February 2013 — And the month-long Thailand adventure begins! School closed for winter vacation on a Friday and we took the soonest possible flight south. These love-birds can’t stand the cold so the quicker we could get out of China, the better! We stayed up really late the night before our flight. There seems to be way more packing and sorting involved when you are trying to pack for an ever-expanding belly. We had the intention to of finding new clothes for me, but we had no idea how much success we would have, so we had to pack enough clothes for me to be comfortable. As always, I refused to go to bed until everything was packed and ready, so we only got to bed at about 2am.
In the morning we were eager to get up and start our adventure, so the lack of sleep was not a big issue. We cooked up the remainder of vegetables, meat and eggs in our fridge and took that along with us as padkos (South African slang for ‘snacks and provisions for a journey’) and then sealed up our apartment as best we could. We do live in China after all, so that means blocking all drains and closing all holes to prevent bad smells creeping in while you are away.
Ziplock bag filled with water to block the drains that have no covers.
We try to take as little warm clothes as possible when we are travelling to warm countries because we don’t want to have to lug thick winter jackets around in the heat. Since we were leaving early, we had to wait a few minutes for a taxi – I was shivering but Justin kept reminding me that with every passing minute we were getting closer to warm weather. That was a comforting thought!
We had a couple of hours to kill in the Qingdao Airport so we checked in and then settled down to eat our homemade meal. At this point I was already repulsed by the state of the toilets in the airport, and couldn’t wait to leave China! Our journey was nicely broken up into two parts – although a direct flight would have been far better, of course – Qingdao to Hong Kong, and then Hong Kong to Bangkok. We like the HK airport because it is clean and well-organised, so it wasn’t too much of a problem to have four hours to kill there. We did some duty-free shopping, and then found a comfy restaurant called Spaghetti House, and sat down to pass our last two hours by. The food was really tasty, but at a price of HK$ 340 ($44), we were happy to know that we were heading to place where our favourite food averaged at about $1 to $4 per person.
Cream of Mushroom soup and a Caesar salad for Mrs, and a portion of Spaghetti Carbonara for Mr. For desert we shared a Baked Banana and Chocolate Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream.
We journeyed on, and got to Bangkok around midnight of that same day. Being an easy country to travel in, we had almost no issues getting a cab to our hotel. Our first cab driver was very sneaky and wouldn’t turn on this meter. He then tried to ask us a ridiculous price as we were driving away, even though we had just stood in a queue to ensure that we would get a meter-cab. So we firmly told him to stop and got our bags out of his car. Turns out we were smart to do that because as soon as we told the taxi official, she took down his details as he quickly tried to speed away. Yup – he was totally trying to rip us off, but fortunately we stood our ground!
We stayed in a busy part of Bangkok, where there was plenty to see, do, and of course – EAT! No point in going to Bangkok and not staying in the heart of it all since that is what Bangkok is good for. We stayed in an area called Rambuttri, near Khaosan Road. We really could not have picked a better area because our street was just perfect for everything. Not as crazy as Khaosan Road, but still full of life, colour, street food, and festivities. Our bedroom was on the Main Street, and we initially thought that we would not get much sleep, but with our sliding door closed we slept like babies. We were quite surprised to figure out that our bathroom had no windows. Well, it had windows, but those windows were simply just holes in the wall. No glass, no covers. You would think that there would be bugs or lots of dust, but it was surprisingly pleasant to have a bathroom like this, especially in the evening when the street was all lit up and full of activities. What we first thought was crazy, turned out to be quite interesting. I would brush my teeth while people-watching… Nice!
View from our “hole in the wall”
In the morning we felt amazing! We slept like babies and seeing as Bangkok was far cooler than it usually is, we didn’t even need the air-conditioner in our hotel room. We woke up to the sound of birds tweeting and realised that we hardly ever hear that in China. What a magical sound!
Our hotel had an awesome restaurant located right next to the bustling street – a great spot for chilling, surfing the web, people-watching, and planning out our schedule for that day. Bangkok is not really a top spot for travelling unless you have a purpose in mind, but we really were loving the feel of this street and we were excited to get back there that evening for dinner. To start the day off, we dived straight into ordering our first fresh fruit Lassi (blended ice, yogurt, and fruit). Breakfast was pretty good here too! Justin tried something new – thick noodles, pork and egg in a hot pan. I was aching for a good old western breakfast, so I had eggs, bacon and toast. Oh how the simple things in life makes us so happy!
Our main purpose for day 1 in Bangkok was to get as much shopping done as possible! We headed to a mall that I had visited about two years before – Platinum Fashion Mall – and therefore knew that we would find some suitable items. My internet searches also put this mall as the best one for maternity clothes. This six-floor monster on Petchaburi Road is technically a wholesale shopping centre, though it’s open to anyone in search of a bargain. Most of the floors are dedicated to women’s clothing, hats, jewellery, shoes and purses, but there are floors selling stuff for men and children, and well as souvenirs and gifts.
How to get here: TAKE A TAXI! The taxi drivers speak English, the cabs are clean, air-conditioned, and they much cheaper than tuk-tuks. The only slight problem is finding a taxi that will use their meter, but it never took us more than 3-4 tries before we got one that would.
Before we even entered Platinum Fashion Mall, we came across a clothing street stall selling bras. As most of you know, I am really struggling to find bras that fit over here in China, especially since I am pregnant and growing by the day. Looking at these bras, I thought that some of them may actually fit! Reluctantly, the lady let me try some of them on (over my clothes) and she kept reassuring me that it fitted perfectly. I bought one, and then ran into a hotel nearby to try it on properly. Patient Justin waited outside to know if we had struck gold. IT FIT! Wooohooo – It was tight, but it fit, so we went back to the stall and bought three of them. I would have bought 10 but the truth is that I knew these bras probably would not fit in a month or two, so three of them would do it. After that we stopped in Starbuck for a cold drink – I vowed not to waste too much of our precious vacation money on overpriced coffees since Thai coffees are so much more amazing and really cheap, but this was the only place nearby with decaf coffee! Thai coffee only comes in strong or super-strong – they don’t even know what “decaf” is. What a pity!
Cute Thai Characters on a notice board in Starbucks
And so our shopping escaped began… We were mainly searching for clothes that would take me through the following 5 months of my pregnancy. Justin didn’t feel like he wanted to buy anything, so this really was just a day of shopping for “the bump”!!! We were very impressed with everything that we found and I think that we did very well as a team. We divided the mall up and tried to cover as much of it as possible, but with roughly 2,000 stalls, it was quite a task indeed!
For lunch we went up the the 6th level of the mall to find some food, and rest our hard-working legs. It was TOUGH to choose what we would eat because we had not yet eaten a Thai meal since arriving in Bangkok, and we were spoilt for choice in this cafeteria filled with Thai deliciousness.
We went with something we knew would never disappoint, and ordered Pad Thai with chicken. It was nothing short of amazing. With every bite we wished that food was that good in China! So much flavour and so fresh. Thai people sure do know how to cook good food!
When the stalls started to close, and our hands were full of bags, we decided to head back to Rambuttri to freshen up and find a nice place to have dinner. Again, the thought of all that scrumptious food we would have to choose from made us excited for the rest of the evening. We managed to catch a ride with a very interesting tuk-tuk driver who had a killer sound system hooked up to the roof of his ride. He handed us a cord and told us to plug in our iPod, and we then started to play some of our favourite jams. This honestly was an unbelievably fun journey through the streets of Bangkok. The air was warm, we were happy, and our driver was amusing us with silly faces in his rear view mirror. We laughed the whole way back to the hotel.
Best tuk-tuk ride!
We freshened up and then headed down to the street where the smell of barbecued meat and delicious curries filled the air. Our first task was the navigate the street to see where we wanted to eat – There were so many choices!! We nibbled on some street food – barbecued meat skewers with a spicy green chill sauce (below) – while we walked around looking for a place to sit down.
Finding a place to eat dinner – when you have so many delicious opinions – is not an easy task, so it is normally easier for us to make a rough guesstimate of what we want to eat before we even sit down. Ordinarily, we like to got to places with a nice cocktail/ drink menu, but that wasn’t even a consideration for this trip. Since this was our first evening, we decided to have Thai curries so we have plenty of options. We sat down at a place that was right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the Rambuttri area, and it was nice to watch all the people going by.
After dinner, Justin had one thing on his mind – PANCAKES! He first fell in love with these Thai-style crepes when we visited Koh Tao in 2012. His favourite was the peanut butter, banana and crushed peanuts, but sadly we had no luck finding a cart in Bangkok that had sprinkled peanuts. Needless to say, he still enjoyed it but we were on a mission to find the crushed peanut covered pancakes during our stay in Thailand.
It’s interesting to watch these pancake-guys at work. They all have a slightly different technique, but they work very quickly and efficiently. It’s amazing how long the queues at these pancake-stands get, people will stand in-line for about 20 minutes. The final product is definitely worth the wait…
According to Justin, this was a perfect end to our first day in Bangkok — he has been thinking about these pancakes since we left Koh Tao two years ago. We walked around a little longer while munching on our snack (I had an ice cream, of course), and took in all the festivities of this street. When we got tired, all we had to do was enter our hotel and go upstairs. We couldn’t have been happier with our choice of area and place to sleep — Good job Justin for the great find!