Tuesday 29th October
We finally arrived in Thailand at lunchtime on Tuesday after travelling for some 3 days on 4 flights. It is not much fun getting from Buenos Aires to Bangkok on the cheapest flights possible going via Madrid, London and Dubai. Total time in the air was 26 hours. We were very pleased to have been able to break up the journey by spending a day in London where we were lucky enough to go for a lovely meal with all our family.
After arriving at our accommodation, taking a cold shower and having a sleep for a couple of hours, we headed out for a look around the local area, before being greeted by a man who suggested we take a tuk tuk to the tourist information and then to a restaurant and the tuk tuk would be 50 baht. (£1) we decided to; however it was probably supposed to be a scam as we had to take a specific 'government' tuk tuk, and tourist information ended up being a travel agent's offering a tour around northern Thailand.
Unfortunately for the man selling this '2 week tour' he mentioned fairly early on we would have to have our passports to make the reservation. So we listened enthusiastically to his tour plan for a little longer than we hoped but got some good ideas from him, before he volunteered to reserve the trip for the deposit of just 1000 baht, just £20. To humour him, and probably more ourselves, we tried to find out what the final price would be, and what exactly you got for that.
Unsurprisingly, he was not too willing to share that, and kept repeating 'low deposit of just 1000 baht!' (£20). Eventually, a lot of numbers went into a calculator, along with a commentary which includes 'authentic local buses as opposed to VIP buses' which translates to rickety bench bus which stops every 5 minutes and no air-con, but probably costing you less than a couple of pounds for the 10 hour trip. So, didn't manage to get an exact duration or what was included, but for what we think was a 2 week trip, with basic guest houses and some 2 day jungle trek, he would happily have taken £355 each! Our current accommodation in the capital is only £8 a night for the two of us.
Half grateful for some of the ideas , we thanked him before 'realising' we didn't have our passports to book. Initially, he questioned this; however we continued to play our role of the naïve little tourists, saying we had just planned to wander a couple of the local streets and hadn't planned on going out. He believed us, despite Thai law stating it's a legal requirement to carry your passports at all times, and we left, promising to be back first thing in the morning.
Our tuk tuk driver was still waiting a good half an hour later and seemed very pleased for us that we'd managed to book our trip. (Clearly gets a cut in this scheme!) He took us to the restaurant, insisting we were dropped at the door. We checked the menu, saw it was to expensive and wandered off to a family run restaurant which did the nicest Penang curry. Let's hope the first guy gets into trouble for forgetting to make sure we had our passports to book the scam. You could tell full well whatever the trip was, they had no intention of selling that and had just set their sights on the 1000 baht deposit.
Wednesday 30th October
We visited the Royal Palace, which is the most magnificent and ornately decorated building I have ever seen. The buildings were your traditional style temples, covered in gold leaf and coloured shiny mosaic tiles. It was so impressive! Within the palace there were various shrines containing huge golden Buddhas. All around the grounds were various different statutes, completely covered in gold leaf.
After the palace we went to the Thai National Museum, which contained many displays, including one exhibit which housed the chariots used for royal funeral processions. Again, these chariots were covered in gold and gems and were about 12 metres high.
We walked along the edge of the river, before being greeted by a lady offering advice and 'government tuk tuk' which as it was a bank holiday, would visit 3 places for 20 baht! She did suggest going to see the giant Buddha, which we didn't know about so we did the 'long walk' (5 minutes) to see this 45 metre high golden Buddha.
Chris had seen a leaflet for an exhibition hall which was next to a park. In the park we were offered information and another special rate government tuk tuk. We declined and walked off so the man started saying we were stupid for not taking the government tuk tuk (fair enough all part of his sales act?); however it very quickly changed to 'f*ck you, f*ck you!' Charming!
The exhibition involved being shown around 7 different rooms. The tour lasted 2 hours. We soon found the organisation of the the tour to be more interesting than the exhibits themselves. There were so many staff, waiting ready in the next room. The museum seemed brand new with various hidden doors leading you seamlessly on to the next room. At one point, we unwittingly got into a giant lift and watched a video as we changed levels. There was barely enough time to look at any of the exhibits, but it was good fun moving around between term. For the final exhibit, they took everyone's photo and used our faces in a strange cartoon.
In Bangkok, there is a street famous for backpackers and so we headed there to observe the other backpackers. Backpackers fall into two main categories; those who are really into the concept of being a backpacker, tend to be on a mission to 'find themselves' and have a lot of spare time to really feel the place and generally get drunk with other random backpackers, who are their new best friends, at any given opportunity. The other type, often slightly older, rather than on their 'gap yar' tend to have chosen to use a backpack for the convenience of moving around rather than a suitcase. This street was great for analysing the two types over dinner and giving some of them a story.
Thursday 31st October
On our final day in Bangkok, we moved around and visited about 7 different things like crazy people.
For breakfast, we went to China Town and browsed around some of the shops and and stalls. There was a good sized unit, which sold just belts. It had hundreds if not thousands of belts in every style, colour and material possible. Literally just around the corner, having been unable to believe such a shop would survive, there was another one probably twice the size,
After Chinatown, we caught a river bus up to Wat Pho, a temple housing a 25 metre long golden reclining Buddha. Around the temple were some 100 buddhas say a good metre and a half up on a golden tiered base. A few of these buddhas were at various stages of being restored and maintained and it was unbelievable to see the skill that went into creating these golden masterpieces.
Next we went to the Siam museum, which showed the history of Thailand before getting some lunch. After lunch we crossed the river to see another temple before taking a boat tour around the canals. Along the water's edge, there are various different styles and quality houses, temples, restaurants and shops. Our boat driver seemed to know every other boat we went past. At the end of our tour, we got off at the flower market, where I have never seem so many orchids. Whole truck fulls would go past, stacked up as high as they could manage. This then led on to the night market, selling mainly clothes before we took a tuk tuk to State Tower, the rooftop bar they used in the film the hangover. We enjoyed a couple of cocktails while watching lightning in the distance over the night skyline of Bangkok.
Finally we visited the area renowned for its ladyboys; however I'm not sure we saw any obvious ones but I'm sure if you picked up one of the many hookers in one of the bars, you might have got more than you had bargained for. I hadn't realised they were prostitutes until Chris questioned what else all the lone women in short skirts could be doing drinking on their own. As we walked through the neighbouring market, we were offered ping pong shows and Chris told me to make sure I was always next to him.
We caught the metro back to our hostel, which contains another comical priority seat sign; in Bangkok, the obese don't get your seat as they would in Brazil, but the monks do!
Tomorrow we are leaving Bangkok to visit Kanchanaburi and take a ride on death railway.