5 January 2003, Bangkok
We woke up this morning and began repacking our bags for the trip home. In the process we found a plastic bag with the T-shirts that had gone missing in Chiang Mai. We had been pretty sure that we had thoroughly checked our bags, but somehow we must have missed them. Needless to say, we felt very badly about what had happened.
Our original plan had been to take a bus to the airport, store our bags there, and then take a bus back to the Weekend Market. When we read that baggage storage at the airport was 70B apiece, though, we decided to take advantage of the free day of storage offered by Wendy House (I believe it was until 20:00 on the day of checkout) and head to the Weekend Market first. Since we were already starting to get hungry at that point, we decided to have breakfast before visiting the market. This proved to be something of a challenge, as only two of the many vendors that set up shop on Soi Kasem San 1 were open, and neither looked all that promising. The vendors all seem to be open in the middle of the day, but none of them appear to be open at night, which makes them fairly useless from a tourist point-of-view. Although I detest Khao San Road and have no desire to ever go back, one thing it does have going for it is the large number of food vendors in the area.
In the end we went to Au Bon Pain and had the breakfast specials (egg with cheese on a bagel or croissant). After eating we went to the Siam Center sky train (which is just a fancy name for “elevated train”) station and took the sky train north to the last stop, Mo Chit. The sky train was completed in 1999, so it’s still fairly new. It’s quiet, smooth, and quick, but has a very limited area of coverage (which is why we didn’t take it before today). It doesn’t even extend to the airport yet, which I think is rather ridiculous. All it really does at the moment is link together Bangkok’s rich neighborhoods. Considering that a trip from Siam Center to Mo Chit costs a hefty 50B (significantly more expensive than the Seoul subway), I suppose that’s understandable. A subway system was scheduled to launch in 2002 (according to LP), but it’s now 2003 and we saw no sign of a subway anywhere.
We arrived at the Mo Chit station at around 09:30 and headed south to the Weekend Market with the rest of the crowd. There was a lot to see, and the vendors in the long building sold a wide range of goods, including clothes, ceramics, accessories, crafts, flowers, and food. We bought a number of items, some as presents and come for ourselves. All told, though, we only spent an hour and a half there. LP recommended setting aside an entire day, but they also said a tour of the Ko Ratanakosin area (the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, etc.) would only take from one to three hours, so they obviously had different priorities. Perhaps we were just tired of shopping, and if we had had more energy we may have spent another hour or so there, but I really can’t imagine spending the whole day there.
Among the interest foods they sold there, the sugar cane juice caught our eye. They basically just ran whole sugar cane through a hand-turned press and out came the juice, a dark green liquid. We had eaten sugar cane in Mozambique, but that required stripping off the hard outer “bark” and chewing on the pulp inside. It was sweet, but the pulp also wreaked havoc on our gums. Seeing the juice, we figured it would be like eating sugar cane but without the bleeding gums. It turned out to be way sweeter than we had remembered, and we only drank a few sips before pouring the rest out as a libation to the garbage can god.
We took a bus back to the WTC and got off a stop too early by accident. We ended up walking through the street market in the Pratunam area, where we bought some cashews and stopped for some snacks—some tasty chicken kebabs dipped in sweet curry sauce and a roasted glutinous rice cake. It was about noon when we reached the Narayana Phrand shop, and there Hyunjin bought two ceramic elephants for her parents. We walked back to Siam Center and ate lunch at Sizzler, primarily because it would give us an excuse to spend a couple of hours eating lunch. We had considered seeing a movie, but there was very little playing. There was The Two Towers, of course, but we chose not to see that because 1) a review of the movie in a local paper bemoaned the lack of Dolby sound systems in most of Bangkok’s cinemas (although the movie itself was given five stars) and 2) we weren’t sure if the movie would be in English, and even if it was the Thai subtitles wouldn’t be much help to Hyunjin.
So, after spending as much time at Sizzler’s as possible, we wandered around Siam Center for a while. We finally went back to the guesthouse to collect our bags and waited for the No. 29 air-conditioned bus to the airport. We arrived at 19:00, changed our clothes, ate dinner (rice noodles one last time) and sent off a letter to the Somwang Guest House with 100B enclosed. I know it’s not a good idea to send money by post, and I have no idea if it will ever arrive, but I could not in good conscience do nothing. Mailing the letter itself was something of an adventure, and I ran back and forth trying to find the post office. After I mailed it I breathed a sigh of relief. It was my final task during the trip, and once it was completed all that remained was to go through the departure procedures and return to Korea.