1/9/2016 – with minimal edits
My jet lag fog is finally dissolving today, my 5th day in Thailand.
Weekend #1 was spent in Bangkok, a city that’s grimy in a manner vaguely reminiscent of NYC in the 90s, with less crime and less opportunity . A dull film of dirt grays slightly worn facades, furthered washed out by smog. Garbage occasionally floats down the street in the wind. From what I’ve heard, the smog isn’t as bad as Chinese cities but it’s a smelly step down in air quality from New York.
Bangkok is one of those cities that supposedly grows on you with time. Perhaps. The first impression is meh.
Ari was dope, though. A hip, trendy neighborhood with cute cafes, lots of restaurants, a mini shopping center, and expensive looking condos. Fashionable young Thai men and women live in the quiet side sois and work in the modern cafes.
It’s reminiscent of Bushwick or Brooklyn Heights with the addition of street vendors lining the main drag and a suburban-like spaciousness of blue sky on the small sois.
(Disclosure: Below is an affiliate links for a hotel I genuinely enjoyed. The reviews are honest and unbiased. If you clink the links, I may get a few coins. Thanks! Read on!)
Notably, what distinguishes Bangkok from NYC is the lack of diversity, a feature even more striking in Japan. However, it’s remarkably similar to NYC because there are a shit ton of tourists and prostitutes! These gals (and ladyboys) roam the night streets of Bangkok freely, a feature that has been largely absent from the Manhattan night scene since the early 2000s.
I nabbed a private room at a hip hostel named Lub D in Silom with fun cherry red accents and a cafe, bar, indoor, and outdoor hang out spaces.
I had planned to morph into the life of the party at my super-social hostel and in general in Bangkok but jet lag thwarted all chance of that. This is my first solo trip, so of course, I want to engage with locals and other travelers.
As an introvert, I don’t need other people to recharge. I believe it’s impossible to be bored if one has books, an adequate imagination, and the internet. I have all 3 and am doing fine.
Silom has plenty of casual restaurants, small shops geared to locals, and ample accommodations ranging from backpacker hostels to 4 star hotels like the Pullman chain.
Silom was the original red light district of Bangkok. There are a couple of streets of fun gay bars with street seating prime for people watching. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to any (note: finally made it a couple of months later and heard the best karaoke music of the whole trip).
There are tons of straight bars and lounges to indulge oneself of course.
On to the food which, arguably, is the main attraction of Bangkok.
FOOD IN BANGKOK
Eat Me is a 5 star gem of a spot in Silom with lovely staff and delectable dishes. The cuisine is best described as New American with a weight to seafood and a sprinkling of Thai influence. The chef hails from NYC and that’s not shocking.
It’s tucked away on a nondescript soi (small street); it’s the kind of spot you would never just stumble across. I’m a sucker for hidden gems so this piqued my curiosity.
I loved my dish so much that I’m seriously considering coming back in March for my birthday dinner!
SHOPPING IN BANGKOK
Chatuchak market is a busy (read, BUSY) outdoor market in the northern part of BKK. I hate touristy shit but this was still a really fun place to conduct my epic bathing suit search.
The layout, sheer size and incredible amount of inventory is intimidating and my quest for a bikini initially proved daunting. There is a general guide as to where goods and services are located but it’s not specific and you just end up wandering around. Best to head here well before noon.
Eventually I found a 300 Baht black and white number. Yes, you are supposed to bargain, and no, I didn’t. $8.38 seemed like a reasonable price for a bikini. Plus, it was made in Thailand which means I contributed to the local economy, so there!
Chatuchak also sells tons of food! I picked up a fresh young coconut which is mandatory for my tropical trips. I’m not into street food due to my sensitive stomach, mild germophobia, and strong desire to not get sick. (NOTE: I eventually got over this and returned to Chatuchak for a proper eating rampage).
Pratumnak market is THE market for bargain basement prices but it’s not for the faint of heart. Buyers for the many Bangkok markets and from all over Thailand come to Pratumnak to buy their goods wholesale. I found a great pair of loose, cotton drawstring pants in black, thus saving me from the tourist fashion suicide that is elephant print clothing.
I returned to Bangkok twice more to explore more neighborhoods, eat tons more food, and a few other fun activities (Muay Thai!). More on that in another post.