Speedy / Day 2 of 64 / 11 May
It’s Day 2, and we’re still here in glorious Bangkok! After a tiring first day, we decided to wake up a little later today. Treat yourself. 9am is going to be a treat for the next 64 days.
We left The Local Surasak at around 10am and headed for the famous MBK Center. I had been to MBK before a few years back and I was amazed at how much the same it looked. I’m convinced MBK is stuck in a time loop of some kind. We went to the food court and had breakfast. Well, actually it was more of a lunch 1.0. And then, in between being harassed by people trying to sell us clothes, and being harassed by people trying to sell us iPhones, Sam finally got a backpack to help me lug some of my shit around!
By then, it was already 2pm, and our plans for the night weren’t finalised yet. So we sat at a Dunkin Donuts to plan the rest of our day. I also showed Sam the miracle of dunking donuts into coffee. He wasn’t too impressed. We headed to Siam Square One once our coffees were finished, and we continued planning there. Around 30 minutes later, we finally planned to head to Khao San for some sightseeing before heading to Thong Lo to meet my friends for dinner.
A flea market going on beside Siam Square One.
At this point it was only 3pm, so we had some time to kill before heading to Khao San, since it only really starts to get lively around 7pm. So, we decided to explore the consumer paradise of Siam. Siam Centre was where we spent most of our time: mostly because it was a mall with pretty cool shops, and also because Siam Paragon was way too atas. We also had lunch 2.0 at CentralWorld in Chitlom.
At around 5pm, we left Chitlom for Sathorn Pier, conveniently located below Saphan Taksin BTS Station. There was a group of blind musicians playing at the entrance of the pier and I got goosebumps listening to them. There’s something about Thai music and feeling melancholy.
Anyone who says they don’t feel strangely moved by this is a liar.
We boarded the Chao Phraya Express Orange Flag and headed for Phra Arthit Pier. The ride cost us around 30 THB/2 SGD/pax. If you’re in BKK, the Chao Phraya Express [เรือด่วนเจ้าพระยา, Reux dwn ceaphraya] is a must: but be sure to take the Orange Flag, that’s the one the locals use. Avoid the Tourist Boat for an authentic experience. Every time the boat docks, you’ll get to see a guy at the back make whistling noises and leap from still moving ferry to pier.
Approach the counter staff at any pier and you can trade in your Baht for some aesthetic orange squares.
I wanted to try doing this. But I was afraid I would ruin the commute of about 50 people if I did.
Phra Arthit Piet was only a short walk away from the backpacker’s paradise of Khao San Road [ถนนข้าวสาร, Thnn khawsar]. Stepping off the boat, I could already feel the “tourist-ness” of the district. Khao San is a lively district, full of tourists, mostly backpackers, from all over the world. We decided to explore the adjacent Rambuttri Alley first. It was as lively as the original Khao San road, and it exists because of the “overflow” from the relatively short 1km long Khao San road. Walking down the alley, I sort of got the idea that the entire Khao San district was like a perfect construction of what tourists must imagine Bangkok to be like. It was sufficiently exotic, sufficiently foreign. No international style skyscrapers, or public transport here, just rows of shophouses with billboards telling you to “Celebrate Like Thais”. Nothing at all like what downtown Bangkok was like. It’s a district where “Thai-ness” is brought to the next level.
CHAI-YO? More like HAI-YO.
Anyway, as we were leaving Khao San, we were approached by staff from an English Language centre. They asked us if we spoke English, and when we said yes, they asked if we could be “practice dummies” for their students! So we went in and I was paired up with Singha. He used to be a factory worker at Isuzu, and had been learning English for the past month. He was already pretty good at it! He got the introductory phrases down, and although we had to rely on Google Translate a few times, it was a pretty smooth conversation. I thought this was a great idea, getting tourists from all over the world to come and interact with students to let them practice their English.
Not pictured: Google Translate and Android phones.
So, after our stint as ESL teachers came to an end, we took the Khlong Saen Saeb Canal Boat [เรือโดยสารคลองแสนแสบ, Reux doysar khlxng saen saeb] to Thong Lo Pier, where we were supposed to have dinner with Kerk and Sarvin. They happened to be in Bangkok as well, and they were here to train in a Muay Thai school. I asked if they could now kill people. They said no. Suffice to say, I was disappointed.
Small canals, but fast boats. Way too fast.
From the pier, we took a taxi to Thong Lo BTS Station where the pair were waiting for us. We ordered some traditional Thai spicy noodles from a hole-in-the-wall street stall. When Thais say spicy, they mean spicy. Sam and I aren’t very good at handling spice, but I think I’m probably the worse one between us two. After just half a bowl, I gave up and dumped the rest of my noodles into Sam’s bowl. But the half I ate was delicious, as is almost ALL Thai food. So with our goodbye smoke complete, we parted ways in Bangkok, and Sam and I headed back to Surasak.
Muay Thai champs.
Back at the hostel, I began writing this entry. While I was writing, Michael came back after taking a break from studying. We talked with Michael quite a lot and we learned many perspective-shifting things about Danish culture and social norms. It was fascinating to hear about another culture, in such depth, from someone with a completely different lived experience. He laid out Danish culture to us, both the good and the bad. And I was really grateful that he exposed the bad to us as well. Because we hear so much about the “other” all the time, we create imaginary figments of the “other” in our minds. But yet, when you interact and understand the “other”, you realise that they’re very much the same as you. We can’t base our understanding of the world on figments or projections. People are still people in all corners of the globe. Sure, the problems a Dane faces and the problems a Singaporean faces day-to-day are wholly different. But today, as a Singaporean listening to a Danish man describe his own country’s high and low points, there were more than a few moments where I realised how we shared so much: not as citizens of different countries, but as humans just trying to shape a world in our vision of it.