I've been waiting to use that line for almost 25 years! Not that I'm a fan of the song......
If you want to keep track of our various modes of transportation for this trip, you can start with a train. We decided to take Amtrak to Union Station, and skip the gas prices (still way over $3/gallon at the time) and stress. For $29 each we made it to Union Station, and caught the FlyAway Bus to LAX for $4 a piece. It was easy, no traffic, no increased blood pressure, no road rage. And being your typical Asian, we provisioned ourselves well(you never know when hunger may strike!!!)......we had a package of several bentos....just enough to keep our strength up for a arduous trip ahead.
We again flew EVA, and spent a bit extra for Elite Class, the leg room, and the mere tantalizing possibility of sleep on a 14 hour flight is justification enough. And so we start with a weird photo of airline food:
What made this interesting was that the chicken actually had peppers in it! Never thought I'd see the day that hot peppers would be used in standard airline food. It did have some zip! What do I do with the standard issue roll?
EVA does a good job of keeping you fed, but for some, it's just not enough....
It's always amusing to see an animated representation of your trip........
Having ample time to discuss our plans for the next few days on the 14 hour flight to Taiwan, and the 3 1/2 hour leg to Bangkok, we decided that our best move would be to fly to Udon Thani. So we bought tickets on Air Asia at their booth in Suvarnabhumi Airport. Air Asia has some really low fares, the flight to Udon Thani cost only $30 a piece......taxes, however were about equal to the cost of the airfare, thus doubling the price!
Taxi note for Bangkok. You'll get mobbed by various "Limo Drivers" at baggage claim...bypass them and go to the taxi stand (50 Baht fee) streetside. Oh, and it doesn't end when you get into the taxi either. Insist that the driver use the meter. We were quoted a "real cheap" price of 800 Baht, "meter no good, going to cost you 900 Baht", which is totally bogus. The price via meter 280 Baht, going via the "highway all the way" (i.e. toll booths), another 70 Baht, plus, you'll get to your destination faster because the driver can't wait to get rid of you. Airport fee 50 Baht.
Not being familiar with Bangkok, I decided to stay in the Banglamphu area. It is pretty close to the sites we wanted to check out, and we'd only be staying overnight. The Guest House selected? One called Lamphu House. It is located off of Soi Rambutri, down an alleyway, and is relatively quiet, if a bit run down and no frills.
Add to that the fact we were totally bushed, and I had no qualms about staying here. Plus, the staff was very nice, they let us store our bags the next day after check-out, while we went to visit a few sights around Bangkok. Pretty easy going folks.
One thing is for certain....you'll never go hungry in Bangkok...never. The entire city smells of food!
All shapes and sizes....
One thing we noticed in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, was the amount of what I can only loosely call "sushi". This stuff was everywhere.
And also, a preoccupation with anything that resembled a sausage.
We were starting to get overwhelmed by the crowds and the pollution, so we ducked down a side alley in the Banglamphu Market area, and found a little food stall doing great business.
You basically ordered one of the 2 curry like noodle soups, and helped yourself to herbs and veggies. The Missus loved the pickled greens, and I found the bittermelon to be quite good. This was a nice little snack, and we felt refreshed enough to head back out onto the street.
And ran smack dab into the "TFC" stand.....that would be Thai Fried Chicken. It smelled heavenly! I have never been known to possess an iron will in the face of fried chicken, and this was no exception. Except, in this case, my compromise existed of only having this:
In an show of uncustomary restraint, I "only" got a bag of fried chicken skin. (10 Baht) Fried to crisp perfection, mildy spicy, with a hint of sweetness, these were wonderful. For some strange reason, I felt stuffed after finishing off the chicken skin.
And just for the heck of it, we took a stroll down that special area, the backpacker hell called Khao Son.
Noisy, crowded, with cheap Guest Houses lining the road, it was sensory overload......man did I ever need a shower.....
After that shower, and a short nap, we hit the streets again, just to get our bearings. And even though we weren't very hungry, we decided to stop by Roti-Mataba, a very well known Roti/Curry stop that gets mentioned by Lonely Planet, and other publications.
The first floor of Roti Mataba is stifling hot, and grease has splattered everywhere. But there's an upper level, that is powerfully air conditioned....I swear there was frost on the windows. We tried a few of the curries:
One beef, one chicken. I recall the Missus enjoying this much more than I. We both thought the Roti was much too sweet.
And on the way back to our room, the Missus spied something She could not resist.
Few things beat fried egg goodness..................the chicken with basil and chilies was quite good (salty and spicy) as well. Even though She was still full, the Missus somehow found room for this. (35 Baht - $1) It was a nice way to end the evening.
We crashed, only to arise wide awake at 4am. What to do? The Missus and I decided to reprise what we did at 430 am in Hanoi, and we headed out to see what we could find.
And wouldn't you know it, on one of the side streets there was some activity. Stands selling rice porridge.
And vendors making their way down the street, setting up for the morning trade.
Various stands were selling fruits and vegetables.
And than the Missus saw it....
The Kanom Krok vendor. Lovely, molten, tongue scorching discs of coconut goodness.
10 Baht for ten of these Kanom Krok, nice and crisp on the outside, with a searing pudding like center. The Missus considered these the third best She had on this trip.
The lady making these confections was very nice. She demonstrated how to make them, and let the Missus turn over the Kanom Krok. It's always a good time for a snack in Bangkok.
As we returned to our room, sans several layers of derma from our tongues, I noticed that the bars on Soi Rambutri were still open! I guess there's no last call in Banglamphu?
I also noticed a young man, a tall young man......when we arrived he was passed out on the sidewalk in front of the 7-11. In the afternoon he shuffled past us, blood shot eyes, smelling of the "cash crop". During our evening stroll, I spied him staggering down the avenue, playing bumper cars with the Pad Thai carts and taxis parked along the street. Here he was, 5am in the morning, having beers with a group of girls at one of the tables in the bar, the cycle starting all over again. What is this strange hold that Bangkok has on a person? I guess those lyrics from that familiar song never rang so true.
"One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the Devil walking next to me"