Yesterday we hopped on the Skytrain and headed to Chatuchak Markets, the largest open air air markets in the world. As we went past it from above I could feel my jaw dropping. For a Melbourne comparison, I’d say multiply the Vic Markets by perhaps 12? Seriously huge. Each stall varies in size from something the size of a phone booth (there were people on the road into the market who’d set up in an actual phone booth) to shops the size of a 2 car garage. Most were fairly basic but some had chandeliers and wallpaper.
It was quite overwhelming. We wandered into one narrow alleyway and then just meandered around. I had one piece of advice in my head from my reading online – if you find something you like just buy it because you’ll never find the stall again. My shopping list was pretty short. A pair of jeans, a bar of soap (for once our hotel didn’t provide any), anything that stood out as a nice gift for friends and family and maybe a few other bits of clothing for me.
I love to look at shops but, what with all the saving for this trip, I’ve pretty much gotten out of the habit of spending money frivolously. I looked at jeans but couldn’t find any I liked. We bought a bar of soap and I got a waterproof bag for my camera (on Ben T’s recommendation – thanks Ben!) and a couple of gifts and that was it. We did spend quite a bit on cold drinks as the day was hot but that was it. On reflection I probably spent less than $70. I could’ve spent more if I’d taken more time – and it was only when we were leaving that we saw a stall set up by a shipping company so you could post your purchases immediately. How convenient!
I’d definitely add Chatuchak Markets to my list of places I’d return to in Asia. It was extremely interesting and there were a number of stall that sold really interesting and unusual stuff – really stylish bags, lovely fabric and homewares. Prices weren’t as cheap as I’d hoped for many things but things were certainly cheaper than in Australia (but right now pretty much everywhere is cheaper than home).
After the markets we went back to our cosy
cell hotel room for a rest then over to MBK. I found a pair of jeans that I didn’t mind (I’m starting to get a bit worried about the fact that Munich is still covered in snow and we’ll be there in 5 days) and then we had another night of IT Crowd and a few drinks. Possibly a few too many because I woke up with a bit of a headache the next morning.
After some aspirin and a big breakfast (the breakfasts you get in the hotels here are great. I know I keep saying this, but eggs any way you like them, croissants and a plate of fresh tropical fruit… so good!) we headed to Fortune Town, another mega mall with the focus on electonics. The trip started off quite oddly as we tried to catch a cab and the driver pretty much said no and then a lady from our hotel came out and convinced us to catch the train. Later in the day we tried 3 cabs for another journey before finding one that would take us. We couldn’t work out if they didn’t know where to go, the trip was too short or what, but it’s very odd to be in a country where everyone is trying to get your money off you and be told ‘no’ when you’re asking something pretty simple.
Anyhow, Fortune Town was pretty quiet, which was nice, and we bought USB sticks and hard drives to store all our photos and video. I am going to post a memory stick home shortly so that if anything happens to my laptop at least most of my photos are safe. I also looked at a Canon 8-15mm lens. I’ve been eyeing off this lens for quite some time and figured I’d have a look. I put it on my camera and was immediately taken with the distorted effect it gives but it’s quite expensive so I thought it was a good idea to take some time to think about it.
Anyway, we had a mission to accomplish and it turned out to be quite a challenge.
When we were in Cambodia we made friends with our driver, Ean (pronounced An) who was also going to Bangkok on the same day as us, although by bus. He was going to meet his ‘godfather’, an Indian-Australian man who had sort of adopted Ean on a trip to Cambodia years ago. Ean’s godfather helps support Ean and his children and was in Bangkok on business and so paid for him to travel from Cambodia for a week to be with him. Ean had never been outside Cambodia before and told us he was very nervous about the trip so we said we’d meet him and maybe we could all go out together.
So that was our mission, to find the hotel and Ean. We decided to catch a taxi as it didn’t look far on the map. After 3 refusals we finally found someone who agreed to take us near to where we wanted to go and dropped us off on a very wide, busy street. We couldn’t find the right number or see the hotel and wandered around asking directions every so often and getting pointed further on, then into back streets, then further back streets until I was almost ready to give up. Finally we spotted the hotel, went in and they had no record of the people we were looking for. This, as you can imagine was quite disheartening. We stepped out of the hotel and standing there was Ean! We were so happy we hugged him and he looked very happy in return.
We chatted to his godfather and agreed to meet them back there at 5 the following evening so we could all go up Baiyoke Tower to the sky deck (it is the tallest building in Bangkok and almost right next to their hotel) for sunset then go and have dinner together.
We had a well-deserved rest for a few hours after that then had dinner at the hole-in-the-wall place at the end of our block. Bangkok is littered with places like this. There’s a big room, open to the street and generally painted a dirty eggshell blue. The lighting is florescent, there’s a bank of cooking equipment on the street side, piles of salad stuff, fruit and meat. The furniture is all plastic, there’s lots of condiments on the tables and a roll of toilet paper instead of napkins on each table.
It’s basic, there’s very little English, lots of Thai people and the food is fantastic. I had Tom Kha soup and it was so flavourful I could not find words to describe it. It made me very sorry that I’d wasted precious meals eating anywhere else.
This was our last night on this side of town, tomorrow we’re moving to my birthday treat, Lebua at State Tower.