I flew back to Bangkok from KL. Because of the wonders of Air Asia (see my little song I wrote above), it was cheaper to fly than bus. I was sad to be skipping much of Southern Thailand, but when you get trapped on hippie island paradise for three months, you have to make sacrifices. Much like my initial visit to Bangkok, I want to do it as the popular hit from the 80's said, just one night, but I really wanted to spend some more time with one of my many foreign brothers, Nat. Considering how seldom I seem to be in Asia and the low wages for Thai nationals, it was a necessity.
We met at the Erawan Hotel, which is probably the poshest place in town, for dinner. It was a buffet that defies description. Simply amazing. Every classic Thai dish sat before us. That was only the start. I sampled my first real cheese since I left the west, gorgonzolla, real sharp cheddar, some Italian cheese which name I forgot. There was sushi bar, prime rib, rock lobster, opera cakes, tiaramisu, I can't even recall all I ate or did not have room to finish. Nat and I found ourselves talking for almost five hours, eating the whole time. For the third day in a row, I consumed more food than was healthy (it was so good, I won't complain).
I ventured to the same guest house I visited in January, finding it nearly empty. The whole Th. Khao San area was pretty dead compared to January, but I was there the first time in the busiest month of thai tourism; now is the low season. April brings intense heat and humidity before the monsoon hits in May.
The next morning, I decided to visit the grand palace. Last time, I found the idea that I had to pay twelve dollars for the palace, yet next door, the jaw-dropping Wat Pho cost under a buck. After seeing Michelle's photos, I realized that it would be mad to skip such a lovely looking place. Well, it was lovely; it was more than lovely: with towering temples and sculptures, bejeweled everything, intricate carvings upon every surface, it was one of the most amazing architectural achievements I've ever seen. So Thai government, you win, your grand palace is worth every penny of $12, especially when a ticket also gives access to Dusit Park.
Few tourists seem to make it up North to see the other main palace, which is incredible in its own way. I caught the ferry up, taking advantage of what was once the main form of transportation in the "Venice of the East". The highlight of Dusit Park is the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, a neo-classical style building that is pulled off better than some of its European counterparts. The building itself is awe-inspiring, but the exhibit inside made my mouth sit open wide for the hour I spent walking around. It housed a collection of gifts the royal couple commissioned for various events such as birthdays and anniversaries. Carvings, metal work, embroidery with finer detail than paintings, and my favorite craft of the exhibit, using the wings of shiny green/blue beetles embroidery, or inlayed into the different works of art. Stunning.
I figured that if I only saw the old city, I wouldn't be experiencing Bangkok, so I walked the couple miles to the city center to have a look. Somehow, I got lost in a giant air conditioned mall's food court for a long time. I eventually found a net cafe and let the stress disappear. I don't think I like the new Bangkok much.
I spent the night walking around Chinatown with Nat some more. He's a really neat guy. Since I wasn't living at home and I was just starting my relationship with Manda, my interactions with him were quite casual; and his English wasn't so great. Now, he's fluent; we had long conversations for both of our nights together. I would have loved to have spent some more time with him, but honestly, I saw the few sights in town and it's one of those cities that drives me crazy. Well, most cities drive me crazy, but Bangkok is especially insane.