Travel is great but traveling, now thats a different thing all together.
All the great mind’s of the world have conspired to develop systems of transport that making moving from one place to another relatively simple. Simple that is as long as you speak the right language, aren’t maiden down with luggage and don’t have dodgy knees (or in Jaki’s case, hip’s).
When you introduce any one of these or, several, in combination, the whole thing falls apart.
So when we landed at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport on the 11th November we decided to use the airport Rail Link from the airport to Bangkok.
It’s supposed to be a 20 minute journey rather than the hour by taxi in Bangkok rush hour traffic.
So we followed the signs (blue train if i remember rightly) and bought a ticket.
We went down the slope and were first in the queue at the first gate (its a bit like the transit bus at Heathrow , there are automatic door that open when the train arrives).
But guess what, when the train arrived this gate wasn’t operative so we had to join the back of another queue. When we eventually boarded there was standing room only. And it was rammed.
The journey was indeed about 20 minutes but it was 20 very uncomfortable minutes locked in a compartment with hundreds of other people most of whom had asian Flu and were forced to cough and sneeze over everyone else. It seems the only defence is a mobile phone, which every single person has in front of their face. The trick is to sneeze all over your screen, which must make gaming slightly harder when you can’t see the screen for snot?
We left the train at Phay Thai station then changed to the Sukhumvit line to Siam where we changed again to the Silom line and caught the train to Chong Nonsi.
At this point it should have been plain sailing.
The Chatrium Residence, which was our chosen destination is only 4 kilometres from the train station on Naradhiwas Rajanakarindra. Virtually in a straight line from the station.
The problem was, that the station is situated on a major junction with 4 different exits onto 4 different roads and although we had a map, we couldn’t work out which exit we needed.
So we did the only sensible thing, we asked some one.
The ‘Some one’ we chose was the station guard who ensures you all behave properly by blowing his whistle really loudly.
He looked at the map, scratched his head, removed, then replaced his face mask, shuffled his belt, which included a big truncheon and then pointed in the general direction of exit number 4.
Or was it three?
Anyway, we bimbled off in that general direction only to find the station straddles yet another major junction and has yet more exit options, also signed 1-4.
By now we were hot and bothered but we had no choice but to press on.
Had we known at this point that the rapid transit bus leaves from there every 5 minutes and stops almost outside of our Hotel, it would have made life easier.
Also, if we had known where the Hotel shuttle bus stopped, we could have sought that out and got a ride to the front door.
But we didn’t.
Eventually, after asking a few more people we knew which direction we were heading but we were at least three floors up and the clever people who designed the station had installed an escalator going up, but not one going down.
The only option was to carry the suitcases and two back packs down the stairs, but in doing so Jaki hurt her back so we were stranded on the second level.
Luckily we spotted a lift. However, this is a disabled lift and to access it we had to find one of the security guards, he had to go and get a key and then he rode down in the lift with us, to level one where we all got out.
We asked which direction we needed to go and he muttered and pointed, again in the general direction we had been going (which was a good sign) before scurrying off to return the key.
That left us only one more challenge. How could two old codgers, without a decent knee or hip between them get from the first level down to street level with our bags?
It reminded me of the conundrum where you have a Fox a chicken and a sack of grain and you have to get all of the across the river but you cant leave the chicken and the fox together or the chicken and the corn.
We were like that. If i carried one suitcase down to the street I would have to leave it there unsupervised whilst I went back up for the other.
The only option was for me to carry both suitcases down at the same time whilst Jaki managed the back packs and they weren’t light. Now given we’ve been paying additional charges for excess baggage on all flights since London, this wasn’t going to easy.
However, we achieved it and found ourselves down on the street with not a taxi or a Tuk-Tuk in sight, at least, not one that could stop.
The only solution was to find a Bar, have a beer and use their Wi-fi to sort out where we were and where we needed to get to.
Limited for choice (well, there was only one bar within a 200 metre radius) so we’d ordered two beers before we found out they didn’t actually have Wifi!
Its not often two elderly tourist can be seen sobbing into a glass of Chang but on this occasion it worked and a Guy hailed a cab for us, wrote down the name of the Hotel in Thai and gave it to the driver who, eventually (well he has to make a living) got us to the Chatrium safe and sound if a little later than expected.
Thats not our only adventure.
We decided to go to Bangkok snake Farm which is in one of the big Hospitals next to Lumpini Park (a lovely spot right in the middle of Bangkok where we came across one of the biggest wild lizards I’ve ever seen).
They keep venomous snakes and milk them for their venom then make anti toxins to treat people who’ve been bitten.
If your in Bangkok go check this out its really interesting and at 1430 they do a snake handling display with venomous snakes that is truly breathtaking.
Our intention was to flag down a Tuk-Tuk as its only a short drive away but the security guys at the hotel wouldn’t hear of it and insisted we take a taxi, after it had dropped off some guests outside the Hotel.
So we hopped in and the driver said he knew where the snake farm was and off we went. Strangely, we passed Lumpini park but didn’t stop.
Instead we went around in a big circle (I was tracking us on Google map’s with my i Phone) before he eventually stopped at the gates to Lumpini, apologised and bunged us out 40 Baht poorer than when we had passed it the first time around.
On our last night we needed some supplies (Suntan lotion, Mosquito spray, Tea bags and Sweetex to be exact) before setting off for Laos. We also needed some additional Baht which we could exchange for American Dollars.
You need $35 per person to pay for your Laos Visa.
But you cant get Dollars direct from a bank. Bank’s here aren’t like bank’s at home, they don’t seem to deal with cash or customers accounts like UK Banks.To get Dollars you have to go to a ‘money exchange bureau’ and swap one currency for another. In this case,Thai Baht for Dollars.
(We believe Super Rich have the best reputation for currency exchange).
So knowing there was a Bank of Bangkok branch in Sukhumvit (next to the ASOK BTS station) which we mistakenly thought didn’t charge the statutory 200 Baht and a supermarket across the road, we planned to head there.
We decided that whilst we were there we’d eat at ‘Hemmingways’ again as we enjoyed it so much last time.
When we got off the Skytrain we found the Bank easy enough but quickly established that they do after all charge the same as every other bank and we had deluded ourselves by thinking otherwise. Thanks mainly to some obviously misguided blogs that led us astray.
We stopped for a quick drink to get our bearings and work out plan B but somehow I ended up with a very Large beer that I didn’t really want.
Next, we couldn’t find the Supermarket. Some one had moved it.
It wasn’t, as we’d thought, on the junction with Pier 21. Instead, after an hour of walking we discovered it was right opposite the bar where we’d had a drink.
With our purchases tucked away in the back pack we re-crossed the road (not an easy task in itself) and to our surprise and abject horror found that Hemingways’ had closed down and moved to another site. Apparently the site was too valuable to stay as a restaurant and will become yet another high rise block of condominium’s.
Disheartened and tired we retraced our steps back to Chong Nosi and caught the rapid transit Bus back to our Hotel.
As we got off the first spits of rain started to fall and by the time we reached the Hotel it was throwing it down and we were soaked to the skin.
Wet and tired but desperately in need of food we sat at the pool bar, watched the storm and polished of Pizza and Chips.
It just isn’t simple to travel when your travelling.