Adventures in Thai Travel

Trip Start Aug 03, 2008
Trip End Aug 18, 2009

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Warning from Lonely Planet: "Do not take private buses in Thailand that do not leave from the regular bus stop." Bill read this as we were waiting for our second private bus to arrive, a bit too late for this piece of info to help.

So let me start at the beginning… We were trying to figure out how to get from Phuket to Bangkok, and all the little tourist shop sold these bus trips. So we found one that picked us up at our hotel by minibus, had to change buses about four hours later, and then wait about an hour for the next bus. This sounded simple enough to us. However, by minibus, they meant a van crammed completely full, (11 people plus a driver) leaving no breathing room. And, of course, a broken AC with absolutely no leg room for a four hour “minibus” ride. The only thing that kept me sane was listening to an audiobook and trying to be in my own little world while stuffed between Bill and another lady like a hot sandwich.

And so getting to the first stop could not have come soon enough; though to this day, we have no idea where that was. Our tickets to get on the next bus are little mailing labels with BKK, 19:00 hand written on them; thus, our first impression being this can be easily forged. As we were getting this “tickets,” three large Australian men who had to ride in the back of the “minibus” were now being told that they have to pay 2500 bat which is roughly $75.00 to cover their connection to the ferry, which they had tickets to. They rightly become enraged as they have already paid for their whole trip. Bill then sees that a women who was also taking our bus holding her receipt, whereas, the minivan driver had already taken our away from us. So Bill attempts to get it back, but fails. In this process, he argues with the tourist guy behind the desk at this new office as well as the driver. The driver sees how upset both the Australians and Bill are, so he decides to drive off as Bill heads towards him only making Bill even more upset. So he tries to “talk” (more like argue) to the other guy, but to no avail. Then they tell to leave our large bags in the back and be back by 7:00 to catch the other bus outside.

Bill finally agrees to go find food, which was quite a process, as we had to walk about least 10 blocks to find a single restaurant. We sit down and relax for a bit, and walk back arriving back at 6:20. We are told to hurry since the bus was coming, everyone else who was taking the same bus were already gone. We grab our bags and follow a guy to yet another stop far away from this shop, but still no bus. Finally, 7:00 rolls around but still no bus. 7:10 a bus shows up, but it's only dropping people off. Finally, by 7:40 we are on a bus heading to Bangkok. Apparently, our stickers were actual tickets and another bus with only tourists on it.

5:40 am we finally arrive in Bangkok. After both I AM LEGEND and DIE HARD 4 played loudly through the bus making it hard to sleep or even hear my IPOD, we got a little bit of sleep. Then we were getting off the bus, but where that was, no idea. Of course, tons of taxis and tuk-tuk drivers, but wanted to know how far we had to go before taking any of those.  All we knew was we were in front of a 7 eleven but they are as abundant here as Starbucks is in America, and no bus station. A few others from our bus go to ask for help in 7 eleven, so we try as well.  We get some guidance in what bus to take and give it a try.

During our bus ride, the other couple discovers they need another bus, and we realize we need this bus going the other way. We get off at the next bus stop, go across the bridge, get to the other side of the street, to only realize we have no idea where the bus stop is. So eventually, we get a metered taxi to take us to the general area Bill had already picked to find a room. We see a coffee shop right away, and I volunteer to wait with the stuff while Bill finds a room.

About 40 minutes later, Bill finally returns to tell me that he went a bit further than Khao San Road to find a room. Why I ask? He replies that as he walked down the street at 6 am, hookers were still about, a guy passed out on the street with his wallet probably gone, as well as the bars full of loud hungover folks. He figured the next street would be quieter. By this point, all I wanted to do was sleep.   Traveling really tires a person out, well, at least me. 

After trekking wobbly behind him carrying my pack, we finally get to the hostel he’d picked out. I look for some pjs to change into, as I want to unglue myself my current attire, but I can’t find that bag. Bill rolls his eyes at me thinking I forgot that bag at our last stop until he looks at his stuff and figures out that one of his bag is missing too. (We had bought packing bags from eagle creek to help keep our clothes separated, and we both had one blue bag that had two sides to it, and now both those bags were missing.) So now my pjs are gone as well as my swim suit, and Bill’s swim suit and some of his warmer clothes are gone. Our first thought was that it was the guy Bill had become so upset with at our stop to change buses as he made sure we were quickly on our way to the next bus.  But later we realized that one of our head lamps had been switched with another one, and so it could have been someone crawling around on the bus where our luggage was. We’ll never know now.

Michelle (I like to write the story parts, Bill’s going to write about all the temples we saw, he’s better at it)

Probably a little dramatic, you have to take into account that she is not a fan of buses, trains, airplanes, boats (especially), or just transportation in general. So anyways, after finding a room and taking a short nap because sleep was hard to come by on the bus, we walked around Bangkok a little to see some of the temples that are scattered about.

We started out by walking to the fort along the river, Phra Sumen Fort. There is not much left here, just a small section of wall with a keep in the center, but the fortifications were not that imposing looking, the wall was only a little over 6 feet high and there was little to no protection for anyone defending the fort.

Past the fort, we walked to the smaller temples of Wat Sam Praya and Wat Mai Amatarot, which are very different from the temples we’d been seeing in Indonesia and Malaysia. The Thai style is very ornate on the outside and they use quite a bit of gold foil and mirrors to make the Temples (Wats) shine in the sunlight. The interiors are also very decorated, but the central focus point is definitely the large Buddha at the front, though in some cases he can be surrounded by 5 to 50 smaller buddhas.

After the bus and the walk, Michelle needed some TLC, so I took her to get a foot massage to make sure she was going to be up to the walking that I had planned for the next day. She even acquiesced to my desire to eat dinner from one of the street vendor’s, though I did have to bring it up to the room for here, but I guess we both got what we wanted.

The next day we headed off to the main sight in Bangkok, which is the Grand Palace and the Temples surrounding it. We started by walking through the temple complex which is known as Wat Phra Kaeo, for the Emerald Buddha is housed there. Though after seeing the emerald Buddha, we realized it was really Jade, and it was only about a foot tall. Though the pedestal and display that it was on was nearly 20 feet tall, but it was still a very impressive sight. The temples in this complex were incredible to look at from the outside. In the sun they seemed to shine, the highlight of the complex was the large Golden Chedi (Thai Stupa). Next to that there was a large Prangang, which was built in the Lao style, with a model of Angkor Wat that was still huge even scaled. And finally, there was another more modern Chedi on the far end of the platform. Surrounding this temple there were a number of ornate building, the largest being the one housing the Emerald Buddha. The entire complex was surrounded by a wall that on the inside had the Thai version of the Ramayama painted in scenes. Overall, the complex was absolutely magnificent.

However, Michelle’s memories may differ slightly as she wore capri pants and had to borrow a skirt to enter. There were a number of young girls walking around in mini skirts and sun dresses that did not cover there knees, but they didn’t have to borrow a skirt. But because she was wearing pants that only covered down to mid calf, she had to borrow a skirt. Plus her T-Shirt did not cover enough of her arms, so she had to wear the long sleeve shirt that we had packed. Needless to say she was cooking. Me on the other hand, I walked in with shorts and a T-shirt.

After this we went to see the large reclining Buddha. I was told that the Buddha is reclining because that was the moment when he achieved enlightenment. Anyways it was huge, situated the long way in the building it was probably 150 feet long! On the bottom of his huge feet there were images showing some of the key merits needed for enlightenment. The rest of the complex was pretty neat too. There were four large Chedis that housed the ashes of the first four kings to live in Bangkok. There also was a large temple which was ringed by a series of smaller chedis. Overall, it was very interesting, but as we were leaving, it started raining. We tried to negotiate with the Tuk-Tuk drivers, but they all started their price at 10 times the going rate, that pissed Michelle off to the point she would rather walk back in the rain than ride with one of them. So needless to say, we were drenched by the time that we got back to our hotel.

Later that night after the rain had stopped, we ventured out to go walk down Khao San Road, which is the main backpacker strip in Bangkok. It was an interesting scene; I bet that the foreigners out numbered the Thais 20 to 1. Everyone was there on vacation, or just hanging out because it is a cheap place to live. Anyhow, the next day after loading up on some new books to read, we headed for the train to Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand. We will be back to Bangkok in about 2 weeks to see some of the other sights that we missed.

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