For us, Bangkok was less about street food and palaces and more about getting visas, exchanging money for Myanmar and, in my case, going to the hospital after developing a nasty dry cough in Chiang Mai. We had just a few days in the Thai capital — 2.5 before the Thai islands and one after — and, can you believe it? We didn’t even have time (or more accurately, energy) to see the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha.
Since we had more day-to-day things to accomplish than sightseeing, we stayed outside the tourist center and realized something: We really like Bangkok. The city — the regular, non-postcard parts of the city — is much less frenetic and crazy than we expected. People are kind and relaxed, the public transportation — the monorail known as the SkyTrain — is streamlined and efficient, and the sidewalks are wide and perfect for strolling. I’m shocked to say that even though I’m no longer a big city girl, I think I’d be happy living there.
We may not have done the regular visitor’s circuit, but we were pretty happy about our stay. Here’s a look (minus the bit about our eventful trip to the red light district; that’s a story for a blog that parents don’t read):
First things first: Pizza Hut — located at MBK, one of Bangkok’s many shiny, spiffy, gigantic malls. I know, I know, “how could we not have Thai food?” Well, after a long train ride from Chiang Mai, I can’t even describe to you how excited we were to get some American food. And this Pizza Hut was actually a very classy joint.
Pizza, followed by The Dark Knight. We wanted to check out one of the more fancy Bangkok theaters but based on our energy level, we decided two floors up from Pizza Hut in the same mall was fine by us. (Eaman hated the movie; I thought it was good, not great.)
Loved stumbling into Little India and the Muslim quarter. We found a great Persian restaurant, had dosa at a South Indian restaurant and found the world’s smallest banana.
Recharged the best way I know how.
We’re quickly realizing that Asian coffee >>>>> European coffee. This stand near the India embassy’s visa office was further proof of that.
We started our stay with pizza, but we ended with this unbelievable vegetable tom yum soup from a street-side restaurant. One of the best meals of my life.
Like I said, I developed a bad dry cough in Chiang Mai and after hacking my lungs out for two weeks and seeing it worsen in the islands, I got myself to the doctor. In Thailand, that means going to the hospital even for a check-up. It was an interesting chance to see a foreign hospital at its best — spotless, modern, efficient and with an in-house pharmacy next to the cashier, where your meds are labeled and packaged in a nice shopping bag. (My bug turned out to be a minor though annoying allergy.)
But most importantly, we got our two visas! Myanmar’s involved a little more planning and some, er, creativity — more on that later — but it was a success despite arriving at the 11th hour after we got caught in a torrential downpour.
Having some personal experience with Indian embassies in the States, I budgeted some extra time (and worry) for getting the India visa. But — shocker! — the Bangkok office of the embassy is a well-oiled machine. (Take that New York City Indian embassy.) Not only are all the forms online, meaning when you get to the embassy, you just hand in your materials, but you don’t have to get there at the crack of dawn either. The line was only three people deep when we got there 20 minutes after the office opened.
The only caveat was India’s visa took a whopping six days to process so while the embassy worked on our passports, we happily swapped skyscrapers for seascapes as we pranced around Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. More on that next…