Boo-gie down, your fly’s undone, and getting beaten with a shoe.

The Wandering Nerd March 12th, 2008

After the laid back - to the point of being horizontal - nature of southern Thailand, Bangkok resonates on the brain much akin to a shovel being applied forcefully to ones face. There were some hassles in the south true, but outside of the over eager taxi - TAXI! TAXI! - guys it was pretty simple to get along. Bangkok is an assault on the senses and I’m not talking about one of those fun tickle assaults either. It certainly didn’t help that the ‘overnight’ bus I snagged - intending to sleep on - left me wide awake throughout the evening and bleary eyed at 0430 when we pulled into BK. Before you even step foot on the street there are touts grabbing you and and asking where you go…my English is clearly being influenced by my time in Siam - that or it’s all the Sangsom.

The bus stops on what looks to be a normal road - more importantly it’s no Khaosan Road - and all the taxi drivers start making offers to take we weary travelers to Khaosan for the low low price of 400 Baht. We walk away and find a coffee shop and get oriented. Turns out I’m on the next street over from Khao San. Cheeky buggers. They’ll lie right to your face and smile at you the whole time. More on that later though.

But first I need to cover Khaosan. It’s a Mecca for backpackers traveling in SE Asia, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out why. There’s really nothing there other than guesthouses, bars and bars. The special kind of bar is a small table set up on the sidewalk with a bunch of liqour bottles, some plastic chairs and and people trying to pull you off the street to buy a bucket of whatever. So you sit down on the side of the street and watch people watching people getting drunk. It’s kind of boring actually. I was expecting some real full on craziness, all I got was some guy in a strange hat, a Captain Jack look alike, and a pygmy elephant. Quite a let down. Only a couple of the photos came out so prepare you complaints.

One thing that’s important to note for future reference, do not try to get something accomplished when you are exhausted from traveling. That’s really how they get you over here. Wait until you are so dead ass tired and then dump you in some place that is convenient and hit you with a higher charge. In this case we tried to get our Cambodian visa at the embassy. Turns out the embassy has moved to the middle of nowhere Bangkok. Luckily a nice Tuk Tuk driver knew where a TAT - tourist office - was, and it was close by. We sorted out both the Laos and Cambodia visas along with train tickets, for quite a bit higher than it should have been. Then by the time we made it back to the guesthouse, we noticed that our guesthouse had a TAT in it…so it goes.

While walking back we kept getting thai guys come up to us asking where we were from, etc. So here’s the scam: these friendly guys come up and start talking to you about things to see in Bangkok. They then write on your map circling a number of Wats that are ‘interesting’ and then tell you you can get a Tuk Tuk for 50 Baht - hasib baht! no more! - to take you around to all of these places. Then they flag down a Tuk Tuk and hussle you in. You do get driven around to these places, then after one of the stops they pull over and show you a card saying that they get free gas coupons if you go and look around in some store. So you go to the store to look at all of the overpriced shit that you have no intention of buying and then back into the Tuk Tuk. Another Wat, another store, rinse, repeat. The turn: we got drug around to all the sites, didn’t buy any of the overpriced junk, and then after the last Wat the Tuk Tuk driver buggered off without us even paying him. So it seems like they are scamming the stores more than the farangs.

Stopped by the National Gallery, dirty buggers wouldn’t let us take photos, but I did note down a few good artists:

Khien Yimsiri - http://www.thaiartproject.org/kean_e.html

Prayat Pongdam - http://www.rama9art.org/prayat/index.html

Kiettisak Chanonnart - http://www.rama9art.org/kiettisak/index.html

Also, here is a pretty good list of some other Thai artists - http://www.rama9art.org/artisan/male/male.html

I did get a chance to walk around and checked out a bunch of the sites. Wat Phra Kaew is probably coolest Wat yet, home of the Emerald Buddha, the Grand Palace is smashing, and definately grand. Wat Pho is impressive, that’s where the giant Reclining Buddha is. It’s one of the largest images of Buddha in the world, probably the largest I’ll ever see 46m (150′) long by 15m high (50′). That’s a big buddha buddy.

Everyone seems to complain about the traffic in Bangkok, and it’s pretty bad, but really I’ve seen worse. The biggest problem, as I see it, isn’t the volume of the traffic, it’s the fact that the road rules are more suggestions than anything. Driving on the wrong side of the road is apparently acceptable which means that if your driving on that side then by definition the oncoming traffic can’t. Which means the peaceful flow of traffic is not going to work, the system breaks down. The streets fill up, and gridlock ensooos!

I went to, quite possible, the most amazing bar in the world. Vertigo bar sits on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel. Literally, on the roof. Sitting there having a very overpriced V&T, looking out over the city, I was struck by a couple of thoughts. One, this is pretty frickin’ awesome. Two, every filament in every light out there, every square meter of concrete in all those buildings, have all been shaped by man, by man’s will. What a species we are.

Here’s Bangkok:

Next day was a trip to The Bridge Over the River Kwai. It’s part of the Burma Railway and technically didn’t run over the river Kwai until the Thai government renamed it in the 60s from Mae Klong to Kwai Yai. Apparently the tourists didn’t like visiting a bridge that didn’t go over what they thought it went over. Solution, lets just rename the river, problem solved.

Finally, and I’ve been waiting for this one for almost as long as the full moon party, I went to the one true Tiger Temple it’s real name is Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yanasampanno - which is probably why they go with “Tiger Temple.” You get to interact with tigers. Not much in the way of frolicking with the animals - and I had done all of my pre-frolicking stretching too. But you do get to get close enough to sit with them and touch them. Tigers are like…big. Really big. They can get up to 4m (13′) long, that’s a hell of a big cat. The ones at the temple are so used to people they pretty much ignored the whole thing, that or they are drugged. You also get to mess around with cubs, which was a bit more fun. The one little cub gave a very passable snarl/growl at the other cub when I was playing with them. Effective enough to trigger that little animal reflex still buried deep down in our genes, which warns us of the scary things out in the jungle, then he licked my hand and nudged me to scratch his head again. I’m not one to use the adjective ‘cute’ lightly, nor am I historicly given to uttering an ‘awwww’, I did both on that one temple visit. A lot of photos of me, look at how narcissistic I’m becoming. I’m hoping it all goes to my head.

I’ll leave you with this video. Since it’s so hard to get heavy machinery in some of the places in Bangkok, they’ve come up with an amusing but effective alternative:


can’t be too careful with your company
i can feel the devil walking next to me
-murray head

3 Responses to “Boo-gie down, your fly’s undone, and getting beaten with a shoe.”

  1. damoon 13 Mar 2008 at 10:28 am

    i used to like playing “first” on here. but i nearly always am.

    smacked out tigers. now there’s a name for a band.

    good to see that you’re continuing onwards and upwards. nearly a year isn’t it?

    blimey……keep on the good foot buddy.
    south america. if you can.
    just a nod and a wink.

  2. meganleighon 13 Mar 2008 at 8:44 pm

    I heard this on the radio yesterday when I was driving (to Maysville, of all places)! Thought it would be appropriate. Enjoy… http://www.last.fm/music/Murray+Head/+videos/+1-TgmoEHnUpjk

  3. Hoshion 14 Mar 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Nice, bro. You even managed to get one or two shots with actual Thai people in them too!!!
    .
    Those tiger cubs look incredibly cool. I’d imagine that is one of the many experiences you will hold onto for a lifetime from this trip. As cute as they are, I think my fave photo from this set is the “Fuckin’ Good” beer cart. Those Thai vendors sure do know their target audience. :)
    .
    I am anxious to see the shots of Cambodia and Laos soon too. Both are places I’ve never been thanks to our government’s unceasingly ignorance and insistence on blocking certain countries out like they don’t even exist.
    .
    Try to get some more street scenes before you leave the area. Ones from Laos and Cambodia would be even more appreciated since I have no clue what those are like. More from BKK would just be pure entertainment. :P
    .
    As always, be safe, have a good time and try to fight the impulses to just take off and become a real-life Mowgli…Jungle Book, you know? Disney remake of a Kipling book? No bells ringing?
    .
    Monkeybroi…out.

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