No 15 bus
feeling very brave and taking local transport... by fluke ended up where i wanted to go - so proud!
...another smooth journey back up to Bangkok on boat and coach, sad to wave the sunny beaches bye bye but its only for a few days. Arrived in Bangkok at 1am and went to check into Villa Cha Cha (lush little boutique hotel with pool and really nice rooms - thought Caroline and I could do with a bit of luxury before 2 weeks in basic beach huts!). they wouldn't let me check in until 6am unless i paid for a nights accomodation - so to save myself 800bht i decided to stay up until 6am..... Khao San road is quite an interesting place to wonder round when you're tiered and sober!! killed a few hours in internet cafes catching up with mail and drinking lots of coffee, its incredible that this road is buzzing 24/7!!
I eventually faltered at 5am and went back to Villa Cha Cha - was planning on collapsing on chairs in reception for an hour or so but they took pity and let me check in. A very friendly night guard called Lek carried my bags up to the room and i had a cold shower and got in my Pj's and collapsed for a
delicious street food near our hotel
few hours kip. Got up again at half 8 and got myself sorted and set out to find the vietnamese embassy! After much deliberation with a taxi driver as to where it was (even though i had clearly marked on a map exactly where it was, he felt he needed to clarify this with his office... we concluded that i had been correct, much to his surprise, and off we set!). Very quick and easy at embassy although i had miscalculated how long it would take to obtain my Visa and ended up having to take the fast visa option which cost nearly double!! Left my passport etc and went for an explore around the area where all the embassys were, behind tall walls and surrounded by lush gardens (the American embassy looking particularly grand and impenetrable!) headed back out to find my way back to Khao San...
...was starting to feel a bit brave at this stage and decided i was going to conquer public transport! Got the skytrain to Siam Square then changed onto another line to the National stadium (20bht) then got on No 15 bus to the democracy monument (was the only westerner on the
Bizarre Balloon Festival
stumbled across a very strange collection of balloon sculptures at the central shopping centre...
bus! 8bht) felt very proud of myself for managing to get the public transport the whole way back on my own!! went back to the hotel and had a swim and sat reading my book and relaxing before getting showered and changed again to go and meet Caroline.
Met her outside Gulivers on the top of Khao San road - was so lovely to see her! Traveling and meeting new people is great but it was really lovely to have the company of a close friend where the usual conversations of where your from, where your traveling etc are not required and catching up and gossiping is all that is on the agenda! We dumped bags at the hotel then headed out for some dinner at one of the street food stalls near to our hotel, another delicious meal and a steal at only 60bht! Headed down Khao San for a few drinks then headed for bed.
Next day we headed over to Sukhumvit soi to visit Caroline's friends Katie and Jim who live in Bangkok. Had a fairly early start, grabbed some fresh fruit from a street vendor for breakfast and got the No 15 bus to
national stadium then got the skytrain the rest of the way (caroline was suitably impressed with my grasp of public transport ... yet again i was winging it a bit and it was by fluke we ended up where we were headed first time!). Katie owns several International Kindergartens in Bangkok and it was at one of these that we were due to be meeting her. We walked for a long way and were very pleased when we saw the sign for the kindergarten as we were both very very hot and sweaty and needed air con and fast! ... we had gone to the wrong one!! Luckily Katie sent the driver to pick us up so made the journey in air-con comfort and arrived far less sweaty than we'd been at Kindy No 1!! sat in the cafe at the Kindy with Katie, Jim and their absolutely gorgeous little girl Ayla and chatted for a few hours (and ate the most delicious chocolate brownie EVER!! ...first chocolate in a while and it was gooooood!). Got taxi back to skytrain station (seriously humid by this stage... walking back was simply not an option.... well it would have been but we
every painting, in intricate detail, has to be restored and in parts totally re-painted every 4 years... incredibly intricate work.
were being lazy and the taxi is air conditioned...) stopped at a street stall and had some amazing noodle soup with seafood!
We went to Embassy to pick up passport - all smooth running and i now have a visa for vietnam starting 10th August!! we then walked to the 'Central World' shopping mall, one of a chain of malls accross bangkok (about 36 of them in total i think?!) that are owned by Katies family. It felt very strange being in a huge modern/western style shopping mall full of department stores and designer brand shops and shopes from home (next, dorothy perkins etc) and there was even an Arsenal shop - very random! It was nice being in an airconditioned building and getting coffee that tasted like coffee back home (even though said coffee cost me more than i'd been spending on food for 2 days!) - this is how the wealthy thai's pass the time, interesting to see but was quite strange to see at same time. the highlight of our trip to the mall had to be stumbling accross the '4th Annual Thailand Balloon festival' no explanation as to why they were holding such a festival,
Giggly Thai Schoolkids
... practicing their english and asking us a survey, then asking to pose with us for numerous photos! felt quite the celebrity!
it consisted of several very large and very bizarre balloon sculptures.... we were very confused but also very bemused by it all. (after asking someone to take a photo of us infront of one of the sculptures we then had several people start queing up to have photos taken WITH US!! by the balloon sculptures.... even stranger!!)
Spent the rest of the afternoon on the tree house deck at Villa Cha Cha drinking smoothies and reading... and yes we may have had a wee nap... before heading out and having another amazing dinner at the street restaurant at the bottom of our road. Caroline and i shared a whole red snapper with mixed veg and rice, again absolutely delicious!! Got a taxi over to Pat Pong market and spent some time perusing the fakes market before going into one of the famous 'ping pong' bars for a quick Chang - long story short - seedy, dirty and best avoided but an experience that we will definately not be forgetting in a hurry! nuff said! we'd planned on returning to Khao San and having a big night but having walked around the Pat Pong district and seeing rows and rows
of pretty and very young looking Thai Girls sat out side 'clubs' being looked up and down and letched over by old european and american men we were not really in the mood for carrying on the drinking and got back to the hotel and had an early night - feeling so lucky that we have had the opportunities we have had and will never have to consider such a life as a way of survival. so, so sad.
Next morning got up early and headed out, armed with my lonely planet map, to go sightseeing!! we turned down all the shouts of 'taxi, taxi' and walked to the grand palace, which really wasn't very far but we had decided on the hottest day i had experienced in bangkok sofar to do it!! Got to the Grand Palace and bought our tickets for entry (300bht for day pass). First looked around Wat Phra Kaew (also known as the temple of the Emerald Buddha) which was incredible, amazing architecture and sculpture and an astounding clash of colour and pattern that really shouldn't work - but really does! Gold guilded statues and spires, incredibly detailed mosaics adorn pillars and spires, and
the sunshine reflecting off the mirrored panels made the whole place feel even more magical. The Central Chapel houses the main attraction of Wat Phra Kaew, The Emerald Buddha (not actually made from Emerald confusingly but Jade, and much smaller than i'd expected). Within the same grounds is the former royal residence 'The Grand Palace' which is indeed very grand with perfectly manicured gardens (Mum - you would have loved all the trees perfectly preened into balls!!). The Palace is only used now for special ceremonies (the King, who's image is everywhere in Bangkok and the Thais absolutely love, now resides in Chitlada Palace in the northern part of the city).
From there we walked to Wat Pho (i was happy to go back and had to show Caroline!!) and then grabbed some lunch at a gorgeous colonial style cafe in the chinese quarter before catching the water ferry over the Nam Mae Chao Phraya (only 4bht each!) to Wat Arun. This striking temple is named after the Indian god of dawn, Aruna, and is made up of porcelain tiles that were left behind by Chinese merchant ships (who nolonger needed the tiles for the return trip that had
amazing statues in the grounds of Wat Phra Kaew
been used as ballast on the ships) and the central spire stands an impressive 82mtrs high! We had a wonder around the grounds through the tiny Soi's along which the monks living quarters could be glimpsed through open red gates to courtyards filled with lush foliage and flowers and found ourselfs ushered into a large courtyard by a monk in bright orange robes. It seems we had stumbled upon a graveyard (possibly, still not exactly sure but along all 4 sides of courtyard were gold buddhas, some draped with orange robes with what looked like headstones with photographs attached to wall beneath them...). we were only people in there and the doors had been closed behind us, it was so quiet and peacful and we spent quite a while wondering round before locating the door we had come through and heading back towards the water ferry.
Back to hotel for more swimming and chilling and then met up with Dom, George, Scott Emelia and Ben in the evening. we left the boys to their buckets whilst we headed out to find George some sunglasses ... as you can see from the pics we found some awesome ones, but none
that George actually wanted to buy! ended up in a club with a heavy metal band (Dom made his thai debut with the band!).
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