« Messy Thailand | Main | Survival »

April 15, 2005

Scouting Siam Square

    The next day we woke in our crisp cool hotel room and tried to shake the talcum powder out of our clothes which had dried quickly in the oven temperatures outside.  It was the last day of the Songkran festival, but at least we were prepared for what we would find outside.  We enjoyed our complimentary breakfast downstairs and pored over our map of Bangkok.  The agenda for the day was to check into a hotel in Siam Square, explore the area a little and find a hotel to stay at for the duration of our course. 
    As we checked out of the D&D one of the lobby staff who had found our participation in the festivities the day before quite amusing, asked us where we were going.
    “Siam Square.”
    “Follow me.  No water.”  He led us down to the end of a narrow alley where some men were building something next door.  “Go here, left, right, find taxi.  OK?”
    We thanked him very gratefully for his tip; though we had put the raincovers over our packs we weren’t exactly sure how useful they would be against the forces outside.  We took the alley to the end, turned left, turned right past some homes and a small eatery, and came out in the carpark of a market just around the corner from Khao San.  The car park was almost empty but we could see the throngs pushing their way along the street directly outside the entrance.  There were no cabs in the carpark; there was nothing to do but push through the crowds and try to hail one in the street.  We put our heads down and tried to carry an air of determination and indifference to the Songkran celebrations.
    The first cab asked us where we were going, then shook his head and took another passenger.  The second cab was stolen from us by a cute Thai couple who smiled “Sorry!” at us as they took advantage of our momentary pause.  The third cab stopped for us and the driver helped us haul our ridiculously heavy luggage in before we all jumped in to escape the water and paste from which we had already begun to suffer. 
    “Which hotel you stay?”
    “Wendy House.  Soi Kasaem 1, Rama 1 Road.”  Soi Kasaem 1 was a small side-street directly across from Siam Square, and was supposed to have the most budget accommodation in the area.
    As we sped away the crowds dissolved until the streets were empty but for a few children standing by a hose waiting for a victim, one boy even peering over a bridge expectantly with his bucket in hand, watching the walking path beneath.  The city had indeed shut down, with banks and government offices closed no-one else bothered to open, and traffic was very light.  We arrived at Soi Kasaem 1 quickly, and the taxi driver dropped us at the front of Wendy House on the narrow one-way street.
    Wendy House was clean and comfortable, though the rooms were a little small to be shared by two people taking an intensive course.  The only common area was the restaurant/internet café downstairs which would be far too noisy to study in, so we checked in for the night and then wandered down the street to check out a few more places.
    A-One across the street was very similar to Wendy House, though the rooms were slightly more spacious and fractionally cheaper for a monthly rate.  Muangphol Mansion didn’t give off a very good vibe at all, and the receptionist didn’t even let us see a room.  As we wandered by Reno Hotel, the most luxurious hotel on the street, I figured we may as well see what they have to offer, though I had actually crossed them off our list purely on price.
    The door was opened by a smiling doorman and the lobby looked like any lobby in a very nice hotel in a western country, with a hint of Thai style.  We asked to see a room and were shown to a very spacious room with closet and a real bath, even a dressing table which could be substituted for a desk.  There was a pool area downstairs which was cool and shady, and the restaurant was air-conditioned and large enough that a corner table could be quiet enough for study. 
    Jeremy was sold.  “I don’t need to look anywhere else for a room, this place is fine.”
    “What about the price?”  The monthly rate for Reno Hotel worked out to be the same as the daily room at D&D.  Considering all the amenities it was great, but it certainly was a lot for a month and we had been hoping to get a “cheap” room considering the cost of the course.
    “For the extra $200, it will be worth it to be able to relax if we’re going to be working our butts off.”
    I had to say I agreed.  We had heard that the CELTA certification was very difficult, and a little bit of luxury accommodation might pay off when we were up late at night finishing assignments.  And besides, we would be accommodating two people, not one.
    We decided to check out the location of the school first before making any decisions.  We followed the directions given to us by the school for the shortest route from Soi Kasaem 1 to the ECC centre.  At the end of the street was Thanon Rama 1, a major road, beneath the sky train tracks above.  We walked to the stairs which brought us to the sky-train platform, then crossed the platform to the entrance to Tokyo department store on the second floor of Mahboonkrong (MBK) Shopping Centre.  We walked through the centre until we came to the walkway to Siam Centre, on the other side of another major road, but took the stairs to the street rather than entering the shopping centre.  We had effectively used the department store walkways to cross two major roads, bringing us to the corner of the intersection directly diagonal from the corner on which Soi Kasaem 1 was located.  From here we were only 20 metres from Chula Soi 64, a small street on which was located the Department of Pharmaceutical Science, the British Council and the ECC school.  The school was closed, obviously, for Songkran, however from the outside it looked very clean, organized and professional. 
    We wandered along Chula Soi 64 a little to check out our soon-to-be lunch stops, and enjoyed some beef (which was actually very, very chewy tripe) soup, a super spicy vegetable curry on rice, grilled squid and some small sweets, which were like tiny pancakes which harden when they’re cooked, spread with a meringue-like paste and sprinkled with spicy orange-coloured coconut.  It was all absolutely delicious, and cheap!, and I almost wished the class was starting immediately so I would have an excuse to try everything on every menu.
    There was not much else for us to do, unless we wanted to wander around the department stores which were open, or blow some money at the over-rated Hard Rock Café around the corner, so we turned around and headed back to Soi Kasaem 1.  We seemed to have made a decision about our accommodation situation for the course, so on our way to Wendy House we reserved a standard room at Reno Hotel from 28 April through 28 May; the extra money would be worth making the Bangkok heat bearable.
    We ordered a beer in the café downstairs at Wendy House and wondered what to do.  We had accomplished all that we had planned for the day in a matter of hours.  The next thing to decide was where we would spend the next two weeks before the course started.
    As we were heading for the beach there were three easy options.  The first, Ko Chang, was a beautiful island we had both been to before on the eastern side of the Gulf of Thailand.  Three years ago we had each managed to find nice quiet beaches and have a very relaxed time on this island which, along with 46 other islands in the area, belong to the Ko Chang National Marine Park.  We both knew that now, three years later, the island would be much more popular than it had when we were both there last, especially considering it was one of the areas not affected by the 2004 tsunami.  Assuming that it would probably be quite busy and overrun with farang, we decided to leave it as it was in our memories, and go somewhere else.  The next obvious choice would be the southern end of the Gulf of Thailand, such as the islands Ko Pha-Ngan and Ko Samui.  Samui was too touristy and Pha-Ngan, the famous island for full-moon parties, would be a little too busy for our needs, so we crossed those off the list too.  The final option was the islands of the Andaman Sea, including Phuket, Ko Phi-Phi and Ko Lanta.  We knew that many of these islands were still quite devastated by the tsunami, however we figured that if we were going to contribute to a local economy, it may as well be one that needed our money the most.  We could catch a 12 hour bus from Bangkok straight down to Krabi, and decide which island to go to from there, where they would have more information about current conditions.
    “You know, we could just go tonight.”
    Jeremy looked up at me.
    “Well, we probably won’t get our money from the room back, but we’ve got nothing left to do in Bangkok, and if we stay we’re probably going to spend money on entertainment ‘cause our room’s so bloody hot.”  We weren’t paying for air conditioning at Wendy House.  “We may as well just go down there tonight and get started on studying for the course.”
    “I didn’t even think of that.”
    We paid for our beer, ran upstairs and grabbed our packs.  It was 4pm and most of the overnight buses left Bangkok bus terminals between 5pm and 8pm each evening.  If we hurried we would make it.
    We explained to the receptionist that we had decided to go to Krabi, and that we understood she couldn’t refund us the accommodation.  We got in a taxi at the end of the street and asked for the Eastern Bus Terminal.  Jeremy got enough cash for the next ten days, in case there were no ATMs on the island, and I enquired about bus fares.  We purchased tickets for the 6:20pm 2nd class bus for Krabi.  It would arrive at 6am. 
    While we waited for the bus we bought some fried chicken and steamed rice for dinner, and a bottle of water for the road.  If we were hungry later we knew the bus would be stopping on the way.  We packed all our valuables into a day pack to carry on the bus in case of thieves hiding in the luggage compartment below, not at all uncommon, and climbed on.  We were the only farang on the bus, which was not full.  The interior was decorated brightly with red and pink curtains and carpet which covered the walls and ceiling, but most importantly the air in the bus was crisp from the air conditioning.
    As the bus pulled out of the station it rocked wildly from side to side as the driver slowly navigated through the massive pot holes in the road at the bus terminal.  Once we made it out of the terminal we headed straight for the freeway, and picked up speed as we left Bangkok.  The bus attendant played a martial arts movie involving a master who is believed invincible until he meets a woman who can scream so powerfully that it destroys anyone in its path – except the master of course who is merely caught off-guard, then they battle it out for the next hour and half.  The passengers on the bus loved the movie – including us, and as the sun went down we covered ourselves with the blankets hung over each seat and tried to find a comfortable position for the night. 


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Scouting Siam Square:


Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Recent Posts

Recent Comments


  • The Biggest Snowman Ever
    From foliage to snow in West Hartford, CT.


  • Man On The Mountain
    Life in the land of Crodcodile Dundee, Yahoo Serious, and a disgusting excuse for food called "Vegemite".

Koh Lanta vs. The Tsunami

  • Tsunami Water Level
    In April 2005, Fiona and I went to Koh Lanta, an island off the Andaman coast of Thailand. We were shocked to see the damage done by the tsunami, and we decided to see what we could do to help our new friends. We sent out an email, and within four days we had raised a total of $2,905.00 USD from almost 50 friends and family members. Our most profound thanks to everyone who donated. You cannot possibly underestimate how much you have helped.

March For Women's Lives

  • Us
    From across the nation and from nearly 60 countries, women marched in Washington DC on Sunday with their daughters, mothers, husbands and others in support of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion legal. The rally stretched from the base of the U.S. Capitol about a mile back to the Washington Monument. While authorities no longer give formal crowd estimates, various police sources informally gauged the throng at between 500,000 and 800,000 people. I've been to a fair number of rallies in Washington DC, and I've never seen anything like this one. It's difficult to tell from photos, but the number of people was absolutely staggering. The sheer size of the crowd coupled with the raw enthusiasm and the sense of power was overwhelming. I am proud to have been a part of it.


  • And Finally...
    Wayaleilei Resort, Wayasewa Island, Fiji December 2004


  • 20menacing_sky
    From June 11 through June 13 we went to a festival in Manchester Tennessee called Bonnaroo. Over 80 bands played to 150,000 people on six separate stages. Sun, rain, music, mud... what more could you want?

Angkor Wat

  • Khmer Kiss
    The largest and most impressive religious monument ever constructed in the history of the known galaxy. June 6 - June 8, 2005