quantity. This one is plated with gold foil, and the toes (yes, those are the toes at the right) are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Monks are available for hire for grounds tours, and they're worth it. Plus, how often do you get to say "monks are available for hire"?

Cindy's journal, cont.

We had read about this restaurant, Celadon, in Traveler magazine. Wonderful. Gorgeous. The restaurant sits just over this beautiful lotus pond and is quite serene in the midst of Bangkok. The food was great. Dmitri got a set menu so we were able to try all kinds of things. It was very expensive for Bangkok. After dinner, we took a taxi to the Patpong area, the red light district. In the guidebooks, they talk of the “prurient nightlife” so we figured we would go take a look. It was highly disappointing. In the street, there are people trying to get you to come in their clubs and there are “menus” of all the things you could see inside. We went in one and had a couple of beers. The girls were not very attractive. The novelty did not last long.

Some red light district. This joint was about as sexy as burlap. One portly stripper kept showing how she could jump up and crush things when she landed by belly-flopping. I was as nauseated as I was impressed.

This is the Celdeon restaurant. Cindy saw this picture in a magazine, and I think it may be why we went to Thailand.

Us, inside the Celedon restaurant. You can see the other wing behind Cindy. The food was almost better than Top Dive. That good.

Cindy's journal, cont.

On the 17th of July, we went to Jim Thompson’s house and then walked to this big mall nearby. We had lunch at the Hard Rock Café since we both, at this point in the trip, just wanted some American-style food. Burgers and fries. Mmmmm. The Bangkok HRC is the dinkiest ever and the bartenders and some local patrons seemed amused by this flying ice game they were playing. Very odd.

The 18th was also a busy day for us. We went to the Grand Palace in the a.m. and saw the Emerald Buddha, a model of Angkor Wat, lots of bright shiny temples—also evidence of penis envy. Had lunch at this tavern called Gulliver’s at the end of Khoa San and watched some NFL Europe on the tv. We managed to do some early xmas shopping in Bangkok and got all kinds of fun gifts that we mailed home. The people at the post office said it would probably take about two months. Good thing we were patient.

In Bangkok, metered taxis have a better rate than set rate. There is also an extra charge for taking the freeway.

Me by a big-ass dragon-demon thingy (technical term).

More on the buddha motif. This one, oddly enough, is called the Golden Buddha.

This is probably my favorite photo from the whole trip. Of course I posed for it, but seriously, how fantastic is that sign? Do NOT touch the elephant, clear to speakers of all languages.

A running gag for us on our trip was the universality of McDonald's. Everywhere but Cambodia. Is that a good thing? No, it's pretty culturally gross, but it's also inadvertantly entertaining. Consider the real Mickey D items we saw: McFalafel, McGyro. No kiddin'. The Thai's had no outstanding items, but it's always fun to see very American items in Baht figures.

On the more authentic side, the Thai give you these nice culturally on-target receipts when you overpay at their national landmarks.

On to Cambodia.