Bangkok needs no introduction. This city, fabled to travelers young and old, is the gateway to South East Asia, and where our flight from Korea landed. We already had our first night booked, so we grabbed a taxi, had the obligatory argument with him about putting it on the meter and not paying his ‘very good set price’ and set off into Bangkok’s teeming streets.
For those who have not been to Asia, the sights, sounds, smells and activities of this crazy city can be overwhelming. The best way to get started was wandering down to the Khao San Road, using Abby’s previously gleaned experience of the town (the Khao San Road, at least, has not changed much in two years). The hub of traveler activity, it is full of bars (shiny and seedy), street vendors (yummy Pad Thai was our first stop) and confused backpackers. We strolled through the road, distracted by the market stalls, sorted out the exciting business of buying malaria pills (from Boots of all things, they have it here!) and visited our first of many temples. That done, it was time for shower (the humidity is quite a step up from Fiji) then back out for a Chang beer or two and some deep fried pork ribs and Tom Yum fried rice.
Day two, and we started the morning with a Thai Iced coffee (‘Aye coffee!!!’) which was strong and sweet with condensed milk and very much appreciated. As Andrew’s brother was arriving in the afternoon, we made the most of our morning and explored the Democracy Monument (not the greatest monument), the beautiful and relatively unknown Loha Prasat, where you can climb up inside the former meditation hall for a great view of the intricate roof spires and then the Golden Mount. We had to spend half an hour sheltering from a torrential downpour just before, but the Golden Mount is definitely worth it.
After a quick lunch in a tiny noodle restaurant, we tried and somehow failed to get a taxi to the station and ended up resorting to tuk tuk, first having to assert that, no, we didn’t want any suit shops or gemstone dealers, just the station thank you very much. So, after a short wait at the airport, we met Richard at the gate!
It seemed only appropriate, once all settled, to go for a beer and another wander on the Khao San Road. After all, there was lots to catch up on. We spent the evening chatting, eating some more great Thai food and playing Connect 4 while passing a puppy between us for cuddles!
Little did Richard know that we had a big day planned for him, so we turfed him out of bed bright and early, set him up with an iced coffee (the lady recognised us now) and caught the riverboat down to the Grand Palace. The enormous complex of palaces, temples and statues is awe inspiring and very very bling, in a tasteful way. Richard described it as a diamanté dance shirt on a building. Not sure what King Rama V would have said to that……
Having melted into puddles, we stopped to refuel, then caught a taxi to the Dusit Palace to see the Royal family’s collection of artefacts built using traditional styles, including chandeliers of beetle wing, wonderfully intricate wood carvings and some very gold elephant saddles. Oooooooh, shiny!
Then, we got lost for a while and finally found what we were looking, the Marble Temple. Another temple, this time marble, but still beautiful.
With aching feet, we got a taxi back get and, changed and revitalised, we spent our evening wandering through Pat Pong market. Or, as may describe it better, fake city. If you want a Rolex, Ralph Lauren polo or pair of Raybans, you’re in the right place. All genuine and at a very good price for you that never gets offered to anyone else…… Needless to say, we departed with lighter wallets and more to fit in our bulging rucksacks. It was time to pack them up as we had to be up early for the bus to Cambodia the next day!
Only a short trip to Bangkok this time, to be continued!