Trip Start Aug 07, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Thursday, August 17, 2006

Steps walked yesterday: 14,300
Temperature: 32 degC (cooling to 30 degC in the evenings).
Humidity: Close to 100%.
Stuff-up of the day: getting on the wrong train twice
Meal of the day: Pad Thai (noodles, sprouts, tofu, lime, prawns) - cost 35 baht = NZ$1.50

Having been in Bangkok for 4 days now we feel we have seen both sides of the great divide. We were sick of the place after 2 days and now wouldn't mind staying longer!

Our first impression of the city was not particularly great. After cruising through passport control we hade to wait hour for our bags to turn up on the carousel, and then fight through crowds of people to customs, which was non-existent. There was not a metal detector or security guard in sight.
The first hotel we stayed at, Sena Place was slightly run down, but ok. When we woke in the morning we looked out the window onto what appeared to be a bombsite. There were dozens of apartment blocks, all streaked with dirt, missing windows, scruffy yards and mangy looking cats hanging about. In a complete contrast right next to them were massive mansions with servants in the yards and Mercedes in the driveways.
Our first walk down the street was nothing like what we expected. There were whole shops that had been abandoned; the fronts open to the elements and piles of trash accumulating inside. The smells were overwhelming. There was the sweet smell of jasmine flowers on shrines in one breath and the stench of rotting food, stagnant water, exhaust and an unidentifiable fart smell in the next.

This was what we thought Bangkok was like.....

Then however we changed hotels, this time to Asha Guesthouse which was much more relaxed and friendly. Then we started looking past the stink and visual filth to find the people are very genuine and warm. They take a lot of pride in their appearance and are very polite. They are very patriotic and every second one of them is wearing a yellow t-shirt with the national logo on it.

We have visited the old city and saw the various Wats (temples) and the Grand Palace. We were dazzled by the gold and the overt displays of wealth in the temples, but as much as they are pretty to look at they failed to move us. The Reclining Budda, a `must-see' in Bangkok was impressive for its size but the pictures in the guidebooks were enough for us.

It seems anyone in Bangkok who can speak English either works in tourism or works trying to scam the tourists. As you walk towards a temple or something worth seeing well dressed men in official clothing come up to you and tell you that the temple is closed today or that you are going the wrong way. Their pitch is that they will give you a ride to another (better) site and on the way will take you to some bargain shops (which pay the driver for the referral). We talked to a Brisbane couple who were taken on such a ride.

The big perceptual change happened when we visited one of the central suburbs Siam on our second to last day in Bangkok. In contrast to the slums and filth we had experienced first up this area was tidy, clean and modern. Massive 6 story shopping centres kept Liz happy and we went to an amazing night market which stretched for miles where you could buy everything imaginable (most of them copies). Jonny was tempted with an All Blacks shirt but it had CCC as the maker (when it is Adidas) and had World Cup 2007 sewn into it (even though it hasn't happened yet).

Did we mention it was hot? It is hot beyond belief. Amazingly though we have almost got use to it although we still appreciate the air-con at night which we set to 26 degC (and it feels really cold). We have been drinking about 10 bottles of water a day (600ml) and sweating most of it back out again. The joys of heat.

If you are flying to Europe via Asia then yes, stop in Bangkok for a couple of days. It is dirt cheap and you will see some great stuff. If you are planning a holiday to somewhere in Asia and want this to be your primary base then I am sure you can find better....

We are off to Phuket today and are looking forward to sitting on the beach and riding on elephants....
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jonnyandliz on

Re: lizards
By the end of Bangkok Liz and the lizard were best mates. They had this agreement where when she showed up the Lizard hid in behind a pipe. In exchange she sung to him!

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