After eating a Pad Thai at 3am sitting on the side of Khaosan Road whilst watching a sea of drunk people dance to a busker playing Maroon 5’s ‘This Love’, I decided I should probably call it a night and head back to Khaosan Baan Thai, the same hotel we’d stayed at whilst stopping over in Bangkok before Kanchanaburi the other weekend. The staff recognised me from then and on Sunday morning I got talking to them about how my time in Thailand was going, which was quite nice. Not to sound too much like a walking advert, but if you ever find yourself in Bangkok, book a room there.
During breakfast I decided that my plan for the day would be to make it to Siam Square. The Square is Bangkok’s major commercial district and boasts some massive shopping centres and tourist attractions, but it also happened to be on the other side of the city from where I was currently sitting. With no easy Skytrain links and not wanting to give into annoying TukTuk drivers, I decided that I was going to try to walk it. You can probably guess how that ended.
I already felt a bit lost after when I made it out of the KhaoSan district, which was when I was approached by a tuktuk driver who called me a ‘stupid english tourist’ for not taking up his offer on a Siam Square trip that would have involved about 50,000 stops at diamond and suit shops along the way. What a pleasant man. I soon got distracted by the sound of music coming from the distance, so decided that heading towards it would be the best course of action. It turned out to be coming from a large market in an area that reminded me a bit of London’s Hyde Park, but there was also a dance show taking place in the middle of the grounds. I loitered around for a bit watching everything, as well as making good use of the available shade.
The sun was out in full force during the morning and it didn’t take long before I really started to feel it. After getting even more lost I started to feel very dizzy, so realising I was next to the Wat Pho Palace I paid the 100 baht entry just so I could find some more shade to sit down in. Wat Pho is also a fairly significant Bangkok landmark, so it helped that I could also use this time to see it, and I spent the rest of the morning looking around.
It was after leaving Wat Pho, paying an extortionate 20 baht for a bottle of water and coming across another market that I realised I was truly lost, but also that I may as well go along with it.
I ended up wandering over a bridge over Bangkok’s river, which gave me some fantastic views at the expense of being unnervingly high up. When I had looked into Siam Square online a few days ago I found out that the best way to get to it was apparently through a boat on the river, and seeing several ports in the distance I started trekking along the riverside on the other side of the bridge, with hopes that I’d find some useful transport. It didn’t really work – after getting to some boats after a 20 minute walk and attempting to explain to the drivers that I wanted to go to Siam Square, they told me I was nowhere near it and that they couldn’t take me. Still, on the way I came across another secluded temple alongside a chapel, a shrine and some completely tourist-free side streets complete with colourful murals, so I could hardly call the diversion a waste of time.
I got a boat across to the other side of the river after that and, hot and defeated, finally gave in and hailed a tuktuk. After spending a long time trying to negotiate with the driver, which turned into a conversation about what I was doing in Thailand, we agreed on 250 baht without any ‘petrol’ (i.e. suit and jewellery store) stops. It was further away than I thought so this didn’t feel like too much of a rip-off in the end, plus the driver was actually a decent guy, rather than rude and irritating like a lot of other tuktuk drivers seem to be.
As soon as I was out I made it to Siam Center, one of the Square’s biggest shopping centres, and OH MY GOD THE AIR-CONDITIONING. Words cannot describe how amazing it felt.
Siam Center is massive, boasting not only a slew of designer clothes stores but also a 4D cinema (the seats shake, apparently) and an aquarium which I definitely would have checked out had it not cost 900 baht to get in. After taking it all in for a while I found the MBK shopping centre down the road, but it was a bit disappointing. The amount of generic brands like Boots and Tesco it held made it feel like a rubbish English department store. Throw a Wimpy in there and it would’ve been the same as Ipswich’s endearingly terrible Towers Ramparts.
I met up with Annie, my ETA friend based in Bangkok who I went out with the night before, and we checked out the Bangkok Arts and Culture centre that was nearby. We quickly found out that it was a hipster hangout, as it was crammed with ‘alternative’ shops, cafes that sold guava tea and small cinemas that were advertising a silent film festival coming in two week’s time. My kind of thing, basically.
There were a few art exhibitions going on too, and I turned into a wannabe art snob for about 15 minutes as I tried to explain to Annie why I did and didn’t like certain pieces. On the top floor was a ‘video art exhibition’ that had various short films playing on a loop. The highlights from these were a video of a fairground ride that had been duplicated and reflected so that it looked like a kaleidoscope when in motion, a guy smashing up a keyboard that had been cut and edited so that the different sounds started to make a dance track, and a 5 minute video of a man blow-drying his hair whilst shouting into a microphone in front of a green screen. Because, you know, art.
I left for the train station shortly after that, and due to some lucky timing departed to Phachi only a couple a minutes after buying a ticket. Staring out of the window as the night became pitch black (it gets dark at about 7 in Thailand) I realised that this had been a really good weekend; I’d had a good mix of organised stuff with people and dis-organised adventures by myself. Bangkok is probably one of the best cities in the world to get lost in, although I imagine that I didn’t even scratch the surface of it today.