Two Farangs, One Lonely Planet

Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, November 26, 2012

So it has taken 3 months, 7 countries, 4 boats, 15 trains, 2 planes and god only knows how many metros and taxis, but finally we have made it to Bangkok. Most normal travellers start by just getting a flight here, but anyone that knows us and or is still reading this blog will know by now that Tim and I are definitely not normal!

Having been enduring worse and worse weather as we have gone along it was finally time for the flip flops and shorts to come to the top of our rucksacks and for the coats and thermals to be buried.  Hello sunshine.

Our flight from Tokyo was something of a luxury compared to some of our journeys, free food, free flowing free drinks, movies in the back of the seat, remind me again why we travelled half way around the world on trains?!  I was somewhat pleased that the drinks were free when we hit turbulence and I proceeded to shower myself in Merlot!  I have smelt of worse things getting to this point.

We arrived so late in Bangkok and we were fit for nothing but collapsing for the night so headed to our hotel ready for some shopping the next day.  I had every intention on putting on my flip flops and relaxing for a few days shopping and warming up.  Tim had other ideas and before I knew it we had a to-do list for our time in Bangkok.

Fortunately I had my way initially and after several hours traipsing up and down Khao San Road with Tim putting his best bartering skills to the test, we were set with entire new summer wardrobes.  Khao San is just amazing, it is a veritable feast of t-shirts, flip flops, dresses, sunglasses and anything else that you might need to start a new life on the beach in Thailand.  You can buy one of everything and you will still have change from 20!  The prices were just brilliant, havianna flip flops for 1.50, t-shirts for 1 or 2, sunnies for 1, these are my sort of prices.  The only sad thing is that our rucksacks are operating a 'one in, one out' policy so the hotel cleaner now has a rather nice new his and hers winter wardrobe.

So shopping done and it is time to work through Tim’s to-do list, first up the Corrections Museum.  This Museum is located on the site of the old Bangkok Prison.  We had read that you ask the taxi driver to go to the ‘old prison’ but I am not sure about this advice as we just got some odd and confused looks from the taxi drivers as they took off leaving us at the side of the road.  Luckily we worked out there was a park next to the museum so taxi drivers were much happier with that request.  We arrived and there was a sign saying ‘correctional museum’ but that is as touristy as this attraction got.  We were greeted by a guard in full camo uniform who told us to follow him and about 5 minutes later we arrived at a locked up cell block.  The guard unlocked it, told us no photo’s and left us to it.  Obviously the first thing we did was get out our iPhones, the most stealth camera device we had and snapped away.  This part of the museum had in each cell old punishment/torture devices used in the prison.  There was a rattan ball that you are put inside, nails are pushed through and then you are given to an elephant to be kicked around, a wooden coffin which you are placed in and then laid out in the midday sun, a hook where you are hung by your chin, bars that squeeze your head and of course the swords used for decapitations!  We met the guard at the end and assumed that the tour was over, as we followed him back to the entrance and he lead us to another building.  This one was equally crazy and had three rooms, one with a mock up of death by decapitation, one death by firing squad and finally death by lethal injection.  The information on the walls gave you a blow by blow account of the process for each death, grisly stuff, especially the decapitation whereby it starts with them being unable to remove the ankle shackles without cutting off the person’s heel and feeding them to the birds, nice!  

Next up is the Siriraj Medical Museum, why Tim ‘I hate anything gorey or anything to do with parasites’ Currie picked this is anyone’s guess, but this is right up my street!  This museum is actually based in the Forensic Pathology building of the Siriraj Hospital, which is Bangkok’s oldest hospital it is enormous and a bit spooky.  Whilst this museum is in the Lonely Planet, I don’t think many tourists stray from the flower markets and tiger temples to pay it a visit.  It is definitely intended to be more if a teaching museum than a tourist attraction, being made up of 4 museums; the pathological museum, the parasite museum, the forensic museum and the anatomical museum.  I can only say that this is definitely not for the faint hearted and not somewhere to go if you are feeling a little queasy!

Tim walked through the pathological museum with his head down and his eyes shut as this was something of a horror film for him.  I found it horrifying and fascinating at the same time as they had around 10 huge glass jars with co-joined babies born in every form (I will spare you the photo’s).  Next was the Parasite museum and this was pretty much the same as we had seen in Japan, only sadly the information was in English.  I didn’t see Tim for dust as he moved faster than I have ever seen him move to get out of there.  The funny thing about the parasite museum was that they had one display case with cuddly toys with huge pictures of dust mites, Tim had the cheek to ask when my bear had last been in the washing machine, rude!

Next up was the forensic museum, and this is an experience that I really wish I could erase from my mind.  As we walked in we were greeted by a wall of photographs, sounds innocent enough doesn’t it!  Well these photographs were of the most horrific, gory and terrible deaths that you can ever imagine and some that you cannot comprehend (unless you have seen and therefore have these images emblazoned on the your mind for life).  There were gunshot wounds, suicidal cuts, train accidents, car accidents from behind and under the wheels and even a grenade explosion!  Fortunately once you are through the pictures the museum is a little less intense (or maybe we were more hardened after the entrance) with shelves filled with various implements that have caused deaths, from snakes and millipedes, to bullets and knives and even a disc sander!  There were shelves filled with  skulls with gunshot wounds, various preserved body parts and organs which have been shot, stabbed or run over and even a few mummified bodies, one being the first ever Thai serial killer.  The piece de resistance of the museum (and the reason Tim picked this day trip) was a blood stained t-shirt accompanied by the murder weapon – a dildo! I can tell you this museum was certainly an eye opener and gives a whole new level of respect to ambulance drivers and A&E workers who come face to face with these situations for real!

The last part of the tour was the anatomical museum and we had to find our way around the hospital to another building. We eventually found our way, this was a much older building with dark wooden staircases and had a generally eerie feel to it, we went in and were directed upstairs.  En-route the stark realisation of where we were hit us full on when half way up the stairs there were a set of open double doors with a small ‘no entry’ sign and another  saying ‘dissecting room’.  Through these doors we could see three operating tables with ominous green cloths draped over the bodies on them, crazy stuff!  Upstairs was more of the same fascinating but terrifying stuff we had seen in the pathological museum with anything and everything preserved in formaldehyde for future reference.  There was some light relief in the room containing skeletons which had a giant skeleton standing at 7 feet tall.

Feeling rather like we had just sat through the most terrifying horror film ever, we hailed a cab back to the madness and the normal tourist trail of Khao San Road.

Having done absolutely nothing of any cultural relevance we were lucky to have arrived just in time for one of the main Thai festivals, Loy Krathong.  This takes place every year on the last full moon of November and signifies the end of the rainy season.  Loi Krathong translates into Floating Crown as to celebrate this festival, floating crowns made of bread or slices of banana tree are decorated with folded banana leaves to look like a lotus flower and decorated with flowers, incense and candles.  These are then set off to sail in any waterways around Thailand.  We went to the Chao Phraya River which is the main river in Bangkok and were delighted to find ourselves in the middle of a mini festival with live music, fire dancers and people everywhere setting off their Loi Krathong’s.  We eventually gave in and decided that we needed to launch our own, we found a little stall selling them for 1 and there was a moored up boat next to the stall to stand on and have the man lower your Loi with his make shift dunking device, we felt a bit like we had won a prize having our picture taken with it.  The river was possibly not the best launch site as it was so busy with boats the Loi’s were being sunk before they even got going, but seemingly we bought a strong one and we followed it all the way down the river until the walkway ran out.  Here is hoping that the rainy season is gone and we are in for some good sun.

So next stop is Koh Samui for a bit of an extended holiday.  I suspect that the next few blogs may be more book reviews than what we have seen and done as we are in serious need of some sun and R&R.  I promise next time we are in Bangkok we will visit some of the cultural sights like the go-go bars and the ping ping shows ;o). 
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