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Published: August 19th 2014
As has become the custom for Jo and I on these trips, we were up early on day one and out pounding the pavement. We knew we were headed for the Royal Palace but were not too sure where we were starting from or what was on the way.
After a few wrong turns we found our place and walked towards the river through the Amulet Market, a section of just a few streets where vendors sold religious pieces said to bring luck to the carrier. I didn't really get the idea as most of them looked exactly the same to me but some of the locals were sifting through bins of amulets looking for just the right one. Many stalls sold magazines that appeared to be guides as to what icons were "hot right now" and came complete with monks on the cover modelling the amulets.
Not far from the market we found a ferry terminal where I built up the guts to try out the local street food. I went with what turned out to be an excellent chicken curry and a seafood pasta while Jo went with the relative safety of a strawberry smoothie. The total
cost of a coffee and the aforementioned items was NZ$4. I spent another NZ$2 to try a plate of durian, a particularly putrid smelling fruit that has the texture of butter but the taste and smell of blue cheese and old socks with a slight citrus ending to take the edge off. It wasn't too bad at all.
Tourist spot one on the agenda was the Royal Palace, a fenced compound consisting partly of a number of old buddhist temples and also containing the residence of the Thai royal family. As with previous visits to this region I was impressed by the detail and majesty of the buildings, particularly the mosaics on the exterior of most of the temples but once again the chance to get up close to most of the buildings was blocked by local tourists taking photographs with every possible combination of gathered family and every combination of pose for the camera.
We caught a rather ceremonial changing of the guard in which a bunch of guards who were hitherto doing nothing on the Eastern corner of the courtyard swapped sides with a bunch of guards who were hitherto doing nothing on the Western corner
of the courtyard.
Outside the gates and back in the real world, Jo and I tried getting a taxi to MBK, a large mall a fair distance from where we were. Whilst the much vaunted food-court was a the reason for heading away from the city centre, the promise of air-conditioning swung the decision in favour of the visit. We tried a few taxis outside the palace who wanted THB300 (NZD11) but walked a block away and found one from the sidewalk that used the meter. The bill for over half an hour in a cab came to THB90. Unfortunately we lost most of the difference between the tourist and local rate by not having the correct change. Our taxi driver thought all his Christmases had come at once when we took just the THB250 he had on him as change for THB500. A "tip" of around NZD6 had the bloke damn near praising the ground beneath our feet! Good things come to those who do not rip us off!
The food court was all that was promised and we both enjoyed authentic Seafood Tom Yum Soup for NZD3.
MBK was large but unexceptional -
just another mall. We tried to get a taxi back to our hotel but had to make three attempts to find someone who would use the meter. One bloke told us he would only charge THB40 but there would be one stop... too dodgy for my liking.
We spent 30 minutes at the hotel cooling down before deciding to head to Khao San Road perhaps the best known backpacker area in the world. We'd passed by it on our long walk earlier in the morning but wanted to investigate further. It took about 30 minutes to walk there from our hotel and only 10 minutes or so to walk up and down, much of this time telling touts that we did not want (insert product or service here). We stopped at a guesthouse cafe for a beer and spring rolls, filling in half an hour.
Being suckers for punishment, we walked back past the Royal Palace to Wat Pho to look at the giant reclining Buddha, a 46 meter long, 15 metre high gold statue.
It was only day one of our trip but we were already templed and statued out so we made the call to
walk to Chinatown via the flower market. The market was wrapping up by the time we got there but we still managed to get a feel for it. Most of the stalls were roadside and the most popular arrangements were rings of flowers that drivers put over their rearview mirrors to give vehicles a nice smell. From what I could tell from Bangkok driving, hanging flowers is the sole purpose of rear-view mirrors.
Chinatown was a good 45 minutes walk away and utterly disappointing. Jo was hot, bothered and blistered by the time we got there and there was no real vibe to the place - we didn't really realise we were in Chinatown until I noticed a few of the shops had Chinese writing as well as Thai in the windows.
We tried at least a dozen taxis over an hour at the side of the street to get one to use the meter... all without success. We ended us on a tuk-tuk. At least we knew we were being legitimately ripped off on a tuk-tuk.
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