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bangkok revisited (again)

Posted in bangkok, thailand by moonwire on November 12, 2009

I flew to Bangkok on Sunday morning in order to apply for my Myanmar visa. Decided to stay at the same hostel as last time as it’s in Silom, an area I like, close to the skytrain and there’s lots of food options around. And of course, it’s a 10 minute walk from the Myanmar embassy.

On Monday morning, I arrived at the embassy at 7.15 AM. People were already waiting there. Finally, at 9 AM the office opened. It was a bit chaotic, but I was able to get my token to actually submit my visa application (they have a certain limit on daily applications, though nobody seems to know how many exactly, and it may change daily). At 9.45 AM I left the office, hoping my request would be approved.

I had a few days to kill in Bangkok before I could pick up my passport again. And just like last time, I didn’t do too much, but I did venture out of the neighbourhood. I went to Sukhumvit and Chinatown at least. Just walked around, basically. And of course, since Thailand has branches of the Boots drugstore, I did stock up on a few essentials while at it.

I did discover a really cool little restaurant on Silom Soi 20, about a 10 minute walk from the hostel, called the Siam House. There’s these two dudes, probably father and son, running the place. Absolutely amazing food, very friendly people and the food was ridiculously cheap (a bit over a dollar for a plate of Pad Thai). I ate many times there and I ate a lot. Just getting in some reserves as I’m not sure how the Myanmar situation will be.

This afternoon I went back to the Myanmar embassy to pick up my passport and I got my visa. I’m flying out tomorrow morning to Yangon. I know I won’t have wifi there, but there is internet but no 24 hour electricity, so I’ll try to update on Twitter as much as I can, but there won’t be any blogging or Flickr photos for the next 10 to 15 days. I am not quite sure what I want to see and do in Myanmar, but definitely visit Yangon and Mandalay.

And off I go on another adventure.

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bangkok revisited

Posted in bangkok, thailand by moonwire on October 9, 2009

My last night in Bangkok. I’ve been here for a week now and it’s been fantastic. I did not do much at all. I shopped for new clothes, got a haircut, a Thai massage, ate and drank, went out a few times at night, caught up on sleep, washed all my clothes in the machine,  I read and listened to music. This was a well needed break from the crazy traveling around.

The shopping is amazing. There’s lots of cheap clothing to be found, but there’s also favourite stores like Mango and Zara (Western prices, though). I got rid off most of my old stuff, that I’d been wearing for months.

Another thing that amazes me is the people. For a city this size, they are remarkably friendly and helpful. Really easy going as well. You see the craziest things here. Guys in shirts and ties wearing mascara and lipstick, ladyboys that are obviously men wearing women’s clothing and high heels. Anything goes here. Sure, there’s people begging in the streets, but relatively not that many. And none of them have displayed any agressive behaviour.

I stayed at a wonderful hostel in Silom. It looks like a boutique hotel. Very industrial and lofty. I had booked a private room as I don’t like dorms and I’ve enjoyed hanging out here very much. A cool place to meet other travelers as well.

Though I have not done a single thing, I have not been bored for a single second. I love it here.  It has all the conveniences of the Western world but it still has Asian charm. It’s cheap and cheerful.

I didn’t take any good shots and truthfully, photography hasn’t been on my mind that much. I really feel like I hit a peak in Cambodia and it’s hard to keep it going.  Especially since having ‘access’ was so much easier in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. I’ll get back into the shooting mode again when I go to Vietnam (with my sister, who’s flying into Singapore tomorrow). This week was about relaxing, enjoying just being here and looking good 😛

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bangkok (part 2) and travel observations

Posted in bangkok, thailand by moonwire on August 13, 2009

The pictures below are the pictures of my second room in Bangkok, at the Lamphu House on Soi Rambuttri. I absolutely loved this room. It had a huge balcony as well. And I spent quite a bit of time there just reading and chilling out.  I over extended myself on the first day and a bit on the second day and third day as well, so today I did a few rounds around the ‘hood, but I also spent a lot of time just enjoying being here.

It is funny how a really nice room can make me so very happy.  After being on the road for a few months, I’ve stayed in all kinds of places. Some of it bordering on disgusting, and some of the places, like my room in Yogyakarta, have been wonderful retreats and actually made my time in those places so much more enjoyable.

My biggest thing these days seems to be the water issue. I don’t mind not having hot water. Most of the places I’ve stayed in don’t. I don’t even mind not having an actual shower. I can deal with a mandi (a big tub with a scoop so you can pour water over yourself). But having clean water makes me happy. In Sumatra the water was so brackish that I’d actually smell worse after having taken a shower and after washing my clothes, they smelled like a sewer.

So, what did I do in Bangkok? Not all that much. I usually strolled around a bit in the morning, then had lunch to go back to my room for a nap. Then go out again for a bit in the afternoon and at night I’d stay here in the ‘tourist ghetto’ for cheap street food and people watching. Last night I met a French girl who was also traveling by herself and we had a really nice conversation over our pad thai.

Traveling by myself has been easy and difficult at the same time. The biggest difficulty has been choosing places to go to, how to get there and where to stay. If you’re traveling with somebody else, you have a sounding board. I don’t have that; it’s all up to me, which of course, also means a lot of freedom.

Another thing about traveling by yourself is that you really have to take care of yourself. I am always watchful of my belongings and my surroundings. I always make sure that at night I’m never too far from my hotel (so I need to pick my hotels accordingly) and I can’t be drunk either. Actually, that’s not too big of a deal. As most of you know, I love my red wine, but as there isn’t really any here (or it’s really expensive) and I don’t drink anything that comes out of an open bottle – I am stuck with beer. Though I’ve had my share of Bintangs in Indonesia, I do not particularly like the beer here in Thailand.

And I’m terribly afraid of getting sick. Luckily, I only had the cold, and once a case of Bali belly. Nothing to be concerned about, but it sucks if you’re alone and you’re not feeling well.

Another funny thing is, and I talked with Melanie, the French girl, about this, is that there are a lot less solo women travelers than I expected. Guys, yes… you see them carrying their backpacks around by themselves, but there’s not a lot of women who do the same. As a matter of fact, I’ve only met three women so far, and all three were more on a ‘vacation’ (just traveling for two or three weeks) than on an extended trip.

Also, another thing I’ve discovered is that when you’re traveling solo, you don’t really hook up with people traveling in pairs or small groups. Almost all of the people I’ve met so far, with the exception of the father and son I met in Legian, are traveling by themselves.

Well, at least after a few months of doing this I have become way more confident that things work out when it comes to getting from A to B and finding a place to stay. In the beginning I would book a room online or give them a call. Experience has learnt that once a hotel is in the Lonely Planet guide, it’s usually booked up. However, this also means that when a hotel is in the Lonely Planet guide, there’s usually a whole bunch of other hotels right around it where you can just walk in and get a good room. In Thailand I had only booked my room in Phuket as I was not feeling well and didn’t want to schlep my backpack from hotel to hotel, but in Phi Phi, Krabi and Bangkok I just showed up and it all worked out fine. Best time to hunt is around 11 when people are checking out. Just this morning I saw a lot of people leave the Lamphu house but by 5 pm the ‘full’ sign was up again.

Anyways, I know this isn’t really a Bangkok blog, but I really did enjoy this city. Traveler’s heaven, as whatever you need to stock up on, it’s here. And cheap! So, I’m fully supplied again and ready to go to Chiang Mai tomorrow morning. After Chiang Mai, I also want to check out Chiang Rai, which is even further up North, before I head into Laos.

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bangkok (part 1)

Posted in bangkok, thailand by moonwire on August 11, 2009

I decided to fly from Krabi to Bangkok, instead of making the 1000 km. journey by train or bus. I booked a cheap Air Asia ticket online, got a bus ticket to the airport in Krabi and off I went. I arrived at the Bangkok airport at around 6.30 pm.

I had called a few hotels from the Lonely Planet guide, but they were all full. If I arrive at night, I usually like to have my first night booked so I have somewhere to go.  In this case, I took the airport bus to Khao San Road and just started hunting. Well, I had already heard about this, but being there confirmed it. Khao San is loud. Really loud and it’s an all night long affair, so I just started walking to find something in the side streets. The first few hotels were full. One of them, the Lamphu House was one I really wanted to stay in, but they had no rooms. I looked further up Soi Rambuttri and found the Siam III guest house. They had a room. I checked in. The room was nice enough and it was quiet, yet still in the heart of a very lively area.

Soi Rambuttri, the street where my hotel is located in Banglamphu.

On my first day I decided to walk to Siam Square, in the new part of Bangkok. The subway/sky train service doesn’t extend to Banglamphu, the old area of Bangkok where my hotel is located, so I decided to walk. I knew it would be about 4 kilometres but I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to see something of the city. Well, I did. I got lost and ended up in Chinatown. Then I discovered the secret to Bangkok’s road system and maps. Every intersection has a number and once I’d discovered that, it was very easy to make my way to Siam Square. However, just before Siam Square I found the MBK mall. After all, I was on a shopping mission for five things; underwear, flip flops that don’t hurt my feet, a raincover for my backpack (very much necessary here in Thailand in the rainy season), B&W film for my camera and books.

Bangkok is heaven for shopping. I managed to find everything I needed. And except for the film, everything was very cheap.

My walk through the old part of town was lovely. As soon as you get out of the tourist ghetto of Khao San you’ll see the real Bangkok. Lots of little alleys with people sewing, selling all kinds of food and other stuff and just going about their business.

The new part of town is just hell, in my opinion. Lots of bigger stores with loud music, lots of concrete, traffic jams and fast food outlets.  It’s just anonymous to me. Might as well be in Blok M in Jakarta, the business district of Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong. It all looks the same to me and I have no interest in it. The older parts of said cities are wonderful, though. So I’m sticking to that.

The Skywalk around Siam Square Station.

At night I went out in the streets around my hotel. Lots of little stalls with t-shirts, food, bars and restaurants. Very very lively and very busy. It has definitely much more of a backpacker vibe than any other place I’ve been to so far. With backpacker vibe I mean people who do not have a bunch of toddlers in tow or those resort types that tend to hang out in packs and crowd the sidewalks.

This morning I checked out of my hotel as I had found a room at the Lamphu house. While I was having my brekkie, I saw Sarah, the woman from SF who was my neighbour in Phi Phi! That was really cool. We had a nice chat, talked about what we both had done since we left Phi Phi (we left on the same boat).

At noon I checked into my room and it is absolutely fantastic. Wooden floor, contemporary asian furniture and everything very light and airy with a huge balcony. I don’t mind roughing it for a couple of days here and there, and I have, not even being able to take a real shower for days, but when I find a nice room, it certainly is bliss. Living out of a backpack is slightly unsettling and being on the go all day, every day for months at a time is a killer. It is nice to be able to read and relax in a comfy room. Like today. My feet are still hurting from my approximately 10 km walk yesterday. It’s not just the long walk, it’s also the stifling heat, humidity, traffic noise and air pollution that adds to it. I’m taking it real easy today and mostly enjoy my room.

One of the many street food stalls on Soi Rambuttri. You can have a pad thai and 2 spring rolls for a buck at these places.

I just went for a walk around the Banglamphu market and I saw the river and then I decided to walk back and just spend the rest of the afternoon writing my blog and reading my book (Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’. It’s good.). Tonight I’ll go out for a stroll in the area and tomorrow I’ll hit Chinatown when my feet aren’t aching so much anymore.

One rainy morning on Khao San Road.

Bangkok is cool. I’m really enjoying it here. I’ll have three nights here at the Lamphu before I head to Kanchanaburi (three hour train ride north east) but I know that I’ll have to come back to Bangkok before heading to Laos so I might even stay more than one night next time.

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