Published: November 2nd 2005October 31st 2005
Tuk Tuks on a 'Soi' near our hotel.
Tuk Tuk means 'Cheap cheap' but note that this is not always a literal translation!!!
Once we'd decided to head back to Bangkok, we quickly made some arrangements for onward bus & catamaran travel, booked a nice hotel, and left the next morning. Typically, the weather was sunny as we left Ko Tao (however, I've checked blogs since and it started right back up again the next day). The journey North was a bit more eventful. I was quite ill on the crossing back to Chumphon. The captain of the boat was obviously in a hurry to make up time ,as the catamaran left half an hour late, and his enthusiasm knew no bounds - much to my green gilled dismay! The roads back to Bangkok were also waterlogged most of the way - the water levels hitting above the wheels of the bus as we drove through some parts. The Thai folks that we saw out the windows of the bus seemed to be highly entertained by the new rivers flowing past their houses and shops - and were out having fun and hi-jinx in the wet - splashing each other and having a carry on. Bizarre. On the bus (which is really quite comfy, with mega reclining seats and good air con) we watched
Bangkok skyline from the top of the Baiyoke Sky Tower
Its massive, isn't it. And thats just one direction - the city stretches out in similar proportions every way you look from this view point.
4 movies, which was entertaining ( Miss Congeniality 2, XXX-2, Shade and The Recruit - we hadn't seen any of them yet, so that was grand) and fairly essential due to the time it was taking to make our way across the country. We arrived back in Bangkok about 2.5 hours later than we should have, about 10:30pm. We took a taxi straight to our hotel - the Baiyoke Sky Tower and were pleasantly surprised with the excellent service, the huge proportions of our room (a suite no less!), and most of all, the fabulous panoramic view from our window on the 48th floor! The hotel has a pool on the 20th floor, a lovely spa and massage area, and a fully equipped (and quiet) gym.
The Baiyoke Sky Tower is the tallest building in Thailand - with 84 floors. It's a popular tourist attraction and has an outdoors Observation Tower on the 84th floor, which is open from 10:30am till 10pm. If you are staying in the hotel, then a trip to the top is free. Breakfast in Baiyoke: Imagine a central square unit with Buffet food on all sides, plus extra tables on the periphery groaning with
all sorts of international goodies. You have Western bacon & eggs type affair (including hash browns, potato wedges, beans and sausages) plus Japanese noodles, pancakes, and rice dishes. Sushi, dumplings, soups and steamed veg are also available. There is a Muslim section too, offering dall, sag aloo, aloo gobi, and lamb curry, plus a variety of different fried and steamed rice dishes. There is also a selection of stews and fish dishes, and a mouthwatering array of fruits, juices, cereals, breads, cakes and pastries. Naturally we couldnt eat it all - but we did have a bloody good go at it. The problem with a buffet of this type, is that its difficult to know where to start, and then you want to try as many things as possible. The best thing is that you hardly need to have anything for the rest of the day - mainly water and juice to keep you hydrated.
We did a bit more sightseeing in Bangkok and had a really good time. It really is such a massive place and there is so much to do. In the evenings, we've been trying to take things a bit easier, and avoid the bars
whenever we can - this is mainly because we need a break from booze, after the excess of the three weeks in Scotland right before we left - so we've been doing things like going to the cinema and checking out the malls. Cinema in Bangkok: It's Brilliant. We found out that all the films are shown in their correct language, no dubbing, just Thai sub titles. Great! Two tickets for Wallace and Grommit Curse of Were Rabbit (which was dead funny) cost about 3 pounds. You are allocated seats, and unlike the cinema parks at home, the theatre really fills up. The seats are AMAZING. Big lazy boy numbers with loads of leg room and springy backs. You can take your KFC (or whatever) in with you - we didnt! There is a really wacko thing however...... Right before the main feature, a short film cranks up, and all the audience get out their seats and stand in respectful poses, arms behind backs, heads slightly bowed etc, as a promotional video about the King is shown. Apparently there are a variety of these clips that are shown on rotation, but the one that we witnessed was ultra cheesy. It
Baiyoke Sky Hotel
...where we were staying in Bangkok second time round.
was basically shots of rural Thailand, in the rain (funnily enough) with stills of the King visiting villages / doing good deeds etc, shown within big soft focus raindrops falling down the screen. Alan and I were nudging each other and nearly got the giggles, as we just couldnt imagine this at home in the UK - no-one would bat an eye. The thing is though, that in Thailand, the Royal family are highly revered. Everywhere you go, there are big billboards of King Bhumibol and his good lady wife, sometimes in elaborate monster sized gilt frames up the size of the road. As I say, you wouldn't get it at home. Apparently he does a good job for the country though, and it would appear that he is utterly loved by his nation. Small point of interest as an aside - one of the best seling books ever in Thailand, is a book about the life story of the king's dog. (?!)
Something we like to do when we are in a foreign country is go to the supermarket. Its amazing what you can pick up about the local culture by scouting the shelves for the typical popular
Taken from the pool side - on the 20th floor.
sales items. For example - in Bangkok, the aisles that have the most variations of same type products are the cup noodles, and the soy and fish sauces. Now this might not come as much of a surprise to you, however there are some things that I wold never have expected to see in a month of Sundays. Big example of this is 'Monk Buckets'. We were strolling round, picking up random items, when we chanced upon a corner of the store filled with big orange buckets containing a selection of everyday items such as toothpaste, soap, matches, noodles, sauces, bleach, diluting juices, candles - and lots more. I thought that they were maybe house starter packs, like you get in Ikea (only with plates and cups etc) and thought 'what a great idea'. However, on closer inspection it appeared that the were in fact donation containers for Buddhist Monks. At approx 4 pounds each, they are intended to be purchased and passed to Monks - who don't an income. According to the guide books, about 95% of the nation are Buddhist, and monks are effectively learning volunteers of the Buddhist ways, and at some time or another most young
Afternoon Tea at the Oriental Hotel
It was SO delicious! Look how they wrote AL on my cappucino in cinnamon. Mmmm!
men in Thailand are ordained - even if only for a few days or weeks. The supermarket also sold Monks' robes for about 11 pounds. No surprises - they are all shades of orange. One more thing about the supermarkets - there's a Tesco - proper branded and everything, but we didn't go in - just saw it as we sped past in a tuk tuk one day.
While I'm on the subject of tuk tuks - I must point out that the title of this blog relates to the constant barrage of tuk tuk and taxi drivers that you will encounter in Bangkok on the streets. With the aim of getting you in their vehicle, they will sometimes try to engage you in idle conversation (a trick!), but most often that not they'll breenge right in with the usual 'where are you going, where you going mistah?' You get used to it after a couple of days and learn to politely nod your head and decline while making your fingers do a walking motion - a bit like the yellow pages logo.
One of the most amazing things that we did while we were back in BKK
was have afternoon tea at the famous, and super luxurious Oriental Hotel - renowned for its historical links, having been set up by the guy who founded Raffles (Singapore). Over the years, the hotel has grown in size substantially, but there's an old part of the building which has been there since it was built around late 1800's. This is known as the Author's Lounge - and that's where we had our spiffing, ever so grown up, tea. The Author's Lounge has a large Salon ( big conservatory area with oodles of lush ferns and towering pot plants) for reading, and taking tea, and luxury apartments located up a double carpeted stairway opposite the entrance. The lounge gained it's name from the memory of many renowned authors who have stayed in the apartments at some time or another - names quoted include; Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad, and of all people, Babs Cartland!!! Check the photo of the tea we had, which consisted of a fine selection of delectible sannies, and some magic cakes and scones (incl clotted cream and 3 kinds of jam). The Oriental is one of the most expensive hotels in Bangkok at around 100 pounds a night
Shaz and the lady river vendor
Am I smiling.... or grimacing?
per room, however the combination of stunning suroundings, impeccable service, and great location directly on the riverside, would make it the perfect location to stay during a special trip like an anniversary or honeymoon.
After our excellent afternoon basking in the glory of ace brill fabby magico TEAeeeeeee... we decided to continue the vibe and hire our very own long boat on the Chao Phraya river to take us on a tour. This is not as posh as I'm making out - in fact its quite a common thing to do while here, and gives you the opportunity to see parts of the city that you otherwise would definately not come across (unless you knew some locals who had a boat, perhaps). The boat hire cost us about 12 pounds - we reckon you could probably get it for about 8 pounds if you could be bothered doing some serious haggling - but we were blissed out after our earlier nectar and ambrosia dining experience, and decided that 12 quid would not break the bank. The tour was supposed to last for about an hour and a half, but the locks into the canals were closed off for a
short time and we had to wait a bit, therefore the while experience lasted for around 2 hours instead. We can thoroughly recommend doing this trip if you find yourself in Bangkok - its definitely worth the time, money and effort. It was late afternoon when we reached the canals, however the sun was still pretty strong. Quite a number of folks on the canal banks or in boats were having a sleep, and some were cooling off with a dip in the murky lurky water. Doesn't bear thinking about the amount of germs you'd find in there, however the young kids splashing around seemed to be having a ball, and their immune systems must be up for the challenge. We saw quite a number of locals indulging in a spot of fishing too, and we entertained ourselves imagining what kind of underwater monsters they might be likely to catch! We really enjoyed taking lots of photos of river / canal people, and some of them turned out pretty good despite the shaky shake of the boat manoevering along the channels. We've got a camera each now so we're not fighting over the usage any more!!
All too soon
it was time to move on again. We had booked a flight to Kuala Lumpur for Saturday 29th Oct - and that's where we are now. Its a week-long public holiday here - first Deepavali Hindu festival for three days, then its the Muslim festival of Aidilfitri (known locally as Hari Raya) - but we'll write about that next time.
Finally - I must give you the rules of Switch - which I said I'd do a few blogs back. Its our ongoing, year long card tournament (that I'm sorry to say Alan is winning at the moment with a score of 26 to my paltry 23) which we started the day we left at Edinburgh airport. The aim of the game is to get rid of all your cards first. Taking turns dealing, each player receives 7 cards, and an extra card is then turned from the deck face up - this dictates the suit to be played. The remainder of the deck are kept face down and used as 'pick ins'. A number of the cards have rules associated with them which dicate the pay and these are as follows it sounds complicated but it isnt really
and is a good laugh as you can be quite evil with it:
Ace = this card can be played on top of any other card (except a two or a king) and can change the suit as dictated by the person who plays it.
Two = this card forces your opponent to either play another two on top of it, or pick up two cards. If you can respond by playing a two, then this means that your opponent must pick up four, or play another two - up to max of eight cards for the play of all four 'twos''.
Seven = if you play a seven, it means that you can play all the cards you have in your hand of that same suit.
Eight = Other player misses a turn, unless they can play an eight.
Jack = reverses order of play back to yourself again, unless your opponent can play a Jack on top of it.
King = the most evil of all cards - if you play a King, then (in similar fashion to the 'twos') your opponent must play a King on top, or pick up 5 cards to their hand. Worst case
scenario is that you pay a King and find yourself picking up 20 cards - which is a nightmare!
If you can't play a card then you need to pick up one card.
If you get down to your last card, then you need to announce 'last card' otherwise you need to pick up one card.
Thats it - simple as that!
OK - I'm off - this blog has reached mammoth proportions and its time for my bed.
There are more photos below