Here we are back in Bangkok. We've found a nice little hotel about 10 minutes away from the Khaosan Road, the backpacker hub. Last time we were here we stayed at the Hilton. Not quite the same but not quite the same price either.
Forgive me not saying too much about Bangkok. I wrote tomes last time we were here. If you are interested then go to our Off Exploring site and you can find lots of pictures and blogs about the place.
We had been looking forward to our return but unfortunately Jill picked up a tummy upset so it was a subdued couple of days. We did manage to buy some new clothes though. This gave us the opportunity to throw out some worn and sun faded T shirts etc that we brought with us.
The next stop on the trip is Myanmar. That's Burma to the older readers. We planned to fly to Yangon. Again that's Rangoon for the more colonial.
Myanmar as you probably know from recent TV coverage is a military dictatorship, and not a very nice one. However things are changing and currently it is considered a positive thing to visit.
The country has been in the grip of sanctions for a long time so there are some challenges. Firstly you have to get a visa. This involves a visit to the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok. It was a very efficient process. We queued and then found out we needed a photocopy of our passport. No problems said the chap pop down the road and get one. He gave us a number in the queue so we didn't lose our place. Things not to put on your visa application form. I am a journalist, photographer, government official, human rights campaigner or similar. I put that I was a retired shop manager which is kind of true.
Anyway, forms duly completed and money paid we left to return the next day to collect our visas. Next day and it was ready and waiting. As I say very efficient. I wonder if our India application will be as smooth.
Hands up who never uses cash only plastic. Well not in Myanmar you don't. It's a closed economy and there are no working ATM's or credit card facilities. So you have to take US dollars with you. That means trying to work out how much you will need as you can't get anymore once you are there.
We did our maths and set off to raid the Bangkok ATM's. First you have to get Thai Baht then change it into dollars. An expensive process. Of course if you bank with Santander it's not a problem as they won't let you have any money. I drew money at Bangkok airport but the next day couldn't get any out. I waited another day and still couldn't get any. Our Barclays cards were also being temperamental.
Ok it's expensive but we had to phone the banks. Fortunately with the time difference it was about 3am in the UK so we got through quickly. It seems when Santander tells you that you can only draw X amount per day from an ATM what they actually mean is not a day but each 24 hours. Different to the UK where it's a calendar day. Tossers. Anyway we eventually got the money we needed. On the bright side it seems there is a way to unlock my credit card. Terribly sorry to have told you a load of k*** s here's £30 quid for your trouble. I wonder how much my super complaint will be worth when I get home?
So it was visa, check, money check, flight tickets check, hotel reservation check. The flight was at 12.10pm and we asked the hotel to call us a cab at 9am. What could possibly go wrong? Thailand that's what.
The cab will be 10 minutes Turkish she told us. After 25 minutes she suddenly announces 'Taxi no come for you'. What? Fortunately or not as it turns out there is an empty cab down the road. Bangkok has two main airports. Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang. The former is the main international airport. The latter is another big airport dealing with internal and local international flights. It is also now the operating base for Air Asia with whom we were flying.
'Will you take us to Don Muang airport?' I asked. 'Yes' he replied. We agreed a price and set off. As we left the city we both thought is he going the right way? I asked again 'Don Muang airport, yes?' 'Yes Don Muang' he replied. We drove on and passed the turn off for Don Muang. I checked again. 'Yes yes, Don Muang' he replied. 4 times we had this conversation. As we turned on to the slip road for Suvarnabhumi airport Jill let rip at him. Thais don't like it when you get angry and will hang up the phone or walk away. This guy was trapped. 'Airport, airport you say. I take you to airport' he protested. 'Indeed' I replied. 'But it's the wrong f*&%ing airport. Which bit of Don Muang didn't you understand? ' All of it, it seems.
He tutted, sighed, put his hands to his face and said' Oh Don Muang' 'Yes Don Muang for the 10th f*&%ing time'
He did a U turn and set off in the correct direction. Flight at 12.10 it's now 11.00 and we are at Heathrow and we need to be at Gatwick. 11.25 we arrived. Fortunately there was no check in queue and we caught the flight. If I had had the time I would have told him to shove his fare and given him a Glasgow kiss for his trouble.
1.30pm and we are in Myanmar. Still a little het up but here none the less. First thoughts? They have right hand drive cars but drive on the right. Could that be a pointer?