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.
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.
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
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