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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

Bangkok & Beyond

THAILAND | Wednesday, 1 April 2009 | Views [1666] | Comments [1]

We decided to attempt our second night journey on the trip, heading to Bangkok from Ko Tao via a 2 hour boat ride and an 11 hour bus trip. When we got off the boat in Chumporn there was a table where you checked in for the bus, so as I was waiting for Ryan to get our bags off the boat, I decided to get our bus seats sorted. I went to get the tickets out of my purse, only to discover I didn't have it on me, maybe Ryan had it? Ryan didn't have it so panic quickly set in as we realised we had lost the tickets and money and bank cards. I had to wait ages for the boat to clear so I could get back on to check I hadn't left it there and after searching around our seats with no luck, I put my hand under a few seats near where we sat in a last ditch attempt to find it and THANKFULLY there was my purse lying in the dark. I was so relieved to find it and still have no idea how it got there, but at least we were saved a lot of hassle. We found out the bus wasn't leaving for an hour and it would only stop once at midnight for a toilet break so we would have to eat there and then. Of course there was only one place to buy food so we had to pay the prices but they weren't too unreasonable, they could have really taken advantage of the herd of hungry travellers. The bus journey was fine and pretty comfortable, we got to watch The Dark Knight before lights off for sleep time.  

The bus was due to arrive at 5am so we had planned to get some breakfast and then search for somewhere to stay as the sun came up. The bus arrived at 3am, two hours early!!! We didn't know where we were in Bangkok, but after searching around we were only 10 minutes walk from Khao San Road, the favourite haunt for backpackers. At this time of night there was hardly anywhere open and plenty of drunk people amazed we were walking around with backpacks on. We found a hotel that seemed a bit seedy, especially after a prostitute tried to get Ryan to take her/him up to the room, but turned out to be good enough and we stayed there 4 nights. One benefit of arriving early morning is you can check in, sleep, get up, sleep again but only pay for one night rather than two, bargain.

The Khao San Road is packed with shops, bars, fast food joints, food stalls, neon signs and lots and lots of fake goods. It's busy, noisy but not too hard to deal with, although the best part is walking down the alleyways behind the road and escaping to the neighbouring streets that offer the same same but less in your face



A lot of people would have heard about and possibly used the legendary Beer Scooter to escort you home safely after a night on the tiles. Well, we found it on the Khao San road of all places!



So Wat did we get up to in Bangkok? We visited the Wats of course (Wat meaning temple), actually we only did one, Wat Pho, famous for it's giant reclining Buddha. We got up early to beat the heat and the crowd and be first in to see it, we were third in, but it was impressive.



At another shrine inside Wat Pho we were allowed to sit at the back while the monks were praying. We even remembered to sit on our feet and not point them at Buddha so not to offend anyone. The young trainee monks couldn’t help but give us inquisitive looks and smiles.



Next we went to the Grand Palace just after it’s opening time, hoping to beat the crowds again. It was packed though as about 10 tour coaches were lined up out side and many tourists inside. It is very grand, but by this time the sweltering heat of the day was beginning to rise so we saw the sights as quickly as possible.



On our way back we passed the Sanam Luang open air ground where there was a large congregation of people, I would estimate about 100,000, but I really have no idea what that number of people looks like. They were attending a political rally and march for the UDD party (United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship), otherwise known as the Red shirts. They were demonstrating against the current government, wanting them to resign as they were not democratically elected after a soft coup three years ago. They also wanted the protesters who held a sit in at Bangkok airport last year to be prosecuted, the Yellow shirts. It was very lively and noisy, lots of singing and honking horns but peaceful too.



Another day we treated ourselves to a trip to the cinema, but as it was only two pounds for a ticket, not such an expensive treat. Before the film started (Watchmen - thumbs down from me) we all had to stand to attention for a short film about the current King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). I had read about this before but it was very surreal when it happened. The Thais love the King and his picture can be found in every home, bus, restaurant, plastered on billboards lining major roads, he's just every where. People wear t-shirts and bracelets with Long Live the King written on them. He is the longest reigning current monarch worldwide now in his 63rd year of reign. It's even illegal to stand on money here as his head adorns every note and coin.

Most of the time we got around Bangkok using tuk tuks. I love going for rides in these, it feels a bit like riding on a ghost train car as it jolts and throws you around when turning corners. We had heard all the scams that tuk tuk drivers try on unsuspecting tourists, usually offering to take you to a temple stopping at gem stores, tailors etc along the way with people giving you the hard sell, or telling you the temple you want to visit is closed so they can drive you around for longer to get more money. We were having none of this and always asked to go direct with no stops even though they did insist we stop at least once, we just walked away or said we wouldn't pay if they stopped. We were willing to pay a good price for no stops and one driver offered to take us around for free if we just stopped once! What's wrong with earning some honest money rather than trying to scam us. One driver sitting on the roadside asked where we were going, when I said the name of the shopping centre about 20m further down the road, he tried to tell me it was closed!!! It was a weekday lunchtime and we could see people walking in and out of it, that really made us laugh, how stupid do they think we are!



As far as spicy thai food goes, normally when eating in a restaurant you will be asked if you like it spicy, but we have never had a really spicy meal, it tends to be dumbed down for Farangs (foreigners). However, when eating from a food stall where the locals eat and asked if you like spicy food, you can me sure it will be spicy spicy much much. I had a green curry and some Laab from one stall in Bangkok and it was the hottest meal I have ever eaten, delicious, but seriously spicy.  

Kanchanaburi

was our next stop and we caught a local bus from Bangkok that took 3 hours. We found a charming riverside stay here, the cheapest yet at 150 baht, about 3 pounds per night! Thinking what a bargain, we then we found out termites are more common than we thought when we heard the familiar munching sound they make, it’s so gross. We also had to put up with very thin walls and a neighbour that played Kenny Rogers at 1.30am, hmmm, so cheap though!



The river we were staying alongside was the famous River Kwai and yes there is a bridge over it too, which carries part of the Burma-Thailand Railway. There is an excellent museum in town dedicated to the construction of the railway, which was initiated by the Japanese and built by POWs. Many people died during the 18 months it took to lay the track, mainly because of the poor conditions they lived in, malnutirition and diseases they contracted, along with the strenuous work they were forced to undertake.

Part of the railway runs through Hellfire Pass, a section of the track that was blasted through the cliff side and so called as the eerie glow of fire as they dug at night made the POWs feel they were in hell. We descended to the track but there was no one around so it made the visit more poignant and the track and pass through the rock felt very ghostly. Over 20,000 POWs died making the entire railway with the biggest portion dying at hellfire pass.



The railway is also known as the Death Railway as another 80,000 contracted workers also died. Part of the track runs precariously alongside cliffs with a steep fall into the river below.



We caught a train along the track and then over the River Kwai via the famous bridge. It doesn't look like the one used in the film of the same name, and it was never damaged as badly and did not cause the disruption intended. Some of the bridge posts still show damage from the bomb blast.



Ayuthaya

Next day we had an early start to catch a bus to Ayuthaya, and we discovered the best form of transport we have used so far on the trip. We were looking for a tuk tuk to take us to the bus station when a motorbike with a metal side car stopped and offered us a lift. This was great fun, if not a little worrying that I would fall straight off the front if he braked hard, but it had us laughing all the way there.

The driver then took our photo, making Ryan pose on the bike!


 
It took a couple of local buses to get us to Ayuthaya, the former Thai capital before Bangkok. The attraction here is the UNESCO world heritage site of historical temples that were left to ruin after the Burmese destroyed them in the 18th century. But, a huge thunderstorm hit just as we arrived RUINing our plan to hire bikes to see all the sights, so we had to grab a tuk tuk early the next morning to drive as around the major ruins, but what we saw was pretty spectacular and made me feel like Indiana Jones!





Lopburi

Our next quick pit stop, on what is turning into a whistle stop tour of central Thailand, was a two hour local bus ride away. A town that doesn't have many reasons to visit unless you like monkeys like I do! There is a merry band of monkeys that live around a ruined temple in the town centre and run riot around the surrounding buildings, particularly on one hotel that has metal window bars the monkeys use as a climbing frame. So that's where we stayed. I think Ryan was over the monkeys after 5 minutes, but they kept me entertained all day. I sat in the room watching the monkeys run past, it was like an inside out zoo, me inside the cage watching the animals on the outside. I then decided it would be a good idea to try to feed them. There was a big sign on the window in red lettering, which could have said Do Not Feed the Monkeys, but it was only in Thai not English, so I opened the window and threw out some fried banana. What happened was chaotic, about 30 monkeys all bombarded our window trying to get the food and some of the smaller ones could climb threw the metal bars and were clambering at the window trying to get in!!! Oh heck, that quickly got Ryan's attention who slammed the windows shut! Luckily, the monkeys weren't clever enough to open the window, but it was a very close call.



Well that almost brings us up-to-date. We are a few towns further down the road/track but we'll leave that until next time.

Jo & Ryan

Photos:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/72157615033865715/

Tags: ayuthaya, bangkok, death railway, hellfire pass, kanchanaburi, lopburi, monkeys

 

Comments

1

More amazing photos and stories.

Just to add a boring fact for you, the reason the bridge looks different is because it is. They made Bridge over the River Kwai in Sri Lanka, Kel & I were taken to the river when we were there in October. The bridge from the film isn't there anymore, but there's a swing bridge you can walk across to take photos of the river.

Can't wait for the next blog x

  Nicola Apr 7, 2009 9:36 PM

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