Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Why We Need to Stop Buying Souvenirs - Receiver's POV

Presents are nice. Or at least they have the potential to be nice. Some of the worst presents I got were souvenirs from other countries. Of course, many people have brought me lovely things from their travels, but more often than not, people buy junk. The problem is they usually do this with the best of intentions.

"Here's a piece of crap from another continent to remind you of the time I went to Paris and you didn't" -Demetri Martin (possibly paraphrased) on souvenirs

Giving people souvenirs can be a pain for many reasons, some of which I've mentioned before. We may not like to admit it, but sometimes, receiving them can also be inconvenient. A lot of gifts are one or many of the following: large, heavy, ugly, useless.

Here's my rating of some commonly gifted souvenirs:

Let's break it down. To keep things objective, I'm assuming all these things are aesthetically pleasing.

- Keychains

This is nice at first. A keychain is not too big (hopefully) and it sure is useful. But how many does the average person use? Two? Maybe three, at the most. The keychains that follow become awkwardly-shaped items which take up precious storage space - a big box or even a small shelf.

- Trinkets/ lockets/ earrings/ charms

Very hit-or-miss depending on how well the buyer knows you. On the plus side, if you think something doesn't suit you, you can always gift it to someone else who is more likely to use it.

- Chocolates

If you're the kind of person who thinks all chocolate-like items are delicious, then hurray, you'll never be disappointed. But you'll probably be a terrible chocolate gifter who genuinely believes people like Bounty.
I've had a couple of people bring me amazing chocolates, but I've also had enough Hershey's Kisses and Ooty chocolates for life. And if I never see a Bounty bar again, it'll be too soon.

- Magnets

Unimaginative, but safe, neutral, and not bad at all. You don't have to worry about storage space, and you can use them to hold up notes on your fridge. The best ones are also functional as bottle openers, tape dispensers, thermometers, hooks, and other things. Also, if you're a parent with kids who announce before bedtime that they need a magnet for an experiment in school the next day, you just yank one off the fridge.

- T-shirts

Unless you've bought it at a proper store (and sometimes even if you have), a souvenir T-shirt is, most likely, made of the worst kind of material. But let's assume it's good material and the right size for me. I'm still left thinking, "I've never been to Los Angeles. Do I really <3 LA? What if I don't? You <3 LA because you went there and saw what it's like, and maybe I would <3 it too if I were in your shoes, but I don't really know, do I?" 

- Models and showpieces - the worst kind of souvenir

All they do is take up space and prolong your dusting routine. And the ones that are made of plastic or metal won't even 'accidentally' break.

- Something you supposedly asked for - the most disappointing kind of souvenir

I believe people should enjoy their holidays without worrying about what to bring back for everyone. But when they keep asking you what you want and say they'll get you something anyway, you might as well try to ensure they bring something you like. So you tell them to bring you XYZ if they happen to see it but to not bother hunting for it because you really don't need more stuff.
Then they bring you PQRS because it happens to vaguely resemble XYZ. And PQRS will be something generic that's easily available everywhere around you at half the price they bought it for.
And you have to pretend you're excited and grateful when all you're thinking is, "Oh, you poor dumb fools... I hate it!"

Related story
On a visit to someone's house, the host had bought coffee and made me some because she knew how much I love it. Problem was, she was a tea drinker with no idea of how coffee works. I took a sip from the mug she'd given me and all I could taste was weirdly tainted water with a grainy texture.

Extremely puzzled but curious to solve the mystery of the suspicious liquid, I took a couple more sips before realising that she'd put coffee grounds into the mug and mixed it with water the way you'd make instant coffee.
I then tried, at various points through the evening, to leave the mug in an obscure corner of the house, but she'd always find it and say, "You forgot your coffee. Here it is."

- Postcards

Please don't give me a new set of postcards even if I stare at them and keep talking about how pretty they are. I may love looking at them, but they take up space because I don't know enough people who will truly appreciate getting a handwritten postcard in the mail.

If you find a pretty one while you're travelling, write on it and post it to my address. It'll be the best souvenir you can get me.
Or you could simply come back and share your stories with me. Just please, please, please do not bring me Bounty bars.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

8 Days in Bangkok on a Budget (Sort of)

During our trip, I'd made little notes of where we went and what we ate so I could fill in the details later. This is more of a travel journal than a guide but I figured that if I put it up here, there's a chance that it may be useful to other people. Failing that, it should at least make for a good read, hopefully. 


After weeks of packing, moving, and unpacking, we finally moved into our new house. The very next day, my father left for two weeks on work. My mother and I had decided we wouldn’t be left behind to do all the unpacking while he was away.

Bangkok seemed like the ideal place for a quick holiday - dad didn't want to go again, mom was happy to, and I'd never been before. Also, visa on arrival. Perfect, right? Well... yes, except for the painful process of figuring out how to get a visa processed after landing at the airport.

Note: Don Mueang airport has "Visa on Arrival" boards at 5 different counters, but only one of them actually processes your visa (and of course it’s the one with the longest, slowest line)No one tells you this. 

- The line for people who apply for a visa before arriving was a lot shorter. It might be worth paying a little over the standard 2000 baht charge.
If you haven’t booked tickets yet, booking a flight to Suvarnabhumi airport might be a good idea. Mom said (based on her previous Bangkok trip) that it’s way more organised.
- Carry some glue (to stick your photo on the application form) but guard it closely. The one person in our line who did have a glue stick lent it to a few others who promptly passed it around like it was public property. Poor guy looked worried, and I don’t think he ever saw his glue stick again.

The whole visa process took 2-3 hours but felt like half a day. However, with the worst behind us, we were all set to have a great trip.

DAY 1 (Friday, March 23)
Sawadeeka, Bangkok! 
Places: Wongwian Yai, Taksin Intersection


Getting to our hotel was easier than expectedOnline maps had given us a string of complicated directions, but the guy at the airport’s information desk told us to just take a bus and then the BTS (Skytrain).

One could also take a taxi, but that’s a lot more expensive. Besides, the two of us only had a small backpack each and were in no rush.

Buses from Terminal 1 go to Victory Monument (every 30 minutes, if I remember right) and to Mo Chit (every 5 minutes) for 30 ฿ per head.
We went to Victory Monument, got a passion fruit bubble jelly drink from Coco, and then took the BTS from there to Wongwian Yai.
Victory Monument

The HotelWe stayed at W Station, round the corner from the Wongwian Yai BTS. Just off the main road, this lovely little hotel is easily accessible, with restaurants, food stalls, a convenience store, etc. just a few steps away.
W Station

Since it’s not in a touristy area, it’s peaceful and quiet, and other places of interest are just a few minutes away thanks to the proximity to the BTS and bus stops close by. The warm, friendly staff made us feel at home and ensured that we really enjoyed our stay. Also, their breakfast is delicious, especially the Pad Thai.


Thanks to a sleepless night and visa-related exhaustion, we wanted to take it slow that day, so after a nap in our room, we strolled around the neighbourhood. Got some splendid summer rolls nearby and then walked to Taksin Intersection (on the other side of the BTS station). King Taksin’s statue stands within a small park-like circle in the centre of a very busy area with a fascinating market on one side, which means plenty of great food.
Statue of King Taksin the Great in Thonburi, which became the capital of Siam when he was King

We loved the summer rolls but decided not to eat too much of one thing so as to leave room to try an assortment of food. Then we saw a lady grilling pork on sticks, tried one, and loved it so much that we immediately got three more. She was very amused. Oh, and they were just 5 ฿ each! Coated with a sweet-spicy marinate and cooked perfectly with the meat tender and the fat a little chewy and caramelised, it’s easily the best pork starter I’ve ever had (and I’ve eaten a lot of delicious pork).

Mom then insisted we get some pineapple, and I’m so glad we did! I’m used to eating hard pineapple that’s either sweet but flat-tasting or too sour to enjoy, but this was sweet and juicy with a little bit of tang - just what we needed after walking around for a bit.

We also looked around an amazing supermarket that had fascinating Thai sauces and coconut milk and such but didn’t get anything (except, on my insistence, a pack of seaweed to snack on) because thanks to the move, we’d discovered how much stuff we have and had resolved to not get more stuff.

As we walked back, it began to get dark, so we had dinner at a little restaurant near the hotel and then headed back.

DAY 2 (Saturday, March 24)
(Window) Shopping
Places: Chatuchak Market, Ikea, BACC

TransportWe each bought a BTS day pass, which allows you to ride the BTS as much as you like all day for only 140 ฿. Our first stop was to Mo Chit to see Chatuchak market.

Chatuchak Weekend Market:

Apparently the largest market in Asia, Chatuchak is open for business on Saturdays and Sundays and is bustling with locals and tourists alike. With different sections of the market selling a range of products from food and clothes to art and penis-shaped soaps, there’s probably nothing you won’t find here. Even if you’re not planning to buy anything, it’s an interesting space that lends itself well to photography. There's also a big, beautiful park to one side of the market.
Scenes from Chatuchak


Had a couple of popsicles while wandering around Chatuchak. Also tried the famous coconut ice cream, which I’d been looking forward to ever since I saw Ishai eat it on Street Food around the World. For 50 ฿, most of the stalls there give you two scoops in a coconut shell with some tender coconut shavings and a few toppings you can ladle on as you like. It’s fun, and while I wouldn’t call the ice cream exceptional, it’s pretty good. Overall, it makes for a worthwhile experience.

Then we took the BTS to On Nut, where one of the exits leads directly to the vast and wonderful food court at Tesco Lotus. We had braised duck and rice (good, not great) and a rice combo with fish and bambooshoot (incredible).  


The bus stop outside one of the On Nut BTS exits is a pick-up and drop point for the free shuttle to Ikea which is part of the gigantic Mega Bangna. We reached one end of the mall after a 20-minute ride in a rather packed bus, got an ‘espresso’ (it was regular coffee with milk and sugar) and a lemon tea for the walk to Ikea, and then spent a good amount of time there but, as planned, didn’t buy anything.

Note: If you’re at Mega Bangna and want to take the shuttle back, step out before looking for the bus stop.
We walked along the inside to stay cool but ended up circling back to our starting point because the Exit boards keep pointing straight ahead. Unless you look in all directions, it’s easy to miss the right door.

A Dash of Culture:

We were a little tired, but I wanted to go someplace that wasn’t a shop stop. So we took the BTS to National Stadium and stepped into the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre (BACC). It was almost closing time, but we saw some exhibits on display and agreed that this was a place worth coming back to.

Inside and outside BACC by night

A concert was going on right outside the building, and the area was all lit up and full of people (in a nice way - not too crowded). Across the street, at the ground level of the MBK Centre, was a market and a beautiful food section. But since it was mostly seafood at very high prices, we figured we’d go back and eat near our hotel.


Unfortunately, we’d lost track of time, and the little places serving meals were closing. We had some pork sticks and squid sticks before realising that our best option at that point was to go get something from the 7/11 store. So that’s what we did: picked up a couple of packaged meals (which they heated for us) and ate in our room. The food was salty and average tasting, as you can expect a packaged meal to be.

DAY 3 (Sunday, March 25)
Lots of Walking
Places: BACC, Jim Thompson house, Wat Pathum Wanaram, Lumpini Park

After breakfast at the hotel, we went to National Stadium again to spend more time at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. 
Graffiti above the BACC entrance by five famous artists in honour of their late king

The man on the side of the building and a man inside the building

The Jim Thompson house is a few steps away, down one of the narrow lanes off the main road. It’s listed as a hidden gem on many websites, but it seemed a little more touristy than I’d expected. Then again, we're originally from Assam, a place that’s famous for its silk. So it might be a worthwhile destination for people who haven't seen how silk is woven and all.
At Jim Thompson House

We left JTH to walk down the main road, darting in and out of malls to avoid the heat by walking in air-conditioned spaces as much as possible. We discovered a Jamie’s Italian which was very exciting (but didn’t eat there because it wasn’t nearly lunchtime yet).

Wat Pathum Wanaram:

You know how sometimes, when a place is easily accessible, you end up not going because you know it’s there and you can go any time you want? Well, it was our third day in Bangkok and we hadn’t been to a Wat yet, so when I spotted one nearby, we went in to explore even though it’s not among the city’s famous temples. 

Beautiful carvings on the outer face of the Wat's wall as seen from the pavement


Outside and inside

And what a great move that turned out to be! Wat Pathum Wanaram is a (not-so-)hidden gem - an open, uncrowded, serene space in the midst of several mall blocks. We spent a lot more time there than we’d planned to and absolutely enjoyed it.

Lumpini Park:

Then we came out to the main road again and I saw a sign that said Lumpini park was about a kilometre ahead (spoiler alert: lies!) So we walked and walked and walked. At one point, we found our stomachs rumbling and noticed that it was well past lunchtime, and that we had walked past all the places with food.

Assuming we’d find something up ahead because it’s Bangkok, we trudged on until we found a man with a BBQ pork cart. To two hungry people, it was a most welcome sight, and we quickly demolished a few strips before continuing on our quest for Lumpini park.

Note: Lumpini park supposedly has street food, but all we saw were pineapple carts, so I’m guessing these stalls were either in a part of the park we didn’t go to or set up at an earlier or later time of the day.

If you’re wondering why I wanted to go to this park so badly, it’s because I’d read that it has lots of monitor lizards and that the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra holds concerts there on Sundays ‘in the cool season’.

We reached at last and slumped onto a bench next to the water. We sat there awhile just taking in the sights and enjoying the chance to rest our legs.
With people walking and jogging around us, we figured we ought to see what the place had to offer. Lumpini park is beautiful. It’s also a lot bigger than it appears at a glance. So as we walked on and on, we soon began wondering when we’d see our starting point again.
Scenes from Lumpini Park

If Mega Bangna had taught us anything, it was to exit and then find our bearings. In this case, however, it just resulted in us making a bigger circuit back to our starting point. Then it was yet another long walk to the closest BTS (Ratchadamri) because the only tuk-tuks there refused to go to Wongwian Yai.

Back by the hotel, we had a dinner of pork noodle soup with raw papaya salad at a streetside restaurant, followed by some pineapple.

DAY 4 (Monday, March 26)
A Fruitful Day
Places: Wat Arun, Khao San Road, Asiatique

If you thought we were done walking because of the previous day, you’re wrong. We set out on foot to Wat Arun and took a slight detour on the way to see the Santa Cruz church. 

Santa Cruz church

This was right by the water, and Wat Arun was already visible from a distance, so we walked along the Chao Phraya river, passing by another Wat that was being renovated and feeling extremely confident about arriving at our destination in no time.
"There's the spire! We'll reach in a few minutes."

Lost, Hydrated, and Recentred:

Then the path by the river ended, forcing us inwards, and we promptly got lost. We walked through many little lanes hoping we were going in the right direction when I saw a tiny stall where someone was getting a packet of neon-coloured liquid. Normally, I wouldn’t dream of drinking strange fluorescent red soda out of a plastic bag, but I was thirsty.
 Lost (but in a pretty place)

Gesturing and pointing, I tried to indicate to the old couple at the stall that I wanted the alien red soda. The man pointed to two big vats of mysterious liquids boiling away while the lady showed me a tray of ice. Well, it’ll be fun to try something new, I thought, randomly pointing at one of the two boiling vats.

The man poured some of the liquid into a large cup and proceeded to add to it a variety of condiments, including condensed milk, with the utmost care. It turned out to be Thai iced tea, and it was delicious. Getting lost was turning out pretty well. Also, minutes later, we discovered that we weren’t lost any more.

The beautiful couple

It’s true what they say about how it's the journey, not the destination, that really matters. That being said, Wat Arun is spectacular.

Climbing the few knee-high steps of the central prang is well worth the effort, but even if you don’t want to do that, you can see most of it up close just by walking around the spires.

Khao San Road - F&B:

Our next stop was Khao San road for lunch. We caught a ferry from the Wat Arun pier to Phra Arthit and walked the short distance to what we assumed was Khao San road.

We ordered tom kha soup and flat vegetable noodles at a place called A&A Guest House. Both were lovely, especially the tom kha. I’d had tom kha soup at oriental restaurants back home, and I’d quite enjoyed those, but they had nothing on this one. Light despite the coconut milk and extremely flavourful, this soup at a random little restaurant was far better than anything I’d had at any of the fancier places before.

Quote of the day: “chicken, pork - small, can eat. Beef - very big, not eat.”

The lady at this restaurant spoke a little English and talked a lot, telling us how much she liked India. Initially, she said the tom kha was unavailable, and when we looked disappointed, she explained that they were out of chicken and only had pork. 

She’d asked if we were Hindus and had assumed we didn’t eat pork. When we assured her we did, she asked if we ate beef. Not wanting to scandalise her, we shook our heads. 
She didn't eat beef either, she said. 
Her explanation (with gestures to illustrate the differences in size): “chicken, pork - small, can eat. Beef - very big, not eat.”

Stepping into another place nearby, we got a foot massage, the perfect way to relax after our meal. Rejuvenated, we felt like getting some dessert. So we finally tried mango and sticky rice (they have this pretty much everywhere but we hadn't tried it yet). Salty sticky rice with pieces of mango and a little coconut milk - exactly what I’d expected; nothing less, nothing more.

We then strolled about, exploring the area until the passing of an acceptable amount of time before the next F&B stop. This time it was for nitro coffee at Starbucks. I don’t normally seek out familiar chains in a new place, but nitro coffee is something I’d been dreaming about for almost two years, and we don’t get it where I live. It was, I must admit, not quite as great as I’d expected. Not saying it was bad, but I was expecting something magical and potentially life-changing, and it wasn’t.

Imagine you’re expecting to see a unicorn, and you’ve been embelleshing the image in your head for almost two years, and when you finally see it, you realise it’s a horse. Slightly different from the horses you’ve seen before, true, but just a horse nevertheless.

The long way back

After taking a ferry to Saphan Taksin, we decided to wait there for the free shuttle boat to Asiatique which, as it turns out, is basically a glitzy touristy market with a bit of a carnival-like atmosphere. Then again, the lights make for some good photographs, and it’s a nice ferry ride, so I’m not complaining.
 Wat Arun by night as seen from the ferry
Asiatique scenes

There’s a shuttle to Saphan Taksin every hour, so we took the next one and continued via BTS back to Wongwian Yai. After some bubble tea at OChaya, we had a great dinner at a little restaurant: amazing seaweed and pork dumplings, green curry fried rice, and dry noodles with chicken, followed by pineapple.

DAY 5 (Tuesday, March 27)
The Great Food Market
Places: Baan Silapin(/Artist House, Khlong Bang Luang), Wongwien Yai market

The plan was to take the BTS to Bang Wa, walk along the canal and spend some time at Baan Silapin, which looked very interesting from the online descriptions and reviews.

Due to the lack of a data plan, we got lost (again, yes). When we asked for directions at a little repair shop on the way, the man looked a little worried and gestured to me to keep my camera close. Not wanting to get robbed, we hailed a taxi and were taken to Baan Silapin in under five minutes. Just in time to watch the puppet show.

The puppeteers put on a show every day at 2 PM with traditional Thai puppets. On that day, they performed a story with two characters: Hanuman and a mermaid. The performance was quite impressive, but I’d have been happier if they’d spent a little less time asking for tips. Not that I don’t care about preserving traditional art forms, but tapping bags of audience members one at a time until they get as much money as they’re expecting feels a tad unseemly.

Once the show was over, we walked back in the direction we came from (since we realised during our taxi ride that it was a very simple route) in search of food. Every step made us a little hungrier, and it was late afternoon, so again, restaurants were either completely closed or beginning their prep for dinner/ evening snacks. Plus we were dismayed because the Artist House didn't feel all that worthwhile, though it certainly is very pretty.

Lovely vegetable garden at Ban Silapin

Gorgeous river views and interesting sculptures

I’m glad we went, though. If I’m looking forward to something, it's always better to experience it and find it hasn’t matched up to your expectations than to not experience it and spend the rest of your life wondering what great things you missed out on.

Also, if we hadn’t gone to Baan Silapin, we wouldn’t have accidentally stumbled upon the most glorious food market on the way back to the BTS.

Food! Beautiful, Wonderful, Glorious Food!

So we were trudging along, hoping to find anything edible no matter how small or weird, and suddenly, we discovered a market. A food market, no less. One with lots of food at different stages: cooked, being cooked, and waiting to be cooked.
Don't know the name of the market, but maybe these photos will help

We got some fried pork. Then we got a whole lot of sushi. Then we got a plate filled with so many mussels we had quite a job eating them all. With a bubble tea (from Ducky Tea) to finish it off, we headed back, full and extremely happy with the overall outcome of the expedition.

It was already early evening by the time we returned to the hotel, so after a short nap, we set out for the Wongwian Yai market again. Had the delicious BBQ pork from the same lady we’d bought them from on day one. For our main course, we had some fish and rice in the market (also delicious), terrible ‘lemon soda’ from Cha Payom, and pineapple for dessert.

DAY 6 (Wednesday, March 28)
We Discover the Bus 
Places: Wat Pho

Since Wat Pho isn’t close to a BTS station, we turned our attention to the bus routes. We made sure to consult not only the internet but also the good people of our hotel. So after breakfast, we took bus no. 82 from near Taksin Intersection to Wat Pho. We saw many interesting sights along the way, including an expansive flower market near the Wat.

A Heavenly Experience

We’d set out a little earlier than usual that day so we wouldn’t have to wait too long for a massage. Wat Pho opens at 10 AM, and their massage centre (and massage school) is highly reputed. Turned out we didn’t have to wait at all, though even if we’d had to, it would have been worth the wait, because their foot massage is heavenly. 
Top: The building on the left is the massage centre 
Bottom: Things they do to you if you get a full body massage

Wat Pho is extremely pretty, and there’s a lot to see before you get to the reclining Buddha, which is massive (and very difficult to photograph within one frame, especially with the pillars in front). 

Note: Near the main attraction, there’s a counter where you can get a small bottle of drinking water when you show your entry ticket. This comes as quite a blessing after you’ve walked around in the premises (especially so, I imagine, if you haven’t gotten a massage first, because they give you some cold herbal tea at the end of it).

Shopping: I bought a pair of very nice sunglasses from a guy outside the temple for 59 ฿.


We got some pineapple from a vendor in front of the market opposite the Wat. At 20 ฿, it was less money for more pineapple than what we'd been getting all these days (although they later told us at the hotel that the small pineapples are more expensive than the regular-sized ones). Anyway, we were very pleased and made sure to let the guy know we were happy. We had lunch at a small street restaurant. I forget exactly what it was, but it had noodles with meat and vegetables in broth and was quite good.
Wish I'd taken a better picture of the pineapple man

We then took the same bus to return to the hotel and then relaxed for a bit with some TV and Singha beer from the minifridge.

A Plan and a Cancellation

Having got a taste of the bus, which is cheap and allows you to see the city properly, we decided to take one to Victory Monument and try the famous boat noodles. Bus 529 is supposed to be the one that goes there, but we waited quite a while and it didn’t show up. A sweet old man waited with us after we asked him if there was another bus to our destination. He didn’t know but he actually stopped a lot of people who got off at our stop to ask if they knew. Some people shook their heads and we gathered there wasn’t a bus to VM from our stop. The man told us we could take the BTS and asked us to go soon because it was already getting quite dark. I have a feeling he was waiting for a regular bus on that route and may have missed a couple of his buses while asking around for us.

Since it was later than we’d realised, we figured it would be a better idea to do boat noodles the next day. So we went back to the dumpling restaurant near the hotel - this time our dinner was green curry and rice and iced tea. We also picked up ice cream from 7-11 and it was unexpectedly lovely (Nana Extreme Chocolate or something). We also picked up instant noodles and promptly got hungry soon after since we had food just sitting there waiting to be eaten, so we ate it back in our room while watching some Thai soap on telly.

DAY 7 (Thursday, March 29)
End of the Line
Places: Perception, Jamie’s Italian, Wat Saket, Wat Suthat, Victory Monument

We had some loose plans for the day, but everything else was slightly moved back at the mention of another massage. At breakfast, we met another guest at the hotel whom we’d bumped into the previous morning. Despite my general disdain for bright energy and loud voices in the morning, this guy seemed interesting and listening to him talk was actually quite fun. We (read: mom) talked about places we’d been in Bangkok so far and raved about the Wat Pho massage, and he said that if we liked massages, we HAD to go to this place with blind masseurs/ses. He spoke so highly of it with so much excitement that we decided to make it our first stop for the day.


We got day passes and took the BTS to Chong Nonsi. Perception is a stone’s throw from the station, so it’s easy to find. We’d had foot massages already and weren’t keen on full body massages because we didn’t feel adventurous enough to have our bodies bent and twisted several ways so soon after breakfast, so we settled on head-shoulder-back massages.

The lady at the counter speaks English and gives you a short form to fill out with a welcome drink (we asked for ours post massage). Then you’re taken upstairs to your masseur/se in a room with different sections divided by dark curtains and asked to change (into a very comfortable top and pyjamas) and lie down the way your masseur/se instructs you to.
Then it begins.

At first, I was very impressed with the strength of this tiny girl. Her skill was impressive too, and I suppose being blind makes one more attuned to the sense of touch.
Next, I was in pain. I’d heard about Thai massages before and had already got a slight taste of the pressure used thanks to the foot massages, but this was something else. And it was supposed to be medium pressure! There were times when she pressed along the back of my neck and I had to fight the urge to simultaneously scream, burst into tears, and die from how much it hurt.
Then, somehow, the pain started to melt away, and by the time the massage was over, my body was nice and loose and relaxed. I hadn’t realised how tense parts of me had been. It was lovely.


There were lots of scrumptious-looking things out for lunch by the streetside, but all we did was drool over them from a distance because we were to eat at Jamie’s Italian, and we weren’t hungry enough to eat two lunches. We weren’t too hungry for even one lunch, to be honest, but after the late meals during our first couple of days, we weren’t about to postpone one when it was there for the taking at present. Besides, Jamie! See, it was very exciting for us because mom and I absolutely love Jamie Oliver and had never seen one of his restaurants before. India does have a couple, but in cities that lie far, far away from where we are.

A pizza seemed like a reasonable thing to order, although even that turned out to be quite a bit more than we needed. Not that it stopped us from polishing off every last crumb of our Truffle Shuffle.

Wat, Wat, Banbat?

After eating way more than we should have, we felt it was only right that we walk a little. To Wat Saket. This, according to a couple of people we asked, was a Very Bad Plan. A policewoman appeared concerned when we mentioned walking, said it was “very far” and urged us to take bus 47. The bus came in no time and, as it took us to our stop, we realised the lady was right. It would’ve been a difficult walk in the middle of the afternoon.

Wat Saket is not nearly as impressive as Pho or Arun, but it does give you a great view of the city. Yes, you do have to climb some stairs to get to the top of the Temple of the Golden Mount, as it is alternately called. There are also little halls around the main chedi with different Buddhas for different things, like fortune, health, and so on.
On the way up

The next stop on our list was Wat Suthat. It’s not too far from Saket, but it was a hot afternoon and we were very dehydrated. Most of the shops along the way were closed, and the ones that weren’t were souvenir shops. Nowhere that sold water. Where was a 7-11 when you needed one? (You usually see one every few steps.) Also, the frame of the Giant Swing is visible from quite a distance. It doesn’t seem too far, but it stays at almost that same deceptive distance for a really long time.

Banbat is on the way, so before reaching the Suthat swing, we thought we’d drop in and see the alms bowls being made. Apparently banbat was closed, but we did come across a man making those bowls. It was very interesting to see the strips of metal being beaten, bent, fused, and polished by hand. There were also a few completed ones for sale.

Then we continued on to Wat Suthat, and when we finally got close to the swing, we found that it wasn’t nearly as giant as we'd thought it would be. Big, sure, but not giant. It's like a big arch, more or less.
We didn’t feel like going into the Wat, so when we saw a 7-11 close by, we made a beeline for it and bought a Thai cola, most of which we put away very fast before remembering why we don't like colas (but it really was a lifesaver at that point). 


We then walked quite a bit until a bus stop on the route to Siam (same no 47) appeared. From there, we took the BTS to Victory Monument in search of boat noodles. I’m not sure we found THE alley, but we walked into a restaurant which did have boat noodles. So we tried some, and it was really, really good. They’re smaller than your usual bowls of noodle soup, but at 12 ฿ each, they’re also a lot cheaper, so it’s perfect if you want to try out an assortment of things. We also had a jelly dessert which was very sweet but not bad.

Also, I had pea flower lemonade, which is one of the most delicious drinks I’ve ever had. I’d seen it at a couple of places before, so I assumed it would be easy to get whenever I wanted, but I later found that it wasn’t. My point is, if you see that a place has pea flower lemonade, try one right away.

We then rode the BTS to Samron (the end of the line) just for fun, although it wasn’t very fun because it was crazy crowded. The ride back, however, was good. After my pea flower lemonade, I wanted more of it, or at least more of some good drink. Since On Nut was on the same line and the Tesco there had a Coco (and was way easier to get to than our dinner restaurant), we decided on bubble tea. After passion fruit juice with bubbles and jelly, we took the BTS back to Wongwian Yai and went to our hotel.  

DAY 8 (Friday, March 30)
Khop Khun Kha, Bangkok
Places: Grand Palace(ish), BACC, Don Mueang

We had a slow, late breakfast and checked out of the hotel by afternoon. They often had interesting snacks in the lobby, and on that day, they asked us to try what was a mixture of sticky rice and banana steamed in banana leaf. We took a couple with us to eat later (while being bored at the airport).

Our flight was at night, but since we only had a backpack each, moving around wasn’t a problem. The hotel staff said we could leave our bags in lockers and pick them up later but we didn't want to have to come back again to get our stuff.

We stepped out and got some yakisoba and pork seaweed dumplings from the restaurant we’d eaten dinner at before. Also, we’d seen some interesting-looking food in the carts around the place but since we'd always set out after breakfast, we'd never tried any of it, and they were always gone before evening, replaced with other carts selling snacks. Since this was our last day and this lady had a cart with delicious-looking mushrooms, I asked for some. She gave me a generous portion of mushroom curry with rice, a lot more than I needed to be eating not long after our late and hearty breakfast. But it was so delectable that I lapped up every last bit. Oh, and it was only 20 ฿ (for a portion that could well be a full meal).

We were overdoing it anyway, so we got ice cream and then washed everything down with Big Bubble plum green tea. Then we took a bus (82) to Wat Pho to see the Grand Palace (the two places are just across the road from each other). Didn’t end up actually going in because it was hot, we had backpacks, and I wasn’t that keen on it anyway due to my high satisfaction with Wat Pho and the other grand sights we’d seen.

Since we were there, we went to get some pineapple from the same vendor again. The man recognised us and was so happy he pulled out a bowl which he was cutting pineapple into (before putting them in packets) and urged us to have some more. It was incredibly sweet and we felt bad about taking extra when we already had so much, but he kept holding out the bowl, so we took a small piece and then slowly walked away.

The Last Bit of Bangkok

We then took bus 47 to Siam, spent some time at BACC, then took the BTS to Mo Chit from where we got the A1 bus to Don Mueang. The AirAsia check-in line was very long and very messy, but after a little bit of asking around, since we only had handbags, we were sent to a much, much shorter line.
With everything done, we had our packed dinner and the snack from the hotel along with some fabulous hazelnut popcorn at the airport. And, well, we eventually got on the plane and were off.


This may not be everyone's ideal vacation since we're neither the sort to lounge around in a fancy hotel all day nor the kind of people who try to pack 39 places of interest into 12 hours. We went to Bangkok to get a feel of the place at a comfortable pace. We had tentative plans every morning but were quite happy to change them if something else came along. Of course, there were more things we'd have liked to see, but not visiting all the places on your list is a good reason to go back.


-Packaged drinking water. It’s sooooo good. It’s soft and slightly sweet, almost like coconut water, and feels like a hug in your mouth. At our hotel, we got two bottles of Crystaal every day, and the water at Wat Pho was a different brand but had the some lovely taste.

-The people - I wish I could tell people to go get Thai iced tea from the adorable old couple near Wat Arun, but since we only found them because we got lost, I can’t give directions. Maybe if you’re walking to Wat Arun from the church and are forced inland, away from the water, you might just find them in a shop under the bridge. To anyone who finds them and can speak Thai, tell them hello from India.
Someone I can direct you to is the pineapple man near Wat Pho. He has a stall outside the market on the side that lies directly opposite one of Wat Pho’s exits.
Others who made our trip more memorable were the man who waited with us at the bus stop, the lovely people at the hotel (Patti, Pheow, and the rest), and the staff at the Wongwian Yai BTS station who helped out when I got stuck at a turnstile.

It helped that our hotel was cute, convenient, and reasonably priced. This is the restaurant where we ate breakfast every morning and a little arrangement in our room.

-Food - especially pork sticks, tom kha, mushroom rice, Bang Wa market sushi and mussels, Nana ice cream, and pineapple. 
The pea flower lemonade was divine. We had bubble tea from different brands, and Coco was our favourite. 
And they have loyalty cards, so for every ten drinks you have there, you get one free (something we only found out the day before leaving).

-Massages - Wat Pho and Perception were both extraordinary, though I must say the massages in non-fancy places are also very good considering how cheap they are.

-Bucket list foods: Meal at Jamie's, nitro coffee, boat noodles

-Sights/experiences - BACC, Wat Arun, Wat Pho, the markets, ferry rides

-Some interesting signs


We did end up getting lost and walking around a lot more than necessary, but to someone who can still get lost in the city she’s grown up in, it’s no big deal. Besides, all our walking in unfamiliar places was during the day, so it may have been hot, but we never felt unsafe. And we always found our way back.

General tips:

-If something looks good, eat it when you find it. It may not be available when/ where you expect it to be. Actually, this applies to all food in general, unless you’re sure about where to find what.  

-Get mobile data so you can avoid getting lost

-Try out different modes of transport. They’re all fun, but some ways are better than others depending on where you are and where you’re going.  
The ferry is perfect for places close to the river and costs 15 ฿ to wherever you're going, if I'm not mistaken. These are the regular ferries with orange flags, not the blue and white flags (which are tourist boats).
The bus is great if you're not in a rush and want to get a proper feel of the city. It's also the cheapest form of public transport.
The BTS is a little more expensive than the other two but is extremely convenient since it's fast and saves a lot of time. Also, air-conditioned trains are nice when you've been out and about in the heat of the city.

-A surprising number of people won't do this, but seriously, try the local food! A trip to Bangkok without Thai food is absolute bollocks. Being blessed with a strong stomach and the will to try anything edible, I had the luxury of simply pointing at anything that looked good. If you have restrictions and don't speak the language, that's somewhat understandable, although I do think that it can easily be fixed by learning a few Thai words and phrases. But if you're simply a picky eater who won't try anything new, mend your ways.

-Stay hydrated. It's easy when cold drinks like bubble tea are easily available and the packaged drinking water tastes so good.