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Published: April 9th 2009
Ultimate Destination: Bangkok Thursday 9th April 2009
We have arrived at our last destination on this “Grand Tour”; the eastern “City of Angels”, Bangkok. Just seven months ago we were in the western “City of Angels”, Los Angeles. How time flies! In some ways, however, time has passed at a leisurely pace since we left home last August. We have done and seen so much, it has been such a rich and full experience, that it seems a long time ago that we set off on our travels. We spent yesterday travelling, thirteen hours on the slow train from Chiang Mai and arrived at Hua Lamphong, Bangkok’s main railway station at 9 p.m. By 10 p.m. we were safely ensconced in a great little hostel, in a winding little soi just off the Sam Sean Road by Rama 8 Bridge over the Chao Phraya River. It is a great location, a short stroll down to the hustle and bustle of Khao San Road, yet in a typical local community (with plenty of cheap street food)! We’ve checked in for all of the five nights that we have in Bangkok before our flight to Heathrow next Tuesday morning.
A room with a view!
View of Wat Mai Amatarot from our bedroom
after a great free buffet breakfast (help yourself then do your washing up afterwards), we set out early (to avoid the heat) to re-familiarise ourselves with the city. We walked down to Khao San, where many stalls were only just setting up, then on past the Grand Palace to Wat Po. Wat Po is a beautiful wat, home to the huge golden reclining Buddha and to Thailand’s oldest and most famous massage school. This is where our daughter-in-law, Mam, trained as a Thai masseuse. I didn’t get a massage today at Wat Po, but may well do so before I leave, or, if time is short I’ll just wait until I get home to Spain. I had a foot massage in Chiang Mai last week. It was OK but not as good as I get at home from Mam!
After visiting Wat Po we headed on through the markets down to the river to catch the river bus back up to Phra Atthit and in to Khao San once more for lunch. We got back to the hostel just before the heavens opened. The rain thundered down in torrents for about fifteen minutes and now the sun is shining
Our local Klong
Klong Bang Lamphu
fiercely again; it is 5 p.m. and still well over 30 degrees outside. It is hot and also a lot more humid than Chiang Mai in the north. Now it is time to chill out in the air con!
We came to Bangkok mainly for shopping, having seen most of the city’s landmarks in the past. It was a disappointment, therefore, to discover that prices in Khao San are much higher than in Chiang Mai. We cursed ourselves when we saw the same things at a much higher price, that we didn’t buy before, saying “Let’s wait until we get to Bangkok to save carrying too much stuff around“, Maybe it is just Khao San, which caters almost exclusively for the foreign tourist. Hopefully tomorrow, when we are heading for Siam Square, which is THE shopping hub of Bangkok, we’ll find the expected bargain prices that Bangkok is famous for. Hope so! If not, the cheap large holdall that we purchased in Chiang Mai in preparation for a Bangkok shopping spree will go home empty! I saw clothes this morning that I know I can get cheaper in Spanish markets.
It is, however, great to be back in
Bangkok. It is a noisy, chaotic crazy city; polluted with too much traffic, criss-crossed by stinky klongs (canals) and the electricity cables which hang in great sagging garlands across all the roads are undoubtedly hazardous. Bangkok is the ultimate urban jungle, too hot, too humid, fetid, gaudy and brash. You either love it or you hate it, but most people seem to love it. It is the backpackers Mecca. There are more travellers here than anywhere else that we‘ve been, either heading elsewhere or on their way back from elsewhere. Bangkok is the hub of South East Asia. The tour touts compete fiercely over trips to neighbouring countries like Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia or Myanmar, complete with visas, as well as to all domestic locations and they do a good trade. As a result, on our travels, we have met many people who have used Bangkok as their base to visit other Asian countries, returning several times to Bangkok, like a home-in-transit. All of this coming and going and passing through, mixed with the natural local colour of Thai society is a heady mixture. It really is like nowhere else!
Right now, people are preparing for Songkran, the mad water
festival where everyone throws water at everyone else. It is a much bigger festival in the north, but we couldn’t stay in Chiang Mai for Songkran because it doesn’t start there until 13th April, and our flight to the UK (from Bangkok) is that night, well, in the early hours of 14th. Here in Bangkok, it starts on 12th (Easter Sunday back in Europe) so we’ll head down to Khao San for a soaking! The banners and bunting are being hoisted across the streets in preparation. Should be fun!
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