Culture-shock, wide-eyed, friendly. Where to begin...
We made it to Bangkok! We flew EVA Air from Seattle. I was nervous about the 12+ hour flight to Taipei, Taiwan. Luckily, we all managed to sleep and it really wasn't so bad. We had a 3+ hour layover in Taipei where we waited for Starbucks to open, had a snack, and walked through the pristine airport. Most gates had a theme. There was a Hello Kitty gate, nature-themed gates, and we waited in a cinema-themed gate. We were impressed with the Taipei airport.
We took a 777 to Bangkok which was another 3.5 hour flight. Meal service was fine and the flights were uneventful. Just what you want on a flight.
At the Bangkok airport, we got some baht and ordered a taxi into the city. The taxi ride was amazing! I don't know what I expected but the motorcycles weaving between cars, the aggressive taxi driving in the shoulder and in between lanes wasn't it. Wow! I think I could ride in a taxi all day and be entertained. (That all changed the next day when we learned about Bangkok traffic.)
Our hotel is down some narrow twisty roads (sois). Isanook Residence is perfect for us! We have 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 3 AC units, a kitchen (unnecessary except for storing beer and water in the fridge), and living room. The included breakfast has been great. We splurged on this place and are still paying about $100 per night.
We walked down to the nearby 7-Eleven (they are everywhere in Bangkok) where we stocked up on water, snacks, and beer. We could quickly understand why Bangkok is known as the birthplace of street food. It is everywhere. You can't walk a block without someone selling something.
The hotel offers a free tuk tuk or minivan to various places in the city. We took advantage and were dropped off at the MBK Center - a massive mall. It was pouring down rain at this point. After wandering a while, we crossed over to a fancier mall called Siam Paragon. I had read about the huge modern food court. We pre-paid for a card and each picked out something for dinner. I think my seafood soup was the best of all.
After dinner, we finally found a taxi to take us back to our hotel in terrible traffic. Even a long taxi ride is around $3 including tip. This all seemed like enough for our first partial day in Bangkok. Definitely time to sleep. Zzzzzzz.
First Full Day in Bangkok
We woke up fairly early and enjoyed the breakfast buffet on the rooftop of our hotel. Lots of yummy choices including Dim Sum, which the girls loved. We took a taxi to Golden Mount - a wat (temple) on the top of a man-made hill. It was fun ringing various bells and gongs on the way up the 300+ stairs to get to the top.
I haven't mentioned much about the heat. It is extremely hot as we expected. I feel like we came prepared with sunhats, sunscreen, cooling towels, and lightweight clothes. We've all had our moments but we seem to be handling it better than I expected.
After Golden Mount, we took a tuk-tuk to a few other wats. One had the tallest Buddha in Bangkok, the lucky Buddha, and the marble Buddha. That's a lot of Buddhas. The tuk-tuk ride was exciting! I won't go into details, but despite reading about the tourist scams in Bangkok, we fell right into one of the infamous tuk-tuk scams. After being dropped at a tailor to buy a suit (no, we didn't buy a suit!) we realized what was going on and ditched the tuk-tuk.
We were on our feet for quite a while and finally found the amulet market that the kids had heard about. They wanted to buy amulets for their friends. We were getting cranky by this point and finally found a quiet air-conditioned coffee shop for refreshing smoothies. The kids were were good sports through most of this eventful morning.
We found ourselves in Chinatown near lunch time. The street food scene was incredible! We had our sights set on Indian food for lunch. Yum! After lunch, we found ourselves a taxi and headed back to the hotel for a much-needed swim.
We were so fortunate to be invited to dinner with my old college friend Pen and her mother. They selected an incredible Thai restaurant in the Sukhumvit neighborhood. We took the subway and skytrain to get there. There were so many people and lines! We were very late but it was so wonderful to reconnect after 20 years. Pen looked exactly the same and we enjoyed a long and delicious meal. Some of the best Thai food ever! I am planning to meet up with Pen once more before leaving Bangkok.
What a first day! We were exhausted by the end of it all.
Day Two - Chatuchuk Market
We got a later start today and decided to brave the huge Chatuchuk Market. It was a nearly 30 minute subway ride away. At least the subway in Bangkok is relatively new and air-conditioned. We had a great time wandering the huge market buying shoes and other nifty goodies to take home. One highlight was the coconut ice cream that everyone seemed to be eating. Yum! We found another mall nearby (malls are everywhere!) where we found another food court with limitless choices. DH and the kids had sushi and I had papaya salad. We spent about $7 on lunch.
We even saw some traditional Thai dancers after lunch.
The market was hot and tiring. I could have spent the entire day there but I could tell everyone else was ready for a break. We took the same subway back for a little afternoon relaxation. DH fell asleep while the girls swam and I worked on this blog. While at the pool, a woman actually recognized me. She asked if I shopped at Trader Joe's back home. No kidding! Once she said that, I recognized her as one of the friendly checkers at our local TJs. The world is huge and the world is small. Go figure.
All of a sudden, it is 6:30pm and we have lost the drive to do much of anything. The rooftop restaurant is looking appealing! We had an easy dinner at the hotel restaurant and called it a night. Bring on more of Bangkok tomorrow!