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February 12-19, 2019, Bangkok, Thailand


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It was time to go back to Bangkok. At 9 a.m. we got on a small boat which brought us to a bigger boat and then we finally left at 10:30 because some douchebag was late. We got the good seats at the back of the boat that time though. Then, we were shunted onto a nice van where we met a weird Australian professor getting dental work done in Malaysia. I wasn't too sure about that, if you're a big fancy professor why don't you have a dental plan in Australia? Anyway, the van brought us to Hat Yai train station, where we quickly bought tickets and fruit for dinner, a little apprehensive of the ongoing political violence.

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I had been reading about the terrorist attacks in the south of Thailand lately. People and even monks had been killed every day. When we arrived back in Bangkok we went back to Loftel Station to see our favourite front desk clerk, Troy.

February 13, 2019
We dropped our bags off and I think we took a nap. We went for an early dinner at Varassa which was about an hour walk from our hostel. I wasn't too impressed, but the restaurant was clean and at least I had a pretty good curry and bael juice/tea.
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February 14, 2019
My parents booked a tour which went to the bridge over the river Kwai and Erawan Park, but left very early in the morning. I had a plan to meet with Darren of the former Travel Rants website. We had been colleagues from before when I worked at TravelPod and I always wanted to meet the man behind all the rants. So finally, our travel paths crossed and it worked out. The only thing is I forgot it was Valentine's Day. A little awkward. We met at the mall and then grabbed some fish balls and hot dogs and proceeded to a little park. It had a really nice long rectangular lake which I thought was beautiful and serious cyclists seemed to agree. They made many laps around the oval while we got drenched in the sprinkler next to our bench.
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Then, we went to Lumphini park to have peanuts and beer and before I knew it, it was time for Darren to go back to work.

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He was doing software testing for an American company, so he worked at night. I went back and took a nap and my parents probably came back at 8 or 9 p.m. and then they went to bed too.

February 15, 2019
We wanted to see a Thai dance show, so we bought the expensive tickets for the Hanuman thing at the royal theatre. In the day, we went to buy some stuff at the supermarket we saw the night before. On the way back, we stopped at the Bangkokian museum, which was really nice and a breezy way to spend the morning.
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We walked over to the theatre and had some street noodles with bright pink sour soup. We also picked up some steam buns for dessert and ate them while watching people do tai chi in the park.
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The show was pretty good, but the subtitles died in the middle of it. Twice. And no one moved a finger to try and fix them. So, I got up and asked for a refund. I was surprised they gave it to me, I was expecting a partial refund. 2400 baht was too much to pay for broken subtitles. We went home a little disappointed but also glad we saw a small part of the show for free.
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February 16, 2019
We went to Chatuchak market in the morning, where I bought a huge bag of purple sweet potato chips and mom finally got her coconut ice cream.
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It was way too hot and crowded, so we bought some fruit and ate it in the adjoining park instead. We were exhausted so we went back to the hostel and had another nap. We walked slowly to Sky View 360 where we were having mom's second birthday dinner. Ha. Reiko and Masao were supposed to meet us there, but they didn't see us until the last second. We had gone down two floors to get some drinks before dinner and the hostess failed to tell them we were already there.
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Then we had an overpriced meal as we rotated around the city. Of course Reiko didn't like the meal. I guess it was too expensive but you know what? You don't go to these kinds of places for the food.
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I also learned that she never takes the subway. But I couldn't for the life of me ascertain why, and she wasn't going to make the effort to translate it for me.

February 17, 2019
We took the first train of the day to Ayutthaya. Reiko and Masao surprised me when they actually showed up at 5:30 a.m. for departure time. They followed us around the rest of the day. We invited them, but didn't think they'd actually come because their hotel was so far away. But then, Reiko announced she would not ride a bicycle. Ugh. So we had to lumber around in the extreme heat all because of her. Shouldn't have invited them. Again.
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The ruins were really great, I thought. They reminded me a bit of Angkor Wat. But alas, we really needed a bike to get around the huge area.
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We had some really cheap and sad noodles for lunch and of course Reiko loved that meal. I bought some rubber boots and then we met a Canadian lady who sent us on a wild goose chase to a non existent floating market. After we gave up looking for it, I bought a pineapple and a slushee and all was right with the world again.

Mom and dad sat down at a hostel which had a clear sign saying that the restaurant was closed. They ordered two pops anyway. When I came back from the store I was bewildered about why they would do that, and then I sat down with them anyway, completely spent. I put my boots down beside me and then forgot them there. It started drizzling a little bit and it was so long since I'd seen the rain, I guess I just panicked. It's too bad, those were nice boots for five dollars.

While we were waiting for the train back to Bangkok, some students asked us to do a tourism survey. After I finished, we exchanged details and the students invited me to come back after my parents went back home. Of course I agreed. It seemed like forever until our train made it back to Bangkok. We watched as Reiko repeatedly readjusted her reclining seat. "There's always a problem isn't there?" my mom said. I sighed and knew that she finally understood my pain.

Once back in Bangkok, we bought some street food, including papaya salad and went straight to bed. Troy even gave us some ice and plates without us asking for it. Whatta guy, that Troy.

February 18, 2019
It was mom's birthday and therefore, time for them to go. Our dorm roommate had already left and woke us all up in the process. He couldn't pack up the night before, of course, he had to make a huge racket with his plastic bags and tent he had erected around his bed. Ugh.

I left my parents at Makkasan station confident they could make it back home on their own. For me, I wasn't sure what to do for the rest of the five days I had left. I sat down in the metro mall and dcided to check in to my hostel and meet Liz the following day. She had an overnight layover in Bangkok, so I tried to plan something for us to do. I wanted to save a few baht, therefore my hostel was shitty. Only 107 baht doesn't get you much, so I can't complain.

It was a Monday and that meant all the air conditioned museums were closed. I decided to go to a temple with amazing murals downtown. There happened to be a service in progress, so I sat down with everyone else and closed my eyes. I know you won't believe me but I had an out of body experience. I felt like my body was floating in an endless abyss and my consciousness was completely somewhere else. That chanting stuff really works. Or else the heat and dehydration were getting to me. One or the other.
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Another thing open on Mondays was the golden mountain. A strange collapsed stupa that had been rebuilt as a mountain many times over in the last 200 years. I climbed to the top to see Bangkok all around but it didn't compare to the tower a few days before.
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I went to another temple. This time it was the one the king had been ordained as a monk at. Pretty interesting I guess.
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At that point I was starving. I found another slurpee and an onigiri and a riverside park. All was well for the day.

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I went home, picked up some curry in a bag on the way, but then found out there was no kitchen at the hostel. Even though a shared kitchen was clearly stated on booking.com. I ate my curry out of the bag. The guy at the front desk told me to buy a bowl at 7-11. I was lucky I had my own spoon.

February 19, 2019

I waited most of the morning for Liz to message me about the plans for that night. I got up very slowly and ate another bowl of the amazing soup just outside the hostel that I had the day before. It had bean noodles along with blood cubes, pork and chicken feet. This time I noticed the woman making the soup remembered I didn't like chicken feet, so my soup was chicken feet free. What service.

I went over to the canal part of Bangkok to see the "artist house", but I wasn't feeling it, so I took a quick bus over to examine the royal barges.
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I was pretty lucky I thought, because a team of about 15 artists were refurbishing the fleet. They were hand gluing small pieces of coloured mirrors and gold leaf onto the dazzling vessels. I didn't want to think about how many hours of labour it would take to complete that project.

I made it back in time to catch Liz at the airport online, she was just getting ready to board. We made a plan to meet at the light rail station and then go up to the top of Baiyoke tower. It was really busy up there because there was a full moon and also a Buddhist holiday. We chatted and went around the revolving observation deck probably four or more times.
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After coming down, we tried to find somewhere to eat and have a few drinks. The street food was too expensive around there and I wasn't that hungry anyway, so I decided to wait until we got to the blues club. Turns out it was closed because of the same Buddhist holiday that caused the tower to be full of Asian ladies dolled up in ill-fitting dresses they must have bought on Taobao.

So then we wandered around hungry. Liz was sure we'd find some bar open somewhere, but I wasn't. Last time I was in Bangkok there was an election and the same thing happened to me. No drinking anywhere, period. But of course, I let her have her dream. I followed her around until midnight. Finally she gave up and we bought snacks at 7-11 instead. We walked back to my hostel and went straight to bed. It was a nice night for a walk anyway.

Posted by baixing 07:22 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (0)

February 4-5, 2019, Bangkok


View Laos and Thailand, 2019 on baixing's travel map.


We stayed in the room as long as possible and then walked back to the train station. We stopped at the flower market first.
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And then we stopped at another regular market and had a bunch of stuff for lunch. I had a nice crepe with some peanut mixture inside of it and something like a red bean samosa with Thai iced tea. Mom cried because her parents had a hard life just like these people in the market probably also did. I figured it was about time for her Asian culture shock breakdown to begin and there it was.
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We got to the train station early, but just in time to see a platoon of women soldiers waiting for their train. They seemed happier than another platoon of male soldiers I saw later in the trip. When we got on the train, some rude French people stole dad's seat and even though we had a ticket, they wouldn't move or look at our ticket until their tour guide told them they were in the wrong seats. Ugh.

We met a nice Chinese guy named Quinn who had been doing the work/travel thing in New Zealand for the past couple years.

February 5, 2019
After freezing on the upper bunk again overnight, he followed us to our hostel and managed to convince the front desk guy to let him use the wifi in the lobby until his flight to Vietnam left in 12 hours. Weird. However, we were not tired so we went to see the temples and things in the main tourist area of Bangkok.

It was blazingly hot and miserable. I had already been to the main sites 11 years ago, so I just waited at the exits until my parents were done. We took the water taxi to the various spots. They are all concentrated in a relatively small area of the city.
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It was nice at Wat Pho, because there was a little park with a working water fountain and a nice pond to stroll around. I sat there with my journal for a while and wondered what it would be like to be a tour guide, sitting here and waiting for my customers to stroll around glittery temples every day, meanwhile making pennies an hour.
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The Royal Palace was crazy busy and by the time we found the entrance, mom and dad realized they couldn't get in. Dad didn't have full pants on and mom wasn't allowed to use her shawl to cover her shoulders. The price was a little steep also, so we just went back home and it was only 2 p.m. when we got there. It's really great to get such an early start to the day.
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It was perfect timing to check back into Loftel Station hostel. I also called Bo.Lan restaurant to try and get a table. I had booked one earlier for Jan. 30, but my mom made me cancel it so we could go to the flower festival. They told me they were booked up until March 5, but a few minutes after I got off the phone, I received an email saying they had a cancellation. I was not really in the mood for it because the whole day had been kind of confusing and annoying to me, especially the water taxi system of transportation. It was overloaded and even more confusing than the ticket booth for the Royal Palace. So I was grumpy even after downing an entire strawberry slurpee on the walk back home. However, I knew this would probably be our only chance to have a Michelin star meal anywhere in Thailand, let alone Asia, so I tried to make myself more optimistic, but this was in vain. The subway system was overloaded that day as well. It took 20 minutes just to buy our tokens. The trains weren't even as full as I've seen them in Beijing. There just weren't enough token machines. Unacceptable. So the grumpy came back.

Now I want to explain Bo.Lan. We had already watched an episode of Chef's Table on Netflix all about this place. It seemed like the owners put a lot of effort into their dishes and ingredients. Even the sugar was hand made. So, OK, sounds good to me. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the whole thing came off as extremely overhyped. If I had been alone I would've turned right around as soon as I saw the 4.50 dollar charge for filtered water. What. You sell your restaurant as organic and sustainable etc. etc. but then punish people for drinking unbottled water? I went in against all my instincts and stayed. I had brought my parents all the way here, so we couldn't back out now. They were so excited and it would be so wrong to try and get them to follow my stupid principles. Gut feelings though, aren't baseless.

Anyway, we went into the kitchen to try a beautiful mangosteen and some of that handmade sugar with toasted coconut and rice. We met Dylan, the chef on the TV show too. That was a little weird. I'd rather not. Something felt like he was Mickey Mouse at a meet and greet. I'm not complaining about this place, it WAS really really delicious and awesome. Everything was well prepared and extremely fresh with top quality ingredients for sure. You can definitely taste the care and work they put into their meals. I just didn't get the feeling that the meal was a piece of art as it usually is at these places, and therefore not worth the high price tag. I felt that the dishes were not really planned to fit together. I was expected to put everything together myself. The meal was served family style and they put a bunch of food in front of us but I didn't know what it was. That's what I pay the chef for, darling. I want the chef to put together unfamiliar flavours on my plate for me because he or she is the expert, not me. I felt like the tastes were just jumbled up in my mouth together like a bag of miscellaneous leftovers some roommate from another planet left in the fridge. That roommate told me I could have it, but didn't explain what it was, where she got it or even with what utensil I should eat it with. The servers made a feeble attempt at explanations, but when they brought it all out Asian family style, it just became a big mess.

I have a lot of experience with Asian food, and I know this is the traditional way to eat in this part of the world, but when I spend more than 150 dollars per person, I want the chef to plan out a specific taste experience. I don't want to be the one responsible for creating the tastes myself. Cooking really is art and I want to experience someone's art that they have crafted over years of training and dedication to the craft. I don't want a jumble of stuff I happen to put on my inexperienced plate.

I think the way they present the meal, although it is in the traditional way, really hides the talent of the chefs. All the work they put into the meal is negated by an inexperienced person such as myself plating it out on my own. In other words, even though a restaurant can charge 150 dollars doesn't mean they should. I would happily pay this price for a nicely plated meal but in family style, I just don't think it's worth it.

On top of this, the air conditioning was on so high that it was dripping on my mom. So much for "sustainability" AND I could not for the life of me turn on the sink in the bathroom because the tap was shaped LIKE A SQUIRREL. ALSO, the cheap looking art on the wall, a woodburnt style portrait of a midriff baring Thai woman put another cheesy element into the mix. THEN at the end of the meal we were brought back out into the lobby again for a small dessert. They put some perfectly good peanut brittle under a glass dome full of temple incense??? I mean come on, that's lame. The peanut brittle just tasted burnt and inedible after that. Blech.

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Posted by baixing 03:54 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (0)

January 28-31, 2019, Bangkok, Thailand


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It was travel day to Bangkok. I had a late breakfast of red curry because Liz told me I had to and then slowly packed up and left.
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The same ferry man took me back to the other side of the river. I think he was surprised to see me again. I hoped he wouldn't tip the boat over out of spite from me running away the day before. I caught a horrible mini van and then an equallyhorrible bus to Bangkok.
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The border crossing was very easy. There was no visa to purchase any longer. Last time I went to Thailand, I think it was 20 dollars. I had some green herbal soup to eat and then we arrived at probably 4 a.m. I found the hostel I booked very easily across the street from the railway station.

January 29, 2019

I slept for a few hours and paid for early checkin. The hostel was near Chinatown, so I wandered around the river area there for a while. I felt very claustrophobic and lost, until I found a Chinese shrine with lots of red lanterns. It gave me a sense of relief and peace for just a moment. I walked around until I got really tired.
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For lunch, I went to a nearby vegan restaurant which was full, so I sat with a group of women who were au pairs in Australia.
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It was interesting talking to them because I had no idea that it was a thing westerners did in other western countries. It seemed like a pretty shitty life though. The parents give them a small salary and they eat and sleep in the family's house. Sometimes they are expected to cook and clean as well. One woman said that the mother she worked for stayed home all day and just stared at her. Yikes.

January 30, 2019

My parents' flight was delayed for a day because of a major snowstorm. They had a hotel in Cambridge for the night. So, I just stayed in Chinatown for the day again. I followed the tour in my guidebook, I think it was Insight Bangkok. I wandered around lost among a bunch of junk for sale.

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There was a gold shop with a small museum on the top floor,
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a temple with a live crocodile and lots more other temples.

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The Chinese temple was really crowded because of Chinese New Year coming up. I went back home for dinner and had overpriced pad thai near the station.

January 31, 2019

I woke up crazy early in the morning, took a shower and dressed but forgot to look at the flight status of my parents' plane. I picked up some Thai iced tea for everyone and breakfast for myself, but then realized this detail when I got to the airport train station. Luckily there was a screen with the arrival times on it. Unluckily, the screen suddenly turned off before it showed me the flight coming in from Paris I was looking for. I tried to get help from a janitor, but a nice English speaking lady saw me and checked the flight status for me on her phone. It had definitely left Paris, but there was no guarantee they'd be actually on it until I checked my own email when I got to the airport. Who knows if they made their connection with all the delays and everything right? I found the exit they were coming out of and waited there for a couple hours. Finally, they saw me and we went back to the hostel to store our bags for the day.

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I thought they'd want to take a nap or something, but they weren't tired, so we walked around crazy Chinatown like I did the day before.

Our train didn't leave until 7 p.m., so we had a leisurely dinner also at the same place I was the night before, right next to the station. We boarded our train on time and this horrible passive aggressive woman was in the bed beside me. She tricked my dad into putting her bag up on the rack for her.

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"Two months in Asia is a long time you know," she said humbly bragging. Yeah lady, everyone here is also on a two month vacation, you're not special. Also we managed to do it with a smaller bag than you. Did you have some problems with that? I thought in my own head, gloating to myself. I found out she was a doctor's secretary back in Ottawa, so that explained everything about her. She just spends all day every day bullshitting and covering her ass. Gross.

Sleeping on trains in Thailand is not very good. The lights are on 24/7 and the air conditioning is cranked. On top of that, the blanket they give you is very thin and not warm enough. The bottom bunks however, are cozy and dark, but I was suffering on the top.

Posted by baixing 03:11 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (0)

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