04.03.2008 - 11.03.2008 38 °C
OK, That’s a total lie, but an irresistible title. We’ve been here for 3 or 4 nights so far. Much more fun on the return visit – last time we just wanted to get to the beaches and rid our minds of all city thoughts (Peckham does that to you). This time we were up for sight seeing.
Matt and Justin were with us for their last two days. We had a painless flight back from Koh Samui – though there were loads of mozzies in the plane which makes for a lot of swatting and general panic whilst the safety briefing is going on. There were too many lardy people and the types that spend 30 minutes messing around with the overhead lockers in between us and the exits to make any kind of escape possible anyhow so – safety schmafety. (I do actually take note of where the emergency exits are on each flight – I watched a documentary ages ago that concluded your chances of survival in an air crash are wholly down to how close you are to the exits and how fast you can get to them – Discovery channel wisdom for you).
We checked into a half decent hotel (with a bath!!) and then got stuck into Bangkok proper. We also checked out China Town and had a hectic meal, delicious mind you. I pretended to make off with a whole shark fin much to their amusement – it was about £800 for the whole fin! – they were most insistent we had shark fin soup but we are backpackers – a touch too pricey, even for the soup – around £25 a bowl.
(On the Koh San Road again)
We did a longtail boat tour 1st. This is essentially a Gondola with a truck engine on it zooming around the canals for an hour – taking in sights like the floating market and, far more interestingly, looking at all the houses and communities based on the edge of the waterways. Very enjoyable and enlightening – one thing you notice is that they have a LOT of temples.
(I certainly would NOT swim in the water)
With that in mind, the next day we set off to see the Grand Palace – they have a rule that you must cover your bare flesh to go inside – i.e. no shorts, no short skirts, and no sleeveless tops (Justin!) – Justin had to go and rent a shirt for the day and he ended up looking like a janitor in his blue collar. More fun than that was waiting for him and watching a Thai lady with a megaphone shouting at practically everyone, “you! No shorts”, “you, people, no sleeves, you get clothes”. It’s amazing how many people will ignore the guide books, or don’t have one at all – whole groups arrived dressed inappropriately. Some slipped though by being sneaky. So much for respecting the Monks.
We were very lucky to see the Grand Palace – a chap at the main gate, standing right by a soldier told us , “Grand Palace closed” – open again at 3.30 (We happened to know 3.30 is actually when it closes) – we ignored him and walked 1 min down the road and entered the “closed” palace. This is common place. It’s a tuk-tuk scam. If anybody sees you heading for a tourist attraction they come over, all helpful, and tell you the object of your desire is indeed closed for cleaning/Thai holiday/Monks praying blah blah blah – then they tell you you should get a Tuk Tuk to another temple (they mean their mates’ clothes shop). We got half stung like this when a Tuk Tuk took us to a boat pier that amazingly wanted to charge us 4x more than normal. We ran. So far, EVERY single Tuk Tuk driver in Bangkok we have dealt with has been dishonest, and EVERY single person who has offered help when you are looking at a map, has wandered off, then as if by magic, a Tuk Tuk appears offering to take you to the place the chap you just spoke to was talking about. They seriously need to ban these things It does the Thai people a huge disservice when the 1st thing you are presented with in Thailand is dishonesty. All the Thais we have met have been super. Apart from Tuk Tuk drivers.
Anyway – returning to the Grand Palace – it was certainly eye candy, with lots of emerald Buddhas and gold everywhere and some stunning wall paintings. The main super special Buddah was in a room you are not allowed to take pictures in – but I managed – long zoom and 1600 Iso :-) Being that there were three lads in the group a lot of silly Buddah poses ensued.
(I’m incensed! – groan)
(Matt and "Justin the Janitor" in a WestSide Freeze)
I also noticed a very odd sign on the ticket entrance to the site, “Free for Thai People” – think about it. The sign was in English. Don’t get that.
After that many more beers were sunk and Matt and Justin zoomed off to the airport. It was great fun having them over and very very odd seeing them leave in a taxi – knowing they are going all the way back to the UK and that we are effectively “home” as it stands.
The following day K & I went to the Ocean World, based in two basement floors of the Paragon Shopping Center. What a place! It has a glass walkway under the main shark aquarium and you can also (which we did) get on a glass bottom boat and go on the top of the water and look down, whith a guide who found it too funny, far too many times, to make jokes about feeding people to the sharks. By the 6th time it was getting embarrassing.
We watched as two guys in scuba gear fed the sharks – all a few feet from your face. Brilliant stuff. I would have lots of great pictures but our little Sony digital camera packed up when we got there! I got as few crapo ones with my phone. I got a picture of K touching a real snake but alas my phone cam is useless in low light – very brave of her (I did too!)
(yep, he’s looking at me)
Pretty much everything in there was fascinating and we thoroughly recommend it to anyone visiting Bangkok. As part of the package we got tickets to the “4D” Ocean cinema experience. I pretty much assumed the “4th” dimension would involve moving seats or the likes of. I was mostly right. We donned our 3D glasses and the movie started. The “3D-ness” was impressive and soon into the feature a massive sea snake swam at us – it was right in front of your nose, and Kirstin, bless her, wasn’t sure if it was just her seeing it like this. She hates snakes, and just as the snake was inches from our noses the seats luched forwards and compressed air was blown in our faces from hidden jets. She took off her glasses AND closed her eyes :-) As the movie continued they played various other tricks including thin air pipes on the floor that flow around your ankles making it feel like you were being touched by sea tentacles. A short but super experience.
After that we checked out the rest of the shopping centre. I wanted some cheap small speakers for the beach so we headed to the Hi-Fi floor. On route we noticed a Lambourghini in a showroom. I assumed this was the usual competition in a shopping centre thing, then quickly realised that this was really a dealership (on the 5th floor) and there were dealerships for BMW, Spyker and other luxury cars. This was no cheapo shopping center. We found a hi-fi shop but this was not place to be spending a tenner! – There were the kind of speakers and amps in there that you read about in a magazine with a pop out feature titled “If you had £100,000 to spend on speakers…” – it was mega rich land.
(At last I found speakers big enough to be buried in…)
We didn’t ask for prices, would have been too embarrassing, but I saw stuff in there only millionaires can buy to be one up on their other millionaire friends.
We went back to the ground floor where we belonged and had a KFC.
We’ve decided in a fit of impulsiveness to delay North Thailand by a week or two and go to Cambodia to see Angkor Watt. We have a choice of flying or going overland. Flying is £400 return for the both of us for a 45 minute flight. Bangkok air has a monopoly on flights to Siem Reap. So we are going overland. I’ve done a lot of research and it’s a bit of a minefield (no pun intended, honest) – the journey is littered with scams and cons. I’ve found a great website by someone who does the journey all the time and goes into great detail on how to do it with the least hassle. Basically it goes like this:
Get train from BKK to border – leaves 5.55 am – takes five and a half hours – cost -…….70pence each!!
Get off train and get £1 tuk tuk to border (don’t let any tour guides on tuk tuk with us)
Ignore anyone who approaches us and go straight to immigration.
Ignore pretend immigration officials
Pay $20 for visa, refuse to pay more in Baht
Get on free bus to transport depot, again ignoring touts and keeping all children at arms length
Get $45 taxi to Siem Reap - 5 hours ish. Make sure it’s a mafia taxi. If not mafia taxi they will stop your taxi and threaten driver. Make sure you don’t share taxi – too hot and cramped. Make sure taxi is really going to Siem Reap.
Whole thing should cost around £25 for the two of us, rather than £200 each way. Whether we come back by plane or overland depends on how the outgoing trip goes. Should be a hoot. We are going to book the hotel my Sister Clare stayed at – pool bar sealed the deal.
It goes on. If you want a laugh, read this:
We are catching the train tomorrow morning and leaving most of our stuff in a lockup in Bangkok so we can travel light (and run fast !). We are getting pretty handy at spotting conmen now so it should just be a case of ignoring people and giving them “that” look.
Lots of pictures of Angkor Watt will be incoming shortly!.....
p.s. mended the camera! – read on the net for a solution and the common theme was “bash the mo-fo in the floor” – not taking this seriously until I read lots of replies saying, “wow, yes! It really works”. So I threw it on our stone floor and bingo! It works!