Boy Girl

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Aug 27, 2010

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Not surprisingly for this Moody family, we were running a little tight for time (some might even say we were running late…but lateness is relative, right?) to get to the airport. We returned our rental car and jumped on the shuttle bus, where the driver asked which terminal? "Terminal B" we responded, prompting a quizzical look from the driver, so we clarified with "China Airlines” to which he nodded. Eavesdropping on other passengers, everybody else was requesting a numerical terminal…uh oh, how did we get that one wrong? We hopped off the bus at Terminal 2 as instructed by our friendly shuttle driver, which services Air China amongst others, only to discover upon entry to the terminal that there were no departures matching our time or destination? We soon discovered that along with Terminals 1-7, LAX does also have a terminal B, from which China Airlines operates while Air China operates from Terminal 2. Maybe somebody should point out these subtle, but important, differences to the shuttle drivers? Still, as a result of a slight delay to our flight we ended up checking in exactly two hours prior to the scheduled departure and so all was fine.

We left the USA at about 1:30pm on Friday and arrived in Bangkok at about 1:30am Sunday morning – and the the few hours we had of Saturday were spent mostly in the air. Despite our dreading the 15 hour flight to Teipei, it was remarkably tolerable. We all watched our fair share of movies, played video games, ate lots of airplane food (mmm) and both kids managed to get a decent amount of sleep. The only concern was our late departure; we were almost an hour late taking off and with only two hours to make our connection in Teipei (which included a change of terminals) we were a little concerned that we'd be stranded or at the least separated from our baggage which was due to be checked all the way through to Bangkok. Upon arrival in Teipei, all went smoothly and we arrived at the departure gate with about fifteen minutes to spare!

Despite the taxi driver getting a little lost, we eventually made it to our first Bangkok hostel and slept for a few hours before setting off into the centre of the city, to find another hostel that would meet our needs, though exactly what those were we weren't quite sure….we were hoping to obtain our visas for India whilst in Thailand, but didn’t really know how long that would take and if we could travel within the country (without passports) while we were waiting. We finally got ourselves sorted with accommodation for the next few days and set off to find Khao San Road – the notorious backpackers area of Bangkok, and to discover just why we’d been advised that it was not a good place to stay….

Khao San road is everything you’d expect it to be. The street is packed with market stalls (with cheap but homogeneous merchandise), hotels, bars and clubs and, not surprisingly, hordes of tourists. But, we had lots of fun wandering up and down the street sampling most of what was on offer. As soon as we had left the airport at 2am in the morning, we were hit with the heat. In the early afternoon in Bangkok, it’s absolutely sweltering, temperatures are only in the mid 30’s, but combine that with the humidity and a little walking and you get some really cranky kids! We’ve discovered, to our frequent relief, that there are air-conditioned 7/11 stores everywhere, so they benefited from our patronage accordingly! Another interesting discovery is just how crazy the Thais are for Manchester United (so they obviously have good taste, or maybe it’s just that supporting "Riverpoo” doesn’t have the same allure)….Alex has been wearing his Man Utd shirt regularly and is inundated with comments about the team and friendly smiles. He’s even been asked for kisses from several Thai ladies, maybe a sign of things to come? To the kids delight, we took an exciting tuk-tuk (three-wheeled, motorcycle powered taxi) ride back to the hostel.

On Monday morning our number one priority was to get to the Indian Embassy to check out Visa situation. After a brief (airconditionedJ) ride on the sky-train and a sweltering trek up a small side street we arrived at the Indian embassy only to find out that they have changed their visa process (though not yet their website) and the new outsourced office we needed to go to was pretty much back where we had started (and would be closed for lunch by the time we got there (Grrr).We decided to try it none the less (despite the disgruntled murmurs from the little ones) and discovered that the office was in fact open and would hopefully be able to issue our visa by 6pm on Friday! Fingers crossed please….

With the visas underway we turned our attention to discovering what Bangkok had to offer and started close to home with the nightly street food market just down the road from our hostel. A fantastic meal of Pad Thai, Yellow Curry and Chicken & Cashew Nuts with pop and beer was enjoyed, and all for a whopping $7! We took dessert to go and discovered the joy of sticky rice with coconut milk and fresh mango – mmmm!

In Thailand, there is a strict dress code for visiting the temples and so we returned to Khao San road to buy some appropriate attire for visiting temples. And no, before your imagination gets carried away that did not include a sarong for Derek…. With shoulders, elbows and knees (and, yes, everything else in between) covered we set off to see the majesty of Wat Po and the reclining Buddha. The reclining Buddha is a whopping 46 metres long, made of plaster coated in gold leaf with mother-of-pearl inlaid in his feet and really is quite a spectacle to behold. We purchased a pot of coins and as a family made our tribute to Buddha by placing one coin in each of 108  bowls lining the hall – hopefully this will bring us good fortune as we travel…. Wat Po done, it was a quick hop across the river to Wat Arun, the temple of dawn. Not as impressive as Wat Po, but a neat climb half way up the temple on really steep stairs to a beautiful view of the city.

After visiting some beautiful, serene, peaceful temples, what better way to finish the day than watching guys trying to knock the living daylights out of each other? Muay Thai (or Thai Boxing) is the national sport of Thailand and is a form of kickboxing where competitors may use basically all parts of the body, other than the head, to whack eachother. This time we didn’t luck out and had to pay more than expected since it was a big night with top stars (like we’d know any better!)

Another day, another temple. This time we set our sights on the Grand Palace, the former residence of the Thai royal family. Within the royal complex is a Buddhist affair which houses the Emerald Buddha and is the most sacred Buddhist site in Thailand. This famous Buddha is relatively small and actually made of Jade, sitting upon an extremely large golden altar while wearing one of his three seasonal costumes.

We took a river taxi and sky-train to reach Patpong – a market area with more on offer than may at first meet the eye… it is infamous for Thailand’s sex-tourism trade. Patpong is a little less seedy than some areas and its night market purveys a wide variety of imitation designer brands. Some of the clubs had open doors through which you could see lots of beautiful girls dancing on stages in swimwear, all relatively clean, but surprisingly, these sights didn’t cause a single raised eyebrow, question or comment from either of the kids, or even from Derek, although I’m sure he noticed. Another Bangkok curiosity is the lady-boy which should be fairly self explanatory and is fairly common. Sometimes the illusion is pretty realistic, with the emphasis on “pretty”, but other times a six foot frame and adams apple can be a bit of a give-away. The boy-girl creation might even be used as analogy for the city itself as nothing is quite as it seems here.     

Still a few more days left in Bangkok, so who knows what could be in store for those days?
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Mike T on

Ah, the lady boys. Coincidentally, someone with the same last name as me, but no relation, has written an entire book on them. Perhaps you can find it and purchase it. It's called "The Third Sex: Kathoey - Thailand's Lady-boys" by Richard Totman.

I'm sure it would make some great airplane reading.

countrybumpkin on

Slightly off the tourist trail, but one of the best things I did in BKK was go to the British (or Candian) Embassy and arrange to visit an inmate in the infamous Bang Kwang prison. Not sure if they still allow this, but amazing first hand experience of 'life inside'. If you ever get the chance, read a book called 'Damage Done' by Warren Fellows. You'll find it in a lot of the Thai bookstores. Bang Kwang homes some of Thailand and the Worlds most dangerous criminals, and is in an incredibly intimidating place, but will get your adrenalin pumping like nothing else.
If you do think about this, see if you can visit Jonathan Wheeler, a drug smuggler from Southampton. I met him in 2003. he was 12 years through a 74 year stretch!

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