Sunday, June 04, 2006

Five hours at Chatuchak Market



Despite Todd's offer for me to meet him for drinks at 1am once he'd collected his mum from the airport, I took one look at my blood shot, tired eyes and decided that a good nights sleep was most definitely in order. I awoke at 7:30am, feeling well and truly refreshed, drank a papaya shake downstairs in the restaurant and then began my journey up to Chatuchak Weekend Market, on the outskirts of Bangkok. It's actually pretty easy to get to from Khao San and the journey takes about 40 minutes and costs around 50THB. It involves catching the Chao Praya River Boat Express to Saphon Taskin (also known as Central Pier), jumping on the skytrain (there's a station right next to the pier) as far as Siam, and then changing trains, on to the green line until you reach the terminating station of Mo Chit.
Chatuchak is a huge market, with innumerable stalls that sprawl over acres and acres of land in Chatuchak Park. I'm sure I didn't even cover half of them in the 5 hours that I spent there. You can indeed buy pretty much anything at Chatuchak, and the goods are spilt into sections so that if you're looking for something in particular you don't have to walk around the entire grounds of the park! There's some original and good quality stuff to be had, so it was definitely worth the journey up there. There's also plenty of cheap food and drink establishments if you need to re-fuel or rest your weary shopping legs! I bumped into Todd and his mum whilst I was fighting my way through the crowds, which is quite strange considering how large the whole place is!
Back at Khao San, not much has changed since I was last here : there's always at least a couple of travellers getting dreadlocks or braids; there's countless food vendors selling fresh fruit, Pad Thai, spring rolls, and barbequed corn on the cob; there's music blaring from the speakers of each CD stall lining the street (and there are many!); there are enough clothes being sold that you could safely arrive in Bangkok carrying nothing but the clothes on your back; there are funky headscarves and leather and silver jewellery; every other building is a guesthouse and those that aren't guesthouses are bars or restaurants full of travellers exchanging travel stories, or internet cafes, with the odd 7-11 and pharmacy scattered in between. Despite the unoriginality of it all nowadays, I still like the chilled out vibe that permeates along Khao San.
This evening, I soaked up the Khao San vibe. There was a street performance taking place and a large audience had gathered around the musicians, acrobats and dancers. The performers were oozing energy from every pore so it was difficult to capture the essense of the spectacle in a single photograph, hence I recorded a short video of the entertainers in action. Back at The Wild Orchid Guesthouse, I ordered a beer Chang and started reading the novel that Todd had kindly passed on to me : "Borderlines" by Charles Nicholl, a story based on the author's experiences of travelling through Thailand and Burma (now Myanmar) prior to 1988, when the book was first published.
Shortly after I had started reading, Todd showed up and joined me for a beer, after which we decided to head out and check out the nightlife on Soi Rambuttri. We found a little bar which basically consisted of a collection of wicker mats placed in the middle of the street and an oil lamp in the middle of each one. We sat ourselves down around one of these oil lamps, and were reluctantly joined by an American from California who was a tad strange to say the least. When asked what brought him to Thailand, he replied "the Dali LLama" Sums him up really : an intelligent guy but something about him was a little off-key.
We were subsequently pleased when the group who were sat next to us, with whom this strange guy was also attempting to make conversation, began to amalgamate us into their group. The group consisted of a happy-faced curly haired American from California called John, a sophisticated looking Indian girl called Nalani, and a dutch couple from Amsterdam : a girl called Irene and a 6'8" tall guy whose name was impossible to pronounce at the time, and hence I cannot remember it now! We had an entertaining evening that included Todd being approached by a little Thai girl wearing Dennis Taylor glasses, which looked comical on her tiny little face. She clearly knew she looked funny, as it was this element alone that persuaded Todd to buy 3 roses from her : one for each of us girls, oh aren't you smooth Todd!! The evening (and the beer) was still in full flow at 3:30am. By 4am the dutch couple and myself were dreaming about our beds, so we headed back to our guesthouses and left the party animals to their beer and now unintelligable conversation. I heard from Todd's mum the next morning that he stumbled in at 5:30am!!
Photos
View of Bangkok's skyscrapers from Chao Praya Riverboat express (look at the colour of the water!!!)
Todd and his girlfriend, the little rose girl. Soi Rambuttri, Bangkok