Thailand adventures – Bangkok and Koh Samui
I’ve been to a lot of cool places at this point.
But Bangkok might be the coolest.
I’m not even sure why… it’s just an impression I had when we arrived, and an impression that didn’t go away after 5 nights in the city.
First off, it’s huge.
We arrive on the red-eye from Goa and Mumbai and drive on a 12-lane, arrow-straight highway through miles and miles of skyscrapers.
Finally, we arrive at our hotel, where there’s a lot of bowing and we’re presented with a tray of orchids and orange juice.
The bowing continues at 7-Eleven, at the coffee bar, and nearly everywhere else. I google it. Apparently, the appropriate response for a “corporate bow” is a head nod. Good thing. ‘Cause I haven’t bowed to anyone yet.
(Also, yes. 7-Eleven. They’re everywhere.)
We’re tired from the flights, but decide to go back downstairs to get some food.
And the Thailand adventure begins…
Bangkok Street Food
In Spain, street food is the stuff of weekend festivals.
It costs just as much as going to a restaurant, but you get to eat off a paper plate outside. Surrounded by hipsters.
But in Asia, it would appear that street food is a daily fact of life.
In Mumbai, the streetcorner outside Starbucks is swarming with rickshaw drivers eating idli off someone’s little stand.
And when we meet a friend of Morena’s on one of the main shopping streets, I suggest “getting a drink” as one does.
I’m talking about going to a bar, of course, but the friend thinks I want to find someone selling chai off the back of a bicycle.
Most of the food stands I see in India look dirty and unappetizing. But in Thailand everything changes. The places look better, and they’re busy serving the people who work in nearby offices.
They’ve got fried chicken, egg rolls, diverse soups, and lots of noodles. Some of the stands have a few plastic tables. Beer at the 7-Eleven on the corner.
Our first evening, Morena gets some sort of soup with weird pig parts, and I go for the Pad Thai.
The woman making it is wearing a red sequined dress, and gyrating along with the music playing on her mobile. It’s some repetitive instrumental guitar thing – each song goes on for about 12 minutes, and it’s quite hypnotic.
She grabs some noodles, some tiny shrimp, vegetables, tofu and chicken and throws it all into her wok. A few minutes later, it’s done.
We sit down. The music continues. So does the gyrating. Every few minutes, the woman shouts…
(The fact that the chicken has been thawing in the sun all afternoon perhaps explains what happens later in the hotel bathroom.)
In any case, we’re undeterred. Street food it is, for the next several days.
Morena even eats a grasshopper. Because #yolo.
Pro tip: don’t eat grasshoppers.
Here’s a little video of Koh Samui, elephants, and gratuitous grasshopper consumption.
And then there’s this…
Thai Taxi Drivers
You don’t just hop in a taxi in Thailand.
First you argue.
“We’re going to Silom”, you might say.
“Silom. 900 baht.” The first offer is always some ridiculous number.
“Taxi meter. Do you have a taxi meter?”
At this point, they’ll pretend to misunderstand. They have a meter, of course, but most of them cover it with a towel while driving around, just to confuse tourists.
The fact that virtually no-one speaks more than four words of English makes the negotiation even more fun.
“No, no have meter. 900 baht.”
At this point, it’s probably better to find another taxi. But if you want, you can try to talk them down. If they say 900, the real price is probably 500. Be prepared to walk away.
Later, on the island of Koh Samui, we talk a woman down to 500 and go off to find her taxi. Her little son comes running after us, and sits in the front seat while we sit in the back. I want to stop at (yet another) 7-Eleven to buy some wine and chocolate, and Morena, nice person that she is, offers to buy something sweet for the kid.
“No, thank you,” says the mom. But Morena insists.
Mom finally agrees.
So Morena gets the kid out of the car and grabs his hand. We wander around the store looking at cookies. Morena takes a selfie with him. (I know nothing about kids. This one was like 3 or something. And super cute, as kids are, sometimes.)
“Do you think it’s weird that the driver just let you take her kid like that?”
“No, not at all!”
“I was worried about leaving my camera in the car, actually. But now we’ve got her kid. So I guess we’re even.”
We buy the kid two kinds of cookies, and mom drives us back to the hotel.
Life in the Thailand Tropics
Koh Samui is a tropical paradise.
Coconut palms, banana trees, wild chickens running around.
One thing I never knew about tropical paradise is how damn hot it is there. I’ve sweated through my t-shirt by the time I make it out for coffee at 8AM. And after that it only gets worse, till finally it cools down in the evening.
Our hotel is a series of bungalows – thatch roof and everything.
(Incidentally, the airport also has a thatch roof. Yes, really.)
I’m opening the curtains in the morning when Morena yelps.
“There’s a giant lizard on the wall!”
I hadn’t seen it, but there it is. We spook it, and it runs up the wall and out through the gap below the thatch roof. But a few minutes later, it’s crawled back behind the curtain.
I go to “reception” – sort of an outdoor bar with yet another thatch roof – to ask for help.
“Gecko in room, good luck.” says the reception girl. “Gecko in room, no snake in room!”
She doesn’t seem to see it as a problem.
But after a while, the maintenance guy comes to get it. He grabs the gecko, but it bites down on the curtain in response. He has to pull it off, tearing the fabric.
When he’s got it loose, he goes and tosses it into the banana field across the fence. Sayonara, gecko.
Lizards aside, the hotel is great. I highly recommend it. Here’s an affiliate link: Asian Secret Resort, Koh Samui.
Samui Elephant Sanctuary, Koh Samui
Hanging around with some elephants had been on my bucket list for a while.
But somehow, I assumed I’d just find them wandering around.
Anjuna, of course, had quite a few cows. And even Mumbai had a few street cows, chickens and stray dogs.
But no elephants. In the end, we went to Samui Elephant Sanctuary where we were able to feed bananas and cucumbers to a few of the big animals.
The elephants are all older (in their 40s and 50s) and all female. For the most part, they were used in the logging industry which was abolished in the 80s.
The sanctuary also has a pet boar called “bacon”.
Check it out if you’re ever in the area, it’s a nice thing to visit.
Thai Adventures: the Wrap-up
There’s plenty more I could say about Thailand. The temples are really cool, as is the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
Chinatown Bangkok is about the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.
Massage seems to be a huge industry – at least in the places we visited. Morena got a couple of massages, and recommends it to others.
And the famous sex tourism is definitely around somewhere… but that’s not something I cared to look into. Suffice it to say, in many parts of Bangkok, you can’t look like I do and take a walk without some guy telling you there’s “boom-boom” right around the corner, if you’ll just follow him a moment…
Anyway, let’s wrap it up here.
For now, I’m back in Barcelona, and back to my usual 4-hour work week.
But I might end up in Asia again soon.
Have a good one,
P.S. A lot of people say that “the future” is in Asia, and I’m really not an expert in such things. But if you look at a graph of India’s GDP per capita, it’s pretty much a perfect hockey stick. Mumbai is a dump. But if cities like Mumbai keep growing (economically) at the rate they have been, then yes, the future is in Asia. But that’s a big “if”, and as usual, I’m not an economist. So all I’ve gotta say is: go, enjoy… and don’t eat too much street food. Love ya. Peace!