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Bangkok Thailand

Sightseeing

A hallway of the Dream Hotel.

We were very excited about going to Thailand today and were happy to make the short walk to the bus terminal to take a bus to Tokyo airport. One hour later we were at the airport. We basically spent the day at the airport. This took the pressure off us as far as all of the pre-flight tasks. Narita airport is very modern and a good place to hang so it was easy spending time there. We checked in our bags and the good news was we were not charged any excess baggage charges from Thai Airlines. We have now sent back home all of our winter and ski gear so we are only about 3 kilograms over our allotted 20 kg per bag now.

It was a relatively short flight of only 9 hours and the Thai Airline staff looked after us. I actually feel asleep for an hour or so, amazing. We landed at 11:30pm local time and had a half hour trip in a taxi to the Dream Hotel; yes this is its name, in Bangkok. The hotel is very new and very trendy but more importantly it has normal western size rooms and beds!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Wandering around the market.

Julia has visited Bangkok before and got into the habit of Thai massage. She was so happy that she can fulfill her desires once again. I have had Thai massage at home and it is like having yoga performed on you; a most painful yet pleasurable experience. Kind of like how when you bang your head repeatedly on a wall then stop how good it feels when you do.

The interior of the shopping centre.

We toured Bangkok city today. We rode the Sky Train to the Jatujak market. The Sky Train is an elevated train which offers excellent views of the city. Bangkok has sections that are very modern looking, with opulent architecture. But as we were to find out later in the day it also has sections which are more like Dickensian England. The Jatujak (pronounce Ack Ack for those fans of Mars Attacks) market is huge and a complete madhouse of activity. You can literally get lost in the maze of undercover merchant stalls. We have been in very cold weather since we left San Francisco in December so 50% humidity and 90 degree temperatures wore us down more quickly than normal.

What we saw from the river.

After leaving the market we took the Sky Train to a very modern shopping complex called the Central World Plaza with all manner of western style shopping, eating, and movie theaters to boot. We ate lunch here as Thailand is like Egypt in that we cannot drink the water and therefore cannot eat food unless it is prepared under western conditions; I feel so wimpy writing this but after getting sick in Egypt please call me wimpy.

From here we took the Sky Train to the Chaophraya River which runs through the city. At the river we took the river ferry from Tha Sathorn to Tha Chang where the Royal Grand Palace is located.

Julia with our suspect temple guide.

Once we left the ferry and arrived at the Royal Grand Palace, where we had planned a short walk through the city, a friendly brown skinned man approached us and told us the palace was closed at this time of day and that we would need to come back tomorrow and also to make sure we wore clothes that covered our legs and arms or we would not be allowed in. He offered us to take a Tuk Tuk ride to a few temples he knew were open. Against Julia's better judgment I agreed. This is when our troubles began.

The Giant Swing we saw along our way. We have no idea what it is.

Once we arrived at the first temple (which was very beautiful) a short, friendly, well dressed, stranger approached us and asked us where we were visiting from. He told us that he was waiting for his wife who was in the temple worshiping and that he was not selling us anything and offered to explain why there were 110 statues of Buddha in the temple. We looked at each other and were very suspicious but he seemed harmless and we were interested in the statues. He explained the statues were graves of cremated Thailanders and added that he had just bought his wife a blue sapphire as he loved her a lot and wanted to show his love to her. Besides, he went on, it would give her financial security if he were to die. Hum, this sound awfully like a sales pitch.

A typical living street in Bangkok.

Our suspect temple guide then mentioned that the best place to buy Thai blue sapphires was at the Thai Expo Centre and how great an investment they had been for him and how his wife now appreciated his love for her. Ok, at this point Julia and I realized that the whole thing was a coordinated scam and that when we accepted the ride on the Tuk Tuk the man there had called the suspect temple guide to be ready to receive two new pigeons. Julia and I had now seen the temple, which was lovely, said goodbye to the suspect guide, and returned to our Tuk Tuk. The driver said he would now take us to, you guessed it, the Thai Expo Centre! We told him we did not want to do this and could he please return us to the palace. The driver then gave us a sad story of how he would not receive his fuel voucher if we did not at least go into the Expo Centre.

One of the many Bangkok streets we walked as the sun began to set.

He seemed genuine, or at least well rehearsed, so we agreed to visit just the centre. We went in and of course there was a sales person ready to meet us and expound on the virtues and values of the Thai blue sapphire. We wandered about the shop a bit and then returned to the Tuk Tuk. Now the driver told us we just needed to visit another shop and took off with us captive in his Tuk Tuk. At this point we realized we had been shanghaied in Bangkok and no doubt would not be released from our imprisonment until we bought something. So at the next stop Julia and I got out of the Tuk Tuk and walked away. There was much shouting by the shop owner and the Tuk Tuk driver took off never to be seen again. Alas, Julia and I had no idea where we were and Bangkok is a very big city. We had our very vague tourist map and one landmark Julia (the sign spotter) had spotted as we made our hasty retreat from the Tuk Tuk driver. Off we went on our, what turned out to be, very long walk through the back streets of Bangkok.

We walked for two hours or so through the not so touristy parts of Bangkok and mostly did not know if we were going in the right direction most of the time. The signs, if they were there at all, were hard to read and the streets were maze like. The subway stop at Huallumpong was our goal so we just kept walking. We walked through China Town and saw the most amazing sites. Everyone basically lives in the streets, eating, drinking, watching TV, working, doing almost everything in full view. In places the sidewalks are consumed by all manner of vendors so much so you have to walk on the road to get by. As we walked along the smells would go from very aromatic pleasant ones to the most hideous obnoxious sort.

The time clicked by and the day slowly became night as we fumbled or way down more back streets. We were very close to pulling the pin on our adventure by hailing a cab when we saw the Huallumpong station and our destination at last. It was a quick subway ride back to our hotel where we immediately left for a Thai massage believing that we were truly deserving after today's efforts.

Monday, March 2, 2008

We decided that today we would not do any more touring as we had been touring every day last month so we lazed around the pool most of the day soaking up the sun. Julia did of course go out and get another Thai message.

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