Day 3 – 8th December
Well, today started pretty late after the excitment of arriving, watching Spurs win their group and finally getting to sleep around 5am (although my body thought it was more like 11pm!). I woke up at 12pm and decided to head down to old Bangkok and explore the Grand Palace.
The first part of the journey was pretty straight forward. A simple ride down to the river on the Sky train. I love the name for it as that’s pretty much exactly what it is. They built the track up above the traffic, literally in the sky!
After leaving the sky train, the difficulties started. One of the cheapest forms of transport around Bangkok is the river boats. It was pretty confusing down at the pier however, as there were all sorts of boats coming and going, including tour boats. I almost ended up on a tour boat but then sat down for a while and just observed! It became clear that people were simply getting on with no ticket, so I took a leap of faith and guessed that you paid on board. The next test was which one to get on! There was a lovely map with colour-coded routes on a board and corresponding numbers. Seemed pretty straight forward, except every boat that came in had random numbers unlike any on the route maps. It took me a short while but eventually I noticed the coloured flags hanging off the back and I was in business!
Thankfully I was right, and shortly after stepping on board a lady came round shaking a tin. I handed over a 100bht note as an educated guess and received 40bht in change. Just over £1 fare, lovely!
The piers are numbered and I had already clocked that pier 8 or 9 would put me in the vicinity of the Grand Palace. I got off at 8, grabbed a bottle of water and made my way through the street market toward the Palace. Street markets are EVERYWHERE selling everything and anything. There is a free trade law in Bangkok and people can do what they like trade wise without a license. This confirmed my suspicions of some of the street sellers cooking up food, totally unregulated! That’s how they roll.
The Palace was incredible, definitley worth a visit. The buildings were breath taking, and the highlight was the Emerald Buddha. Simply stunning. Stopped me in my tracks, much like when I visited the Sistine Chapel in 2005. It was one of those moments.
As I’d started out so late the Palace started to close for the day but I had seen everything I wanted to see. I headed out on to the street, not sure of where to head to next! I walked for a short while to a temple that was highlighted on my map. I stopped outside and took another look at the map. That’s when a friendly young Thai chap came up to me and asked where I was headed for and if he could help. First of all, I was quite wary but then he started talking and telling me about all these amazing places. He is in training to be a monk and told me if I come back to Grand Palace next year I will see him there! Anyway, he marked out 3 or 4 locations on the map, hailed a tuktuk and explained to the driver to take me to each of the places and wait for me! He then told me it was all go, and it would cost 20bht. Thats less than 50p!! As we set off it did enter my mind that it may all have been a setup which, in the end it was more or less. I got to see a few of the sights but interspersed with a couple of detours. One to a travel agency as I told the guy I was looking at heading south, and another to a tailors. I have to admit at getting slightly caught up at the tailors in all the pomp and ceremony, and at less then £20 I have a tailor made shirt from Thailand. Not a bad thing to have! But it turns out Mr tuktuk was on commission from both the travel agency and the tailors. He gets 2 litres of free fuel for every ferangferang (foreigner) he brings in!! Haha, well and truly done but, as I got to see the sights for less then 50p and also have a very cool if not slightly lairy tailor made shirt then I wasn’t too upset and I don’t begrudge him his free fuel!
He dropped me back off at a pier on the river and I took the boat back to the sky train. Another lesson, when on a boat creating wind along the river don’t pull out a handfull of notes as they are likely to blow away. The return trip cost 160thb, 60thb for the trip and 100thb in the river – d’oh!
Feeling hungry, but still not tempted by the street sellers and seemingly no other kind of eaterie in the vicinity of my hotel, I ordered in pizza. Haha, shocking I know but needs must! I will sample the local delicacies but not right now, thanks.
Late night/early morning again as I’m still struggling to deal with the jet lag. Finally got to sleep around 4am. I’m meeting with a Thai girl called Topsi tomorrow afternoon who I got in touch with via the Couch Surfing website (www.couchsurfing.org). She has very kindly offered to show me around some of Bangkok along with a Canadian girl. Hopefully it will go well and I can start to build up my profile on the website and have more chance of getting a couch or two to surf!LESSONS LEARNED TODAY – Probably best not to trust a random guy on the street who gets you a tour of the city for pennies – Keep hold of bank notes on a fast moving taxi-boat