19 December 2002, Bangkok
We woke up fairly early (7:00) today and headed back across Chakraphong Road, picking up omelets from a street vendor for breakfast on the way. “Omelet” is similar to the Korean “omelet rice” I described earlier, except that here the vegetables and/or meat are mixed with the egg before it is cooked and put on top of the rice. It’s also practically deep fried, so it probably wasn’t the healthiest of breakfasts.
We ate as we walked along, and on our way we checked out some guesthouses—we have no intention of staying on Khao San Road when we come back to Bangkok. The best of the bunch was the Green House, in a little alley running between Khao San Road and Rambhutri Road to the north. The place looked quite clean, and rooms with a/c were only 420 baht.
Checkout at Khao San Palace was noon, but the bus to Phuket didn’t leave until that evening, so we had to find a place to keep our bags. Our first thought, of course, was to leave our bags at the Khao San Palace, but they only had weekly storage for 45 baht a week. You would think that they could cut us some slack, but the staff was adamant and not a little unfriendly. The experience left a bad aftertaste, and was the last impression in what I would in no way call a pleasant experience at the Palace.
We did a bit of poking around, and we asked the staff at the D&D Inn. They only had storage for guests, but they were quite friendly and directed us to the Hello Guest House across the street. Although I doubt I would ever stay on Khao San Road again, if I did the D&D would be at the top of my list for accommodations.
Anyway, the Hello Guest House did have baggage storage for only 10 baht a day, so we left our bags there. We also used the Internet cafe there, and I sent an email to my parents. We then left Khao San and headed for the Democracy Monument. On the way we stopped at a Thai restaurant—an “open-air” establishment, which basically means it was an elaborate vendor’s tall. Again using the point-and-order method, we ended up with some very good noodles—the best we’ve had so far. This confirmed my suspicions that attempting to find a restaurant through LP was more likely than not doomed to failure (as it did with No. 147 Thai Food). For accommodations, etc. it is quite a valuable guide, but for eating it seems to be hit or miss.
We went south from the Democracy Monument until we reached what was labeled on the map as the “Great Swing.” We when got there we discovered that it was really just a very tall gate, like the hongsalmun of Korea or the torii of Japan. The weather was really starting to get hot then, so we continued south to a nice park where we planned the next stage of our trip.
We sat down at a picnic table in the park and I noticed a 20 baht bill sitting on the table. I picked it up and put it into my wallet, and shortly thereafter a group of schoolgirls appeared, looking around anxiously. They approached our table slowly, but they apparently didn’t know what to say. Of course, I speak no Thai at all, but fortunately the word for “twenty” is practically the same in Korean and Thai. So I said “twenty baht?” No doubt I butchered the pronunciation, since I said it like it was Korean, but the girls understood and began vigorously nodding their heads. I took the bill out of my wallet and gave it to them, and they bowed several times (in the Thai fashion, with hands held in front of the chest, palms together) and repeated khawp khun (thank you). I couldn’t help smiling.
When the girls left, we decided to rework our travel plans. Originally we had vague ideas of going to Phuket, but after doing some reading we decided on Ko Phi Phi (ko means “island”). Having made that decision, we decided to take a bus to Krabi instead of Phuket and then take a boat from there. After solidifying our plans we left the park and went back to Khao San Road, where we picked up our baggage and caught a bus to the southern bus terminal (it’s actually in the west, but it is so named because south-bound buses depart from there).
I had been a little concerned about purchasing a ticket, but it turned out to be far easier than I expected. As soon as we entered the terminal an official approached us and asked us where we were going, then directed us to the proper window. The woman there spoke English well enough, and we were able to buy two first class tickets to Krabi.
We still had some time before the 17:30 bus departed, so we went into a coffee shop and had something to drink. Hyunjin had ginger tea and I had a lemon juice (lemonade). Unfortunately, it was prepared in the traditional Thai way, with sugar and salt, and I drank as much as I could manage. I suppose the salt is added to replenish the salts lost when sweating in the torturous heat, but it takes some getting used to. (For the record, I did get used to it after a while.)
The bus left shortly after 17:30, after the other driver arrived (two drivers took turns driving). We drove for a while before stopping for a very simple dinner of rice porridge and soup at around 20:00. Then we drove on through the night. The seats weren’t especially comfortable, and even though they reclined there was no place for me to stretch out my legs in front of me. I slept in fits, if at all, and was dead tired when we arrived at the Krabi bus terminal at 5:30.