Letters to a Sister :23

I went to Bangkok for a couple of days. Husband was working there, so I decided to tag along.

We arrived Thursday night, COMPLETELY exhausted. It was a bad moment, 10 hours into the flight to Singapore, when I thought, “Ah, two more hours and we’ll be there and I can get to the hotel and sleep…” then realised that we weren’t doing that and we were catching another flight after we landed. Felt awful. I was flying premium economy (on airmiles – which is why I went via Singapore, direct flights get booked up) so the seat wasn’t tiny but it was so noisy. Didn’t sleep at all.

Then the lady next to me fell asleep and I needed the loo but didn’t like to wake her. I figured the arm rests were pretty wide, I could stand on them and climb over her without waking her. I had forgotten that I was near the front of the plane and about 100 people would be watching me. Embarrassing.

Anyway, flight to Bangkok (2 hours) seemed completely insignificant, more like a taxi ride. Going through customs was okay but long.

There was a sign at passport control, telling people that Thailand is a Buddhist country and the things that are disrespectful/illegal (like wearing a tee shirt with a picture of Buddha on it, buying a Buddha head, having a tattoo of Buddha.) I thought it was a good idea – it’s easy to cause offence by mistake.  Decided at that point to not get the tattoo after all, I know you’ll be disappointed but I didn’t want to offend anyone.

Hotel is lovely. Quite plain, but very clean and luxurious. We had a nap for a couple of hours, then went for a walk. It reminds me a lot of Xian, lots of people being busy, quite a dirty place but with an ‘honest’ feel to it – nothing pretentious. By the time we went to dinner, I had got over the long journey and had decided it WAS worth coming.    Dinner was nice, just ate normal food in hotel restaurant – too tired to be adventurous.

Went to bed about 8pm, slept really well for two hours, rest of the night bit of a struggle. (I think we are 7 hours ahead of UK time.)

     Friday morning, husband went to work early (was in the office at 7:30 am. ) I went back to sleep until 8:30. Then I decided to be brave and go to breakfast on my own. I hate doing stuff like that! I was standing in the lobby looking lost when a man asked if he could help. I said I just wanted a pastry and a coffee, not a full breakfast. He told me I could go and get a pastry from the buffet and he would bring me a take-out coffee. I sat in the drawing room – big comfy sofas, lots of dark wood – and ate my pastry. Much nicer than being in scary dining room on my own. I went to give nice man my room number but he said he didn’t really need it for just a pastry and a coffee. What a nice man! I like this hotel – St Regis, Bangkok.

I went for a walk to see some Buddhist stuff. Not quite brave enough to use train or taxi on my own, so just walked. Everyone here speaks Thai, which sounds like Mandarin but is completely different and the writing looks like squiggles. Weather is cloudy/rainy/hot and humid. Walked for hours, brilliantly interesting. Lots of small industry – people carving doors, welding, etc. Everyone very friendly, feels safe here. Found some Chinese people to talk to. Not many foreigners apart from in the tourist attractions.

It rained hard, more rain than I’ve ever seen before, was paddling as I walked, the water went right over my shoes, was glad I was wearing short trousers. I had an umbrella but it did very little to stop the rain, which gushed down the edges and splattered me as I walked. It was warm though, too hot for a coat. I rather liked it. Husband’s map disintegrated so I’ll have to try and find him another one before he finds it. There was a covered walkway, so some of the way was relatively dry.

There are lots of elephant statues everywhere. I went to Golden Mount, which is a man-made hill with a Buddhist temple on top. Had very good views of Bangkok. Also had a coffee shop near the top, it seemed slightly incongruous to see Buddhist monks in their orange robes, drinking in a coffee shop.

      Saturday we got a taxi to a floating market (two hours out of Bangkok.) It was really interesting, so glad it didn’t rain. There were lots of stalls around the edge of the river. If you showed any interest in anything, they put out a hook and towed your boat in! There were also floating stalls and boats selling snacks. Not sure how they managed to deep fry dumplings on a boat, but they did!

It was really crowded, sometimes the boats got jammed and had to be pushed apart. Lots of colour and smells and noise. Everyone is meant to turn off their motor when they enter the market and use paddles but our boatman didn’t, which spoilt it a bit.

Afterwards we were offered the chance to go and ride on an elephant. It was very tempting, I would love to do that. I just had this feeling though that the elephants wouldn’t be kept very well and that possibly it was cruel. I felt I didn’t want to ride on an abused elephant. It would have been upsetting to see, I like elephants, so we declined.

Had lunch at hotel then decided to go to Royal Palace. Arrived just after it shut, tried to blag way inside, failed. Walked around a bit. Lots of big photos of royal family on various buildings. The Thai people are very patriotic, we saw several cars with “Long live the king” as bumper stickers. I also read that it’s a huge insult if foreigners don’t stand up for the national anthem when it’s played in cinemas.

Went to Wat Pho, the oldest and biggest temple in Bangkok. I expect if you had not recently been around several other temples, it would be rather spectacular. I’m afraid it just felt like ‘another museum’ for me. The art was amazing but I am a bit beyond being amazed by temple art now.

Tried to get water boat back to hotel but it was all a bit confusing and we were tired. Got a taxi. They all refused to do it by meter and wanted 300 baht to take us (always good to negotiate fares in Bangkok before a trip, especially the tuk-tuks, which are well known as rip-off men.) Decided that as 300 baht is only £6, we would take one anyway.

Sunday, early trip to airport. Seems like I arrived a week ago. I like Bangkok. The people were all friendly and smiled a lot and I felt very safe walking around on my own. I probably wouldn’t feel so comfortable with young children – you did have to be aware all the time. (I was nearly run over by a motorbike at one point. I was on the path and he came up behind me to avoid the traffic. He smiled and called “sorry, sorry” so I didn’t really mind, but I was glad I wasn’t walking with a child.)

Maybe I will try to come for longer next time….

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