all that jazz

james' blog about scala and all that jazz

Back to Bangkok

My trip is now starting to come to an end. After my last blog entry, I spent a night in Mai Sai, took a bus to Chiang Rai, and then stayed there the night. Chiang Rai was kinda boring, I got a 2 hour massage, and then wandered around for a while. The night markets were good though, I bought a few last pressies for various people. One big thing I've noticed is the further north you go in Thailand, the less and less English you see. In Bangkok, everything's in English and Thai. But, there were hardly any English signs in Chiang Rai or Mai Sai. There is also a much larger population of Chinese in the north, a lot of the markets have chinese food in them, and a lot of the restaurants, particularly the more western ones, are owned by Chinese.

The next day we took the bus to Chiang Mai, where I had one last walk around, had lunch, and sat in a cafe reading the paper, before we took the overnight train to Bangkok. There were hardly any people on the train, compared to our first train ride which was full. So, there was nothing really much to do and I got an early night at 7pm. The train arrived in Bangkok at 6am, where I took a taxi back to the Khao San Road, and checked into a hotel. So now I'm here, and I'm waiting for everything to open before I go out and explore. I think I'll take a river boat ride again, seeing as I missed out on my last one.

Tomorrow I'll be departing from the new international airport in Bangkok. It is said to have the largest terminal in the world, and once all its extensions are finished, will be the biggest airport in the world, handling 100 million passengers a year. There have been big problems with its opening 2 days ago though. People were waiting for hours for their baggage, and apparently 200 items got sent to the wrong destination. The problem was due to the fact that they didn't transfer enough baggage wagons from the old airport to the new. There were also computer problems for Thai Airways, but seeing as I'm traveling with British Airways, that won't be a problem.

Haven't seen any tanks, or any soldiers for that matter, since coming into Bangkok. Maybe, just as the coup appeared overnight when I was on the train to Chiang May, disappeared overnight on the way to Bangkok. Or maybe it just never happened. Hopefully I can find some tanks today to have my picture taken with.

New friends

Well, I'm now on my tour, and so finally have people to hang out with and talk to.

I spent most of yesterday wandering around the malls. I'm amazed at how American these malls are, more American than Australia. One particular one I went into, nearly all the food stalls were American fast food chains. I was very surprised to see a Sizzler, I didn't think Thai's would be interested in that, but obviously they are. And yes, the Sizzler did serve the nice toast.

At about 4:00 I met my new room mate, Jason. He's an American, but he's been studying at Macquarie Uni this semester.... so he lives about 15 minutes walk from where I work. There's only one other person on the tour, Jennifer, she's a Canadian, and like me, this is her first time overseas. Apparently a further 12 people will be joining us in Chang Mai for 6 days I think, and the n it will be back to just us again. It's nice having such a small group, because we get more attention from our guide, and it's more easy going because we only have to get 3 people to agree on what to do, rather than 15.

Both Jason and Jen only arrived in Bangkok less than a day before the tour started. So, having been there 3 days, I got to play guide last night. I took them to the Khao San Road by tuk tuk, where I tried a banana pancake made on a cart on the street. We also had a drink at one of the bars. It then started raining, so we decided to catch a taxi home. The taxi driver didn't speak any english at all, and couldn't work out where our hotel was from the map we gave him. He ended up dropping us off undercover at a shopping centre, by which time it was absolutely pouring with rain.

When it rains in Bangkok, it really rains. Some streets were 10cm deep with water. We were about 20 minutes walk from the hotel, I managed to get us within sight of it, through shopping centres and undercover walkways, but there was no way to get all the way undercover. So, we ran through the rain, and got totally drenched, arrived at the hotel all laughing and dripping wet. We then called it a night.

Today it was up early to catch a bus to Kanchanaburi. Kanchanaburi is a town about 2 hours by bus west of Bangkok. It sits on the River Kwai, and is famous for its World War 2 cemetry and Death Rail Museum. This afternoon we will visit those places and also the bridge over the River Kwai built by the POWs. Our guesthouse is fantastic, floating on the river where it's very cool, quiet and peaceful. Overall, Kanchanaburi is much more laid back than Bangkok, and much cleaner. It's a nice change from the city, though that's not say that Bangkok wasn't a great city :)

Day 2

Well, today was kinda a laid back day. I could have gone and visited lots of temples or seen the sights, but the thing is, the thing I'm really here for is to see other cultures. Temples and touristy stuff like that is only a skewed skim on the culture, I'd much prefer to sit on a park bench in the middle of the city and just watch how people live. Which is pretty close to what I've been doing.

So, last night, I found a quaint little cafe with a live musician singing and playing guitar. I ate some Thai food and had some beer, just relaxed. Then I wondered up and down Khao San Road for a bit it's very exciting place. Then I caught a taxi back to the hotel and got an early night.

This morning, after sleeping in, I checked out of my hotel. I should say, to start off I stayed at the Bangkok City Inn. It's quite a reasonable hotel, $30/night for nice comfy rooms that have pretty much everything you would expect from a 3 to 3 1/2 star motel in Australia. And it includes breakfast. I stayed there because that's what my tour group booked for me for my first night. Much easier to get them to book something for me rather than have to find a place at midnight when it's my first time overseas. I then stayed there last night because I didn't want to have to be forced to find a hotel yesterday, and I didn't have time to go and find another one before the checkout time. Besides, I had no idea what to expect from my first day in Bangkok. Well, I didn't need to do that, because when I got to the Khao San Road I found plenty of nice places to stay.

So, this morning I checked out of my hotel. I went and sat, of all places, in a McDonalds. It was really hot today and I needed a long cold drink. At McDonalds in Thailand, they have pork burgers. They also have a greater variety of chicken burgers. Something interesting that they seem to have is home delivery. At least, the staff were wearing badges that said "McDelivery". They also had in the maccas tables that had ipods and headphones, so that you could sit down and listen to music while you ate.

Actually, a note on fast food. KFC seems to be huge in Bangkok, there are more KFC's than any other fast food chain. At least that's what I've seen. Some food courts you go to have a system where you get a card from a desk, and you can put money on that card. You then use that card to pay for your food, I think the idea being that they don't have to worry about money and change at the food serving places, they just have to swipe a card, making it faster and more efficient.

After that I took the sky rail and then ferry to Khao San Road. I love doing that, the sky rail is such a great way to see Bangkok, and so is the ferry. Once at the Khao San Road, I checked into one of the "classier" hotels that they have there, it cost $15/night. The room is very basic, it has air conditioning, hot shower, tv, but not much else. And, that price includes breakfast. But, seeing as I'm only sleeping in there, I don't think I'm missing out on anything. This hotel has a swimming pool on its roof, with a bar next to the pool. Pity its raining right now :( That's why I'm writing this very long blog post, hopefully by the time I'm finished it'll have stopped raining.

I went back to the tailor for fitting this evening. I tried to bargain the price down, but having already paid the deposit, well, there's not much I could do. Though, it's not so bad. Over the past 8 years or so, I don't think I've made one bad major purchase.... that is to say, every time I've spent over $500, I've always got exactly what I needed at the cheapest price possible. I guess I just took my Australian attitude to buying things to this place, after all, I know a good bargain when I see one, right? Which is exactly what they wanted me to do..... So one mistake in 8 years is not too bad :) And like I said, it's still heaps cheaper than I would pay in Australia. And, having looked at some of the other tailor places, this one appears to be much nicer, very professional. Hopefully the quality of the product matches the appearance.

I then tried to catch the sky rail and ferry back to the Khao San Road. Skyrail, easy, this time I was travelling in peak hour, which was lots of fun, in the hustle and bustle of Bangkoks peak hour. Got to see lots of people travelling home. However, I missed the last ferry. Pity I didn't work that out till after I'd been waiting for about 45 minutes. So.... I thought I'd have another go at tuk tuks. It was quite a long way to go by tuk tuk, I got a good price, I think, well, I think I offended the guy with my first offer, and got half way in between his first offer and mine. And, peak hour was over. So more travelling down the wrong side of the road, dodging between cars.... the driver did have to slam on the breaks and screech to a stop at one point.... but it's all fun.

So now I'm at the hotel in the internet cafe.... Haven't had dinner yet, I think I might go and do that, hopefully I can find somewhere inside while it's still pouring.


Well, today is my first day in Thailand. I can say that I've definitely been ripped off already, but as the day has gone along I've become more aware of how not to be ripped off and how to bargain for a good price. Though, if only it wasn't on 2 tailor made suits, 4 tailor made shirts and 2 ties that I was ripped off on. Sure, they will be nice suits and nice shirts, Italian wool, Egyptian cotton, and I paid a hell of a lot cheaper than I'd pay in Australia. But I still reckon I'm paying twice as much as I need to. Oh well, gotta learn somehow! Just hope I don't run out of money....

The highlight of today has been riding in tuk tuks. I love it. This guy took me on a tour, we agreed a price of 20 baht (60-70c), and then he took me to some temples. Stuff the temples. He then took me to all these shops that sell clothes and jewelery, which he gets money for taking me there. He kept saying "just one more place". He was taking advantage of me, yes, but the fact is, I loved screaming around dangerously in those little tricycles. There are no road rules in Thailand, we probably spent more time on the wrong side of the road than anything else, and you know how when you're turning right at traffic lights you first wait for the oncoming traffic to pass? Nup, he just went before they got there. And then there were the tiny backstreets, almost running people over as we went. He ended up not charging me because we went to so many places that he got money for. I loved it.

I also took the sky rail, that was a good way to see Thailand, and a ferry up the river. The people here are really friendly, if you're standing around looking lost, within 30 seconds someones asking if they can help you. Very different to Australia.

Anyway, I've got better things to do than blog!!