Two words: Abi and shopping. No matter where in the world I am, these two things are inseperable. It really was just a matter of time until I had to hit Bangkok for a mini-spree. Decided to head to the big smoggy on Saturday for the day, more than anything just have some time away from Saraburi. Like living here as I do, there's only so much to keep one entertained by day come the weekend, and the constant staring and being called 'ferang' everywhere I go (it's good the locals point this out so often, I hadn't realised I was in fact a foreigner), and on the odd occasion even being touched can make me a bit weary.
So off to BKK I went. Up at a sparrow's fart, 8am is early, I was on the mini-bus ready to leave by 9.15. The mini-buses are great, costs about 2 quid and gets you there in about an hour and 15 mins, which is a teeny bit more pricy than the bus (by a hefty 40p or so) but gets you there a lot quicker and smoother. Our driver seemed to think he was at Brands Hatch though as he was racing along, cutting people up, zipping between lanes, and using his horn every two seconds. I was grateful there were two rows of people/airbags in front of me... Thai modes of transport are not equipped with seatbelts. The only safety sign this particular mini-van had was a stick man with a cloud around its rear with a red line through it. Using my knowlegde of international stick man language, I deciphered that this meant no passing wind in the minivan. Ahh, Thai's have a good sense of humour, I chuckled to myself as I gripped my seat with white knuckles to avoid being propelled off of it.
Got there, safely, by about 10.30 and found the Skytrain. For 20b got myself to Siam Square (having gone in the wrong direction.. well it was my first attempt at navigating myself on it).
First things first... bypassed the famous Erawan shrine and went straight for MBK, which is a little gem of cheapy shopping heaven. It's like loads of market stalls... just inside in a nice clean air-conditioned five-floored monster building. Got myself two nice pairs of mid-calf length baggy pants (yes, pants, blame the Americans I spend all my time with) and some black fishermans pants for about 200b each, probably overpriced but I feel guilty haggling if I think it's good value, and at under about 4 quid a pair I thought it was quite reasonable. Also got myself some suitable black shoes for school, which took ages as I thought the sizes were European, but turns out they've got there whole own system of sizing here, which varies from shop to shop. Got ripped off on a black bikini... '350b for you lady', special price my arse! But it was nice and I nearly bought one similar back in the UK for nearly five times as much, so I'll be philiosophical about it and not resentful.
It got to food-o-clock so I wandered across to the Siam Paragon, a more top of the range shopping centre with Jimmy Choos and Burberry... one day. My trusty Lonely Planet recommended the Gourmet Food Hall there. First things I saw when I walked in... Subway, McDonald's and KFC. Gourmet?? I have to admit the other stuff they had in the Food Hall was pretty impressive and the supermarket-esque thing there was like a Thai version of Harrods Food Hall. I did peruse to see if they had Fairtrade choc, but I should be so lucky.
I got hungry looking at all the food on offer so went to the semi-circle posh canteen style section which had foods from around the world. Decided against an English roast, seeing as I never eat them when I'm in England, and went for some overpriced Chinese roast duck and noodles. I have to say they were pretty disappointing, and when I saw that a guy nearby had the Pad Thai I'd ummed and ahhed about I regretted not trusting my stick-with-Thai-food instincts and getting that instead.
Wandered around a bit and saw some of an international piano fair, like you do, and lots of wrinkly white guys with gorgeous young Thai girls. Yes, they're with you for your Sean Connery looks.
Thought I should take in a bit of the culture of Siam Square so went to find the Erawan Shrine which is on the corner of a street next to an even posher dept. store, which somehow I found myself inside, wearing my hippy skirt and designer rubber flip flops. Made a swift exit before I ended up being cajoled into buying 500b a bottle water or something. Shrine was pretty but didn't stay too long as the incense was a bit OTT for me and made me sneezey.
As, in the words of Newton Faulker 'she got time', I decided not to sit in traffic in a taxi trying to make awkward conversation using broken Thai and English, and instead opted to walk the god knows how many kilometers to Khao San Road.
Made up for my bad directional skills on the skytrain by using my miniscule map to get myself there. And only got semi-ish-lost once. And I wouldn't have got lost at all had I not asked some dutch/german/swiss/swedish/blonde guy where I was and had he not told me to go the opposite direction than I infact needed to go.
Ended up doing a big scenic loop around Wat Suthat (thought I'd save going in for the next time I visit when I'm more in a cultural mood), and saw a bit of Chinatown along the way. After all that I arrived back at the 'Giant Swing' where I'd asked the multi-national guy for directions. Eventually made it to Democracy Monument and from there I knew how to get to Khao San Road.
And what a ker-azy place that is. You walk off the main road, up a little side street and then BAM.. on your left if a huge street with signs hanging off every building and backpackers/tourists/touts everywhere. I got asked within five minutes whether I wanted a tattoo/fortune reading/massage... sometimes by the same person twice. It was quite overwhelming to be honest, but fun to wander around and people watch. I have to say I felt a bit of the odd-one-out among the other whiteys... flowery skirt and generally clean.
Picked myself up a yellow skirt, which I didn't really want but I'd practiced my haggling and it worked, and then I'd have felt guilty just walking away afterwards. Damn my moral streak! Also got another bikini as it was really nice and strapless, and a bargain at 200b.
All shopped out decided it was time to navigate my way back to Victory Monument to get the mini-bus back as I wasn't sure what time they stopped running. Figured out from my map that there was a 'short-cut' to get back there so I could avoid hectic Siam Sq. On the way stumbled across a great night market, which I think is one of the pluses of walking as opposed to taxi-ing. Got myself some rice and omelette for 20p, found myself a little bench and munched away the best I could with a plastic childrens' spoon. Pretty tasty.
It was dusk by now so quick-footed my way back (without getting lost) and hopped on the mini-bus back about 7.15ish. Would have slept as was k-knackered, but the woman next to me was and her head kept going all over the place, so was hard to concentrate on sleeping myself.
Got back to Saraburi about 8.30. Hungry, again. Decided to get some of the little ball things from the vendor right by my apt (they're like dougnuts without the sugar, thereby healthier?) When I got there I discovered that she was not open, stomach distraught! Decided against my feet's better judgment to drag my achey body back to the market where there was another lady who sold them, and got there to find her packing away. I was destined not to have them that night it appears. Walked the whole length of the market to get some sticky rice and jak fruit (tastes like bubblegum, bit weird!) Finally got home, very achey, and dirty.
I enjoyed my day out in BK, and look forward to my next jaunt, where I promise I'll do some more than just shop. Maybe. Perhaps.
Other news: booked my train tickets to Chiang Mai for New Year, because all the seats were gone on the days I wanted to travel I have to miss a day of school on Tuesday 30th which means I miss my two computer classes that day, oh no! Leave at just gone 9pm on Monday 29th, and return at 6.30am on Monday 5th, then I have to be in school by 8am, although have been given some lee-way as don't have 'proper' classes til 11am. That should be a fun day! It's a ten hour train journey and cost just over a tenner each way, when considering it costs nearly half that to get me the 40 mins from Herne Bay to Canterbury, I think is a bit of a bargain. Got myself a guesthouse booked up there with another friend from orientation, and there should be another group coming up too, so looks to be a good week :)!
In the meantime, I have Khao Yai National Park to look forward to this weekend, am very muchly looking forward some fresh air and to trying out my new bikini in the waterfall, and just hope it stays on if I jump in...