One 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 thought I’d written my last blog of this trip, but I was wrong.
Yesterday Jaki woke with stomach cramp’s which were so painful that at one stage she started crying, not a good sign. All she wanted to do was lie down and sleep.
Unfortunately we had to check out of the Chatrium at 12 mid day and move to a smaller hotel near the airport.
Our flight was scheduled to take off at 1115 am on Saturday morning, which meant being at the airport for about 0800hrs. With Bangkok traffic that might have meant leaving the Chatrium at about 0700, a time of the morning were just not accustomed to.
So the cunning plan was to stay at ‘U Tiny Boutique Hotel’ overnight then use their free shuttle to get us to the airport on time.
So we checked out but Jaki wasn’t well enough to face the taxi journey so we found ourselves some comfortable seating in the Lobby and just waited.
By 1400 she was feeling a bit better, the griping pain’s were at least tolerable so we decided to take a chance and go.
The Chatrium usually organises a Taxi for you but when we presented them with the address of the Hotel they clearly weren’t familiar with it and resorted to Googling it and printing out a google map which they eventually gave to the Taxi driver along with the hotel’s telephone number.
Our taxi driver, a very dapper young fellow about 12 years old with shaved hair and a pony tail (very fashionable in Asia) and aviator sun glasses nodded knowledgeably when they gave him the directions.
So we hopped in the car and sat back.
We noticed that the licence which is always displayed in the front windscreen, showed a very smart gentlemanin his mid forties wearing his best suit for the official photo. Clearly our baby faced driver was not the same guy as the one in the photo.
We drove through the Bangkok traffic at break-neck speed and after about 40 minutes left the motorway and then followed it back in the opposite direction on a small dirt track.
By now Jaki was positively green and praying softly for it to end, one way or another.
Our driver pulled over to the side of the road and made a call. There was some serious ‘Jabbering’ before we swung back onto the road and continued our drive into the country side.
To my surprise, we pulled up along side a sign that proclaimed. ‘U Tiny Boutique Hotel.’ We had actually arrived.
Staff from the Hotel seemed genuinely pleased to see us and they were quick to grab the bag’s and usher us inside as if they were frightened they would loose us.
The Hotel looks almost brand-new. its very clean and tidy, quite ‘Dapper’ in appearance.
We were given ice cold towels, a drink of some thing horribly sweet and asked for our passports.
Formalities completed we were shown to our room on the third floor.
The room was very nice, good space, two beds, what I would refer to as ‘Queens” a very nice looking flat screen TV that showed only Thai stations (we did find one channel that had a film and with a bit of fiddling with the remote I managed to change the setting so that the dialogue was in English though the film was awful). Sean Connery must have needed some easy cash.
The shower and bathroom were clean but the shower was electric and although it worked perfectly and the water was hot, the flow was a bit like an old man with an enlarged prostate. Sluggish.
Jaki immediately crashed on the bed and slept.
I watched MK Dons play Charlton (if memory serves me right) in the FA Cup and I was horrified to see that some of the advertising was censored and had been blurred out, including the shirt sponsors which made it a bit difficult to watch.
Censorship seems common here in Thailand.
Bored with a football match that seemed to be played in sporadic smog I went down into the garden, a very pretty area by the side of the pool with arange of exotic plants, some rather comfortable loungers and a host of butterflies that danced around in the sunshine.
I read some of the book I had picked up from the Chatrium book swap. It was the only book in English so I had little choice but so far Im really enjoying it,
Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner.
I must have dozed for a while as the sun had gone down when I woke and returned to the room.
Jaki was feeling better though the pain’s were still coming they weren’t as bad as they had been . I told her it was “only like having a Baby” which cheered her up no end.
We went down to reception where there is a fairly sterile restaurant set up. Clean but modelled no doubt on a canteen in British Home Stores in the 1970’s.
Neither of us was particularly hungry and we didn’t want to tempt fate by ordering some thing spicy or exotic given we had a shuttle to the airport booked for 0800 in the morning.
So we settled for a plate of Chip’s (crinkle cut) and a plate of Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls, which we couldn’t finish even between the two of us.
We were on our beds by 2000hrs and luckily we’ve got some program’s from home recorded on the computer so we sat and watched one of them before getting down to some serious sleeping.
The bed’s were very comfortable. The Air Conditioning modern, silent and responsive and the curtains were full black out models.
The alarm went off at seven and after a quick wash I opened the lap top to find an e mail from British Airways.
Now were not celebrities, there’s no chance they are gonna randomly up grade us (i tried to use my Air Miles to upgrade the seats but apparently our seats are special. So special you cant change em).
I knew this wasn’t gonna be good new’s and sure enough, they proudly announced that our flight had been delayed by three hours. Three ferkin Hours!
Had we known, we could have stayed at the 5 star Chatrium for another night or had 3 extra hours in Bed. Jaki wouldn’t have needed to put herself through all that yesterday.
However, although our flight was delayed they hadn’t given us any notice of the check in time which apparently has stayed the same, resulting in a six hour wait at the airport.
So, I went down for breakfast, Jaki preferred not to be faced with food at this early stage.
I tried the fried egg’s which were pre-cooked but as they had no way of keeping them hot had now gone cold and the transparent stuff that is always present on Thai eggs wascongealed.
It was a good job Jaki was still in her room as this would have set her off again.
Clearly the breakfast was a disappointment.
Serving up cold food isn’t the best way of attracting new customers. They will either have to invest in some food warmer’s or develop a system that allows the food to be cooked fresh.
However, the coffee was good and I sat in the garden in the early morning sunshine feeling a bit sorry to be leaving.
We’ve been in Asia for so long it all look’s so familiar and it will take some adjustment when we get home.
At 0900hrs we threw our bags in the back of a pick up truck, climbed into the cab and within 15 minutes found ourselves at Bangkok International Airport.
As our flight was delayed it wasn’t showing on the board and it took a visit to the information desk before we established check in was in ‘Isle G’ where there were particularly long queues as people had to negotiate the impact of the delay on their travel plans. Particularly those that had missed connecting flights.
There was a young (my mate Pete would call her a Crusty) English girl sat on the floor crying. Her foot and her knee were bandaged and she was clearly in some distress. There was some confusion before she was assisted by BA ground staff who took her to the front of the queue and then found her a wheel chair.
Not the way you want to end your holiday in Thailand.
Once the bag’s were off our hands we went through the Body Scanning thing.
Removing my belt was a bit problematic as I’ve lost some weight and my trousers wouldn’t stay up without me holding them and I didn’t have a free hand.
Then we were faced by the queue at immigration which seemed particularly long today.
However,with a little patients, well, a lot actually, we got through and I now find my self sat at departure gate G7 waiting (currently for another 2 hours 20 minutes) for our flight.
They predict we’ll land at 2030 Hours and by the time we get through custom’s and immigration we will have missed the nine o’clock Bus to Bristol, so we will have to wait for the eleven thirty one. That will get us back in Bristol some time after one thirty in the morning. Then its a taxi (rather than the bus we had planned) ride back to Frampton. And £25 we hadn’t banked on spending.
So, the rest of the day will be spent battling tedium. Ive got three episodes of Game of Thrones ready to watch. Ive got a Talking book to listen to and as long as the battery hold up I should be fine but this is the worst bit.
So after 10 Flights, through five countries, 2 train journeys, 2 Ferry crossings, countless taxi’s, Tuk-Tuk’s and The Bangkok sky train, the only delayed travel we encountered was withBritish Airways.
Some thing Im sure we can all take pride in.
As this is written at etc Airport I am unable to attach any photos so you’ll have to make do with my ramblings.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
WE had a fantastic week on Samet and we were sorry to leave, had we not already booked accommodation in Bangkok and an onward flight to Laos we probably would have added a few more days.
We really needed a break after all the traveling but we didn’t find it easy to relax ,it took at least 5 days for us to wind down.
The Island’s have a rhythm and we were tuned in to a very different wave length.
Sitting on a beach isn’t a simple task, there are routines and ritual’s which have to be observed or you find yourself out of synch.
There are obvious ones such as when it get’s light and when it gets dark, which was about six o’clock, though the sun went behind the trees that edge the beach at four O’Clock each day, which signalled its own changes.
The beach bar’s put their deck chair’s (yes they still use some of the oldest most decrepit deck chair’s you’ve ever seen) out in a straight line very morning at about eleven o’clock. Each pair of chairs has a small table, some wooden but as a nod to modernisation, some are plastic.
Then they dig a hole and plant an umbrella to give each pair shelter from the sun.
However, before theses can be put out they rake the beach to gather up all the leave’s and debris that has fallen from the tree’s over night.
Throughout the day there is a constant battle between the bar staff and the tourist over the position of these chair’s. Like a strategic manoeuvre on the western front the chair’s are moved by the guests and immediately put back in neat straight lines by the staff.
But at four O’clock there is a change.
When the shade of the trees stretches out across the beach the Umbrellas become surplus to requirements and are lowered, like a flag at the end of battle, rolled up and carted away.
Then the line of tables and chairs are advanced further down the beach toward the water’s edge.
Interestingly there has been a Full Moon this week and at one stage the moon was apparently at its nearest point to the Earth for 68 years, which resulted in particularly high tide’s which ate most of the beach leaving only a very thin strip of sand which at times became very congested.
The beach next to our Hotel provides large plastic sun beds which they squashed into the available space creating a multi race Ghetto of sun worshipers.
This closeness of so many nationalities was sure to need a United Nations peace keeping force to maintain order.
Having observed beach life at some length we started to recognise individual people and they became part of the fabric of our day.
The beach trader’s and their wares became familiar. Like the two guys who sell Sarong’s they were most persistent swirling their goods like flamenco dancer’s. Quick to spot any ‘Newbies,’ often targeting them before they had chance to pick a spot on the beach and sit down.
Strangely Jaki bought another Sarong (to go with all the others we have at home) and told me she got it for a good price, though she never revealed exactly what that was.
Thinking this would be some sort of immunisation from further approaches was completely wrong. The sellers recognised a weakness and exploited it at every opportunity. Encouraging us to buy ’Just one more.’
The Lady who sells BBQ chicken walked up and down the beach carrying her hot coals and a cool box on a pole across her shoulder. Her chicken was very popular with other beach workers as well as tourists and she could be seen squatting on the sand where she cut the pre-cooked chicken joints into smaller pieces with a pair of scissors whilst making up a spicy salad .
Fresh fruit is always available. Mango, Banana and Pineapple are peeled, cut and diced with amazing skills.
There are Fake Tattoo’s on offer and the guy’s carry the images in weather worn portfolios. They use black Henna which can burn the skin and the images are at best Naive, at worst, down right awful and i didn’t imagine anyone would pay to have one. Then I saw a guy (about my age) have a huge ‘Tat’ on his arm which he sported proudly whilst his mate took various pictures of him, but I wonder what it looks like now.
The tourists too become regulars and some are creatures of habit, to which you could set a clock.
The Tall lady and her partners walk up the beach every afternoon at five. When I say ‘the tall lady’ I really mean tall. She must be at least six foot six, maybe more. Her partner is no slouch, I suspect he is 6-2 or 6-3 but she towers over him.
At just after 5 Pm two figures can be seen swimming around the headland, their Orange water proof bags proclaiming their progress. This Austrian couple set out each morning and snorkel round to Ao Nuan for a sunbathe then continue snorkelling up the coast, returning at the same time each evening.
Once dry they come out of their sea front bungalow at Pudsa and have a game of Boules till the sun goes down. We joined them for a game on Monday evening but lost 10-7 so had to buy a round of beers as consolation.
First thing in the morning an older couple (who must have been original Hippies) walk from left to right down the beach and around the headland to a tiny cove called Ao Nuan where there’s a small bar set back in the tree’s amongst some of the most Heath Robinson Cabins we’ve seen to date.
Ao Nuan cabins
Ao Nuan bay
This area seems to attract more back packers and the Hippie element, probably because the rental price’s are that much cheaper. We had lunch there and though it was cheap we didn’t really enjoy our meal. Jaki had what was described as Indian Vegetable Curry but looked like no Indian we had seen. It was a mix of leftover Sunday Lunch veg, mixed with a tossed salad and dressed with watered down Soy Sauce. Not very appetising.
The far end of the beach before going around the headland (TubTim) is well know to Bangkok Gay community and there were plenty of people walking up and down the beach displaying like peacocks. One guy wore the most outrageous shocking Pink two piece swim suit, whilst others seemed to be wearing only underpants?
We did marvel at the power of ‘Gaydar’ when a young fellow who had been sat reading his book for hours, suddenly jumped up, stripped off his shorts and ran into the sea in his underpants and an erection.
We watched as he approached another guy who was merrily Bobbing about on the briny and then ‘Hey Ho Hello Sailor’ they were as close as peas in a pod. This relationship was short lived and the guy returned to the beach, dried himself off and went to join the queue for an Indian Pancake.
Guess all that activity made him hungry?
In my day we had a smoke afterwards.
Some people though just refuse to conform.
Like the guy who sells Indian Pancakes with various fillings. Our favourite was the chicken masala, tasty and filling but the most expensive on offer at 100 Baht each.
The first day he arrived at 3 pm.
We bought our first pancakes and enjoyed them so much we decided to make this a daily ritual.
“Im always here every day at 2.’ He said. (Though it was actually 3pm).
The next day, true to his word, he arrived, at about 1515hrs.
Then on Saturday when all the day trippers from Bangkok had swollen our little community to breaking point, he arrived at 3pm, made a complete killing, selling out his entire stock.
Then, he was never seen again!
Its not just people who have routines. The dogs do too.
The beach has a whole pack of dogs that live quite happily (well, most of the time) and are tolerated by tourists and locals. Some have become celebrities in their own right, like the little sandy coloured dog that someone has painted eye brows on.
These dogs generally have their own little area and don’t seem to stray too far. But.
Every evening at about 4.30pm a large brown dog (some time’s in the company of a black dog) came up the beach from the South. As he got closer the Jack Russell from Trio Bar began to get agitated and eventually there was somewhat of a commotion. Usually this involved the Jack Russell running out to meet his Nemesis, then when he got within about 8 feet he turned turtle and legged it back to the safety of the deck chairs from where he could send out a few threatening bark’s.
Yesterday though a very different scenario took place. The owner of the brown dog stopped for a drink at Trio bar, bringing brown dog with him. Jack Russell had no option at this point and was forced to issue a challenge. Big mistake. Brown dog , teeth bared like fangs, grabbed him by the neck and would’ve snapped him in two if the owner’s of both dog’s hadn’t intervened.
They separated the two with ineffectual slaps from one and a good boot up the arse from another. Brown Dog Man picked his dog up by the scruff of its neck and the skin on its back and tried to carry him off. Sadly this resulted in him getting bitten on the hand by his own dog.
At which point, Jack Russell saw his chance and leapt from behind a flower pot, sinking his teeth into brown dogs dangling leg.
It was all very exciting for a while.
Then, everything just went back to how it was.
The Speed boats which ferry tourists from the pier at Ban Phe to the beach outside their chosen hotel make’s regular visit’s. They cut the glassy surface of the water leaving a white scratch in their wake, then as they near the orange buoys the motor is cut and they sink deeper into the water.
They spin around and with a roar of their out boards and a bit of showing off, they reverse up to the beach. The outboard’s are lifted clear and an anchor is tossed off the Bow. When the stern has touched the sand the anchor line is tied and the waves keep the boat pressed snugly against the shore, allowing the passengers and their bags to leave the boat without getting wet.
One group off, another group on, then they pull on the anchor line, which moves the boat into deeper water, engines are lowered. A big splutter and a belch of black diesel smoke and they are once again racing back across the water leaving the stink of diesel fumes in their wake.
This method of arriving at your chosen hotel has the advantage of saving 200 Baht per person as they by-pass the park rangers who collect the toll from customers like us who came by Taxi.
The Big Boat’s too make a call here. They arrive and anchor just off shore. A Guy from the bar rows a small boat out and is handed a length of 45 ml hose (the same type as we used in the fire service). He then rows ashore and connects the coupling to another length stretched across the beach, this is connected to a water Hydrant. Once the boat is full, it sounds it’s horn, a long belching cry and the hose is uncoupled.
So, each day unfolds. A Tapestry telling a small but interesting tale. Each person playing their part. Each routine, each action articulating a time.
For our part, we had to recognise the contours and then blend in.
It wasn’t easy, we were rigid and fractious. Caught up in the urgency of organising, traveling , unpacking.
Too busy to read to anxious to chill.
Then, on the 5th day, like an epiphany, it suddenly click’s and you are on the beach, sat in a broken old deck chair, watching the tide , the people, the routines.
Almost a part of it.
Sitting in the same place every day.
Speaking to the same people.
Ordering an Iced coffee every morning.
Eating an Indian Pancake ‘almost’ the same time every day.
The trick is, to leave and for others to ask ‘Wheres that Fat bloke and his wife?”
It is reasonably priced at THB 20,047.50 for a week thats THB 2863. per night (or about £68) which is well over our budget and something we wont be able to repeat very often.
It’s in a good spot just off the beach.
The room’s are clean and comfortable (if you ignore the pillows which are rock hard) and the air-conditioning which is either on or off) a reasonable size and there is sufficient space to put things down, which is often lacking in hotel room’s.
Butfor some reason, i just haven’t taken to it.
When we arrived there was no help with the bag’s, the staff all seem to congregate around the reception area, which is also the dining area (they advertise a restaurant but there isn’t one. They do serve food but it’s eaten in the reception area or on tables around the pool).
There are a large number of staff on duty at any one time, including four people behind the reception desk, and at least one at the travel desk next to it, where you can presumably book activities but its primary function seems to be to provide a surface for staff to lean on. But they aren’t Customer focussed.
I don’t quite understand how they expect to know a guest has arrived from their vantage point at the Travel desk when the Taxis stop at the front of the Hotel, a long way away. So there is no possibility of them being able to greet anyone.
This seems to be symptomatic of the culture of the Hotel.
Breakfast is from 7-10am but they start clearing away at 0945. So, if you go down a bit late you are likely to find yourself surrounded by activity as they hurry to get the breakfast stuff moved and return the area to its original condition.
Toward 0945 food starts to run out and its not replaced (unless you ask one of the staff for it, then they will go and get more) plate’s are no longer available and the tables around the pool start to vanish. Yesterday Jaki got up from the table to get more Coffee and when she returned her table was gone.
It’s like they cant wait to get rid of you. This is the only time I’ve seen the staff animated.
The breakfast, (as is often the case with help yourself buffet style) is a ‘Bun Fight’ with pinch points around the popular item’s (Bacon and Sausage seem to be the most popular with all visitors) and a volatile environment of hostility around the toaster.
Yesterday the two slices of toast I put in were taken by some one else whilst I went for butter and Jam and today an English guy with a pony tail pushed in front of me to serve himself some sausage’s.
The Egg’s are fresh cooked at a separate table out on the terrace but they keep running out causing a minor queue. They also rush to try to keep up so the fried egg’s are often served up broken or underdone. The Omelette look’s good but I’ve not been hungry enough to have the patient’s to wait for one to be cooked.
There are a lot ofheated Tureen’s with strange combinations of rice or noodles and this morning there was Spaghetti Bolognese which didn’t prove very popular with anyone!
In reality they try to cater for every taste and maybe they are trying too hard. Gordon Ramsey would say, cut down on the menu and deliver better quality.
I think he may have a point.
NB: Since writing this I have discovered a book in our Hotel room promoting the Hotel Restaurant which is called ‘JEP’s’ which aparently has internationaly recognise cuisine. However, we have been unable to find this restaurant and beliee it is no longer operational. WE will continue to search.
They don’t do decent English Tea in Thailand (at least not in Hotel’s or Restaurant’s). The best you can get is a Lipton’s Tea bag which is weak and insipid and tastes of fag ash.
So we bought decent ones in a supermarket in Bangkok and use them.
There is a big electric tea urn for hot water but its never turned up full. At best you get hot water rather than boiling but usually it’s no where near hot enough to make a cup of tea as they keep topping it up with jugs of cold water.
The staff here aren’t particularly friendly, they don’t make an effort to speak if they pass you by, they don’t make eye contact unless necessary and they tend to stay in groups talking amongst themselves rather than engaging with guests. I haven’t had a joke or a laugh with anyone so far which is surprising as the Hotel staff to date have been great.
There may be a management culture at the bottom of all this.
Their default position seems to be one of mistrust, which would explain the need to have a 3000 Baht cash deposit for damages to the rooms?
This perhaps explains why the Air con remote control is glued to the wall by the bathroom rather than left on a bed side table where it would be useful at night.
There is a note to guest’s in our bedroom headed.
“Welcome To Samet Pavilions Resort.”
It’s hardly a welcome notice though.
It lay’s out the following charges for any guest who dares to breach the rules.
1000Baht per hour surcharge for late check out till 1700hrs then a full day rate.
3000 Baht fee if guests smoke in the room.
2000 Baht fee if guests allow pets in their room.
300 Baht fee for loosing a towel.
In the event of loss or damage, guests will be charged accordingly.
Wifi is supposed to be available in each room but we have found it very difficult to access and even then it isn’t a strong signal. We found going to one of the beach bars and using theirs was a better option.
The TV has a selection of channels but picture quality is poor though the TV in the Main reception (the one the staff watch) has a perfect picture.
The Pavilion doesn’t have sun beds on the beach (as most of the other Hotel’s do) which means an additional fee to rent a sun-bed from some one else.
These are in short supply, primarily because during the day the tide has been high and there is little dry sand to put a chair on. Most of the beach is washed by at least one wave capable of floating away a stray flip flop.
We’ve taken to walking around to the next beach where for 50 Baht you can rent one of the oldest deck chairs in existence.
They are falling apart with bolts sticking out of them and frequent running repairs are needed throughout the day usually to accommodate rather large Russian guests.
But, they are surprisingly comfortable, offering a rather Bohemian way of getting a sun tan, well at least on the front. You cannot lie on them so theres no way of tanning your back other than by lying on the sand.
There are a range of restaurants which are all on the beach. Most offer the same selection of meals.
The bigger Hotels Like Samet Villas (Not to be confused with our accommodation which doesn’t offer any eatingon the beach) look very enticing.
Nicely lit by coloured lantern’s, clean table cloths and candles.
There is a BBQ item on the menu which allows you to choose your fresh sea food and they will cook it for you whilst you eat a salad starter but the portions are small and I’m not sure how good a deal this is.
Others are old wooden tables weathered by the sea with paraffin lanterns that spew out a rather noxious smoke that I’m sure isn’t good for you but does keep the ever present Mosquito’s at bay.
Im not sure whether these rustic venues are any cheaper than the posh ones though?
I dont think the quality of food isn’t really any different.Its all about the ambiance. If you want a pretty environment to eat in, you pay for it.
We haven’t found a proper Bar yet.
We did try walking up the beach last night and we stopped and sat at two different places but no one came to serve us so we got up and left. So drinks are a bit expensive and you have to be careful of the Happy Hour deals which might not be as good as they seem.
You are basically a captive audience, you take it or leave it as theres no where else to go which means the management of venues can afford to be sloppy.
Guess thats the price you pay for staying on a less commercial Island?
Struggling with pathetic Wifi signal here at Samet Pavillions so Ill have to add pictures later.
We decided to travel to Koh Samet because the weather here has been better than any other Island in Thailand. It appears they have a micro climate which keeps it dry and warm when every where else is horrible.
So we took a Taxi from the Chatrium Apartments to the Eastern Bus depot ( Ekkamai) in Bangkok, and bought two tickets for the ‘Big Bus’ to Ban Phe which is where the Pier for the Ferry to Samet departs.
There are different Buses available (including an express Bus) and Minibuses so our research got a wee bit complicated but the BIg Bus has space for suitcase’s (whereas the Mini buses don’t and you have to pay for an extra seat for your suitcases) plus they have an on board toilet.
When we got to the bus station there were several booth’s (desks or counters) with the name Samet (our destination) emblazoned on the front. Im assuming they will all take you to the same place but some are the Minibus providers.
However, BIG BUS is clearly labeled as you go through the front doors on your left hand side.
I did approach the Information desk and ask for some sort of clarification but the lady didn’t speak much English so Im none the wiser.
We bought two return tickets to Samet and two return ferry tickets from Ban Pae Pier to Na Dan Pier for 780 Baht which seemed a reasonable price?
We were told our bus left from Gate 9 so we sat there and waited. There were plenty of Cafe’s and snack bar’s available so you wont go hungry and its not a threatening environment so you wont feel nervous either.
After a while we were allowed to load our bags into the locker on the side (which we obviously didn’t do properly as a lady came along and did it again later) and then board the bus.
We sat in the wrong seats (check your ticket they are numbered) and had to move but all the seats have good leg room, recline really well and I found them extremely comfortable. I slept for two hours and only woke up when a lady needed to sit in the window seat next to me.
I hadn’t expected additional stops but there was one at the end of Sukhumvit Rd, another after an hour and a half then one more pick up and two drop offs. Whether these are scheduled I don’t know as they were all used by locals.
The air conditioning is a bit fierce and I suggest carrying a blanket or scarf so you can cover up to avoid the worst of the drafts. The nozzles are adjustable but you cannot dictate what a fellow passenger will do with their jet of air and you may find it coming straight at you.
There are no luggage racks in the bus so you keep your bags with you or put them in the space at the back of the bus but then you cant watch them.
I didn’t check the toilets which I should have done as a good travel writer but during our trip no one used them.
We arrived at our destination after 3 1/2 hrs drive which is within the 3-6 hours estimated depending on traffic.
The coach dropped us in a car park and we had to walk across the road and through another large car park where we could see the entrance to the Pier. Ticket’s had to be produced or bought at a Booth and there was a Lady Boy trying to sell Hotel accommodation.
Walking up the wooden pier was a bit awkward with our suitcases as the wheels kept catching between the planks and had to be partly carried. No one offered any assistance and it seems to be that Porters appear and snatch your bags from you only when they aren’t needed but there are none to be seen when its hard going.
Once at the end of the Pier I decided I needed the toilet so I made the walk of shame back down the pier and across the car park where I paid a lady 5 Baht for the privilege of going into a shit hole.
This toilet was a hole in the ground with a bucket of water and a jug.
Now I’m not prudish but my knees don’t bend that far, so I was forced to sit on the floor with my Bum over the hole.
Not very dignified but needs must.
Luckily I came armed with hand wipes and liquid hand wash as the taps failed to deliver any water and the soap decanter had long ago been vandalised.
So what was I paying my 5 Baht for you might ask?
Well, bugger all really.
Back on the pier we were told to board a ropey old wooden boat that didn’t really look sea worthy (and probably wasn’t) if put to the test.
But These are things you have to accept when traveling like Taxi’s with no seat belt’s and drivers who can drink a can of coke, text and pick their nose whilst steering a cab, all at the same time.
So between us we managed to lift the suitcases down the steps and up over the side of the boat where they were stored for the 40 minute trip to Samet.
It was quite pleasant, the sun was shining, sea blue and there was a cool breeze. It all seemed so idyllic.
When we reached the pier on the other side we were met with some rather strange statue and a much more modern port than I’d been expecting.
Pulling our bags we were stopped from leaving the port building by a Lady who simply Pointed.Following the direction of her well trained and honed finger there was a Booth where we were expected to buy a ticket each (20 Baht) to:- “Help restore the Pier”
This was the second rip off of the day.
The first was when we tried to get some money from an ATM only to find that all ATM’s in Thailand now charge 200 Baht for the privilege of drawing your own money.
Except Citibank’s which don’t charge and there are three of them in Bangkok, one on Sukhumvit Rd.But we didn’t have time to go there before catching the bus so we paid.
The charges made by my ever helpful bank (Lloyd’s) are mounting up and I might do a separate rant on that later.
So we ‘helped restore the pier’ and then found a Taxi to take us to our hotel (which was maybe 5 minutes drive away) for 40 Baht each. This required us sitting in the back of a Toyota Pick up truck with 5 other people and our bags.
We’ve travelled like this before in Thailand. The secret is to sit up straight, that way all the shocks are managed, slouch and your spine will snap in half!
Sting number Three.
Because Samet is classed as a Nature reserve The Government charge each tourist 200 Baht to come here. So we were stopped by four men dressed in military uniform at a checkpoint on the road and they demanded payment. The family from Nepal who were sharing our Taxi didn’t understand and refused to pay until I explained and then they reluctantly paid up.
At our Hotel there wasn’t a porter to be seen so we managed to drag our bags up and down several sets of steps and along miles of covered walk ways to the reception where swarms of porters immediately tried to grab our bags for the 3 metres journey across pristine tiled flooring to the desk.
At check in we were surprised to be asked for a 3000 Baht deposit which I was told would be returned to me when we left, if there were no breakages or loss (apparently the loss of a towel will cost me 300 Baht).
If I paid in cash they would return this amount upon departure, howeverif I used a card, they would not return it for 2 weeks?
I wasn’t best pleased with this, they had my credit card details, they had photo copies of our passports why would they need a separate amount for breakages. This is the first Hotel to ask for this in nearly seven weeks.
I suggested this wasn’t in Bookings.com contract but she produced a copy of the on line site and sure enough, hidden in the small print there was indeed a reference to having to pay this amount, though it didn’t explain about the delay for using a credit card.
We had of course no choice but to pay the amount in cash but I’m Still not happy about it.
Our room is quite pleasant and we will, Im sure be comfortable here.
The Hotel itself seems quite nice though the lay out is obscure. Like there was a crease in the initial drawing’s which have caused it to be spread out over different levels.
It’s advertised as 40 metres to the beach and I would say its less than that from our room. Walk past the Pool (not as big as the promotional photo’s suggested) down a ramp and your on the beach, which is a cove.
Walk along the headland a few metres and there is another cove. This we think is repeated all around the island.
There are beach bars along each cove, though they aren’t the hyper trendy types we found in Danang these are tin and thatch shacks with old home made wooden tables and chairs.
Mozzie repellant burners smoked away gently under each table adding an incense smell to the evening. There was the sound of music some where in the distance, people were having a few beers after a long day on the beach. The sun is starting to disappear behind the palm trees (were on the East side of the Island) and the sun beds were being replaced by white plastic tables and chairs outside the more expensive hotels and complexes.
There were lots of Bungalows which are for rent along the beach front, from wooden shack’s with tatty curtains and a hammock on the porch to very modern brick build affairs which I suspect cost a fortune.
Each is tucked into the undergrowth shaded by palms.
After a quick drink, we returned to our room and changed into our swimming costumes with the intention of having a late afternoon dip, but we got distracted by a bar that had sort of, soft lounging mats on wooden platform’s.
This looked inviting and the offer of ‘2-4-1’ happy hour persuaded us to stop for a drink.
We watched the Moon come up over the Ocean, it was beautiful. I was almost forgetting about all the Mishaps of the day. Starting to chill.
Two white wine’s were ordered (150 Baht each) and although they were apparently South African they tasted like Retsina from Greece.
The happy hour deal we were told was for every two drinks purchased we got a third one free. So we were surprised to be presented with a bill for 900 Baht when we decided to leave.
When we questioned this the waiter told us that white wine wasn’t included in the happy hour offer.
Reminding him that he had told us otherwise on at least two occasions he said. “OK” and charged us 600 Baht.
That little encounter over we went back to ‘Our Beach’ and chose a table where we ordered some food. Jaki had the best Green Thai Chicken Curry and I had some Grilled meat with about a ton of lettuce.
A whole allotment supply of greens on one plate, none of which were eaten.
When we paid up we tried to put the meal on the Hotel bill but apparently this was Samet Villas and we were Samet apartments so we had to use yet more of our cash.
It seemed best to call it a day, we know when were beaten so we slipped off to our room where Jaki started her nightly Mantra before i had even cleaned my teeth.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 BangWa.
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.
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.
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.
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.