Day 37: Last night we arrived in the ‘Venice of the East’ after an eight-hour bus ride from Chumpon. We found a great place to rest our heads at the Bed Station Hotel in Ratchathewi, one of the neighborhoods in Bangkok. This trendy hostel has spacious rooms, clean bathrooms, A/C, and free wifi. It is also located in a convenient location close to the Ratchathewi BTS (Bangkok Transit System) Station which helps us greatly to get around the city.
The guy above my bunk bed in the room brought home his newest catch into the dorm room last night which kept some of us from having a peaceful night. I was pretty exhausted from traveling all day and apparently added my snoring capabilities to the mix, I am sure it led to a beautiful crescendo.
We get ready for the day and plan to get our visa for Myanmar, our next travel destination, sorted at the Embassy of Myanmar until we suddenly realize it is Sunday and the Embassy is closed. Us backpackers have our minds set in a different time zone. We often have no idea what day of the week it is. We live in 24-hour cycles and our plans often change as we meet new people or find out about exciting secret spots we did not know about that are not published in any travel book. Those spots are mostly the most memorable ones, so embrace them together with your travel companions.
Instead of a visit to the embassy, we bend our compass towards some of the most famous spots in Bangkok; a visit to the Grand Palace and Wat Pra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) followed by Wat Pho (Temple of the reclining Buddha) which is a 10-minute walk away from the palace. Since we are in the ‘Wat’ sphere we hop on a cheap local water taxi ride across the river to get to Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn). We decide that we have seen enough Buddha’s for today and return to our hostel.
Day 38: In the morning we make it a priority to arrange our visa for Myanmar. Although there are different ways to arrange the visa, we believed it was most practical to arrange it during our stay in Bangkok. The process is pretty straight forward. Go to the embassy in the morning to apply for your visa. Hand over your passport and one passport photo, and the filled out application form which they provide you with at the embassy. They keep your passport and let us know when this is ready for pick up. You can choose for same day pick up (after 3 PM) if you want to pay an extra few baht, which is worth it.
Day 39: Seba and I embark on a short trip to Chiang Mai. Our train ride between the capital and Chiang Mai takes about 11 hours and is done on a sleeper train (both ways). The beds on the train are actually quite comfy. We have a cabin that we share with two other fellow passengers.
Day 40: After a short, but worthwhile, less than 24 hours visit to the spiritual place we are already on the train back to Bangkok. The city of Chiang Mai is a perfect hub for your yoga retreat, your starting point for your jungle trek, and your oasis as a food lover. Make sure you bring a visit to Wat Phra Singh (Temple of the Lions) and the local night market while you are there. The visit happened in a flash. I am staring outside the window of my train compartment while the sun sets and it starts to pour. The two other passengers decide to go to bed early so we continue our card game in the dining car of the train. The dinner service has ended and the employees are sitting together at a table at the other end of the car. The atmosphere is elated with some 80’s music playing and a group of some 50-year-old Frenchies chatting and laughing with some beers in their hands. We sit down a few seats away from them and continue our card game. The night air feels heavy and greasy and makes our skin feels sticky. We open a little window to let the refreshing evening breeze gust through the dining cart and sip on our beers. I realize that little moments like these are those that will stick (no pun intended) for a lifetime. A few moments later we decide to call it a night and get some sleep. We arrive back in Bangkok in the early morning for our last full day in Thailand.
Day 41: A good shower and a nap work miracles after the train ride and the early start of the day. We have made lunch plans with Christy & Harry (traveled together with them in Bali) and Mary & Luke (traveled with them in the south of Thailand). It is not always easy to decide on an exact meeting point when you have never been to this certain place but magically we find each other at the busy plaza where we will take our bus to go to the Damoen Saduak Floating Market, one of the most popular floating markets around Bangkok. Christy already requested our transportation but we have a two to three-hour wait until someone can bring the six of us. Making reservations ahead of time is key in this case. Once we arrive there it is already in the late afternoon. The group splits up and we all find some souvenirs for our friends and family at home. A few hours pass and we decide it is time to head back to the city. The drive is about 90 minutes and a lot of tourists already left. We find a few buses and rickshaws waiting but they all have been reserved and waiting for specific passengers. Apparently the advice is to have them wait for you until you finish your visit, something we did not anticipate. The place is getting emptier and emptier and most of the rickshaws and taxis have now left the floating market. We are starting to worry a little bit as we are still far away from Bangkok and most of us have a flight to catch in the morning. Luckily a tuk-tuk driver knows about a local transit bus that can bring us back to Bangkok. The bus stop is 10 minutes away from the market. With some hesitation we realize this is our best chance to make it back. The six of us squeeze ourselves into the tuk-tuk and the driver starts his mad race to the bus stop. Fifteen crazy minutes later we arrive at the bus stop, right on time to get back to Bangkok. To celebrate the happy ending of our Thailand adventure, Seba and I had a nightcap with Christy & Harry. Thailand was great and exciting, but I am even more excited about tomorrow when we will fly together with Mary and Luka to Yangon, the capital of Myanmar.