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Monday 22nd November 2004

We didn't wake up until 10:15am this morning. Finally, a good eight hours sleep! Hooray!

As I shuffled the zombie walk to the toilet I noticed a card had been slipped under our door. The hotel must have tried to deliver our laundry but failed to wake us. I phoned them up and almost immediately they were knocking at our door. The bill for 6 items was quite expensive but it would have been even more expensive had the lady who brought up the clothing not been so honest. In my hazy unfocused daze I had given her a 1000 Baht tip! I was so grateful that she said "You tip too much" and handed the note back! Dressed only in a towel wrapped around my waist I was also very thankful that she didn't think I was suggestively paying her for some "extra washing". I eventually gave her the correct tip with not so many zeros attached!

We had a very relaxing breakfast in our room before eventually leaving at noon for Chinatown. We weren't in any rush whatsoever and had not planned an itinerary for today. It goes against my nature to be as unfocused because I would end up wandering aimlessly, getting nowhere, seeing nothing, and just plain wasting my time, but for a change I felt fine about it. Had Julie been crushing diazepam over my white omelette?

We caught the Chao Praya 'Tourist' Express boat this time as opposed to the usual boats. It was spacious, almost empty, and conspicuously lacking in Thai people. The price was double that of the usual express boat but at 15 Baht it was still cheap.

We got off only two stops down the line at the Rachavongse pier and followed our Groovy Map towards Yaowaraj Road. Walking along Ratchawonga Road was really fascinating.

The pavements were bursting with stalls selling everything; baskets of fish heads, piles of fruit and veg, gold and red waving cats, and a piece of meat that we couldn't quite figure out.

Our initial guess was bat, but I'm sure they were less exotic and were probably just flattened fowl of some variety.

There were plenty of narrow alleyways that offered even more market excitement but after experiencing the claustrophobic mayhem of Chatuchak yesterday we were happy to stick to the main roads.

We turned right down Yaowaraj Road where chinese neon signs almost blocked out the sky.

There was an embarrasment of riches on display with gold stores after gold stores dazzling us, and on the pavements even more stalls were selling copious amounts of smelliness that churned us.

The whole area was chaotic, brash, noisy, and smelt atrocious but we truly enjoyed the sensory assault. It was quite an experience!

At the end of this street we joined Charoen Krung Rd, and sought out Wat Traimit, the Temple of the Golden Buddha. We paid 20 Baht each for the privilege.

As we entered there was a sign up reminding tourists to dress respectfully, so Julie donned a skirt she bought from Chatuchak Market yesterday.

It was ideal as she could just hoist them over her shorts.

The Golden Buddha was housed in a separate building to the main temple.

Described as Thailand's largest Buddha statue I felt it was smaller than I had anticipated but I reminded myself that it was 3 metres tall of solid gold, not just thin plated, now that's five and a half tons of precious metal.
Put in those terms it suddenly became enormous!

It was fascinating to learn that as late as 1955 the statue was still covered in plaster, cloaked as it had been since the marauding Burmese sacked Ayutthaya. Its treasured core had become a forgotten secret. It was only for the good fortune of hiring clumsy removal men, who dropped it, cracking the plaster revealing the 18 carat gold that otherwise it would have still remained a hidden gem.

Near the exit a row of three bells were calling out to me to chime them. I obliged, and gave them each an almighty thwack which felt quite liberating. I donated a few Baht for the opportunity and also as penance for my disrespect of photographing the Golden Buddha.

We sat down for a bit, so that Julie could remove her skirt, and apply antiseptic cream on her flea bites.

By now they were weeping unattractively and were a source of worry for her. She had visions of a gross worm the length of a bowl of spaghetti growing inside her leg! Whilst it didn't look that bad the bites were still a concern and we promised to keep a close eye on how they developed.

We moved on following Charoen Krung Road. I knew that it would lead us to the Royal Orchid Sheraton. In theory it wasn't at all far but the reality of walking down the busy industrial street was quite different. Most of the stores were mechanical workshops with people soldering away, making signs, selling trolley wheels. We were the only tourist stupid enough to be walking down this way. We must have stood out like a shiny throbbing spot on the end of Charoen Krung's nose. Every store owner stopped their work and looked quizzical at these two sweaty crimson tourists stumbling along. Every tuk tuk driver that whizzed by must have thought "Look at those nutters, they must be desperate for a ride outta here" Not one passed us by without screeching to a halt to see if we needed saving! But we carried on regardless.

Before too long we turned down Si Phraya road, and could see the Sheraton a short distance away. It was a perfect time for a poolside siesta but first I wanted to pop to the Portuguese Church nearby.

We weaved our way under a canopied alleyway filled with many street food vendors, dodging speeding mopeds and trying not to inhale some more dodgy smells.

We popped out the other end to be confronted by a large steel security gate as the entrance to the church. It was wide open and the booth to the left, where a security guard ought to have sat was empty. Dare we enter?

We did, but each step was taken waiting for someone to shout "HALT! Who goes there?" We soon noticed why there was such a secure perimeter when we walked right into the middle of a school playground! Ooops! We better leave before we get arrested!

The church stood in the playground so I took the required photos of the church and left before any child felt threatened by our presence. By the time we had returned to the security gates the guard was in his booth, smiling broadly at us. We sheepishly slunk past.

We headed straight for the hotel pool and were lucky to bag the last two loungers in the sun.

We baked for 90 minutes at Gas Mark 8. Once suitably cooked we cooled ourselves in the Jacuzzi, drinking a Mai Thai cocktail, and basked.

"Oh, this is the life" I purred as I sat there, relaxing, feeling groovy. My state of bliss evaporated instantly when I suddenly realised that I had just immersed myself in bubbles with a pocket full of money. I remember telling Julie, when placing 400 Bahts in notes into my swimshorts pocket, "Nah, don't be silly, it'll be fine as long as I don't go in the pool"! Doh! What a fool!

We stayed by the pool for another hour, mostly now in the shade of the palm trees; just enough time to dry out those soggy notes! We had booked a table for tonight at Tha Thrang, the hotel's Thai restaurant but as we walked past the Italian Restaurant their "Best Hotel Restaurant in Thailand 2004" plaque on the wall grabbed our attention and we wished that we had chosen Giorgio's Ristorante instead!

We didn't have to kick ourselves for too long though because the quality of the food at the Thai Restaurant was superb. Julie thoroughly enjoyed her Pork Satay to start, and Chicken in a Red Curry paste to follow, and my Tom Yum Soup and Green Veg Curry off a separate Vegetarian Menu was a joy to eat. We also ordered (to share) a plate of Morning Glory, and a Baby Sweetcorn & Mushroom stir fry.

It was all complimented by a surprisingly palatable bottle of Thai wine. It was called Chateau de Loei and whilst not a Chablis of distinction it washed down the spice perfectly!

We were sat outside on the terrace and enjoyed the pleasant river view, especially when a huge (and I mean enormous) speedboat-style yacht cruised by, escorted by an entire navy of police boats.

It looked like it must have been the King of Thailand entertaining the Crown Prince of Norway to a slightly superior dinner cruise along the Chao Praya river. I wonder if it really was?

We finished the evening off sitting in the lobby lounge listening to the band for the 4th consecutive evening. By now we were singing along, word for word, to songs that we'd only heard during the last few days. The band nodded appreciatively in our direction.

After a few Singhas too many were headed for bed, getting to sleep by 12:30am after setting the alarm for 4:30am for our early flight tomorrow. Only four hours of sleep to look forward to, yet again!

I was so excited at the prospect of finally getting to Angkor tomorrow that I tossed and turned and couldn't get to sleep immediately. I managed probably about an hour.

Then at 2am I was wide awake, lying there, waiting for the alarm to scream and release me from the limbo.

Tuesday 23rd Nov 04 >>
ęCopyright Colin Owen 2005 Contact me at c.a.owen@bangor.ac.uk