Bang Sue and Mo Chit in Bangkok
It was already dark, but still so warm and humid as the lights of Bangkok lit the narrow side streets we walked down, following my cousin and his girlfriend to a restaurant that we probably couldn’t find our way back to for a million bucks. We walked past Thais sitting outside, enjoying some street food, friends on mopeds stopped to say hello or get a dish of noodles. Along the way, my cousin talked about his Thai friend he met back in Australia, and how he told my cousin to come to Bangkok. So he did, simple as that. When my cousin arrived, his nice friend had white bread, sliced meat and processed cheese waiting for him — that’s what Americans like, right? Ouch
We arrived at a garage with a rolled up door, plastic patio furniture spilling from inside out, lanterns hanging from the ceiling and Thais enjoying dinner. We walked to our table, not recognizing anything on the tables of others but just staring with immense curiosity. My cousin and his girlfriend did all the ordering, except for the Singhas.
We ordered dish after dish, probably close to eight items, but this is typical of Thai meals. They brought us a clay pot with boiling water in it, set over a candle, and a side of raw meat. My cousin’s girlfriend explained this is typical of Thai families: they will make several small dishes for dinner. She and her mom would do this growing up in the jungle of Thailand; she came from a background of wrestling tigers and acting as a stunt devil.
The next day we were on our own to explore the city, so I dragged Johannes out to the markets for SHOPPING! We were fortunate to catch the Chatuchak ‘Jatujak’ Weekend Market. Covering several acres, the Saturday/Sunday only market has a vendor for practically every want or need. From silk scarves to accessories to aromatherapy, live fish, and other foods and beverages, as well as dishes and house decor, gardening tools, it goes on. Whatever keepsake or memorabilia you’re looking for, it’s here, somewhere. You’ll just need to find it. This place is like a maze and only when you find the exit can you really get your bearings. Be sure to research how it’s sectioned before your visit; we didn’t!
Living in Bangkok:
It had been about three years since I had seen my cousin last and so it was fun to catch up and learn about his life in Thailand. He rents an apartment on the outskirts of downtown. Many who travel there to live end up teaching English there for several months to get a feeling for the life and culture of Thailand. It pays ok, but enough to survive and travel. Renting in Bangkok is very reasonable and one can live there on just a couple hundred dollars per month! Basic apartments are just like our efficiency studios, one room, no kitchen (maybe a fridge and hot plate), and balcony. It can come furnished, all for about $100 per month. Obviously, the fancier or larger apartments with more rooms or amenities cost more, but that is where it starts.
Eating in Bangkok
We paid about $1 (32 Thai Baht) each time we ate street noodles, and typically two dishes were satisfying for a big meal. Hotels typically provide breakfast, and there are no cheap pastries here! Shoved in the corner you will find bread, butter and jam, but venture out to the main breakfast buffet and you will find a huge spread of porridge (Joke in Thai), boiled rice with egg, pork, ginger and parsley; Thai noodle soup; and of course, spicy and savory meat curries served over rice.
Getting Around in Bangkok:
The SkyTrain is the coolest way to get around. Soaring above the city, you can see all around Bangkok from the two lines and 34 stops, including Bang Sue and Mo Chit (two other market stops). This and the subway, both immaculately clean are the fastest ways to get around. A day pass for the Sky Train is less than $5, for as many rides as you can squeeze in. What’s amazing about the transportation is that, unlike on Bay Area public transportation, people are incredible patient, clean and respectful of space. Bangkok is a crowded city, where most don’t own a car, but riding the trains was a very peaceful experience.