Trip Start Jan 16, 2008
Trip End Jul 28, 2008

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A useful travel tip - the ideal time to arrive in Bangkok is NOT on an overnight train at 5.10 in the morning! The local bus from the station helped us no end by dropping us off on the opposite side of the city from which we were aiming. We then jumped into a tuk-tuk for a complementary ride of death with a driver who didn't really understand where we wanted to go. Having asked half a dozen locals on route, it transpired that knowledge of Bangkok's roads was not his forte! I wouldn't suggest that is a great quality given the nature of his job.

After all these shenanigans it was gone 7am but we were hit by the news that of all the guest houses on the street, the earliest check-in was 11am and even then there could be no guarantee of a room. Put politely, we were rather cheesed off. However, it felt like Christmas when by 10.30am we had managed to check-in!

For us, fortunately, the horror stories of Bangkok did not emerge. Yes, the traffic is bad. Yes, it is uncomfortably hot and humid. Yes, the odd hundred taxi and tuk-tuk drivers try to swindle you out of your baht. But it is certainly no Delhi!

Having wandered the air-conditioned shopping malls of Siam Square, Kim needed her daily sugar-fix so we plunged into the institution that is Dunkin' Donuts. Of all places, we were the target of a scam by a well-dressed, late-middle aged lady seemingly innocently drinking her coffee beside us. After an elaborate series of questions to ascertain what our plans were whilst in Bangkok, she was adamant that the only way to see the city properly was on a river cruise. As she could speak Thai, she was happy to walk around the corner and arrange a tuk-tuk down to the water for us for only 60 Baht (a far better price than if we had merely been a foreigner). Then down at the quay we could charter our own boat for a mere 2,000 Baht! By this stage the alarm bells were ringing incessantly, but once she insisted we had to go NOW as otherwise there wouldn't be enough daylight, we made some ropey excuses about needing to go back and get our cameras first and hurried out the door before things got awkwardly messy, if not confrontational. As if by magic, just around the corner was the awaiting "scam" of tuk-tuks...

Needless to say we made our own way down to the quay using the new Skytrain which provided fantastic views of the city as we sailed along in air-conditioned comfort away from the hustle and bustle of the street. At the pier a seat on the local ferry up the river was just 15 Baht each. We'd made quite a saving!

The river provided a pleasant escape with delightful views, particularly of Wat Arun (although Kim made a bizarre comparison with Udaipur in India - at this point I wondered whether the lady had managed to spike our drinks instead!?!)

As we had chosen to stay in an alternative backpacker location, we felt obliged to see the infamous Khao San Road (where Alex Garland's The Beach begins). The eclectic mix of the weird and wonderful was certainly on show! However, this was a place where the relationship between locals and tourists was severely strained, if not totally destroyed. The rude and unacceptable behaviour on both sides of many exchanges was disappointing to see. Sadly, such a relationship is now scarring much of Thailand.

The day was rounded off with a true Kim Chrystal Shopping Frenzy! Items included:

"North Face" Backpack (x1)
Padlocks for backpack (x2)
Trainers (x1)
Sandals (x1)
Toothbrush cover including a new toothbrush (x1)

It was a hugely thrilling experience for me!?!

The following day, despite the crowds and extraordinary heat, we were able to marvel at the stunning Royal Palace, which included the sacred Emerald Buddha, and the complex of Wat Pho where the world's largest reclining Buddha (46m) chills out. They are both worthy spectacles for any city.

I don't think you could ever fall in love with Bangkok, but give it go as there is plenty to keep you occupied (besides shopping!) and there is little to fear if you keep your wits about you and avoid Dunkin' Donuts...
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