Asia Travel

Bangkok is a Big, Beautiful Mess

Bangkok is a head-on collision of modern and traditional and I'm very, very tired.

First things first, rest in peace Uncle Phil. Wait no. First things first, I love this place. I honestly thought Thailand was a 3rd world country and Bangkok was going to be hard to navigate. I guess I assumed a lot of Asian countries with the exception of Japan or China were like third world nations. I’m not racist I’m just not well traveled, and I’m not too ashamed to admit I was wrong.

Bangkok a chaotic blend of tradition and modern style that feels like living inside of a bee hive. Everything is constantly moving. I visited the RMK Mall, which is an immaculate 7 story mall that would put anything in America to shame, and right when I step outside there’s people cooking street food on the sidewalk. The Marriott hotel downtown is a jaw dropping piece of architecture that made me feel uncomfortable when I walked into the lobby because it felt like security was coming at any moment to throw me out, and less than a block away there is a whole block of sex parlors and jerk off massage places. I can’t get a read on this place. It’s all things at once.

Legend of the Not-So-Hidden Temples

On the first day I did what every white ass tourist does, I went sightseeing at the temples. I figured it was a safe first move seeing as how I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours and my brain felt like it was running on 2% battery life.

The Grand Palace was first on the list because I accidentally walked by it as I zombied my way through downtown. I was wandering aimlessly hoping that the universe would give me something to do. Thanks universe.

At 500 baht, it’s a relatively pricey place. Not to mention the 100 baht I spent on elephant pants so I could get in. Luckily they’re some sweet fucking pants.

The temple looked like a temple but since it was my first one I was pretty inspired by it. The opulent intricacy of the construction and the gaudy, Trinidad James-like all gold everything construction on the inside was cool to see. It definitely got my excited to see more.

Also I can’t get over the fact that all the monuments at these temples look like giant penises. I don’t know if that has to do with the masculine posturing of the country or a dick-happy designer but I couldn’t get over how phallic all these giant structures were.

Welcome to Dong City

Wat Arun was only 50 baht and much more enjoyable than the Grand Palace, much less crowded too. I took some photos and met these two women from Texas who were nice enough to take an Instagram shot for me. We started talking for about 2 minutes until my sleep deprived-ness made it impossible for me to converse without making things really awkward. Guess I’ll make some new friends later.

Two temples and 3 miles of walking in a good ol’ fashioned sweat box later, I was templed out and needed some food.

Eat the Street

Getting another recommendation from my guy Stu B (who really Made this whole leg of the trip flawless with his advice) I went to the river and jumped on the first ferry I saw. I had no idea you had to actually pay so I accidentally rode for free. I also had no idea where the ferry was going. Reckless adventure! Thank god it took me to a place that was actually a lot of fun, the Wanglang Sriraj Market at the Wang Lang stop. Lol wang.

This market was my first introduction to how insane Asia was going to be. There are way too many people selling literally everything you can imagine from watches to food to a xerox copies. It’s like a more exciting shopping mall with off-off-brand designer clothes and other goods that probably fall apart the second you buy them.

Street food is where it’s at. I mean, there are no health codes and they could have been storing the meat on the sidewalk but it tastes so damn good. I saw a woman take a dirty plate from one customer, barely wipe it off with a dirty rag, then put my food on it. Whatever, what’s a little diarrhea in exchange for some delicious mouth pleasure. I hope that sentence made you uncomfortable.

For 60 baht ($1.96 dollars) you can get some of the best food you’ve ever had in your life. Chicken stir fry, curry, local pho, noodles, fried rice at a quality that would rival most upscale restaurants. I don’t even know what I’m eating half the time which I know is dangerous but I didn’t travel to Asia to be safe. I’ve been lucky so far not getting food poisoning but it’s only been 1 day so that’s not much of an accomplishment.

Route66 With Some Youths

I met some 23 year old recent college grads (everybody here is a recent college grad I’m old) from Washington University who invited me out to party with them because I had some great suggestions. We hit it off almost immediately because they’re nice and I’m a charming son of a bitch. And also desperate for friends even though it’s only been 24 hours since I left Hawaii.

We bonded for a few hours, grabbed dinner together, then got some red bulls and vodka because we had all flown in that morning and felt like sleeping instead of drinking. I really wish I had. Alas, Route66 (another Stu B suggestion) seemed like a lot of fun.

Route 66 is 3 giant clubs in one, a hip-hop/Top 40 DJ in the main room with bottle service tables, an EDM room that has wall-to-wall TVs (including the ceiling and floor) that makes you feel like you’re on drugs even if you’re not, and a live music club that has local cover bands. Pick your poison. The only problem was it was a local bar. Lots of people didn’t speak english and lots of thai dudes were not stoked that a large group of white guys were acting drunk and belligerent.

The group I was with was looking for more of a Khao San Road, “let’s fuck backpackers” vibe so they weren’t as excited as me to be there. I didn’t give a fuck. They were too lazy to find their own club so this is what you get, it did cause a bit of tension throughout the night that got weirder as we got drunker. The immediate best friend-ness of the situation slowly dissipated as the alcohol flooded our collective veins.

We get a ride home from the local uber called “GRAB” which is super convenient and pay 400 baht for a 10 person van with recliner seats. We all fall asleep immediately and I wake up to the driver screaming and yelling at me to get out and pay. Confused, drunk, and exhausted, we pay him then go to the hostel to sleep. I’ve now made it more than 40 hours without sleep, I can’t wait to pass out.

Only I didn’t. I had been mainlining red bull all night and I was 2 inches away from a heart attack. God dammit. I watch some Netflix and eventually “pass out” but the sleep quality was the equivalent of trying to nap in a bus station. Sleep I desperately needed. Oh well, I guess day 2 is fucked but hey I have 3 months so I could care less. First day complete, I went balls to the wall and I can’t wait to do it again. After I recover.

First impression? This giant mess of a city all blends perfectly. The old and new, gross and pristine, it’s all part of the same complicated tapestry. I’ve never seen anything like it and I have a ravenous hunger for more.

And traveling alone is the way to travel. I always thought I needed friends to share the experience with until I didn’t have them then I realized it’s much less stressful when I only have to deal with my bullshit rather than 2-5 other people’s bullshit as well. I don’t feel obligated to make conversation and I can do what I want, when I want. Makes me wonder why I ever traveled with people in the first place. I’ll probably get lonely at some point and change my tune but as of right now, I’m content.

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