A Travellerspoint blog

Day XXVI - XXVII: Krung Thep Maha Nakhon

Sawasdee Krab!

sunny 38 °C
View RTW 2013 on WorldWideWill's travel map.

Checking into a hotel at 7am messes with the mind a little, especially if you go to sleep as soon as you arrive. When I woke up from a few hours in bed I firmly believed it was Monday, and started panicking that I had missed my meeting with Charlie altogether. I was delighted when I realised that it was still Sunday morning and that I had (in my mind) bagged a free night by checking in so early. The sound that woke me came from the alleyway behind the hotel and conjured up an image of someone being beaten up, but in a very methodical manner. The combination of shouts and thumps turned out to be from a local Thai Boxing gym that opened its doors to foreigners every morning for two hour training sessions, and I told myself I'd give it a go later on.


A few logistical Facebook messages later I met Charlie at the entrance to the hotel and a firm manly handshake welcomed me back to the party. Having blown the budget on luxury rehab accommodation in Krabi another expensive baht withdrawal was required, followed by my first Thai tuk tuk ride. Charlie's job for the next two days was simple: show me around the city and share enough Bangkok knowledge with me that I would look like a pro when Lucy arrived a few weeks later. We negotiated a price (200 baht, a little expensive) and set off for the market. After four weeks of buses and boats, the reckless speed and rushing air as we weaved between cars and trucks was exhilarating! We were thrown about in the back as our driver took every possible shortcut, overtake and illegal manoeuvre, and in less than 20 minutes we had covered the 12km to Chatuchak.

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Chatuchak Market (or Jatujak/JJ market) is the world's largest weekend market with over 5,000 stalls selling everything imaginable, with prices all 'TBC'! I was badly in need of some lightweight shirts and Charlie was on his bi-annual t-shirt run, so we made our way through the vast indoor arts and furniture areas to the clothing stalls. There is nothing comparable in the UK to the size and density of the market and it is hard to describe, but if you imagine walking down the aisle of a train or plane and every row of seats is another stall you'll be getting close to it. It took well over an hour for us to find what we wanted at prices we were willing to pay but we were both highly successful, particularly Charlie with his bag of 18 (!) t-shirts. The heat didn't mix well with the crowds and our growing hunger, so we stopped for a street food snack (giant veggie spring rolls, mmm...) and then flagged down another tuk tuk.


Charlie was keen to go to a Thai Boxing event at the national stadium in the evening, but with nothing more than a curious interest in the sport I let him go alone, wanting to explore the Khao San area a little more before phoning home to welcome Dad back from Afghanistan. In the 8 hours since I'd first arrived, the street had woken up and was in full swing with shouting market stall owners and bass-heavy music blaring from the restaurant speakers. I was satisifed after a short walk that it wasn't somewhere I'd be desperate to return to, and spent the rest of the afternoon cooling down at the hotel with the Lonely Planet guide getting ready for the trip to Cambodia.


A quick food run that evening found the street food to be rather disappointing, and I threw most of my tasteless pad thai in the bin. On the way back I walked into a scene from Fast & Furious, and watched a dozen grown men showing off their pretty cars without being allowed to race (under the watchful eye of the police). The image of my own car falling into disrepair on the driveway at home popped into my mind, so I let down a couple of their tyres and went to bed.*

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  • This may have been a dream.

I slept brilliantly and sauntered down onto the sleepy Khao San to find Charlie and the restaurant that served (in his words) "the best fresh fruit muesli in Thailand". Still sticking to my travel ethos of following personal recommendations I ordered and fell in love with the muesli, which came with a pot of fresh yogurt and was mixed with huge pieces of banana, watermelon, papaya and pineapple (which I picked out). We had no firm plans for the day, but I had decided that I was going to leave for Cambodia tomorrow (the 14th) so that I could arrive and get settled in a hotel in time for my birthday on Thursday. A quick search on my phone's Kayak flight app found a bargain flight to Siem Reap for 4475 baht (under 100 quid), but predictably after half an hour going through the booking process the webpage froze as I was confirming payment. Instead, C took me to a cosy travel office opposite my guest house where he had clearly been a few times before, as the two Chinese sisters (Lek and Yai) that own the place came out saying "Mr Charlie!". A round of introductions followed and I turned on the charm, jealous of Charlie's rapport with the girls and their memory of his name! By the time Lek got round to booking my flight the price had gone up by a few baht, but she worked some magic and got me the flight plus a transfer bus for 4900 baht.


Charlie had his own business to take care of at the office, booking onward flights and visas to China, so I left him to it after double checking that my name had stuck with the girls. I was dubbed Will Smith for ease of memory, which became my second favourite nickname from Southeast Asia after my surname was misheard on the Perhentian Islands and I was referred to as 'Mr Danish'.

With my flight booked I spent the afternoon planning my stay in Cambodia and made plans to spend the evening exploring more of the city with Charlie. A deafening electrical storm passed over the hotel and I sat on the balcony watching the tourists running for cover as the smugly amused tuk tuk drivers looked on from under their passenger canopies. Monsoon season is a wonderful time of year, with its reduced crowds and spectacular storms, but most importantly (for me) the sense of relief you get from the temperature drop after the rain. The raindrops fell hard and I could almost hear the sizzle as they hit the burning hot corrugated iron rooftops. When it was safe to leave his own hotel, C very kindly came over and took me through a physio routine for my knee and back while I filmed the various stretches I would need to do to get shot of my three-year-old injury. Feeling energised we jumped into a tuk tuk and Charlie took me on a high speed tour of the slightly seedier parts of Bangkok. We managed to dodge most of the advances from street touts while we perused the counterfeit merchandise at Pat Pong market, and then had a heated argument over street food pricing (hungry Charlie is not a man to be messed with) before heading to Nana Plaza in search of a sports bar with a pool table.


We spent an hour trying to find a bar that was showing the Formula 1 (I'm now not convinced we got the date right), and after failing in our search Charlie promised me a game of pool and a beer before he had to head back to meet up with a friend. There was a catch: "we're just going to pop into this one club first". Inside I realised I'd been lured on false pretences into what appeared to be some sort of gentleman's club, but the glint in Charlie's eye made me suspect that something else was going on. As soon as we stepped through the door we were ushered into a booth and watched in amazement as a parade of thirty rather stunning bikini-clad girls lined up in front of us and we were asked to pick the ones we'd like to share a drink with. We politely declined and the crowd dissipated, moving on to the next new punters. This gave me a moment to turn to Charlie and ask in a less-than-polite way why he had brought me here, knowing full well that I was in a happy long-term relationship. He grinned and answered by calling over the waitress, asking her to point out which of the 'girls' were actually female and which were... not. I couldn't help but stare and marvel at the craftsmanship when (s)he told us that there wasn't a single girl in the room.

My mind was elsewhere as Charlie beat me severely at pool, and seeing the distress on my face as I started to question everything I had ever taken for granted in the world he loaded me into a bright pink taxi and took me home. I packed immediately, desperate to leave the following day - I'm a scarred man.

Posted by WorldWideWill 18:15 Archived in Thailand

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