Well, it was actually 8 nights. (And upon arriving at the quiet, tranquil, southern end of Phuket, I realized maybe I stayed in Bangkok a few days too many. But, let's back up...)
I arrived in Bangkok on Sunday, November 1, 2015, after the short 2-day stay in Hong Kong (See "Halloween in Hong Kong" post). Per my visa, I have 60 days in Thailand overall, and am starting with these 7 days in Bangkok. My length of stay in Bangkok was influenced by my friends' and family's schedule of arrivals and departures. I probably wouldn't have stayed so long otherwise.
Regardless, as it turned out, I was quite impressed by Bangkok (and Thailand) so far. Yes, the city is hot, dirty, and noisy, and the traffic is nuts. But the people are so kind, helpful, and polite. And despite the traffic, there are multiple ways to get around town – normal taxi, bus, 3-wheel tuk tuk, on the back of a scooter, or (my favorite) the elevated Sky Train.
I’m also relieved that it is much cheaper than Hong Kong (and the U.S.) although admittedly I haven’t taken full advantage of it yet. You see, my friend Bala has been here for a few nights, as well as his friend (and now my friend) Kaspar. To maximize social time, I deviated from my planned thrifty route, and booked a room at their hotel, Courtyard by Marriott. We enjoyed a few nights out at upper end locations that serve at roughly U.S. prices. For a couple of nights mid-week, I switched hotels to LeFenix at Soi 11 – for a change of scenery and budget management. It was 1/3 the price of the Marriott (and yes probably 1/3 as nice).
There was a second social rendezvous this week – my parents were actually in town as part of their group tour of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand! They were staying at the fancy Shangri-La Hotel. I met them (as well as quite a few of their tour group members) both Thursday and Friday for happy hour at the hotel.
By Saturday, my parents and friends had all left, and I had booked my flight on Monday to Phuket. At that point, I will get back on budget and also get going on my volunteering and/or sailing efforts.
Other than these social outings, the week was full of simply exploring the streets of Bangkok. I spent one day wandering around the Grand Palace and nearby temples, one of which housed a huge “Reclining Buddha.” I took a ride on the Chao Praya river in a long boat, enjoying the spray of the waves hitting my face in the heat…until I started thinking about how clean (or not clean) the water is. I wandered around random streets, looking for knick-knacks and researching the price/process for getting a custom suit or shirts made. (In the end, I opted to wait until my return to Bangkok in December.) On the weekend, I meandered through the huge outdoor market at the north end of town and bought a few souvenirs.
The food was also amazing. Several days we took advantage of the heavy appetizers at the hotel happy hour. But we also ate out several times at a few traditional Thai restaurants (Mazarro, Erawan Tea Room, and Queen of Curry, to name a few). And we spent one evening at a cool Jazz restaurant/bar. As tempting as it looks, I have been doing my best to avoid "street food". Though one night Kaspar and I indulged in "Taco Taxi" tacos (which was Bangkok's version of a taco truck, I guess. Needless to say, my stomach isn't feeling 100%, but I think I'll survive.
On Monday morning, November 9, I caught a flight to the island of Phuket, where I will look for sailing opportunities. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am relieved to be out of the craziness of Bangkok. As different as it is, the big city nature of it still just reminds me of being back home at work and not really "getting away".