27th October 2009:
After 2 flights from Goa to Mumbai then onto to Thailand, we arrived in Bangkok! Finally a new country! Myself and Dally G were very excited as for starters, we had eaten non Indian food on the flight over (after 2 and half weeks of the same food we had got sick of it!) and secondly we were meeting our very lovely friend Heena (aka Froggit) at the airport in Bangkok!
Even before we'd landed she'd texted us to know that she was sitting next to the luggage belt waiting for us! What a welcome! Her smiley face was beaming back at us, as we'd not see her for over a month! After lots of hugs and laughing at how dark we all were, we proceeded to get a taxi to our hotel. We were staying at Trang Hotel on Wisutkasat Road in the heart of Bangkok and we realised very close to Khaosan Road, how handy!
We were all very tired so as soon as we had arrived, we headed out to get our first proper dose of Thai food! We ended up around the corner from the hotel at a local place called Poonsin Restaurant. After watching what everyone else was eating we ordered a multitued of dishes and proceeded in stuffing it down our faces without much chatter! Bellies food headed back to the hotel for an early night!
28th October 2009:
Day 2 of our Bangkok trip and Heena had left us at 5am to go off to the Tiger Temple. Me and Dally G were up at 6am as we had booked to go to the Floating Markets. We were picked up at 7am and met 2 girls from the UK. An 1.5hr drive, and a stop off at a Sugar Factory, made from the flower of the Coconut Palm. All very fast and not very impressive, avoid if given the choice, it seems its a ploy to get foreigners to buy complete and utter tat! Plus it was full of bus loads of tourists all taking silly pics!
When we finally got to the Floating Markets in Damnoem Saduk, we realised it was very much catered for Tourists, with about 50 Tourist vans parked up, depositing us all there to then 'barter' with the locals! Myself and Dally G found it abit disappointing, as we would of liked the authenticity of an everyday Floating market. But hey we were here to see it, so made the most of the opportunity.
We haggled for some clothes, took lots of pics, walked around a few times, until the heat got too much and headed back to our van (if we could find it amongst the other 50 or so similar ones!?). At this point one of the girls we met had been sick and wasnt feeling too good. The tour, as i had thought and booked was also meant to be for the Rose Gardens, but i was then told this was not part of the tour as it was only a half day... i was well and truly miffed! We tried to negociate with the Tour Lady, if she could drop us off there and how much it would cost to get back to Bangkok, but this was going to be about 1000 Bhat, which was excessive. She tried to get us to go to an Elephant ride and some Jewellery place, but at this point we were a bit peeved off and the girl that had been sick was still not feeling so great. We headed back to the Hotel.
Quick freshen up and we headed back out, and were on our way to Khaosan Road. We never really made it there. Instead we got stopped by a local that Dally G had got in front of when he was praying to the Buddha at one of the Temples. He then asked us where we were from and where we were going? He wanted a piece of paper, so i gave him my journal, where he started to list the 5 Temples we should go to and draw pics. He got us a tuktuk and told the driver that we would only pay 40bhat for the whole day while he took us to all the temples. We were like 'great, thanks, thats so helpful and kind of you!' and off we went. Firstly to the Standing Buddha which was literally 2 mins from the hotel. We were starving and ended up having noodle soup first.
Our driver then took us to see the Lucky Buddha, next on our list was the Black Buddha, Golden Mount Buddha and finally Mother Buddha. But did we make it to these???? No. And why not? Well because it seems the tuktuk drivers and lots of other people in the city try and get you into a tuktuk for a very small price and promise to take you to all these temples. But then they tell you that they are closed at certain times and instead of going there they will take you to a shop, or a museum or any other place they have in mind. So we ended up at a Tailors. We quite literally walked in and then back out again, as we had no intention of having anything made. Next he took us to a precious stone factory. We did end up buying some earrings, but not from the expensive diamonds and silver section, more like the sterling silver and cubic zirconia section which was a fraction of the price. The little lady showing us the items kept on saying ' just buy it!, so we did.
Our tuktuk driver was very interested to know if we'd bought anything and when we showed him our bags, he looked very pleased indeed...if only we had known!
Next he took us to a arts shop, again we were not interested and at this point ready to go back to the hotel, but NO, he wanted to take us to one last place! The Thai Export Centre. In fact he begged us, as we finally found out why, he wanted to get his Petrol voucher, which entitled him to free petrol, as he had taken us to all these places which earns him commission! How silly and trusting had we been!?
Luckily for us we had a free afternoon and were not too bothered about being driven around for 4hrs to random shops, but if you have limited time be aware of very low priced tuktuk drivers offering to show you the sights! You may end up being dropped off at places you really dont want to visit.
Anyhow, we survived, and headed back to the hotel...again to meet Heena how had returned from her tour of the Tiger Temple. We finally made it to Khaosan road, walked around all the stalls and markets, had a drink at the 999 Western Bar. 2-4-1 on cocktails! More shopping, had a try of the street food, Chicken Padthai! Lovely. And also getting frustrated as i was trying to call my bank, who had blocked my card when i got to Thailand, so i had no money and was borrowing from my friends!
But Khaosan Road was great, brilliant atmosphere, full of travellers, locals, food, music, stalls, etc. A great place to buy anything and everything, especially dresses, flipflops. My advice is that if you are ever coming to Thailand, take the clothes you are wearing and some hand luggage full of basics. Turn up and head to Khaosan Road. You can buy everything you need for cheap! Why we end up taking a suitcase full of clothes and end up buying more when your there????
We then thought we'd have a Thai massage. For so little money you can get a really good 30min massage, clothed too! Felt sooo much better afterwards. A girl could get used to this kind of pampering!
29th October 2009:
Day 3, we headed back out and took Heena to see the Standing Buddha. Then took a tuktuk to the Reclining Buddha. This is an absolutely beautiful Temple, and one worth seeing. The Reclining Buddha is huge and the decoration of the gold and mother of pearl is stunning. You can also purchase coins that you place in pots at the side. For 50 bhat its very much worth seeing!
Next stop was the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha. We werent sure if we would be allowed in as they have strict dress code to enter the Palace. You need to wear long trousers, and cover your shoulders. But we found that we could go in as you can hire a shirt or sarong! So me and Heena, wearing our office shirts (very fetching!!!), decided we'd go in and see the Temple. Dally G had already been so said she'd wait for us. Fine we said, we'll only be 30 mins or so, and off we trotted, laughing at ourselves in the silly shirts over our dresses!
The grounds of the Emerald Buddha are sooo stunning. The amount of colour, including the painting work, gems, and gold shining away in the sun was just mesmerising. The photos we were taking just dont do it justice, its something you just have to see, to understand the beauty of the place.
The Emerald Buddha is cut from one whole piece of Emerald of 70cm, we sat in the temple for a few mins, unfortunately you cant take any pics but the actual room was so intricate. We walked around the grounds looking at the Golden spires, figures and art work in the 37 degree heat! After getting lost abit, and taking about a million pics, we finally made our way to the Grand Palace and saw women in traditional dress! They do look very stunning and regal in the Thai national dress. We took more pics of them! By this time the heat was very intense so we stopped off for water and Heena had an icecream. We then realised we had been about 2hrs!! Oops.
We rushed back, as Dally G had been waiting for us out in the sun. Lets just say she was non too pleased! We dropped of our lovely shirts and headed back out to Khaosan Road! I think we liked it there??? And did more shopping and decided on getting another pampering session. We all had a pedicure! Having walked around in sandals for over 2 wks your feet get a battering, especially in the heat and with all the sand and dust, so a pedicure was much needed! For 200 Bhat (2.50 quid its nothing!). We sat for 2 hrs getting our feet and toe nails back into condition, then realised that we had a meeting with our tour leader at 6pm! Crappp, it was 5.50pm!
Why is it when you need a tuktuk you cant find one??? Lets just say the one we got, had no idea where our hotel was and was going to take us to ChinaTown, then we flagged another and he couldnt read a map. We then tried to get a taxi, but would they stop for us?? No! Finally after walking all the way back to Khaosan Road, we finally got a tuktuk to drive at the speed of light back to the hotel. Running up the stairs we made it to our meeting at about 6.40pm! And tried to quietly and without being too obvious sit down! Thankfully our T.Leader, A.J was still chatting away and filled us in. We also got to see how many of us were on the tour! 16 in total which was a big group.
Team session over, we headed back out, for food, shopping and this is when i ended up sitting around for 2.5hrs in an internet place for the Froggit and DallyG to finish uploading all their pics. I went out a couple of times and ended up buying 2 bracelets and some pineapple in a bag! Was very tired. Got back to the hotel at midnight, but instead of going to bed we had some Goats Cheese that Heena had got from CapeTown in South Africa, crisps and wine! We didnt end up going to bed til 3am and we were leaving the next morning at 8am. It was a good night though!
30th October 2009:
Ohhh what a night! Cheese and Wine, what a combo! Woke up later than usual, but with still a very packed day ahead! We had til 6pm as we would be taking the overnight Sleeper train to Surat Thani. So we had all decided to spend our last day doing what girls to best! Shopping and getting a massage! We couldnt leave Khaosan Road without a few last minute bargains, we needed more dresses!
Also opted for a foot massage this time. Lying on the mattress, i closed my eyes. It was bliss, and to top it off, i ended up having not only a foot massage, but also back, arms, legs, neck and head massage too! The lady had thought i wanted a full body 1hr massage. I was happy to lie there and carry one! The ladies were lovely too, as they gave us some Jasmine Tea afterwards. They could see we needed it, from the amount of bags all three of us had of shopping, its all very hard work and takes it out of you bargaining for a few more bhat of the price of some sandals you know! We also parcelled a whole load of stuff back to the UK. This cost the earth but most of the stuff wouldnt fit in our bags anymore, and to be honest we needed the room for all the shopping we still had to do in the next 4 weeks!
As we got back to the Hotel, the rest of the tour group had gathered in the lobby as we were getting an overnight sleeper train to Surat Thani, and from there to Ao Nang near Krabi. As we all got into the taxis and headed for the train station, the horror stories of sleeper trains was weighing on my mind. Now i dont mind roughing it, but when there are bugs and things crawling around on a 10hr journey, thats what i cant stand.
Thankfully, and much to my relief our train and the actual condition of the carriage was very nice! All 16 of us were all together, in 2's, we stowed our big bags and settled down. We still had 30mins before the train left at 7.30pm so headed into the station for food. In Thailand and all over South East Asia, fruit in a bag is readily available and so cheap. Plus the fruit is fresh and great to eat, therefore we loaded up on watermelon and pineapple, a couple of bags of crisps and some water. On our return to the train, there was filming going on for a Bollywood film at the last carriage on our train. So we stood around watching for abit. I assume the filming ran over as we didnt leave the station until 8.30pm! But i dont think anyone minded as we were all excited about the journey. Even ordering some Singha beer! (and we dont drink beer!).
The journey was a nice way for us to get to know our fellow travellers, and also our Team Leader. Ordering our food for the journey, we never expected to get so much to eat, but we had TomYam Soup, Chicken with Cashew (DallyG had Veg option), Rice with veg, another dish, plus a pineapple for dessert! Gosh we were full. But a very good deal for the amount we had.
After abit the guys who make our beds came around, we resisted until about 11pm, at which point i think they really did want to convert our seats into the bunks we'd be sleeping in! It was quite ingenious how everything moved and came down to make 2 very comfortable beds! I was at the bottom and Dally G at the top, and Heena and her buddy, Franka (from Germany) where opposite us. We didnt really get much sleep as we ended up chatting away all night, finally falling asleep at about 2am.