I left work early to meet Rouzie at London Bridge after a stressful day trying to sort work matters before leaving for a month. But glad and excited that i’ll be spending the next month away from it all seeing new places and finally returning home.
We met and realised we were both wearing the same clothes. Black skinny jeans, and The Black Keys t-shirt (I went a couple weeks before, and Rouzie coudln’t come so I bought her a t-shirt too). So silly anyway, we made our way onto the Piccadilly line to Heathrow. We had plenty of time before check in so had a couple beers at the pub. Nice and relaxed and excited about our trip we boarded the plane at about 11pm, for a 12 hour journey.
Arriving at Bangkok at about 5pm, we took a taxi to our accommodation in Khao San Road. The taxi driver was a really nice Thai guy, very interested in New Zealand. Knew more All Blacks player names, knew lots of cities/towns than I’d have expected. He’d never been but heard great things from previous travellers. It took us about 2 hours to get from the airport to Khao San, because of rush-hour. It was crazy seeing so much traffic and chaos and yet the Thai people don’t seem to stress. It ended up costing us ฿400 for the taxi. A mere, £8. At this point i should mention, ฿50 is £1.
Our accommodation was fairly basic, ฿1000 for two nights, bed, bathroom & shower, airconditioning. It was just off the street and was surprisingly quiet. We put our packs down, had a shower, then headed out for a look around. We first had to stop off and have a drink and some food. ฿120 for a large Chang, ฿70 for a Pad Thai. Delicious.. Chang beer is a local Thai mass produced beer. Nothing really special about it, except the percentage of alcohol is about 6.7%. I say ‘about’ 6.7% because it seems like the alcohol content varies from bottle to bottle. You can feel a little tipsy after just half.
The bright colours and fragrant food smells and people trying to sell you crap was almost overwhelming. We headed to bed at about 2am as we wanted an early morning to see as much as we could in the little time we had in Bangkok.
Prior to coming to Thailand, my idea of it wasn’t completely off. I envisioned a sci-fi city mixed in with old world huts/cramped living. The CBD was huge sky scrapers with alien-like lighting. A few blocks later, you were in slum-like conditions, people living atop of one another.
Khao San Road is a popular destination for tourists. There are many bars, restaurants and plenty of markets with crap in. T-shirts to handbags to trinkets. Old gypsy women walked the streets, trying to sell bracelets, and wooden toads that made a chirping sound. The morning heat was a sign of what was to come. It was only 10am and was almost 30˚c. We sweated so much, we had to keep drinking water. The people constantly approaching us “Hello friend, Hello lady, where you from? You want tuktuk?” grew tiresome quickly. Starting off with polite replies, rapidly changing to blunt no’s. Otherwise you’ll be taking the whole day to strangers and buying stuff you don’t need.
We decided to take a tuktuk with this guy who seemed very friendly. ฿40 for the whole day seemed pretty cheap. He said he’ll take us to three or four major Buddha sites as some were closed for the monks. He kept talking about today being a special day just for tourists. It seemed a bit off, so we both kept our wits with us. He was happy to park up and wait for us while we had a look around each monument. The Buddha areas seemed to be a sanctuary for homeless cats. I’d never seen so many ratty looking cats in my life. In Buddhism, they respect each animal as they believe they may be reincarnated as one. Or something. We headed on with our tuktuk driver, and on the way back to Khao San he said he needs to stop and get a petrol voucher. The government gives them a petrol discount voucher if they show around tourists. The catch is that we the tourist, have to stop off and view his mates collections of suits. Continuing on again he said he has to make another quick stop. This time was a jeweller who sold purple stones for crazy expensive prices. However, the shop keeper had a beautiful golden retriever dog in the shop who reminded me of my families late dog, Mollie.
We got back on the tuktuk and said, no more stops, take us back. It was getting on to about 6pm and we wanted to have dinner and drinks before it got too late. He dropped us off exactly where he picked us up, gave him the ฿40 then he demanded tips and wanted tips in Euros. We gave him shrapnel – probably only about ฿5 worth.
On our way back for some food, we stopped at a suit maker to see how much it would cost me for a custom suit. It came to about ฿5000, fully tailored suit. I’ll take it.
That night we wondered down Khao San Road to have a look around the shops/markets after stopping in at a dodgy street restaurant. We ordered a beer and decided on our food. I ended up getting something really spicy. Rouzie’s too was quite spicy. However, after a couple beers we started chatting with the owner guy and he loved magic tricks. I got out some cards and started showing his skills. Quite impressive how he cut and shuffled the cards. But this was nothing compared to what we were about to see.
He told us to join the people next to us, so he could show us a new trick he’s been working on. They were Germans, French and American. I guess he got us to move, so he could get more people on seats for his restaurant. However, he shuffled the pack and got each of us to take a card, show it to each other (without him looking at it). Then put it back into the pack randomly then shuffled it like crazy. Split the pack, shuffled again. It was impressive. He then, fanned out the pack and went around the table saying “i think your card is this one”. Damn, each of the cards he pulled out were correct. We gave him a round of applause and got another beer each.
He didn’t want tips. He just loved entertaining us. And practicing his english. Later he came back again and asked if he could show us one last trick he’s been working on. We were like, okay sure. He asked Rouzie to sign a card and the each of us to take a card, remember it and put it back into the pack, again randomly. He then shuffled and shuffled the cards and shuffled some more. Then, he pointed an American girl and said, ‘this, is your card’. ‘Ahh, no sorry’… ‘THIS is your card…’, ‘Nope’. He then said sorry, scratched his head and shuffled the pack apologising. He went around the rest of the table successfully guessing each of the cards, until he came to me and Rouzie’s cards. He said ‘right, the last two. I’ll let the lady go first’ Rouzie started to speak and was cut off when he interrupted saying, ‘no, this lady’ pointing to me ‘with the beautiful long hair’. Laughs. He starts going through the pack and tells me to tell him to stop randomly. ‘STOP’ I yell. ‘This your card’, ‘yes’! How did he do that..? ‘The final card’ he says. He goes through the pack and puts them on the table. ‘Something is not right…’ he says disconcertedly. He looks around the floor to see if he’s dropped cards, bends down takes off his shoe and shakes it. Out falls a folded up card. He unfolds it and says to Rouzie ‘is this your card?’ Wow. It was. The card she had signed, was folded up in his shoe. Very impressive. Then he’s silent and looks a bit puzzled. He coughs, then pulls a card from his mouth. It’s the American girls card. WHAT?! Table goes crazy. He then looks at me and says ‘looks like you need another beer, i’ll go get you one’. Takes one step, takes his other shoe off, and pulls out a beer from his shoe. I shit you not.
Each of us look around in somewhat amazement and disbelief. That was the most craziest magic i’ve ever seen. Either he is a great misdirector or some crazy Thai black magic at hand. We give him a big tip at the end, and he’s very humble but thankful.
We had another walk around, looked at some more markets then wondered back to our hotel. Before heading back, i wanted to try something dodgy from the road stalls. A deepfried grasshopper. Among the many different types of insects the road stall provided, the grasshopper was the least disgusting. There were beetles, grubs, slugs, spiders, something that looked like peanuts but were probably something horrible,
I ate the grasshopper. Not too bad. It tasted like, grass.. or hay. However, it was crunchy as very hard to swallow. It was like eating a prawn shell. It’s legs, tickling my throat on the way down. Some Canadian blokes watched and took photos of me eating it. They thought it was incredible and let me have a swig of their beer to help the insect down my gullet.
Before heading back, we decided to get some cocktails in. Cheap and cheerful roadside cockies from a ladyboy. Not like that… Was about ฿60 for a strong Mojito. She/he wasn’t trying very hard to be a lady. Pretty much just a bloke, wearing a miniskirt, boobs and long hair. We wanted to see a cabaret show, but didn’t have the time or even know where one was. We weren’t really interested in seeing any sex shows. I’ve heard some stories and the are quite off putting.
In morning we headed to a market we heard about the day before. I thought it’d be best to catch a taxi. Rouzie thought that it’d be cheaper by tuktuk. ฿200 i said was pretty cheap, however considering the tuktuk guy took us around for only ฿40 for the whole day. I thought it’d be better to ride in air conditioning for a bit anyway. It took quite a while to get to the market. Maybe 30mins of taxi drive?
The market was huge. The biggest market i have ever seen. Probably 2 square kilometers of market. You could buy everything in there. And haggle the crap out of it. Rouzie wanted to buy materials for a friends wedding, for decoration. We wondered around for ages, i found some lovely little wooden tealight trinkets for friends and family. Lots of beautiful things like hand made furniture, most cheap but too hard to bring back or ship. Fake t-shirts, fake handbags, fake shoes.
After a good couple hours there, we headed back to find a tuktuk. Rouzie was adamant tuktuk would be cheaper. Unfortunately they weren’t. They were ฿250 WITH stops. Without stops, would have been ฿500. So in the end, the taxi for ฿200 was the cheapest. So we took another back.
We headed back to our hotel, picked up our bags and my freshly made suit and headed to the airport. Next stop Phuket.