Sunday, February 21, 2016

Chelsea in Bangkok (Part II)

For some reason, I feel like since I arrived in Bangkok, time in America has slowed down so much. While I was flying, it felt like I missed like days (technically I did, sorta), but then it felt like I was in Bangkok for so long before any time passed back home. Weird phenomenon... I guess it's a form of jet-lag... maybe? 

Anyway, I slept like a rock after our exhausting day yesterday. But, we wanted to get up and get to the weekend market before it got too hot or too crowded. After we got out of bed, we headed to breakfast around 8am. We got breakfast at Black Box Cafe, only 3 sky-train stations away. I had what is likely the most hipster breakfast possible: BBQ Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict. I honestly wasn't too impressed unfortunately, but it was an interesting dish. The cafĂ© itself was pretty western, but I just can’t do Asian-style breakfasts (soup, rice, fish, etc). No thanks!

After we hung out there for a bit, we got back on the sky train and headed to Chatuchat Weekend Market. I’d read about this market on various blog articles, but I still wasn’t too sure what to expect. I’ve been to loads of markets throughout Asia, and while they’re usually interesting, they’re also usually the same stuff hocked over and over again. When we got off the train, we headed in the direction of the flow of people. It was about 10am, and while hot, it was bearable.

When we started seeing stalls, we just kind of dove into the fray. At first, there were SO MANY people. It was stifling in the aisles, so we quickly turned down a side aisle. It was mostly shoes and some clothes, but we were just on the outer edge. As we wandered along, we found one shop with some cute dresses, but nothing too exciting. We kept going, and went into another section of stalls. This section had art. Like, actual art. Artists were set up with their work on canvases hung in their stalls. And this was good art too. I was enthralled looking through the various images of everything from elephants in charcoals, to splatter paints abstractly depicting a woman on a bed. It was already the most interesting market I’d been to!

I walked by one artists’ stall that really caught my eye. The photos do not do it justice. The canvas was HUGE, too. I found myself wishing that I could wrap it up and bring it home. I wondered vaguely how much it would cost to ship home. When I ventured to ask him if people ever ship, he told me in broken English that he can roll the canvas into a tube to travel. That would mean, when I got home, I would have to have the canvas stretched on a frame. This was starting to sound more and more like something I could feasibly take home. I asked him the price – 10,000TBH (or around $300). It was 150cm x 150cm, and something like this in America (on a frame) would be several thousand dollars.

I decided to look into shipping costs for a tube, and then Jessica reminded me that, as I traveled over here with only carry-on items, I could easily put either the tube or my backpack as a checked item for free. Genius! I’d have to wait, though, as we were going to Chiang Mai the next day, and I definitely wouldn’t be able to take it along on that flight. Air Asia is extremely strict! I decided to think about it and go back next Saturday, as we would be flying out late that night, and we’d have plenty of time to go back. I got the artist’s card and we continued on.

We continued through a few more aisles of art, and I found another artists I also loved. Whereas the first was much more neutral in color and simple in design (but beautiful), this was colorful and bright. This artist also had a much greater variety of sizes, one being much longer than it was high. I liked this one, and another of his larger ones. His prices were a bit less, too, which made sense as the canvas was smaller. He also mentioned he would roll it up for transport, and I got his card as well. Looking back and comparing the two, I think I would like the colorful painting(s) better. My idea is to go back next Saturday and, having a tally in my head of how much I spent on the trip, get either one or two of these to take home. I am so excited about the idea of getting some REAL art! And how cool to tell people that I got it from an artist in Thailand!!

After this, we carried on. Jessica bought a small elephant statue, and we found some gifts for friends. Maybe when I get home and can give Danny his gift, I will elaborate more on this, as his gift was pretty cool.

The market was great but we were definitely sweltering in the heat. We decided to get some lunch in an air-conditioned restaurant stall in the market; the rest and cool air were wonderful!!

We ultimately spent around 4.5 hours in the market, and by the time we finished up, we’d probably seen only 1/3 of the entire thing. Between the heat and walking so much, we were quite fatigued! Plus, more and more people had flooded the aisles and we were ready to get some fresh air and space. We headed toward the sky train and, among a mass of shoppers, exited the market.

Once we made it back to the hotel, we both needed a serious rest. We were determined not to repeat Friday night’s nap-turned-snooze-fest. We rinsed off, as the dried sweat was icky and uncomfortable, then had a rest. After about an hour, we decided to walk to the nearby Jim Thompson House Museum. I’d read about this place and thought it would be interesting to see. Plus, it was also only about 5 minutes’ walk from our hotel. We got our tickets and waited for the English tour to begin. While waiting, we had fun taking lots of pictures with the lush and vibrant foliage within the grounds. The house and gardens were very beautiful, and once we joined the tour, we also got to see all the antiques inside.

Jim Thompson had been an American who moved to Thailand after WWII and collected antiques throughout the country. His house was actually 6 different historical houses in the traditional Thai style that were put together in Bangkok and made into one complex. He had made some modifications, particularly making the houses connected from the inside. His collection of antiques was interesting; it seemed like most had been damaged in some way. One of the Buddha statues was found without a head or hands, as antique-poachers took them to sell abroad.

The tour was good, but most of the others in the group were European, and I was getting annoyed at their lack of respect for others in the group. As most people would stand in a circle around the guide as she explained something, they would plant themselves right in the middle, blocking half the group’s view of the object and ability to hear its description. I was ALSO getting hangry, so this contributed heavily to my annoyance. We have been walking so much (12,000 – 15,000 steps each day) that not only were my feet getting exhausted, I was finding myself hungry much more often.

We finally finished the tour and headed out to find some dinner. My hanger and exhaustion took over and I was seriously grumpy. Jessica was super sweet about it, even though she laughed at my woe. At one point, as we crossed the street, a Thai man called out to us in English, “Hello how are you!” Jessica’s tactic: ignore him. Mine: pretend to speak Spanish. We sped past him and continued on our way. Only a minute later, the man caught up to us and said again, “Hello how are you!” Once more we walked away without responding. We continued walking about 5 minutes, and I hadn't seen the man in my periphrials, but suddenly the man appeared again. I put my hand up in his face and we walked away from him. I think his insistence really freaked out Jessica, and likely it would have freaked me out as well, had my entire being not been exclusively focused on finding food.

Finally we escaped him and found our way to a shopping center’s food court. I really wanted the noodles we had had for lunch on Friday, and we found some. However, they were not nearly as delicious. It did abate my hunger, and we decided to head back to the hotel after we finished eating. We were both really tired of walking and wanted to rest and pack before our trip to Chiang Mai in the morning.

After we packed up and watched a British soap-opera/crime drama on TV in our room, we made a quick trip to the 7-eleven down the road for a snack. Finally, we headed to bed at the late, late hour of 9pm. We had to get up at around 4:45am to get ready and head to the airport for our flight to the north of the country! I am so excited to get out of the busy city and into the “real” Thailand.

Some observations from the day: Thailand is to Europe as Mexico is to the US. Literally every Caucasian person we passed was speaking French or German or Swedish or Portuguese. I find it funny that English is the assumed language of the white-man, when honestly we may have been some of the only people whose first language was actually English (at least in our proximity).

Additionally, Thai people are so friendly (compared to other Asian countries I’ve been to) and it seems like the majority speak some level of English. It’s been great to not have to use a concocted Thai/English/Sign Language to communicate. Most people we have come into contact with are quick to smile and laugh and help you. They respect personal space, particularly when waiting in a line. And, honestly, it just makes the whole experience better.

And, that wraps up our Saturday in Bangkok!



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