Published: November 27th 2008October 30th 2008
A second look at Bangkok
We bid a temporary farewell to Chiang Mai with a promise to ourselves that we would return to this magical city. We board the magic bus that will take us 9 hours to return to Bangkok. As we have previously stated in other posts, we have no particular rhyme or reason to our travel plans. Our intent was to return to Bangkok so we could make our way to the southern islands of Thailand. As you will soon find out, we changed these plans.
Upon arrival in Bangkok, we are dropped off at the Northern Bus terminal. Wow what an experience. We get off the bus and we are surrounded by taxi drivers waiting to take us for a ride. Even the attendant on the bus tries to steer us to a one of the vultures. We had read about this game ahead of time and were prepared for it. Our mission was to find the Red Number 3 bus to take us back to the Khao San Road area. Although I refer to this area as the Khao San Road area, it is officially called the Banglamphu area.
As we were sitting
Rambuttri Village Inn
collecting our thoughts we heard the overhead announcements warning people about taking unofficial taxi rides. They even mentioned safety and security—great words of wisdom to live by. Lynne waits with the bags while I scope out where the local buses pick up passengers. After finding where we needed to go, we walk to the local terminal and catch the bus. I’m not really sure why, but everyone on the bus that evening rode for free. There may not be any free lunch out here on the road, but we did find a free ride.
The bus attendant gave us the signal as we approached our stop and we mounted up with our packs. The bus dropped us right at the street we need to be. We arrived in Bangkok with no reservations for accommodations, but we knew from our previous visit that there were plenty of options. During our first visit, we stayed at the Green House guesthouse. This was a budget accommodation and we were looking for a little more comfortable accommodation. The Green House had mattresses that could have been used as torture devices.
We walked down Rambuttri Road to check out a few digs.
Our first option was booked solid. We headed down the street and quickly found space in the Rambuttri Village Inn. The room was extremely clean and the mattress was awesome. The price was a little more than we planned to spend, but the roof top pool was an added bonus. The Rambuttri Village is a rather large complex of rooms which kind of reminded me of some of the large military dorm complexes. The Inn provided no services, but there were plenty of options in the immediate area. Our overall impression of the Rambuttri Village Inn was extremely favorable and we could recommend this place for any future travelers who want to spend a few extra dollars.
Our experience in Bangkok on this visit was completely different from our first visit. We decided to venture out into other parts of the city. Getting around Bangkok by local bus can be extremely challenging because there is no information available that makes much sense. We decided that we would take advantage of the River Taxi service and headed down to the pier. The river taxi is a really cheap way to see some of the sights of the city and get
a great orientation. There are several options available for the express boats. You just need to be aware of the pier you start at and which boats stop at your pier. You can get one of the boats for as cheap as 10 Baht others for up to 20 Baht. I’ll remind you that there is about 34 Baht to a dollar right now. We bought our ticket from the lady on the pier, but you can actually buy a ticket right on the boat. Just be sure to have small change. We enjoyed the ride and rode the boat to the Central Pier. On our first trip, we ventured out on a Sunday and did not realize that the express boat service stops running at 6:30PM. We arrived at back at the pier to see the last boat pulling away. We were miles away from the room and had no idea how we were going to get back to the hotel.
So there we are—stranded on the pier and trying to figure out how to get back. We looked over to the far side of the pier and noticed the dock for the hotel boats. Some of the
high end hotels provide free river shuttles for their guests. As we approached the dock, a boat pulled up and the attendant said “Hilton” and we jumped on. Once the boat pulled away we asked him where the boat went to. He figured out that we were stowaways and helped us out tremendously. He said we could ride the boat to the Hilton for free and catch a taxi from near there. He said it was easier than trying to catch a taxi from elsewhere. We took the free ride and took a taxi back to the hotel. Future travelers should know what time the river taxis stop running so you can catch a ride back without any hassles.
Several days later, we took the river taxi back down to the Central Pier and jumped on the Sky Train to the mega shopping area. While at the Central pier, we stopped to watch some local guys play a very unique game. They were playing some type of foot volleyball with a wicker ball. The net was lower than a normal volleyball net and they were skillfully kicking it back and forth over the net. It was pretty cool to
sit back and watch this game in action. Next, we were off to the shopping areas. We have both been in some big malls in America, but these things were HUGE. One of them had 6 bookstores. We were actually on a mission for some bookstores that sold English books. After heading to the second huge mega mall, we stepped into the largest bookstore we have ever been in. This place had libraries of books on the shelves. Lynne picked up several books to keep herself entertained and I picked up two tutorial books to learn some skills for the future. I’ll be sure to let everyone know these plans when I am prepared to do so. Lynne and I have been discussing the option of me returning to school when we get back. I will be taking advantage of my GI Bill benefits.
After getting such great massages in Chiang Mai, I decided to prowl the Khao San Road area to get another massage. I found a place on a side alley and stepped inside. I was escorted to the room, but it wasn’t really a room. It was partitioned by curtains with a large mat on the
floor. I was instructed to take off my clothes. I knew the routine, so I covered up with the towel provided and laid down. My masseuse can in the cubicle to begin the massage. As she began the massage, she whipped off the towel and my bare bottom was exposed. I began to get a little nervous because I had heard about these places that offered those happy endings. This massage was not discreet like the ones in Chiang Mai. I was extremely nervous and I guess the masseuse knew this. Fortunately, the only happy ending was that I wasn’t propositioned into a happy ending. The massage turned out to be a great massage, but not as good as the Chiang Mai ones.
While in Bangkok, we decided to book a day trip to Kanchanaburi. This is where the infamous Bride over the River Kwai is located. Our visit to the war cemetery was a very somber occasion. Over 15,000 prisoners of war died during the building of the railroad which would link Burma and Siam. Our next stop was the actual Bridge site. The original bride was destroyed, but we did see the second bridge. During this tour,
we were shuffled from bus to bus and there was little organization to these tours. During one of these shuffles, a gentleman from Australia left his camera on another bus. He quickly told the guide who called the other driver. The driver said his camera was not on the bus. That would really suck.
Another part of the trip was to take a train ride over an old wooden rail trestle that was actually part of the death railway. This is was the railway was called that was being built from Cambodia to Burma. Again, this was very disorganized and we had to wait about an hour before our train departed. It was the only train. After a couple of stops, the trained stopped. I mean it literally stopped. We waited for about 30 minutes and the guide said we were getting off the train because the train was broken. We began a walk in the rain and started to head towards the wooden trestles. We kept asking how far we had to walk and she kept saying “not far”. Yep, I’ve heard that before. As we continued to walk, we heard some guy yelling and he was waving his
arms. Guess what folks, the train was fixed and was coming our way. Fortunately, we were not in the middle of the trestles like another group. We walked back towards the train and it stopped. We got on and rode to the next stop and met the busses. Next stop was to have lunch on a floating restaurant on the river. It was much more like a covered barge that served cold food. As with all tours, it was back on the bus for a quick stop at a waterfall. I took some happy snaps at the falls and back on the bus for the ride home. Another bus shuffle and we had our final group to return to Bangkok.
On this tour, we met two great gals from Ireland (Cara and Susan) and chatted on the ride home. We made one final stop on the way home to drop off a couple of folks. I jumped in the back of the van to stretch my legs. When I did so, my new camera slid out of my pocket without me knowing about it. I was the last person out of the van at this final drop of point.
When the van dropped us off near Khao San Road, I still had no idea that I had dropped my camera in the van. While walking to the hotel, I saw a cool gecko on the wall and went to take a picture. Much to my surprise, the camera was not in my pocket. I rushed back to the tour company we booked the trip with. All of these tour companies are only offices that take your money and subcontract to tour operators.
I asked the lady at the tour office to call the driver. She called the tour company and they said that the driver was busy driving back and it would take about 15 minutes for him to check. I explained that I knew that the camera was in the van and that I was the last person in the van. I was concerned that if anyone else got in the van, I would never see the camera again.
So, I patiently waited the 15 minutes and went back to the tour office. She told me that the driver parked the van and went to dinner with his girlfriend. She said he would be back
in two hours. Now it was nearly 7:00 PM and the tour office closed at 8:00 PM. I told her that this was unacceptable and that I was told that the driver would check when he parked the van. She attempted to blow me off and I asked her to call the company back. She said I could call them. I was getting extremely pissed off now. I called the company and the lady on the other end hung up on me. I called back and told her I was going to the police and she hung up again.
I then told the lady at the tour office that I was very upset because I hired them and not the company who provided the transportation. I told her that I was going to the police. Lynne and I walked down to the police office located at the corner of Khao San road and stood in there while 10 cops stood around chatting away. They completely ignored us. Now I was fuming. We walked out the door and I told Lynne we will never see the camera again. As we walked by the tour office, the young lady said “Mr. John,
your camera will be here in 30 minutes. Gee, I thought the driver was out to dinner with his girlfriend for two hours. It’s amazing how the threat of going to the police expedited the prompt return of the camera. We went to a nearby restaurant to grab a bite to eat and cool down a little bit. When we finished, I walked over and retrieved the camera. Boy, was I lucky on that deal. This whole experience really opened my eyes to how many folks really get taken to the cleaners in a situation like this. Fortunately we stuck to our guns and remained firm.
Our remaining time in Bangkok was uneventful.
We decided, due to the fact that our 30 day visa was getting ready to expire, that we would proceed to Hanoi in North Vietnam and work our way south to Ho Chi Min City (Saigon). This would require us to fly to Hanoi. We departed Bangkok on Thursday 30 October.
Stay tuned for our next update from Hanoi.
There are more photos below