The very first time we were in Bangkok, we hit about all of the sites we wanted to, except for the Chatuchak weekend market. Now, our visit is complete – this market has been checked off with extravagance, befitting of its size and insanity!
While this entire market feels like an over boiling pot of chaos, it’s actually laid out well, according to the wares and in block sections, so that when you get lost in the maze, you will at least have a large selection of the same stuff. There is, of course, a massive “Miscellaneous” section.
In search of an antique Buddha, we plunged into the heart of the weekend market, walking into store after store after store. We started by singling out a couple, enquiring after a price, trying to remember what price goes to what piece, promising to come back although we might not, tearing our heads away from the ones that are far too expensive, remembering where the store even was! – a feat when you consider that all of the antique stores and the corridors look the same. It was a long process, and by the end of the 10th store or so, we forgot what the first one even looked like, much less what was in it or where it was. After making a couple of purchases, we walked along the main road, with open mouths still sweet from the coconut ice cream (which is amazing with roasted peanuts and sticky rice), and just stared and stopped and bought and then did it all over again.
To give you an idea of the amazing variety there was to offer, here are some stalls dedicated to their specialties. There was a stall for fake fruits and vegetables (for home decoration), for fake flowers in every type, size, and color, a shop for glass pens and only glass pens, one for plastic bags of all shapes, sizes, and colors. The spirit houses or house temples, placed outside the house to ward off bad spirits, need incense and offerings. There are mini meals of all variety, glued to mini plates, and sold in a specialty stand. And of course, there were hundreds and hundreds of stands selling the same exact things – clothing, shoes, food, touristy coasters, coin purses (who still uses those?), pencil cases, little plastic buddhas. The table cloths, scarves, and bed covers are all the same everywhere!
We thought we’d do it for half a day, but it turned out to be a 9 hour excursion. Unfortunately, we failed to purchase a Buddha, but we did get an antique spirit house, temple necessities, old, beautifully painted window shutters, and a statue of a princess who was missing an arm. There was something about her face though, that we pleaded with my father and took her home, rescuing her from the dusty shelf where she was hiding behind an assortment of other things. We left with the wish to come back – so many corners went unexplored!
For the rest of our time in Bangkok, we visited the Jim Thompson House and frequented our favorite hawker center as often as we could.
We had a long day of traveling in our quest to make it to Cambodia – changing vehicles so often it was absurd! 4am wakeup, cab, train station at 6am. We got into our train, which was windowless, enabling you to fall out of the train if you feel like it, and rode through the fields just burned by the farmers after harvest, covering us in soot with the whipping wind. After 5 hours we arrived in a town close to the border, where we took a tuk tuk which took us to the “border”, which, of course, was not the border, and we accidentally got out because it looked official. By that time, he was gone (with his payment for bringing in tourists) so we walked to the border, stood in line to get out of Thailand, walked across no-mans-land, stood in line for a Cambodian visa, then again for the arrival/departure card, and finally ended up at the shuttle station taking you to the bus. It was a tedious process, not made easier by the dry, withering heat, the heavy bags, and the 6 hours of sleep. But finally, after another 2 buses and 3 hours, we arrived in Siem Reap, ready to start our adventure in Cambodia and visit Angkor Wat!
I have a feeling we will visit Bangkok again; I really enjoyed the city, the culture and atmosphere was so vibrant and bustling. It’s large enough to explore the different neighborhoods and I would love to see more one day, but that’s for another trip!