Friday, March 8, 2013

Last day in Bangkok

So what did we do on our last full day in Bangkok, you ask?

Well, actually quite a bit. An incredible amount.

The morning of, after finishing our free breakfast (once again), it was time to switch hotels. As I mentioned before we decided it was a good idea to have a luxe experience for our last night in the city and also change locales. So, we piled into a taxi that hailed us as soon as we stepped out of our hotel with our luggage and away we went.

As we were cruising in our air-conditioned vehicle (which was painted a bright green, somewhat typical though in contrast to the very common fluorescent metallic pink that is standard, or the slightly lesser seen green and yellow taxis), our driver got into conversation with us about what we'd seen and what we'd like to see. Thai people are really very nice, and in spite of ourselves, we came to like our taxi driver quite a bit. Plus traffic wasn't so good that morning so it took a good 40 minutes to get to our next hotel. In that time our taxi driver convinced us that we should go to the floating market outside of Bangkok (about an hour's drive, or so he said) and go see a monkey show, where apparently there were scuba diving monkeys. He would do the entire thing, roundtrip, as our personal chauffeur the entire day, for 1000baht total for both of us.

Personal driver for the whole day for sights I thought I wouldn't be able to see because it would be a logistical nightmare? Jesus, alright. Twist my arm why don't you. :)

So after checking into our fancy new hotel (The LIT Bangkok, which I highly recommend to anyone looking for a luxe experience), we hopped back into our taxi and away we went.

Traffic was especially bad that day, but it was a-okay - we had great conversation with our taxi driver about everything under the sun, and luckily, unlike yesterday, we were not, in fact, under the sun. Instead we were in an air-conditioned taxi, being driven around. It was actually really nice.

One thing that I'll definitely say about this Thai guy - ambitious and motivated. Not only was he working a regular full-time job at a marketing company during the week, he also was a taxi driver during the weekends (which we were helping him with at that moment) and he owned his taxi so he rented it out during the week for a price per day. This allowed him to make money on his taxi even when he wasn't driving it. Pretty good money-making scheme, actually. His plan was to make enough money in 2-3 years to leave Bangkok and move to Chiang Mai, where his parents were. Then he could join a monastery as a monk for awhile (this is expected, apparently, of all Thai boys, at some point in their lives, usually before they get into their late 20s) and live in peace. He was tired of the hustle and bustle and wanted to live a quiet life. When he was done being a monk for a few years he wanted to open his own business and sell loans at sharp interest rates to make money. Talk about a life plan.

He seemed genuinely happy. He got to travel for about two weeks at a time whenever he'd gathered enough money and had traveled quite a bit of Asia. Though he admitted to not having as much spending cash as he would like all the time he obviously did well for himself and was pretty good.

That's one thing I'll say about the Thai people - they seem genuinely happy with their lot in life. Good for them. :)

Anyway, after a rather long drive (considerably more than an hour, but like I said, traffic was horrendous), we got to the floating market with about an hour to spare - perfect timing for us to take an hour long cruise in a boat and see the whole market before it closed at 2pm.

So saw the market we did.

Yes it was a tourist trap and yes, we knew that the whole time. But there really is nothing like bargaining for goods and food from a boat while everyone else is either on a boat or on little landings where they set up their displays of goods. I loved it. It was worth the drive.

We had a personal boat driver who drank beers and occasionally steered us towards goods that we were (or most times weren't) interested in. If we were particularly interested in something we would hail to him and point to it and he would steer us in that general direction. Because he was drinking beer, it was near the end of his day, and generally speaking he was enjoying his day in the heat, his attention wasn't the best and sometimes he would have us sitting in front of things we weren't looking at anymore or would skip things we were interested in altogether. It was cool though; we weren't hardpressed to buy things. I was just happy I was able to finally replace one of the two pairs of shoes I burned on the trip. Finally, sandals once again instead of sneakers or my sister's borrowed sandals all the time! (Not that I'm complaining...her borrowed sandals were pretty awesome...we have identical pairs back at home).

After an hour of this the market closed up and we hauled ass back to the front of the market, where our faithful taxi driver still waited for us.

Next was the monkey show.

We paid our 200baht for the show and eagerly waited. I was particularly interested in seeing this because finally, after our entire trip, I was going to see trained monkeys doing things. It was what I had been joking about for weeks before leaving. The only other monkeys we'd seen in Thailand had been in Railay, and they definitely hadn't made me any drinks:

In fact those monkeys had done nothing but cause general ruckus. We saw a few of them on hotel roofs stealing napkins and then throwing them on the ground. Ruckus, I tell you.

Anyway, these were trained monkeys, here for everyone's entertainment, so definitely a different story.

My conclusion about these trained monkeys?

...Actually it was the saddest thing I'd ever seen.

I thought I would enjoy seeing monkeys trained to do interesting things, but after all that I'd seen of Thailand and its wonders...this just made me feel bad. Apparently it's not a slippery slope into animal cruelty.

We watched these particular monkeys leap through rings that were on fire, shoot baskets, dive for coins, haul rickshaws, and all sorts of human-like tasks. Some of them even wore children's clothing.

At the end of it we bought one of the monkeys a box of soymilk which we could watch it drink in front of us. I also bought a small vial of tiger balm from one of the monkeys. I may not agree with the treatment and training of the monkeys, but if I can provide sustenance to a monkey for a day, that's worth it.

I'll not post any pictures about that - looking at them just makes me feel that it's all wrong.

After that my sister and I were a bit somber, though we tried not to let it on to the taxi driver, who was just trying to please us and show us the best of Thailand. Our next and final stop from him was the weekend market, the largest market in Bangkok. We figured this was a good place for us to end our trip as we still needed to buy some things for friends and family, etc.

This market is huge. There is just no other way to describe it. According to Wikipedia it covers over 35 acres. I would believe it. We didn't even walk a fraction of it and it just seemed endless. We bought a few things here and there, but were actually a bit late in arriving. During the day it's a huge market for tourists selling all the things you would normally expect - statuettes of Buddha in all different poses, elephant items, amulets and jewelry, keychains and things related to Thailand. Around 6pm however, the market changes to basically 90% hipster clothing, and the rest is accessories catered to Thai teens.

...and the crowds become absolutely massive.

The market itself is divided into two sections - a sort of indoor and outdoor section. The "indoor" part is sort of like a bunch of garages, or rooms, that have boutiques inside of them, or individual shops/stores. During the day these are open and sell their wares. At night these close down or are specialized boutiques that only sell clothing. There are distinct neighborhoods within these indoor sections where you can buy specific types of items from clusters of them - boutique clothing, jeans, art of all kinds, garden items...anything you can basically think of that could be made beautiful. It was wonderful.

The "outdoor" section was more like a street fair or market - bigger stalls that were more open air, some were even on carts or on blankets (especially as night drew deeper). The outdoor spaces were basically the larger streets or roads of the market. Certainly where more people could move at once, though not necessarily faster, especially as more people came to shop at night. And boy did the hipster teenagers love to shop.

Eventually it got a little overwhelming for us with all of the teenagers, the indoor shops closing, and the coming of the mosquitos (which strangely did not flock to the large crowds but towards the emptier, indoor areas), so we took a tuk tuk back to our fancy hotel, took showers, and rested until we went out for the night.

And boy what a night to remember it was.

But back to that in the next entry.

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