Bangkok: The city of rooftop bars, street food vendors, royal palaces and temples, outdoor markets, and colorful street life. No wonder Bangkok has been ranked one of the top tourist destination cities in the world.
I traveled up to Bangkok on 8/26 with Ally by the Webster van with the intent of attending classes and finding an apartment then returning to my primary home in Hua Hin Friday morning. When I learned that a few friends from Hua Hin were coming up to Bangkok for a weekend of adventure I decided to stay and join in on the fun. 6 days in Bangkok were full of energy and excitement to say the least. There is never a dull moment in this city!
The first 3 days were spent being quite productive. First on the list was to find an apartment. Since I am traveling to Bangkok each week for classes, I wanted to have a place to store my things and sleep while I’m there. The fact that apartments can be dirt cheap in Bangkok compared to home, made the decision to have a second apartment that much easier. My only requirements were; security, close proximity to the BTS, Internet, and a pool. I narrowed my search down to 2 apartments quickly: Sathorn Saint View or C1 Mansion, and set out to view them both in person.
In my journey to view the apartments, I tackled another accomplishment: purchasing a monthly BTS card. Buying a ticket every time you need to go anywhere is a hassle and time consuming. Plus you can only buy with change. By purchasing a monthly BTS pass I can just scan the card each time I enter the station, which is always, as the BTS is the cheapest and best way to get around.
After viewing both apartments, it was a tough decision as both checked the boxes on my requirements. I ended up signing a 2 month contract with C1 Mansion because the cheaper price is worth the extra travel time on the BTS (9 addtl stops). Plus the On Nut stop has a Tesco, many places to eat, and a cute little outdoor market. Don’t be fooled by the name “Mansion” though. This is a one room and bathroom “dorm style” apartment, nothing spectacular. The rooms here were only 5600 baht with internet (180ish dollars per month). My favorite part about the place is the pool and the awesome city view ?
The room didn’t come with bedding so I had to make a pitstop at the Tesco to buy sheets, a blanket, and a pillow. Here’s a look at my room:
My bathroom is a “wet room”, meaning there’s no inclosed shower.
My room was available for me that night which was perfect. Ally and I did a little shopping at Siam Center and Siam Paragon, two popular malls off the BTS stop Siam, and then I headed off to class free of worry as I had the keys to my new Bangkok apartment. ??
Tonight was the first night of Finance class and I was surprised to see my teacher is American, from Ohio. He gave us an overview of the class and we started into the first few chapters. I was a bit aggravated to hear that he cannot attend 3 class periods and instead would like to hold them on Friday evenings or Saturday afternoons. Really puts a damper on my weekend plans! Completely exhausted after class and after a long day, I headed straight to my new apartment to crash.
Day two in Bangkok consisted of lunch with new friends, Carleena and Kyle, from the IR program, and my first day of Operations Management class. My teacher is from Romania and, unlike yesterday, I am the only American in this class. It will be interesting to see the differences from classes in St. Louis. I am hoping to learn more about businesses in Asia and experiences from my other classmates. Dorky, I know.
I continue the productivity in day three of being in Bangkok. My friends will arrive around dinner time tonight so I spend my morning finishing up some last to do items. First, I head to Webster to purchase my books for the two masters courses. I am thrilled to see they are only $75ish for both! Back home books this size would be pushing $200 each. I am also surprised to see that other students turn their noses at the cost of these books while I am smiling. The beauty of perspectives!
Next stop of the day is the Yoga Elements yoga studio. I have been wanting to try out yoga for awhile now, and Carleena talked me into it at lunch yesterday. She had wonderful things to say; how it calmed her anxiety, and is an amazing workout. I can’t wait to try it so I’m looking for a short membership. She recommended this awesome place on the 23rd floor of the Vanissa building. When I arrive the lady gives me a tour of the studio and tells me about the new customer promo of 1999 baht for the first month, up to 15 classes. This may seem expensive however the classes alone are 450ish baht (14$). I decide to book one month. The lady gives me my own gym card and I’m all set. Now I just need to find a yoga mat. After a bit of shopping I decide my best bet is to purchase one from the studio when I take my first class next week.
I am now proud to say this girl has a Bangkok apartment, BTS card, and a gym membership at the yoga studio. Settling in quickly!
Now it’s time for some fun. The group from Hua Hin arrives and I meet them by their hostel for dinner. There is an outdoor food center where each stand has their own unique recipes to offer. The middle is set up like a cafeteria with plastic tables and chairs.
Per Jess and JP’s recommendation I go with the sweet and sour chicken. Great choice.
After dinner we decide to brave the infamous tuk tuk ride to Khaosan Road. As our tuk tuks race each other down the streets, the experience definitely lived up to its reputation! Khaosan is referred to as “The Backpackers Ghetto”, as the street offers cheap accommodation, inexpensive travel agents, handicrafts for sale, food items for sale, even barbecued insects! People swarmed the place seeing everything there was to offer. Khaosan was alive with music and recruiters were promoting “strong drinks” for their bars as well as laughing gas for sale. No joke. Everyone has that “anything goes” vibe and the happiness is infectious. Unsure of which bar to choose, we randomly pick one with two levels and head upstairs. Great choice as this bar had a lively crowd, hilarious bathroom signs, and games at each table. We spent the night playing Jenga, laughing at the signs, and enjoying drinks with each other.
We end the night with another thrilling tuk tuk ride (and a very giggly driver) back to the groups hostel. I catch the BTS before closing time at midnight and arrive safely back to my apartment.
Saturday marked one of the largest annual events in Thai tourism, the 2014 King’s Cup Elephant Polo. Yes, elephants playing polo. According to the website elephants are pulled off the street for a short time, brought to the elephant camp during the tournament, where they play polo, live in a forest environment, eat well, and receive veterinary care. Elephants are limited to half an hour of play per day and all proceeds from the event go to various charities that benefit the elephants of Thailand, including TECC and TETP. After a BTS ride, an airport rail link ride, and an unfortunately long taxi ride (due to miscommunication), we all arrived at the Sports Park. The event receives many sponsors which is probably why it was completely free to attend. To be honest I wouldn’t have paid to attend if it did cost. I was unsure of the humanity of it all.
To make the event even more interesting, it was ladies day, and the most dressed up woman won a prize. Ladies were parading around the event in fancy gowns and large decorative hats. It reminded me of the Kentucky Derby but for elephants. The quarter finals were due to start at 12:30, so we had some time to kill before then. All of a sudden we see a swarm of elephants coming across the field ridden by their Thai handlers. They come to the fence to greet guests and pose for photos. Elephants always amazing me by their calm nature and enormous size. As the elephants come closer I can see that the handlers are using wooden poles with metal hooks on the end to control the elephants and there are scars on some of the elephants foreheads. Shaking my head.
At 12:30 we all move inside to the indoor field as the outdoor one is too muddy. The match was off to a slow start when two elephants were only interested in playing with each other and not the sport. The entire teams had to be switched out. After the switch out the game began. Overall I found it strange as the elephants moved slowly and the polo players gave direction to the handlers and the handlers to the elephants. Many times as the polo players would hit the ball it would be interrupted by an elephant foot. The elephants would also try to kick the ball themselves or just step right on it. The final score of the match was 8-4 and the elephants marched off the field hardly making a sound.
After the match we found some quiet benches behind the food stands to relax. Shortly after we sat down, one of the elephants headed in our direction. We all enjoyed the private time with the elephant.
I will never understand how anyone can harm such a compassionate creature. The stories we hear about the street elephants make me sick. It is nice that this event is raising money and awareness for the elephants and providing them with food and vet care, however, I don’t agree with the polo play. Can’t there be another type of awareness event where elephants aren’t trained to play a game where they are ridden and poked with a stick to chase a ball around?? Elephants experience stress just as humans and I can’t imagine this is a happy environment for them to be in. Not to mention, elephants dont need to play polo to be visited by tourists. They are elephants ?
We all head back to the hostel to shower up and return to the same place for dinner as last night.
Dinner tonight doesn’t compare to last nights, however it is still good, especially when paired with a delicious strawberry banana fruit smoothie. We play cards (an Australian version similar to asshole) in the food center, then call it a night.
For the final day in Bangkok the group decides to experience the Chatuchak weekend market. After sharing breakfast together in a small shop off the Saphran Taksin stop, we hop on the BTS to the last stop, Mo Chit. The Chatuchak market is one of the worlds largest markets and the largest in Thailand, with more than 15,000 booths selling food, clothing, accessories, antiques, plants, handicrafts, books, etc.
The place is crowded with people, both locals and foreigners. Unfortunately we had all our bags with us to lug around. With 6 of us it became hard to stay together and we split immediately. Eliot and I stuck together and each made a few purchases while learning the art of bartering. At this point we felt content and wandered over across from the market to a small park to relax and wait for the others while indulging in pineapple slices and water.
The others continue to shop but Eliot, Nana and I, head over to Victory Monument to catch a bus back to Hua Hin. Victory Monument is a large military monument in the center of a traffic circle that was built to commemorate the Thai victory against the French. Shortly after it was built, the Monument became an embarrassment as the Thais were forced to give back territories it gained and return to France. Despite all this, the Monument remains a familiar landmark in Bangkok and the name on the BTS stop. To our luck there is a bus leaving in a few minutes so we hurry over to pay our 180 baht and hop on. The journey home concludes our escapades in Bangkok and even though we are all completely exhausted, we can’t help but think about our next adventure!