Harrison on the River BusSaturday, June 26,2010
A great way of traveling up and down river
The big day is finally upon me, and while I was arranging the itinerary for OE 2010, it all seemed so far away and so doable. Now, it is time to leave and I am feeling less certain about being away from home for so long. I am meeting up with our son Harrison (from now he will be referred to as H) in Auckland and then we're off to Sydney and Bangkok, before traveling to London.
I'm normally very lucky when it comes to getting exit rows, which I achieve for the hop across the ditch, however Sydney - Bangkok we are in normal seating and I have a fairly miserable 10 hours, finally arriving around 23:00. Anyway, Thailand immigration is a breeze and we get a taxi to our hotel. The Indra Regent is in downtown Bangkok and surrounded by street markets. Sunday, June 27, 2010
We have both had a very good sleep and after breakfast it's a quick walk around the block before heading to the "Weekend Market". This is the largest open air market in Asia and is worthy of a look. And we're there before the throngs of
people, however this is not conducive to bargaining and stall holders have whole day to sell their wares. Still, this is a good induction for H and we take a good look around before stopping for a beer. Enough of the market and time to go see a couple of temples; we catch a tuktuk and head for the nearest river-bus station. As we wait I notice someone at one of the restaurants throwing bags of meal into the brown river for the waiting catfish. Mental note to self, do not have fish meals.
After disembarking from the river boat we make a beeline for the temples, Emerald Buddha and Reclining Buddha. We are accosted by someone with the “Where are you From”, “New Zealand”, “Auckland or Wellington?” and so on, we are then told that these temples are closed between 11.30 and 2.30, but you can see “Lucky Buddha Temple”. This sounds OK, so we board a tuktuk and head to the “Lucky Buddha” where we are softened up by other lurkers that speak English and engage you in conversation about sapphires and how mining for sapphires is ceasing. All lies, but it's easy to fall for these
O' Lucky Buddha
Not where we initially wanted to go and definitely a haunt of the lurkers.
tricks on the first day. Anyway, we are taken to the jeweler, who is selling sapphires, the tailor, who is selling suits and shirts. All this is done so that the tuktuk driver can get gasoline coupons. We have had enough and just want to go back to the hotel. Which we finally manage for another 150 baht. Monday, 28 June 2010
European breakfast at the hotel gives us confidence to head out and start bargaining with the tuktuk drivers. “Cheap price, we make one stop on the way at silk factory”, absolutely not....... New higher price negotiated and we are off to to Reclining Buddha Temple. The driver wants rid of us and we are dropped about 200 meters from the temple. The lurkers immediately arrive with their false propaganda and start engaging us in conversation, we recognize the lines such as “not open until afternoon”, H is having none of it and refuses to talk to them, I politely respond and keep heading towards the temple. Of course, it is open and the conversation is meant to build trust and take you to another bloody gem factory. Today, we're focused and keep on regardless. Joy, we
Trip on the Khlongs
The engine is a car engine, straight six with a long shaft.
arrive at the main gate of the temple, Wat Pho, pay our 50 baht and enter a world of gold paint, Buddhas, and few tourists, as it is still relatively early. H is impressed, as am I (I had been in Bangkok around 35 years ago, but the years had dimmed my memory), yes this is what we are here for and the final highlight is the impressive Reclining Buddha. Click, click, click and by this time there are busloads of tourists arriving for this gold icon. The Reclining Buddha is forty-six meters long and fifteen meters high, decorated with gold plating on the body and mother of pearl on the eyes and the soles of the feet.
The sweat is dripping off of us, so we leave the Reclining Buddha Temple and head to a nearby cafe for a soft drink. Now, on to the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Here come the lurkers, this time in garb that has “guide” imprinted on their shirts. As we arrive at the main entrance they are still telling us that the Grand Palace is closed, and you can see tourists entering. We join the ticket queue, pay
our 350 baht entrance fees and step into another world. Hopefully, the pictures do it some kind of justice.
Wat Phra Kaew is the name of the complex and is bounded by a wall that runs for about 2 kilometers . Gold, gold and more gold, I think the Thai's must have cornered the gold-paint market. Very impressive and tourists abound, well worth running the gauntlet of lurkers.
After the Grand Palace we again board the river bus and disembark at the starting point for the rail system. Air conditioned carriages, what joy. We hop off at a large shopping complex, look around and head back to the hotel.
Tonight is our foray into the PatPong district of Bangkok. This caters purely to foreign tourists and is the heart of the Thai Sex Industry. We are just going for a look-see, but along the way are duped into entering for a “Free Show”. One beer and ten minutes is all it takes before we get up to leave. Our two 80 baht beers suddenly turn into a bill for 3400 Baht, the door is barred and a whirling dervish of a woman screams obscenities at us. I finally
Venice of the East
I don't think so!!
manage to pull the door open, throw 200 baht at the proprietor and we head down-stairs followed by a stream of expletives. In retrospect, we were lucky to get out in one piece. H is scarred for life and we immediately find a sports bar to watch the Netherlands vs Slovakia football game and drink real 80 baht beers. H sits at the bar playing connect-4 with a young hooker and loses.....
Back to the hotel for a well deserved nights sleep. Tuesday, 29 June. 2010
Today we are off to the snake farm in the middle of Bangkok and while it is quite informative, it certainly isn't the same experience as 35 years ago. Everything has become sanitized and safe, 35 years ago we all stood around a wooden waist-high palisade watching them milk snakes; today everything is done behind perspex glass.
Time for some last minute shopping and a swim before heading to the airport. Oops, an urgent message has been pushed under our hotel room door from Caroline. It seems that we should have been in London by now and not still in Bangkok. Stress!!, the thought of having to pay for
new tickets descends on me like a thick fog, doom and gloom, how could I have screwed up so badly? Anyway, I decide to play it stupid when we arrive at the airport and act old and confused. H thinks that I am old and confused and am not acting, he gives me a good ribbing. It costs approximately US $200 to get new tickets issued, fortunately this is far less than I was expecting, unfortunately we don't get to sit together on the flight to London, but hey, at least we are on the plane...
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