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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

The World's Your Oyster

Updated: Jan 18

I was getting quite bored of Laos.


Actually... maybe I was getting quite bored of ME in Laos.


Sometimes... if I don't have enough company or stimulation surrounding me, I tend to drift into a state of retreat. I too have the ability to fall prey to too much time spent alone. I read so many blogs and social media posts about travellers that aren't confident spending time on their own. People are literally frightened of doing anything solo and are forever reaching out for advice on how to overcome this predicament. I think I've travelled solo for so long, sometimes I need an encouraging kick in the ass to get out and be social.


Not always, of course.


I love being social. But sometimes leaving the comfort of your own thoughts and private accommodation takes courage and determination. It takes a real effort to try and make new friends. 


Anyway... when this slump happens, I realize that I need to make a change.

Quickly.


It's funny to think of how seldom any of us become 'bored' anymore. It seems like such a foreign word. Bored. I always have my phone in my hand and it manages to keep me properly occupied at all times. With this little device at my fingertips, I can play a game, listen to a song, watch a movie, make travel plans... find out why Taylor Swift's parents divorced or how many goals David Beckhan scored in his lifetime... The sky is the limit for information & entertainment. It's almost impossible to get bored nowadays.


I think the word, bored, has been replaced with the word, isolated.

When you're traveling, there is no room for isolation.

If you're going to isolate, you might as well isolate at home.


So... now what?


I was longing for the buzz of Bangkok and a little bit more excitement.

I needed it.


Why Bangkok?

Let's just say that I didn't think I was fully finished with that city yet. There was still so much of its vibrant culture, alleyways, street food and bustling markets that I needed to see.

I knew it wasn't necessarily going to be an easy trek to get from Vang Vieng to Bangkok, but I was determined to make it happen.


I knew I had a very long day ahead of me.


First, I had to take a bus (mini van) from Vang Vieng to Vientiane. When I booked my ticket, it gave me a pick up point location that didn't quite register properly on Google Maps. This made my quest somewhat laborious and carting along a cumbersome backpack only added to the irritation.


The van eventually showed up, much to my delight, and everything about it was just like the previous transportation I had taken when traveling from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng, though slightly less crowded. Only slightly less, to be fair. At one stop, the driver made an attempt to cram a few randoms in, but the passengers already seated refused to budge. We staged our own peaceful protest... our own quiet riot, so to speak.


Upon arrival in Vientiane, I immediately jumped in the back of a tuk tuk and was whisked away to the airport. Looking back, I really should have dumped my pack somewhere and spent the day exploring the city, but I was tired and wasn't thinking clearly. I had eight hours of airport waiting time ahead of me. Vientiane airport, though international, is not what anyone would refer to as a destination airport.


No.

Not at all.

Things to do there were very limited.


Thank goodness for my phone. And for food...



There was a restaurant on my right as soon as I walked through the front entrance of the Departures terminal. I dropped my pack on the floor and took a seat, quite content to be rid of the awkward shoulder boulder and ready to cozy up here for the entire duration of my wait time. After a quick look at the menu AND the pricing, I decided against staying and got up to make my hasty departure.


"Is there another restaurant in the airport?" I asked, politely.

"No."

"Nothing else?"

"No."

"This is the ONLY restaurant in the entire airport?"

"Only."


Ok.

Shitty.

Nothing else??? Rather odd, if you ask me.


Well... she lied.

Either that or we were seriously lost in translation. I'll lay my money on greed.

Further investigation of the airport led to the discovery of MANY restaurants... many cafés ... and many a wee shop selling sweets & treats and other assorted snacks. There was even a Dairy Queen, which was an unexpected and bizarre encounter. I fought off the urge to indulge in a teen burger and instead, opted for a ham sandwich at a neighbouring bistro. 


The hours crawled by... but finally my flight was announced and I set about getting ready for the next leg of my journey.


Arriving in Bangkok was like second nature to me. The confusion I had felt on my initial landing, in November, was far behind me... and this time I knew exactly what to do, where to do and how to get there quickly. Perhaps I got a little overly cocky though and ended up withdrawing almost $900 Canadian from an airport ATM. In my defence, my mind was still fixated on Lao currency, compelling me to completely disregard any screen guidance. I really do have zero attention to detail. It's a problem. 


This was another prime example.


To pull out such a large amount of money definitely came with its own share of hefty bank charge consequences. I knew better than this. I KNOW not to take too much money out at the airport. What an idiot!


Where are the highest bank fees in the world?

The airport.

Always the airport. 


Rookie mistake.


I should have known better.


It ate me up for a little while, but I finally settled on the fact that there was nothing I could do about it and I tried my best to put it behind me.


From the airport, I took the commuter train into the heart of the city and then made an attempt to catch a tuk tuk to my hotel.


***Side note... again.

I hate explaining to tuk tuk drivers where I want to go. If there would be one reason to learn the local language... ANYWHERE... it would be for the sole purpose of communicating with taxi drivers.


I thought I'd learned my lesson in the simple art of tuk tuk instruction and navigation, but it would seem that I have much, much more to learn. Picking a famous landmark, showing the photo of this particular landmark and asking to be brought directly to this landmark did not suffice. Handing over my phone with explicit directions to the landmark was obviously not even enough. 


It just tends to become beyond frustrating... especially when you are hunched over, heavy pack in tow... exhausted and doing your utmost to navigate a serious language barrier. Everything I said and did and showed to him furthered his confusion, as well as mine. It went back & forth and back & forth and back & forth... way too many times for my patience tolerance and cheery disposition


Finally we had a slight flickering of a lightbulb turning on... and we were off down the streets of Bangkok in search of my accommodation. Through numerous smiles, nods and gestures, I assured him that I would be able to properly direct him to my destination.


My hotel was an 11 minute drive away. 

ELEVEN.

Not much at all.

The price was set at 200 baht. Reasonable.

A1.

Excellent.


It was excellent... until we reached the halfway point and he pulled over to increase the price. I'd had an excruciatingly long day and I was hardly in the frame of mind to entertain this scoundrel. After 12 hours of backbreaking travel under my belt, my tolerance for pretty much anything had already plummeted to rock bottom and I was in no mood to suffer this fool.


No.

No.

No.


Absolutely not.


He was not the least bit happy, yet continued on, obviously outraged at my reaction. Despite my willingness to provide appropriate directions, he kept pulling over and pointing at random buildings.


"This?" No.

"This?"

No.

"This?"

No.


This guy was killing me. I was done with ALL of it. I could feel my rage rising.


I jumped out, threw him some money and did the remainder of the journey on foot. 


I was exhausted. Mentally and physically.

I finally arrived though... and it was pure bliss.



I am not a fan of hostels.


As much as I talk tough and know that it's the cheaper option, I'm not simply happy in shared accommodation. It's probably my age shining through... but I have really become accustomed to my own space. In saying that though, I do like the social aspect of hostels and often seek out ones with private rooms.


For my Bangkok trip this time, I found The Smile Inn.

Seemed cheery enough.

Right?


It looked nice... clean... close to everything and I had the highest of hopes it would be ok. It was. It wasn't the largest of rooms... but comparing it to my previous accommodation at the Micro Hostel, it definitely wasn't the smallest either. My room looked over the Saen Saep river canal and as much as it wasn't necessarily overly scenic, it was everything I needed.


From the very first day, I took full advantage of being back in Bangkok. I walked all over, exploring each market, back alley and hidden corner of this bustling city. I meandered my way through all the backstreets of ChinaTown again and then took the Orange Flag Boat down the Chao Phraya River as far as Asiatique. I just kept walking.


My knee held up surprisingly well.


Could've been the pills.

Probably the pills.


With every step, I knew I would be in for a bout of full-on suffering the following day but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.


When I eventually made it back to my Smile Inn, the night was still young and I still had more plans. I had made arrangements to meet up with Kevin and Terry, who I'd become close with during the first day of the Slow Boat in Laos. They were with friends, dining on one of Bangkok's most prestigious rooftop bars... and had invited me to join them. 



This particular restaurant offered unparalleled panoramic views of Bangkok's twinkling skyline. As thrilled as I was about getting the opportunity to experience an idyllic rooftop bar, it was so obviously out of my price range, so I had opted out of dinner and agreed to meet them later on for a tasty beverage and some skyline selfies!


I did end up splurging on one sushi roll, but even that blew my budget for the month. I don't know what it is about sushi, but I'm a sucker for it every time.


I could have stayed up there, admiring the twilight view for hours, but we made our way back down to the city streets and found a posh Cuban Bar, Havana Social, located not too far from the hotel.



Their description:

"A pre-revolutionary 1940’s vintage cocktail bar, taking you back to the days when Havana was the Las Vegas of the Caribbean. Let the Latin beats, crafted cocktails and finest cigars give you a taste of Cuba."


Not sure if you picked up on one revolting description that had the ability to completely turn me off this place... the cigar smoke.


Ugh.


Thankfully the cigar smoking lounge was upstairs, so the boys headed up there while Terry and I indulged in a few crafted cocktails on the main level. We talked travel trash, vibed with the Latino ambience and enjoyed the good and not-so-good dancers that were grooving to the Latin beats.


I 'm glad I went because I probably wouldn't have experienced this more posh part of Bangkok had I not. It was just so good to be back in this city.

I had made the right decision.


The next day I decided to explore a part of the city I hadn't yet discovered. Sukhumvit Soi 11.


Kevin mentioned I could jump on a canal boat which would take me right the way down the Saen Saep canal, and that ended up being perfect. My hotel was conveniently located just mere moments from the pier.


I got on the boat without any idea of where I was thinking of getting off, but I figured it out quickly.


Sukhumvit Soi 11 is a road in Bangkok and from what I could gather, is one of 65 with the same name. Seriously - check it out here.


Anyway, this is apparently the most happening street in Bangkok, filled with shops, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, hotels, markets, street food and so much more. It was like a one-stop-shop! I was there during the daylight hours, so I only experienced the aftermath of the evening party and the beginnings of the night ahead.



For some reason, prior to coming over to Bangkok, a restaurant called Cabbages and Condoms caught my eye and I immediately pinpointed it on my map as a 'must see.'


This place was too cool.


The entire restaurant was was decorated with colourful condoms. Condoms everywhere.


In addition to condom wallpaper, condom Christmas decorations, condom streamers, condom light fixtures, condom outfits and condom art displays, there was even a Miss Condom standing proud in the lobby. The entrance way was littered with marketing signs supporting safe sex, sizeage posters and a variety of condoms and condom-related products for sale. 


It was truly unique and I was thoroughly impressed. 

When I'd finished my meal, they brought me the bill along with a basket full of condoms and was told to take my pick. 


After my lunch, I was off to continue day #2 of city exploration... but my journey didn't last as long as I would have hoped, considering I still had the majority of the day in front of me.


My biggest fear had come to fruition...


My stupid knee.


My knee was giving out and screaming at me for rest. I'd been completely ignorant to what detrimental effect my excessive walking could and would and DID have on my knee. The excessive exploration definitely had taken its toll. There was a point where the pain was so excruciating, I took refuge on a small bench for almost an hour. I just sat there, massaging my ligaments and praying that the pills I'd just popped would start to take effect as quickly as possible. 


For love or money, I could NOT get up and go any further until the pills had successfully kicked in.


As soon as I was semi-mobile, I made my way back to my hotel for some much needed me and knee-rest time.


I knew better. I really did.


Oh well...


Part of my reasoning for coming back to Bangkok was that I really wanted to visit Samut Songkrame. Seems a bit silly now, to venture all the way back to Bangkok just to see a little train come through a market, but that's what I wanted to do and I wasn't going to be happy until I'd done it. It wasn't just the train though. I really wanted to see the train AND the floating market nearby. The closest I had come to a floating market was at the Icon Siam mall and that hardly sufficed.


The journey to get here was probably more than I'd bargained for. Why do I put myself through these horrendous travel days? Seems ridiculous how intent I get on cramming more traveling to my already travel-exhausted week.

I caught two skytrains, walked 15 minutes (pack on back) to a train station... took an hour by train to Samut Sakhon. From there, I hailed a Grab (similar to Uber) to take me to a bus station that obviously doesn't exist. I then had to repay my Grab driver to turn around and take me to another maybe-bus-station... It was all so up in the air! When I arrived there, it didn't seem like anything except a rusty bus graveyard. Finally I ran into a lady who told me I could wait on the side of the road for a van that might or might not show up anywhere between 15 minutes to 2 hours. 

Imagine my anguish upon hearing that?

Nope.


I wasn't prepared to further furnish my already draining day with a potential two more hours, sitting on the side of the road, waiting for maybe a bus or maybe not a bus.


No, thank you.

Not doing it.



Grab to the rescue.

Again.


I think Grab is my lifeline now.


Seeing that the prices would be the equivalent to approximately $11 Canadian, it was case closed. Absolutely.


My driver took me all the way to Samut Songkrame... and dropped me off directly in front of my hotel. Seemed a pretty good deal for $11, void of sitting, waiting, confusion and luging my pack around. Pretty good, indeed.

When I reached the hotel, I passed out with sheer exhaustion. 


It was a stupid move on my part. Falling asleep early always guarantees a long night of tossing and turning, which is exactly what happened.


My hotel wasn't as classy as it had portrayed itself on the booking site. It was loud, barren and lacked any style of welcoming personality. I did get up and wander into the local night market, which was in full swing by the time I got there. I ate my way through a number of delicious stalls... and then eventually made my way back to try to sleep. That was the difficult part. There was an unidentifiable dripping right outside my window and nothing I did managed to muffle the sound.  I eventually had to turn up my music, as well as the very loud and very old, rattling air conditioner. 


I Iset my alarm for the crack of dawn in order to visit the famous floating markets I'd read about.



I opted for a Grab motorcycle, as I didn't have my luggage on me... and it was obviously the much cheaper option.


The guy showed up without a helmet for me??

Whaaaa?


Nu-uh.


I refused to get on the bike unless I had a helmet on. I'm an ass like that.  Call it the first world road safety training in me... call it whatever you want... but I was definitely going to err on the side of caution... and was not budging without one. He eventually gave up his own.


It stunk.

Badly. Like decades of unwashed hair grime...

But I took it...

It was all I had to potentially save my noodle. I think I've mentioned before that I'm not so sure I trust these contraptions. Maybe I don't trust the other drivers. Or their experience driving. Or their experience driving with passengers. Or the road conditions. Probably a mixture of all the above.


I took the plunge and placed it on my own head.


Please no lice...

Please no lice...

Please no lice...


Safety first.


The market was about a 15-20 minute drive away and when we finally reached our destination... IT WAS CLOSED.


Seriously.

Closed.

Who closes on a Friday?


All that trouble. I had woken up EARLY for this. I had actually checked Google times for this.

I checked again... clearly OPEN every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Did I mention it was Friday? Today. Friday.


For the second time in TWO days, I was forced to pay a Grab driver to turn around and take me back to my original pick up location. The driver could obviously sense my dismay. He kept laughing and saying "Open only Friday, Saturday, Sunday."


Ok.

Enough.

Not funny. For one.

For two... it IS Friday.


I don't think he caught on at all because he just kept saying, "Friday. Saturday. Sunday." 


Ya... I hear ya. 


I managed to keep my composure and just kept nodding, smiling and repeating, "Today IS Friday."


Our conversation went nowhere...



I got him to drop me back at the train market and I sat in a local track-side restaurant just to guarantee myself a good spot to watch the Mae Klong train go by. There were hoards of people muling about. It's funny because they were all there... and then once the train had pulled in Hoop Rom Market, they all disappeared. 


No one really stuck around.

Me neither, actually. I was set on getting back to Bangkok.



I'll admit, I was done with the hassle of strenous travel and opted for another Grab to take me directly back to where I needed to go. It saved my knee, it saved my back and it definitely saved my sanity. Sometimes you just need to take the easy route.

This was one of those times.


My bag is getting heavier and heavier. Time to purge again.


Once back in Bangkok, I spent the rest of the day exploring the maze of Pratu Nam Market. Nothing too exciting.  I think it's safe to say that I'm fully over my massage hiatus, as I sat down in the evening to enjoy another foot rub. My knee needed it.  I ensured the massager was of legal age this time though. 


Alright... that is officially it for Bangkok.


Back to Laos tomorrow...


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