After nine months of living in Laos, we finally make it down to the Big City, a mere 400 miles south of Vientiane (but a world apart).
We get to spend seven full days here before heading to the beach for a bit of R&R. Lori’s here for a work conference with Laotian colleagues, so it’ll be the three of us meandering around the Old City for the four days prior, then moving over to the convention center area for the remainder of our time in the city.
Lori had three work trips in a row at the end of last year (Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang and Phonsavan), but this is her first for 2017. We love Laos, but are excited to have some time away (our first non-medical foray out of the country since October!) to get a chance to relax and explore places both old and new.
Leaving green and low-lying Vientiane from its Wattay International Airport, which resembles little more than a rural landing strip at this height.
Moments after takeoff, we disappeared into clouds and darkness, bouncing around through an afternoon thunderstorm for the first half of the 60-minute flight. Leaving the black clouds and lightning behind us, we emerged from the thunderheads just in time to see the day’s last rays illuminating valley below and a rainbow appearing just under the port wing.
Smooth sailing into Suvarnabhumi International. Thankfully, there was minimal air traffic on this particular Friday evening and we landed without delay.
At the airport, we gathered our things, flew through immigration and followed the signs for “Public Taxi.” New since 2012, they’ve now got a pretty slick taxi stand setup. Now, you pull a ticket from a machine, which gives you a number, then walk down the line of cabs (dozens of them), matching your number with the number overhead. Find your match and you find your cabbie, ready and waiting.
We were blown away in 2012 by how cheap metered taxis are compared to just about anywhere else we’ve ever been to, and the same holds true here in 2017. An hour (and 20 miles/ 34km) in a cab, including expressway tolls and airport fee, cost around US$10. We averaged about $3 per ride zipping around town. To put that in perspective, the standard cost in Vientiane for a tuk-tuk is $6-$7 to go a couple of miles. A taxi from Reagan National (DCA) to our old apartment cost $40 to cover about seven miles. Needless to say in DC we took the Metro to the airport more often than not. Bangkok also has an excellent metro system (BTS Skytrain) that even has a station at the airport. Unfortunately, the BTS ends about two miles shy of the Old City, so not very practical late at night with suitcases and a baby, especially considering the low cost of a taxi!
In 2012, we stayed at Wild Orchid Villa, a few blocks off from Khaosan Road. This time around, we decided to try something different and stayed at Rambuttri Village Inn, right on our favorite alleyway in this part of town: Soi Rambuttri.
We enjoyed our stay at both places, but opted for Rambuttri due to its slightly more spacious and appointed rooms and rooftop pool! It’s a quiet and subdued compound across four different buildings that encircle an outdoor garden cafe. Yet, step out of the compound and you’re in the heart of the touristy Khaosan area with all its convenience (and trappings). I’m sure there are folks who would opt to be farther away from the action, but we thought it was just about right for our tastes (and budget).
Flying to Bangkok was a perfect opportunity to leave Noe’s bulkier “Lobster” high chair behind and try out his Sack’n Seat packable high chair that we brought from the States last September. Noe took to it right away and it’s proven to be a lifesaver over our nearly two weeks in Thailand, particularly coupled with his washable bibs with the little pocket. We load that little pocket up with carrot, mango or whatever, and he can sit there feeding himself contentedly sometimes for an entire meal!
On the first morning, we grabbed breakfast at nearby Jaywalk Cafe. While the food was quite good, we found other places to offer a better value for breakfast. Our favorite was Cozy House, just on the other side of the canal off Th. Samson. If all you want is a good value backpacker breakfast, any number of guesthouses offer these. We returned to Wild Orchid Villa on our second morning to relive old memories and sink our teeth into one of the better backpacker breakfasts in the neighborhood.
Back at the hotel, we geared up for a long day out exploring. Noe always gets excited for an outing. He loves being outside!
And, incidentally, can still take a nap on mommy at a year old. It had been a while since we even tried to put him down on one of us, and were very happy to see he’s still got it in him. It makes a day out on the town that much more enjoyable if he can get his naps in along the way.
First item on the list today? Walking along the river to Wat Pho in an effort to address some unfinished business.
Five years ago, we attempted to visit Bangkok’s famous reclining Buddha on my birthday, but didn’t quite make it before closing. Naturally, we wanted to make sure we got to see it this time around, and sure enough, we did!
Yes, the giant chillaxin’ Buddha image is the main draw here at Wat Pho, but the huge temple grounds are worth a visit on their own merit. Last time we were in Bangkok, we toured the Grand Palace grounds — certainly a must-see, but not a place we feel we need to revisit any time soon. That’s a good thing, because the grandiosity of Wat Pho ranks a pretty close second to the Grand Palace temple, and more than enough wat for us.
On the backside of the big buddha (yes, the buddha has a backside!) there are 108 bronze bowls for which you can purchase 108 coins (one for each bowl) — both a meditative practice, but also believed to bring good fortune. We’ll just see about that…
Noe, hydrating. Yes, it was filthy hot. And Noe has grown quite attached to his sippy cup. I dare you to try and take a sippy cup away from a baby-toddler in the heat of the day in Bangkok.
At one point, Lori found a quiet corner out of the sun to feed Noe while I strolled around a snapped some pics of stupas and such.
…and tried to figure out where the heck we were and where we were going next in this huge complex.
The umbrella holding thing — equal parts exasperating and utterly adorable. Now, if only he was strong enough to hold the thing all by himself. That would be cool. Me: “Ahem, son, umbrella?” Noe: “Yes, of course, father. Right away.”