When you sign up for the low budget 'travelling experience', you throw away any distant hope of having a comfortable night's sleep. But it's okay, because at least you're not sat behind a desk in a stuffy office.
We awoke early enough to try the delights of the complimentary hostel breakfast, and bounded down the many stairs to the communal river-side balcony (less classy than it sounds) to stock up on toast, juice and tiny bananas. Not particularly delicious or filling, but it was free, and you never look a gift tiny-banana horse in the mouth.
After our less than relaxing first Thai massage experience, we contemplated giving up on being touched by strangers in exchange for money, but thought better of it and (rather naively) headed back in the direction of Khao San Road for massage number 2. We figured that we may have just had a bad group of masseuses, and we couldn't judge the whole of the Thailand beauty industry on our traumatic topless experience! We attempted to seek out a classier looking massage establishment, couldn't find one, gave up, and headed into the nearest one instead.
Our second massage started in much the same fashion as our first. We were led to a row of (raised!) mattresses, instructed quite aggressively to take our tops off, and quickly found ourselves face down and covered in oil. The massage consisted of a fair amount of rubbing, with a little less bum action than our first experience, and a whole lot more gossiping amongst our masseuse-y ladies.
After our initial rub, we were told to sit up, we were then treated to an ear massage before being rubbed on the face, forehead, head and then being sat on for a round of back clicking. Delightful.
We then had the fun game of re-robing whilst greased up, before being ushered to the door and relieved of our money. On comparing notes it became apparent that, although we'd all gone in for the same back, neck and shoulders massage package, we'd ended up with three entirely different experiences. Livi's massage involved more than a normal amount of whacking, and Chantelle seemed to spend most of hers forced into spinning her arms around in therapeutic airplane-like movements. Seems I got off lightly, although our massages all had one thing in common, we all left with backache.
We took a stroll in the direction of the river taxi stop, stopping at a Mexican cafe for a Thai lunch (as you do). Livi and I lunched on slightly cold chicken pad Thai and Chantelle ordered all of the salads. We washed our food down with strawberry and watermelon shakes (man, how I miss those shakes now. This third of a mug of lukewarm camomile tea just isn't doing it for me).
We finally found the 'foreigners' entrance and queued with the rest of the bemused holiday makers to enter. We watched girls in shorts and strap tops get turned away by the sassy security chap (he clearly loved his job a little too much), we felt smug in the knowledge that we'd anticipated temple-times and had turned up in semi-conservative outfits, with scarves a-plenty. Alas, we were thwarted by this over-zealous chap and his love of full sleeves. We were pointed in the direction of the 'should have worn better clothing' hut, and queued up, less than amused. The staff demanded a 400bt deposit, thrust a pile of hideous items at us, and sent us on our way. Chantelle and I struggled into some 80's style shirts in nauseating pastel shades, that made us look a little like Eddie and Patsy on a bad day, and wrap around skirts that restricted leg movements and made us warmer than we already were, Livi looked on smugly in her 'appropriate outfit'. Dick.
We coughed up another 500bt each at the gate, and finally we were allowed to enter. We then found out that the palace closed at 6pm, and it was already 4:30. We came to the realisation that the palace was big, the temperature was high and the map that we'd been so kindly provided with was terrible. Livi was definitely more into exploring than Chantelle and I, and we sent her off on a jolly to soak up the culture...and the gold. We tried to leisurely peruse the area, but we were starting to melt, and the wrap around skirt made it difficult to amble nimbly. We stared at many gold things, and yes, it was beautiful. After walking around for an hour and a half I managed to gather only one piece of information about the National Palace, that it houses a glittering emerald Buddha. The Buddha's clothes are changed three times a year.
Livi probably got far more out of the experience than I did, but we did enjoy looking at all of the ridiculously intricate statues, buildings and trinkets. In hindsight an hour and a half was probably more than enough to explore, but a parasol and some 'appropriate clothing' would have definitely enhanced our experience. We spent a fair amount of our time spying on the monks taking selfies in front of the statues. Tut tut.
(I'd like to tell you what all of these things are, but I honestly can't remember. Some tall pointy gold building)
(Taking a selfie in front of a man taking a selfie in front of the building where the fashionista Buddha lives)
(Standard touristy photo. Note Livi's cunning makeshift skirt)
At 6pm we trundled out of the National Palace and into a waiting tuktuk. Of course we contemplated keeping our trendy shirts as exceptional additions to our wardrobes, but we decided that it was probably better for everybody if we traded them back in. We figured that we'd ticked our 'culture' box for the day, and headed back to Siam Paragon to try out the 4D cinema we'd heard about. Moving seats, fans, spray, smoke, strobes, bubbles, it's safe to say we were more than a little intrigued, and all this for 450bt, beats paying £10.70 for 3D at the Odeon in Bournemouth. Unfortunately, unlike the Odeon in Bournemouth, cinemas in Thailand seem to show films as and when they want, and despite checking times ahead of arriving, we somehow managed to miss the film screening (perhaps they just decided to change it on a whim, we'll never know...).
We figured we might as well spend a little time exploring more of Siam Paragon, well the food courts at least. There are a ridiculous amount of eateries inside this huge shopping centre (it's so big that it not only houses the cinema, it also houses an entire aquarium....what?!) and we spent a fair amount of time bimbling around trying to decide on what to eat, before going our separate ways once more to search for the perfect meal. I'd seen Mos Burger branches on our travels through Asia, and had never really given them a second glance. However, this time a board advertising their Rice Burger caught my eye, and I popped in to investigate further.
I decided to order a Yakiniku Rice Burger. I like rice, I like beef. Seemed like a good combination to me. I wasn't disappointed. The beef was thinly sliced and perfectly seasoned, the rice was sticky and soy-y and super good. I was a convert. Goodbye burger bun, hello rice! I'm not entirely sure what the others decided on eating in the end, I was too caught up in my Mos Burger bliss to really pay any attention.
Post dinner we took a trip to Siam Paragon's huge gourmet food hall. So. Much. Food. We perused the shelves, finding all sorts of oddities and delicious things from countries across the world. Weirdly we found tens of flavours of kit kats that we weren't able to scout out in Japan, including sweet purple potato, which obviously sounds delicious...or not. Unfortunately these international delicacies came at high prices, and we could only afford to stock up on Thai nibbles.
We headed back to the Khao San Road district for a dessert of delicious Sticky Mango Rice. Oh my. I'd never had it before visiting Thailand and don't usually like mango much...but Thai mangoes are so ripe and juicy, and combined with the warm sweet rice and coconut milk, they're basically heaven. They quickly became a trip staple.
Turns out that the foot massages are almost as horrible as the back massages. My first mistake was not going for a wee pre-rub, my second was agreeing to pay someone to touch my feet.
The massage consisted of lots of rubbing, followed by lots of jabbing with a foot-stick, followed by a fair amount of squishing. We then were forced into some knees-up routine (which didn't help my bladder situation) before being relieved of our money once more and turfed out onto the streets of Bangkok. Chantelle's masseur listened to music through the entirety of the ordeal, and stopped halfway through the massage to make some sort of deal with a man on a motorbike. I guess you get what you pay for.
After all that culture, eating, jabbing and squishing, it was time to snuggle back down onto our plastic covered mattresses for the night. Phew.