Friday 15th December 2000 Day 3

Touchdown! 5:33am local time, Don Muang International Airport, Bangkok! We have landed! Much to the relief of Julie, her nightmare was over! To be fair, the pilot performed the smoothest of landings! We breezed through customs without any delay or suspicious looks. No alarm bells and no strip search! A Kuoni rep met us. She ushered us to a waiting lounge to wait for our coach transfer. It was by now 11:30pm back in the UK, so our body clocks were telling us to go to sleep! But it was 6:30am local time, and we had a whole day ahead of us. We lagged! I guess it took about an hour to travel from the airport to our hotel.

The first impression of Bangkok through the window of our air-conditioned coach is the vast contrast between the rusty dilapidated corrugated iron shantytowns, to the massive golden temples sitting next door. A luxurious 5 star hotel next to a shed you wouldn't even let your dog sleep in. It's from one extreme to another. From utter poverty to sheer opulence? Amazing.

When we arrived at the Crowne Plaza another Kuoni rep met us. She was called Tum, (pronounced Twm!) She already called us the "Owen" family, as we were the only ones to of pre-booked any excursions. We did however get a surprise when she told us that we were booked onto three tours! Not just the single tour to the floating markets, which we expected?

We got yet another surprise when she told us that she had already chosen which days they were to be taken. We had to disappoint her, and re-arrange them.

Later this afternoon we had a trip called "The Klongs of Thon Buri", we then re-arranged the floating market for Saturday, and unfortunately we had to cancel the "City & Temple" tour because I'd already booked over the internet to go to Ayutthaya on Sunday, and it was not available on Monday.

So, by 8:30am we'd finished our induction and were taken to our room, on the sixteenth floor! Julie was convinced that the building was swaying!

Our plan, on the glossy itinerary, was to find the Hard Rock Café in Siam Square using the Sky Train, and then return to Lumpini Park. We felt we were too tired for the hustle bustle of Siam Square and decided to walk down Silom Road to the park. With hindsight this was a monumental mistake! The one-mile stretch of Silom was the smelliest, smoggiest, most vile mile that I had ever suffered!

To make matters worse the traffic was mad. There appeared to be no system of pedestrian crossing, at all! We had to run the gauntlet at every crossing. They did have traffic lights that turned to red, but that was no guarantee that a Tuk tuk wouldn't come tearing around the corner!

nice baskets

Julie noticed that there was a method to the madness, as vehicles that wished to turn left at traffic lights could do so, despite the red light. At least they drive on the correct side of the road in Thailand.

Speaking of Tuk tuks, we were harassed, in a friendly way, but harassed nonetheless, by an over zealous tuk tuk driver offering his services for 20 baht. (That's 30p!) We managed to spurn his tempting offer first time around, only for him to catch up with us a few minutes later.

He even reversed the wrong way up the busy three lane Silom Road to catch our attention. He soon stopped though once he noticed a policeman patrolling on the pavement. In fact we didn't see him for the smoke from his burning tyres as he sped off!

Halfway down, (or perhaps ¾?) we found an oasis from the fumes in the shape of a Delifrance café. Gasping, I had iced tea and Julie and Hannah had water. By this time my throat was getting really dry, and Hannah was not feeling at all well. The combination of jet lag and toxic gases wasn't doing us any favours. We eventually reached the end of Silom Road. We could see where the park was, but we had no idea how to get there because of major road works. Then from out of nowhere a very kind Thai lady noticed our confusion and showed us the best route. She struck up a conversation and accompanied us for a while. She did ask us if we would prefer to go shopping instead of the park.

Despite her smile, and charm, we did feel that she might have been touting us for business to the shops of her choice, and of her commission! Perhaps we were being too cynical, but Twm had warned us that it would happen!

We eventually reached Lumpini Park. It was a much-welcomed relief! Unfortunately we were too knackered to fully enjoy it.

We sat down for a short while, but we started to fall asleep, and the concrete park benches weren't that comfortable, so we decided to head back to the hotel for a siesta.

Lumpini Park

T'ai Chi in the park

A group of people were doing Tai Chi in the park and were fascinating to watch. I've always fancied having a go, but perhaps today wasn't the best time to start a new hobby!

The walk back was somewhat more pleasant, maybe the stopover in a McDonalds for some French Fries helped! I also foolishly bought a strange roasted banana crossed with a potato from a street vendor. All I was given to eat it with was a cocktail stick, and as it was fairly mushy it wasn't the easiest of things to eat. I picked at it for a few minutes, and then binned it. It was only 10 baht after all.

I must admit one thing I noticed during this walk was the attention Hannah was attracting. She was really turning heads! The Thai men weren't trying to hide their fascination either. One or two almost fell over! I suppose her fair skin and red hair must have been such a difference to the dark hair, skin and eyes of every Thai girl. In one respect it was quite amusing, but on the other hand there was an element of sleaze, especially as we were near the red light district of Patpong.

Just before we reached our hotel we bumped into our old friend the mad tuk tuk driver. He threw one more sales pitch at us before sharing a laugh and a joke about bumping into each other again!

We were back in our room by twelve and we all fell asleep straight away! Luckily we set an alarm to wake us up in time for our afternoon excursion. Before we left, we phoned Croeso from Julie's mobile! How cool was that! Sitting in a Bangkok hotel room speaking to my mum and dad on a mobile phone. It was 7:00am in the UK, so at least we didn't work the time difference out incorrectly. It was nice speaking to my parents. I could tell from their voices that they were excited to hear from us.

Grand Palace

It was time to go downstairs to the foyer, but poor Hannah was feeling even groggier. We had to drag her out, coughing and spluttering.

We were glad we did, as this trip was very relaxing and cooling! We caught a boat from the River City Shopping Centre and cruised up the Chao Praya River. Catching a glimpse of the Grand Palace, and a good view of Wat Arun, which pleased me.

Wat Arun

We took a left turn down a khlong and got to see all the riverside houses. Witnessing their lifestyle as the children and dogs swam in the river, the mother washed the dishes, and the father emptied his bladder!Even here there was a contrast in style of houses, from nothing more than little wooden huts to the massive teak des res next door. It was a real eye-opener of a boat ride.

On the way back we swapped boats, transferring onto a rice barge where a fresh fruit buffet was laid out for our enjoyment. Neither Julie nor Hannah ate anything, but I had a go of most of the weird fruits. Papaya, Guava, Mangostine etc. A move I was later to regret!

I blame the papaya. It seemed to taste of the Silom Road smell! That played on my mind and by the time we'd finished I had convinced myself that they had used the river water to wash the fruit!

When the boat ride came to an end the Tour East rep gave all those staying at the Holiday Inn an option to walk from the Shangri La Hotel or to go back with him on the mini bus but he did warn that it would be rush hour traffic and would not be a comfortable ride.

It could take possibly ¾ of an hour to travel the short distance to the hotel. Where it should only be 15 minutes of a walk. So we decided to walk!

Despite our Silom Road experience! In the end, I'm glad we did. If only because it gave us an opportunity to walk through the foyer of the Shangri La Hotel! It was really nice, and had a pianist playing. The directions given were poor, so when we got out onto the road we had to ask several people the way to Silom Road. We eventually found the right way, but we had one obstacle, crossing SIX lanes during rush hour!

I'm sure we were there for over 10 minutes waiting for an opportunity to go. Eventually it was the sheer volume of people that made the cars stop. A little further along however we were alone, and had another three lanes to cross. The traffic was stopped, the lights were on red, and we started to make our way in between all the vehicles. To add spice to our dash across we had to dodge crazy bikers on mopeds squeezing their way between the lanes. The clock was ticking down, and we hadn't quite reached the third and final lane when suddenly the lights went green! I had to step in front of a coach, with Julie and Hannah tightly behind me, banging the front of it with my hands to make sure the driver knew that we were there! What a nightmare! Luckily my bowels hadn't suffered from the street vendor's banapotato nor the river washed papaya, otherwise I would have filled my pants.

By this time I was really on autopilot. My brain wasn't functioning properly, and I was not feeling my best. My throat was sore; my temperature was raging, and stomach beginning to churn!

When we returned to the hotel we quickly popped to see the pool on the sixth floor but I couldn't muster up any enthusiasm. Going up in the lift to the sixteenth floor I felt extremely faint, and when I walked down the corridor to the room I felt as if I were not in control of my body. When we entered the room I collapsed in a heap on the bed. That's where I stayed for the rest of the evening. Not even a gorgeous looking pizza could tempt me to lift my head and rejoin the civilised world. In fact the smell of food made me feel worse, and it wasn't too long before I vomited in the bin! Nice and luminous pink it was to! Either it was the Papaya or the toxic gases! It did smell of Silom Road, as did the crisps we'd bought, and binned. Hannah ate her pizza, and Julie enjoyed her Tandoori Chicken sandwich but I had slipped into a feverish coma, waking up from it only to vomit into the bin, or to drink bottles after bottles of water. The first day in Bangkok had been hard work!

Day 4>>

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