People rightly call Thailand the travel destination of south-east Asia. The Kingdom offers a lot to tourists, and not just one kind of tourist, either.
Thailand notoriously caters to everyone’s tastes, and Rebecca and I saw every species of traveler that you can imagine. Some were wholesome, pleasant people. Some were scrubby hippies faking an interest in Buddhism. A lot of them were 50-something overweight white men, trawling the streets for the right prostitute.
Thailand will give anyone concerned with ethical traveling a lot of food for thought.
Even though Rebecca and I have little interest in Thailand’s sex industry, we’re both 50 year-olds at heart. So instead of cutting our teeth on Bangkok’s intense party scene, we spent a lazy beach week at Koh Samui.
Just look at all that water.
The Lonely Planet calls Koh Samui a ”pretty woman that wears too much make-up.” Spot on, LP guys.
The place has been a little over-saturated with tourism for decades, so instead of the quaint island paradise it used to be in the 70s (or so I hear), it’s closer to a tropical adults-only theme park.
But all those tourists came to Koh Samui for a damn good reason — the island is beautiful.
Or else why would she be so happy?
Bex and I stayed in a quiet bungalow on the east side of the island, and we traveled everywhere by a pink motorbike we rented. None of you will be surprised to hear that I crashed the thing within minutes of signing the release form, but I only scratched the paint a little.
The worst bike-related injury actually came when Rebecca singed her calf on the muffler, and thereafter we got to share the experience of watching how gross a burn wound can get when you’re backpacking around Asia.
(Don’t worry guys — I documented the whole thing. If you want pictures, just ask.)
Bex and I both loved our time at Koh Samui, but we were happy to get on the ferry out. After a week of beach-sloth, we needed some excitement. And we found it, in Bangkok.
That en route to Bangkok smile
We took a ferry from Koh Samui to the mainland, and from there a 9-hour overnight sleeper train to Bangkok.
It can be a challenge to fall asleep on a train, but don’t worry, folks — you can get valium over-the-counter in Thailand. So the train ride felt pretty short.
We woke up at 8 AM refreshed and ready to hit the town. Sleeper cars are the best!
It didn’t take long to find our hotel, the Rambuttri Village Inn, right off of Khosan Road, which is a major thoroughfare for ambitious foreign drinkers.
Because I know a couple Grandmas are reading this, that’s about all I will say about Bangkok’s nightlife. I’ll go to my grave before I tell you people everything that happens there.
You guys can hear about the cultural landmarks instead.
The Grand Palace and Temple of the Jade Buddha are both housed in one massive complex in the city center. Super cool.
Street Fighter II anyone? Anyone
We had to rent clothes on the way in, because you can’t wear shorts or tank-tops. Rebecca looked like an employee at a cheesy tropical hotel:
You just let me know if you need another pina colada, m’kay?
We saw some bizarre creatures there. Like this golden thing:
What would you call this exactly?
And I loved the attention to detail on this guy:
Vicious. After the National Palace, we visited Wat Pho — a temple dedicated to the ancient art of Thai massage.
I liked that temple even better than the other one, because it had a giant reclining Buddha, and a lot of little nooks to explore:
Plus it was cheaper. The city’s best attractions, though, weren’t giant or gold or expensive. They were on just about every roadside in the city, and they were delicious.
I’m talking about the food stalls.
Oh my God, the food stalls.
For one US dollar you could probably get any two of the following: green curries, red curries, fried noodles, fried rice, fried fish, fruit smoothies, iced coffee, iced tea, chicken chunks, sweet chili pork chunks, basil-cooked pork chunks on rice, ice cream, beer, seafood, etc etc etc.
Rebecca and I loved wandering around smelling and gawking in Bangkok, and a lot of my favorite memories in the city are sitting on a cheap plastic chair outside, fending off the flies as I ate the best food I’ve ever eaten.
She will never be this happy again. The last day in Bangkok we sort of squandered, because we had stayed out a little late the night before, and getting out of bed seemed like the most painful idea in the universe. Instead of leaving the hotel, we chilled out and watched the Muppets Movie, which made me tear up a little, although I couldn’t say exactly why.
Our train out of Bangkok left at 5:50 the next morning, so we had to get up at 4:30am to catch it.
I expected the streets to be deserted at that hour, but when we left our hotel, it may as well have been midnight. I doubt we could have gotten a seat at a bar if we wanted to!
And these crowds weren’t the kind of rowdy, punch-drunk-tired folks you’d see in the wee hours back home. They were chatty and lively, like their night had just begun.
That’s Bangkok for ya — it’s easy to feed off the energy of that city, and it’s a helluva a lot of fun. We were sad to leave Bangkok behind.