We were on our way Bangkok, Thailand - Crazy Adventures will abound! The traffic was getting heavier and we noticed the surrounding area was flooded from recent storms and rain that caused wide spread evacuations just outside the city. The monsoon resulted in a total of 815 deaths and 13.6 million people affected all over Thailand. We didn't have any problems but knew that we would have crazy adventures in Bangkok.
Flooding - Entering Bangkok
The Victory Monument
Completely Lost In the Concrete Jungle
When we arrived in Bangkok and had no direction or destination other than a GPS flag which was nothing more than the random place on the map I put my finger when setting the way-point. We entered town on a road that brought us around a large turnabout with an obelisk of bronze soldiers at the base. The Victory Monument. We also later found out that this is one of the busiest intersections in Bangkok.
Timing had us arriving just in time for 5 o'clock rush hour. Maneuvering through the turnabout we found a place to stop and get our bearings. We parked the bikes on the street under the Skytrain station. The surrounding area was a huge sidewalk full of different types of eateries and sidewalk shops. We sat for a moment and watched in awe at the amount of activity and people scurrying about. We had never seen anything quite like it.
The Sun Sets On Our First Day In Bangkok
We looked for a hotel on the GPS while we still had a bit of battery life left. We saw there was a Best Western nearby, which we now know was Siam Square, another very busy place in Bangkok. The largest building in Thailand, at the time was called the Biayoke Tower in Siam Square and we stopped to check the nightly price. The area around the hotel was buzzing with people and a street market which was blocking the road. We navigated our way to the tower and Shelly stayed with the bikes outside while I went up to the 18th floor reception desk to see how much a room would be. Turns out it was a little too much for our budget to handle.
We continued the search and found another hotel on the same block. There was an Indian restaurant in the hotel lobby and its smell was calling to us. We had recently discovered while traveling through Laos how much we liked Indian food! After close inspection of the room and the enticing smells wafting through the building, we decided to stay for the night as it was getting later and later and we were hungry. The rooms were nice and affordable and had many amenities that we had not had in a while. A big screen HD TV, mini-fridge, and for the first time in Asia... air conditioning.
The next morning we looked for a hotel in a less congested part of the city, it was just too busy for us. We found The Bangkok City Hotel which was a few blocks away from a sky train station. Friendly staff, free buffet breakfast, immaculately stylish rooms and all the perks. After getting settled, we decided to get something to eat.
The City of Bangkok, Thailand
Lunch and Feeling Overwhelmed With Bangkok
Around noon we left the hotel to go out to find something to eat. We rode around looking for a place for quite some time. We really didn't know where we were and didn't want to stray too far from the hotel for risk of getting lost in this concrete jungle. Besides, we needed to take our dog Buddha outside to "do his thing"anyway, so he came with us on the bike. We were frustrated, trying to learn our way around a new city full of one way roads with more traffic than we had seen since being in Asia and trying to find a place to eat. Finally, we settled on a pizza place in a Lotus Tesco. We were craving some familiar foods and pizza fit the bill perfectly. Lotus Tescos are a national chain of multipurpose buy everything stores. Almost like a mall, but smaller by American standards.
The City of Bangkok, Thailand
Advice From Strangers
We met a couple in the restaurant from Israel who were on their way home after a two-week vacation in Thailand. After striking up a conversation and expressing our current exasperation with Bangkok, the couple said they felt the exact same way. We felt relieved. We were simply overwhelmed with this city. Not knowing the language and trying to navigate a city like Bangkok is no easy task. We told them we felt like we needed to get out of the city. They told us of their trip to the islands Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao. These islands are in the southeast bay of Thailand. They said it was beautiful, relaxing and they recommended going.
After seeing pictures and hearing stories it sounded spectacular and exactly like what we wanted. We decided to book a trip for the next day... if possible, and couldn't wait to get out of Bangkok. It was more than possible.. it was feasible. We went back to the hotel and booked a cheap flight to Surat Thani, from there we could take a 2 hour ferry ride to Koh Samui. We also booked a room at the Cocooning Hotel in Fisherman Village (Bo Put) excited to be heading to the island and relaxation!
Reunion With a Recently Made Friend
While we were applying for our Thai visas at the Thai Embassy in Vientiane Laos, we met a man named Kish. Kish grew up in London, his parents are from Pakistan and he has been living in
Thailand for 6 years and Bangkok for the last 2 years. He builds, sells and races race cars for a living in Bangkok. He told us when we made it to Bangkok to give him a call and he would show us around a bit. We called him that afternoon and agreed to meet up at 7pm. He gave us his approximate address and I punched it into our still very low battery GPS. We left about 15 minutes late and the traffic was horrible. We were about 1 kilometer from reaching his house when the GPS dies again.
By 8 o'clock we finally found Kish's road on our own and he met us at a nearby convenience store and escorted us to his house. We were on our motorbikes and were also planning to drop them off that evening for storage while we went to the Islands. Kish generously offered to let us keep our bikes at his house which we gladly accepted. We visited at Kish's house and talked for a while then set out for some Tex-Mex food at a restaurant called Los Cabos Grill that Kish frequents, which has fantastic steak. We hopped into a cab Kish had arranged and headed out into the city.
The Cracked-Out Cabbie - Bangkok, Thailand - Crazy Adventures
Once in the cab we immediately realized something unique about Kish. He speaks Thai very fluently. We soon find out from his conversation with the cabbie.... that the taxi driver is also race-car driver. I don’t know if it was in his nature or only to impress Kish, but within a few minutes as if on cue... there arrived a white hatchback Honda with lowered suspension, a tail fin and custom exhaust. Like a shot the cabbie hurdles the Toyota Corolla sized-car to within inches of the Honda's bumper. We were suddenly racing this white Honda down the busy streets of Bangkok at quadruple the speeds of anyone else. Shelly and I were stunned. I then thought.... who better to be driving than a race-car driver.... right? Kish was talking to the driver and joking back and forth the whole time, distracting him from his utter need to concentrate at this speed while weaving in and out of traffic.
But wait… It Gets Crazier
Our nerves were completely shot. We asked the driver if it would be ok to smoked a cigarette in the backseat. The driver obliged and we then asked Kish to ask the driver if he would like one. We were hoping that by smoking, maybe the driver would slow down, relax and get us to our destination alive. Kish then turns around laughing and tells us the cab driver only likes to “smoke the ice”.
WHAT?? Shelly and I both instinctively reached for our seat-belts, which were nonexistent. So we sat back, relaxed, released our grip on the pleather seats and accepted fate at this point, smoking our cigarettes as if we didn’t have a care in the world, while watching the world whizz by. I have to hand it to the taxi driver, he can win a street race with 3 passengers on a fare, make it to the destination in record time all while on crystal meth. Amazing!
Crazy,tweaked-out race car driving cabbie in Bangkok, with no regard for his speed, police or losing his job or if he crashes.... what an experience! We were actually somewhat thrilled with it, yet glad when the white Honda turned a corner and the race ended. It was an exhilarating 10 minutes which seemed like an hour.
Dinner and Drinks
The restaurant Kish took us to was a Tex-Mex style place with outdoor seating in a garden area. The food from appetizer to entree didn't disappoint! One of the best steaks we’d eaten anywhere in the world and killer guacamole. After dinner we left to explore some of the city. We stopped very briefly at the seedy part of town where there are a line of bars full of drunk westerners and an indoor strip mall of girly clubs. Soi NaNa! We sat and watched geriatric men pick up girls that could have easily been their grand-daughters and the unsuspecting tourist getting hustled by lady boys for an hour or so.
We then hopped in another cab to a street near Koreatown, and saw a different side of Bangkok.... nice and relaxed. There was a street full of hotels with vans and trucks parked along the curb. It had 5 or 6 roaming vehicle bars that were 1960s or 70s VW vans. We decided to stop and check it out.
Mobile VW Bus Bars
Kish and Us Hanging Out
The conversion from vehicles to a mobile bar is amazing. The curb side of the van has a pop up roof and a drop down side window that creates a bar. They had music setups with amps and sub-woofers. Of course there was also a fully stocked bar with every type of spirit, beer, wine or mixed drink you could want.
Stools are set up on the curb along the bar. Each van/truck is decorated differently with inside lights and/or either a menu or name of the coach/bar. We sat at one of the bars and had a few drinks for a what seemed like a short time, then suddenly realized it was already 2am. Our flight the next day for Koh Samui was at 10am. We had to get up by 7am to be ready and at the airport in time for our flight. We were talked into having one last drink with Kish before heading back to the hotel to pack for the next day. It was almost 3am before we got a cab back to the hotel, but we really didn’t mind. We enjoyed hanging out with Kish and seeing different areas of Bangkok we wouldn’t have found without him.
Change in Perspective
We saw so many different sides of the city. The luxury of having someone who speaks the language and knows the city like the back of his hand was great. Our whole perspective on the city has changed and we are amazed at the diversity of places found within. It's absolutely amazing how one day, you can hate a place and can't wait to get out, and the next feel completely different about it. I guess that's why we need to take a step back and look at things sometimes before making decisions. We were actually sad to leave Bangkok, yet excited we were going to the warm sands of a tropical paradise to spend Christmas. I guess some rash decisions have a good outcome too. We will be back to Bangkok soon and look forward to spending more time searching for new experiences and adventures.