Southeast Asia, Day 6: Chatuchak weekend market...this place has got EVERYTHING!

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

This morning I simply rustled awake without a need for an alarm, which was a nice change of pace. I enjoyed some simple breakfast at the hostel with Michael and Nicole, while using Nicole’s phone to message Ted. The internet at the hostel wasn’t working at all, and the computer that was hooked up to the wall was in a weird perpetual restart mode, so the only way I could contact Ted was by using a stranger’s data. It killed me because Thailand, especially Bangkok, is loaded with hostels, therefore making competition and quality high, and here I was without WiFi at my hostel.

Ted and I made plans to meet at the Siam Street station, an elevated train that runs through the city. There’s apparently a Ben & Jerry’s there, and only one, so it would be a good meeting point.

Bangkok is a huge city, and nothing is easily or quickly accessible. After months of village life, I was thrilled to be in a big city, but an unorganized big city makes the transition a thousand times more difficult. To meet Ted at the train, I can either walk an hour along a highway or I can take a twenty minute taxi through traffic. Everything, seemingly, is at least an hour away.

I had the hostel receptionist book me a taxi, as the metered taxis are always trying to take more money from you than necessary. When we arrived at Siam Street station, I stepped out into a large mall and asked the info desk where the food court was. He pointed upstairs, and off I went. No Ben and Jerry’s. I asked a woman where was Ben and Jerry’s, and she just stared at me, confused. I said it was an ice cream place. She pointed to a nearby vendor and repeated “ice cream.” After lots of repetition and me trying to clarify that I didn’t actually want ice cream but I needed a place that had ice cream, I gave up and wandered off. I was in the Siam Centre, but there was also a nearby mall, and the Siam Paragon.

I looked in the food court of the mall, with no luck. It was now twenty minutes after the time I was supposed to meet with Ted, so I asked a person in this food court where I could get WiFi. “No WiFi.” I saw a dozen networks on the list on my tablet, but no one would tell me where I can connect. Off I wandered, cursing the whole ordeal.

I went to the train and got in line to buy a ticket just to ask about Ben and Jerry’s. FINALLY the woman selling train tickets knew what the hell a Ben and Jerry’s was. She pointed behind me to a massive building called the Siam Paragon. Inside I went, and right there, beside Starbucks, McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme was the Ben and Jerry’s, and there was Ted.

I bought myself a donut to ease my frustration, and we went off to the train to go to the Mo Chit station.

This was clearly a popular station, with nearly half the train exiting and making a slow migration in the direction of the Chatuchak weekend market.

A neat little vendor/shop

We stepped inside the maze of shops. It was loosely organized by category, and we walked into the clothing area. My immediate impression and amusement was how Americana everything was. Loads of Native American prints and autumnal colors on denim and leather jackets with southwest detailing and turquoise accents.

Baskets baskets baskets
The music flowing from the packed vendors ranged from the Beatles to Tom Petty. It was all a bit surreal; I felt like I was back in Chicago in a secondhand shop in Wicker Park.

I really enjoyed the variety and the immense size of the market, and the fact that everything was beautiful…I was concerned, at first, that it may be loads of junk, as many street markets I’ve encountered have been (cough, Riga, cough). Here, I purchased a gorgeous gold skort that is comfortable but dressy enough for going out at night a few fashionable and super cheap bralettes, and a teak hand-carved spork to include in my travel kit.

Green curry chicken in a pumpkin bowl, because why not.

The lunch venue.

Ted and sat and enjoyed red and green curry chicken over beers and milk teas for a few hours before heading off to the train again. We went back to his hotel room at the hospital so I could get WiFi finally. His digs were nice, with bottled water and mini shampoos and all the class of a nice hotel.

Me and Ted!
We parted ways and the farewell was brief. After all, I see Ted the most out of any volunteer, and I am sure I will see him in Vila soon.

I hailed a cab to head back to the hostel, and as usual, the driver refused to run his meter. I got in and he told me it would be 200 baht to return home. As soon as I saw him throw a hat on his perfectly functional meter, covering up the reading, I decided to get back out and find a more honest driver. I finally found one who ran the meter. The total price ended up being 120 baht.

The driver dropped me off on Rambutri road, a street just north of the popular Kao San road that is less rowdy but just as filled with pedestrians. It was bustling with foot traffic and restaurant patrons enjoying their meals street-side and the great sport of people-watching.

I was a little disoriented as at the time, I wasn’t sure if I were north or south of my hostel, so I asked a few people for directions by showing them a map. It baffles me how bad people are at reading maps. My favorite part of one of the interactions was how I asked a guy how to get to an ‘x’ in the map (my hostel), and he pointed and then said, “but I am not sure what is here at the x.” I wasn’t asking? I just need to get there, so clearly I know what is at the x. Strange.

I returned to the hostel and the internet still wasn’t working, and neither was the desktop computer in the lobby. Nicole wasn’t in the room or the communal areas, and I was concerned we wouldn’t be sable to meet up after all. Just as I grew concerned, she entered the hostel with another roommate, Lea from Germany, and we were ready to head out. Another German girl, Sarah, joined as well.

We wandered over to Rambutri road and stopped at the first restaurant that caught our attention and offered street-facing tables. The girls got Thai food and I enjoyed some hummas and falafel, since I have been deprived of Mediterranean food for far too long.

After hours of conversation and drinks, we headed back to the hostel to sleep. We needed our rest before heading to the floating market early tomorrow morning.