Over breakfast at Suk 11 Hostel we decided we would move closer to the sights of downtown Bangkok. Shuffling the bikes and bags down the narrow halls from the third floor was a process but soon we were loaded and riding west.
Never ones to take the direct route we weaved through the city stopping at the Erawan Shrine, Lumpini Park, and a local temple where we talked to a local about Laos. Traffic got especially insane as we rode through Chinatown with its million shops and even more motorcycles driving in all directions.
Weaving through traffic and speeding over canal bridges we arrived in the quiet Dusit district, the seat of the Thai government, Royal palace, and our new guest house; Shanti Lodge. While reading the journal of Tara & Tyler they stayed here for 2 months; that alone was a strong enough endorsement for us to check our the scene. 500 baht for a room with a shared bath and a fan; Thai traditional.
With unloaded bike and a 4 o’clock cooking class at Shanti Lodge we rode around the immediate area getting a feel for our new homes and gather our bearings for further exploration. A ride over the the canal into the neighboring Phra Nakhon district we headed for the Chao Phraya River and the Pom Phra Sumen Park for a memorial service and the possibility of food in remembrance of King Rama IX.
At the park we felt like the outsiders that we were, we stood back as the groups mourned their beloved king.
It is worth explaining that the extreme love for Bhumibol Adulyadej, known as King Rama IX of the Chakri dynasty is wholly unlike the forced love for Dear Leader Kim Jong-il of North Korea. King Rama IX the former 70 year leader of Thailand; through a series of Royal Projects worked to greatly increase the quality of life and economic prospects. His Majesty opened roads in rural areas to boost trade, while hydro-electric projects generated power, and strict drug-eradication initiatives saved lives.
Following ambiguous signs labeled as “shorter route” we found ourselves riding through back alleys past the everyday lives of Bangkok residents. Our shortcut dumped us out a few blocks from our guesthouse and at the intersection of a busy road and a plant market. It was at the plant market that we found our first sugar laden Thai coffee.
Back at the guesthouse I took a hint from the dogs and took a midday nap; waiting for the cooking lessons to start. Eventually the other couples trickled in and we were shown the quick way to prepare massaman curry, although in the states we won’t have the opportunity to purchase fresh curry from the market.
Hungry and curious about the infamous Khao San Road we set out on foot looking for some food and ready to see the madness that is the backpackers enclave. In Bangkok one needs to travel no more than 5 minutes to find an assortment of food options. A little further than the end of our street was a street side pad thai vendor, feeling slightly adventurous we ordered one plain and one with squid. Both were delicious.
Several blocks away, you can hear the epicenter of drunken western backpackers is in Bangkok. The buildings are plastered with lighted and neon signs proclaiming everything for sale; from massages and suits, to excursions and fried insects. After the sun goes down the road is blocked from vehicle traffic and the Tuk-tuks swarm looking for an unsuspecting fool to pay 300 baht for a ride down the street. Most shops shutter their metal doors and night vendors cover the road and sidewalk, hawkers on foot weave between the tourists selling wooden frogs and blinking gadgets. Khao San Road is a spectacle unto itself and we are happy to be sleeping far away from the raunchiest street in Bangkok.
Having had enough “special” “promotion” Chang beer we walked back to the quiet* of the Shanti Lodge. Good night.