I think it was a good choice to return to Bangkok when I did. I leave tonight and have enjoyed my last few days here. I guess I was just in the mood. I explored a few parts of the city that I hadn’t been to and made the day trip up to the river island of Ko Kret (pronounced croquet) which was definitely interesting and worthwhile.
I took a round about way up to Ko Kret via skytrain then ferry partway up the Chao Phraya river which was kind of scenic. From there it was a taxi to a ferry dock near Pak Kret to make a short crossing to the island. Ko Kret is and artificial river island that was created about 300 years ago when the powers that be decided to take out and ox bow by straightening the river. Today the islands hosts a small population with a few temples and small businesses that cater to Thai tourists that like to visit on the weekends. During the week the island is very quiet.
Most all of the houses are built on stilts as I’m sure the Island is prone to flooding in the rainy season. To get around there’s a network of concrete paths that create narrow roads. The roads are not wide enough for a car but fine for a motorbike and bicycle. For forty bhat, a little over two dollars, you can rent a basic bike for the day so that’s what I did. There’s a nice 6 km loop with some side paths to various piers. In some spots the path is notably elevated and there are no railings. During the week is a great time to bike but I don’t think it would be very enjoyable on the weekends when crowded.
I spent two hours biking the paths and felt that was enough time to have a good look around. Since I wanted to beat the traffic back into Bangkok and wasn’t exactly sure where to find a bus I decided to call it done upon returning the bike. I paid another 3 bhat (about 8 cents) to cross with the ferry back to the mainland.
I had read that bus #166 in Pak Kret would get me back to Bangkok at Victory Monument. I talked with a motorcycle taxi guy who didn’t speak good English but seemed to understand quite well. He drove me directly to Pak Kret and literally pulled in front a bus marked 166 to stop it. I paid the motorcycle taxi guy 20 bhat and got on the bus. Before I could do anything, an attendant who was dressed in very official looking attire, asked where I was going. I said Victory Monument. She said no and starting going off about something in Thai that made it sound like I was on the wrong bus. I was confused as I know I had the bus number right. Regardless, she wanted me off the bus. I got off and looked up. In clear English there was a tourist map showing the stops that bus #166 makes and Victory monument was on the list. As the bus started to move I could see a woman through the window signaling me like the bus I had just been kicked off of was the bus I wanted. At that moment I was a little peeved. Especially since the motorcycle taxi driver had so efficiently delivered me to the bus I wanted.
So, I began to wait for another #166 bus. I then noticed mini van transportation. Mini vans function like independent buses all over Bangkok. They can be a great way to get around. You just flag them down and get it. Usually the fare is around 25 bhat and they run a circular route. The problem is that normally all the writing on the outside of the van is in Thai as they really cater to the average local just trying to get to work, school, or shopping. Mini vans can be very confusing for tourists so not many use them. Well, I spotted a mini van that had it’s writing in Thai and English. It listed a skytrain station that I’m familiar with. I waved him down and got in. Not a problem. The driver spoke good English and the van proved to be more efficient than the bus. Funny how things work out.
Ko Kret was a great little day trip to top off this trip. Other than Ko Kret I’ve gotten in some good runs at Lumphini park. I also found a surprisingly quiet bike path away from roads that links Lumphini with another park that's also good for running.
By pure chance, or should I say mistake, I wandered right onto Soi 4 in the Nana district of Bangkok. I approached it by accident via the bike path I had just discovered. At first the street looked fine then I noticed a couple of bars and massage parlors with suspicious names. I then started seeing lady boys hawking outside of massage businesses. From there it was downhill big time as I passed bars packed with western men drinking at 4:00 in the afternoon with women who were obviously questionable. I saw one man who appeared to be having a serious conversation with a woman like he was after something meaningful. Good luck. I saw another guy, probably in his forties, who was bald aside of a miniature white mohawk right on the top of the middle of his head. Really? The music got louder and I passed a very out of place looking “Hooters” that I’m sure guys go to for more things than just beer and wings. By time I exited Soi 4 I felt like I needed to rush back to the hostel for a shower. All I did was walk down the street while avoiding eye contact but it felt seedy as hell. I later found out that one of the buildings I passed on Soi 4 is famous for hotel rooms let buy the hour. And to think, people travel from all over the world to go to Soi 4. Sex tourism is the dark side of Southeast Asia in my opinion. God knows the stories of how the women who work the clubs wind up in them.
Fortunately, my stroll down Nana’s Soi 4 was a short one and the rest of my walks have been quite nice as I've discovered funky little shops, bars with themes, and numerous cool restaurants and food stalls. I stopped at one art gallery that is also a bar called WTF. The art in the name is that WTF is the abbreviation for many things and not just what one assumes. Like, "Welcome Thai Friends" and "Wisdom Trounces Fear". In a lot of ways Bangkok is kind of like an Asian version of New York City. I like it.
The hostel I’ve been staying at has a nice rooftop with lots of plants and a view. It’s a pleasant place to hang out and relax. The road noise is far enough away to not be distracting or annoying. I got a late check out a 1 pm and am on the roof now. Around 7 pm I’ll take the skytrain, which now runs all the to the airport, to catch a very long flight home. The past five weeks have gone by really fast. No matter how long I travel the trips I take seem to be going by faster and faster. Two week or a month seems like no time at all anymore. Anyway, for now, it’s back to home for the holidays.