After being immersed in Indian culture for 3 months, leaving for Thailand had us filled with apprehension.
This is our story of our soft yet very real cultural shock. (April 2015)
"Hello" or "Good day" if you are a man, will be followed by the suffix "Khap". "Kha" if you’re a woman.
Naturally, you then answer with that suffix only -"khap" or "kha"- in a melodious tone.
Call it curiosity, adventure, or the trivial idea of not starving to death, we bravely ventured, armed mostly with pieces of advice gathered here and there, to try and find vegan food.
The street food looks yummy, our stomach is growling, let’s go!
2nd attempt, getting less confident by the minute...
Waaait, is "man kingasaat" really "man kingasaat" or what? Have been bamboozled?
Ah yes, the good lady understands!
Phew, we won’t be starving today. One gigantic papaya salad with soup later, for a grand total of 0,53€.
At worst, we had our backup illustrated emergency communication cards (I’ll refrain making an acronym out of that one) from TATUP.
As we later learned, the "เจ" symbol, referring to vegan Buddhists, works perfectly .
And this is how we realized the Thai language is based on tone and is not easily tamed. For example:
So better get it right!
It’s actually harder than it looks (and yes, it already looks pretty hard), despite the multiple easy steps tutorials in several guides, written in phonetic.
We found the Shanti Lodge on the Internet, the day before our scheduled arrival, so that’s where we ended up on our first evening. The vegan food, the free wifi as well as atypical setting were to our liking. The mere idea of facing a new culture so far removed from the one we had just left had us confined in the Lodge for two days straight. .
We then found the Sawtdee Guesthouse, literally 5 meters away from the Lodge. Not mentioned anywhere, very rudimentary yet clean, and most of all three times cheaper. We realized then how much our budget wasn’t so modest after all by Thai standards.
We treated ourselves to "mango-shakes" and other ice cold drinks. A blessing when it’s 37°C outside with a level of humidity so high we felt like drowning.
This even works to cool down a hard drive :
The Shanti Lodge clientele was clearly more "connected" and liked to enjoy the fine gastronomy without meddling with each other.
The Sawatdee Guesthouse on the other hand, was an abrupt change of scenery. Travelers had to meddle with each other on the tiny (and only) salon. We decided to leave our comfort zone and ventured into the streets on a quest for food.
We tackle this new lifestyle head on, in a Seven Eleven, a 24/7 micro market brand originating from Japan, teeming all across South East Asia and Oceania.
We became fast friend with Tam, the humble owner of the Tong Jan Coffe. He was always keen on sharing his meal with us!
Finding Thewet in Bangkok was pure luck. Indeed, our trusty books and fellow backpackers were steering us towards Kao San Road.
Thewet is located on the banks of Chao Praya, the river crossing both the capital city and the country.
We traveled the entire city by boat (swift and powerful) -for a grand 15TBH/person (0,39€).
With its huge trees, on a lively street, Thewet is the epitome of peaceful places. Sheltered deeper into the district, an incredible market unfolds its wonderful colors (fresh fruits and vegetables) and smells (fishes and fermented foods of all kind)!
Braving the alleys is a must to reach the boat stop.
Our stop in Bangkok was supposed to last over the span of three days, during which we were supposed to get the Burmese visa at the Myanmar embassy, thus lowering the overall cost. How presumptuous of us! 10 days were lost just for the embassy to re-open after the Songkran (national festival for the Buddhist’s New Year) .
The process itself took 4 days.
In the end, we enjoyed our stay - yes, yes, the food helped!
More like Chaos San Road, amirite!
The place gets crowded at dusk. It feels like a deregulated Europe state at the very heart of Bangkok, with its fair share of fast food chains (Two burgers kings less than a kilometer from each other), nightclubs, and all kinds of questionable and legally borderline shops:
Fake European driving license shop
Happy ending massages, for a fee
Alcohols and drugs.
Tuktuk drivers are very eager to get tourists on board of their powerful vehicles, and drive them to a ( I kid you not) ping pong ball throwing contest...except the balls are thrown by young women using their vagina. They’re quite skilled too, throwing balls more than 20 meters away! Never underestimate the power of a trained vagina?
Let’s say we passed on this one. Not that we’re prudes; on the contrary, such a performance should be applauded, if performed in good conditions. One of our traveling buddies, a ping pong fan, thinking he was going to a local ping-pong tournament, attended one such event. Sadly the whole thing felt creepy, and the girls looked like they were on either drugs, sedatives, or both.
To be fair, normality has its place in Kao San Road, the Seven-Eleven being one of its pillars. The streets are teeming with caps and key rings sellers, illegal merchandises are tolerated whilst others are banned. The police patrols the area heavily, and as long as everything is back in order before 2 a.m, it’s fine.
So there you have it, we visited a Bangkok district full of Europeans. Or well, we really only visited street food stands, to be honest!
We ended our interlude in Bangkok with a nonchalant visit of the renowned What Pho temples !
A local vehicle, destined to the people modestly called "otherwise abled" in Mauritius!
A magazines and stickers vendor, on his bicycle.
Moped taxis mostly used by women riding sidesaddle