Monday, April 19, 2010

Bangkok III

Back in Bangkok we made our way to the good old Soi 1 Guesthouse via metered taxi. There were plenty of people offering to taxi us for a flat price of 350 baht, which would have been a ridiculous amount to pay seeing as our metered taxi came to 140 baht. Booyah. The traffic was pretty crazy though, due to the Chinese New Year holiday coming up. We checked in to the hostel, noticing how different the atmosphere felt this time around. We didn't recognize anyone except for the staff, who happily welcomed us back, asking about our time away. In the midst of the conversation Femke made a surprise appearance, much to my delight! So we sat around talking for a bit, went out to our favorite street cart restaurant for dinner, and called it a night.

On the 13th we had our favorite 25 baht soup from around the corner, which was delicious as usual. Still the best soup ever. And for dinner we went to yet another one of our favorite places with Femke: Sukishi in MBK. Korean BBQ and sushi make me happy. Afterwards we played an obligatory round of DJ Max Technika. Somehow, I had gotten better since that last time I had played! To end the evening we walked around the MBK shopping center looking for headphones (we had managed to break ours in Chiang Mai), but they were all ridiculously expensive in my opinion.

The 14th was a day of big celebrations for the Chinese New Year, so Chuck, Femke and I all went out to the main part of Chinatown to check it out. Stepping out of the subway station we were greeted by signs of the festivities, such as a kid on his Dad's shoulders holding a really cool looking dragon toy. I decided I must have one of my own by the end of the night. The dragon that is, not the kid. We headed towards and past Wat Traimit - which was beautifully lit and horrendously packed with celebrators - and stopped to admire the big Chinese arch at the center of Chinatown. This area too, was packed. There was a long line of people waiting to rub the ball under the foot of the gold lion statue that sat at the base of the arch. I'm not sure the significance of that, but I'd bet money that it's for good luck. There was also a big blow-up "statue" of a cartoon tiger holding a bat (like the small, flying animal – not baseball) in his hand as if to throw him away. I'm not sure what was up with the bat, but the tiger made sense since the new year was the year of the Tiger. After a few pictures we headed off to the right and down the main street. Must I tell you that it was crowded? Very, very crowded? I think you've got the idea by this point. There was a red and gold stage with a Chinese opera being performed and past that was a section of vendors selling food and New Years related items. Glowing red lanterns were strung across the street, over everyone's heads, making it all look oh so festive. Past this lanterned section it turned into a mile long, food-lined street, filled with a sea of congested human traffic. We tried all sorts of foods. Food is my favorite part of any festival. Kinda my favorite part of everyday actually. We had a crumbly, peanut flavored, cookie-like thing, coconut ice cream in a coconut shell, cornbread covered meatball, fried ground meat stuff, funny sausages, soup, colorful balls of hardened jelly (those were so fun), and I'm sure some other things that I can't remember. When we weren't eating, we were being squished into the crowds as they surged towards the royal Princess who was doing her rounds, visiting the local shops to show her support during the New Years holiday. The Thai people love the Princess, just as they love the King. The Prince, not so much... But the Princess - they adore her. And their feelings were apparent. They were happy to sardine-pack themselves in huge numbers just to glimpse her from a distance as she went from one shop to the next. Oh how I hated getting caught in that crowd. Sweat dripping down my butt in the stifling heat and no way to get out and get some fresh air. I'm not a claustrophobic person but I had a moment there where I really had to focus on my breathing and attempt to take my mind elsewhere. Needless to say, we felt more inclined to curse the Princess rather than adore her. We never made it to the end of the festivities - there was just too much. At some point we switched to walking down the back roads, finally making a U-turn and heading back to the subway. On the way back I got my dragon toy. He was quite cool and had a little red drum that I liked to spin back and forth, causing the the string-attached balls to beat away. I banged the drum all the way back to the hostel, where we got ourselves a bottle of Sang Sam Rum, Coke, and a Red Bull, sat on the front patio area, and drank and talked well into the night. Happy Chinese New Year! Oh yeah, and Valentine's Day. Whatever.

Over the next few days we enjoyed some sukiyaki buffet with Femke, had some more Sukishi (we got to use our discount card, saving ourselves $9, woot), got a new cell phone, and bought train tickets to Ko Pha Ngan. We got some street cart corn which they sliced off the cob into little sheets of corn, just like my Dad used to do when I was little. Ahhh, nostalgia. I also got busted in the lip by my laptop with Chuck's help. I was laying down with my laptop balanced against my knees when Chuck decided to tickle my feet. In my (appropriately named) knee jerk reaction, I jerked my knees, sending my laptop crashing into my mouth. I had a cute little bump on my lip for the rest of the afternoon. On the 17th we (including Femke - she was going to the islands with us) said goodbye to Bangkok again and headed to the train station. In 24 hours we would be on the beautiful Thai island of Ko Pha Ngan!!

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