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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bangkok, Thailand Part 1

(I typed this using an Italian keyboard, so if you see an "à," it's meant to be an apostrophe, and exkuse the typos!)


Bangkok, Thailand

The airport had some interesting escalators...picture the standard flat walking escalator that you find at airports that take you from gate to gate. Now imagine the same flat, no steps escalator curving up and down, taking you from floor to floor. Theyàre not the most comfortable way to maneuver, but are fun to try! (As a side note, along with Singapore, this is the second country that drives on the left side of the road!)

I got to the Marcopolo Hotel about half an hour later and dropped off my stuff. The hotel itself was pretty nice for 40 bucks a night - it included a king size bed, fridge, balcony, sink, microwave, and cleanliness (mostly). Not knowing how packed the train to Chiang Mai would be (given that Chinese New Year was coming up), I got a taxi to take me to the Hua Lamphong station so I could buy my ticket. The drive agreed to take me there for 150 Baht...that seemed like a reasonable price so I agreed. Little did I know, he would be transporting me on a motorcycle. Riding motorcycles in Vietnam, where the crowded traffic kept speeds low, was one thing. In Bangkok, riding on a motorcycle taxi meant speeding through traffic jams, squeezing between cars, and going down the wrong side of the street playing chicken with oncoming cars.

When I got back to the hotel, I spoke with the tour desk to see what my options were. Given that I only had one full day in Bangkok, I figured doing an organized tour would be the best way to go. After figuring out the logistics for the tour, I hopped on the hotel tuk tuk, and headed for the main street a few minutes walk down the road. While Singapore was remarkably westernized in many respects, there is a much smaller trace of the western influence here - minus the hundreds of 7-Eleven's, McDonald's, and Burger King's. The music was Thai, the food was Thai, and the language was certainly not English. In fact, it sounds a lot like a hybrid of Vietnamese and Cantonese...there's been many times when I've mistaken it for such and tried to respond accordingly!

The next morning I woke up at 6ish to catch the ride that would take me to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi, which is about an hour's drive from Bangkok. We stopped a short distance from the actual market to hop on a speedboat, which took us to the market.

The market was bustling with people. Although it may had once served the locals, the market appears to have transformed itself into a tourist trap, with all the paddle boats selling trinkets and rarely anything you would expect a local to come to buy. Regardless, it was a fun experience...especially the haggling. I managed to bring down the price of a magnet from 80 Baht to 40 Baht, which was probably still overpriced.


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