Last Day in Bangkok, Best Day in Krabi

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Our last day in Bangkok was spent at the sprawling Chatuchak Weekend Market. The grounds are vast, basically the size of a small town. And even then, the market overflows it’s space into the surrounding sidewalks and neighborhoods. If it’s a Thai good, it will be there. The covered stalls and outdoors tents are loosely categorized from clothes to animals, art to toilet brushes, and everything in between. I had no intent to buy anything other than food, so I trailed J. while eating various snacks: banana shakes, papaya salad, fried banana, fruit, and plenty of water.

Parking for the market.

Outside of the stalls.

In the paperbacks area.

Sundries.

Prawns for sale.

The scope of the place is overwhelming. And it was hot. Pushing your way through crowds and merchandize while dripping in sweat and smelling all sorts of weird things works up an appetite too. Around noon, we took a lunch break.

Papaya salad.

Minced pork salad.

Dying rat near the restrooms. No one seemed to notice it.

By 2PM, we were exhausted. We decided to find the large nearby park and sit for a while. Problem was, we weren’t sure what side of the huge market it was on. While trying to find it, we stumbled into the “pets” section. I qualify pets because it didn’t seem like all of them should be pets. Sure there were the standard animals like cats, rabbits, dogs, and fish. But then it started getting weirder: thumb-sized marsupials, huge lizards, pythons, tropical birds, porcupines. It was like a Noah’s ark of every animal you though was forbidden to be a pet. I wouldn’t have been surprised if there were tiger cubs somewhere in there. Unfortunately, some of the animal sellers were a little camera shy. I was stopped from taking photos of some of the weirder animals, even a large bin of writhing meal worms. Considering the weird jungle snakes the lady had in her store, she seemed awfully freaked out by me shooting her worms.

One of many tanks of goldfish.

Lizards.

Big papa lizard was about the size of dog and didn’t look too pleased about being photographed.

Puppies everywhere!

Baby birds are freaky. This bird’s feathers are growing out of its skin like a Bjork video.

Sonics for sale.

We eventually found Chatuchak Park and sat for a while. It looked like rain was coming, so we didn’t stay for long.

Huge photo murals of the King on a skyscraper. There are more photos of him around the country than I remembered from before. Considering how much honoring he gets now, it seems like Thailand is setting itself up for some massive mourning when he dies.

Paddle boats in the park.

A spooky, unfinished high-rise near the river. While not uncommon to see smaller unfinished buildings, this is the largest I’ve seen. None of the exterior walls had been put in place when the finances ran dry. It’s seems dangerous to just leave something so big to rot in the rain.

After the park, we took the Sky Train to its southern most stop at the river. From the central pier, we caught our last river taxi back to the hotel for a nap until about 8:30PM. Another day spent napping through dinner.

The next morning, we woke early, packed, showered, walked out and got some rice porridge, and caught a terrifying cab ride to the southern bus terminal. We got there around 7AM to find out they were sold out of the 7:30 VIP bus tickets to
Krabi. Fortunately, they had 2nd class tickets. We bought two for about 500bht($16) each, and boarded the bus for our 12 hour ride south to Krabi. The bus was air conditioned and comfortable. The driver wasn’t a maniac, and he stopped for bathroom and food breaks along the way. I basically zoned out for the whole ride, despite them playing Thai dubbed American action movies at full volume. At least they were better than the repetitive Thai love ballad videos that began the journey. J. and I played travel Scrabble. I won’t say who won. By the time night rolled in, we were rolling through some beautiful scenery. The sun was setting vibrantly on our right as we wove through dense green jungle and sheer limestone cliffs. The landscape seem to alternate between crops of coconuts and rubber trees.

The Krabi bus stop was 8km outside of town. We got a chartered truck to take us in for 150bht($5). Checked into spacious budget hotel. Slept like gin-soaked logs.

Once awake, we walked to get some pad thai and fried rice for breakfast. Afterward, we rented a 100cc ECO-POWER! scooter to go for some driving. It was 150bht($5) a day, plus gas (42bht/liter). It took me just a minute to get used to the step gears and driving on the left side of the road. It took me a little longer to remember how to go with the flow on Thai roads. There’s a lot more to pay attention to, as everyone is basically doing everything and anything they want when they want. Unload a truck while blocking the road? Check. Driving against traffic on the shoulder? Check. Passing on the left and the right? Check. Pedestrians? Check. Street dogs? Check. But then you realize that all of the chaos makes everyone more aware too. People flow around each other, yielding and passing, avoiding obstacles deftly and casually. It’s great to be a part of it when you’re not dying.

Our first destination was Wat Tham Seua, a complex of temples, monkeys, and stray cats and dogs. The highlight though is a climb of 1200 steep steps to the top of a 600m karst limestone peak.

The road to the temple. You can see the tower on the hill at top. We climbed stairs all the way to from the ground to the top.

And these aren’t normal steps. Some of them are a foot heigh and only a few inches deep. At some points, it feels like you’re climbing a ladder. We had to stop multiple time because the heat and exertion was getting to us. Half way up, my shirt was fully drenched with sweat. It felt like I had fallen in a swimming pool with my clothes on.

Luckily, the view going up was beautiful. Greenery to the horizon. And at the top, they had a drinking water dispenser.

The first view from the top is of Krabi Town and the Andaman Sea. The island to the left, I think, is Koh Phi Phi. We’re doing there soon.

But the real jaw dropper is the view in the other direction.

Below, they are constructing a huge chedi. The construction crane is skyscraper size.

Buddha watches over the Krabi Province,

Golden chedi and ocean view.

Detail of the limestone cliffs surrounding the peak.

J. on the descent.

At the base, we watched monkeys. There were at least 30.

Climbing down a phone line.

Monkey and cage used to keep monkey from breaking the lamp.

A friendly calico.

Afterwards, J. and I went on an aimless drive through the jungle. Oh man, it’s close to topping my list of favorite experiences. I felt like I was on the grandest adventure of my life. As we were in motion, it was hard to take photos of the ride, but here are a few:

You’re guess is as good as mine. We had to navigate by landmarks.

Some stretches of road had no one but us.

Rubber trees.

Tonight, we came back and heading to the night market by the river for dinner.

View of the buildings behind the hotel.

J.

Night market. Lots of good food. Easy to order.

Our dinner came from this cart.

Red curry chicken.

Pad see yu.

Night falls on beautiful Krabi town.

Time to sleep. Tomorrow we leave by longtail boat to Hat Rai Leh.

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