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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Thailand - Bangkok

THAILAND | Monday, 14 January 2008 | Views [3916]

Wed 9th Jan - Arrived at the new Bangkok airport (Suvarnhabumi Internaional) aboard Srilankan airways flight UL888 that stopped off on its way to Beijing. Thailand is GMT+7hrs. 30 days free visa on arrival.

This airport is ultra modern and easy to navigate. Typical thing happened whilst waiting for baggage reclaim. Chatted to a guy who lived 10 minutes from where I used to live in yorkshire. Small world isn't it?

Loads of free city maps available from stands on your way through to the exit, so no excuse for getting lost. Just outside the exit is a bus kiosk where you can get a bus into the city. Four available AE1 (sands for Airport Express, the one I got to Silom area), thru to AE4. Cost 150 Baht. (currently £1=58 Baht). There are other ways of course with rip-off taxis and a cheaper city bus if you get a free shuttle to an intermediate bus station first. Fortunately, if you tell the driver which place you're staying at, they will drop you as near as they can. The city skyline is super modern, with some incredible buildings. Roads are busy but clean and fairly organised and well signposted in thai, but a bit more tricky to spot the english subtitles sometimes.

I'm staying at the New road Guest House on Charoen Krung road. Out of the main busy hub of Thanon Khao San road (thanon is thai for road, abbreviated to 'th' on most signs. A street is a 'soi'), but the transport is so good in Bangkok it doesn't matter where you say as the sights are spread out. Initially i'm stopping for 5 nights as I have booked a couple of days on a cooking course, so have 3 or so days to sightsee before deciding how long I want to stay in the city.

Too much to see so had some breakfast and then hit the sois/thanons. First stop to get a local SIM for my mobile at a streetside stall. 1-2-Call costs 300 Baht and has some credit on it to start with. Worked easy enough. 10B per sms to abroad (7B within Thailand). Usual arrangement where you activate it with some codes when you first use it. Stopped by a few really friendly locals for a chat, which was a nice start.

Off to find the ferry pier as I want to go to the main sights first. Some piers (thâas) cross the river, some for private launch and some up/down the river. Not too difficult to find the right one. 15B to get to the Grand pier No.9. Boats of every description zipping in every direction - camera at the ready, clicking like crazy! Longtail boats with motors attached to a long prop shaft like a food mixer, teak tour boats, barges, ferries, all backed by an incredible skyline of beautifully ornate thai temples, Dallas style skyscrapers, old world thai houses on stilts, all flanking the Mae Nam Chao Phraya river banks (which once gave It the nickname of Venice of the east) - Sensory overload time again!

As soon as you get off at pier 9, you are straight into a market selling incredible food, fruit of every description, cheap clothes etc I had a sample of lots of superb fruit and settled on some beautiful rambutan and lychees washed down with fresh kiwi fruit juice.

Only a short walk along clean roads alive with multi-coloured taxis, tuk-tuks and buses to the 'Wat Phra Kaew' Emerald buddha and the Grand Palace which shares the same grounds. This is grand on an incredible scale. WOW is a good word to use. And WOW again. I don't think anything can prepare you for how stunning this place is. I had dreamed for many years of coming to Thailand and this place well exceeds my expectations. The king's sister recently died and entrance is free to many places for a short while. There are black & white banners swathing the roads in commemoration and respect. Impeccably turned out armed guards on duty along the way flanking the manicured gardens lining the outer walls of the palace.

As if the grand palace isn't incredible enough, a short walk along the road leads to 'Wat Pho', which is the oldest temple in Bangkok. The guidebook says that there are insufficent superlatives to describe this place. They are right. The most incredible detail and opulence.

With sensory overload I needed a break, so headed to the 'Saranrom' park across the road. This is a beautifully manicured park complete with thai style teak houses amidst colourful shrubs and trees, waer fountains and small lake with pagodas full of arists sketching and painting the lovely surroundings. I was lucky enough to find I pagoda to chill In, shared only by a gorgeous italian girl who I had a lovely time with, chatting for a while (a smile and eyes that made me melt). Afterwards we walked to the bustling Thanon Khao San road, where most backpackers go and is full on as expected. Had a nice 'Pad-thai'  from a street vendor for 30 baht. The quality and taste is superb and there is so much street food to chose from, the difficulty is choice overload. Back to the ferry to head back to my digs as really tired now. Left from the Pin Klao pier (No 12 pier) this time but had to get a ferry across the river first for 3 1/3 baht. Transport is cheap here. Well....rested for all of 30 seconds and decided that sleep could wait as there is a vast city to explore out there. Not far east of here is the very raunchy area of Silom and Patpong. Hormones at the ready, chocks away and here we go....(all in the name of scienific research of course!)

About half an hour walk through a fairly uninspiring area with the expected massage parlours where you get calls from the girls as you pass, offering various things....including a massage if you want one! I have to say that the thai girls are some of the most stunning on the planet. Fell in love at least 50 times in 10 minutes (this place is after all called the 'city of angels'). And then you reach Silom / Patpong. The first thing that hits you is a street market athmosphere, but not long in.....a few ladyboys hanging around a bar entrance. Most are so obvious. Problem is that, in amongst them there are some that you really cannot tell apart from girls....well not externally anyway! Then....the go-go bars! So many of them offering all sorts of entertainment....well, a few obvious forms of entertainment! That sorted me out for the next few hours or more. Won't go into much more detail, suffice it to say that I had died and gone to heaven! All good fun and left it a that...almost...as I said....all in the name of scientific research!

A spring in my step on the way back to the guest house and dead on my feet now as had no sleep for over 20 hours, so collapsed in bed.

Thu 10th Jan - I had intended to take it easy today, so had a late breakfast and then decided to go the MBK centre for some retail therapy. A 10 minute walk to the Skyway terminal past some superb street vendors selling fruit and veg you just will no see outside of this part of the world. Many give free samples to travellers if you ask nicely.

The BTS skytrain is superb. Spotless, smooth, simple to use and cheap. Two lines that connect in the middle, you look at the wall plan for where you want to go to find out the zone, push the button for the zone you want, coins in the machine and out comes a credit card sized plastic ticket to get you through the electronic barrier to the platform. Super efficient with regular announcements along the way in thai and english. The terminal for MBK store is at the National Stadium stop, with direct walkway into the MBK centre. This is shopping on a vast and techno-grand scale. Hi tech cinemas, flash escalators and every product you can imagine on offer in vast overwealming quantity. Spent hours wondering about, which for me as a shopping phobic is a miracle! There is an interesting touch here....I got my bottom patted a couple of times by the girls in the shops, something that would never happen in the west. I love this country!

Fealt like a break from the shopping so headed to a great local attraction, 'Jim Thompson's house', which is a short walk along the road from MBK.

Jim Thompson was an american from Delaware who practiced as an architect before world war 2. He was in Asia as part of a force to help restore Thailand's freedom and independence. He loved the country so much that he later came to live here. He developed a group of houses in the traditional thai teak style on stilts (to keep them above poential flooding due to heavy monsoonal rains), full of tradiional artefacts. He dissappeared on March 26th 1967 whilst on a visi to Malaysia, and was never seen again. This famous house remains as a tribute to his love for this wonderful country. You have to go on a guided our and cannot take photographs inside. Very efficiently conducted by lovely thai guides with very gracious mannerisms. The gardens are superb and full of orchids and tranquilty (apart from the occasional splashing sounds of the long boats that pass down the canal the other side of the boundary wall). Well worth the visit.

The time was running late as I have a show booked tonight, so had to dash as soon as the tour was over to the BTS terminal. Quick shower and then hit the road to walk to the Hua Lamphong metro station. The Metro is another efficient system. Like the Skytrain, map to chose the destination then coins in the machine to get your token, which you flash at the entrance barrier to get through.

Off to the National Cultural Centre to see the ' Siam Niramit' show, complete with buffet dinner. A free air-conditioned shuttle bus is waiting just outside exit 1 of the cultural centre metro stop. Some seriously opulent buildings in this area.

On arrival at the Naramit centre, you get greated by a beautifully dressed thai lady and an orchid is pinned on you and then photographed together by an official photographer. Very athmospheric thai music playing to set the scene. The dinner was fantasic. Superb thai meal with so much choice I couldn't manage a fraction of what was available to try. The fruits on offer for desert included one of my new favourites, the 'Dragon' fruit. Deep pink and like an articoke in shape, but with white flesh inside spotted with tiny black seeds. Gorgeous flavour, so indulged a bit.

On to the show, which stared promp a 8pm. The stage for it is registered in the guiness book of records as the highest in the world. It is enormous. The auditorium holds 2000 people and has a river on the stage as part of the set. More of that later.

The thai people are very partiotic about their king, so the show began with the audience standing for the national anthem. Wow, what a show, awesome, all of those superlatives are justified as this is one hell of a show that is definitely worth seeing. Performed in six acts separated by an intermission with musical entertainment. At one point in the show there is lightening and it starts to rain. At that point you notice that there is a river running along the front of the stage. One of the characters swims in it, which proves how deep it is. The whole show is dramatic and in parts they come from other parts of the auditorium to surround you, including an elephant parade!

Bumped into a couple from the guest house that I was supposed to have met with but we missed each other. We headed off to the metro to go back to the guest house together but decided to walk part of the way, which was a bit of a mistake as it is sweltering. A well earnt beer back at the bar.

Fri 11th Jan - Had problems getting the iPod system I bought yesterday to work the way I wanted with my camera, so had to go back to MBK. Turned out that there is a compatibiliy issue they are waiting on apple to fix. May take a couple of months. Hey ho...I thought the deal I got was too good. Will have to wait for the fix. Anyway, after some time in the equally flambouyant Siam discovery shopping centre, headed off to walk to the 'Victory' monument. It is scorchio today. Mus be mid 30's and crazy for walking abou in. The reast of the afternoon was a long, hard, melting struggle to get across some more of the monuments. My clothes were sticking to me I decided i'd had enough, so headed towards pier 15. Spotted another incredible temple at 'Thewarat Kunchon' so went to explore. Yet another incredible place. The walk from there to the ferry goes through an old world thai area, with fish vendors also selling live eels of various descriptions as well as snails and green warty frogs. A wonderful tasty dish they will make! Yummee....

It is now peak time and everywhere is crowded with office workers on their way home and private schools letting out. Everyone is so smart. Standard officewear seems to be black & white...they look gorgeous with their dark hair and eyes and petite size. School children are all smart in their uniforms - girls in red/white or blue/white and boys in white shirts/blue shorts. None of the random style that most western schools seem to have slipped into. They are smart people. The other point is quite funny really...when you are a westerner in a crowd, you can generally see quite far as we are taller than most of them! 90% of the population must only be 5ft tall or less!

Well, I intended to go for a walk after dinner, just to kill time and explore some more....honest.... Got waylayed by a nice looking Thai massage salon....a sucker for a pretty face! Anyway, treated myself after a tough day in the scorching heat to an oil massage in a superb athmoshere. That was an unexpected diversion....all still in the name of scientific research of course!

I needed a drink after that.....overload....overload! 2 hours later I had to escape back to the safety of the guest house as I need an early night. Need to be in good mental state tomorrow as it's the first day of my cooking course.

Sat 12th Jan - Picked up after breakfast to be taken to the 'Baipai' cooking school (www.baipai.com). I am doing a morning session lasting 4 hours. The menu cycles over a 6 day period (they are closed on mondays), and the morning and afternoon sessions are different too. 1,600 Baht per session and you get to eat the results. I had considered the 'thai cooking school', but they are residential and very expensive, albeit a more encompassing experience, the cost was above my budget.

Very well organised. Met on arrival by the organiser Mona and our Chef Nam. kitted out with apron, recipe book etc and off to the open-plan kitchen. Following a four course meal, the chef demonstrates each meal and you get to sample what is should taste like, then off to your cooking station to hopefully reproduce it to perfection. My attempts were pretty good, even though I say so myself. A nice group of fellow travellers made it a really nice morning. As a souvenir you get a frames photo in action in the kitchen plus a recipe book and pen.

A bit of a shock when I got back to my digs as they had incorrectly done my booking and my room was booked by someone else, so I had to move in a hurry. The only room they had was a 12 bed dormitory, which isn't ideal but only 200 Baht a night, so cheap, as opposed to 500 Baht for the room I was in.

Settled in then off to book the 'Calypso' show for tonight. A nice girl I was talking to at the cooking school was going so we agreed to meet there.

It's been one of those hectic days. After I booked the Calypso show, I went for a chill in reception to jot down some notes about possible travel alternatives, when I overheard an american lady talking to someone about the place I was considering going next. We ended up agreeing to travel there together and see how it goes. I will return to Bangkok later to finish off some of the places on my list. The break from the city will be good.

Not much time to settle as had the Calypso Cabaret show to go to, so quick thai meal (as if I hadn't had enough thai food today!), then off to the skytrain again to get to Rachetewi station. The show was at the 'Asian hotel', which is accessed direct from the BTS platform and met up with the lovely girl from the cooking school. A flash hotel with a real cabaret layout to the audience area...red carpets, round red tables, glitzy stage with red and gold curtains. The show was fantastic....that over used word is coming on again.....yep...it was awesome! This is a camped up show in true cabaret style....glitz at every opportunity, stunningly beautiful girls and boys and some that are somwhere in between! Lots of action, music from every nationality that has you beaming from ear to ear the whole way through. Incredible costumes. A transvestite compere and an even more camp showman as part of the act.

Afer the show you can have your photos taken with any of the caste you want, so got a few nice shots. An electric evening that is highly recommended. That's two superb shows i've been to in a few days. This city is amazing.

Off for cocktails at the nice open-air co-co bar across the road after the show and entertained by really nice live music from a couple of bands. Seemed strange hearing the Eagles being played in Bangkok. Excellent standard. A guy passed a few times with an elephant which is an odd sight in this environment.

Back to reality and have to head back to the skytrain to get back to the dorm and part company with my new acquaintance, but will hopefully meet up again in Melbourne at some point in the future... The dorm is a bit of a sweatbox, even though there is a fan. Ah well, it's been a superb evening with lovely company, so not too bothered. The revellers are still partying downstairs and i'm too knackered to join them, so earplugs to the ready.

Sun 13th Jan - Booked onto a cycling trip this afternoon, just chillin in the morning. The 1/2 day cycle tour was organised by ABC (Amazing Bangkok Cycles) and we had two guides, Bum and Pam (pronounced with a thai accent of course...buum and paam). Old style no-gear type of bikes and easy enough to ride as Bangkok is flat.

The tour started with the narrow alleyways of Little China town, the area that few tourists go to. I was a bit wobbly in parts, so it was funny to see them dive for cover else get mowed down. Stopped at the 'Khlong Toey' market, which a great place to see so many things you probably won't have seen anywhere else. Choose your snake and have them kill it for you....you have to skin it yourself! Fruit & veg of every descripion. Great photo opportunity. Headed to the Chao Phraya to catch a longtail boat across the river with our bikes. From there it is only a short way and you're into another world called 'Phra Pradaeng', which has been referred to as the lungs of Bangkok. This is a system of narrow canals or 'Khlongs' which is navigated along narrow raised concrete pathways (to stay above flooding), at points no more than a couple of feet wide. A test of balance. People occasionally fall off the edge, as did someone we met later who did just that and injured her arm and ribs and was on her way to hospital. Luckily non of our group had any problems. The great thing about this area is the peace and quiet....birds singing, lush green plantations, lovely traditional teak houses on stilts....Lazy athmosphere.

Back at the digs and met up with the american lady i'm going to Kanchanaburi tomorrow with over dinner. In the short time i've been in Bangkok, it's been a great place to meet people. Decided I wanted to party so hit the town after dinner. Had the most awesome evening that I sill can't believe. Got to indulge myself in my passion of dancing, with some incredibly stunning thai girls. A few more people that I really have to spend more time with when I come back again. I have a date booked already! Nearly 2am back at the hotel and It didn't stop. Met a great australian guy who has offered to put me up in Sydney and sort out the sheep farming and hunting that I want to do as well as other stuff when i'm there. One incredible day.....I am lucky enough to be able to say that I love my life at the moment. It isn't always like his, but when it is.... Fanbloodytastic!

Mon 14h Jan - Back on the road again, taking a breather from the hectic pace of the city and heading to Kanchanaburi.

Tags: Sightseeing

 

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