a little bit of everything and a whole lot of film

28 Dec 2017

48 hours in Bangkok



Bangkok holds a strange place in my heart.

I say strange because I have had somewhat of a good and bad history with it, not with Bangkok per se but with a certain someone who lives there. Then again, that was eons ago so when I got the chance to spend a 48-hour layover in the City of Smiles, I thought to myself, why the heck not?


I wanted to make the most of my (very short) stay so I came prepared:

Hotel booking, check.
Central location, check.
Near the food stalls, check.

I boarded the plane, happy as a clam, knowing I was well prepared. Holy heck, that was one of the bumpiest plane rides I have ever been on. Thankfully(?!) it only took 3 hours and 30 minutes to get from Manila to Bangkok. Curse you Southeast Asian monsoon season!

The minute I stepped out of the plane and into the terminal I got the strangest feeling of déjà vu, everything around me felt all too familiar. Like I have been there before, stood at that very spot by the baggage carousel, watching flipflopped and dreadlocked backpackers weave in and out of the throngs of weary faced travelers coming through the gates. Then it hit me. I had dreamed about going to Bangkok so many times all those years ago, even went so far as to learn the language (I don't anymore), researched the deepest corners of the interwebs for information - all those memories (good and bad, mostly bad) that I'd forgotten about came rushing back in waves. I freaked out a little. Ok, I freaked out a lot. I had half a mind to hop on a plane back to Manila but then I told myself that I still had another journey and a final destination to get to. Also, I was hungry. And the hotel didn't allow same day cancellation so there's that. Off to the taxi stand - very organized, might I add - and I gave the driver the hotel address and off we went into the pouring rain.

Ok, so the hotel I picked was 42 minutes away from the airport according to Google but according to Bangkok traffic it was 2 hours and 45 minutes so please make sure to tip your driver nicely (especially if he didn't complain, not once, as he was pelted by angry raindrops because his crazed passenger stuck her nose out into the rain, eager to see what Bangkok had to offer.)



Hotel Once is pretty, airy and modern with a vintage Euro twist. I had originally wanted to stay at one of those guest houses (like Leo on The Beach) or a spa retreat by the river but with only 48 hours, I wouldn't have the luxury to stay cooped up in a hotel room now did I? So Hotel Once it was. Centrally located at Charoenkrung Road, parallel to the Chao Phraya River I chose it specifically because it was a mix of traditional and contemporary, where I could walk just a few blocks to gawk at touristy spots and hobnob with the locals all at the same time. Also, two very important words - Food Stalls.


It was close to 9PM when I reached the hotel. Check in was quick, perfunctory but courteously so. I threw my bags into the room and rang reception to ask how to get to their in house restaurant. I was ravenous. Ah that first meal, I hardly enjoyed it though as I was nodding off into my Singha beer but the view from the restaurant was  lovely. Depending on where you stood, you could see sweeping views of the river on one side and the sprawling mix of old and new buildings, houses and establishments on the other.

The room I got was nice and clean, all done up in white and mahogany brown. Huge and I mean HUGE (3 people could have slept in there comfortably) bathroom which had a claw foot tub and black and white tiles. But one thing though, there was this strange scent wafting in from the bathroom vents, like old dishwater or something even more icky so that put me off. Later on, they told me that a pipe had burst in one of the bathrooms on the floor above me so lucky me. Nevertheless, I drifted off to sleep so deeply, as one does when one is absolutely exhausted.


Next day, I was up bright and early, armed with a Googled list of places to go and eat. The place that I had wanted most to try was a nondescript little cafeteria but spectacularly praised Nai Mong Hoy Tod in a street that escapes my memory at the moment but just off Charoenkrung Road down the road from a hotel. Alas they were still closed. I was too early!





I contemplated waiting for 5 hours it'll take for them to open but I was very, very hungry (and us Asians take breakfast very seriously) but luckily everywhere I looked there were street food stalls all around. I chose one that had the most customers (important tip). The lady manning the stall couldn't speak a word of English and I, unfortunately, couldn't (anymore) speak a word of Thai so after a bit of pointing at various noodles and condiments (thankfully, she also had pictures of a chicken, a cow and a pig tacked onto her food cart so it was easy to pick out the protein - I had all, in case you were wondering), I was served this. Heaven.


Full and happy, I set off exploring.

A Chao Phraya River Tour. Check.
Singha by the docks while waiting for the boat. Check.
Perusing through street market stalls. Check.
More beer sold by the river hawkers. Check. I was also forced to take a carved wooden Buddha which now takes centre stage on my bureau.










I also wanted to take a gander on the fabled Khao San Road but was advised against it by a friend who has taken residence in Southern Bangkok and a sweet couple who owned the money exchange shop where I had my money changed. I really wanted to go but decided against it when I thought I might probably be easily swayed by some sweet talking western expat ala The Beach and end up in some commune in a deserted island which I could totally see myself doing.




Best Pad Thai EVER
Another long walk into an unnamed street and I found a tiny little bistro serving a fusion of Thai and Italian food. Score. I then proceeded to have the most exquisite Pad Thai I have ever tasted in my life and I am not even a big fan of Pad Thai! More beer followed.



Khao Niao Moo Ping





And then, a meet up with an old friend. A walk around the markets of Asiatique wherein I stocked up on various types of Thai balms, sarongs and brightly coloured woven handbags. Then came my favourite Thai dish at Happy Fish (Khao Niao Moo Ping). Another bottle of Singha. And that was a day well spent.




Airport tip: Try to get to the airport early. Check in and get settled and get a Thai foot massage right before boarding. Heaven.
Last day leaving pangs. You know the feeling. I wanted to stay a couple more days but duty calls. I took an early morning walk around the block of my hotel after one of the best breakfasts ever on a street food stall - the crispiest green mangoes with chili sauce and a prawn and papaya salad. Peeked through shop windows - a myriad of massage parlours, Muay Thai training clubs, Chinese pharmacies, food markets and the like. I came upon quite a few monks, barefoot and clean shaven, garbed in resplendent saffron coloured robes, making their early morning round of alms. I wanted to take their photo but I was unsure whether it was forbidden so I erred on the side of caution. They all looked so peaceful and content, and I so badly wanted that same peace and contentment that I almost bowed in front of them in reverence even though I had no knowledge or experience whatsoever of Buddhism. I mentally thanked them all the same. I thanked them for showing me a lovely time - albeit short - in Bangkok. A city I dreaded for so very long that I now think of with fondness. (I also must go back to try that friggin Hoy Tod!). I also asked them to help guide me and lead me onto the path of enlightenment, no matter how long or crooked my own path may be, that I may reach nirvana all the same.

Suvarnabhumi Airport
❤️
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