Thursday, July 26, 2012

Muay Thai, Sticky Rice + Scams, or, Bangkok

(Backposting after 2 weeks traveling all over for work and play)

We made the journey from Siem Reap Town to the big Thai city by private taxi, which translates to a 7 hour drive in a semi-air-conditioned Toyota Camry with a rude and smelly hour-long stop at the acrid border town of Poipet. Once we made it to the front of the line to obtain a Thai visa, the going was easy. Our border escort Samnang let us know that Americans rarely got bothered. Instead, the Thai police reserved extensive pestering for Cambodians, Africans and Indians.

Bangkok is massive and sprawling. Fortunately, our boutique hotel in Sukhumvit was adjacent to two forms of efficient public transport, the subway and Skytrain, which recalled the transportation systems of Germany and Paris for their navigitability. Nevermind that both systems only serve about an eighth of the city, leaving us to try for long, sweaty walks or deal with scamming cab and tuk-tuk drivers. The rampant Bangkok scamming could be humuous fodder for another blog post—after dealing wih opportunistic vendors in Cambodia for over a month I encountered the scamming with a laugh. Understandably, Fred felt offended as an eager tourist. My only advice was to avoid the money traps with a firm tone and a threat to exit the cab without paying at any time. Should work.

Three nights and three full days in Bangkok earned us our fare share in sweat, bargaining and sticky rice, a treat we soon became addicted to and ate at least three times in restaurants and when we could find it in the sea of street food carts in Bangkok. If nothing else, the city is amazing for food tourism and we set out to find spicy curry and green papaya salads. Southeast Asia is a temple-lover's paradise-however, living in Siem Reap, or "temple town" we found ourselves a bit tired of the temple visiting ritual and settled after spending a few hours at Wat Pho where we checked out the Reclining Buddha, a figure so big I couldn't find a way to fit it it gracefully into a single shot.

Although I knew it existed, the blatant sex tourism in Bangkok surprised me a bit. Alleys and full streets decked out in Vegas-style neon are dedicated to girlie bars and shows. We wandered down a few and settled to spend our nights drinking beer from a straw and wandering markets, attending authentic muay thai fights in decreipt Lumpini Stadium and watching an incredible lightning storm 59 stories up at one of Bangkok's rooftop bars. 

Time constraints prevented a trip to rural or beachside Thailand, but the taste was satisfying.