Saturday, October 26, 2013

Back to Bangkok - Another Lost in Translation Adventure

As soon as Z told me that he will be travelling to Bangkok for a two-day conference, I immediately asked if I could join. There was no second thought. My last out of the country travel was over a year ago and I can no longer control the itch to travel again. My last trip to Bangkok was 2011 and that was a short one. Well technically my trip was intended for Pattaya and I only have a day to tour Bangkok as we were in a strict itinerary as dictated by our company who sponsored the trip. Though we have a little  bit of liberty to go wherever we want, the entire cost of the trip is covered by my employer and I felt like I have to follow the calendar and just plan on making a personal trip later on.

Z went ahead and I have to follow a day after his departure. I booked a flight via Philippine Airlines as they appeared to be cheaper than Cebu Pacific sans the occasional promos. I was looking for a cheap flight deals but unlucky. I should have known that Z would be travelling to Bangkok months ahead so that I could have saved money by looking for online promos, but I have moved on. The round-trip ticket to Bangkok on a regular economy flight via PAL costs USD211 or around Php 11,000.

Because of that I decided to look for a budget hotel courtesy of the ever-reliable Agoda Online Booking. Agoda, for the past two years, has helped me find the best and cheapest way to stay in my country of destination. I booked a USD25 / Night Stay in Justbeds hotel for 2 Nights located near the Silom Road in Bangkok. Yes, its near to Patpong, but please there is more to Bangkok than these infamous red district spots.

Now let's get started, let me say I was lucky to stay in Millennium Hilton Hotel for just one night.

Now moving on, our first itinerary is the Chinatown Market/Yaowarat Market. If you think Thailand is yet another country with a huge Chinese population, yes you are certainly right. Chinatown is home to hundreds of amazing cheap finds and numerous street foods.

Hey, Tuk Tuk everywhere. In the Philippines, we call this tricycle. Why don't we call our own tuk-tuk with a name that sounds so Filipino, just like them?

Of course, what is Chinatown without Chinese temple? As a contrast to the towering temple of Wat Traimit (that houses the Golden Buddha), this Chinese temple marks the entrance to the Chinatown proper.

Chinatown offers a wide array of exotic culinary ingredients - it's a mecca for food enthusiasts who'd like to shop for rare to find ingredients.

And I fell in love with these life-sized Buddhas that are all over the streets of Chinatown. On these street, you can find also various religious ornaments such as candles and flowers.

Z is a sucker for spices and cinnamon. The moment he found this store, he couldn't resist buying these assorted items. And it is also very cheap.

Resist the temptation of commuting comfort by avoiding to ride taxis. There is something exciting in roaming the city of Bangkok by walking. Yes, it is kinda scary to explore the streets of Bangkok as getting lost (both in maps and translation) is a nightmare, but you will never really find the inner vibe and color of the city if you are in fast transit. We found this group of monks walking the hot streets of Chinatown. 

So when you're done roaming the busy streets of Chinatown and your gustatory feast craving is satisfied, try to burn some calories by climbing the high stairs of the Wat Traimit temple located just across the Chinese Temple. It is a famous landmark and everyone knows this place. This temple houses the famous Golden Buddha that is made of pure gold of course.

The interiors of the Wat Traimit temple is mesmerizing. It's gold dust everywhere. Everywhere you look is adorned with intricate details of gold of metals.

On the center of the hall is the Golden Statue of Buddha which is according to Wikipedia, valued at US$ 250,000,000. I certainly believed that this statue is heavily guarded. Massive!

Street Food spree is never-ending. And yes they have their own version of kikiam. And it tastes almost the same as ours. I didn't bother to taste the one on the left. It looks uncertain and scary to me.

But this became our instant favorite. Z saw this piece of heaven on the side of the street at the foot of Mo Chit BTS (Bangkok Train Station). But it can be found anywhere and it's very cheap. You will find a handful of this on Suvarnabhumi airport as well but it costs more than thrice of the street regular price. What is this I am talking about? - it's just a ripe sweet mango served with a cup of sticky rice which we call Biko in the Philippines. My mom can cook a better version of this sticky rice, slightly darker and sweeter because we put more muscovado or brown sugar on it, plus a latik or coco jam on top. Sweeeet!

And so, we finally went to the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market. If you want to go here and you are coming from Silom Road or Bangkok City proper, taking a cab would cost you over 200 baht. If I were you, I would go for an all-day BTS pass. Ride the BTS (train) and buy the all-day pass prepaid card and go to Mo Chit station which is a walking distance to the busy Chathuchak Weekend Market. The prepaid card only cost 130 baht (If I am not mistaken) and you will never worry about getting lost in transit as riding the train is virtually unlimited. So going back to Chatuchak, this weekend market is a shopping extravaganza. It boasts of hundreds of shopping stalls that sell wide selection of goods - food, art pieces, collection items, souvenirs, plants, ornaments, clothes, bags, and many more. It is our version of Greenhills and Tiendesitas but of bigger size and variety.

When you decide to go here, dress in your most comfortable attire. The alleys and passages of the market are so narrow and it is always packed with tourists and swarm of window shoppers. Don't bring a big back-pack, just carry a light tote or shopping bag so that you wouldn't worry about your stuff everytime a horde of shoppers would try to outpace you. But nevertheless, if you are accustomed to the daily stress of the convoluted and narrower Divisoria, then Chathuchak is going to be a walk in the park for you.

I am pretty sure there were areas in the market that are air-conditioned, but most part of Chatuchak are poorly ventilated so be ready for an extra clothes when you get sweaty and all that.

After Chatuchak, we went to Ayutthaya. It is an old city and it would remind you of our very own Intramuros. It is located in the valley of Chao Phraya river founded in 1350 by King U Thong. It was named after the city of Ayodhya in India which was the birthplace of Rama in Ramayana.

This was my favorite place. It was so serene and peaceful. Ayutthaya is a tourist spot and you would see many ruins of the old kingdom. 

After the long strolls under the scorching heat of the blistering sun (which we have to face because we arrived on the site on a high noon) we decided to feast once again.

Vietnam style noodles with basil leaves and bean sprouts. Basil leaves were a surplus and Z stole lots of it. Hehehe.

Bangkok also at river transport system but the current of the river was so scary so I didn't bother trying their ferries. It looks convenient and picturesque though.

The next day was a Sunday and we endeavored to find a Catholic church in a Buddhist nation. The Assumption Cathedral is situated in the heart of Bangkok and very near the Silom road where we stayed. But unfortunately (and understandbly), the mass was in Thai and we have to leave after saying a minute of prayer to thank God for our safe and fun trip to Bangkok.

Amazing structures greet you everywhere.

And how about the crazy parking lots.

Never-ending street food finds. This time we saw a Thai-version of our very own 'Penoy'. The taste was entirely the same, the only difference is we put salt here in Philippines while Thai put vinegar loaded with chilis.

Another favorite of mine, they probably call this some name but I didn't care asking because I just wanted to call it grilled tocino. It is because it actually tastes like sweetened pork. It was tasty and yummy. I had like 10 of these tasty little thing in a single day.

Monumento Caloocan - joke. Victory Monument. 

Z in awe of the edifices and massive structures and ruins of Ayutthaya.

It was a pleasurable trip and would be Back to Bangkok in a few months. I swear I would take more beautiful photos this time. Till next adventure.

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