Backpacking Indochina: Bangkok Leg

As happy as we are to be around our family during holidays at the end of the year, JG and I would really rather avoid all the stressful other things it brings. More importantly the long holiday allowed JG some time off work to be able to plan a long vacation, one that we especially thought long overdue.

Not really sure JG feels the same way, but I have always felt a bit ashamed that while we have already visited most of the parts of the world including Europe and the US, we have yet to see our own South-East Asia.

In our two posts I have grown fond of the ASEAN company we have kept especially with my fellow Diplowife counterparts in that part of the world. Indeed we shared a number of similarities in terms of food, values, and culture. And in a personal note, I am always grateful to have met genuinely wonderfully nice ladies I will forever consider friends.

And so JG and I made plans to get to finally visit our neighbors. Our first leg is the Indo-China tour, Bangkok, Siem Reap, and Non Penh. I have so much to stay on this nine-day trip, so I’m going to have to divide it into three parts. Each leg of the tour we stayed about a day or two so we were only able to hit some of its most famous and must-see spots. And I think that it was a great way to introduce ourselves to this part of the world as I am hoping to be able to come back and hopefully get to see more of it.

Unlike our European trips where we created and followed our own itinerary, this time like our local Philippine trips (particularly our mountain climbs) we joined a group tour.

I’m not sure if this has been a thing for a long time here in the Philippines, but our go-to travel service has been around for about 10 years. We first joined a Travel Factor trip when we climbed Mt. Pinatubo a few years back. And since then we have joined their trips for several more times, and the Indo-China tour is our first trip with them abroad. We’ve tried other tour groups aside from TF but we always fall back with them mostly because their trips are well scheduled in advanced, so JG is able to adjust it with his. The people in-charge are also easy to get in touch with and consequently quick and easy means to arrange joining a tour. JG and I have always liked their coordinators or their guides that come along with the trips, most of them we have stayed in touch with even after the trip.

We flew to Bangkok ahead of the group and arrived around 4 in the morning? Out taxi driver was nice enough, friendly, and thankfully spoke English so we had a pleasant chat on the way. Unfortunately he dropped us off in a different area that was not where our hotel was, it wasn’t as far, but it took time for us to find the hotel, which as it turns out was on the other end of a long road.

We stayed in Rambuttri Road alongside Khoasan which is well known for its cheap hotels and hostels where backpackers from all over the world stay.

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Not that I’m complaining but I guess part of it being a backpacker’s haven made the area expectedly conforming to the needs of the tourists staying there. Again not that it’s a bad thing, I guess JG and I are not ones to go for the drink and party mood. We lean more on the small, family-owned B&B in a quiet residential row in the city. But of course JG and I have always said that as long as it had clean sheets a descent bathroom and accessible in the city, we wouldn’t really complain.

The group tour got caught in some flight setbacks back home, so we were told to go ahead and go about the itinerary on our own the next day which was to see the Royal Palace in the city. The guide book suggests that we had to wear something a bit more conservative, which was important to note since in South East Asia the fashion sense would always be in the tropical theme.

The hotel was a 15-20 minute walk away, and JG being JG found an even shorter route that passed through a university and a nice surprising view of the river.

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At the time of our visit, the long reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej has sadly recently ended, and the Palace was still receiving Thailand citizens coming to pay their last respects to their beloved King. If you followed this in the news you could see how they truly revered their Monarch, and it was evident in our visit. A long line of locals in their black mourning attires waited to be let in alongside the tourists. But the viewing was of course exclusive to the locals.

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What was fascinating and impressive for me is that even for those who are going about their daily routines, going to work, shopping at the market, etc. Everyone was still wearing black as if an entire nation was mourning the loss of a father, to which I guess is how some would aptly put it.

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If you notice almost everyone is wearing black. It made me feel a little bad about stepping out in my bright blue dress.

In the afternoon of our first day, we tried riding a public transport boat that goes along the Chao Phraya River. We heard about a market where locals would normally go to buy, so we thought that would be the best place to buy souvenirs.

When we got there while it was true that it was definitely where the locals go, it meant that it was wear locals go to buy everyday stuff, which meant that there were hardly any souvenirs there as it did not really target tourists as its main market. The great thing about the place though was that it had a good selection of rows of all kinds of street foods.

The next day we took a van to see the old Buddhist temples of Ayutthaya. We passed up on the floating market as there wasn’t really any time to squeeze it in the trip. There were also some comments online and on several guide books that although the floating market is a traditional means of buying food and produce locals don’t really practice going there anymore. That it is now mostly maintained for the benefit of the tourists who want to experience a bit of a unique Thai culture. It is however a recommended experience when visiting Thailand, so JG and I thought that maybe when we have a chance to come back.

But my favorite part about our Bangkok leg was of course the food. I always said that if I ever visit Thailand I would definitely go on a food tour. But since the first time, I said I would just really be happy to have tasted authentic Pad Thai. And as expected it did not disappoint, I did not even had to consult any guide to find the best one, all the stalls and side-walk restaurants that we ate in, their Pad Thai was great.

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I tried some other cuisines as wells, JG on the other hand not being a fan of vegetables was not particularly happy that all dishes had one or many mixed in his. Nevertheless, even he was not complaining in eating Pad Thai all throughout our stay.

There isn’t much to say about Bangkok, plus since I was only able to get a small glimpse of it in my short stay, it would be hard to comment or make observations. It’s a very tourist friendly place, one that I am sure you will visit one time in your life. There is certainly a feel of some similarities to my Manila, and I say this in a sense that you definitely see the difference when you visit Europe or the Middle East. For instance the sticky hot weather, makes it a bit more at home for me. Especially when you find a good spot of a shade where a breeze can lessen the heat.

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What stood out for me was the sense of how despite the city’s growth and tourist attractions, you could easily think that like all metropolis the melting-pot effect makes it no different from all the other big cities. But watching the Thai people and how they all seem to mourn together and move forward together, in their faith, and in their loyalty to their King and culture, helps them maintain a proud identity, one I can hardly really discuss, but it’s definitely there.

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