Published: September 30th 2008September 30th 2008
So, we caught a boat off of Ko Tao to Chumpon (Dad - I think I told you we had to go back down to Surat Thani. I was wrong.) We arrived at the mainland and went to the train station. We had booked a sleeper train up to Bangkok. It wasn't due until 10pm and it was only 6pm, so we went for some food and beers (as it happens, it didn't arrive until 1.30pm by which time we were cross, tired and slightly drunk (and in my case, bitten right up by one million mozzies as I had left the deet in my backpack which was in storage at the station)).
The sleeper train was cool, however. You get a little bunk with a curtain (top bunks for both of us) which, surprisingly, were long enough for big Westerners like myself. Eye mask essential though as they don't turn the overhead (i.e. right in your eyes) lights off! The rocking of the train sends you right to sleep.
Arriving in Bangkok was not as horrendous as it could have been. We got a metred taxi OK, knew where we were going and got there fine. We were staying off
the (in)famous Khao San Road and were mighty pleased with the room rate of 350b (divide bhat by 60 to get pounds).
We actually loved Bangkok which was a pleasant surprise for us because we have never really likes a big city before. Sure, you get hassled all the time but not aggressively so and it's fine if you let it roll off your back. We were constantly being offered tuk-tuks to go and see Ping-Pong shows, which, if you don't know what they are, we're not going to tell you. Safe to say it's to do with the seedier side of Bangkok. They mostly know how to take no for an answer, you just have to say it all the time as you walk down the street. Mike got it way worse than me, they seem to always ask the guy. Plus, the Suit taylors wouldn't leave him alone. Obviously looks like a scruff.
The atmosphere on Khao San Road was great. It was lined with market stalls mostly selling clothes of the kind you dont get in the UK. At night it took on a carnival atmosphere with makeshift bars setting up (which would hide from the
police when they did their midnight rounds!). One night we met a couple Australian women and spent the evening with them. We didn't get home until 5am. Hard-core.
We also did proper sight-seeing, not just hanging round Khao San! We went to The Grand Palace, which was ace - well better than we expected. Whe haad to think twice about the 300b entry fee, but it was really cool inside. It was indeed both grand and palacial. Gold everywhere, everything was shiny. We also saw the emerald buddha (who is actually made of Jade) but is a proper sacred whatnot in these parts.
After the grand palace we went to see the Reclining Buddha who is also very large and golden. The building he is in is small and crowded, so getting a good photo is difficult. But it was worth a look.
The other thing we did was a day trip with our Australian friends. They took us to a floating market, to Kanchanaburi (Bridge over the River Kwai) and to the Tiger Temple, where there are tame tigers you can stroke. All that sounds really cool, but really it was very rushed and a bit
of a let down. We nearly missed the brigge alltogether because when we stopped at the (crappy) museum, we didn;t realise that was also our time to go to the bridge. We had to talk the driver into taking us back at the end of the day.
The floating market almost exclusively sold tourist tat. The tigers were...well. We arrived with 1 hour to spend there. We egged it to 'Tiger Canyon'. The tigers were lying down in a fenced off area, chained to the ground. You queued up and a guided took you by the hand and led you round each of the tigers while another guide took your photo. Very weird. We have more photos than memories. The tigers were very dopey, but suspicious. Just as we'd finished being led around it was time for the tigers to be taken back to their cages and we had to wait behind them while they led them out. Some really didn;t want to get up and the keepers were pulling their tails trying to make them stand up but they just kept sitting down again. Very morally dubious...
Anyways, Bangkok was ace, we spent 5 nights there then caught
a train to Lop Buri to see the monkeys!
There are more photos below