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November 7th 2014
Published: November 15th 2014
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Arriving in Bangkok

Door to door, that is, our house to Holiday Inn Express, Bangkok, took us about 21 hours of travelling. I would like to say it was great, but it wasn’t. I detest travelling on airplanes a lot. Most people I know have something which really gets up their nose, causes an unjustifiable rage like no other. Tina for example, hates ironing and when she does rarely have to do it, you could mistake the steam coming out of her ears for that coming out of the iron itself. Well, mine is flying. The second I set foot into the departing airport I want to start throwing shit about, right up until the second I leave the arriving one. Anyway, I might as well write a bit about it.

We flew with Emirates, which is a big deal so I’m told. Having flown with many of the major airlines in the past, I feel somewhat educated enough to say they’re all practically the same. Emirates however, were also practically the same, despite this reputation of being some kind of rich-person super-badass airline, I felt a little underwhelmed. Quite frankly I think all the fuss comes from those scarves they wear out of their hats and around their necks. In the UK we don’t really wear any head apparel (we should though!) so I feel we’re easily impressed and that leads us to think that because these people do, they are from a different planet, one which provides shit hot airline catering skills. Well, it doesn’t, and they don’t. They don’t even wear the hats on the plane either, its bollocks really.

I will give them this however, the entertainment system was good and by good I mean it was what I would expect in the year 2014. I’ve always found that since the smart phone’s introduction, looking at a horribly contrasted, crappy resolution airplane entertainment systems to be a bit of a chore and would quite often forgo the experience, choosing instead to indulge in the delights of trying to sleep in a chair which feels like it’s made of concrete in an environment which feels no hotter than -10 degrees C, while at the same time maintaining a humidity similar to that of the Sahara. Emirates screens however were large and very clear. Their movie selection vast and their games were quite good as well if you’re into that kind of thing. They even had Street Fighter 2! The real deal no less. Not some crappy airplane rip-off like ‘Gobble Snake’ (lolz) is to Snake, but the real game. Very cool, and a step in the right direction in my opinion. Now if only they could build in some kind of games console where I can use an online service I imagine I would fall in love with flying.

The service on the plane wasn’t great, the food was mediocre and this time the temperature was about 200 degrees C. I found myself very thirsty, very much of the time and the staff very not there, very much of the time. We arrived in Bangkok otherwise carefree at about 21:00.

From the airport we took a taxi to the hotel. The taxi rank could be found on level 1 outside the main entrance to the airport. The taxi rank is a ticketing system, so you queue up for a ticket with a number on it, then wait for a taxi to park in the parking space with your designated number on. It didn’t take long, despite it sounding a little tedious. A taxi to Bangkok from the airport cost is 500 Bhat, which is about £10. The journey took around 30 minutes.

We arrived at the Holiday Inn Express at about 21:30 and were absolutely shattered. As I left the taxi I sighed at the sight of the McDonalds which had been built into the foyer of the hotel. Not because I’m so far up my high-horse I cannot see the floor, or because quite frankly, I don’t eat that shit, but it was because I knew that’s where we would be eating tonight out of sheer laziness and exhaustion. Although I’d admit to saying I was a little intrigued as to what they had to offer in this country, which as far as I know doesn’t have the epidemic ‘ I only eat chicken nuggets cos everything else is fkin weird init’.

We took our bags to our room and went for a walk to try and find some food. It was gone 22:00 at this point and everywhere appeared to be closed; even street vendors were shutting up. While on the subject of street vendors, we did find one... at the other end of a very dark, very menacing looking street complete with low overhanging trees. We started to walk down it only to notice a lot of movement under our feet. Dozens of cockroaches! I’ve no particular fear of them other than being a little unfamiliar but Tina didn’t take the experience quite so well. I turned around to walk back up the street to see Tina running faster than I have ever seen before. I was even certain she could run. Once I’d caught up with her I found she was having a full blown panic attack complete with tears. I knew she was a little uneasy with insects but we had never been in a situation like this for me to realise just how frightened she was. We stopped for 5 minutes for her to settle down. I tried to settle her down but other than calling her a loser I didn’t know what to say. I’m not very good at that kind of thing.

At that point we caved and started walking back to the hotel. We did pass a street vendor on our way back, who Tina asked if they served Pad Thai. She laughed in our faces. I suddenly got the impression that Pad Thai is Thailand’s equivalent of the chicken nugget. My horse didn’t feel so high now. Within 20 minutes we were stood right where we belong, in the queue at McDonalds. Oh well.

To my joy they did do something a little different. I had a bowl of chilli chicken with boiled rice and a fried egg on top. It was pretty good too. To sweeten the deal it was the equivalent of £1.20! I had it a few times as a snack during our stay. Tina enjoyed the offerings of the trusty staple that is the double cheese burger. She was also delighted at the faux-cheese dip they offer. She loves it when something claims to be cheese when it isn’t.

Full up on all that McGoodness we went to bed. I was looking forward to breakfast, oh... and seeing a bit of Bangkok.

Day 2 in the Bangkok

We woke up at about 09:00 on our first full day. I forgot to mention that the room in this Holiday Inn was quite nice, a little sterile maybe, but purposeful with a good air condition system. The WIFI worked great in the room too. I liked it.

So, down to breakfast. I was looking forward to this because I had noticed a very mixed audience here, as you would expect from this part of the world. Sure there were westerners, but there were also a lot of Chinese, Japanese and Korean. I was interested to see how they would be catering for everyone’s tastes at the buffet.

The selection was good. There was omelette, a salad bar, chicken hotdogs, assorted cereals, toast and fruit. In addition to this you had soup, rice and varying spices which I didn’t know what to do with. As much as I’m not one for categorising particular foods for particular times of the day (I tend to eat anything at anytime) my head just wouldn’t accept rice, various spices and chicken noodle soup for breakfast. I tend to reserve these flavours for the excitement of a Friday night. Still, I persevered. The chicken hotdogs were stinking by the way.

After breakfast we decided to take a walk to get our bearings and did a little scouting of the immediate area. We were a two minute walk from the MBK Centre (one of Bangkok’s enormous shopping centre) so we headed in that direction.

On our way towards the MBK we walked through a few smaller shopping centres. There were a lot food courts about. KFC here, Krispy Kreme there, the majority familiar names but also a good few interesting looking places too. The shops were pretty standard stuff, nothing special, just brands, all of which cost the same here as they do at home.

We arrived at the MBK, which to my surprise wasn’t flooded in neon lights and covered in the usual brands you come to expect. It’s like an indoor market on steroids. We spent a good hour or so here just walking looking at what was on offer. It was also easy to find what you want as each floor of about 8 was dedicated to particular products.

Tina needs a new phone and has done for a long time. Being a fan of the Android phones and having read that they are king in S/E Asia we went to see if we could find anything for a reasonable price. Unfortunately we didn’t. We had a look around the mobile phone floor of the MBK and despite there being thousands of Android phones, many of which appeared to be second hand, they were not cheap, certainly no less than we pay in the UK. Forget that idea then. We then headed to the top floor which was the food court as it was dinner time. That’s what we call it in the north of England.

The food court was a familiar concept I’d seen before in shopping centres in many countries on my travels. Imagine an enormous square room, each wall lined with small vendors cooking fresh food in front of you, with a huge seating area in the middle. The selection is unreal, the food delicious and the prices unbelievably cheap. It’s fast and convenient. Tina and I ordered two Pad Thai’s at 50B each, that’s only £2.00! They were great.

What we didn’t realise is that at this particular food court you are meant to go to a central point in the food court, provide the cashier with an amount of money you want to spend, who then pre-loads a card with said amount. Then when you order your dish the vendor just swipes the money off the card. We didn’t do this. Instead we ordered two Pad Thai’s and had no way of paying for them. Cue me flapping about the food court trying to figure out what to do. We really did make an arse of this otherwise great system.

After lunch we left the MBK and immediately got hassled by a tuk tuk driver. The driver was offering to take us around Bangkok for 30B. We declined. We had read about this before. The driver takes us to multiple shops on his tour, we get the hard sell and probably shafted for all we’re worth by the said shops while Mr tuk tuk driver takes a percentage. We declined his offer at first but when he offered 5B instead of 30, we thought we may as well see what it was all about.

The first stop was a suit tailor. I was a little interested as I needed new shirts for work and good ones back home aren’t cheap. Having endured the hard sell of about 10 suits I eventually decided on three tailored shirts so the chap measured me up. In the end I paid about £50-£60 for three shirts. I don’t know how much more I could have knocked him down, but at first he wanted closer to £100. I’m quite sure he still made a killing out of me but I justified it to myself with what I would pay back home for the same. I wasn’t sure about my purchase at first but when they were eventually delivered to our hotel the next day I’m pleased to say there are great and fit very well.

Back in the tuk tuk and onto the next hard sell. This time a boat trip on the Chaophraya river, which runs through Bangkok. While in transit to the boat tour the driver of the tuk tuk was very keen to question me on what I had bought and how much it cost. Obviously he was getting a percentage as when I told him he made no effort to hide his disappointment.

We arrived at the port where we would embark on our boat tour. The price for this started at 3,000B, that’s £60! What! The girl selling immediately dropped to 2,500B, then to 2,000B before finally offering 1,700B and not budging. We wanted to do it so begrudging paid up. The tour was an hour and we had the boat to ourselves. It was very enjoyable.

Next stop was the jewellery store. Not before the tuk tuk driver interrogated us on what we paid for the boat tour, and again started moaning about it being not enough once we told him. He was starting to annoy me a little.

The jewellery store went down without a hitch, partly because we were now skinto. In and out in less than 5 minutes with no purchases made. The driver didn’t like that one.

This is where the tuk tuk tour (shafting) should have finished but we asked him to drop us off at a tour place to book tomorrows events. We wanted to do a tour of the floating market and the bridge over the river Kwai. The driver dropped us off at another one of his friend’s places no doubt and we went in to negotiate. Here prices started $4,000B but we ended up settling at $2,000B. We returned to the tuk tuk driver who did his final moan at the price. It was becoming a joke now and I considered lying to him about paying less just to see his reaction.

We asked him to take us back to the hotel, which he didn’t, instead dropping us off a block away due to ‘traffic’ apparently. I gave him his 5B and off we went. I was happy to see the back of the miserable sod.

We walked back to the hotel and settled in for the night. We had certainly got a feel for Bangkok today. Tomorrow we were up at around 05:30 to get breakfast at 06:00 and then picked up for our day long tour of the floating market and river Kwai. I can’t say I was looking forward to the early start, however.

Day 3 in the Bangkok

Up, breakfast eaten and in the tour bus for 06:30.

After about an hour in the bus we arrived at some sort of staging point for the tour where we were given stickers so the guides knew where we were to go. After a further hour of waiting for the tour people to get organised we were back on the bus for another hour before arriving at the floating market.

I wasn’t sure what to expect here because I’d not really read anything about it. I wasn’t sure if to expect an floating market used by the locals, which we were going to observe, or a ‘floating market’ which was actually just another tourist area selling overpriced fridge magnets and fake Jimmy Choo handbags from boats instead of the usual marquees by the roadside. Unfortunately the latter was true. A little disappointed but still enjoyable. We didn’t really buy anything apart from a few food items and a fridge magnet (couldn’t help it). There were also opportunities’ to drape a big snake over you for a picture, which we also passed up.

We had to be back at the van for 11:30 for lunch, which was provided as part of the tour, so after a few hours of considering many magnet purchases and convincing Tina not to buy all he handbags we made our way back to the rendezvous point. After another hour in the van we arrived at sort of random service station/restaurant where the tables had been made and food prepared for our arrival. At this point I had no idea where we were in Thailand; I had completely lost any sense of direction. After lunch we made our way to the bridge over the River Kwai.

Before arriving at the bridge itself we stopped for half an hour or so to look around the memorial ground dedicated to the prisoners of war who died during the construction of the rail bridge. As we walked around reading the various names to upon the memorials I happened to stop for a second to check the time, and on doing so noticed it was the 10th of November. It was a little annoying to think that if we had come a day later on Remembrance Day we may have experienced a little more, although it’s likely we wouldn’t have been able to get in. It was about two in the afternoon at this point and it was the first time so far during our stay here that I found the heat unbearable. We soon found ourselves sitting back in the air conditioned van waiting to depart for the bridge.

The next few hours were spent taking in the views of the bridge and the immediate area surrounding it. We also had a look around the neighbouring museum. We had a couple of hours here before having to be back at our meeting point for 15:40 for our journey home. The bus wasn’t as punctual at this point though and we were left waiting for a further 50 minutes before the tour guide turned up to take us back to Bangkok. That was a little annoying.

When we arrived in Bangkok we were dropped off near Khao San Road, which seems to be the tourist hotspot in Bangkok. We had a look around for a few hours, finally getting ourselves some street Pad Thai before having a foot massage (only £3.00 for 30 minutes). By this point we were shattered so took a tuk tuk back to our hotel.

Day 4 in Bangkok

We were able to have a bit of a lie in today, which was well received. I was still suffering from the time difference and had been enjoying a perma-headache since we had arrived.

Today we had plans to visit a few more sights around Bangkok. First up was a visit to the Siriraj hospital’s forensic museum. With a map in hand we headed for Bangkok’s Skytrain, which we would need to use to get to the port, where we would then get a boat to cross the Chao Phaya river. The hospital was a couple of minutes walk from the dock of where we arrived at the other side of the river.

As it turns out the museum is open Wed-Mon and is closed on Tuesday. Today was Tuesday. Excellent. Back to the boat we go.

Next stop was Wat Pho, which was back on the other side of the river. A short, 5 minute boat ride was all it took to get there. News of Wat Pho being open today was well received. We bought our tickets and went for a look around.

We made a beeline for the building where we would find the giant reclining Buddha before spending hours just walking around the grounds of Wat Pho looking at the surrounding buildings.

After our visit we decided to get some food. Tina found a cart selling really small fried egg to tide us over before heading back to Khao San Road for further helpings of Pad Thai and massages.

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15th November 2014

"She loves it when something claims to be cheese when it isn’t." - This is the best thing I've ever read.

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