It’s my late Brother Andy’s Birthday. Andy, I wish you could be here sharing this with me.
We’ve been to Bangkok a few times now but there were, we were sure places and things we hadn’t seen so this was an opportunity to put that right.
The plan was to get up early and get out. It went wrong at that point.
Neither of us set an alarm, so we didn’t wake up until 1100 hrs and by the time we’d farted around it was going on for 1400hrs.
We decided to explore using the SkyTrain (BTS).
Our local station on the Sukhumvit line (North to East) Nana is about ten minutes walk away so we set off for there. When you get there you can purchase ticket’s at the Booth or from a machine.
The machine is relatively simple. You know which station your in (in our care it was E3 and then you find the station you want to get to, in this case it was Siam) and along side Siam there is a number. That number is the cost of travel one way in Baht. So you put 30 Baht into the machine, choose two tickets and they come out the bottom, simple. Then at the gate you feed the ticket into the machine and it opens the barrier, you collect your ticket and your on your way.
AS long as you are on the right side of the platform heading in the right direction its fairly simple.
It gets complicated when you change from the Sukhumvit line to the Silom line ( Which runs West to South) at Siam which we did, purchasing a further ticket from there to Bang Wa.
Why Bang Wa you might ask?
Well, for some reason we thought China Town was there, which it obviously isn’t.
What we didn’t realise is there is a third way of getting around Bangkok which is the Metro Line (MRT) which is an underground train system.
If we had caught this and gotten off at Hua Lamphong (the last stop) we would have been in Chinatown. But, we mistook the Silom line for the MRT when we changed at Siam and ended up at the end of the wrong line in Bang Wa.
There is nothing at Bang Wa, trust me so we planned to turn around catch the train back and start again. Then, we saw a tourist information centre and decided to seek advice.
This wasn’t the best decision we’ve ever made.
The lady running the information booth spoke very little English and apparently hadn’t heard of China Town (its called some thin like Bo Ana in Thai). She gave us a map that must have been drawn by Hannibal Lecter on a bad day as it proved almost impossible to read. She told us to go out of exit 3 and catch Bus 7.
Like Lemmings we followed the crowd of people down the stairs to the street below where we wandered around aimlessly for about 15 minutes before conceding we didn’t even know what a bus stop looked like.
Beaten we made our way back up the 6 flights of stairs (which is hard with your tail between your legs) to the information booth to ask again for help.
Once again we were pointed in the direction of the exit and told to find the number 7 bus.
Before tackling the stairs again we decided to have one more stab at the map and whilst we were doing this the Lady from Tourist Information came and tried to help. We gave her the map and asked her to point to China town. This was a bit hard so we gave her an easy one.
“Where are we now”.? We asked.
There was a frantic session of head scratching, muttering under breath and general filly-bustering before she admitted, she didn’t know. This didn’t bode well.
However, her advice stayed the same. She was adamant we catch the number 7 bus and she asked us to follow her, she would lead us to the bus stop!
In reality we would never have found it in a million years. It was about 500 metres along a busy road and the road work’s had destroyed any semblance of a pavement, it appeared to be a building site we were crossing.
But true to her word, eventually there was a bus stop and not long after she left us, the number 7 bus arrived. Well, the blue number 7, the one without air conditioning (the red number 7 has air-con).
So we hopped aboard, paid our 20 Baht and settled down for a two hour ride from hell through Bangkok’s Rush Hour traffic. We were in fact retracing our journey back toward the centre of Bangkok but this time at a snails pace, in a cement mixer with toxic fumes.
Eventually the conductor (they still have them on every bus and every water taxi) told us to get off, we had at last after 6 hours travel, found China Town.
Well, not exactly.
We were clearly in a Chinese neighbourhood but it wasn’t the place we were looking for so we started to wander in the hope of seeing some thing that would lead us in the right direction.
It was at this point that we had a ‘Women from Venus, Men from Mars’ moment.
Given neither of us knew:-
A. Where we were.
B. Where we were going.
Any direction would have been a reasonable decision. Left and Right became irrelevant, we were just wandering aimlessly. Except that my aimless was apparently in completely contrast with Jaki’s aimless, the wrong direction.entirely At every junction, if I went left Jaki would go right, if I kept straight, she would turn off.
In danger of a domestic we asked a Tuk Tuk driver where China town was and love him, he pointed down a road and said ‘five minutes’.
And it was.
We had been missing it by a ‘Gnat Nudger’ at every step.
Once we got there, the lights and the atmosphere were obvious. You just couldn’t miss it!
By now we were in need of a drink and we saw some Chang bottles in a fridge in an alley so we stopped and asked if we could buy a bottle?
This was clearly some sort of Cafe, though I use the term loosely as there were tables set up but motorbikes were driving between them.
We didn’t care, we just wanted a drink.
Our request seemed to start a minor dispute between two ladies which we think revolved around whether the bottle of Chang lady A was going to give us was cold enough. Lady B didn’t think so and there was a bit of Argy Bargy which only made us want any beer at any temperature, desperately.
Once the dispute was settled we were given two frozen glasses one with some black stuff in the bottom that I think was a dead Ant and we sat there in heaven drinking and watching the activities of people who call this they working environment.
Jaki was fascinated by the food being prepared at the end of the alley (more a viaduct really) so she went down and watched the lady at work.
The dish (fish on one plate sprinkled with a sort of crispy dust that was a bit spicy and topped with fresh coriander plus a bowl of clear soup with rice in it) looked so good we decided to try and the lady made it for us fresh in about 5 minutes. Served with a bowl of soy sauce and two sets of chops sticks and a spoon we were left to get stuck in. The secret was to pick up a piece of fish, dunk it in the Soy and then stir it into the soup. the combination of flavours was fantastic and the soup became increasingly flavoursome.
The total cost of this and two large beers was 320 Baht.
Opposite, a trader was doing roaring trade in selling Durian Fruit which stinks to high heaven but is in such demand that his stall almost ran out before we left the cafe.
We strolled through the streets amazed at the lights and the vitality of the place until we came across another road side cafe doing a roaring trade in BBQ Giant Prawns. So we sat down and orders a plate full which were served with two different flavoured chilly dips. They were beautiful and cheap too. At Rick Stein’s you would have to Mortgage your house for these babies.
We walked some more but by now we were tiring and at last we gave in, flagged down a Tuk-Tuk and let the driver take us home for 300 Baht.
What a great day.