Misery in Bangkok – Chatuchak and Banglamphu
Vignettes from Bangkok
|Air Asia ad picked on flight from Phnon Penh to Bangkok|
The lady behind the desk glared at me. She didn’t like me. I certainly looked suspicious.
We agreed on some rate and we were waved upstairs to our elite suite.
Except that it wasn’t elite.
We traversed narrow corridors (“Thai persons are not allowed,” “Do not bring drugs or prostitutes to guest house,” “Take shoes with you,” “Leave shoes here”), climbed Angkor Wat-ish stairs, reached the third floor and opened the room. Sad bed sheets, grieving curtains and a cemetery for dead bees and insects greeted us. A tap dripped ominously like this : drip… drip… drip… We spoke to the cleaning lady. She addressed me in fluent Thai. I nodded, clueless. As she explained so vividly, a colony of bees had made the room their home. Now several had died. She cleaned the place and we got going. “Keep nothing valuable in the room,” warned the ill-disposed lady at the reception. So finally we were off, exploring the environs of Banglamphu.
We hit Khao San Road, the backpackers’ preferred address (Peachy is on a parallel road, Prah Athith). We reached Khao San through a cyber cafÃ© which I later discovered had the slowest connection on the planet. We hunted desperately for this string of vegetarian restaurants we had been promised by Lonely Planet. The friendly postmaster at the post office helped us and we found ourselves in a narrow, suspicious-looking alley. But wait! There it was, a Thai Vegetarian restaurant so announcing itself! Oh joy!
And there was the most delicious Thai food I have yet to have, particularly the soup!
Onwards to our final destination – Chatuchak market via the new Skytrain; Chatuchak apparently has these great bargains on everything, including live snakes. First we found a bus, 47 to Siam Centre. We hopped on to the wrong bus – but of course – then disgorged and got onto the right one. It took a long while and the conductor suddenly asked us to get off. Just four kilometres to Siam Centre, he said, from where we could get the Skytrain. We waited for a bus to take us to Siam Centre. We jumped onto one. The conductress was asleep and snoring. Siam Centre, I said, mispronouncing the name.
“Siam, Siam, Siam, Siam, Siam, SIAM!” she snarled, upset about being woken up. She issued tickets. Then she fell asleep again.
We got off at Siam Centre and asked for directions to the Skytrain.
Someone pointed to the right. We got on the escalator and reached the second floor. We asked the guard. Fourth floor, he said. On the fourth floor, we asked again. Second floor, said the lady. No sign of the Skytrain station. We walked down the mall corridor seeking directions. Go straight. Turn right. Left. Up. Down. U-turn. We were about to give up when a friendly lady said we were in the wrong building. Cross the street and that’s where it is. And she was right.
Relief. Skytrain to Chatuchak, Mo Chit Terminal.
We admired the Bangkok skyline on the way.
As we descended, we ran into a couple who seemed friendly. We asked for directions.
“Chatuchak? Where? Where it is? Chatuchak?” I said in fluent Thai.
“Oh it’s closed today,” said the lady in fluent English. “Come tomorrow.”
Ah, but of course.
Back to Siam Centre, which we knew so well by that time, and collapsed, numb, at some coffee place.
Then it was mad shopping at the nearby MBK center. Bought a 1 GB card for my camera, a mobile phone and a game of some sort for an enviably low price showing our canny business sense. As we walked out, the prices for the said goods crashed immediately behind us.
I had the brilliant idea to go back to Peachy by river ferry which was near Asia Hotel, close by.
“Fun,” I said. “It will be fun. We have come to have fun and get away from it all.”
“No comment,” said the wife. She had just returned from Angkor Wat with me and we had walked for about 674,538,905.7 miles non-stop. She did not believe me.
As the rains lashed down on us, we found the River Ferry.
“Banglamphu?” I screamed above the rain and thunder.
“Banglamphu,” smiled the conductress.
With great difficulty we got onto the pitching ferry in heavy rain. We sat down on the wet bench. Onwards to Banglamphu.
Just to confirm, I asked the nice man next to me how many stops away this place was.
“Wrong ferry, you go in the other direction.” he informed me with traditional Thai politeness.
The conductress smiled at me.
Off again and on to the real ferry. Finally we reached Banglamphu. But wait, it didn’t seem like it at all. It seemed spick and span, lights, a band in the distance and a steady drizzle. The place had been decked up for some Thai-French friendship day. This was merely the Banglamphu ferry stop.
“Banglamphu about 25 minutes walk”, said a courteous Thai citizen. “Straight. Right at monument. Left at traffic light. Straight. Banglamphu.”
He was quite right. Banglamphu was a short distance away.
We ate some questionable food at a French cafÃ©, found Peachy and the glaring lady, crawled up to our room and passed out.