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Emma & Maneesh on the Big OE

Sawa dee ka ..... from Bangkok

THAILAND | Friday, 26 March 2010 | Views [612]

Our first dinner in Bangkok at one of the local eats. Very tasty, but noisy!

Our first dinner in Bangkok at one of the local eats. Very tasty, but noisy!

Wednesday 17th March

After having a good sleep in, as we did not get to our hotel until nearly 3am local time we got up, had showers, and had a coffee (powdered, with powdered ‘whitener’), then got things together before heading out and about. On our way out of our hotel we got a map from reception and asked about the protests that were going on in Bangkok by the 'Red Shirts'. Once we had this information (on where to avoid) we were prepared to hit the streets. Our first goal was to find food, as it was almost lunchtime. The temperature was in the mid 30's, so pretty hot, but the sun was not that strong as it was clouded by the pollution.

We walked for about 5 minutes before seeing office workers walking towards us with small bags of food, and crowds heading the same direction as us, so we went with the flow and found a great street market with lots of different food stalls, selling lunch for 20 – 30Thai Baht (about $1NZD). We had a delicious lunch here, then got back on the streets.

After a short walk we came across a group of the 'Red Shirts' who were protesting in Bangkok against the current government. We had been told by our hotel that they were safe, so we were not really alarmed. They created a party atmosphere, it was like a big parade. They were in cars, utes, motorbikes, with loud music playing, and people cheering. We spent about 15 minutes watching before getting back to our exploring.

From here we walked through Lumpini Park, and saw big (1-2metre) olive-green, slow-moving lizards on the edge of the river and in the river. Then from here we went into a more central part of Bangkok and explored the alleyways lined with stalls of everything you could possibly buy. It was a lot of fun. After having an ice cream sundae we caught the skytrain to Asok. This was the area of the city that we knew there were a lot of tailors around. I wanted to get a couple of suits made, and Em thought she may get some dresses made. We went into a couple of shops that we had read about on an internet forum. After learning a bit in these shops (mainly that we felt the ‘tailors’ were fairly dodgy, pushy salesmen) we kept on moving. After five shops we accidentally went into one which was really good. It was only small but they had great fabrics, were owned by a husband and wife who spoke great English, and they were very reasonably priced. After having a good look we left to think about it and make sure our judgment was not clouded as we were both getting quite tired.

So we walked back to the hotel, and then went down on to one of the street food stalls and had pork and noodles in broth which was very tasty. By the time we got back to the hotel it was after 9pm, so we had showers to wash off the grit and pollution before heading to bed.

Thursday 18th March

We were out of the hotel just after 9am which was a good start. We went to the markets near our hotel and had an interesting breakfast which consisted of cooked banana in coconut milk and sticky rice cook with banana in it wrapped in a banana leaf, as well as fresh fruit juice. Once we had eaten we walked back to the last tailor we were at yesterday, as this was the one we had chosen. After choosing fabrics I got measured up for a couple of suits and shirts, and Em got measured up for a skirt. It was good fun, but a little nerve wracking. We would just have to wait and see if we had made a good choice of tailor.

Once we were finished we had some fresh fruit from a street stall. The fruit stalls were everywhere – a little cart with glass compartments filled with ice, and freshly cut tropical fruits, all covered by an umbrella. For about 50 cents, you got a big serving of pineapple, mango, pawpaw, or melon in a small plastic bag with a wooden skewer to eat it with. We thought it would be a good idea to go to the Bangkok Royal Palace, so we tried to catch a tuk-tuk (a 3-wheel motorbike taxi, with a little carriage on the back that you sit in) over to the palace, but we were unsuccessful. We got a taxi, and it took us to the gates. We were walking to buy our tickets to get in, but were told it was the monks day and it does not open to the public until 3pm. We were then asked if we wanted to go somewhere else, after a couple of minutes thought we got on a tuk-tuk, that was conviniently there to take us to where we wanted to go. It started off well, we had fun being on a tuk-tuk and going to see the standing buddha which was massive (covered in gold leaf and about 3 or 4 storeys tall). But that is as much as we got to see, because we were then taken to a tailor, a jewellery shop, another tailor, a craft shop, and one other I think. By this time we had had enough and told our driver to take us back, much to his disgust. The drivers get petrol vouchers for bringing tourists to certain shops. We really had fallen for a scam here, still it was not too bad, just frustrating. Anyway we got back to the palace, and tried to get a taxi, but none of them would take us anywhere without taking us to any shops as well. So we ended up walking for almost an hour and ended up walking through a massive fruit and vege market, and then into the 'Indian' part of the city. We had a wander around some of the stalls before stopping in at a food place to have a curry for a late lunch. After lunch we looked at more stalls, which ranged from cookware to towels to jewellery. We explored the shops until it was dark, then we caught a taxi back to our hotel. Neither of us were hungry, so we just had lovely fresh fruit for dinner and relaxed for the evening.

Friday 19th March

Our day started the same today, stopping off at the markets for breakfast. This morning we had vegetarian samosas, chicken skewers, fresh juice, and fresh fruit which cost 60THB (less than $3NZD). After we had eaten we caught the skytrain to the snake farm, based at the Red Cross. It is here that they extract the venom from many different species of snakes, then dilute it and inject into horses to make anti venom to treat anyone that has a snake bite. We saw more than 50 different species including king cobras, vipers and pythons. While we were there we got to see a demonstration of extracting the snake venom which was cool to see.

From here we caught the subway and went to the Golden Buddha. It was quite spectacular. A buddha made out of 5tonnes of solid gold. Quite a sight. The temple that the buddha was housed in was amazing, with such intricately carved decoration all over the outside of the marble temple. Once we were finished there we caught the subway into the city centre, had lunch, then went and had a look around some stalls. We finished here mid afternoon and headed back to the hotel to have a break.

At 6:30pm we walked down to the end of our road and went to the night markets. These are permanent stalls set up over a large area, and have lots of different thing for sale. We had a look around for about an hour, then had dinner there – some yummy phad thai stir-fried noodles. After dinner we looked for another couple of hours, before calling it a night there. We had only really looked through half the market as well. We had purchased a few clothes and a small suitcase so that was fun. We walked back to the hotel with our purchases and went to bed.

Saturday 20th March

We were up early and across to the markets. For breakfast we had coconut pancakes, deep fried banana and taro, and fruit. Not our best one, but it was okay. After breakfast we went to the tailors to have our first fittings. They looked to be coming together well. The shirts fitted well, and the jackets were coming together well. The sleeves were separate from the jacket body, and there were white chalk-marks and tacking stitches across the chest of the jacket. Em's skirt was also coming together nicely as well. We were finished after about half an hour, so we caught the skytrain out to the weekend markets. Seeing them from the train was impressive. They were massive, nothing like the night markets. There were over 9000 stalls there. We shopped for a couple of hours before having a lunch-stop mid afternoon. It was very, very hot and muggy, especially in the covered areas. After our noodles, we got back into the shopping again. Em had much more shopping energy than me. I was finished by late afternoon but Em was enjoying herself so we stuck around for a while longer. It was an amazing sight, so many stalls and a lot of people. We were told by one of the locals that more than half a million people can go through the markets in a weekend.We left the markets with our hands full. It was good fun with the bartering, but often hard work. Lucky we’d bought the extra suitcase the day before to fit all our extra clothes and gifts into.

We caught the skytrain back to our markets, where we bought ourselves dinner, and took it back to our hotel, where we ate and relaxed.

Sunday 21st March

We were up early to go to the markets for breakfast, but they weren't there on Sunday so we went to a 7/11 and got a couple of horrible, mega-processed things there (e.g. sweet bread rolls in plastic wrappers which last for 3 months). At 9am we were picked up to be taken to our cooking class that we had booked at Baipai cooking school. The class was at a cooking school in a residential area. It looked very well set up so we were excited to be there. In our class there were eight people including us, and we had a chef and an assistant to take us for our class.

It was a busy four hours, we cooked chicken wrapped in leaves then marinated and deep-fried, which was a very tasty entrée. Next we made SomTum, which is green papaya salad, but has sweet and savoury ingredients – we left out the fish sauce and dried shrimps, and liked this much more than what we’d tried at the markets. We ate those two dishes, then moved onto cooking prawns which were nice. Our main was duck red curry which was easy and so tasty. The red curry paste we made from scratch in big mortar and pestles. We enjoyed the main with rice and a drink, and that concluded our class. We were then taken back to our hotel. It was a great cooking class. The chef and his assistant were very funny and extremely helpful. They really did make the class so enjoyable. It was a great experience.

On Sundays everything else is closed so we just relaxed in the hotel for the afternoon and watched movies. We went for a walk in the evening, and were going to go to a foodcourt, but found a supermarket so picked up a couple of things there for dinner.

Monday 22nd March

We were awake at 6am to get ready for our day trip. We had breakfast in our room today, then were picked up at 7am by our tour bus. The trip was out to Ayathhaya to see the ancient city and a few other things out there.

We arrived at the ancient city at about 8:30am, which was good because it was a little cooler and there were not as many people there. Our guide told us the story of the city and how this used to be the Capital of Thailand. The ancient city is no longer really standing, there are just ruins everywhere. We spent about an hour there, then moved on to a temple where there was a large buddha. From here we went to the Summer Palace, a residence used by the Royal family of Thailand. It was beautiful gardens everywhere and grand buildings. There were amazing animal toparies around the grounds as well (e.g. elephants, cobras, rabbits). Thankfully that finished our exploring, it was lunchtime, and very hot. There was not a lot of smog around, which meant that out in the sun was extremely hot.

We left the Summer palace and had a 45 minute drive to a boat, where we were taken back to Bangkok during a 2 hour river cruise. We had lunch onboard the boat as well. The river was not nice at all, filthy, but it was nice to see the stilt houses on the edge of the river and other such things. Once we were back at the dock we were picked up and taken back to our hotel.

In the early evening we had another visit to the tailor for possibly the last visit. It went really well. The suits and shirts fitted me beautifully and I was really happy with the quality of them. Em's skirt also turned out really well. Once we were finished there, we took the clothes back to the hotel, then we caught the skytrain to the Paragon shopping centre. Our tour guide from today recommended the food court here, and it was spectacular. The choice was amazing, and it was reasonably priced as well. After eating too much we had a quick look around the mall, but were both pretty tired, so headed back to our hotel and called it a day.

Tuesday 23rd March

Today was our last day in Bangkok really. Our day started the same as most of the others, we went across to our markets and got breakfast which was fresh fruit, chicken, rice, and fruit juice. Once we were done eating we caught the skytrain to the MBK shopping centre. Yes, more shopping! We spent about 4 hours here, and made a couple of purchases, before stopping for lunch. After lunch we skytrained to Asok, and went to a Thai massage day spa that had been recommended by a couple on our cooking class. It did not disappoint. We had 1 hour massages. It was slightly painful, but left us both feeling nice and relaxed. After doing trigger point type massage and stretches, they picked us up on their feet and rolled us backwards to stretch our backs. It was quite unexpected, especially given the size of the little ladies giving us the massage.

Once we were done there we slowly walked back towards our hotel. Before getting there we went to the markets and picked up some of our favourite foods for our last dinner. We took it back to the hotel and ate there, before getting into packing our bags. This was a little harder than coming to Bangkok given our purchases but we got there.

Wednesday 24th March

We were up at 5:30am, and were picked up by our taxi at 6:15am to get out to Bangkok airport. We had breakfast at the airport, before catching our 9:30am flight to London via Dubai. That ended our time in Bangkok. We both loved it. Great food, lots to do, and we had fun with the shopping which seemed to dominate our stay. A little different from the travelling we have experienced in the past, but none the less very enjoyable!

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