Banged up in Bangkok

Trip Start Jul 27, 2003
Trip End Jul 26, 2004

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Monday, March 29, 2004

Sunday 21st March
We got up and packed and were put in the back of a pickup truck by 6.30am and taken a short distance to the river where a Thai woman was ready in a little boat to take us to the floating markets. She was really nice and told us what all the fruits were on the overhanging trees. She stopped at a coconut plantation where we had coffee strong enough to put hairs on your back and got to taste coconut syrup which comes from the flower and was a clear thick nectar that was really sweet tasting. We bought some coconut puddings for breakfast which I wish I could describe but words can't they are heavenly and don't taste too much of coconut!!

We then got back on the boat and headed into what resembled the M25 motorway on water. Hundreds of women with boats laden with fruit, vegetables, spices and woks which cooked food on the go. It was amazing. You basically grab a boat and pull it over to your boat if you want to buy something from them. There are a network of canals all joined in some labyrinth way and are full with farming woman selling their fares. We headed down one canal which was obviously a tourist strip where on the banks of the canals stalls are set up selling hats, table settings, packets of spices and tiger balm. They hold your boat and pull you over to give you the hard sell but if you keep smiling and keep saying no thank you they soon push you away.

It doesn't take too long to get round the markets so after an hour we made our way to a Wat where we got out of the boat to have a look round and saw lots of smiling monks wearing bright orange robes. One gave Simons arm a light squeeze! We got back to the boat and went to feed the fish which was crazy. The number of fish in the water all jumping on top of each other and out of the water to reach the pellets of fish food was unreal. We soon made our way back down the river and were dropped off near the bus stop. We got a bus back to Bangkok for 40 baht and it was still just 9am.

We got off the bus at Bangkok Noi just north of the river from where we were staying and got something to eat at a pavement stall. We then got a local bus into the city for 4 baht each we checked in at a guest house for 195 baht but wasn't that nice so took a walk towards the river to find somewhere else for tomorrow. We find a nice clean place for 180 baht so we booked a double for the next day and the rest of the week.

We then took a ferry to the Oriental Hotel which is one of Bangkok's most famous we took a walk along Silom Road passed all the tailors and silk shops. We saw a Marks and Spencers counter in part of a big department store. There were loads of shops here and they weren't cheap. We then reached Patpong the red-light district but as it was still light it hadn't yet kicked off. The street stalls and markets here don't get going till late. We had soon walked enough and bushed from our early adventures so we got the Skytrain which is a tube above the street and is an AC orgasm. It was freezing but gorgeous compared to the 40 degrees humid and smoggy Bangkok. It cost us 10 baht to go the few stops to the river boat.

It is the cleanest train I have ever come across we paid 8 baht for the riverboat back to Banglamphu where we had a Pad Thai and a banana pancake from a street stall. Then had a Chang Beer and watched the world go by before having an early night.

Monday 22nd March
Today we got up and moved to Merry V Guest House which was a vast improvement. We had a nice room at the back on the 5th floor with a shower room opposite for 180 baht. We had a chilled day today and wandered around Banglamphu market where I bought a pair of Thai fisherman pants for 120 baht (less than 2 quid).

We then went to Swensens which is a chain of lovely ice cream shops and had a coke float and Simon had an iced Mocha and we sat in air con comfort for half an hour. We pretty much lazied about all day and went for a beer on the evening where we got chatting to a Canadian guy who had been coming here for 12 years and was telling us how much it had changed in that time.

Tuesday 23rd March
Today we got up and headed to downtown Bangkok which is a different world. There is a massive 7 story shopping centre with Armani, Bang & Olufsen and other major designer stores. We had a bit of a wander round MBK which is one of the biggest shopping centres here. If you were here to shop you could spend at least a day or two in this one alone to get around. We then took a walk down passed the massive Lumphini Park towards Patpong where we were going out to meet another sibling of our friend Marcus who had the brother Tim in Sydney. He also has a sister here in Bangkok.

We were meeting Lizzie and her husband David tonight who have been away from England for 20 years with the last 5 spent in Bangkok. We were meeting them in and British pub called the Barbican. It is on street parallel to the 2 famous streets of Patpong, unimaginatively called Patpong 1 and Patpong to on a street called Thaniya. We headed down there now so we could find it in the day as at night the whole area merges into plinkety plink neon! We found it easily and ventured into nice plush surroundings with pots of tea and the Sunday Times newspaper on offer. We decided to have a bit of both of the above and ordered a pot of tea each and sat with the good old Sunday Times to see what we have missed. We were served a tea with proper milk (you normally get powdered or condensed milk) and some lovely chocolate cookies - you can trust the good old Brit pub to make you feel at home!! We sat there till 5pm when we realised we only had 2 hours to get home, changed and back again!!

We caught the skytrain and boat back to Banglamphu then headed back to the Barbican. It was now rammed with Expats and locals. We met Lizzie and David and had a good few hours of drinking and chatting with them and their friends. We then left and went back to their place with a guy from Yorkshire, a music producer who came here 9 years ago and hasn't been back since. We got into two Tuk Tuks and the drivers had a race to their place. The Tuk Tuk David and Paul were in thought it was hilarious to pull a wheelie at every set of lights he said he gets the best tips when he pulls wheelies. David and Lizzie have an amazing apartment opposite the Peninsula Hotel and sandwiched between the Shangri-La and the Oriental. Its views went for miles across Bangkok. We sat on their massive balcony drinking gin and Tonics watching boats on the Chao Phraya. We left in the early hours and caught acab from the Shangri-La which only cost 50 baht for a fair distance. Top night.

Wednesday 24th March
Bangkok can drain your energy after a while so we did very little today. We spent three hours at the internet café. I did a bit of Travelpod and then we headed to a bar next door which was showing Mystic River then Calender girls which were both really good. That was about it for today!

Thursday 25th March
A bit of a busy day today to make up for our day off yesterday. We negotiated with a Tuk Tuk Driver to take us to Jim Thompsons house in downtown Bangkok. Jim Thompson was an American architect who came to Thailand in 1945 as the head of the Office of Strategic Services which is part of the CIA. He fell in love with Thailand and decided to stay and regenerated the dying out Thai silk industry turning into the huge and thriving business silk is in Thailand today.

More notable perhaps was his house which has become one of Thailands best preserved traditional homes. His home he opened to the public due to the attention it received. It was actually six teak houses located through Thailand that he dismantled and relocated here in Bangkok. It is absolutely stunning and some of his art and antique collections were amazing collected from his travels throughout South East Asia. Jim Thompson went on one of his travels to Malaysia to the Cameroon Highlands back in 1967 when he was 61. He went out walking and was never seen again nor any remains found. So his house now is pretty much as he left it and it does feel like you are in a lived in home rather than a museum.

We got a guided tour of the house from a Thai guide and she explained about some of the Thai traditions that we had noticed. Like Simon is forever banging his head when walking into rooms as the door frames are so low. We just assumed that the Thai people are shorter but it turns out they were built that way to ensure you bow upon entering a house or room which is classed as good manners. Also you take your shoes off going into houses and even many shops this is because the Thai people traditionally don't have furniture so you sit on the floor and eat on the floor and leaving your shoes at the door keeps your floor clean.

We had a wander round the gardens and house after our tour and then made our way out of the tranquil space back into the Bangkok traffic. We walked a couple of blocks to the Pratunam markets which is huge and full of thousands of stalls selling clothes and fresh produce. We walked through here and made our way to the Baiyoke Towers. David and Rachel had been here on there stop over on their way home from Australia and suggested we check it out. There are two towers Baiyoke 1 which was the tallest tower in Bangkok from 1987 - 1995 which in comparison looks tiny now to Baiyoke 2 which is 90 stories tall and is now Thailands tallest building. You can take a trip to the top where there is an observation floor which is floor to ceiling windows and on the roof is an outdoor revolving floor. They charge 120 baht to go up or you can take advantage of their buffet restaurant for 400 baht each. We were starving! We made our way up to the 78th floor at 5.30pm while it was still light and took a walk round the observation level which was a sort of Thailand history museum as well. It had lots of photos and pictures of days gone by covering houses and transport. We wandered round here in the daylight getting our bearings on how Bangkok is laid out and then just after 6pm made our way up to the buffet upstairs. It was fantastic. Every imaginable food was on display. We started with some Tom Yum Gung soup which is one of my favourites it is a Hot and Spicy Soup with huge shrimps and fish and lots of lemongrass and ginger. The food counters went the whole way round the room. They had Japanese teppenyaki, vietnemese dishes, Roast Beef, Seafood, Thai, everything you could think off. They also had a huge display of fresh fruit and a dessert section and ice cream. It was great because you could try a bit of everything which we did.

We sat at the window and watched the blood red sun set in the distance and slowly the lights of Bangkok came on and then when it was finally night the streams and streams of traffic could be seen in every direction. It was amazing. We ate until we were pleasantly stuffed and then made our way up to the roof where we stood in the warm air and were slowly rotated on the moving floor to see Bangkok from every angle. We did about 3 or 4 circuits before making our way down the three lifts to ground level.

We walked through the busy food stalls and street markets of Siam Square. Bangkok definitely comes to life at night. We then caught the skytrain a couple of stops to Patpong where we took a walk around the tourist markets in the redlight district. We were offered to go and see the Pingpong shows and the banana shows and the fire extinguisher shows for varying amounts of baht. The bars down Patpong all have the pole dancers on the bars where the girls wear their number pinned on their teeny bikinis where you can order your number at the bar with your next drink! There are literally hundreds on the bar though clambering for space. Some are actually girls but many are notbut you don't find out till later! We walked around the overpriced markets and waved off the touts before finally getting a bus back to Banglamphu.

Friday 26th March
We had a lazy morning reading the Bangkok Post and a very good paper it is too. We read over poached eggs on toast and banana shakes. We finally mustered up some energy to take a walk to the local post office as we have a bit of stuff that we need to send home and also would like to buy some stuff to send home!! I bumped into a friend from Sydney who I had worked with on the boat and she had just been robbed! All our cash and her Visa. Fortunately they left her Switch card so she could draw money out in the meantime. It had happened on the night bus to Bangkok while she was sleeping so in future will gafa tape belongings to self!

We headed to the Internet café just killing time as we get our passports back tonight and can finally move on from Bangkok! We spent a few hours surfing and emailing and then headed to get our passports. They were both present and correct and contained 3 new visas for Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam - it was so nice to get them back! Simons did have a stain on his resembling curry obviously one of the embassies worked through lunch! We headed out for dinner and I had my Hot and Spicy Soup again before a tasty green curry. We then went to watch the Last Samurai (pants!) and had a couple of Pepsis before going to bed and tomorrow we get to leave Bangkok!
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