Published: March 26th 2007March 26th 2007
Our First Visitor
The first visitor in our first room n the first night. It was a long flight and late at night so we were not very hospitable. This is a post-mortem photo.
So it is now 4 days in Bangkok. We have been shopping, swimming, wandering and visited a couple tourist sights.
Yesterday we went to the Wat Phra Kaew, which is a big old shiny temple, and the Grand Palace, which is a royal residence. What to say about it.... The Wat and surrounding buildings are very ornate and beautiful and I am sure my pictures do not do them justice. There were, however, a million people there. It was really hot and the line to the temple was so long we decided not to go inside the actual main temple with the emerald Buddha and instead went over to another portion, which was the Grand Palace. After that we went on a little journey...
With our ticket to the Grand Palace and such, we also got a ticket to this place called Vaminek house, which is the world's largest teak house, made with nothing but teak, no nails or anything. In order to get there we have to get in a cab and so we do. It is apparent from the beginning that the guy does not really know where it is but we have a
Our Room at Rambuttree
This is our room at Rambuttree. This place was awesome!
small map and he takes it from us and starts driving. He is talking in Thai and we are certain he does not really know. James asks him if he knows where it is. He seems to know the right direction so we keep going.
We are getting closer or so we think and the driver is looking more and more like he has no idea where we are going. So James looks at the map and tells him it is by the zoo. He keeps talking to James in Thai even though James has told him numerous time that he does not understand. James learned some Thai before we got here and it is helping a lot but it is much easier to tell people what you want, then to understand what they say in response.
The guy finally drops us off as we tell him it is close enough and we will figure it out. We have just passed the zoo so we know we are in the right area. It is apparent we are in an affluent neighbourhood and the walk, though very hot in our long shirts and pants (required when visiting Wat's and
View From Our Room
The View from our room window. There is a mosque right there and you can hear prayers on the loud-speaker three times a day. A lot of kids play in the courtyard below. It is right in the thick of things just off of Khao San Road, a major tourist destination.
important Thai places), is beautiful. we ask directions twice, go the wrong way twice and finally, ages later make it to this large, spawling park-like place. It has museums, the parliment, restaurants, photo-expos and this teak house all in this park. And it is very nice. Although the house itself was cool, I don't know if the length of the journey would have been worth it if it had not actually been such a good chance to wander about in some very nice places. All in all, a good day and a good journey.
Unfortunately, no photos are allowed of the house and they take your shoes and your camera before you are allowed any where near it.
Other than this, we have been shopping and wandering around Bangkok checking out the neighbourhood around Kaoh San and the train station. We have booked our train down to the beach and back already and leave today.
First we will be staying on Ko Pha Ngan and then off to Ko Tao. Everyone keeps talking about the Full Moon Party down there... but I think this is likely not a scene that either of us wishes to take part.
This is our little oasis on the top of our place in Bangkok.
So instead I think there will be a lot of snorkling and things of that nature.
I am now at the train station waiting for the overnight train to the beach. The internet is very slow here and James is writing a novel for you all to read anyway, so I think I will leave it at this.
Hope everyone is well. xoxoxo
Well, well… Where to begin?
Things started off well in Winnipeg when we were told that our checked bags would be transferred straight through to Bangkok. But then…the plane from Winnipeg to Chicago was very, very, small, and quite a bumpy ride. I thought that Lindsay was going to throw-up her breakfast all over me - she had that green faced / sweaty upper-lipped look about her (and she told me she was going to throw-up). I think that she’d had enough travel by the time we landed in Chi-town, but there was still 30 hours to go. We had some fun however ordering a McDick’s breakfast and receiving abrupt yet disinterested service. It was also fun to see the Korean and Japanese stewardesses moving through the international wing of O’Hare.
Chatachak Weekend Market
It was miles and miles of this... inside, outside... Clothes, jewelery, shoes, food, electronics, furniture and nicknacks. You name it, it was there.
Compared to the dowdy, schoolmarm-ish stewardesses of United Airlines, who have you wondering if perhaps there’s to be a Sunday school class on your flight, these ladies look positively prepared for a 1965 fashion runway…and they travel in packs. It’s like watching the female cast of an Asian remake of Catch Me if You Can boarding your plane. Nevermind Job and Luke, these girls looked ready to teach you the Mashed-Potato.
We got lucky on our 13 hour flight from Chicago to Tokyo. We were seated in a row of three on the upper deck of the 747 and shortly before take-off the man in the aisle seat was moved, leaving us a spare seat. Furthermore, if you get a window seat on the upper-deck of a 747-400, there’s an additional little storage department between you and the window for your carry-on, that doubles as a nice little shelf when it’s closed. We had fun whiling away the hours playing travel-scrabble and watching our private seat mounted tv’s as the rugged Yukon and Alaskan topography passed beneath us on the plane’s video camera. I also went through some of my old Thai lessons on the ipod to refresh my
Lunch at The Market
Lunch place at Chatachak Market. One of MANY places you could choose from.
Narita airport was largely under construction, which made finding a restaurant a bit of a challenge. But once we did we enjoyed a fine Japanese meal of spaghetti Bolognese and beef curry. And, as always in Japan, there was good shoe watching. Damn those Japanese kids got great shoes! Why are Japanese made Casio watches more expensive in Japan than they are in Canada? (Damn, I miscalculated there!)
We were less fortunate on our flight from Tokyo to Bangkok. The plane was packed and we were on the main level. With another body next to us and our carry-ons beneath our feet, this 7 hour flight was cramped. On the bright side, as we’d already been traveling for more than 24 hours on an hour and a half of sleep, we were zonked and slept through most of it. I was so tired when my food came that I could not physically keep my eyes open long enough to even remove the plastic covers off of the little food trays. I felt like I’d been drugged. When I awoke with only two hours left in the flight my food was gone - probably for the better.
Wat Phra Kaew
Some detail of Demons holding up temple roof.
The woman seated next to us was Quebecois and I told her what a bunch of dinks the Montreal film crew I’d just worked with were. No, just kidding - she gave us some great tips for our Halong Bay tour in Vietnam and some other general Laos advice as well.
In the end we couldn’t have landed too soon. Lindsay had that look in her eyes… like another minute aloft might turn her into some feral air-traveler, or perhaps she might melt like the Wicked Witch.
The new Bangkok airport was a pleasant surprise (I’m not even going to attempt spelling its name). After reading so much about the problems that occurred in its construction, the delays, etc., I was prepared for the worst. It seems however that the problems were not related to its conception and design. A very open, well laid-out and easy to navigate airport. Once we figured out that the metered taxis were to be fetched one floor down (the hawkers outside the international baggage pick-up charge an arm and a leg), it was time for me to try out my Thai! Oh, what a good laugh was had by all!!! But, in the
Wat Phra Kaew
A wider shot of the Wat. This place is huge and spawling. It is impossible to give any real perspective of it's size in a couple photos
end, we got metered taxi ride into Bangkok from the airport, which is often a feat unto itself.
It was 2am Bangkok time by the time we got to New Siam II; our first guesthouse. Within minutes of being in our room, Lindsay met a cockroach in the bathroom while trying to have a long-awaited pee. I think that this may have colored the New Siam II experience negatively for her. Having stayed in hot, windowless hovels my last time in Bangkok however, I felt the room to be a virtual paradise! AC! Window! Our own bathroom and shower with Western-style toilet! TV! Only one cockroach! With the flying, chattering bastard dead, it was time for sleep.
Our first order of business Friday morning was to checked out of New Siam II and into Rambuttri Villlage Inn. After a slight walkabout due to my suspect navigational skills we found our place and were quite pleasantly surprised. Cheaper and cleaner than New Siam II, and a pool on the roof! After a day of touring Bangkok, when your clothes feel glued to your skin with layer of grease, a quick dip in the pool is luxury to kill for.
James at Wat Phra Kaew
James with camera at the ready at Wat Phra Kaew.
Our first couple of days in Bangkok before boarding the night-train south consisted of lots of shopping, and some prime sight-seeing. Friday after our guesthouse switch we headed down to the train station to book our tickets for Monday night's departure south. We were somewhat dismayed to find out that all of the aircon sleeper berths ad already been booked. A pair of upper-sleeper berths on a fan cooled car was the best we could do. Next off we decided to cool off at the mega MBK shopping centre. MBK is a giant mall of non brand name shops. It's basically six floors of kiosks and it has to be at least block long... Maybe more. I was eager to find the 1950's Jack Purcell Badminton shoes that I new were everywhere in Thailand, but unavailable in Canada. And not only did they have them, but in limited edition artist versions! Yay! No, wait... They don't make them any bigger than a size ten! Bad luck. No new Jack Purcell's for me. Lindsay and I had fun looking for a place to eat in the mall. Finally we decided on a Pizza Hut clone called, Pizza House. We were
Religious Devotion at Wat Phra Kaew
People praying at a shrine at the Wat.
especially enchanted by the stuffed crust picture posters outside the restaurant - these crusts aren't stuffed with cheese... they're stuffed with weiner!!! Mmmm, that weiner stuffed crust!
Saturday we hit the massive Chatuchak weekend market. I don't even know how to begin describing how big this place is. As the skytrain approached the stop for the market you have a split second aerial glimpse of just how vast the thing is. All the tourists gasped. You accept right then and there that you're not going to see this whole thing in one day.
Lindsay, though hating the seriously cramped and crowded and incredibly hot vibe, scored well with numerous dresses and skirts. The best score was a little shop we found selling homemade t-shirts with really great designs. We bought four each and they came to about $40 Canadian in total. Just outside this shop we came across a young Thai girl in Pink who'd set-up her own little Karaoke performance space and was belting out some sort of Thai pop with full-on Britney Spears moves. Lindsay got a good movie of it on her camera.
The following day we hit Wat Phra Kaew and the ajoined
Reconstruction at Wat Phra Kaew
Some portions of the buildings and grounds are under construction. Here they are repainting portions of the murals ravaged by time.
Grand Palace. The detail in decoration of each temple is amazing. Many of the massive buildings are completely tiled in little one centimeter square pieces of coloured mirror. There must be millions of millions of them, and the time it must have taken to place them all is...well...the kind of think you need slaves for...or monks I guess - they have a lot of time on their hands. The highlight at the Wat was watching young Thai artists restoring the intricate wall detail. They do this by a combination of painting and carefully placing gold-leaf.
Sunday night we decided to seek-out some seriously authentic Thai food. After a lovely stroll along the banks of the Chao Phraya river trying to find a restaurant that seemingly no longer existed, we found a place was full of Thai people and no tourists. Upon entering however, we were met with the overwhelming aroma of moth balls! Nothing entices the gustatory senses like the smell of old people's closets. Ordering was guess work and ultimately I believe we guessed poorly. The food wasn't horrible, it just wasn't that interesting. It was really bland. All around us though, the food ordered by the Thai
Lindsay at Wat Phra Kaew
In front of the gold stupa. The whole thing is made of these small tiles pasted side by side.
people looked great. Hopefully we'll have better luck next time.
Before our Monday evening departure at the train station we finally found out why half of Thailand were wearing yellow polo shirts. Turns out it's the King's 80th birthday! They really love their king. Well, the train ride south and our island paradise will have to wait for the next blog entry. Bye for now.
There are more photos below