Being woken in the morning by some lady walking through the carriage trying to sell something is not a nice way to be woken and results in me, getting out of the wrong side of bed, so to speak. The sun is up, the birds are singing, it is a good time to wake people up!!!
My disposition improves with some Milo (it is just not the same in Thailand, it is UHT milk, no good when you are used to drinking 1/2 a liter of fresh milk a day). We sit and watch as the world goes by around us, as the rice fields and country towns turn into the metropolis that is Bangkok. We are amused by just how close to the tracks the little shacks and houses are built. They appear to live in squalor but seem so happy with life. They are so close to the tracks that if you put your hand out the window you would be able to touch the buildings. With Bangkok coming alive, the traffic is jammed packed into the streets, parking lot style, and I am glad to be on the train, cruising with no real plan for the day.
Arriving at Bangkok, Hua Lamphong station, we pile off the train, locals and tourists alike, as Bec and I make a bee line for the side of the platform as to not be in anyones way. We have accommodation booked, but it's currently 0730 and check in is not until 1400. We find a map, and look at places to go, watch the goings on of the station, find the hotel on the map, eat some breakfast and sit some more. At 0930 we decide to make a break for the big city, armed with a map and a rough distance of 500m's we set off towards the hotel. I manage to get us lost as we turn a street to soon and we end up finding the hotel thanks to Bec in a round about way, sweat pouring off us, we walk in the door at 1000 and to our surprise they check us in this early. Yay! We plonk onto the bed, cool shower, unpack to find all our dirty washing, first time for a washing machine wash (Bec insists on it!!!), look at the map and decide it is a good idea to find a supermarket for some supplies. Find a supermarket we did, after we found the camera district, the game district, the guns and weapon district, half of china town and a whole lot of other things. Only on returning to the hotel, walk one street to far and find a supermarket down that street, not 100m's from the front door, after we had just walked over a kilometer, this situation leads to lots of laughing and disbelief, trust us!
Afternoon wanders reward us with a street side wash centre, entire load, wash and dry, 100baht ($3.30), and a big load it was! Surprised we had any clean clothes left! The street stalls in china town are incredible, people everywhere, street stalls everywhere you look... Walking down the middle of the road is easier than on the foot path as you are able to actually get past. Street food for dinner, worst meal yet, worse than chilly night in Krabi, and that is saying something! The only saving grace was that we got some veggies from the vegetarian stall near the door to the hotel, and this provided enough for dinner!
Challenge one for this morning is to again find the laundry place that we managed to stumble upon last night. Mission accomplished, return at five for the washing! We set off to go and see the temple that is closest to us, Wat Tramit, it is a Buddhist temple, with the biggest solid gold statue of buddha in the world. Weighing over 5 tonne! Not able to see the whole temple as "the Princess" is visiting tomorrow and they have to make the temple pretty for her. The buddha is an amazing sight and a welcome dry change given the rain storm we just walked through to get here.
As we are leaving we see a bunch of monks rocking up, obviously some special thing for tomorrow. 108 monks in total from all over Thailand, we have decided that monks either drive Mercedes or Toyota Camary's (I think it might be to do with the amount of donations they receive at their respective temples).
After the temple we have no plan and the only thing in the area is a snake farm. I am reluctant, sounds wrong but Bec is keen so off we head. After a very polite cleaner and a train officer both giving us bum steers we are finally headed in the right direction thanks to a nice security guard! People along the way keep asking where we are headed and try and help with directions, more of a hindrance really and we are never really sure if they are actually trying to help or if they are a taxi/tuk-tuk driver just trying to sell us a ride somewhere. Finally we arrive at the snake farm only to find out that it is actually part of the Thailand red cross and was set up by the queen as a way of studying snakes, their venom, the toxic properties of it, as well as educating the public about them. Snake Farm just does not seem the right way to describe it on a tourist map. With you all knowing Bec and her love of all things that slide along the ground.... Here she is!!!
OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was in heaven, initially a little dubious as I thought "farm" and didn't want to contribute to the mistreatment of an already under dog of the animal world but....... As Lena said farm was wrong it was an institution that should be mandatory for every one! There was a snake display (we missed the start, much to my disappointment) however the handlers brought the snakes so close and you got loads of information from the English speaking lecturer. Toward the end they asked for a volunteer and you guessed it my hand was up and I am sure stretched well beyond normal length trying to get picked (I bet I looked like the nerdy kid in kindy with the very straight back and almost bouncing out of my seat making little noises trying to get teacher to pick you... That summed it up quiet well really because yes she did look like this). I beat the brave little kid in the front row and am sure the handler picked me because he was afraid I would explode if he didn't!
So the lecturer asks where I am from and is a little surprised, she points out how many venomous snakes Australia has and then asks if I know the most venomous......... Well 'DERH' I give her the three names I knew it by, she then asks what is the biggest animal eaten by a snake.... Right again and as one of the handlers walks toward me I turn to face him with this little rat snake another handler dumps this massive Burmese python on my shoulders! I think they thought they got me but my grin just got bigger!!! I got some photos and then every one who wanted got a hold, Lena included (not that I wanted to hold it, but again with the thought of Bec exploding if I did not, she seemed to excited at the prospect of having a photo of me holding the snake)! I was so proud of her!!!!!! After that we wandered around the open air pits with a good selection of snakes and then off to the museum bit. It was really well set up, good information and well presented. Loads more photos on my behalf and a little begging "please can I have one of those ones" to no avail. We left with me grinning and promising not to ask to drag Lena to any more dorky places. Very very cool let me tell you!!!!
It wasn't so dorky, more nerdy really. :)
What made Bec even a little more nerdy today was the photo that she got taken right after the snake show. Again looking like a kid in a candy shop as we spot a nurse from the red cross hat and all, Bec asks to have her photo taken with her. I think that the poor girl was shocked and just stood there stunned as we took the photo.... I must admit that I am glad I am not a nurse in Thailand, I thought smurf blue was bad it's nothing on white dress and hat.
We walked back to china town after this thinking that it didn't seem to far on the map and would only be one stop further than catching the subway thing. The walk wasn't so bad and we did get to see a different part of Bangkok, not so much the tourist precinct more of a business orientated area. Found what appeared to be pork jerky, We got the smallest bag possible and dug in! Pork jerky?!?! not really. Was more of... not sure what it was. Supposedly pork but Thai's kill everything with sugar, was deathly sweet with a funky after taste. This resulting in a nausea feeling for both of us. May very well have been the worst food tasted yet (and that's saying something given last nights dinner)! We make it back to china town in time to pick up our washing. As we walk down the street to collect it we walk past a self serve coin laundry... Exactly what we wanted, no idea how we missed it! Daaaarrrrrr.
Washing collected and delivered back to the hotel. We head out to find the post office that the map assures us is just around the corner, have not seen it in all the walking we have done but we go for a look and vola... There it is! Right where the map said, must be the only street in china town we didn't walk down! Easy to get to not even 2 minutes walk, convenient for post tomorrow. Dinner tonight consists of veggies, two minute noodles and tuna sandwiches. Packed and ready for a move to our not so luxury digs tomorrow!
All the tourist sights appeared to be on the one sided of Bangkok more centered in the older part and we had heard much about Khoa San Rd. So the plan is to stay around here and see some more sights. Post sent... And packs much lighter for it, we head off to make it across town! Apparently tuk-tuks across town are expensive, they don't like leaving their areas we later find out. After refusing a few due to cost we finally have one that is willing to take us for 100baht, done deal. He takes us for an entire tour of Bangkok, I swear! We sort of had an idea where we were headed and he went all kinds of funky ways out of the way. Oh well... Price agreed, I don't care which way he takes us so long as he takes us and we don't stop at any shops! Arrive we did, no stops but about thirty minutes later!
KS guesthouse on prasemen rd, that is to be our little home for the next four nights. We settle in and head off for a walking tour, armed with our map, our brains in our heads and our feet in our shoes, we can steer ourselves anyway we choose.... Much to the disappointment of the taxi driver on the corner near our hotel that tries to tell us what direction Khoa San rd is in and which temple is good to see... I tire rapidly and pull Bec down the street in the opposite direction to the guy! We cross a bridge over a rubbish filled canal and turn right over the road and down a canal side walkway... We like the look of this street. We keep on walking, just keep walking, walking, walking (sorry Dory no swimming allowed, canal is to dirty. But there is a surprising array of fish in there that we can see, we make a mental note not to have any fish bases dishes around Bangkok).
Walk we do until we see a cute little book shop, passport books. It is a gorgeous little shop and a slice of peace and quiet in an otherwise bustling, noisy, polluted over run city. The shop is quiet with a good selection of English, Japanese and Thai books all there for the reading. Post cards, music, coffee and food "coffee tastes better with books" the slogan reads.
We are won over by our new found little hideaway. We manage to lose ourselves for about an hour and this is only because I promise to return in the morning for breakfast, I think it was the only way I was going to get Bec out of the shop and nothing at all to do with the fact that I wanted waffles for breakfast. We ask what time the shop opens and the owner laughs... 'whenever I get here, depends when I wake up, generally about 1030'.
With the promise to return we step out onto the street, I seriously nearly did a 180 and headed straight back inside, the noise, humidity and smog outside is amazing as it slaps you in the face when you are caught unawares, so relaxed in the shop I didn't even think where we were until we stepped onto the footpath. After a second to compose we move on. Past the queens gallery... Oooooo that looks good, will return there tomorrow. A Wat (temple) who's name I can not think of right now, but it housed the loha prosat, (keep in mind that it is now 1700 and everything is closing), past the democracy monument where we had a fantastic noodle salad. Bec thought about the color but I did not, bright orange you would think spicy, my stomach won and I did not think. The salad was not spicy and was a good pre-dinner dinner. There is a place marked on the tourist map as a place of interest, Mon's milk shop. With no idea what it was we headed down the street to find it... We passed a place called Mont's milk shop full of people and remain to this point no wiser as to what the place was. Maybe a shop/restaurant selling milk based products, no idea!
Giant swing... Sounds fun?! sorry to bust your bubbles, no fun! Big orange monument thing... Whatever, don't call it a swing if you can't sit on it and swing some!
Found our next Wat for the day we stumble in and follow what limited English signs there are, the temples tourist offices are all closed so we just wander. Not sure which way to go but being as respectful as we can be. The walls are all lined with Buddha statues and the main temple is huge. Red and green tiled roof, makes for a stunning photo with a bright blue sun setting sky in the background.
We have a brief look inside the main temple, careful not to disturb as people are there praying (not sure if that is the right word for Buddhism, oh well). And then we head on our way when our stomach begin to crumble.
To Khao San Rd captain!! On we walk, back past the milk shop, the democracy monument, picture obtained and into McDonald's we go... Just to use the toilet, love McDonald's, clean toilets, free, western style and paper provided. Off we trot and there is Khoa San Rd, staring us in the face.... Holly cow, it's Bangla rd Bangkok style. This is not what we wanted. Neon lights, vulgar tourists and people selling crap. Oh man. Bec does however convince me that it is a good idea to buy some fisherman pants (I do love that she made me, as i sit here three weeks later in them). I have worm mine more than she has her's. They are great for travel pants, train, bus, boat... Great!
We find what appears to be the least looking restaurant style food we can with plastic tables and kitchen on the footpath, should be alright... We didn't mind really, it was way past dinner time and we were starving! We head off in what we thought was possibly the direction home. We may possibly have been completely wrong, as we end up back on a main road in the complete opposite direction to where we wanted to be. We head back in and manage to find our way without to much foot stomping on my behalf... I don't like markets I have seen enough, particularly this style. On the way to the hotel we find the local street stalls and decided that this is where dinner should be tomorrow night.
Day four in Bangkok with our first stop set we head off, you guessed it right back to the bookshop for breakfast and timeout. I'm having waffles:) and ice coffee, real coffee and toastie for Bec. Chill out and relaxation time attended, on to the gallery. Some of the work was just freaky, some good, some not so thai at all, some very Thai. We decide seen we are in the area we should go back to Wat Ratchanadda, which houses the only remaining loha prasat in the world, there was initially three, one in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, however the other two feel into disrepair, whilst the one in Thailand was saved and only just completed recently. So happy that we went back to see it, we had not planned on viewing this temple at all but i think that it may have been the best one that we saw the whole time in Bangkok. It was spectacular with seven levels, each second level with metal spires. There are 37 metal spires representing the 37 virtues to enlightenment. The building reaches a height of 36m.
The spiral staircase in the middle was a fun too. Felt like we practically had the building to ourselves, with all the other tourists just climbing to the top for the view and not exploring the rest of the building, shame really with all the work that has been put towards making the place tourist friendly.
Found a quote at the bookstore 'a tourists sees what he comes to see, the traveller sees what he sees'. I think that this was such the case in this situation. No plan to see it, just stumble across it and it turns out to be the best.
After this temple we decided that we were close to the golden mount, a big concrete mountain with a golden stupa on top... Why not, let's climb that too... No where near as good as the last temple and we are in and out in about 30 minutes... I must admit though that I did have fun ringing the bells on the way up and down, not sure if we were meant to or if it was disrespectful but none of the monks said anything to us about it. Next stop canal cruise with a plan to cruise to the main river flowing through Bangkok. Mission failed. It's ok, we didn't self destruct. We did however end up in the middle of a red shirt rally, a truth rally to do with politics, that we later found out on the news that just three years earlier it had been broken up by the army, randomly firing bullets into the crowd, killing 90 people! With our position finally found on the map, we are no where near where we wanted to be, so we hop back on the boat, pay out 15 baht and cruise back up the canal. To given some idea of just how dirty the water is in the canal, there are plastic tarps on the the sites of the boat to pull up if the water splashes, if any water does get in, it is quickly wipe from the skin. Mouth closed the whole way, and very thankful for sunglasses. After our miss adventure and feeling really dirty we head for a shower, with the plan for a trip to the pub recommended by the people in the bookshop.
Pub found, odd looks when we go to walk in, obviously not a tourist pub, appears closed still, some creepy guy out the front says you can stay for a drink, so we quickly say we haven't had dinner and head back up the street, dinner and drinks had at a local street stall next to the canal... No seafood ordered! For $3. Again we decide that walking up the streets a good idea, until we decide we don't want to go down there... The street became quiet, eerie quiet and a little freaky, so we turned on our heels and headed back. Pork sausage (I think Bec may of found a new favorite food) and a mini crepe with melted marshmallow filling provided for a nice post dinner treat. We did not make it to the pub... Next time.
Weekend market... Take bus number three and get off at the market, you can't miss it. Indeed they were right, you couldn't miss, not unless our eyes were painted on. The thing goes for over three city blocks. People everywhere. The market is broken up into sections containing different good... Supposedly anyway, things just seemed to be all mixed together if you ask me. There were 27 sections ranging from animals, food, antiques to clothing both new and used, household goods, flowers, plants, everything really. There is even a massage aisle.
The strategy was to follow the aisles... Sure, yeah right, the aisles that seemed to go straight clearly did not as we got diverted and did not end up in the next aisle along but instead an entire different section. There was some fantastically cheap clothes, and you can understand why people come to Thailand to shop, but I couldn't do it for long, I don't even think we saw 1/8th of the thing before we called it quits, heat, humidity and sweaty bodies all in a crammed space, with tin roof is not a good combination.
We headed home, up a street like salmon, we felt that given it was two in the arvo people would be headed away from the market.... But no, people continue to come in droves as even more stalls set up in the street.
I decided that i wanted to try all forms of transport in bangkok (motorbike taxi not included) so we headed home via the skyrail (also insanely clean like the subway) and the main boat system (not so clean... Not sure it could be given the river that it is cruising along), with the plan to make it to the sky bar, we didn't make it, whether not enough water intake or caffeine lacking am not sure, but I crumpled in a heap on the bed at 1530 and did not move until morning!!!!!
Tourist alert!!! The plan today is to be tourist, true tourist, visit the sights most frequented by the tourist population of Thailand, via the train station to secure tickets for tomorrow and with a little treat of KFC we continued on our way to Wat Pho. Wat Pho is a temple containing on massive arse, big reclining Buddha. It is one of the most frequented temples in Bangkok, costing 100baht just to see the Buddha image. I will admit the wall art is amazing, as is the size of the Buddha, it is ridiculously big,
as is the number of tourists that set foot through the walkway everyday. Talk about overcrowded, comment of the day goes to Bec... "I thought we were in Bangkok, not Mumbai, India?". Not so sure about going to India after the pushing we incurred this morning. We step out of the little hall with the reclining Buddha and make our way around the grounds, they are spectacular, the mosaic on the stupa's in the yard are incredible. As are the fierce looking things guarding the entrances. The actual temple hall is very similar to the one we saw the other night,
and we decide that all the temples are starting to blur into one. We move on with the plan to make it to the grand palace and than the emerald Buddha - the most prized possession of Thailand.
We have decided that the best way, if not always the easiest way, to get directions is to ask someone that has nothing to gain by pointing us in the right way, so we head to the security guard on the entrance to Wat pho, after he realizes we are not trying to get in for free he politely points us to the right, than turn left at big road, follow the big white fence. Off we go, being told be every tuk-tuk, taxi and bus driver that we are headed in the wrong direction... Tuk tuk after tuk tuk insist we are headed the wrong way, but we push on in spite of the heat, it appears we are not so good at the tourist thing, of we were ding it true style we would either be in a tour bus, or catching a tuk tuk, never mind. We find the entrance to the palace with drivers continuing to tell us, even after we could see the entrance, that its long way, I take you. We get to the gates only to be told we are not dressed appropriately and we would have to rent clothes, free of charge with a deposit, long pants and long shirt is all that is acceptable on palace grounds. We line up for about 15 minutes in air-conditioned comfort only to read the sign saying entrance 400 baht... I didn't want to see the palace that bad, so with the price confirmed we turned around and headed out. Asking for directions to the emerald Buddha from another security guard only to be informed that it is inside the palace grounds. This is where is decide that we really really suck at the tourist thing, as we turn and head straight in the opposite direction, away from the palace, the emerald buddha and the hoards of tourists that have come out to see these places, we are in an Asian country and it is spot the Asian, odd concept really!
We walk home past the national museum, that actually looks really interesting and we would love to visit, but it's closed today, so back along Khoa San Rd, oh after seeing some nuff nuff bogan tourists that walk out on a zebra crossing, from behind a bus that you can't see past and just step onto the road, collecting the mirror of a passing minivan, only to have a go at the driver because he didn't stop at the crossing, if anyone has been to Thailand, you would know that a zebra crossing doesn't mean you are just free to walk, you still have to time it right and make a run for it when there is a small break in the traffic, no different to normal road crossing really, just that there is a ramp off the gutter rather than a step down. Some people are idiots. Khoa San rd is much nicer of a day time, not so much neon, not so many short skirts or people trying to sell you things, just a few stalls and pubs and shops lining the street. After a stroll through, picking up a t-shirt for Bec and a sarong for me (that turns out was not dye locked, so my turquoise blue sarong is now patchy and splotchy and continues to turn me blue every time it gets wet).
Nanna nap this arvo, followed by what I think may have been my favorite part of Bangkok, we shower and dress in the smartest casual wear we have, head to the ferry and catch the boat down the river, walk up the street and arrive at Leuba state tower. The home of the sky bar. A very cool open air bar on the 63rd floor of the tower, overlooking Bangkok as the sun sets and the city lights up.
This was my splurge for the trip, two shots of baileys over ice cost the same as an entire bottle would in Australia, but you certainly wouldn't get the view with it.
On the way out we ask the best way to get back to the train station, if there is a bus that goes and if so what number, we get the most bizarre looks, people the stay at the Leuba state, even people a visit have no other form of transport than private car or taxi. Taxi is the only way we are told by multiple people, it can't be! We head into a glasses shop and ask if there is a bus, the mother of the clerk tells us that bus 75 will get us very close to where we want to be, spotting the bus we bolt across the road, full Bangkok style and away we go. Indeed it did get us close to where we wanted to go, after walking the remaining distance to catch bus 53 home, we are on our way... Doh... After being on bus 53 for about 15 minutes we come to the exact stop that we just walked from... Ah well, we need to get more fit to carry those packs of ours. Dinner tonight is at a restaurant as apparently today is the day that all the street vendors take off. Late night with a late start tomorrow.
The train tickets we brought yesterday morning, they are for use today, to get us to the Lao PDR boarder crossing, the only issue is that the only train available is a sleeper train, so we are stuck in Bangkok until 2000 tonight with no plan on what to do. Catch up on some blog we thought... Hence week one and two finally being completed. That was only after much walking... Walking, walking, always walking. Coffee at the bookshop and chill for the afternoon, plan thwarted by a nice looking restaurant just prior to the book shop. Number 467 Praseman Rd, just down from brown sugar (I give so many details because if you are ever in Bangkok you have to try this place, be warned I think that it closes at 12 midday given they were packing up around us), there were lots of locals and what appeared to be a buffet style self serve. We take a seat and are handed a menu, with much effort we finally figure out that the buffet is 50baht per plate, and you can fill as many times as you like, and it is spicy. We take a gamble, but order some veggies and rice just in case it is to spicy. In I head, plate in hand I face the buffet with no idea where to start... That one doesn't look so spicy, than pow... Not spicy but the manager standing next to me, pointing to the rice, I take some, Tom yum he says, I will come back but before I know I have a bowl taken to the table for me, than pow he returns... Not spicy, not spicy, spicy, very spicy, very spicy, not like that, with noodle. I take a seat promising to return to try more when I know the heat of everything I have on the plate. There was not returning to the buffet...........
No, Not spicy at all. Delicious food actually, but it just kept appearing, we complement the Tom yum and out comes a bowl for Bec, Bec really enjoys it and out comes another bowl. Followed by a Vietnamese style noodle thing that he was trying to explain in the buffet line, he made an entire plate for us, followed by a bowl of a sweet yet bitter curry pickled thing, was great with rice. And yet still not done, out comes two pink bowls, dessert, with buffet he says. Was a coconut noodle thing that I was not so keen on but Bec enjoyed. All complemented by a never ending glass of water as we did not open the bottle that was placed at our table, he keep filling our glasses with "same water", from a jug. 95 baht and we have had the biggest meal yet on our trip... We roll away from the restaurant, so wanting to still go to the bookshop but feeling bad that we would not be able to fit anything in, we walked past and continued to a museum on Thai culture. The museum seemed great, but we did not think we would have time so instead of stopping and sitting we decided to walk and see if the national gallery was open, it was not! Argh! Hot and bothered we find a park and sit, cool ourselves and write some blog. When the breeze ceases completely we move on, back then bookshop for one final visit for Bec, think she is having withdrawals. We sit and don't do much for an hour or so, than head back to is guesthouse, collect our bags we left for storage and get bus 53 (the anti-clockwise bus that runs around the city) to the train station. With grossly expanded stomachs from lunch we are hungry again and head to a street stall for some dinner to fill us up for a big trip to Lao. Duck into trusty 7/11 for supplies than back to the station and onto our train and hotel for the night. Beds are made in quick succession by the grumpy carriage assistant, whom of you said no to having your bed made, he gave evil stare walked off then would return five minutes later and hover until you said yes! I take the bottom bunk for a change and we tuck down for the night.
Good Night Bangkok, and see you later week four.
Wander Which Way Girls