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Published: November 15th 2010
(Dave's writing this one as Han isn't as funny)
Sunday 31st October
The day started on a dodgy note when a mix up in the Cathedral cafe in Cristchurch meant that the Manager refused to change a poppy seed muffin for a raisin muffin! Han forced it down and Dave steamed over the lack of customer service ("that would have only cost him 10p to make us happy!"). We made our way to the airport at Christchurch a little early, which confirms the lack of things to do...Christchurch is pretty but quite provincial. Dave's ulcer got a little more inflamed when the jobsworth at security decided to take a lighter from us because it was "dangerous". Now forget the fact that he knew we had 2 other lighters and they were perfectly "legal"...this lighter was dangerous because it had a blue flame! Following a brief but irrelevant argument between Dave and jobbo that Dave was never going to win, the lighter (which was a pressie for our son Ryan) was confiscated and presumably locked in a double lined vault in case it burned the city down...grrr. By the way, even Jobbo couldn't give us a reason as to why
it was dangerous (answers on a postcard, please).
Boarded the plane and had a long, but fantastic flight from Christchurch to Bangkok with Emirates Airline. Dave managed to blag us extra leg room seats, we had 3 meals and our own mini entertainment systems with a choice of games, films, music, etc. However, with all that entertainment, we didn't actually get any sleep and we arrived at 1am slightly jaded. Bangkok airport is huge and as we followed the crowds we came to a sign that said Visa on Arrival. Having diligently checked before we travelled, we were pretty certain that we didn't need a Visa to enter Thailand, so we asked at the Information Desk and were duly informed that we needed to get a Visa on Arrival....bugger. This involved a number of steps:
a) Filling in a form - ok
b) Getting a passport photograph - we had them taken in advance of travelling, but unfortunately Dave's were in his main luggage which you couldn't access until after you'd been through the Visa on Arrival procedures. No problem, there's a photo booth less than 5m away. Fine if you have Thai currency!! Back to information
services to find out that the cash machine is just beyond Immigration...which (you've guessed it)we can't get to until we have gone through the Visa on Arrival procedure. We then found a currency exchange desk, but the girl had gone on her break and wouldn't be back for an hour. A lengthy walk to the opposite end of the terminal did present a second exchange bureau but they wouldn't take credit or debit cards and we didn't have cash. At this stage, we decided to divide resources so Dave went in search of an elusive cash machine on the fourth floor, and I decided to look at the next part of the Visa on Arrival procedure to check that was ok...
c) Provide flight details/tickets to evidence planned exit from Thailand.....
We hadn't yet booked our flight out of Thailand as we were going to do so on line from Bangkok. Back to Information Services where we were informed that we would not be granted a Visa unless we had proof that we had tickets for an exiting flight. The next plan was to find an internet facility to book our flights out of Bangkok. I asked good old
information services if the airport had internet facilities. At this point, she asked where we were from. When I replied the UK, she said " oh sorry, I thougt you said the Ukraine...you don't need a Visa on Arrival for the UK!!!!!"
Aaaagggh. Problem solved, you may think. Meanwhile, however, Dave is still somewhere in the vicinity of the fourth floor trying to find a cash machine (that we now don't need). Reaching the fourth floor involves passing through security. Upon reaching the cash machine, it doesn't supply Thai Baht currency (we are in Thailand, aren't we?). Therefore, Dave withdrew US dollars, woke up the girl in the currency exchange bureau, changed the dollars into Baht, proceeded back through security control to find that his mission had been successful but entirely unnecessary.
By now, it's 3am and we proceeded to the normal Immigration channel 2 hours later than every other UK citizen from our flight. Luckily, our lonely luggage was still waiting in baggage reclaim and we headed to the hotel.
Upon arrival, the hotel was lovely. After reception making several attempts to take a credit card swipe with a faulty machine, they confiscated our passports as
security instead. Not sure we're liking this place so far! Off to bed for a few hours sleep.
Monday 1st November - Thursday 4th November
I'm combining the blog for these 4 days because everything that happens in Bangkok is a complete blur. It is the most manic, frenetic place on earth. Taxis, motorbikes, Tuk-Tuks, pedestrians, mobile street vendors all make up their own traffic rules. In the space of about 3 hours, we had been in a taxi, a tuk-tuk, a water taxi, the MRT and the skytrain in order to get around. The most interesting of those modes of transport was the tuk tuk. It only happened after we'd got a taxi to the Grand Palace and were informed that it was closed until 1pm as it was a religous holiday. A local approached us and started chatting (amazing how many Thai guys are Spurs fans...i'm sure he had a Man Utd shirt on when we arrived). He gave us a "tip"...pointed us to a licenced tuk tuk and suggested a route, all for 40 baht (90p). Why not, so off we went and what a ride! Just missing the rest of the traffic that was moving,
weaving in and out of the standing traffic, we arrived (just) at the first destination, The Golden Mountain. Jackie Chan our driver had a sleep and we popped inside to see what the fuss was about. Another local approached us (usual chat up lines "where you flom?...how long you stay?") and told us he was the architect for the restoration work and that the buddha statue we were looking at (there are thousands) was the oldest in Thailand at about 1200 years old. He gave us some other tips about Bangkok including visting a tailors shop to have some suits made - "how can you come to Bangkok and not have a suit made????". Anyway, photos of buddhas and monks done we headed back to wake Jackie up and off to our next hot spot which turned out to be a jewellery shop! Turns out that Jackie gets petrol coupons if he takes tourists there! Lots of fobbing off later we wake Jackie up and ask to be taken to the River so that we can take a boat. Turns out that he wants to take us to one more hot spot ("flive minutes, don't need buy"). Reluctantly we agreed
just so that Jackie can get his next petrol coupon and blow me we arrive at the very same "best tailor in Bangkok" that had been recommended to us. Having had no intention of buying we leave 1 hour later with 2 tailor made fitted suits, 3 tailor made shirts, 2 ties and 2 tailor made tops for Han!!!
One more petrol coupon later ("souvenir slop...don't need buy") we arrived at the water taxi. Good job we'd checked with reception where we needed to pay otherwise we'd have been suckered into a boat cruise but luckily 50p and 20 mins later we disembarked at the Skytrain connection to make our way back to the sanctuary of the hotel. Another 50p later and we're almost back where we started....phew! The city is an amorphous mass and doesn't seem to have a centre per se. As a result, it's chaos. Even the taxi drivers don't know how to get to places. Every square inch of pavement is lined with street vendors selling and cooking food, and beggars and businessmen alike can be found sitting on the roadside eating their wares. Corrugated lean-to shacks nestle against 5 star luxury hotels so that
it's impossible to get a real feel for any area of the city. All of a sudden, you'll stumble across a golden temple or a golf course set amidst the high rise buildings, shanty slum areas and road networks. Completely bizarre.
The overriding effect is that Bangkok is noisy, noisy, noisy. It gives you a headache and makes you stressed out to the point where the only option is to get a de-stress Thai massage. This has become the order of the day... get stressed, get a massage...get stressed again, get a massage. Apart from one round with the 1974 Thai female wrestling champion, which has actually given Han bruises and ruptured Dave's hamstring, we've had about 5 relaxing rub downs in 3 days (actively trying to avoid seedy joints, which is a feat in itself......Max you'd love it here).
Unfortunately, we have to come home early for work, so we're flying directly home from Bangkok and won't get to see the rest of South East Asia. I'm not sure Bangkok is the best Thailand has to offer, but what with the floods in parts of Thailand and Malaysia and the Tsunami and volcano in Indonesia, maybe it's a
good thing we're heading home. We've had a fantastic trip and missed you all loads. Thanks for all your blog messages. We'll see you on Friday 5th November.
All our love, Dave and Han xxx
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