Let me start by saying,
I've always enjoyed Joe, a dear family friend but since this trip we've bonded and he's now taken on the title of "Uncle" Joe!
I imagine I did things a little differently then most travelers do when they pass thru Bangkok. For starters, I didn't stay in a hostel near or on the famous Khaosan rd. Which is known as the place backpackers go to stay and to party. I intended to stay in a hostel but Uncle Joe changed that for me when he took me in for 3 nights. Allowing be to stay for free in his condo in the city.
Due to my traveling schedule it felt more like 5 nights there. The early morning I arrived was pretty much a sleepless night on the double decker bus. And the night I left the city I took a bus at 11:30pm. So yeah, more like 5 nights.
Uncle Joe and I traveled around the city together the entire time I was there. He only comes to Bangkok 1 to 3 times a year, usually for dental work. In other words he doesn't see much of the crazy life anymore but he knows the areas to go.
Like usual he came for dental work and I was just going to stay at his condo and travel on my own. But he decided he wanted to travel around with me and I loved every minute of it! It's a bit difficult for him to walk around anymore with a bum leg but I took it easy on him.
Uncle Joe, Egh (one of the step sons) and I ventured out on my first day in the city via public bus. The buses in themselves are an experience! Each bus that comes is different. Some are free some cost and it all depends on the quality of the bus. During my entire stay in Bangkok I never seemed to be able to catch the nice and more costly bus. It was always the free or inexpensive one with open windows and doors, no AC (maybe a few fans but that'll cost you) and wooden floors.
We went to a mall, yes a mall! Strange but it was a cool place to escape from the heat, Uncle Joe wanted me to see a modern mall and he wanted to have lunch at the food court. This mall was pretty crazy and he told me right from the start that it's not even the nicest one in Bangkok. It was 5 or 6 levels, clean and seemed to have everything! Including koi fish, native South African fish that looked like prehistoric koi fish and parrots!
This mall started my inner battle of deciding if Thailand is a third world country or not. How does a 3rd world country have this kind of a mall?
After lunch we hoped back on public transport and Uncle Joe headed home and Egh and I went to the "JJ" weekend market, Bangkok's biggest market. That it was! I pride myself on not being a shopper and it was very helpful in this instance. A market that's known to take a person a good 4 hours plus, Egh and I strolled thru in an hour and half to 2 hours. I was satisfied with what I saw in that time, I bought a coconut and then I bought handmade coconut ice cream and I was happy.
Egh and I left the market and headed back to the house.
Egh is close to my age. I think he's 30 maybe even 31, he's the oldest of the 2 boys, Army being 26.
The boys biological father died of liver failure from drinking when they were young. Not long after he passed away Egh made a change for the worse. He's a slower person now from when he was born. Considered handicap and looked down upon in the Thai culture. He doesn't have down syndrome but that's the closest thing I can relate it to. A very mild case of it.
What caused this isn't for certain but the family thinks it may have had to do with the loss of his father or perhaps a chemical that got into his system. He talks slower, the movement of his hands is a little off and you can see a hint of it in his face. Uncle Joe told me the Thai's won't give him a chance. It's not in their culture. He can't get a job, even 7/11 (mini mart) won't give him a chance and girls won't touch him. It's really sad! Especially since when I look at him I don't even see a disability, he's got his life together he's just a little different and needs the confidence boost of having a job and other grown up responsibilities. If he were in the states he'd be one of the first people to be hired somewhere. GoodWill, Home Depot... He'd be taken care of. But here he has no hope. In fact he's currently trying to get signed up for government assistance, similar to our American social security.
I told Uncle Joe that with Egh speaking better English then most Thai's I've encountered, he could be hired as an English/ Thai translator but that's completely out of the question as well.
That evening the 3 of us went to a grocery store not to far away from the house. Because of uncle Joe's bad leg, I was taught that when we leave the condo we walk to the end of the road and flag down a neighborhood scooter taxi to drive us about a mile further to the main street. This costs us $10 baht or .31 cents USD.
The taxi scooters can take 2 passengers easily but we would always take our own scooter. On this particular night as we headed to dinner, Egh hopped on one bike and there was only one other scooter left. So uncle Joe hopped on the bike and I got on behind him. I SO wished I would have been able to get a picture of this! I was laughing the entire way. Especially when I didn't know where to put my feet so uncle Joe, unexpectedly picked up my legs and held them up by my calves. He said if I fall off you come with me!
I went on an evening bike ride thru the condo neighborhood one evening with my destination, a 7/11 for water and a snack. The outing was fun but the bike was a crazy piece of work! I felt like one of those wanna be gangsta guys who pedals down the road on a bike that's way to small for them. My bike was pimped out with a front basket! I got a lot of looks as I cruised around. The neighborhood doesn't have a lot of "Phrawngs" (white people) living or visiting there so I imagine that's why I got the looks.
I had one day that ended up to be an entire day spent in the city!
It started simple with me following uncle Joe to his dentist appointment. The appointment was across from Limpini park where the demonstrations were going on. I didn't see anything! I know there was something there but it wasn't the crazy ruckus everyone made it sound like.
We took the bus and the underground subway to get to the park/ dentist office area. From there we took the sky train to the water taxi. The water taxi had changed since the last time uncle Joe had been on it. It used to just take you to your destination and now there was a tour guide on the boat talking. It was nice to see the city from the water but the pollution in the water wasn't so nice to see.
We got off the boat at the end of its one way ride and walked to Khosan rd.
This would be my first time back to the road since I was there last to meet Joe that early morning I was dropped off.
The road was hardly recognizable in the day light. It was such a better place, still that yuck tourist scene that I'm not a huge fan of but better!
Joe and I had lunch at an Israeliian
Restaurant just around the corner from Khosan rd. and it was excellent! We shared eggplant dip, hummus and pita bread with a tabouli salad.
I love getting away from the either deep fried or sugar added Thai foods, once in awhile. Change is good sometimes.
I had plans to meet with a friend of a friend for the first time, at 7:30pm the night of my busy city day. When we left lunch and caught a bus we got stuck in a traffic detour due to the protests. Very stuck, it took us 2 hours on the bus instead of an hour or less. At this point I told uncle Joe he should join me for dinner with Wan (my soon to be new Chinese/Thai friend) instead of going home. He liked that idea as he was curious about her back ground from what he had heard me say of her.
After we got off the bus, sweaty and hot we caught the sky train to Terminal 21 mall where I was meeting Wan for dinner in a few hours. It was another 5 or so, level mall but this one had a cheaper food court and each level had a theme to it. London, Japan, San Francisco... It was really cool. San Fran. for example had a large model of the Golden Gate Bridge and London had a red phone booth.
We met Wan just inside the mall and went to a Northern Thai food restaurant on the upper level of the mall. That was her favorite kind of Thai food and it was here that she informed me that the style and flavors of Thai food vary all over the country. During our dinner discussion Wan gave Joe the title of uncle Joe, for me. She kept wanting to say he was my uncle and then decided he should just be that. That is where "uncle" Joe was born!
She was a really nice girl. My age, her parents are Chinese but she was born and raised in Thailand and owns her own travel agency that deals a lot with Americans and larger bookings. The brazalian World Cup is her current big seller. Her boyfriend is Brazilian and currently living and working in Vietnam because he can't get a job in Thailand. I was hooked up with Wan through my French friend, Ludo who lives in Portland.
After dinner the 3 of us walked to a near by and very popular red light street by the name of Soi Cowboy. This was my request.
I had heard a lot about the interesting things that go on here. The selling point was when Wan told me it's the street they filmed the famous bar scene on, in "The Hangover part 2". I had been wondering where that movie was filmed at. The rest of Bangkok, that I had seen didn't really have the look of the movie.
It's a very short road, basically the length of a street block but it's jam packed with strip clubs! Uncle Joe seemed to enjoy all the extra attention from the girls as we walked down the street. Hilarious! Wan pointed out the main bar where the filming took place inside but it's also the street that the motorcycle scene happens on and the monkey steals from the guys. If you have never seen the hangover movies, please watch them. All 3 are surprisingly good!
Wan had to go back to work that night but before she left us she helped Joe and I flag down a taxi. It was much more difficult then I imagined. Standing on a corner with an entire street lane full of taxi's it took 5 of them telling us no before we got one. The ones that told us no had asked where we were going and they didn't like how far out our destination was.
The one who told us yes, well, Joe basically bribed him with extra money. We paid $250 baht vs. $150/$200 then we normally would have paid. I couldn't believe it!
We got home and I pretty much crashed out. The following day would be another full day but with Egh, Army and Army's girlfriend Golf joining us.
Stay tuned for Bangkok, continued!