How DID the chicken cross the road?

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Asia » Thailand » Northern Thailand » Chiang Khong
September 13th 2015
Published: September 15th 2015
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We had arrived in Bangkok at our estimated arrival time of 4-45pm yesterday afternoon and, whilst coming into land, the first thing we could see out the window of the plane were (literally) thousands of rice paddies spread out below us, stretching away to the horizon, as far as the eye could see.

Disembarking from our flight, we headed straight towards baggage collection and immigration which took awhile, as the process wasn’t the quickest. Whilst waiting in the queue, I knew I must be in Thailand, by the amount of perspiration already running down my back and, I wasn’t even outside yet! AND, the airport was air conditioned to a degree!

Getting through Customs and Immigration at Bangkok airport was a bit of a slow process after what felt like a walk of a mile and a half to get to that point from the plane but, were finally through and then couldn't find our Intrepid driver, just a handwritten sign hanging on a metal fence barricade out in the arrivals area. Made a couple of enquiries and were told that was where we had to wait. A few minutes later a fellow turned up asking us to wait a few more minutes whilst he went off to round up the Gate 1 Travel representative who was organising things.

That sorted, we soon had our ride into the city which we were told, would take about 45 minutes. We soon ran into some traffic which our driver quickly sorted, as a speeding ICU ambulance with siren blaring went past, so he tucked himself in behind the ambulance and we got through the city traffic in no time. With a bit of a chuckle, he confessed to us later on that this is always his strategy if he has the opportunity. That way, he has no trouble getting through Bangkok’s city traffic at all. With the help of the ambulance, it had only taken us a half hour to get to the hotel.

The Royal Princess Larn Luang is a rather pleasant hotel and we are in room 308. Our room is very nice - more like a mini suite, with plenty of room.

Getting ourselves settled in, we decided that we should go and buy some bottled water and a couple of other things and, as we are only a few minutes’ walk from a 711 supermarket across from the hotel, we headed out, wherein lay the problem.

Bangkok city traffic never stops and, to get to the other side of the road, Ted reckons you need to be born there. 😊 Although, on the way there tonight, we were waiting to cross the road through the ever-flowing city traffic when this fellow appeared at our elbow who looked like some kind of a traffic warden-type person. Either that, or he just felt sorry for the tourists and, escorted us across the road unscathed, stopping the traffic in both directions.

But, it was coming back home afterwards, where we accidentally discovered the epitome of do-it-yourself pedestrian crossings.

Returning home, we decided to do the right thing and walk further down the road and use the pedestrian crossing. It had a marked crossing, but, no pedestrian lights for stopping the traffic.

Pondering on how you managed to stop the traffic to get across, Ted then discovered a collection of flags contained in a holder attached to a pole at the crossing. He said, “I'll try this - this might be what you have to do.” So, he grabs a flag and steps gingerly off the kerb, waving the flag in front of him.

With nothing much seeming to happen over the next few seconds and me (Jan) hanging onto the back of his shirt, trying to delay him walking further out into the traffic, as I had visions of him rapidly becoming the mascot on the grille of someone’s vehicle, he stepped back onto the kerb, grabbed a different flag with a different design on it and repeated the procedure.

This time, some of the traffic began to slow so, feeling more confident, he proceeded to walk out along the crossing, brandishing this flag in front of him just as a tuk-tuk comes along in the lane, slows down and stops.

We thought he was slowing down to let us cross the road but, what had happened was, he thought we needed a taxi, as Ted had managed to inadvertently flag down a tuk-tuk taxi driver with the first flag that he had grabbed and waved around, unaware that different designs on the flags produce different results!

Anyway, now very hesitantly hurrying across the road, with the flag prominently displayed in front of both of us and with vehicles still rushing up towards the crossing, we still needed our wits about us because we really weren’t sure whether they were going to stop, or not, because just having the flag was no guarantee at all, as was proven when one car swerved around us and kept going – he had no intention of stopping whatsoever, pedestrian crossing, or not!

Now, miraculously, safely back over on the other side of the street and, feeling very proud of himself, Ted replaced his flag in the holder on the corresponding pole at the crossing, ready for the next victim, and we had a good laugh about our (almost, mis)adventure as we walked back to our hotel, having accidentally learnt how the system worked - but, more by good luck than good management.

Next morning:

As we had had a very long day yesterday, we decided to have an “at home” day today, as we figured that we could both do with it. I was quite happy to have a quiet day as my (Jan) energy levels and stamina still aren’t great and, as we start our tour of Thailand tomorrow, thought that a quiet day wouldn’t hurt either of us.

We wandered down to the dining room of the hotel to have a leisurely breakfast and then had planned to go back to the 711 again this morning to get some snacks and to also go to the ATM there to get some local currency. Whilst having breakfast in the hotel – my made-to-order omelette was very nice – decided to finish off with a nice piece of toast.

When we travel, we always take along our tube of Vegemite savoury spread (you aren’t a true-blue, dinky-di Aussie if you don’t like Vegemite) and two small jars of Kraft peanut butter – smooth for Ted and crunchy for me. However, this morning whilst I was waiting for my omelette to be cooked, I was looking over the jams, honey and other toast spreads that were available. Whilst I waited, I happened to notice “walnut butter”. Hmmm … walnut butter, and wondered if it was a substitute for those people who are allergic to peanuts.

For someone who likes walnuts and, always willing to give most things a try, I decided I would forego my peanut butter and Vegemite this morning, and give the walnut butter a go.

The consistency was a little softer and thinner than peanut butter, with the taste being quite subtle without really having a very walnut-ty flavour at all. It was a bit bland and, it was one of those occasions where you really aren’t sure whether it is something you think you might like or to give it the thumbs down.

I had cut my piece of toast into 4 little squares so that, if I didn’t like the walnut butter, I then wasn’t stuck with a whole slice of it. Tried my first little square and wasn’t overwhelmed so, to be fair, decided to spread another one and have a rerun.

I have to admit, it was all right but, have decided that I’m not really fan so, guess it’s back to the real thing and either peanut butter or the Vegemite on my morning toast from here on.

After breakfast, we headed over to the 711 to get some more water and, just before reaching the supermarket, were walking past this entrance with huge metal gates that were flung wide open, and were looking in at what seemed to be a nice park of some description, so we decided to go in and have a look. Lovely gardens with huge spreading trees giving lots of shade, seemed very welcoming and hard to resist so, we followed the tar-sealed pathways and began enjoying our surroundings.

It was lovely and cool wandering around under the canopy of the trees and a welcome respite from the heat and humidity out in the street. There were also beautiful tropical flowers in abundance as well as several large aviaries full of exotic birds - peacocks, a number of different parrots, a sulphur-crested cockatoo and a macaw etc.

Before long and rounding a bend in the wide pathway, we came across a huge, beautiful old two-storey mansion.

Before long and the further we went, we started to get the feeling that we shouldn’t be there as, this area of town is very “royal” – hotel names; buildings and other establishments which at some stage, is or has been owned by the royal family. Maybe we were in the Royal Palace grounds. But, if that were so, surely there would be a lot of security and, so far, we hadn’t spotted a soul anywhere.

We walked along a bit further and then a little old lady appeared out of the shrubbery somewhere, and said something to us in Thai that we couldn’t understand and she, not us, as we responded in English, but then continued to follow along right behind us as we continued on our way. She wasn’t angry or gesturing towards the gate or anything of that nature but, without further conversation, made sure that she followed us right to the gates that led to the street, as we, as nonchalantly as dignity would allow, went on our merry way.

On returning to the hotel a little later, we got talking to the Concierge, with whom we had become quite friendly, and asked him what the building was and what the beautiful gardens were and, it seems that we weren’t far wrong, as it used to be the Royal Palace but, no longer and hasn’t been now for a lot of years.

Varadis (pron. Wa-ra-dit) Palace, is the former residence of Prince Damrong Rachanupab (1862-1943) who played a significant role in the development of modern Thailand. Designed and built by German architect Karl Dohring in 1911, it was then bestowed to Prince Damrong by Dohring, in recognition of his services to the nation. Being completely renovated back in 1996, these days it is now a museum and library.

Interestingly, a couple of hours later when we left our hotel room to go for a walk so that the housekeeper could clean our room, we again walked back past the beautiful old Palace and noticed that the gates were now securely locked. Guess they didn’t want to run the risk of any other tourists just wandering in off the street for a sticky-beak ... Oops!!


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