As we took our taxi from bangkok airport into the city our driver took great pleasure in seeing our concerned faces as he pointed out all the protest camps along the way with his narrations of ’bang bang’ ‘BANG BANG!’. So we were relieved to find the touristy area where we were staying felt really safe from the troubles, and we soon forgot all about them as we were engulfed in the buzzing back packer central of Khao San Road.
The roads of Khao San are always a hive of activity brimming with bars, restaurants, shops, massage parlors, market stalls & street food, so it was a great place to base ourselves. Every meal time we’d venture out to find somewhere new to eat, and because there were so many places all competing so close by to one another they’d try their best to get your custom by yelling at you as you walk by, by having the loudest live music, by having the most lights or even we found one place with a fish pond in the restaurant and another with a 50meter high Buddha! So it just all added to the already manic but exciting atmosphere.
We decided to take advantage of one of the many road side massage areas and each had a full Thai style back massage. Thinking that massages were supposed to be relaxing we were surprised to find that most of the massage involved being prodded really hard in areas that really shouldn’t be like the temples and the neck, we even had our arms and fingers cracked! After the initial shock of what a Thai massage really was it didn’t feel too painful though, and afterwards we felt that perhaps it had done our backs some good.
As well as enjoying the hustle and bustle of the Khao San area of Bangkok we took a day trip to visit some local markets. The first market we visited was called a ‘train market’ and ran all along the length of a train track with market stalls running either side of the rails with the pathway being the rails themselves. They sold everything from durians & spinach to tiny puppies and baby rabbits. From the bustle of shoppers and smells of food you would forget it was all located along a train track – that was until you heard the honking of an approaching train! When the honks began the shoppers stepped to one side off the rails and the market vendors would fold away the stall canopies, pull the food trolleys off the rails and wait for the train to pass by. Everything was so well planned out that even some trays of food which we thought had mistakenly been left in the way of the oncoming train were precisely the right height that they passed beneath its floor. As the train left the stall owners would pop back open the canopies, roll out the trolleys and the shoppers would continue their shopping- it was so bizarre but well executed we were really impressed!
After the train market we headed to the floating river market which as the name suggests was a market located along a river with boats full of goods for sale. To peruse the goods we hopped into a taxi boat and floated along the river. Usually in Thailand the shop owners would approach you or shout to get your attention, so thinking we’d be left in peace just to float on down the river and window shop we couldn’t believe it when a stall owner produced a really long stick with a hook, hooked on our boat and reeled us in! We weren’t interested in their boat shop but were held captive until she was sufficiently persuaded that we went going to buy anything! We did get ourselves a few little things, and had the most successful bartering match I’ve ever seen. The price began at 800 baht for one lamp, the shop keeper said that was the lowest price and couldn’t possibly lower it as she would lose money, we got her down a bit but by the end as we walked away we could hear her shouting after us ’300 baht for two lamps!’.
We’d had a few exciting days in Bangkok and we’d enjoyed the change of scenery from beaches to the city but it was time to say good bye once more to a great country and jump on a plane to somewhere new. Our next destination was the one we were both most looking forward to – Vietnam!