April 7-8, 2014: Bangkok is a city for the senses. The sights and sounds, smells and tastes are captivating. One night is never enough, but for us on this trip, our Bangkok stopover was simply a means to an end…we needed to apply for our visas to visit Myanmar.
It takes an hour to drive from Subic to Clark International Airport, and from there it’s just three hours and $100 to fly to Bangkok, if you don’t mind flying on a budget carrier. At least the plane was newish.
We arrived in Bangkok at 10:20 in the morning knowing we had to get to the Myanmar Embassy before noon if we wanted our visas processed in time to catch our onward flight. To say our time was tight was an understatement, but somehow, incredibly, we made it. We pulled up to the furthest gate from the exit but we were the first off the plane. We trotted briskly through the airport, and for once, there was no one in front of us in the immigration queue. We didn’t have to wait for any luggage, so we quickly changed some money into Baht and grabbed a taxi. The driver said it would probably take an hour to get there, and then he whisked us along and dropped us at the door in little more than 30 minutes. No traffic in Bangkok…totally unheard of. Turns out it was a quasi-holiday, but lucky for us, the embassy was still open.
After dropping off our paperwork and receiving instructions to return later in the afternoon to pick up our passports, we set off to find our guesthouse. It was one I had booked on Agoda based on reviews and its close proximity to the embassy. I didn’t realize how close. The tuk tuk driver waiting outside the embassy suggested we walk. It was less than two blocks away.
The Littlest Guesthouse is a tiny, two-storey place tucked amidst tall modern high rises and behind a much larger guesthouse, just steps from the transit line. Sitting in a lovely small garden, the place was amazingly quiet and relaxed and Ann, the owner, took great care of us. Check in consisted of saying our name, and even though we were early, our room was ready. It was large, airy, clean and cool with a huge bathroom. A great find in bustling Bangkok.
We dropped off our stuff, freshened up and headed back out into the fray, deciding to walk towards the river and explore a bit of the Silom district on the way. Not far from the swanky Shangri-La hotel, we found a little Thai restaurant and ordered way too much food. After craving good Thai food for weeks, we were not disappointed. With satisfied tummies, we continued on our way to the river. There’s no river walkway along this stretch, so we had to be content to sit riverside and watch longtail boats, little ferries, big tourist boats and working tugs and barges ply their way up and down or run the gambit trying to get across.
After picking up our passports with visas in place, next we headed off to Pantip Plaza. This place has floors and floors of small shops selling computers, cameras and other electronic gadgets. We’ve been desperately trying to find a replacement for our Sony Cybershot but the model is discontinued. (Because we use it in a custom housing for underwater photography, we need to find the same model.) Just like in Hong Kong, again we were skunked.
Bangkok is the home of dozens of rooftop restaurants and bars with stunning views over the city. And while I was really looking forward to a sky high dining experience, we had to give it a miss. Turns out they all have strict dress codes. No shorts. No flip flops. We didn’t have the appropriate attire. Guess that means we’ll just have to come back again.
The next day, after an enormous breakfast of fresh fruit and meatball and rice soup, we put our bags in storage and grabbed a taxi to Chinatown. We wandered aimlessly through busy side streets and markets, enjoying the sights and trying to stay out of the way of large groups on walking tours. It was sad to see shark fin soup on all the menus, and actual shark fins of all different shapes and sizes proudly displayed in the windows.
Today the traffic was back in full force, so after a tasty lunch of squid and prawns in one of the Chinese restaurants that also specialized in birds nest soup, we tried to hail a cab back to our hotel. The asking prices were outrageous, so against our better judgement we jumped in a tuk tuk instead, arriving hot and dusty. And then we were off to the airport for our late afternoon flight to Yangon.
Just one night in Bangkok is never enough, but we were excited to be on our way to Burma. And our good luck returned at the airport. We managed to find our Sony Cybershot camera in one of the duty free shops. Let’s go!