When I arrive back in Bangkok, its obvious almost immediately something’s changed. The tuk tuk drivers, who normally start their rate at 100 baht, went into a very long and badly translated spiel whenever I said where I wanted to go that involved ‘one way streets’ but little else I understood, and were asking 300 baht for the trip. No way – ended up getting a taxi with the meter and heading into town the way I left. Things were going fine until we hit the city centre, and the dozens of yellow barriers.
Turns out the political protests have hit the city centre, and closed off a huge chunk of the city. Suddenly the tuk tuks ‘one way’ comments make complete sense. Not sure if the taxi driver knew or not, though get the feeling he did and drove into them to increase his fare a bit. Ended up going the long way round and paying 71 baht for the trip, which is still a better price than bike or tuk tuk.
I’m spending the next few nights as Samsen Skyline Hostel, just a stones throw from Born Free. Its on the street rather than a soi (yet despite that the taxi driver and myself had some difficulty finding it from the road), and when I arrived, one of the most camp men I’ve ever met was greeting me at the desk. He was adorably happy to see me, and took me to a first floor room that I had to myself. Never saw him again after today though, so think he only worked weekends.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do today. There were things I knew I wanted to see, but most of them were tour packaged and definitely no good for today. When I asked at the desk, he said the best place to book tours was a local hostel that had its own tour company. A little place called Born Free…
Head, meet wall. I’d emailed Born Free to cancel my booking and cited that my plans had changed, rather than tell them I didn’t really like their hostel. However, if I wanted to book anything with someone reliable, I was going to have to go there on the day I would have checked in anyway. Fantastic.
When I asked if there was anything he recommended me to see (and I mentioned I was kind of sad I’d miss the Umbrella Market since the last day I could catch it is today and cannot get there alone), he said I should really give the Chumpton Market a try since its only on at the weekends too, and could get the NO.3 bus from just outside.
Sounded better than no plan at all, so headed out to wait. Unfortunately, the protests were affecting the buses too. Despite waiting the better part of half an hour in vicious heat, and spotting ever other bus available passing at least twice, I and the other would be tourists were getting frustrated. However, just when I’m about ready to call it quits, a No.524 appears with the conductress yelling out the window ‘Chumpton Market!’
This place is huge! I have no idea how much square footage it takes up but its lining a park, takes over one main road, a huge parking area, the buildings next to it, and some of the pavement outside the buildings too. I was here over 3 hours and still don’t think I actually got round the whole thing.
Its very much like your typical market. There’s technically an order to what is where, but I honestly couldn’t make heads or tails of it. You had clothes, accessories, toys, iPhone covers, antiques, makeup, homewares, plants – even old weapons from the war. And as an added bonus, everything was actually a really good price.
Unfortunately this turned out to be my undoing. You can’t really come to a market and not buy something, and I went a little crazy. Did try to hold back, but the more you buy, the looser you get with your cash. Bought some sunglasses since I needed a new pair, then this adorable little handheld sewing machine (that I don’t need now but will probably be a good investment at some point down the line), and the guy next to it was selling these awesome tomato toys…
By the time I’ve also bought some hair products and 2 t-shirts I know 10 minutes after buying that I should have grabbed, I know i need to get out of here while I still have money. Thankfully its a simple case of crossing the road bridge and getting to the bus stop where a NO.3 appears within a few minutes.
When I get back, there’s a new development at my hostel too. There’s been a multiple booking and the guy needs to move me to another room. I’m not elated at this since my room is on the first floor and I’d staked out the comfiest bed, but regardless, get bumped up to the 4th floor and its much harder beds. Can’t help but wonder why they didn’t just put me here to start with considering that the room can hold 6 and only had 3 people in it.
Finally, I know I have to bite the bullet and return to Born Free in order to book some tours. That was not a fun prospect, the guy is surprised to see me, and says he still has a bed free if I want it. I have to admit that my plans never changed, and I’d just had an awful night. He seems a little confused that I had then gone to Samsen Skyline, as he says their beds are even harder, and that I could have just said I didn’t enjoy the night anyway.
(Maybe, but I’m from the UK, and I think its biologically impossible for anyone from the UK to be rude even when its true).
I end up picking 2 tours for my next 2 days. Tomorrow I head to the Floating Market and the River Kwai, and at the recommendation of my host, the ancient city of Ayatthya the day after. Figure I’ll buy the tickets to Koh Tao at a later date.