The Tiger Balm burned my skin and eyes, mirroring the burning sensation in my mouth still lingering from the chili pepper I’d bitten into moments earlier while eating breakfast in Lumphini Park in 90-degree, muggy weather. It was only 9 a.m. on the first day of our visit, and so far Thailand could be summed up best in just one word. Hot. Only 24-hours earlier I would have probably passed on all three of these circumstances — receiving a massage from a stranger in a park, eating spicy street food for breakfast and willingly sitting outdoors where the temperature and percentage humidity seemed to compete to be the first to reach triple digits. But as the saying goes, “When in Bangkok … sure, I’ll try that.”
It was late April and we’d arrived in Thailand the night before to kick off a 17-day trip around the country. It was the first time for both of us visiting Southeast Asia, and we were excited to see as much as possible, heat be damned. We’d chosen late April through early May because it was the shoulder period between the high-tourist season and rainy season. The tradeoff is heat, but we thought it was still the best option and had the added incentive of lower travel prices. The trip started in Bangkok and from there we went to Chiang Mai and Pang Mapha in the north, followed by Krabi and Ko Jum in the south and back to Bangkok to fly home. While the travel itinerary was pretty tight, we only had a few major objectives. See as much as we could, eat as much local food as possible and, last, but certainly not least, get married.
Mission accomplished on all counts! Though the last objective turned out to be more complicated than anticipated, I am happy to announce that on April 29th we officially tied the knot! I’ll get to that story later though, as too much happened to include it all in one post.
Bangkok is a bustling, dirty metropolis. In some ways, it was my favorite leg of the trip. A visual smorgasbord of signs, power lines, vehicles, people and markets teeming with things to buy, it’s a street photographer’s paradise. It also doesn’t hurt that the king himself, whose visage is plastered on numerous walls and billboards throughout the country, is known as a hobbiest photographer to the point that he is pictured on the 1,000 Baht note holding a camera. I was a little disappointed that it was overcast much of the time we were in Bangkok, but there would be plenty of color to be found later in the trip. We covered much of the city on foot, managing to wind our way through a number of areas including Chinatown, Bo Bae, Wat Pho, Silom, Khao San Road and places in between. Each had their own flavor, and often, the places in between turned out to be more interesting than the intended destinations.
When we weren’t walking, we found relief for our aching feet on the modern BTS train system or by taking an incredibly affordable water taxi up the Chao Phraya River. The air was surprisingly cool on the water and offered a unique view of the city.
While the food was amazing through most of the trip, Bangkok gave us some of our best experiences. While we stopped for meals, it was often just to take advantage of the restaurant’s air conditioning and to rest our legs over a water or ice cold Singha. The abundance of great street food allowed us to snack our way through the days. Khanom khrok, kuay tod, khanom bueang and moo ping, (to name a few foods whose names I’ll never remember) followed by copious amounts of water and iced coffee, kept us going through the afternoon. Dinners would often be something along the lines of tom kha kai soup or a noodle bowl and a Chang. One night we splurged at a high-end restaurant, and while it was amazing, were were often just as happy with the quality of the street food we found at a fraction of the price.
After a few days in the city, it was time to head north to Chiang Mai and to the caves of Pang Mapha. I’ll pick it up from there on the next post. Lot’s of photos after the jump!