Alleyways.

One week in and we’re starting to get a solid grasp on the city and particularly our neighborhood. We’ve switched guesthouses to a much cheaper place (B240/night, or about $8, compared to B778/night at our first place) right in the Kao San Road district. Our new room is a bit more cell like than our last which had bright purple walls. We gave up the friendly desk agent, puny breakfast, free toilet paper (really!), a TV, and A/C, but we have a balcony almost to ourselves, a very effective ceiling fan, and transoms that allow the air to move through the whole building.

The best part of our new digs is the location. We’re in a cluster of alleys (Rambuttri Village) squeezed between the main riverbank road and a small Wat/monastery and lined with various street stalls and semi-permanent food stands selling everything from jewelry and t-shirts to electronics and pad thai. While just a few blocks removed from Kao San Road, the long established backpacking hub, our little village is much quieter and more pleasant. It’s difficult to walk more than ten feet down Kao San without being hassled by someone selling custom suits, sightseeing tours, fried scorpions on a stick, friendship bracelets, or drink specials. With just as vibrant a shopping and eating scene, Rambuttri Village notably lacks the touts and peddlers.

20131121-130501.jpg(Rambuttri Village)

20131121-130522.jpg(View of Wat Chana Songkhram from our balcony)

The alleys, or ‘soi,’ really seem to house much of the life around the city. We’ve wandered about several different neighborhoods around Bangkok and the alleys offer distinct comparisons between each. Downtown, where the sidewalks bustle with young professionals dipping in and out of office buildings, the alleys are filled with stands selling breezy silk blouses, sweaters and skirts.

20131121-125301.jpg(Downtown alley)

Kao San and its neighboring alleys offer distinctively hippie and tourist wear, ballooning pants, flowing sundresses, lewd t-shirts, and the like.

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(Khao San Road)

Chinatown’s alleys are full of tea sets, lanterns, and cheap toys.

20131121-125614.jpg (Chinatown alley)

The alleys around the Grand Palace (home of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Pho are lined with stalls hawking leis, engraved coins, and other trinkets for the religious to leave as offerings at the nearby holy sites.

20131121-125723.jpg (Example of a decorated shrine)

The one staple of these various alleys is the food. Every neighborhood seems to have a combination of the same types of food stands including freshly sliced fruit, barbecued or fried chicken (sometimes whole), noodle soup, pad thai, and sausages that vaguely look like hotdogs. I guess no matter the different tastes of shoppers, everybody’s got to eat.

20131121-130011.jpg (Head and all!)

Well, that’s all for now.

A hairy tale

Lee’s shaggy coif was too hot for Bangkok so I gave him my first buzz cut. Not too shaggy shabby?

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He doesn’t look very impressed, but I’m relieved he still has ears.

Bangkok

I thought that maybe I should detail just a bit how the trip has been thus far, as we have only posted a couple of quick posts.

We left Dulles at about 18:30 on Sunday the 10th, flying in the esteemed Boeing 777, and arrived 13 hours later at the Dubai International Airport. I haven’t watched that many movies consecutively in my life! I was as giddy as a schoolboy (I guess – does that really even mean anything?) when I looked out the window and saw the Burj Kahlifa, the world’s tallest building. At that point I had already been instructed to stow away all electronics, so unfortunately there is no picture. But believe me when I say how impressive it is. It is literally twice the height of all the buildings surrounding it, and that is saying something. We spent about 5 hours at their beautiful airport (also their old airport – they are just printing money out there) before boarding our flight for Bangkok. We flew an Airbus A-330 and much to the delight of all passengers, the extra-wide aircraft was about 25% full. We moved to the front row of coach where the leg room is most ample, and my how I was gratful. 7 hours later we touched down in Bangkok, roughly 7:00 local time on Tuesday. The plane taxied to what could best be described as a parking space, and passengers loaded into buses for the trip to Arrivals. It was then when I realized that they drive on the left here – a happy reminder of my time on STT. After successfully navigating customs, picking up our luggage (a relief we all know too well), and changing out our $USD for THB (called Baht and converting at roughly $1 to 30 Baht) we were on our way. We took the sky train from the airport to essentially downtown, and grabbed a tuk-tuk from there. A tuk-tuk is basically a golf cart converted into a taxi. I was smitten. Upon arriving at our hostel, we made a bold and often frownd-upon decision: sleep away jet lag. Jet lag can mess with people for several days, and since we don’t have any time constraints, we slept somewhere between 12-16 hours. A genius decision, as we awoke energized and feeling great on Wednesday, and have been on local time since.

The day (Monday) before we arrived, there had been protests and demonstrations in Bangkok over some proposed legislation, and activists had called for a city-wide strike lasting the whole week. After discussing our options just in case this turned into a big deal, we were relieved to read that the demonstrations had died down and there would be no strike. Something to remember about Thailand is that the party currently in power got there via a coup in 2006. This aint Kansas anymore! (Thank God)

We have spent the last couple of days walking around different parts of the city, acclimating ourselves with navigation and seeing some terrific sites. We have begun sampling the local food (nothing crazy – yet) and beer, and have traveled via sky-train, underground train, tuk-tuk, canal boat, and of course the New Balance Express. Erin estimates, using some neat app, that we have walked about 12 miles in the 2 days thus far. Coupled with 90 degree heat and high humidity, we have expelled much sweat. Although I will take it in a heartbeat, knowing what winter drudgeries most of you are about to face.

I suppose that is good for now. You’ll be hearing from us again soon of course, and as always we welcome any comments or questions (moderator willing). I will leave you with a few pictures from our last couple days. Until later!

L

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A travel tradition

I have been told that in Erin’s youth, while traveling with her folks, she was allowed to temporarily ‘adopt’ a stray cat. And who doesn’t love a nice stray animal? So in keeping with tradition, we found her a nice wild ‘kitten’ to adopt. And for your viewing pleasure, I have attached a picture of said lucky pet. Hope you enjoy!

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I think she named it “Terrifying Monster.” Cute huh?

More soon….

L

The day is here

This is it – zero hour. Today we leave behind loved-ones, familiarity, and football weather as we embark on this adventure. We would be remised not to take an opportunity to thank you all for the love and support. We are very blessed to have an opportunity like this and know that without that support, we’d be nowhere. So thank you friends and family.

The idea behind this blog is simple – a way to keep communication lines open back home. We will post all the stories and photos we can and encourage you all to comment, ask questions, etc. Let’s have fun with this thing!

We have a hostel booked in Bangkok for our arrival, we have a small group of visitors planning visits around Christmas time, we have full backpacks and a map. A one-way plane ticket and completely flexible itinerary lie ahead – so stay tuned……

L

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And we’re off!

Lee and Erin are packing up our bags and wrapping up final loose ends at home before jumping on our flight to Bangkok on Sunday. We’re saying a final good bye at Solly’s at 11th and U St on Friday November 8.
 
Hope to see you there!