There are some things I wish I had done. There are some things I will never do again. There are a few things I am so glad I did do and others I will do time and time again. I really like Bangkok. There is so much to do and see. Always do your research and make plans.
1. Transportation… There are taxis, motorbikes, tuk tuks, and on my last day I learned they have GRAB. GRAB would have made my trip a bit smoother. GRAB is like the baby brother of UBER, which I believe has been kicked out of S.E.Asia. I had specific places to go and it is much cheaper than a taxi.
Some taxis are metered and some not. You should only take a metered taxi. You can negotiate with the other kind of drivers, but unless you are familiar with the baht and real costs, just avoid them. They will be approximately 6 times more expensive than a metered car. Motorbike is a good option if you are traveling solo, but you should know Thai and be prepared to haggle, which I hate. Also, stay wityhin a small radiius of where you start, because they do not use GPS. Tuk tuks just want to take you to certain tourist sites. They have different agendas. They want to take you to places where they will get a commission.
My first morning I was convinced to go on an hour tour. I was taken to temples that were barely visited, bare and under construction. I paid for a boat ride, supposedly at a discount and I kind of understand why. The floating market wasn’t happening and the river was bare of any activity. I was reminded of the term “Idiot Tax”. I paid my fair share on this trip. I mean, I only took a picture of the front of the boat.
The morning wasn’t wasted, but it could have and should have gone differently. Later, during my trip, after being approached by many drivers, I learned that they take the same route I had been on. Same temples, same tailors and boat ride. I seriously recommend downloading GRAB and get to specific desinations at a cheap price and miss the garbage. Otherwise, ride with a Thai friend and they will help you get around the best.
Things I won’t do again…I won’t stay close to Khao San Road. It’s just too touristy. I am so repulsed by the young, screaming, white, backpacker, drunk in the streets losing their minds. I’m too old for that shit. Since living in Vietnam, outside of Saigon, I really prefer being amongst only a few foreigners. The hawking of laughing gas, pasty white skin, it’s like a girls and boys gone wild video. I also don’t like how they are so culturally inept. I mean, learn how to say hello, thank you, and not spicy, if you can’t handle the heat for godssakes. I did walk the street one night looking for specific beer tank tops and I had to rush through. I picked up a few things for my bro, but found what I wanted the next day in the morning.
My best memories of Bangkok were the visits I had with former students. My first visit was with a young man who was living as a Buddhist monk. It’s a Thai tradition for young men in Thailand to do this for a two weeks, a month or longer. Knowing it was his father’s decision to spend the time, I knew it will be a long two weeks for him. It’s not an eay thing to do. It’s hot in Thailand and they live without airconditioning. They walk barefoot every morning to collect breakfast donated by other Buddhists. Then they spend time studying and meditating. They have free time to do whatever, but cannot spend money. They also cannot eat after 7 pm.
I spent some time with another young man I taught in San Francisco. He’s calm and thoughtful. He was gracious enough to show me a really good evening in Bangkok. We first tried to go to a rooftop bar, because I wanted a drink with a city view, but it was popular and already at capacity at 630pm. We took a tuk tuk, for super cheap, to the Chinatown area and began eating. Everything you heard of Bangkok and it’s food happens in Chinatown, except Mondays, it’s the law.
I started with some noodles, salty and sticky. Further in I had some soup that contained crispy porkbelly, liver and chitterlings (pork intestines). DEELISH. My mom always said to not eat them in other countries, but when the culture eats them more than Black people then you know they are good. It’s been my experience in Asian restaurants that they are amazing and clean. I would be hesitant if the chef was white though, just saying. On our way out of Chinatown we grabbed a quick dessert. I was a bit nervous because raw was lettuce involved and it was dripping with water. The last time I had something with lettuce I got “Thai tummy”
The dessert was similar to bahn cuon, but it had chestnut. It was only slightly sweet, nutty, but very chewy. It began to rain, as this time of year is the rainy season. We grabbed a tuk tuk to go back to the area where my hotel is. The temples were brilliant at night in the rain. It’s too bad my iPhone had no more room for photos. We stopped at a bar but had to leave due to a private Ducati event. Another tuk tuk and we landed at Brown Sugar.
It’s a jazz bar, with live music daily. The front is very unassuming. Open, with a pool table. We walk through the open area and through some glass doors and got a still slap from the air conditioner. The music before the band was nice. What we in the States would call adult contemporary. A lot of them were remakes of popular songs, but all in English. There was a jazz mural covering all four walls. There was Duke Ellington, Amy Winehouse, and Dizzy Gilespie. The music began at 8:45.
A young and beautiful mixed race girl sang with a guitar player. She sang some standards beautifully and then thanked and spoke to the audience in Thai. The atmosphere allowed us to speak about life and ask each other questions. It was a truly pleasant night and I was grateful to spend it with him. There weren’t any World Cup games to stay up for so I didn’t stay up late. There were twlo things I still wanted to do. I wanted to see Wat Arun and the David Beckham Temple. That’s right, David Beckham Temple.
I woke up early like the previous mornings. I had breakfast and decided to take a ride to The Temple of the Dawn, a mistake. I should have just walked to the pier and taken the boat. Instead I paid an inflated price to the pier and took the ferry across the river. The sun was shining fully into the complex. I am grateful for my poorly tailored khakis. As poorly fitting as they feel they are extremely light, perfect for the tropics and temples. They did pick up the sweat from my knees which weirdly happen to sweat a lot.
The Temple of the Dawn is not what I expected at all. From afar it just looks like gray stone, but up close it’s brilliant white with cool mosaic pieces. I walked out of the complex, got the ferry and once I crossed I began to ask the lazing drivers about how to get to the David Beckham Temple. Then looking at the map I could see the temple was quite a disctance away. It was recommended that I take a boat along the river to get there.
I referred to the blog I had read about the David Beckham Temple and found the temple’s location. One driver told me he could take me to the pier, but mid way said he could take me to Chinatown. Once I closed my phone the location became foggy in my mind. The driver dropped my off in Chinatown, which during the day is another world. It was the complete opposite of the night before. It was brightly lit by the mid morning sun. The sky was a brilliant blue with strips of stationary white reflecting UV-rays. As the driver took off I took out my Google Maps and let out a puff of air. I was slightly closer to my destination, but still so far away.
I thought of walking in the temple’s direction and grab a tuk tuk on the way. That was a big fail. I got a tuk tuk and he went in the wrong direction even though I showed him a map. Then he wanted to triple the price we had agreed upon. I told him to pull over and went on foot toward the temple. I was following a large street. Sections of it was gem street and I thought of my mom, because she loves jewelry. I walked for about 45minutes and began to notice how the heat was sapping my energy.
I forced myself to get some water at a convenience store. I could feel my calves tighten up and cry a bit. I don’t walk this much in Vietnam. Places began setting up for lunch and I moved on. I was on a mission. Eventually, I came to an alley full of resting motorbike drivers. They were chilling and I got their attention looking like a hot worn tourist. I showed them my phone a discussion in fast Thai ensued. Men pointed their finger in different directions. Every once in a while they would mention the name of the Temple, Wat Pariwat.
They volunteered the oldest guy to take me. We rode for quite a bit, but the anticipation encouraged me. I was going to see my golden boy. Traffic is so different in Thailand. For one, cars dominate in Thailand. In Vietnam it’s the motorbike. Cars in Thailand stop for pedestrians when they enter the space. There isn’t a challenge of machine versus man. It felt safer and more considerate. If Thais doubt me, then I suggest you spend a weekend in HCMC and then tell me what you think.
The old man made a stop to ask an old woman about directions. We were on a large road, almost like a freeway. A young Thai person came walking by and he asked them. We were both relieved that they spoke English and I was only across the road from my destination. All I needed to do was climb some stairs and walk across the bridge. The bridge doubled as a platform for a train. Well shit, I wish I had found what train came this way.
My tired legs held strong as I climbed the stairs. On the other side I opened the blog for further directions. I was able to match landmarks. I fucking made it!
I walked down a long drive as described. The closer I got I could hear children at the school next door. I had closed the blog and without knowing which building to go to, I just walk to the first building that appeared to be a temple. I took a deep breath and got my camera ready. I got excited about my new camera bag I bought in HCMC. I could carry my camera and two extra lenses. I walked up to the ornate building and my eyes hadn’t trained on anything specific, until I saw a figure with a shark head. My heart began to beat fast. What the fuck am I looking at? I let my camera hang for a bit and walk up close to the structure. Whoah! Is that…Popeye?…Wolverine?…Holy Shit! I just got so happy. I didn’t stop smiling the whole time. I just found the most exciting thing in Thailand.
I couldn’t wait to find the little gold statue of DB. At times, I felt a little faint. I hadn’t eaten lunch and should have gotten a large bottle of water. I couldn’t stop though, sweating or taking photos. I switched lenses and angles and focus. I looked and looked but couldn’t find the likeness of my man crush. I couldn’t care more though, this funky place was amazing.
There was another building of similar build next door about 10 meters away. There was some type of construction happening. The amazing things were the likenesses under the eave of the building. First I saw a Viking…what the…a Native American figure in full headdress, a cowboy and then Che.
I gave the Wat a new name….Wat Thefuckamilookingat. Again, I cannot express in words the excited feeling I had mixed with hunger, exhaustion, and low blood sugar. I hadn’t even entered the temples yet.
A young man and who I can imagine was his small family, sat on the floor in front of a fan in the entrance of the temple. The inside was jaw dropping. The only thing to remind one it was a Buddhist temple was the large gold Buddha outlined in neon that changed colors. Then I saw Einstein, Julius Ceasar and Shakespeare. Their likeness in mosaic pieces. The art on the ceiling is immense with the color of blue cut by designs in more mosaics and gold.
I didn’t find David Beckham, but the trip to this building was worth all of the trouble and kilometers walked. I opened up the blog post again. There were more buildings to discover and I was really feeling my sugar level drop. I found the entrance to the building I should have looked for in the beginning, but the area was closed off. Definitely, no DB this trip. I did find a concession stand and grape Fanta. I cooled off in the shade before making it back to my hotel. I had been on the move all morning and afternoon.
I walked back to the large road. As I approached, a taxi had just dropped off a passenger. This when I learned the GRAB existed. He dropped me off on Khao San Road, quiet and hot in the high shining sun. It was steamy, yet quiet. I needed some souvenitrs for myself. I found the t-shirt stand I needed. She had the tank tops of all my favorite Asian beers. It was a perfect way to end my trip. I will come back Bangkok.
Link to more Bangkok photos…https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10156392489922226.1073741838.619127225&type=1&l=6c148501db