Sorry, it's Closed Today

Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
Trip End Jun 11, 2011

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Where I stayed
Fortville Guest House

Flag of Thailand  ,
Monday, April 18, 2011

We woke up on Monday morning early so that we could get breakfast before our trek to Bangkok. Hoping to use the internet to finalize some travel plans, we noticed that the internet was down at the complex.  Oh well, we quickly packed our bags in order to have plenty of time to check out.  We made sure the night before that they took credit cards in order to pay for the room.   We didn't have enough cash since we had not left the resort in 3 days (always charging the meals and the bus trip to the room).  As we got to the check-out counter, they told us that we could now not use a credit card because there was no internet connection.  I did have enough USD to pay for the room, but unlike Vietnam and Cambodia, USD isn’t as welcome.  After waiting and waiting, the guy tells me he can drive me to an ATM on his moto to get money.  What a surprise the ATM was down as well (guess when internet goes down it affects the whole country).  So finally they agree to accept USD.  The exchange rate is certainly not favorable (even after arguing), but I finally gave in and threw him the money when the mini-bus was waiting for me for a few minutes.  All throughout Asia, the bus goes from hotel to hotel picking people up.  It is a big pet peeve of mine when one of the customers is not ready and the whole bus has to wait for them. 

We make our rounds and are just about to pick up the last group when this happens.  A Russian family decides to take their good ole time while we waited 15 minutes for them.  Oh well, I guess I don’t really have anywhere to be.  Finally once we have everyone we head to the pier.  As we pull up, we can see the ferry starting to pull away.  This means we get to be first in line to wait for an hour for the next ferry.  Thanks Russian family.   With all the waiting though, we met a nice fellow from Finland who is currently in Hong Kong studying business.  He didn’t look old enough to be getting his MBA, and he didn’t know any of my classmates currently studying there (yup we played the name game for the friends we visited at the beginning of our trip), so we think he is an undergrad.  Like most students studying abroad in Asia, he has class for 3 days a week and travels to some other location for the other 4 days.  We talked about all the places he had visited (Bali is his favorite, which seems to be a theme amongst a lot of travelers), about Hong Kong, and about the places we are going (this is the typical conversation when meeting someone who is traveling around).  So three hours pass just getting to the mainland, but luckily for us, most drivers in Thailand aspire to one day make it in F1 racing, so with a few more stops we make it to Bangkok in 7 hours total. 

We had already booked a hotel, which is becoming habit for us.  A lot of people just walk into a new country and hotel shop (go from hotel to hotel seeing the rooms and negotiating a price).  We have had fairly good luck with booking hotels the night before based on online reviews.  This saves us time when we are tired and first arrive to the city.  The bus dropped us off near Khao San Road, the most popular backpacker street in all of Asia.  The street contains many restaurants, bars, travel agencies, hostels, and ping pong lady shows.  I know my Thai is a little rusty only having been here for 4 days, but I notice what looks to me to be a lot of Hebrew.  Amy agrees as the street we are on has a lot of middle eastern restaurants and the Chabad House is staring us in the face.    Seems like we were in little Israel.  We stop in a travel agency with a sign written in Hebrew in order to get the local treatment (you know the Israeli hospitality).  They point us in the direction of the hotel.  We also inquire about trains tickets to Chiang Mai for the next evening (since we were in a travel agency).  They tell us 1st class is 3200 Baht a person (about $110).  This seems high, so we pass. 

We made it to our hotel which is next to an old fort (the hotel is part of the fort).  I take my bag off and notice that my tshirt was drenched with sweat.  Bangkok is by far the hottest city we have been to with temperatures over a 100F and the humidity somewhere around 145% (I do exaggerate sometimes).  We check with them about train tickets as well and find out first class is only 1300 baht (that seems more like it).  With our (Amy’s) bad experiences with the train, we were really hoping for a first class seat which consists of only two beds, a bathroom (with shower), and a door that locks.  First class was sold out, so we went with the old standby of second class air-con which is an open compartment with 4 beds per berth (we were assured that this class was still very nice).  We then went up to freshen up and let night time fall in order for the temps to cool down.

It was getting close to dinner time, so we headed back out to Khao San Road to see what we can find.  The restaurants seem fairly touristy (pizza on the menu is usually a dead giveaway) and the prices are much higher than we are used to.  I guess after being in Vietnam and Cambodia, paying $7 for two people, $15 does sound like a lot.  The food is pretty good though (which is a theme throughout this continent).  We continue to walk around to see what else Khao San has to offer, but it is just the typical.  We did stop in the Intrepid office since we had such good luck with them on the China tour to see what was available, but decided to continue on our own itinerary.  We also found lots of bug spray options (including 95% deet, which I didn’t know they made) for the first time in Asia.  After a while we decided to just call it a night and headed back to the hotel.

The next morning we went down to grab our breakfast and notice that the sky was awfully dark.  I think we were starting to get spoiled since we have not seen significant rain since Shanghai (about 4 weeks ago).  As breakfast came the sky opened up and rained (and rained).  The streets started to flood, so we made ourselves comfortable in the dining room.  Amy was able to find a book she was interested in and I saw a guide book for New Zealand dated 2008.  This gave me time to plan for NZ since I have neglected researching any country after Thailand thus far.  The rain only lasted for 90 minutes, which was good timing because that was right when we had to check out of the hotel.  We put our bags in storage and went off to see what Bangkok has to offer.

We have been warned by many travelers (and the Lonely Planet guide book) that tuk tuk drivers in Bangkok are really just scam artists.  They tell you they will take you to a location of your choice, then take you to some remote location instead (usually a jewelry shop that pays them) and charge you a $50 to get back.  Being weary of this we decide to walk to the water taxi to go to Wat Pho.  The water taxi is a long boat that travels along the river and drops you off every few kms.  This was a good way to see the city, enjoy a boat ride, and get to your destination.  We get off the boat and try pull out our map.  This was the sign for every tuk tuk driver to immediately sprint up to us asking where we were going.  The first was wearing a "Tourist Police" badge and tells us that Wat Pho is closed for foreigners today because it was Buddhist day.  Amy continues to talk to him, but I laugh, grab her hand, and walk away.  He sees that we are too wise for his games, so he just points and says that Wat Pho is over there. 

Wat Pho is one of the oldest and biggest Wat’s in Bangkok.  It is home to the largest leaning Buddha, which is made out of gold and very impressive.  There are columns blocking the Buddha, so it is difficult to get a picture, especially with all the tourists also trying to squeeze through to get the money shot.  My favorite was a Spanish tourist who thought she was one hot mamacita.  She would skip all queues and push her way in to get her picture, often staying there to make sure she has the perfect shot (and pose).  The feet of the Buddha are made out of mother of pearl.  Along the back are 108 urns.  You pay 20 baht to get 108 pennies and drop one penny into each urn for good luck.  Amy somehow managed to only get about 104 pennies (or she lost track throughout the process).  Hopefully the good luck will help us on our future travels.  The grounds of Wat Pho were very beautiful as we walked around for another hour or so.  There were a group of young monks visiting as well, so this gave me the ability to try out a few different modes on my camera to get a good shot of them (they had quite the paparazzi around them).

After Wat Pho we continued north in order to see the Grand Palace.  Once again the second we crossed the street we had a guy come up to us asking where we wanted to go and telling us the Grand Palace was closed.  We once again laughed at him and finally found the entrance as far away from Wat Pho as possible.  And by this time we’re completely drenched with sweat.  We are told that the Grand Palace is one of those can’t miss spots in Bangkok, but they really get you with the 350 Baht entrance fee (free for Thai’s though, as it should be).  Before we can enter, they tell me that I need to rent clothes as my cargo shorts weren’t appropriate.    Since it was so hot, I tried to get away with long shorts that covered my knees, but they were having none of it.  So for a 200 Baht deposit (which you got back once the clothes are returned), I was able to score a nice pair of sweat pants (how is this more dressy than my shorts).  There are signs everywhere at the entrance telling tourists to not trust anyone who tells you that palace is closed and to watch belongings at all times (since any local can enter for free). 

Inside the grounds are Wat Phra Kaew, also called the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which was discovered years ago covered in plaster.  It was stolen by the Lao, but eventually taken back by the Thais.  The Buddha has different clothes depending on the season, so we got to see him sporting his summer outfit.  We also saw the palace, which the king does not live in, but uses for ceremonies.  The grounds close at 3:30, so we were able to stay until then before having to return my used pants.

I remember reviews of the hotel saying that the Grand Palace was only a 20 minute walk away.  This led us to quite the dilemma.  We could try to figure out how to take the water taxi back, or just walk and have wet (sweaty) clothes for the night train.  We decided to stroll back making stops at markets and 7-11’s.  We stopped at Khao San road to see what was available for sale (as I am still in the market for a copy version of the Lonely Planet New Zealand guide), but they wanted too much ($12 vs. $3 in Cambodia, should have gotten it when I had the chance).  We grabbed a late lunch of more touristy thai food before heading back to the hotel.  We had an hour before heading to the train station so we enjoyed some air-con time in the hotel’s coffee shop before our next adventure of another overnight train.
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Joe on

Dave, it looks like you have yourself a nice base tan for your upcoming summer in Seaside Heights.

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