After ten days of un-winding and adventuring Ko Lanta we decided it was time to move on and catch up with our original plan of journeying to Cambodia and beyond. We booked ourselves onto a government licensed bus headed for Bangkok. We paid a little bit more then the ‘Farang only’ buses that run; 920 baht ($28 cnd) each instead of 700 baht ($21 cnd) bought us peace of mind that our stuff was safe (there are numerous rumours of theft on the ‘Farang only’ buses), dinner, and a comfortable bus ride to the southern bus station in Bangkok. We left at noon on a minibus and were dropped off on the side of the road just south of Krabi town and told to go across the road and wait for the big bus to pick us up. Two hours later we were loaded on with front row seats and a massive window in front of us, we stopped a few time over the next three hours picking up Thais from other tourist agencies in some smaller towns, and wound up being the only non-Thais on the bus. Dinner was half-decent, Thai food at a rest stop around 9pm before heading
straight for Bangkok. We arrived at the bus station just after the curfew ended at 4am and caught an over-priced cab to Khao San road where we checked into New Joe guesthouse.
Our plan for Bangkok was to be there for only one day to pick up and mail home some extras we had picked up along the way before heading into Trat to take the southern border crossing into Sihanoukville via the boat at Hat Lek. After checking with some travel agents we found out that the boat isn’t operational right now because of low season, this gave us two extra days in Thailand before our visa’s expired and we figured we could use one of those to see some surrounding sights. After picking up the much awaited Polly the Travel Frog (http://www.pollythetravelfrog.com) from the post office we packed up our bag to mail home and had some tasty pad thai before heading to bed.
The next day we had ourselves booked onto a tour going to the floating market an hour and a half outside of Bangkok. I’ve been hoping to be able to see this since the first time I landed in
Bangkok 4 years ago and was very excited. We were not disappointed, it was a bit overboard with the amount of tourist stuff you could buy, a lot of it being the same stuff you see everywhere in Thailand (picture frames, trinkets shaped like Buddha and elephants, wind-chimes, etc) the best part was definitely going through the food boats in the market, full of locals doing shopping for their daily wares and woman in strange hats yelling out “Fried Banana Banana”, it was an amazing sight. After the floating market we were taken on a speed boat through the village on the river which was interesting to see. The locals were living in houses set along the small river, with garages for boats and little front entrance ways consisting of steps up from the water’s edge.
After floating through the local village we were given the change to pay 200 baht ($6) each to see a snake show, with the highlight being a man ‘fighting’ with three snakes. I was torn between amazement and disgusted as we watched the Thai snake charmers kiss massive king cobras, throw two vicious cobras into a tank with a mongoose, one
man keep the attention of 3 poisonous black snakes before catching them all (one with his teeth), another man fight a 20 foot python, and the last ‘dance’ with a jumping snake. It was a bit nerve racking sitting in the front row with nothing between us and the snakes but a two foot wall and a shallow pool of water.
An hour and a half bus ride back to Bangkok and we still had much of the afternoon ahead of us. We managed to mail off a package home (10 kg, 3 months, 2100 baht or $65 cnd) get some shopping done and I got a new bamboo tattoo!! We then went on a mission to try and trade in some of the books we’ve read and acquire new ones (but less in numbers, we’ve been packing around something like 20 books for the past two months. It adds up in weight). On the way back from an un-successful trade venture we walked into a very crowded area with the streets sectioned off by military and police. My first thought was something to do with the recent protests was heating up again, like most curious people
we continued on for another few feet when we realized that there was a limo, about 20 very nice cars behind it, and what looked like an official escort outside one of the Wats. We had completely forgot that it was a Buddhist holiday (Buddha day, or Visakah Puja) and realized it must be someone of importance inside the temple. After a few minutes of trying to work our way through the crowd an entourage started exiting the temple and we stopped to see if it was anyone we would recognize... maybe one of the royal family? Sure enough, after many people all dressed either very nicely or a military official walked out of the Wat, the one and only Queen of Thailand exited. It was amazing being a mere 30 feet away from one of the most loved people (besides the King) in Thailand, in a group of Thais. They were all so happy to just see her, waving and cheering as she smiled and waved back. She spent about two minutes outside of her limo giving everyone the well-known Thai smile before getting in her limo and driving off.
Now a quick bit about the
King and Queen of Thailand. Everyone here LOVES the King and Queen. That’s one of the first rules you learn coming into the country, they love their King and Queen, and any sign of disrespect towards them is taken personally. They feel that they have both done a lot for the country, and show their respect towards them in their daily lives; from playing the national anthem (which I’m told is all about how they love the King and Queen and everything they’ve done for the Thai people) at the beginning of movies, and the opening of a new day at the market to having their pictures posted just about everywhere (billboards to little framed photos in shops).
Being in a crowd of Thais in the presence of their Queen was an amazing feeling. You could feel that they were all so happy just to have two minutes of time spent near her. It was infectious and we both felt the same joy as the Thais and joined in waving her a hello. Of course, one of the best chances to get an amazing photo and we left the camera in the room. Both of them. (New
rule, ALWAYS bring a camera with us, you never know what you’re going to see).
So a day completed we headed back and packed up for our trip into Cambodia. We have some apprehensions about the trip as last time I was here I did this trip and had an interesting experience full of broken done buses with no air-con or windows and dirty dusty roads in Cambodia. We have heard that in the past year things have changed and it’s getting better, but are still a little nervous about what tomorrow will bring. Either way we’re sure it’s going to be an interesting day and are both looking forward to our month in Cambodia.
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