Friday, 31 January 2014

Thailand Travels: Day 4, Cocktail O'clock in Bangkok

Ashlia (a fellow solo traveller) flew into Bangkok today, so I had a playmate for the evening! Unfortunately her flight was a bit delayed so I started the night without her. I ate in a restaurant on the Rambuttri Road, called My Darling and I chose to try a Thai red curry with coconut milk and rice, which I've not had before. The red curry was tasty and a little milder than a green curry, but still full of flavour; I'd definely pick it again. Eating on my own was weird at first but it's surprising how quickly you relax and feel comfortable. Plus there's so much to look stand take in from new surroundings.

Ashlia and I arranged to meet at the Greenhouse (a restaurant/hostel). While I was waiting I decided to start as I meant to go on... with a Apple Martini cocktail! I ordered one and then thought it would be nice if Ashlia had one waiting for her after her long (and delayed) flight. Ashlia's first taxi that arrived tried to charge her double the price it should be, (cheeky whatsit!) so she refused (g'wan girl!) and had to wait for another one to turn up, which made her later than planned. I was happy as larry though, as the cocktails were 3 for 2. I started on Ashlia's and ordered another one for her when she arrived.

After a good natter I showed Ashlia down the Rambuttri Road. Weaving through the copious bars, tattoo parlours, food and clothing stalls and pushy tuk tuk drivers we decided that a foot massage was needed! We paid 220THB each for an hour of pampering on side-by-side reclining deckchairs. Lushness!

After that we walked round to the Khaosan road which was like being on another planet! After 12pm the music gets heavier and louder and everyone comes out to party hard. I'd not stayed out this late yet so it was a new experience for me! It was crazy, but a right laugh, lots of drunken travellers chatting away to you and wanting to dance with you in the street!

We both clocked a funky shack with a wicked DJ playing old school R&B and selling cocktails by buckets and decided to check it out. After ordering a sex on the beach cocktail in a bucket to share for 200 THB (total bargain!) some Frenchies in the bar beckoned us over to join them, so we did! They were daring each each other to eat huge bugs from the foodie stalls, so naturally I got my camera out and caught it on film! It was so gross!!

We moved on after this and got costered by a red-haired guy who had a very 'proper' English accent, felt sick and had lost his friends (he made a point of telling us all this). Somehow he got himself involved in a street performance which involved 10 or so people laying down in the road and a little Thai guy doing a run up into a summersault over all of the people. Luckily for him the Thai made it... JUST!

By 2pm we were both flagging, so we left our new friend and went into McDonald's (oh my god the shame!) There I came face to face with my first Lady Boy in Bangkok! S/he loved us and insisted in teaching us how to say (and correctly pronounce) Thai phrases, like 'nice to meet you' and 'hello'. S/he also snapped away at us in McDonald's, badgering us to make peace signs like we were the blooming Spice Girls!! Amusing and a little bizarre! The Facebook addy situation then came up and it was time to leave sharpish.

At 3pm Ashlia caught a cab back to her hotel and I skipped off into mine to write up this blog. I'm excited for tomorrow now when we will go explore the floating markets! But now Cocktail O'clock is Snooze O'clock! Nighttttttt x

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Thailand Travels: Day 3, Street Dinner

I'm just back from foraging the local food stalls for my dinner and I'm so stuffed I can't moved! Tonight I tried my first Pad Thai from a food seller on the Khaosan road. For 50 THB, (less than £1) you get a huge portion of Eggy noodles with veg and shrimp, plus a selection of sweet or hot sauces to add to it.

Some people say to avoid the food stalls in Thailand, for fear of food poisoning, but in my experience local street food is always the best and if it's good enough for the locals... then it's good enough for me. Plus it's heaps cheaper than anywhere else!

The other good thing about street stalls is it's a good way to chat to and meet other travellers. When I sat down to eat my Patthai I struck up a chat with 2 Latinos from California and LA who were travelling all over Asia. After we'd finished eating they invited me to join them wandering the streets and chilling out at bars. I was keen and took them up as I had started to get lonesome on my own in the evenings.

We wandered down the Khaosan road and came across some interesting food stalls selling 'edible' bugs! Christina and Willie (my Latino friends) had filmed themselves eating these a few days ago and the footage was hilarious, but also very off putting... So, needless to say I didn't take up their challenge to try one!

We then stopped at a juice bar to pick up our dessert, a delicious freshly-made smoothie. For one type of fruit you pay 30 THB and for a mixed smoothie you pay 40 THB. It was really tasty and lovely and cooling in the humid evening.

Christina and Willie took me a couple of streets away from the Khaosan Road, to Rambuttri Road. It was so much nicer in this spot. The area had a more chilled out vibe and there were lots of beautiful coloured lanterns and fairy lights hanging from all the trees and bars. They were staying at a place called the Greenhouse so we went and sat in its bar, finished our smoothies and exchanged facebook details.

It was a lovely relaxing evening until Willie and I spotted a HUGE rat run across the floor in the bar, not once but twice! We both pulled our feet up to our knees and squealed! Once everyone else in the bar worked out why we'd squealed, panic ensued in the bar and women everywhere begun to leave or clutch at their boyfriends! That was when we I decided it was time to leave too!

Another great evening and another new area in Bangkok ventured into :)

Thailand Travels: Day 3, In Search of the Emerald Buddha

After surviving an evening on the Khaosan Road independently, I felt ready to tackle exploring further afield. My friend had recommended I visit the Emerald Buddah in the morning before the heat of the day. When I'd checked out its position on Google maps it looked like it was just 14 minutes walk from my hotel. Excellent, I don't need one of those cheeky taxi drivers to take me off route!

Before I left the hotel I read up on the dress code in my Lonely Planet guidebook. It said, shoulders and knees should not be shown in the temple and proper closed toe shoes were preferable. So, despite it being about 30 degrees outside I donned my closed toed Toms, lightweight trousers and pashmina to cover my shoulders. And just to be on the safe side I packed a long sleeved top. With my attire sorted, Google maps and guide book in hand, I set out in search for the Emerald Buddha.

As soon as I stepped out the door of course I had 10+ tuk tuk drivers asking me: "Where you go? Temple?". "How do they know..." I wondered. Then I thought, "Clothing, map, camera and the direction I was walking.... Obvs!"

The navigating was going well until a Thai sitting by a group of Tuk Tuks stopped me and said: "Hey misses, where you go? Temple?" whilst pointing in the opposite direction I thought I should be going!

"Hmmm" doubt then entered my mind. "Am I going the wrong way, google maps might have got it wrong".

I ignored the Thai and walked purposely across the road, but then deciding to walk a little way in the direction he was pointing, just to see if that was right way. 15 minutes later I can see I've been duped! Ahhh man and it's SO hot in all this clothing!!! So then I have a 15 minute walk back to where I was. I stay on route after that and after 10 minutes I spot the ornate spires of The Grand Palace (Wat Phra Kaew) and I know I've made it! Lesson of the day: Always trust your instincts!

Before you're allowed into the complex the security checkout your clothing and approve or disapprove. I thought I was sorted but apparently my pashmina wasn't enough (despite the lonely planet guide advising this), luckily I had my other top, but a warning to anyone else planning a visit, the pashmina won't get you in!

Entrance to the Wat Phra Kaew (temple complex) was £500 THB (about £9) and boy was it worth it. I hadn't really looked at any pictures of the site before decided to go, so when I arrived I was blown-away with how spectacular it was! I've never seen so many ornate and opulate temples. Every inch of every building is decorated in gold leaf and gems, it puts even Versailles to shame!

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a fan of OTT bling, so this place was right up my street! I took some amazing photographs on my DSLR which I can't wait to print and look at up-close. For now though you can get a pretty good look at the place from these snaps from my iPhone.

Unfortunately the temple with the Emerald Buddah was closed for renovation, so after all that, I didn't get to see it! However I went into all the other temples, including the Phra Siratana Chedi which is the most beautiful of all. It's very sacred so you're not allowed to wear shoes or take photographs when you're inside, (so you'll just have to take my word for how stunning it is). Inside there's a huge golden glittering alter with a golden Buddah which you must not point your feet at. The floors, walls and ceiling are also adorned with hand-painted art. It's a very quiet and calming space and I enjoyed taking a little time there to meditate and be greatful for all I have.

The one thing that was a shame was there was no one to take pictures of me at the temples so I had to do the unthinkable to snap a selfie in the temple.... just to prove I actually got here! ;-) I did manage a couple of timed shots with my gorilla tripod and DSLR, but I think I may come back again with my group tour to get some more photos with me in them!

Today was fantastic! I'm really glad I went exploring and even getting lost was good because I found a pretty spot on a river bridge to stop and photographs on. I'm now pretty exhausted from all the walking and the heat today, so I think it's time for another massage!

Life's hard here... :-)

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Thailand Travels: Day 2, Bangkok Nightlife

There's only so much poolside lounging you can do before you begin to get itchy feet, so this evening I decided it was time to go explore Bangkok by night.

If I'm honest, initially the thought of the Khaosan Road on my own at night was a bit intimadating! However, after getting it over and done with, I realised it wasn't such a big deal. In fact I relished in making all the decisions of where to go and when to turn back, without compromising for someone else.

I'm staying just on the corner of the Khaosan Road which is perfect because it's quiet enough to get to sleep at night, but I'm still just a few steps away from the excitement.

My first task was to find food. I hadn't bothered to eat any lunch by the pool and I'd slept through breakfast so I was more than ready to devour a Thai foodie feast!

As soon as I stepped out of the door I knew dinner was going to be a difficult decision to make. Do I go for the authentic street stalls, or find a busy Thai restaurant where the locals are eating?

As I'm travelling on my own I decided that sitting in a busy restaurant was a more favourable option for my first night. I spotted a colourful place banging out sexy reggae choones and thought: "Yep that looks like my kind of joint."

I went to sit down on my own and after a moment a a group of Thai's were beckoning me to come over and sit with them. There were two other Europeans sitting with them so I decided this would be more appealing than dining solo.

My new Thai friends were fascinated with my hair and did not believe I was from England, well until I explained my background was Jamaican. They loved that and started singing "no woman no cry" at the tops of their voices. I had to giggle. The Thai's ran a stall next door to the restaurant so they were actually 'working' whilst drinking in the bar/restaurant (nice work-life balance!)

I ordered a chicken and veg Thai green curry, but it was so good and I was so hungry that I wolfed it down before I thought about taking a photo for this post. It was blow-your-head-off spicy, but fresh and full of lots of flavour.

After my curry and a chat with my new companions (2 Frenchies and 4 Thai's) I decided to move on.

Ever since I got here I've been checking out the massages stalls and yearning for one, so tonight I decided it was time to try one out. For as little at 120 TBH (approx. £2.20) you can indulge in a half an hour foot massage. A Thai masseuse sits you down on very comfy deck chairs, washes your weary feet clean and then rub aromatic oils all over your legs and feet, it's pure heaven!
Before starting the massage the masseur says a brief prayer, which I think makes all the difference, as I've never had such a relaxing foot massage, especially considering the chaotic surroundings!!

Tomorrow I'm planning to go find the a Emerald Buddha, I think it's a little walk away, so I imagine I'll need to rejuvenate my tired feet again... Next time for a full hour though! :)

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Thailand Travels: Day 1, Arriving in Bangkok

My flight touched down in Bangkok at 8am this morning, and from there I took a metered cab (as advised) to my hotel. If only it was that simple.

When my taxi driver discovered where my hotel was (just off the Kaosan Road) he started muttering. "Oh dear, here we go", I thought.

He couldn't understand why I was heading to Bangkok and kept repeating "road closed" and "mobs".

Just what to want to hear on your first solo travelling experience.... He started suggesting he drop me near the hotel and then I could walk.

"Hell no!" I thought. Even though I knew my hotel was just off the Kaosan Road I didn't know what direction to walk...

So that was a nerve-wracking taxi ride... I kept thinking that any moment we'd turn a corner and they'll be a mob of protestors and he'll refuse to go any further.

There wasn't though. Just one of the main roads on route was closed, which meant we had to go a longer route and hit lots of traffic jams. In the end the ride cost 540 tbht instead of something like 300. But that's about £10 so it's not the end of the world!

"Lucky, you very lucky" he said to me.

Lucky indeed. I breathed a sigh of relief... And then I felt great. I stood my ground and made him take me to my hotel and all was fine. A little self-assurance restored.

Except then I realised he'd taken me to the wrong hotel!!! This was the Buddy Lodge, not the Buddy Boutique Inn. I'd argued that this wasn't the right place when he'd pulled up, but the hotel porter had said it was and taken my bag.

Reception informed me that this was a sister hotel to the one I was booked into and that it was only round the corner... So I walked... And I found it. Result!

I dropped my backpack off in hotel storage and now I'm hanging out back at the Buddy Lodge roof-top pool until I'm allowed to check into my room. There's funky house music, free wifi, drinks, food, free towels and plenty of sun loungers. So I'm soaking up the sun and taking a dip to cool off.

This place is a total haven in the chaotic hustle and bustle of Kaosan Road.