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We thought we’d do a short blog of Bangkok before we head up north to Chiang Mai. We went picture crazy this blog…
It was sad to leave Koh Phangan and the islands behind. When we arrived at the Koh Phangan pier, we were shocked to see 500+ people milling around. I guess after the Full Moon Party there is a massive exodus from the island. They managed to jam us 350+ of us onto our little ferry. Loading took a half an hour and you should have seen the pile of backpacks. All part of the Full Moon Party experience. After the ferry, we sat around for 30+ minutes waiting for them to shuttle us to the train station. I do not claim to be a relaxed traveller and the Thai guys seemed to think that getting to the train station when the train leaves is no problem. We made our overnight train up to Bangkok with about 5 minutes to spare. The overnight train was okay, although neither of us managed much sleep.
Landing on Khao San Rd
Khao San Rd according to LP is a decompression zone for backpackers transiting in and out
of the country. It is the backpacker ghetto of Thailand and it really is a great place to stay. We arrived early in the morning and made our way to a guesthouse, where we checked in and got some much needed sleep. First on our agenda, was getting Vietnam visas since you absolutely cannot just show up in Vietnam and get a visa. Wandered through Khao San Rd, which is quite impressive by day, but even more impressive by night. There are people selling absolutely everything. All the must have Thailand backpacker gear – fishermen pants, sagging purses, fire throwers, pirated CDs, dreadlocks, fruit shakes, buckets of anything… There are also great food stands, both Western and Thai food. You can get phad thai made to order on the street for less than 50 cents. We visited the fancy shopping area, but decided that Khao San Rd was more in our price range. Traffic is horrendous in Bangkok and it takes forever to get anywhere. We went 4.8 km in a taxi on day in 25 minutes at 1 o’clock in the afternoon! Since Thailand is such a huge tourist market, there are loads of people waiting to rip you
off. The tuk tuk drivers are the worst and even polite Paul took to ignoring them.
I Love the King
We’d already mentioned in our last blog, that the night of the first England World Cup game, we and a whole bunch of fans, were eagerly waiting to see the game in the one bar that had electricity that night. But since it was the King’s 60th Anniversary of his accension to the throne, the locals had their eyes glued to the celebrations and the game had to wait. The King fever has been huge the last couple of days we have been in Bangkok. Everyone in the streets is wearing these “I love the King” yellow shirts and so the streets are transformed into a sea of yellow. Today, as we walked around the stalls, all the locals were out buying photos of the King’s celebrations, broaches, and other King mania paraphenilia. Long live the King!
We decided to cram in all the Bangkok major sites into one day, which was a decision our feet weren’t too happy with. First up was the Grand Palace, the former residence of the monarch and home to
Wat Phra Kaew, famous for the Emerald Buddha. The Grand Palace grounds are beautiful – lovely Thai architecture of gleaming stupas, gold tiled roofs, mosaic pillars. Lots of opportunities to take pictures, as you can see from the many photos. Wat Phra Keaw is famed for the tiny Emerald Buddha that sits atop an elevated alter and is barely visable. We saw a group of young monks visiting the Wat and it is always interesting seeing monks in their orange robes and bare feet. You have to wear long pants and sleeved shirts to visit temples and we thought we had prepared by wearing our zip off pants and I brought a scarf to wrap around my shoulders. But that didn’t meet the Dress Code Police’s approval and so I had to wear this lovely loaned shirt. Next up was Wat Pho, which is famous for the giant reclining gold Buddha. It was a really spectacular to see and I was happy that my attire was approved this time. We got some energy from a 7-11 (7-11s are everywhere) slurpee and some fresh fruit. Had some noodle soup at a local hole in the wall, where we just
pointed to what we wanted. We then treated our feet to a Thai foot massage. Paul wondered how they would be able to massage his feet for a whole hour, but he didn’t have to wonder long. It was an hour of bliss as they massaged and used reflexology and the pressure points on your feet that are connected to all your internal organs. We took the river ferry back to our hostel, which seems to be the best way to get around this city. Completed the day with a dine around dinner, where we ate a little of this, then a little of that at various food stalls. Stayed up late to watch the England World Cup game, which went uninterrupted from any King celebration broadcasts this time. There’s nothing like watching a football game at a converted gas station (see pic)! Very entrepreneurial – I’ll have to use this in my business classes!
More Feet Pleasure
As if our feet hadn’t had enough, we decided to do some more sightseeing today and visited Dusit Park. We toured around Vimanmek Teak Mansion, which is the world’s largest golden teak mansion and was once home to the monarch.
It was great, except we weren’t prepared dress code wise and had to borrow clothes again. Paul got these lovely MC Hammer pants (he wouldn’t let me take a picture) and I got a sarong and another frumpy blouse. The mansion was beautiful, but long. We could have skipped hearing about every piece of china on display and where it was from. Paul also appreciated hearing that they have a different colour of china that is used for each day of the week. She gave us some examples, pink is for Monday…and rhymed off every day and colour. We wondered how many elephants were killed to display the many tusks throughout the mansion. But it was a beautiful mansion and the Park grounds are a lovely oasis of calm in the middle of the city.
We are headed up to Chiang Mai in the north tonight on an overnight bus. We really debated how to get up there because the train didn’t leave at the times we wanted, flying was out of our budget and the private buses that they sell here on Khao San Rd are notorious for being crap. So we are opting for the
government bus and if all goes well, we will be in Chiang Mai tomorrow morning! We’ll leave you with an appropriate quote….
“The true traveler is he who goes on foot, and even then, he sits down a lot of the time.” – Colette, 1944