Monday, October 22, 2018

Bye bye Bangkok!

Tomorrow I depart Bangkok after three weeks. I've had an amazing time here and would gladly stay longer, but there's more to explore in the world - hell, there's more to explore in Thailand! That being said, I did a fair amount of exploring in Bangkok, which, I suppose, I should write down here.

I think I left things with my trip down to the Museum Siam. While all of that was only a couple weeks ago, it's starting to muddle in my brain. I suppose I can categorize the early part of my trip as the "guest house" portion. On Wednesday of my first week I went to a Couchsurfing meetup and met some cool folks, though nothing really stuck. You know how it is - sometimes you make friends, sometimes you don't.

At some point in the first week I also ventured up to the Golden Mountain Temple, which I was in when a giant storm hit. It was fantastic - the Temple itself is great and it was quite the sight to see these big black storm clouds roll over Bangkok, with the strong winds making the chimes all up and down the mountain sound out. Plus I got free postcards.

During the first week I caught Mall Fever - I accidentally wandered into several different malls just to see what all was going on. My favorite was one that was mostly finished clothing, though it had an actual variety of things, including some very tasty food. There was another that was just floors and floors of shops selling bolts of cloth (with a weird housewares store at the top. Another was just full of toys and games - including dozens of booths selling airsoft rifles which threw me for a loop each time ("GUNS!? Oh, right, airsoft.").

After one of the mall days, I decided to wander into a park. It was misting out, so it was pretty empty. As I walked around the park, there was an umbrella at a park bench half concealing a smiling face. I matched the smile and moved on - I'm not one to just go sit with someone at random. A little while later (after my own stint sitting and relaxing at a different spot), I was walking along in a different spot in the park and, due to the path, the girl I'd seen earlier was going to start walking with me. Silja (from Stuttgart?) and I started chatting and, after several minutes of talking, I had a new friend.

I know there's more that happened while I was staying at the guest house, but it's all mixing together. Eating, writing, and definitely some drinking happened. Also a lot of people watching. (See: Frog Woman poem on the other blog)

After the first week, I moved into cheaper accommodations - the Sloth Hostel a couple blocks north of the famed Khao San Road. It was far enough from the crazy that it was quiet but close enough that one could join in if one desired. As a bonus, it was closer to the library (where I'm sitting right now, typing this).

At the hostel I met another new friend - Abi from England. She's doing just about the same thing as I am (no job, just wandering) and has a similar taste in sightseeing (though, where I sit and write, she goes and exercises - I should probably take a page from her book... though you probably wouldn't be reading this if I did!). I was sitting in the lobby when she checked in, where she asked if she could go to the roof deck. Entirely unaware of the roof deck, I asked her if she wanted some company, as I wanted to see what it looked like. A delightful conversation later and we ended up going on three mini-adventures together while at the hostel.

First up in my mind, if not chronologically, she hadn't seen the Golden Mountain Temple. Knowing it was cheap, I offered to go again - there were two things I wanted to see on the way. We ended up seeing the Queen's Art Gallery, a museum dedicated to the King who ruled between the World Wars (I forget his name), and the GMT. Sprinkle in some wandering around and it was a delightful, if sweaty, day.

The second Wednesday in Bangkok I had intended to go back to the Couchsurfing meetup and invited Abi (and anyone around). She declined, mentioning that she knew about a jazz club nearby. After wrestling with my brain (once set on a path, I'm loathe to change direction), I joined her for jazz and had a blast! It turned out to be a night full of saxophones, as student after student got up and played. We ended the night drinking (and getting eaten by mosquitoes) on the roof of the hostel. (Location note: if I hadn't mentioned earlier, just west of Khao San and south of the fort I took pictures of is a free museum full of student art. Not only was it nice art, it was air conditioned!)

The third adventure was a walk down to Chinatown for the vegetarian festival. We had a couple stops on the way - I think I mentioned previously that there exists a section of town several blocks in total that is just all flower shops. In what could be considered a romantic move, I made sure that we went down and walked through the area - the closest I've ever come to buying flowers for a pretty girl!

A haircut occured.

We then continued on through construction and ever stranger intersections until we got to a temple that had live alligators on site. A few photos later and we made our way through covered Chinatown markets, trying to find a spot with air conditioning and iced drinks. We stopped at a hostel to cool off - we played some board games while the clerk got us rehydrated. The clerk also changed the music from whatever she was listening to to a "romantic hits" station - this was highly amusing.

Eventually it got dark out and we wandered up the main drag of Chinatown for the vegetarian festival. It was thousands of people, all in yellow shirts (in remembrance of the late king), eating veggie food while buses and tuk tuks drove inches away from the crowd. Abi and I wandered along and eventually made our way back to the hostel, stumbling into one more art gallery on the way (I should include some anecdote about the dried fish artist, but don't know what to write). Showering and settling back in, we made some new friends and played card and dice games. Abi left for Krabbe the next day.

One of the gamers, Matthias from Paris, would be my companion for another night or two, though we didn't adventure as much. We ended up playing more games (I taught him cribbage), chatting, and watching people pass by at the Gecko Bar.

Somewhere in here I had a stroke of luck - one of the stories I wrote on Steemit was noticed by more than a handful of folks. While I tend to write just to write, it's always nice to get noticed. In this case though, getting noticed came with a nice monetary prize though - about $25 in Steem (a crypto currency). As some of you know, I play a bit with crypto - indeed, that's how I'm funding this trip. I'll continue to write and post over there - even getting a few cents is more than what I normally get from writing!

We're getting closer and closer to the present, and I'm trying to remember what's worth mentioning - certainly my near daily library trips aren't the most exciting thing to write about! I did hop on a ferry (CHAOS!) and crossed the river to go see the Royal Barge Museum. It was a hot day, I was hungry, and they charged an extra 100 baht to take pictures, so I don't have any record of going. As a bonus, you have to go through a military base to go see the barges, which was weird. The barges were cool though - very intricately decorated.

After the barges, I walked south toward a temple a few people (including Abi) had raved about seeing - Wat Arun. This walk took me through some weird market where I had the most amazing crepes - I ended up backtracking just to get another bagful! I then saw Wat Arun, which was pretty, but pretty touristy. Another, less crazy, ferry ride later and I was back by the Grand Palace. A sweaty walk north (where I finally found a replacement watchband for less than $15!) and I was pooped.

I don't know where we're at in the timeline. On the third Wednesday, I did manage to go back to the Couchsurfing meetup, which was much more of a success in terms of making friends. In fact, one of these would be crucial to my day on Friday. I spent Thursday in pain (it's very easy to drink too much when you're drinking with backpackers from Eastern Europe) and saw that one of my new friends went to an exhibit put on by the Marina Abramovic Institute at the Bangkok Arts and Cultural Center. Having seen her talk at my work, I made it a priority to go - I was there on Friday for the second day it was open. The full write-up is posted on Steemit (no big money this time), but suffice to say I saw art and was moved.

Which brings us even closer to today. Yesterday was spent attempting to put words together, after which I connected with a friend from Philadelphia (Kristina) and her friend (Alia). We wandered and ate and watched people and listened to live music. There were plans made to go meditate and see a museum today, but sleeping and recovering happened, at least on my end. Now I'm writing this.

Tomorrow (Oct 22) I'll be hopping on an overnight bus to Phuket, if only to say that I've been there. I've only booked two days in a hostel, with some hope that I'll rendezvous with one of my new friends in some town in the south of Thailand. As my visa approaches its expiration, I'll be crossing the border into Malaysia, where I've arranged for a "workaway" - doing a little volunteer work in exchange for a meal and a bed. I figure it'll change the routine a bit and allow me to connect with someone who has a bit more local knowledge. After Malaysia (whenever that comes), I'm headed to Singapore, if only to see it. Then I have zero plans - a plane to Hong Kong for NYE? A boat to Indonesia? Back to Osaka? Backtrack north, through Malaysia, and hit Chiang Mai (I will do this anyway, but don't know where it'll be on my timeline).

Alright, enjoy the rest of the pictures!

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