Daily Meander: Silom, Bangkok

I’m not a good blogger. I procrastinate. I figure I can always update later, which defeats the whole purpose of the chronological order of a blog. Lately though, I’ve been worrying about forgetting things that pictures can’t record. For example, how long was our bus ride from Kuala Lumpur to Had Yai? (9 hours, from 10am to 6pm, plus a one hour time difference we didn’t figure out until the next day.) how long was our bus ride from Had Yai to Krabi Town? (5 hours, from 1pm to 6pm, about.) i can definitely tell you though, that from Ao Nang to Surat Thani, with its waiting and transferring of busses and 2am snack breaks was 14 and a half hours long (from 4pm to 6:30am). I don’t think we slept more than 3 of those hours between the 2 of us. We unloaded onto a triangle of traffic and fought our way through perched taxi drivers.

I spend a month in the vicinity of Bangkok a couple of years ago as a student, but I can’t claim to know much of it. I was busy being a student. I did make daytrips to Jim Thompson’s House and Chinatown and Chatuchak, to Hua Hin and the Middle Eastern District and went on a night bike ride, but I never did get a sense of the city as a whole. And if I had ever known what a taxi cost, I didn’t know anymore.

In hindsight, saddled with baggage and not staying in the vicinity of Khao San Road, where we were dropped off, We should have just grabbed the first taxi and paid the tourist farang price. Instead, we fought our way out of the ring of taxi drivers, asked several taxi drivers on Khao San Road how much it would be to get to the. Myamnar Embassy, and were quoted 200-400 baht.

After walking south for awhile in righteous, touristy indignation, we found a taxi cab driver who was willing to take us on the meter (the green ones seem to be better). The end price? 100 baht. It’s probably best to always be on the meter, but if you do choose to negotiate with non-metered taxis in Bangkok, the following may help you out.

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Unfortunately, trekking to the Myanmar Visa Entrance with all our earthly possessions for the next few months (like real backpackers!), we found the following notice:

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I guess we should have checked Myanmar’s national holidays. At least we knew where the visa entrance was, and after breakfast and wifi at the fashionable, but pricy, hostel Saphai Pai and checking into and using more wifi at our own hostel, New Road Guest House, we went in search of some one to provide us with visa application forms, passport copies, and passport photos. Approaching from the north, we passed by at least three. The one we used though, was the one closest to the Myanmar Visa Entrance going north on Than Pon, on the right.

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It was the most low-key place, and didn’t seem to have a name, but it provided everything we needed, including printing our air itinerary just to be safe, had a handy sample visa application, took about 10 mintues, and cost 336 baht for 2 people. We were advised to go early to the Embassy tomorrow, as there would be a lot of people. This handy visa station doesn’t seem to have a name, but it’s near this laundry:

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Now, having been up for about 33 hours, we decided to try and stay awake until a reasonable time. We purposely wasted time taking pictures of flower markets and Hindu temples, and walked down a street to see a mosque, where we discovered a wet market that sold the same tasty, salt-encrusted grilled fish we had in Krabi Town one rainy night before.

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We also comparison shopped beer and yogurt between 7-11 and a grocery store.

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The grocery store didn’t seem to differ too much from my experience with US grocery stores, although I didn’t look at the produce. It might have been a higher end one. There was no price differentiation between the yogurt there and at 7-11, though the beer was cheaper by 3 baht. Unfortunately, while purchasing it, we ran into this problem:

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Mike was pretty upset at the inanity of the rule, but I wanted a pretzel and lemonade in a stand outside the grocery store, a stand which reminded me of the pretzel booth I used to work in during college, except there were 12 people behind the counter instead of 3. Also, the cashier had better English than the people running the exclusively farang bus we had taken to get to Bangkok. Anyway, by the time I was done with my buttered piece of carbohydrate, it was 5pm and he could go and buy his beer.

Now we’ve been up for 35 hours, and we agreed early on that we would not be held accountable for any incoherence during this time. Overall, I like what I’ve seen of the part of Bangkok we’re staying in. Silom is full of embassies. We came here for the Myanmar Embassy, and we navigated our way to our hostel by following signs to the French Embassy. Our neck of Silom is home to the Pakistani-Thai Friendship Association, and boasts quite a few Pakistani/Indian restaurants (in addition to the tourist staples of Italian/Thai). There are also a lot of jewelry stores, and wholesale semi-precious stone and silver stores.

I’ve read at least one derogatory comment about flying to Thailand to stay in a commercial area like Silom. Yes, it is a bit far from the city center, and the Thai National Museum, and the backpacker vibe of Khao San Road. But it’s 10 minutes to Chinatown, and 5 minutes to a Skytrain station, and it has its share of temples Hindu, Muslim, and Chinese.

As far as its reputation as being a commercial center, that’s definitely true. But just as I got over being stationed near Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur due to its malls and shopping centers being great places to eat cheaply and watch locals and tourists shop, I hope others can get over Silom being a commercial center when they do thesame. You can also observe office workers on their way to work and from work, and schoolchildren with their matching uniforms and hairstyles buying snacks, hanging out, and generally being kids. Life seems more quotidian here.

But what do I know? I haven’t even been here 12 hours. There are plenty of hotels, hostels, bank ATMs, and a currency exchange or two, as well as at least one Starbucks. I’m not sure how to yet review the hostel I’m staying at, but it is cheap and has free working wifi. Hopefully I will update more later.

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