Archive for the ‘Bangkok’ Category


Taxi, Bangkok

Copyright Praveen Chamarthi

More fotos on my flickr stream here


Sky Scrapers: Bangkok

Bangkok: The City of Angels

Sky Scrapers, Bangkok

Thai food

22nd Sep 2006

There isn’t much I’ve done since morning. I had an early breakfast and sat at the Internet cafe for more than an hour to update my friends and to see if my job is still there :).

I slowly checked out of my hotel (check out time is 12:noon) I walked down to the quiet and airy Baan Sabai restaurant and decided to feast on some real Thai food

Tom yam soup with river prawns

Tom yam soup with river prawns

Ham and bacon salad

Ham n Bacon salad

Phad Thai fried noodles with bean sprouts

Phad thai fried noodles

stir fried chicken with Sweet and sour sauce
Stir Fried Chicken in Sweet and Sour Sauce

Fried noodles with mince beef

Fried noodles with mince beef

Silom Village and Patpong Street

21 Sep 2006

There are numerous places to shop around in Bangkok. For the more upbeat type of stores you can visit the Siam Paragaon and for more budget oriented shopping it worth a visit to the MBK shopping center at Siam center. You can reach MBK by taking the nearest sky train to siam (pronounced as sayyam) station. From Th. Khao San take the ferry service a.k.a Chao praya river express from Th. Phra Athit to Takshin ticket: 13baht, and then take the sky train to Siam skytrain ticket: 20baht. Siam is an interchange station commuters interchange here for travelling north of Bangkok toward Mo Chit (Northern bus terminal, buses to Aranyaprathet: Closest town to Cambodian border, depart from here but beware Mo chit skytrain station and the bus terminal are NOT close by so if you intend to go to the bus terminal I suggest you hail a cab or a tuk-tuk and ask for Mo Chit mai). Mo chit is also close the Chatuchak weekend market worth a visit. Even though this is a weekend market one can still find shops during the weekdays. The market opens at 9:00am and closes by 6:00pm.

For all you techies: Even though I haven’t been there personally I’ve heard that the best bargains for all kinds of electronic goods can be found at Panthip Plaza which is also very close to Siam square.

If you are an evening shopper, like me, then head towards Silom village and then to Patpong street. Take ferry service from Th. Phra Athit to Takshin ticket: 13baht, and then take the sky train to Surasak skytrain ticket: 10baht Silom village is walking distance from here. Cheap clothes, bags, wearables, shoes, tatoo’s and other accessories and available in abundance here.

Patpong street is for the hedonists. Dingy bars, sex shows, go-go bars, pimps (both men and women), massage parlours and anything sex sells here. As I walked down the street Murray head played in my head. Honestly, I thought whoever wrote this song must have landed directly from Don Muang (Bangkok International Airport) to Patpong street and he judged Bangkok. I walked passed all of the go-go bars dodging all the pimps out of Patpong and headed towards Sala Daeng, the closest sky train station after you exit out of Patpong street. Another mark that you are in Patpong is the sky train line which runs above the whole evening market.

The clock now struck 7:30pm I climbed the not so steep stairway (as compared to the steps at Angkor) and walked to buy my ticket back to Takshin where I would catch the ferry service back to Th. Phra Athit. But to my disappointment that day Wednesday the ferry service closes at 7:00pm, strange! I saw them operate yesterday at 8:00pm huh! well I should have read those days and timings a little more carefully. Anyways I hailed a cab and it rushed through the already fading traffic and dropped me off at Th. Phra Athit for 63 baht.

I walked down Phra Athit to find the night dwellers already on their duty and the street smelled of food. I stopped by a friendly noodle maker and bought myself a “mee foon” (rice noodles) and a spring roll for 35baht and on my way I picked “Singha beer” which has soon become my favorite.

Singha Beer

The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

20 Sep 2006

Thanking myself for moving out of K.T Guesthouse and choosing to stay in Banglamphu turned out to be a wise decision. I didn’t need to think twice to get to the palace as I already knew the road that leads to it. The Grand Palace opens at 8:30am and I was there at 9:00. As I walked past through the huge wooden doors entrance I spotted armed guards standing still and staring at you and the also I some tourists taking pictures of them, with them and from them too. I noticed that the guards were sending most of the “scantily dressed” women to the counter where they provide you free shirt (for covering those sleeveless blouses) and trousers(if you are wearing a mini skirt or shorts apparently even 3/4ths are not allowed). I later learned that there was a strict dress code to enter into this sacred site.

Men must wear long pants and shirts with sleeves — no tank tops. If you’re wearing sandals or flip-flops you must wear socks (in other words, no bare feet.) Women must be similarly modestly dressed. No see-through clothes, bare shoulders, etc.

Grand Palace

Grand Palace

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew Stupas

Wat Pho, Wat Arun & Khao San Road

19 Sep 2006

After catching up with enough sleep I got out of the guesthouse (K.T Guesthouse, Sutthisarn Road, Inthamara soi 14, Single: 560 Baht Double: 690Baht A/C,Hot Shower no T.V, Has a pool too)

K.T Guest House

to catch some authentic Thai breakfast and then I remembered that they don’t have any breakfast..they either eat what was cooked in the night or may be have a soup. I wandered my gaze around the street to find a lady cooking something in her wok. I walked to her and asked her to give me a Khao Phat (KHAW PAT: Thai for fried rice) I learnt this from the Lonely Planet – Thailand I purchased in Cambodia for 5 USD.

After polishing another plate of Khao Phat, this time with sea food varieties and a nice plump cake I headed back to the guest house. Even though the guest house was very clean and quiet I’ve come to know that there are more cheaper and lively places in Bangkok to stay. So, I decided to catch some action and I checked out from the guest house and hailed a cab to head to the backpackers ghetto: the Khao San Road. It is often made fun of that if you stay at a guest house in Khao San you have a freak show at your doorstep. Thanks to Lonely Planet.

Khao san road is infact a back packers paradise, as I walked with my 20kg backpack I think I spotted a tourist from every nation I know. Guesthouses, cheap clothes, food carts, massage parlors, Internet cafes, tuk-tuk drivers, shoe sellers, restaurants..boy this place was bustling with action or what. I walked down the street and checked a couple of guest houses only to find that they were already full and other guest house have shared bathrooms and some say that the only room available was the executive or special room what they call which costs around 700 baht a night. So I pulled out my Lonely planet and found that there are most quieter and cheaper guesthouses at Thanon Phra Athit (by the way Thanon is Thai for ROAD and SOI – pronounced as soy, is STREET) just off Khao San Road. I walked into one of the quiet bylanes and found SUKPASATH HOTEL for 400 baht a night with A/C and hot shower.

The clock now stuck 2:30pm I quickly had a shower and headed to the nearest “place to see”, WAT PHO, thanks to the map I picked up at Airport. In fact all the famous “must see” places of Bangkok are situated very conviniently near Th. Khao San. The National Museum, National Theater, Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew (Emrald Buddha), Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun (Temple of the dawn) are at walking distance range from this road.

Wat Pho or Wat Phra Chetuphon: Built in 17th century is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok. Wat Po hosts one of the largest reclining Buddha, gold plated is 46 meters long and 15 meters high, illustrates the passing of Buddha into Nirvana. The eyes and the feet are engraved with mother-of-pearl decorations. The feet is decorated with 108 auspicious charecteristics of Buddha.

Wat Pho being the oldest wat in Bangkok, is the finest center for traditional Thai massage. Courses are also offered throughout the year if you are interested to learn Thai massage. I think the duration is 30 hours costing approx. 4000-4500 baht over a span of 10-15 days.

Tickets at Wat Pho: 50 Baht

Reclining Buddha, Wat Po

Reclining Buddha

then we headed to the closest ferry station “Ta Tien” to catch a ferry to cross-over the Chao Praya river to Wat Arun, the Temple of the dawn, by paying 3 baht each way..wait a minute that was the cheapest denomination I paid during this whole trip. Then it stuck me that I could reduce my costs by utilising the ferry service. I read a bit about the ferry service in Lonely Planet and with my little smiling skills I was able to understand the routes and for the next four days this would become my preferred mode of transportation in Bangkok.

Wat Arun, The temple of the dawn: One of the most published site by the tourism authority and the only tourist attraction on the other side, Thonburi side, of the Chao Praya river. Construction has an elongated prang(tower which is built in Khmer-style) which is surrounded by four smaller prangs. The prangs are decorated with bits of porcelain. It is also said that the wat hosted emrald buddha for a brief period of time.

Tickets at Wat Arun: 20 Baht

Wat Arun, Temple Of Dawn

Wat arun when viewed across the Chao Praya river when the sunsets down is breath-taking

Wat Arun, Chao Praya banks

Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia

15th Sep 2006

I overslept for two hours and got out of bed at 5:30am (I planned to be at the bus terminal by 5:30am) and reached Mohr Chit-Mai a.k.a Northern Bus Terminal at 6:15am.

Quickly purchased a ticket to Aranyaprathet (border town of Thailand) for 207 bhat. The ride was smooth the roads fabulous. The bus reached Aranyaprathet at 11:20am. I quickly hopped on to a tuk-tuk and asked him to take me to the border which was around 6km from the bus terminal. After sending off to tuk-tuk driver I walked towards the sign which said immigration and departure. I was already feeling the change in the air as soon as I took the turn I was approached by a few kids asking for a dollar, I was happy that I finally made it.

Immigration was a breeze through I stood in the line which said foriegn passport (they had separate line for the thais) at my turn I was told to take the re-entry VISA as I would be returning back to Thailand. I was little worried about the cost: 1000 bhat (again!!), as this was not planned for (the re-entry VISA). Anyways after getting my re-entry VISA stamped from the clumsy thai employee at the immigration (he stamped the date wrong on my passport and then re did it after some striking with his red pen..eeks i hate mistakes in my passport). Leaving my 1000 bhat and worries behind I crossed the friendship bridge and the border to Poipet, Cambodia. Poipet is a seedy place with lots of casinos and gambling centers as it is illegal to gamble in thailand people cross over to this side over the weekend to gamble.

This is how the border looks like

Thai-Cambodia Border

It was totally a different landscape just a few hundred meters away(thai side) was clean and quiet and now I saw touts, beggars, labourers, visiting thais and khmers (cambodians) crossing border to shop at the friendship market. I saw the cambodian flag with a picture of angkor wat on it flying high a smile ran through my face …it felt good.

I walked right into the VISA counter to get my VISA on arrival it was a breeze through. I guess every foreigner, no matter how well read or cautious about cambodia, they get scammed into this and so did I. Well, it was plain and simple the VISA costs around 20USD i.e. 800 bhat but they charge you 1000 bhat i.e. 25USD you can’t do much about this. After having my VISA stamped I hopped on to the free shuttle which dropped me off at the immigration. I filled in the arrival card and a few minutes later I was out of the line. I guess not many Indians travel to Cambodia cause I was stared at all the time.

Did I mention that there was this tout who was following me right from the thai border asking me if I wanted a taxi to siem reap? Well, I was ignoring him as I knew that this is all a scam I would be lured into taking one of those taxis ridiculously priced and I would be dropped off at some guest with which they have a deal with. Anyways after ignoring him for a long time he was kinda pissed off/angry with me as I was not responding to him the way he expected. For instance I told him that I would be “taking a walk around poipet and then decide where to go”, which is highly unlikely that a tourist does it and they know why everyone comes to cambodia.

I got into the free bus shuttle service which drove through the mucky streets and dropped me off at the bus/taxi station. The time now read 12:40noon. I decided earlier that I would not be taking the bus. I looked around to see if anyone would be interested to share the cab to siem reap the town closest to Angkor Wat.

I met a friendly american who was waiting for the bus to arrive since 10:00 am she quickly agreed and we decided to hire the cab for 2000 bhat i.e. 50USD. It was a Toyota Camry. I hought “must be the japanese contribution”. The tarmac on the road faded quickly than I realized. We set our journey on the bumpy road for the next 4 hours.

Cambodian Landscape

The camry was hitting speeds of 90-100kms inspite of the potholes every 2meters. The cab driver (Nianmai) was very kind enough to gives us enough stops(Sisophon Market and Karhlan) before our asses got numb from the ride.

Sisophon Market

He took us to the “Killing Fields” in siem reap before dropping us off.

A little bit about killing fields

On April 17th, 1975 the Khmer Rouge, a communist guerrilla group led by Pol Pot, took power in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. They forced all city dwellers into the countryside and to labor camps. During their rule, it is estimated that 2 million Cambodians died by starvation, torture or execution. 2 million Cambodians represented approximately 30% of the Cambodian population during that time.

The Khmer Rouge turned Cambodia to year zero. They banned all institutions, including stores, banks, hospitals, schools, religion, and the family. Everyone was forced to work 12 – 14 hours a day, every day. Children were separated from their parents to work in mobile groups or as soldiers. People were fed one watery bowl of soup with a few grains of rice thrown in. Babies, children, adults and the elderly were killed everywhere. The Khmer Rouge killed people if they didn’t like them, if didn’t work hard enough, if they were educated, if they came from different ethnic groups, or if they showed sympathy when their family members were taken away to be killed. All were killed without reason. Everyone had to pledge total allegiance to Angka, the Khmer Rouge government. It was a campaign based on instilling constant fear and keeping their victims off balance.

Killing Fields, Siem Reap

We finally reached siem reap at 6:00pm I checked into Chao Say guest house, which was recommended by one of the tourists, for 7 USD a night, with fan and hot shower and no windows.

A quick shower and I was out to find some place to eat..something authentic..something khmer. I chose a quite restaurant which served “Angkor beer” for 50 cents. The most delicious dish of all was the “Fish Amok” (I highly recommend this) served in a coconut shell. Prawn pastis were ok. I thought of the french and their infleunce on the Khmers.

I crashed into my bed hoping for an early start to catch the dawn….