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Thailand 23/02/02 - 09/03/02


After a ten and a half hour flight (reduced by a generous tailwind) Bangkok was hardly welcome relief. Confusion begins at passport control, where long queues give way to impatience, particularly with what must have been at least a whole jumbo full of eastern European looking people, deciding to settle on cutting into a queue headed by the title 'thai passports'. Turns out they were Greeks who ended up being herded like sheep away from the desk by the official official. Reps were easier to find than our transfer coach. Time becomes inefluous after crossing five or six time zones. 6 am is 11 pm to us. The time spent flying becomes less of a chore and more of a test of ones ability to do very little for such a long time, but it is still exciting to fly in a jumbo.

Bangkok sprawls. The rep sells us excursions, but we take little in as the unfamiliarity of the views of the suburbs at dawn drains the last of the energy. Being dropped off last always makes you regret your choice of hotel before you have even arrived there! It turns out the Amari Atrium ('Amalee Atrium' as the rep calls it, 'Rabies and Gent') is as smart as the chandeliered Crown Plaza. And you guessed it - it does have a huge atrium. Our bags are delivered promptly to our room, after we are told we have been upgraded to deluxe for no particular reason. It's a good room, and the bed could sleep four, but within half an hour it's sleeping two. 10.30 am to them is 3.30 am to us and our way to adjust is by catching four hours of deep, deep, confusing sleep.

Waking, time is irrelevant. It could be any time, and mean as little. As the day wears on time catches up, but to us it's bleary-eyed o'clock. The view of the pool deck confirms one thing: It's hot out there. 35 degrees is what's quoted, and we soon find out, after we decide to take the plunge on booking the Grand Palace tour, assuming that by tomorrow morning we will be on Thai time.

Bangkok is bigger than we think, and we are advised that the only way to get wherever we want to go is by taxi or the free shuttle bus. The word free seals our fate, and ten minutes later we are joined by four Canadian Sikhs in a minibus that does indeed shuttle us into town to the World Trade Centre to be exact.

Bangkok is a little like Singapore. It's on the same latitude, and they drive on the left. That's about it, apart from the shade of the skin, and the familiarity of a language one cannot comprehend. English here, however, is not a second language, and we don't even know how to say hello. When we do I can't ever imagine saying 'sawadee khrap', and the shawaddywaddy jokes start. The world trade centre is exactly what New Yorks' isn't. It's a huge shopping mall, with any open space filled by stalls or fast food restaurants. We guage the mood of the sales people with no intent to purchase, and decide we should do what we look like we should do, which is sight see.

We leap in to the queue at the taxi rank where two officials of differing importance noisily blow whistles at an eager queue of taxis who have no other choice than to pick you up. Luckily we were given the name of our first destination in writing at the hotel for the taxi driver, or I fear we may never have made it to Jim Thompsons house, high on the tourist agenda.

Jim Thompsons House, Bangkok An oasis of traditional tranquillity in suburban Bangkok the man, the ledge', for some bizarre reason decided to dismantle and move six traditional Thai country houses and bring them to the city to live in them in as traditional style as he wanted. To him this meant reassembling them to the smallest detail and then putting in air conditioning! 'Who was this guy?' I asked myself. Sure makes a cunning tourist attraction, and is worth the visit for the tranquillity, but it's a strange legacy to cling to, and reminds you of the chaos of Thai city living.

We contrast history with the future by jumping onto the sky train, which perches science fictionally above the main drag. It picks up a good lick of speed, which we experience only once, alighting at the Siam Square stop to troll through the maze of boutique clad lanes. Hunger is gripping us, but the thought of the unknown, and the tales of deep fried bugs by our Sikh friends, denies us the pleasure of a street stall. We become westerners again, and head for the familiarity of the hotel.

Dusk falls before we find our route. I decide that we should try the only other mode of transport available to us - boat, and we leap on an express canal barge, but only after we bump into an Indian business man who is staggering after his express boat experience. Ride of his life he reckoned, and warned us to get on a big one. We do get on a big one, and after seeing a little one, a true longtail boat, speed pass skipping on the waves of the narrow, unlit waterway, we know why. Even this 30 foot barge has a good turn of speed, and soon the bow wave is being blown back in our faces. We have no idea where we are, or where to get off, and after paying, and showing the guy our map, to no response, we are told to sit down when we first try to get off. Luckily it turns out that the first stop that anyone else tries to get off at is ours - we can see the inverted cone on the top of our hotel.

Welcome drinks are followed by a traditional(ish) thai meal, consisting of the hottest thai soup edible, spring rolls and a milder thai red curry and fish dish. We vow to eat out tomorrow. We chat momentarily with an ignorant American couple before turning in for our 6 am excursion start.
Summary | Bangkok | Bangkok Day Two | Khao Lak Bay Front Resort | Khao Lak Day Two | Ko Similan Islands
Turtle Conservation Festival | Leaving Khao Lak for Pimalai Resort, Ko Lanta | Ko Rok Snorkelling
Pimalai Resort and Ko Lanta Driving Tour | Leaving Thailand
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