Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Wayback Vacation Machine, Day 2: Beginning to Chart Our Way

Chatuchak Market, an aimless bus ride, and the disappointingly tame Khao San Road: an abbreviated introduction to Bangkok in anticipation of the real gig, Cambodia.

Our second day remains a bit of a blur; I've scrawled in my notebook, "Bangkok. Not nearly so hectic, at least the parts of it we've seen, as it's made out to be. I feel surprisingly like I am in New York. [S and I] have fought a bit, but I suppose it could be worse."

I guess this abbreviated stream of consciousness is attributable to the sheer amount of stuff we tried to cram in before grabbing our Day 3 bus to cross into Cambodia. Because the details of much of our meandering would likely bore you, I present a list:

Eat breakfast; pay 70 baht for a rather poor "buffet" (muesli, Tang, warm pineapple, but some admittedly delicious Jif peanut butter) at the guesthouse

Ask the proprietor for some general advice on getting around the city

Pop into one of the ubiquitous 7-11s, due to an irrational desire to discover whether there would be lychee-flavored Slurpees (no)

Walk for about 45 minutes to what we thought was Chatuchak Weekend Market, but was instead just a busy road

Hail a taxi and persuade the driver to use his meter, through the liberal usage of pointing, then repeating the word "Chatuchak" until he realized that we, moron tourists, probably wanted to go to one of Bangkok's biggest weekend tourist draws

Marvel at the wonder that is the sprawling market -- bins full of thumb-sized turtles; lanes and lanes of puppies, kittens, even red squirrels; oodles of shocking yellow T-shirts praising the Thai king; lighters of all shapes and sizes; magnets; clothes, used and new, including some repurposed vintage Adidas shirts that appeared destined for Urban Outfitters; tiny speckled eggs fried by the dozen; tea served in a plastic bag, accompanied by a neon-green straw; blind strolling minstrels with mobile mics and amps; and more, more, more

Attempt to take a tuk tuk, get into a large argument with S about our next move, then take a metered taxi to explore travel logistics for the remainder of our trip

Visit Mo Chit bus station to determine the cost and time of the ride to the Aranyaprathet border crossing

Argue some more

Head to the train station to compare offering with other options; man at information booth vehemently counsels against the train: "It take very long time, and you stand. Very cheap, but you stand by Thais who want to go to casino for six hours."

Call S a huge dick, then immediately apologize to him for being a dirty cunt, before being accosted by a helpful woman who directed us toward a bus that would take us to Banglamphu, the traditional Bangkok tourist district that encompasses Khao San Road, hailed by every guidebook we read as dirty and full of cheats

Pay 8 baht for what turned out to be one of the best parts of our entire trip: a bus ride through town that offered a new perspective (for example, rather than being groped by a man in a spittle-encrusted kurta, I witnessed a sweeper woman get onto the bus, and when she stumbled, the fare collector actually deigned to help her gather her possessions and ensured that the sweeper got to sit down, something that particularly struck me as an event I would never witness in Delhi); got off at an arbitrary point that looked interesting

Took in sights, including ironic T-shirts, an old fort, and a pier; consumed dim sum, fresh noodle soup, and the thick batter encasing what was essentially a lollipop of meat (which carnivorous S graciously gobbled)

Visited a "China Emporium" where we procured a few very useful things -- a travel alarm clock (which lasted, I kid you not, until an hour or two after we returned to Delhi), a pocket knife, and tweezers

Finally reached Khao San Road, to be disappointed by the shockingly clean wide lanes (where are the cows? the rickshaws and Balenos and bicyclists and trucks?); ate some delicious noodly thing at a roadside stall instead of at an overpriced pub filled with drunken idiots with accents of all colors

Returned to guesthouse and slept

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