Feb 3 – 16
After a time consuming border crossing at Vientiane/Nong Khai and a night bus, Miguel and I ended up back in Bangkok.
It was nice getting off the bus at 6am and knowing exactly where we were going to stay. We showed up at Siri Baan Thai excited to plop down into our usual room. We hadn’t made a reservation, but it was never necessary before and we just assumed that would be the case this time too. Unfortunately, we were wrong. This time it was fully booked…and would be for days. Miguel and I had been advertising this guest house so much to people we’d met while traveling, that maybe it was our own fault it was crowded now. Oh well. The owners are really sweet people, so it’s nice to know they’re making good business.
So…we tried a new place nearby. We stayed at Palin Guesthouse for two nights. It was a decent place, a good price, and the owners were cute and friendly. But we were spoiled from Siri Baan Thai and went back there to try again. No luck. Still full.
But the woman helped us out and took us to a new place that had just opened up near the same street: Phiman Waterview.
Some young guys had recently taken over the place and parts of it were still under construction. It was a nice place already though (with free wifi, community kitchen, nice outdoor lounging area, fun activities, and nice people to chat with)…so I imagine it will be really great once things are all organized.
The two guys who own the place now are art students and they were in the process of painting and decorating all the rooms. I’ll look forward to visiting again in a few years to see what they ended up doing with them.
My room was nice because it had a view of the pond and the river. But since the windows were open all the time, I had to be very proactive about my mosquito net. And there was only one plug in the room, meaning that before I bought a splitter, I had to choose between plugging in my computer and plugging in the fan. Often I’d use my computer for hours and find myself in a puddle of sweat.
Phiman Waterview has a pretty pond surrounding the guest house. A big monitor lizards lives in it and I saw him poke his head out a couple of times!
And the view of the water is great! Most of the hotels with a view this nice are expensive, so we were lucky to find this place. Although their prices may have gone up now if they’ve finished renovating…
My favorite thing about Phiman Waterview is that it’s tucked away on a sidestreet and you have to navigate through a bunch of little alleys to get to it. I could see that turning some people off (as it was a bit confusing the first few times and we got a little lost), but I loved living in a residential area rather than on a large strip of budget hotels. Miguel and I started recognizing some of the people living there and it was fun to talk to them each time we passed by. A few of them sold things from their houses so we knew exactly where to go if we needed anything — beer, water, bootleg whisky posing as energy drinks, seaweed flavored chips, puppies, etc.
Here’s one of our friends we met in the alley. One day we sat around with him while he and his relatives sang and played guitar. The next day I walked by and his friend tried to stick a bunch of newborn puppies in my purse. And another day, I discovered a tiny temple tucked in between all the houses. It’s never a dull day in the alley.
Miguel’s last day in town, the guys were having a party at their guesthouse. I wanted to pretend it was Miguel’s going away party, but Miguel and I passed out pretty early. We were tired from being in the sun all day…and kinda depressed that he was leaving….and we had to wake up around 3am to get him to the airport! We took a brief nap and set my alarm. There were still some stragglers from the party milling around when we woke up.
Once at the airport, it finally hit me that Miguel was leaving. Saying goodbye was sad! I cried.
The next few days were super lonely. I had no problem traveling alone during the beginning of my trip (I actually really did prefer it)…but since I had gotten used to having a 24-hour traveling companion for a month and a half, it felt like something was missing. Miguel was a great person to travel with, so it was sad to see him go.
Over the next few days, I revisited all my favorite Bangkok restaurants and I even tried a few new ones. One day I was eating alone at a restaurant and feeling particularly sorry for myself…when in walked a girl named Ester. We started talking and found out that we were both from Austin, both vegetarian, had both been traveling for about 6 months, and we had a bunch of other things in common! I told her I was missing Austin and must have manifested her. She said the same thing. Crazy how that happens. Ester was in Bangkok to meet up with her family and the next day, I got to join them all for dinner at my favorite veg place (no picture unforunately). Sweet people. They invited me to join them on a trip to the beach, but unfortunately I didn’t have enough time. Ester lives in New York now and I hope to meet up with her at the end of my trip. During her travels, she spent a lot of her time starting a weaving coop in Guatemala. I’m hoping to teach her to crochet in exchange for weaving lessons.
I also made friends with Ben, a Welsh guy who was staying at our hotel.
So really whenever I’m traveling alone, I’m never alone all that often…
And whenever I get sick of being a tourist (which happens often), I’m never at a loss for projects.
For my project, I taught the maid at our hotel how to crochet with plastic bags. She loved the idea!
And so did the hotel owners. One of the guys took me to the craft store to buy a bunch of cheap crochet hooks. And we rounded up all the kids from the slums nearby to organize a workshop. Most of these kids just hung around in the alleys looking bored all day, so they were excited to have something new and interesting to do with their time. And since the maid spoke Thai and had already learned to crochet earlier that day, she was a huge help in teaching them.
I’d really love to stay in one place longer and teach more classes like this. Once people realize they can make things with plastic bags rather than thowing them in the river or the streets…the world will be a much prettier place. And it was encouraging to see how receptive the kids were to the idea. The next day, I saw some of the same girls in the alley. They said “Hey you!” and smiled huge smiles while pulling their crochet hooks out of their back pockets to show me. So cute!
My last night in Bangkok, one of the hotel owners took me out to celebrate. Since I had a flight to Cambodia at 5am, the plan was to stay up all night.
Afterwards, we went to a ladyboy bar. We all sat outside talking for a while, but then one of them dragged me inside saying “Hurry up. The show is starting!” I must have had a weird look on my face because he laughed and said “Oh. Don’t worry – it’s PG”.
And it was. It was a massive cabaret/comedy show with a bunch of elaborately dressed male/females singing and dancing on the stage. A pretty entertaining sight. I loved it! Apparently some of the ladyboys were making fun of people in the audience, but I didn’t understand any of the jokes since they were all in Thai. I’m assuming my friends would have mentioned it if they had made fun of me. Not sure though.
After the show, we relocated to a bar on Khao San Road. And I proceeded to merge into the crowd – a pulsating mess of dancing, bucket drinking, glow stick waving drunk people.
I generally tend to avoid places like this….but it was a lot of fun. And I made a bunch of new Thai friends.
We stayed at the bar until the early morning when everyone got kicked out. Some of the people at the bar didn’t quite make it all the way back home.
But I still had lots of energy! I had been going to sleep pretty early and didn’t actually think I’d last all night long…so I was impressed with myself for really doing it. Back at the hotel, I said goodbye to everyone I had met, gathered up my belongs, and took a taxi to the airport. Cambodia was my next destination. And it’s a shame I had to fly to Phnom Penh rather than driving this luxurious car.
- Sometimes the cats leave interesting presents for you on your doorstep. Ew.
- Here is a bike made of Chang beer cans. “Chang” means Elephant, by the way.