Bangkok

31 Oct

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Friday 30th October

First Impressions

I don’t like night flights. Taking off from Abu Dhabi after midnight on a five hour flight that will leave you three hours ahead of your body clock is never going to be great. So with neck pillow, thin blanket, and socks provided by the airline to combat the less than optimal cabin temperature along with earplugs and eye mask, we reclined our seats the miniscule fraction allowed and attempted to get some sleep, ignoring the whiffs of curry being served at 1:30am.
The sun had already risen when I emerged from my cocoon for the third time, stiff, aching and still wet from an incident with a flimsy plastic cup of water, to raise the blind and peer out through the thinning clouds. The sea was just giving way to a coastline of deserted beaches backed by dense foliage that seemed to stretch endlessly and it occurred to me this was my first glimpse of bona fide jungle. Gradually, in noticeable stages, the land became more cultivated. Isolated clearings became patchy communities before a mosaic of long strips of land in multiple shades of green interspersed with muddy brown water. As flooded fields gave way to urbanization and the first tower blocks we were coming in to land at Bangkok.
Immigration was straightforward and the carefully followed the instructions, gleaned from the internet, to get a public taxi without being ripped off meant we were in our hotel without feeling traumatised. Being allowed to check in early relieved us of our baggage and we walked into the Skytrain station directly from the third floor of the hotel. One stop took us to the central pier on the Chao Phraya river. Civilised or what?
The blue-flagged tourist boat is also an efficient set up. Almost too efficient, in fact. We had imagined exploring the river would take much longer and be an experience in itself but this is still very much just a form of transport despite the young man with a microphone doing his best to make it more interesting. It would have been nice to take it slower, get closer to the riverbank with its five star hotels and gleaming condominiums rubbing shoulders with ramshackle huts that looked like a slight breeze would have them collapsing into the river.
Choosing to alight at the pier for the Grand Palace we set out to get our bearings. I don’t think we really did. The heat and humidity was maybe starting to get to us and the lack of recent food definitely was. Ignoring the small stalls laid out with all the same geegaws aimed at the tourists getting off the boats and the TukTuk drivers around the Palace area trying to be oh so helpful, we went into the first cafe we came across that wasn’t Starbucks and picked something with noodles from a picture menu. OK, so it could have come from any less than average Chinese takeaway but it hit the spot.
At this point we realised the heat and our tiredness were possibly making us less than bowled over and retreat to an air-conditioned hotel might not actually be such a bad thing.

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Saturday, 31st October

Bangkok Day 2

It’s amazing the difference a good night’s sleep can make. A filling breakfast and a bit of a breeze also helped. From being decidedly underwhelmed yesterday, suddenly we were seeing the beauty of Bangkok.
Taking the tourist river ferry again, this time we alighted at the stop for Wat Pho otherwise known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and followed the crowds. Now this is what you think of when someone mentions “Temple” in Thailand and “awesome” is probably the best description. 
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From here it’s a short walk to the Grand Palace but you do rather have to walk the gauntlet of Tuk Tuk drivers who will blatantly lie to you to get a fare. We were told the Palace was shut, that sandals weren’t allowed and there were much better places to visit. I suppose the latter may be true, not having seen everywhere in Bangkok, but as it is the number one attraction and the other two excuses were complete b******s, I doubt it. It is suitably impressive.
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Tonight we’re hitting the renowned nightlife of the city. We may stay up as late as 10pm!

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