I'm in Phuket Town at the moment, and as I've found a local internet cafe which charges 15b per hour (as opposed to the outrageous 3b per minute elsewhere) thought I'd take the chance to update you about the parentals holiday, before I fall really behind!!
Week 1: Bangkok, Saraburi, Ayutthaya, and Lopburi.
Mum and dad didn't have the most promising start to their holiday as we all nearly got run down by a crazy taxi driver just outside the airport's door. Tried to reassure them that such things weren't too regular an occurence, even in the crazy busy streets of Bangkok, although I guess the hour in the minivan was a prime example of the eraticness that is Thai driving.
We were booked into a little 'boutique' hotel in the Khao San area of the city, but a reasonable distance away from the neon billboards and embarassing topless flabby lager louts. As they arrived in the evening I decided to throw them straight into Thai cuisine by searching out the nearest street vendor, where they had their first taste (of many) of legendary Singha beer.
Thought schlepping around temples would be a bit much for Day 1's itinerary so I eased them into BKK the best way I know how: shopping. Dad was over the moon! Did inject a bit of culture into the day though by paying a visit to Jim Thompson's House (an American dude who played an important role in Thailand's silk industry until he disappeared without trace in Malaysia's Cameroon Highlands... mental note not to visit there!)
Had lunch in the plush Siam Paragon's food hall, sped all over the show on the BTS, and got the full experience of standing on the public fan bus back to Khao San where we enjoyed beer #2 - Beer Laos, my fave. Keeping with the shopping theme of the day we took a ridiculously long taxi ride through red shirted demonstrators to Lumphini Night Bazaar for dinner and a meander around the many stalls. That clocked us up to beer #3 - Tiger or Chang... one of the two!
Reminisced as I walked us around the part of town I'd stayed during my first few days in BKK way back when in October, pointing put the hotel I stayed in and the dirty little alley where I dined amongst rats and cockroaches on my first two nights. Unfortunately, owing to a stupid dress code (which we were informed of 64 floors later; lucky the lift was in order), we weren't allowed into the rooftop bar I'd planned to take us to. Instead had a cheeky Singha at a little roadside bar back opposite our hotel.
Day 2: schlepping around temples. Started, naturally, with the Grand Palace, then the big big reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, then boated across the river to the very impressive Wat Arun, which I insisted on climbing to the top of, in the wind, in a skirt. Luckily I still had a few days before my Ajarn card expired so got in free everywhere, more money for the beer budget.
Think I'd pretty much Wat-ed out mum and dad so we tuktuked back towards the hotel for lunch before heading to Dusit Palace Park where me and mum had a tour of the Teak Mansion, which we were told a dozen times was all held together with 'no nails'. It's basically the King's a spare home for all the gifts he doesn't want in the Palace, including stuffed turtles and elephant feet tables, so I can see why!
After a few hours of r&r back at the hotel we headed to Sukhumvit (lady/ladyboy central) and dined at Cabbages and Condoms. Scrummy cocktails, odd appetisers (ummed and ahhed over whether we were supposed to eat the rubbery leaves they were served on), and the most divine curries I've had in Thailand. Being the restaurant it is, at the end of the meal instead of mint imperials we were given condoms! Afterwards I made us have all the obligatory pictures with condom lanterns, trees, supermen and Santa. Managed to walk back along Sukhumvit without too many propositions.
Had planned to take us to Chatuchak Saturday morning but on second thoughts figured it might be a bit overwhelming and dad would not enjoy yet more shopping. Instead we bussed to Thonburi's Taling Chan floating market, not a gawdy tacky tourist one but an original foody one, so we were in our element. We breakfasted on cockels, hugeeeee prawns, som tam and sticky rice.
Then it was time to make our way up to mine. After the hustle, bustle, and cosmopolitan nature of the capital I wondered what mum and dad would make of Saraburi. Was relieved that no fainting occurred whilst showing them all the things I'd bought for them to take home with them. Given the luxury of our boutique in BKK the hotel in my town was a bit of a contrast. Think 'Terror Tower'... it was like stepping into a timewarp, going back to the 70s when it was built. Alas it's the only one in town, though goodness knows why there's near-on a thousand rooms when I've never seen anyone staying there. Apparently it's not very popular because it's built next to the local temple and thus haunted, which I told mum and dad after check-in.
After lunch at a local place I go to on weekends I took them to see DeeDee for Mothers' Day and Birthday massages and facials. Took dad for a beer on Pub Street while mum was being facial-ed. For dinner we went to my vegetable lady where we paid 80b total for all three dinners and drinks, bit of a difference from the BKK prices we'd been paying, and they were still pretty cheap compared to England. Picked up some squid and other goodies from around the night market (ticking off some of the many things on the list of stuff they had to eat whilst here) and then went back to Pub Street to meet up with my friends for a few beers.
The following day's trip to Ayutthaya didn't go ever-so smoothly, and that's an understatement. The 11.51 train there happened to be delayed two hours, so I plonked us on the most rickety local bus imaginable which detoured the long way to Ayutthaya. We got there in the end though and after refreshing shakes and a rest, because despite sitting on a bus for two hours it wasn't the smoothest of journey's, we rented the standard wobbly 30b bikes. Managed to see two of the main sights before poor dad got a puncture, so we took off on foot for a bit, and then piled dad and his bike into a tuktuk, a very funny sight indeed. As our luck so far as transport was concerned appeared to be stacked against us that day it wasn't surprising to learn that the train home was delayed an hour, but we got home in good enough time to enjoy dinner in Nut. More ticks on the food list!
Luckily the next day's transport was rather painless, good old buses. Started the day with a visit to Phra Phutthabat and popped into the orphanage to see the girls one last time and give them some toys. From there we headed to Lopburi. The old palace I'd wanted to take us to was shut, though I think I made the TAT office staffs' year as I expect I'm the only foreigner who's ever been into their Tourist Information. We made do with watching the cheeky monkeys up the lamposts and tight-rope walking the electricity cables. I took far too many photos of the cute tiny month old baby ones, as you will see but am sure will agree was totally worth it.
Made it back to Saraburi just in time to pack up and move out before meeting up with my Thai family for dinner at my favourite restaurant. I left it up to Jeab to order, and I think we ended up with half the menu on our table. After saying our goodbye's on the side of the road (after a misunderstanding about me going to say goodbye to friends a 5min walk from the restaurant, and instead them insisting on a 20min u-turn-filled drive all around town to take me there) we went to a shindig in town where there was a festival, live music, very cheap beer, and I was later informed 50b saraongs.
I checked into the hotel that night ready for our early departure the next day, stayed up far too late watching the music channel and working my way through my new supply of chocolate rations.