Three nights in Bangkok
Bangkok, oriental setting,
Made we three chaps ever so humble,
Time flies, doesn’t seem a minute
We were on a muddy river
And by a reclining Buddha.
Museums and temples,
Enough from so many
Brief mention of Mrs Anna
And teaching King Mongkut,
Everything but Yul Brynner
One town’s very like another?
Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town
Siam’s gonna be the witness
It’s capital still impresses.
(thanks to MURRAY HEAD – ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK LYRICS and apologies for blatant plagiarism and butchery of them)
And that sums up quite well our 68 hours stop over in that fascinating city of contrasts.
We flew Heathrow to Bangkok via Dubai, on Emirates; what a super airline. Every other airline in the world should send all their staff on Emirates flights as part of their training. The A380-800 are so big inside that one almost forgets one is on a plane.
But then stepping into the Bangkok air was like walking into a stale sauna, the first contrast of the trip when compared to the Emirates Airline environment.
The taxi pulled off the busy and hectic morning rush hour street into a side lane (a ‘soy’) that if we didn’t know better might have led us to belief we were visiting the local slums. This was the location of contrast number two, our little hotel The Amber Boutique Hotel Silom, which was fabulous. Thanks to Daniella, an Elcoat Ltd associate from Romania, for recommending this to us. Spotless, modern, understated and charming staff to greet us. After nearly 40 hours on 1/2 hour sleep one can feel a bit like a grubby Morlock compared to an Eloi (contrast number three).
For the remainder of day one we sweated a lot mainly. After getting some cold beer and lunch as the Silom Village (a large courtyard area of the main road with touristy shops, performances, and a few restaurants) we felt more human and were able to return to the hotel to take possession of our rooms which turned out better than we expected; we couldn’t fault them, and at about 35 quid a night they would be about 4 or 5 times that in the UK with surly staff to boot.
The receptionist welcomed us back with a “it’s so hot today, it’s 40 degreesC”.
In the late afternoon we went for a stroll, to be offered multiple tuk-tuk rides, massages, 12 hour delivery made to measure suits, and taxi rides, and eventually got chatting with an elderly Thai gent who encouraged us to take a boat tour that day and told us the rates we should pay, and how much maximum to pay the tuk-tuk driver.
Could have been a con, but turned out to be the cheapest tuk-tuk ride of the visit at 25p for 15 minutes! The boat ride was super, especially considering how tired we were and how the the breeze generated by our progress cooled us nicely. We say palaces next to riverside slums, temples next to navy training colleges, and golden royal barges in the well guarded boathouses.
The trip started in daylight and ended in darkness, which falls quite quickly here, so we had the best of both worlds.
Day two and more contrasts – temples and palaces.
Wat Arun and What Po are amongst the ‘must see’ sights in Bangkok.
We took a long tailed boat to Wat Arun this time. These boats are long, narrow arrow like boats with massive truck engines bolted onto the rear deck. Heath-Robinson, but highly effective and high powered, the drivers are the rally drivers of the river. The boat ride is worth doing if you like a bit of exhilaration, but I don’t think scary for those more nervous passengers.
The temples and the Buddhas they contain have to be seen to be believed. They rather show up those of other religions, with the opulence and the number of beautiful buildings and structures in each monastery. Having said that, closer inspection shows signs of wear and tear quite advanced; gold leaf everywhere and stunning murals telling the story of Buddha’s life on every square inch of wall.
We also looked at one of the palaces, again very impressive, especially if you can imagine Yul Brynner as King Mongkut with all his entourage, living the life of a near diety, and Mrs Anna Leonowens giving him what for!
We then walked up to the Khao San Road as much for a trip down memory lane as to see what souvenirs we could find. It was wider than I remembered it, and now pedestrianised mostly, probably due to health and safety; it’s rarely a good tourism strategy to run over young foreign backpackers after all, with their lives ahead of them.
Blisters now becoming a distraction and having walked half way home, through streets of markets (first electrical repair stalls rewiring electric motors, then seamstresses, then butchers, and fish, then streets of florists with literally tonnes of orchids) we gave in to one of the numerous tuk-tuk drivers pestering us, and knocked him down from 200 baht to 100baht (GBP 2.50) to take us back to the hotel. Just as well because it was another few miles.
Day three – yesterday – dicky tummy and museums.
One of us had a bad night and feel unwell so that left two.
We dropped about 4kg of laundry at the ‘laundrette’ (someone’s front room in the same soy as our hotel) and we two healthy mortals set off for the national museum.
This time we took the express taxi boat, which is what locals use to get around town. Express? yes! But actually ‘dramatic’ is a better description.
These large boats take about 100-150 passengers, crammed in at times, and accelerate with a roar and whine of the turbos from the engine room, all accompanied by a frantic whistling from the crewman in command of the passenger entrances – the skipper simply responds to the coded whistles, two blasts meaning ‘reverse’ we thought. There is only two three speeds, launch forward, launch reverse and stop, though stop is usually carried out by the crewman throwing a rope around a dockside bollard. I cannot recommend highly enough taking a trip on these express taxi boats, and when you do, make sure you stand near the stearn, at the bottom of the stairs, and on the side of the piers, because there you get the best photos of people herding on and off and the drama of the boat crashing into each pier in turn while the crew whistle their commands to thew skipper.
The museum itself was full of many good exhibits, but sadly the curators have little idea how to get their history across, and I’m afraid to say often their messages were rather naive. If you can’t read Thai, then regardless of your nationality you’re stuffed. Otherwise only English is catered for.
…… more soon, with more images ….