BANGKOK ON FOOT. Kimi whimpered by the side of the bed as I struggled to sleep a bit more. It was only 4AM in Bangkok but my body clock told me it was already 8AM back in Australia. So while Regin snoozed, I logged in on the building’s free internet and updated the multiverse of my whereabouts.
For breakfast, we went out for street food and had chicken with rice and soup. We then headed to 7-11 and grabbed some drinks. To my utter surprise, a liter of water only cost 25 cents. (read: 25 cents!) Take that, Evian!
As it was my first daylight in Bangkok, I was in for a public transport treat: mini van to Victory Monument, then train to Siam Paragon.
The Bangkok sun, even at 10 in the morning, was unforgiving; the air, humid. The generous air-condition at the Siam Paragon was a welcome relief. Its high ceilings and grandiose spaces spotlit what it sold best: brands.
I wasn’t sure if my friend was aware I was no Paris Hilton. Glam didn’t blind me. My fancy kept glancing on the other side, past the paragon’s glass walls and to the hustle and bustle of chirpy Thai merchants and sweat-laden commuters. I didn’t understand any of the chirping, but having an affinity for body language, I found the Thais gentle. Harmless, even.
The young manager from the Gizmo section gave me 30% discount on a universal adapter. He clasped his hands as if in a prayer and thanked me for the purchase. I wanted to reach out and give him a big bear hug, but the better of me has successfully restrained myself.
STREETS OF BANGKOK
Around lunch time, we took the railway system to go to the Royal Sports Club, where Regin had an invitation to photograph a horse race. But because we didn’t know the Thai script translation of the address, we were given different directions each time. We changed trains a couple more times before finally meeting up with his co-worker, Romanian sports blogger and writer Voicu Mihnea Simandan.
We exchanged pleasantries before the clear view of the grandstand, only to realize that we were on the opposite side of where the entrance gates were. Under the high noon sun, we had to walk all the way round, past avenues of motorcycles, stalls that sold iced water, green mango and barbecue; old men and women selling race cards; tuktuk drivers on the prowl of tired tourists; and the occasional lady boys.
We had to pause for photo-ops, of course. On an old orange phone booth, beside a parked tuktuk; outside a rusty bus and the like. It was obvious I was having fun, no matter the raging heat. Thinking back, I’ll take that walk over Siam Paragon anytime.
ROYAL SPORTS CLUB
RSC was no Melbourne Cup. It was Sta. Ana. The mezzanine was overflowing with middle-aged uncles clutching rented binoculars and bet cards. Ticket counters were heavily- railed, with smug-faced aunties manning the tills. We had to pay 100 THB to get in– Three dollars fifty in Aussie speak.
A milk tea stall caught the corner of the eye. By then, we were already so parched from all those walking. Regin treated me with a tall tumbler of what tasted like iced coffee. It was divine.
Mihnea got to work right away and took notes for an article he was working on. He found an English-speaking expat in a sea of binocular-toting locals and got a convenient interview. That, while I busied myself snapping stills from my iPhone: An old man poring over a race card through an old pair of eyeglasses; a male vendor’s outstretched arm, offering a bottle of beer to a customer; a youngster’s narrow back, clothed by a football jersey twice his size; a grandstand full of men, screaming of testosterone overload.
After covering the race, Regin and I hailed a cab to Khao San. The sun was still as angry as ever and we didn’t wear enough sunscreen to survive another walk to the nearest train station.
As soon as we reached our destination, we rushed to the nearest fast-food place with aircon. Ronald McDonald was standing outside with hands clasped in a silent “Sawadee Krap!”
Cringing at the thought at how righteous travel bloggers would say about our non off-the-beaten-path foray, we hesitated for a while. But what the heck, we were being toasted alive, so eff off to the “traveler versus tourist” crap.
The downside of spontaneous traveling, I realized, was the failure to read up on destinations prior to barging in— in our case, the Grand Palace gates. Regin was wearing shorts and I was garbed in a tiny piece of cloth with plunging neckline.
Needless to say, the palace guards barred us with passion. There were skirts for rent but the queue was long and after a grueling day, we really couldn’t be bothered lining up just to get inside a temple in a city with hundreds other temples.
Off to the nearby park we walked and waited for sunset. Kite flying hobbyists soon filled the quadrangle and we were treated to a display of colors against the golden-hour sky. We took polaroids; and as avid photographers, basked in the privilege of playing with natural light.
I smiled each time Regin pointed the shutter in my direction, my skin browned from the day’s ordeal; the grand palace sparkled in the background.
KHAO SAN ROAD
It was a long day alright, but the night was just starting. And in Bangkok, it was compulsory from sunset onwards to be most alive.
The tuktuk ride back to Khao San Road was short and sweet. I was in a haze all the way through. The density of backpackers in such part of Bangkok was amazeballs. I was envious because the same could be done to my Philippines; only, no one bothers doing something about it.
Anyway, Khao San was impossible to penetrate on wheels at night as rolling stores blocked the entire length of the road and backpackers in beer singlets and fisherman pants roamed the streets like fleas.
From the tuktuk drop-off point, we sauntered through Khao San like fleas ourselves. But happy fleas we were. I grinned from ear to ear, by just being part of the mayhem. I thought of the husband. And Jopet. And of the many people I love who I wished to have shared that happy place with me.
Regin ushered me to one of the Pad Thai stalls and I got a plateful Seafood Pad Thai with egg for under $2. I was tempted to try a piece or two of deep-fried maggots. Or cockroaches. But I haven’t had any alcohol so I just contented myself by snapping photographs of those crunchy treats for 10 THB.
Adjacent to Khao San was Rambuttri Rd, the drunken strip. Every filament of my body craved for beer, iced-cold. But I was with an Adventist friend who wasn’t into drowning in alcohol like I did. We stumbled upon Starbucks instead, and went in with the excuse of me buying City Tumblers for my collection. But also, I was playing devil’s advocate and thought of enticing Regin to down a grande of coffee, which in my book, was less sinful than alcohol. I failed, of course. He settled with skim milk while I gargled on caramel macchiato. Like always.
It was already very late at night when we got home to a waiting Kimi, ever playful. Regin and I never ran out of things to talk about: lovers past, present and future; travel bloggers we love and loathe; ills and thrills of being a nurse and an expat; first world vs third world; anecdotes from our past travels; hello stranger moments– basically everything under the sun. or in our case, a bit of moon.
- breakfast- Regin’s treat
- 7eleven (water + iced tea) – 30 thb
- van from Ramintra to Victory Monument- 25 thb
- universal adapter- 87 thb
- train (Victory Monument to Siam Paragon)- 20 thb
- train (Siam Paragon to Red Light District)- 20 thb
- train (Red Light District to Royal Sports Club)- 15 thb
- Royal Sports Club entrance fee- 100thb
- Iced coffee- Regin’s treat
- taxi (Royal Sports Club to Khao San)- 75 thb
- lunch (McCurry)- 59 thb
- tuktuk (Grand Palace to Khao San)- 45 thb
- dinner (pad thai x 2)- 120 thb
- starbucks city tumbler x 4- 1680 thb
- starbucks coffee (caramel macchiato grande + skim milk)-
- thai massage- 230 thb
- taxi (khao san to ramintra)- 230thb
Stills by Regin Reyno; Stains by Rain Campanilla
This post is part of a travel series featuring a month-long (supposedly) solo jaunt to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia