My brother Chris and sister-in-law Jen arrived in Bangkok on January 2nd from Alaska after 48 hours of travel which included New Years Eve in a Seattle airport hotel and a near miss connection in Seoul. But despite the long day(s) of travel all four of us were pumped to be together in Bangkok.
The adventurous spirit runs in the Hodges blood. The story of Chris and Jen deciding to visit us dates back a year prior to their arrival. It was late in the evening on Christmas Day in 2013. Before going to bed that night Peter started a conversation with Chris and Jen about visiting us in Thailand during our year of travel. By the end of the night the conversation had moved from if they were going to come to when. It was that easy. Now we are in talks about the next family adventure. But first, Bangkok!
It was 11:00 PM when they landed but that didn’t stop us from going out to toast their arrival. We kept it close and walked 5 minutes to Seenspace on Thong Lor Soi 13 which is a semi-enclosed outdoor area with bars, restaurants and decent people watching. We toasted to a couple weeks of traveling together in Thailand.
That night when we got back to the hotel the crew was a bit hungry so Peter introduced Chris and Jen to a phenomenon in Bangkok which is McDonald’s 24 hour delivery service. In Bangkok, simply dialing 1711 on any phone will connect you to the closest McDonald’s and within 15-20 minutes your order is delivered to your room by motorcycle. The McDonald’s courier will also bow after handing you your meal which is a fine mixture of hilarity and adorableness. Its simultaneously awesome and dangerous having their service at your fingertips. Jen and Chris got a huge kick out of it. Sadly, this was not the last time we took advantage of this late night option.
We only had two full days to take Chris and Jen around Bangkok so Peter and I mapped out an action-packed itinerary. They were game and we were all excited to explore the great city of Bangkok.
Chris got a head start to our first morning but checking himself into a Thai massage just across the street from our hotel. He had been telling Jen and his friends how excited he was for daily cheap massages. I didn’t give him a head’s up on traditional Thai massages and my thoughts on them being stressful. I figured he’s a strong dude and might feel differently and enjoy the stretching, pulling, kneading and semi-workout involved in a Thai massage. We all had a really good laugh at his expense when came back to the hotel looking really confused and distressed. “Well…..that’s not really what I was expecting” he explained looking more tense than when he left.
We dipped into Greyhound Cafe for their first non-corporate, non fast-food meal in Asia and then we were off to see the sites.
We visited Wat Pho, one of the oldest and largest temples in Bangkok which houses an enormous reclining golden buddha. Gold because this color represents complete and total enlightenment in Buddhism. The temple is also famous for being the supposed birthplace of Thai Massage, Chris’ beloved treatment. They have a Thai massage school within the temple grounds.
We also received a blessing from one of the monks which consisted of him flicking holy water at us with a leafy branch and tying a bracelet around our wrist. We walked away feeling pretty good. Then we looked back at Jen and noticed she was drenched in holy water. We held back laughter until her husband made a joke that she apparently needed more blessings than us. Or that she looked like she was a little hot and needed a cool-off.
In all seriousness, the bracelets are meant to give luck in travels and later to be untied rather than cut. Cutting off the bracelet is a sign of removing the blessing.
We arrived at the dock near Wat Pho by way of water-taxi up the Chao Phraya River which gave us great views of the city’s luxury hotels, the first bank of Siam, Chinatown, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace. Taking water taxis is a really fun and beautiful way to see Bangkok.
After Wat Pho Peter took us down a quiet alley to one of his favorite hidden coffee shops in Bangkok, Vivi Cafe, right on the Chao Phraya River. We had a nice jolt of caffeine, took in some great views of Wat Arun and enjoyed a lively conversation.
Feeling refreshed we jumped in a tuk-tuk and Peter negotiated our fare to Khao San Road, famously known as the backpacker’s haven (or ‘backpacker’s ghetto’, as Peter refers it as). The streets are full of hostels, massage parlors, street vendors selling novelty fried bugs, bars, restaurants, fast-food chains, hair-braiders, hustlers and stalls selling ridiculous backpacker attire. Its filled with young foreign travelers. You might get made teased by locals and expats for spending the day on Khao San Road, but it is fun and there is a lively and exciting buzz bouncing off people from all corners of the globe. We figured its a place they had to see once.
When Peter and I first met up in Bangkok it was on Khao San Road right in front of this hostel, D & D. Check out the bonus shot of the traveler with the big backpack.
We dove right into getting foot massages at one of the outdoor parlors while simultaneously drinking Leo beers. We sat in complete relaxation while people watching and enjoying a spectacular Bangkok sunset. Peter eaves-dropped on the masseuses conversations in Thai.
Feeling relaxed and content we charged the streets inhaling the stimulation of all the senses Khao San Road has to offer. One of those being fried scorpions for sale which are supposedly high in protein. We really tried our hardest to convince Chris it was a good idea to “embrace the culture” by consuming the bug. We got close, but were ultimately unsuccessful. (note: scorpions are not an item consumed by Thais, its a mere novelty for foreigners)
So instead we opted to grab a seat at an outdoor bar where we refueled on Beer Chang and came up with a strategy for the night.
Ready for food we headed to the Middle East district where we grabbed dinner at our go-to restaurant, Nasir al-Masri. This is where the night really started turning epic. Peter and his friend Andrew have a rule that the only way you can travel back from Khao San Road is by tuk-tuk. Regardless where you are going. So keeping with tradition we took a tuk-tuk from Khao San Road to dinner. The amount of laughter in the tuk-tuk was serious. There is something about taking this tiny mode of transportation through the busy crowded streets of Bangkok that will tickle your funny bone. Pretty sure the roadies helped too.
Dinner was a success and we all loved the food and environment. It was the first time they had green curry in Thailand and they were both in food heaven.
After delicious food we walked over to the adjacent red light district. When in Bangkok. It really is like no other place you will see. Clubs with go go dancers, sports bars, lady-boy bars and a whole bunch of bright lights, loud music, and commotion make for an assault on the hedonistic senses. Just walking through this area will take your eyes on a journey and make you feel like you have landed in another world. Something to see and then head out of shortly thereafter. Kinda like Khao San Road, its something you should see once.
We still had friends in town and they now had friends in town so we suggested we all meet-up at bar called Tuba off Ekkamai Road. It was a surreal feeling walking into a bar in Bangkok and seeing 7 of our friends. Alex, Clint, a friend of Clint’s, Raychel, her friend Rob, Andrew, and our friend Teddy were all at a table when we walked in. Feeling like locals we introduced everyone to Chris and Jen and proceeded to have a night full of banter, good conversations and really huge Long Island Ice Teas. And pictures with Hulk.
End of day 1. Are you tired?
Day 2 was also action packed but focused more on the indulgences of Thailand. We started with a 90 minute massage at a great spa called Mulberry. This spa is a bit pricier but all the masseuses are well trained and certified therapists. Chris opted to try the Thai massage again with Peter. This ended up being his last for the trip.
Feeling like butter, we took the BTS (elevated sky-train) to Siam Center and explored the adjoining malls of Siam Discovery and Paragon before settling in for dinner at Taling Pling. Chris and Jen really started realizing their love for Thai cuisine.
Bangkok is also known for jaw dropping views from the many rooftop bars all over the city. These restaurants are a popular spot to catch the sunset, socialize, grab dinner, or a drink. Wanting to show off panoramic views of the city we headed over to the Marriott Hotel to it’s Octave Rooftop Bar and attempted to get some good shots of the lights and buildings below. Bright lights, big city.
Another thing Bangkok is known for are the clubs. We felt like we couldn’t leave Bangkok the next day without Jen and Chris at least seeing the inside of one. We visited an area of Bangkok called RCA which is a street of clubs all thumping house, hip-hop and Thai rock music. We went to Onyx which was packed with Thai’s dancing their hearts out to the DJs spinning beats. It’s more of a ‘let’s have a blast’ party-scene vs. ‘lets look cool’ party-scene like in Vegas. It’s fun, funny, silly, light-hearted, good-spirited and super entertaining. Not the type of club-experience you’d expect. It’s also really loud so after a bit we decided to grab a night cap near our hotel.
While taking a taxi towards our neighborhood we got sidetracked by break dancers taking over the street. Literally stopping traffic to perform. Naturally we opted to have our night cap at an outdoor bar so we could take in this talented group of dancers. Only in Bangkok do you get stopped by people spinning on their heads in the middle of the street.
It was a jam packed couple days of new experiences on all the senses with particular mention from Jen on some of the terrible smells of Bangkok. It was a successful weekend in fun, laughter, and family bonding.
Our next adventure would bring us to northern Thailand in Chiang Mai.
Are you inspired or scared to go to Bangkok now?