Category Archives: Bangkok

Loy Krathong

 

loy-krathongOne of the most picturesque festivals in Bangkok is the evening of Loy Krathong, when people gather around lakes, rivers and canals to pay respects to the goddess of water by releasing beautiful lotus shaped rafts, decorated with candles, incense and flowers onto the water. Every year, Loy Krathong falls on the night of the twelfth lunar month (usually in November), at the end of the rainy season when the full-moon lights up the sky. The sight of thousands of Krathong’s, their flickering candles sending a thousand pinpoints of light far into the horizon is a truly magical site, and there are plenty of places in Bangkok where you can get involved with the festivities.

We experience this in Bangkok. We were staying at the Chatrium apartments and thought we would be clever, so we caught the shuttle bus to Asiatique and asked the driver to drop us at the Chatrium River side, where we hoped to sneak onto the Terrace and watch all the Rafts float by.

The first mistake was the traffic. The usual 20 minute drive took an hour. When we got to The Chatrium we found the Terrace was shut off and unless you had booked very expensive tickets to eat on the Terrace there was no way through.

Disappointed but not disheartened we decided to walk to Asiatique which is about 20 minutes as long as you don’t stop for a drink and watch the action from there.

The walk was worth while as there were stalls all along the road selling beautiful hand made Krathong’s of all shapes and sizes. Some were made from coconuts but all seemed to have banana leaves woven around a central core with Marigolds as decoration and at least one candle. They were priced at about 40 -60 Baht each.

After about 5 minutes walking we noticed lots of local people were turning off the main road and going down an alley so we decided to follow and we were rewarded for our bravery. This turned out to be a Ferry Boat Pier at Wat Worachanyawas.

This was an amazing find. There was a live band playing, food stalls, a large covered market which was now closed but would have been buzzing by day and a reclining Buddah.

People were launching their rafts onto the Chao Phraya river using a long pole with a sort of paddle on the end.So, we bought two rafts , got them blessed, made our wish (mine was to stay in Bangkok for ever) and grabbing a spare pole, launched our little dreams into the dark swirling waters where the candle quickly went out. (Hope thats not an Omen).

This was a much better way to experience the festival than sat in a Posh Restaurant surrounded by tourists. We were the only Westerners on the Pier and people were obviously happy to see us there.

Invigorated, we came out and found what was becoming our regular road side restaurant and ordered food and some drinks. Sat on the side of the road eating Noodles, with a Full Moon over head and the sounds and smells of the street. i couldn’t have been happier.

I love Bangkok.

Is she already Married I wonder?

 

Read more at: http://www.bangkok.com/whats-on-events/loy-krathong.htm?cid=ch:OTH:001

Advertisements

last days in Bangkok. 8th Dec 2016

Its the last few days. Who would believe that 10 weeks has gone so quickly yet memories of India seem a life time away.

We still hear from some of the gang (mainly through Facebook) who are still traveling but inevitably some have dropped off the radar.

Given this is perhaps our 4th or 5th visit to Bangkok we’ve done all the usual tours, most of the ‘Wat’s’ the reclining Buddha and the palace so there hasn’t been a lot of must do stuff left.

We walked down to Asiatique on our first evening, mainly because there is a place there that does great BBQ Ribs and i was in need of some meat.

Since we’ve been away our diet has changed considerably. Not only have we eaten much less meat, but the portions have also been drastically reduced and we now find we don’t need so much food to fill us up, which is a bummer cause we took a breakfast included package here at the Chatrium and it has plenty to tempt you.

The first morning I slipped and had Canadian Bacon (like English Back Bacon) with my Fried Egg’s, French toast and a sausage. By the end I could hardly walk and i felt pretty uncomfortable for the rest of the day.

Since then Ive started with porridge (yeah i know, with all that choice I choose Porridge) and this morning i followed the porridge with Sushi.

The rest of that day was spent lounging around the pool area. It was a bit overcast but still warm so it was a nice temperature to sit out.

Tuesday we caught the water taxi (Tourist boat) from Sathon Pier up to Pier 10 (Wang Lang) and visited Wat Rakan Kositaram. (40 Baht each).

img_6244

It was much like any other Wat but it gave us a reason to take the boat. Then we caught the ferry across the river for 3.5 Baht each and walked past Wat Pho the temple of the reclining Buddha and down to the flower market. Pak Khlong Talat. This would have been a great photo opportunity had we arrived earlier but at this time of day they were clearing things away and many of the flowers had gone.

Then we hopped back on the Tourist Boat and retraced our steps to Sathon where we caught the Hotel water taxi for the final leg.

Wednesday was quite interesting as the Hotel was being transformed.

Firstly they were putting up the christmas decorations which consisted mainly of foliage and flowers with some very pretty ornaments mixed in.

Secondly they were setting up the patio for a Sikh wedding. This was a very grand affair which took over the whole out door space along the river.

From 1400hrs we could hear the music and we were attracted down to the pool area where we could watch the celebrations. There was a full stage set up and each guest (or rather each group of guests) were expected to get up on stage and dance to a particular song or tune.

Interestingly they were announced as .”Friends of the bride. Cousins twice removed. People from the village”. They would all clamber on stage in their finery, get in position and when the music started, strut their stuff. Interestingly the music would suddenly stop, mid way through and that lot would be ushered off before another group took their place.

The bride and groom witnessed all the action from a little tent set up right in front of the stage.

All the men mean time, were busy eating and chatting and they all seemed to have worn very brightly coloured Turban’s for the occasion.

We didn’t go out that night. Jaki went down to the 7 Eleven and bought some toasted sandwiches, peanut’s and a few doughnut’s and we listened to the music and watched the water traffic.

img_6237

At about 2130 we led on the bed and watched some TV on the laptop before nodding off. There are two perfectly good flat screen Tv’s in the apartment but we’ve been following a few series from home which we recorded on the computer.

This morning (Thursday) were both suffering from a bit of constipation which is strange seeing as we’ve spent the last 9 weeks darting from one toilet to another.

So we wanted to find some thing to do that didn’t require too much walking.

We decided to take a Long tail Boat trip through the maze of canals that criss cross Bangkok.

Our starting point was Sathon Pier where the touts are always gathered trying to sell this trip to tourists.

We agreed with the first one to approach us that we would take a one hour trip and we would pay 500 Baht each rather than the 800 he had asked for.

When we got to our boat there was already a guy sat in his seat so we were obviously sharing.

old-house

Jaki and i tumbled into the boat which sits in the water well below the dock side and there is nothing to hold on to. Once in we were joined by two Indian Guys who got out again at Pier 9.

We were all encouraged to put our life jackets on and I was glad we did as the conditions were pretty choppy especially when the driver opened up that big engine.

Once we had dropped off the two guys we crossed the river and sat patiently waiting for the lock gates to open.

When they did, 6-8 Longtail’s emerged from the lock like spears all jockeying for position. We and another 5-6 boats went in and after a short time we were deposited out the other side.

The ride around the canals was interesting primarily because you see a side of Bangkok that is often missed. We took plenty of pictures, saw what the driver said was an Alligator but which might have been one of them Giant Lizards we saw at Lumpini Park, as well as shoals of fish.

washing-his-hair

We did stop at one point and a guy waded out to us and offered to sell us Beer. When that didn’t work he tried selling us souvenirs, but we resisted.

So I’m now back at the Hotel catching up with the blog for the penultimate time.

Tomorrow we check out of here and check in to a small hotel near the airport which offers free shuttle bus.

I shall miss the Chatrium. I shall miss Bangkok. I love just walking round it (often completely lost) and just absorbing it. I shall miss the anarchy and the humour. The traffic on the river which is fascinating. Eating by the side of the road and sitting out late at night when its still sweatily hot.

Our flight home is at 1115 hrs so with a fair wind, we should be back in Bristol later on Saturday evening.

I hope you have enjoyed following our adventures as much as we’ve enjoyed living them.

I think 10 weeks was about right but I’m looking forward to getting home.

I miss Georgia terribly. Im looking forward to catching up with mates, seeing my sister and preparing for Christmas.

Any longer and we just wouldn’t have the stamina to continue.

The packing and unpacking has driven Jaki mad.

The organising of flights and accommodation has been far more stressful than we’d expected.

Some of the accommodation has exceeded expectations where as others have left a bit to be desired.

I have given honest feed back on all Hotel’s to bookings.com when we booked through them and Ive also tried to review hotel’s, restaurants and attractions on Trip Advisor when ever possible.

But like the blog, these are only snap shots of a particular moment in time and I know other travellers have had totally different experiences.
Jaki summed it up quite nicely.

This has not been a Holiday it has been a series of experiences.

I hate to say it, but I think she’s right.

 

NB: there are Videos on You Tube if anyone is interested. 

Back to Bangkok. 4th Dec 2016

We flew back to Don Muang Airport, Bangkok on the 4th December with Asia Air.

It was a fairly painless flight (though rather expensive) but it wasn’t any where near as much fun as the flight into Luang Prabang.

The plane that took us from Vientiane to luang Prabang was a very small thing with two propellers. In side I could just stand up as long as the over head lockers weren’t open.

Sat in front of us were an Asian couple. She was dressed in all her finery and he sported a Bush hat as worn by Crocodile Dundee.

He got himself in trouble initially when he stood up and tried to walk down the plane during take off, the steward had to make a frantic dash and force him back into his seat.

When we landed he was desperate to get off the plane and immediately stood up to retrieve his hand luggage from the locker.
His wife, who had a very elaborate hair style that must have relied on wallpaper paste to keep it up, stood up loyally with him.

Once he’d grabbed his bag he slammed the locker door and they tried be first off the plane.
Sadly, he had closed the locker on a lock of her hair so when they set off at pace a great clump of hair was left dangling from the locker like the after math of the little bighorn.

She must have been so embarrassed they just kept going, pushing people out of their way in their haste to get off.

The elderly gentleman who carried 50 French sticks and a bottle of beer as hand luggage must have polished off the beer en route as he and his wife left with just the bread.

When he got off the plane, he sauntered casually across to the edge off the tarmac and proceeded to ‘Pee’ into the shrubbery. Further evidence that he had drunk the Beer?

So at Don Muang we had to complete yet another immigration form and we had by this time lost all the pens we started the trip with.

After scouring the counter’s we found a pen abandoned by some other traveller and I completed the forms filling in all the tedious information required as Jaki couldn’t find her glasses.

At the Immigration desk there was a very long queue (there were about 8 desks available and all had huge queues).
People had rushed to get to the front of the queue without filling the form in correctly which was causing the delay.

This incompetence ‘really annoyed me’ and I was Vociferous in my Criticism (a comment an Old Station Officer once made of me) cursing and cussing their stupidity right up until we were called to the desk.

It was at this point that we realised I had completed the departure information on the back of the form, not the arrivals information on the front of the form. So we had to fill in the back section, thus delaying all the passengers behind me. Oh how they laughed.

Well anyone can make a mistake right?

Once through our bags were the only ones left on the carousel and we couldn’t remember where we got the taxi last time we were here?

There is a big sign saying Taxi right at the foot of the stairs’ from Immigration but this (we think) is the Posh Taxi service with higher prices.

If you make a left at the foot of the stairs and go all the way to the end of the terminal to exit gate 8.

Here you will find a desk that does the metered Taxi’s.

You simply get in the queue, when it’s your turn, tell the guy where you want to go. He will issue you with a piece of paper and a driver and the driver will take you to his car.

The journey is on a meter so you pay what ever the meter says at the end of the journey. Our trip to the Chatrium Riverside was 252 baht.

But be aware, there are two toll roads on route and you are required to give the driver the toll money in order for him to pay. Our trip required a payment of 70 Baht at the first booth and 50 Baht at the second.

There was absolutely no traffic on the road so we made good time (about 35 minutes) and there was football on the car radio too.

Admittedly it was Thailand versus Myanmar and the commentary was in Thai but we had a great bit of Football Banter with the driver even though he spoke no English.

That is the difference for me.

Here in Thailand the people are far more open and friendly and you can have a bit of fun with them, some thing I missed on our travels.

So, were back at the Chatrium Riverside.

We had a lazy day around the pool yesterday before setting out on the river taxis to the Koh San Road where we had a pretty awful Cocktail and an equally awful meal ( Koh San is famous for being a back packer haunt so cheap and cheerful is the name of the game) before getting a fantastic Foot Massage for 150 Baht.

Then an equally fantastic Tuk-Tuk ride home (300 Baht).

It was great to lie in a comfortable bed, with working air conditioning and wifi and to think we have three more days of this.

Travel is the hardest part of Traveling. 24th Nov 2016

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.

train-at-chong-nonsi

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.

chong-nonsi-3 chong-nonsi-2

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.

chong-nonsi

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.

img_9453
Lumpini Park

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).

img_9463
This boy was about 5 foot in length

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.

img_9497

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.

Exploring Bangkok day 2. 21st October 2016

 

As I had been accused of ‘Spoiling the Holiday’ yesterday because I ‘didn’t want to do anything’ (three weeks of traveling, three different Countries I guess that could be considered a bit dull) I set the alarm for 0830, got up, made Tea and as much noise as I could which had us ready to go out the door well before mid-day which is becoming early for us.

At home I wake at 0400 for my first Pee. Usually I go back to bed and switch on the BBC world service, listen to that for a while, take my second pee, read a few pages and then go back to sleep about 0600. Here, I go to bed and don’t wake up till 1000.

luckily the bladder seems to be holding up well under this new challenge.

We made our way to the Skytrain and caught it to the National Stadium where we got off and made the short walk to Jim Thompsons House. I’d had it on good authority that this was a ‘Must Do attraction’ so I was raring to go.

plant-pot-2
Plant Tubs

Apparently Jim was famous for being a Silk Trader and a Spy who mysteriously disappeared without trace in 1967.

The house is interesting in its architecture and the garden are beautiful with it’s fish pond’s and landscaping, it’s a great place to take a few photos, but as a tourist attraction?

It left me a bit flat.

jims-garden
Gardens

I get the house is nice, that there are some interesting Buddha’s dotted around (some of which I suspect were plundered form places they shouldn’t have been plundered from) that some of the ceramics are pretty, even beautiful. I even like the open plan lounge area that has only three walls.

But it was sterile. It didn’t bring old Jim to life for me.

After we arrived we were informed Our tour would start at 1320hrs, so we had time to kill.

At our allotted time  a very nice lady with the quietest voice took us to a locker room where we had to store our bags, then we went for a walk around the garden (we had already been wandering around here for 40 minutes waiting for the tour to start).

That done, we went back to the locker room and removed our shoes before, at last, going into the house.

Once in the house we weren’t allowed to take any photos, so all of us with cameras hanging around our necks were redundant, we may as well have left them in the locker with the back packs?

open-plan-living
open plan living

The tour of the house took about 15 minutes. 25 if you add the time we spent in the locker room, then we were out again.

After the tour we had a quick drink in the cafe. I chose Guava fruit Juice which tasted just like eating grass.

I’m so impressed I’m gonna include this in my re-cycling regime when I get home. No more composting the lawn cuttings, they’re going straight in the blender.

We then had a Butch and Sundance moment.

Jaki had left the money on the table to pay for the drinks and we left Hotly pursued by 2 staff from the restaurant demanding extra money. She had read the price’s without her glasses so had mistaken 180 Baht for 150 Baht and had short changed them by 60 Baht.

Haven’t done a runner from a restaurant since I was a teenager.

We saw boat’s going up and down the canal at the back of the house so went to see if they were water taxi’s which they indeed were.

walking-along-the-canal
Walking along the canal

We followed the canal (San Lap ) for a short way and found a pier, waited a few minutes till a boat arrived, clambered, not very elegantly on board and off we went on what would be a very wet and wild roller coaster ride.

But where we were going we just didn’t know.

As it turned out we only had one stop before the boat turned round and went the other way so we scrambled off and set about trying to find out exactly where we were. Luckily the map feature on my i Phone worked (even though I don’t have a local Sim and no Wifi) so we could see a bleeping blue dot that gave us our bearings. Not that it helped much but we recognised a few landmarks and decided to head to Suan Lumphini park.

inside-the-water-taxi
Water Taxi

Unfortunately our plan went wrong as we walked North instead of South finding ourselves at Pratunam market instead. We were now further away than when we started.

Eventually, we found a skytrain station and with a bit of ducking and diving got ourselves back to Nana and our Apartment with its air conditioner and that lovely comfy bed.

It was afternoon snooze time.

We decided to change our plans slightly and go out for my Birthday meal this evening rather than on my actual birthday, which meant we could have a drink and if we were a bit hung over in the morning it wouldn’t really matter. A lie in would be possible.

The restaurant we’d chosen was called Hemmingway’s just by the ASOK skytrain terminal, about a 15 minute walk away.

When we got there it was surprisingly busy, in fact it was rammed. All three floors and the garden were full of people. We did enquire but there was no way they could seat us this evening so we booked a table for 8.30 on the Saturday before trying the Thai place on the corner, but they too were full.

In desperation we went into the nearest bar (a place that looked awful in daylight but was perfectly fine in the dark) and asked for the drinks menu, chose two glasses of white wine only to be told they had run out of white wine.

Through gritted teeth we laughed this off (after our Hooters experience this was nothing) and chose some thing else, anything else, to take away the hunger pangs.

Later the Thai restaurant thinned out and we managed to secure a table on the road side next to a couple of Yanks who talked business all evening.

The menu was pretty extensive so we chose some new stuff as well as some old favourites and made the best of it and it wasn’t half bad at that.

So one more day in paradise, well that is if you love Bangkok, which I do.

I know some stuff drives you crackers.

The guy’s that want to sell you fake watches and slip’s up to you all cloak and dagger, look’s around several times incase anyone is listening and then slip a shit fake watch out of their pocket with a sly grin. So bloody George Cole.

Or the Tuk-Tuk driver that just can’t understand why you would want to walk anywhere rather than travel in his vehicle.

Im a bit off of Tuk-Tuks at the moment. Ive had an annoying cough for a few days which I think is due to the air pollution.

But I love it here. I love the noises, the smells (well not all the smells) the food and the people.

Today 100,000 people gathered outside the Royal Palace to pay tribute to the late King who they absolutely revere. Cant see that happening in the UK.

And to think I’ll spent my 64th Birthday here.

I am a lucky Bunny. 21st October 2016

Exploring Bangkok. 19th October 2016

It’s my late Brother Andy’s  Birthday. Andy, I wish you could be here sharing this with me.

We’ve been to Bangkok a few times now but there were, we were sure places and things we hadn’t seen so this was an opportunity to put that right.

The plan was to get up early and get out. It went wrong at that point.

Neither of us set an alarm, so we didn’t wake up until 1100 hrs and by the time we’d farted around it was going on for 1400hrs.

We decided to explore using the SkyTrain (BTS).

Our local station on the Sukhumvit line (North to East) Nana is about ten minutes walk away so we set off for there. When you get there you can purchase ticket’s at the Booth or from a machine.

The machine is relatively simple. You know which station your in (in our care it was E3 and then you find the station you want to get to, in this case it was Siam) and along side Siam there is a number. That number is the cost of travel one way in Baht. So you put 30 Baht into the machine, choose two tickets and they come out the bottom, simple. Then at the gate you feed the ticket into the machine and it opens the barrier, you collect your ticket and your on your way.
AS long as you are on the right side of the platform heading in the right direction its fairly simple.
It gets complicated when you change from the Sukhumvit line to the Silom line ( Which runs West to South) at Siam which we did, purchasing a further ticket from there to Bang Wa.

Why Bang Wa you might ask?

Well, for some reason we thought China Town was there, which it obviously isn’t.

What we didn’t realise is there is a third way of getting around Bangkok which is the Metro Line (MRT) which is an underground train system.

If we had caught this and gotten off at Hua Lamphong  (the last stop) we would have been in Chinatown. But, we mistook the Silom line for the MRT when we changed at Siam and ended up at the end of the wrong line in Bang Wa.

There is nothing at Bang Wa, trust me so we planned to turn around catch the train back and start again. Then, we saw a tourist information centre and decided to seek advice.

This wasn’t the best decision we’ve ever made.

The lady running the information booth spoke very little English and apparently hadn’t heard of China Town (its called some thin like Bo Ana in Thai). She gave us a map that must have been drawn by Hannibal Lecter on a bad day as it proved almost impossible to read. She told us to go out of exit 3 and catch Bus 7.

Like Lemmings we followed the crowd of people down the stairs to the street below where we wandered around aimlessly for about 15 minutes before conceding we didn’t even know what a bus stop looked like.

Beaten we made our way back up the 6 flights of stairs  (which is hard with your tail between your legs) to the information booth to ask again for help.

Once again we were pointed in the direction of the exit and told to find the number 7 bus.

Before tackling the stairs again we decided to have one more stab at the map and whilst we were doing this the Lady from Tourist Information came and tried to help. We gave her the map and asked her to point to China town. This was a bit hard so we gave her an easy one.

“Where are we now”.? We asked.

There was a frantic session of head scratching, muttering under breath and general filly-bustering before she admitted, she didn’t know. This didn’t bode well.

However, her advice stayed the same. She was adamant we catch the number 7 bus and she asked us to follow her, she would lead us to the bus stop!
In reality we would never have found it in a million years. It was about 500 metres along a busy road and the road work’s had destroyed any semblance of a pavement, it appeared to be a building site we were crossing.

But true to her word, eventually there was a bus stop and not long after she left us, the number 7 bus arrived. Well, the blue number 7, the one without air conditioning (the red number 7 has air-con).
So we hopped aboard, paid our 20 Baht and settled down for a two hour ride from hell through Bangkok’s Rush Hour traffic. We were in fact retracing our journey back toward the centre of Bangkok but this time at a snails pace, in a cement mixer with toxic fumes.

img_3512
Magic Bus Bangkok style

Eventually the conductor (they still have them on every bus and every water taxi) told us to get off, we had at last after 6 hours travel, found China Town.

Well, not exactly.

We were clearly in a Chinese neighbourhood but it wasn’t the place we were looking for so we started to wander in the hope of seeing some thing that would lead us in the right direction.

It was at this point that we had a ‘Women from Venus, Men from Mars’ moment.

Given neither of us knew:-
A. Where we were.
B. Where we were going.

Any direction would have been a reasonable decision. Left and Right became irrelevant, we were just wandering aimlessly. Except that my aimless was apparently in completely contrast with Jaki’s aimless, the wrong direction.entirely  At every junction, if I went left Jaki would go right, if I kept straight, she would turn off.

In danger of a domestic we asked a Tuk Tuk driver where China town was and love him, he pointed down a road and said ‘five minutes’.

And it was.

We had been missing it by a ‘Gnat Nudger’ at every step.

Once we got there, the lights and the atmosphere were obvious. You just couldn’t miss it!

By now we were in need of a drink and we saw some Chang bottles in a fridge in an alley so we stopped and asked if we could buy a bottle?

This was clearly some sort of Cafe, though I use the term loosely as there were tables set up  but motorbikes were driving between them.

We didn’t care, we just wanted a drink.

Our request seemed to start a minor dispute between two ladies which we think revolved around whether the bottle of Chang lady A was going to give us was cold enough. Lady B didn’t think so and there was a bit of Argy Bargy which only made us want any beer at any temperature, desperately.

Once the dispute was settled we were given two frozen glasses one with some black stuff in the bottom that I think was a dead Ant and we sat there in heaven drinking and watching the activities of people who call this they working environment.

img_3520

Jaki was fascinated by the food being prepared at the end of the alley (more a viaduct really) so she went down and watched the lady at work.

The dish (fish on one plate sprinkled with a sort of crispy dust that was a bit spicy and topped with fresh coriander plus a bowl of clear soup with rice in it) looked so good we decided to try and the lady made it for us fresh in about 5 minutes. Served with a bowl of soy sauce and two sets of chops sticks and a spoon we were left to get stuck in. The secret was to pick up a piece of fish, dunk it in the Soy and then stir it into the soup. the combination of flavours was fantastic and the soup became increasingly flavoursome.

The total cost of this and two large beers was 320 Baht.

Opposite, a trader was doing roaring trade in selling Durian Fruit which stinks to high heaven but is in such demand that his stall almost ran out before we left the cafe.

We strolled through the streets amazed at the lights and the vitality of the place until we came across another road side cafe doing a roaring trade in BBQ Giant Prawns. So we sat down and orders a plate full which were served with two different flavoured chilly dips. They were beautiful and cheap too. At Rick Stein’s you would have to Mortgage your house for these babies.

img_3531

We walked some more but by now we were tiring and at last we gave in, flagged down a Tuk-Tuk and let the driver take us home for 300 Baht.

What a great day.

 

Back to Bangkok, 18th October 2016.

traffic-on-main-rd
Our flight landed at about 1800hrs and we were quicker through all the formalities than we had expected .

We’d booked a self catering (serviced) apartment in what was advertised as Central Bangkok which geographically it probably is. The Sukhumvit Residence Apartments are on Sukhumvit Rd mid way between Nana and Asok Sky train stations which makes it relatively easy to get around Central Bangkok and with the subway station only a short walk, it is as good as it gets transport wise.

mrt-map-2

We had arranged to meet the owner Zev (Fufu) at the apartments between 8-9 pm but as we were earlier than expected we thought he might want to sort us out sooner. So we tried to contact him.

His e mail said we could contact him in a variety of ways.
Please let me know your arrival time so I can meet you. If you need to contact me you can call me at: 0814513557, or use LINE (id: fufu-ftv), WhatsApp, or Viber.

We spent some time trying to get onto the airport free Wi-Fi service and then set about contacting him.

But we haven’t bought a local Sim (and to use the mobile for calls is a criminal cost) so we relied on WhatsApp as that was free as long as we had Wifi.

Sadly neither of us knew how to enter a new contact into the WhatsApp and despite our best efforts we couldn’t raise him. In the end we resorted to phoning him knowing it would be expensive but what choice did we have?

Strangely we couldn’t get him on the phone as the number he’d given wasn’t recognised.

By the time we’d done all this it was about 1900 hrs so it was time to go anyway.

Following the Taxi signs we got to the front of the queue and showed the address to the person behind the desk who allocated us a driver. These taxi’s are all metered so you only pay what the meter says, which in general is safe and a bit cheaper.

Having not travelled from Don Mueang airport before we didn’t know how much it would be but we expected it to be cheaper than the trip from The Chatrium to the main International Airport, which is about 500 Baht including the road Toll’s.

The driver was a bit of an odd ball. Firstly he insisted on taking our photo to add to his collection of European tourists he’s transported. Then he put on a Country Music CD and finally, he put an electronic massager behind Jaki which was very uncomfortable and almost impossible to switch off.

After all this palaver, we eventually set off on almost empty roads, this shouldn’t take long at all.

At the first Toll booth he asked for 75 baht and at the second 50.

He kept up a running commentary by speaking into his mobile phone in Thai and then handing it to us to read in translated English. All very strange. 

To his credit, he found the place first time and dropped us off right outside the door. The bill was 575 baht plus an airport charge of 80 baht, plus the 75 baht toll. 730 TOTAL.

It was one of the most expensive Taxi rides we’ve had to date.

We sat in the reception for a while and our man didn’t arrive.

At about 2015 a small fellow looking like an ageing rock star with Brian May hair turning grey at the roots arrived and introduced himself. He had been trying to contact us but as we hadn’t had wifi since we left the airport he hadn’t managed it.

communal-area
Communal Area

We followed him up to the 7th Floor and he showed us into the apartment which is a nice size, modern, clean and looked very comfortable. It has a small kitchen with the basics installed (bear in mind no one cooks in Bangkok it is just so cheap to eat out its not worth the bother).

A nice sized bed dominate the living space as did the 50 inch TV. Sadly we haven’t been able to find many English speaking channels so there hasn’t been much to watch. Also, because the King has just died most of the stations are broadcasting in black and white and the content is all good news stories about the King who is loved here. People talk about ‘My King’ not the King.

Having booked the place through bookings.com we had to hand over 7250 Baht plus a deposit of 3000 baht all in cash without any proof that we’ve paid. Zev was a bit uncomfortable with this system too and advised that AirB&B had a better system. The customer paid AirB&B and they paid him.

If we do this again I will definitely use AirB&B rather than bookings.com, it is just much simpler.

Zev showed us how things worked, helped us set up Wifi which was a bit temperamental, then left us to it

We unpacked and decided to have a recce round the local environment starting with the Gym and Pool but despite our best efforts we couldn’t find either so we went out onto the street and had a walk.

We walked up to the main road where the sky train track is and we were surprised just how far this was.

Turning around we retraced our steps, called in at the first bar and had a quick drink just opposite a Hooters Bar.

Further on we came to the Green leprechaun where a very tiny fellow in a green suit served us Margarita cocktails.

Not feeling very hungry we went into the 7/11 and bought some cheese toasties which they heated up, a Chinese dish of unknown origin which looks shite but tasted great. A loaf of bread but we failed to find anything that resembled butter  ( เนย in Thai ) and some cheese slices which made a great toasted cheese sandwich later. Plus a bottle of skimmed milk. We were set up.

Once we’d guzzled our 7/11 feast it was ‘good night from him and good night from her.’

club-room
Club House