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Bangcok PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Smith   
Monday, 20 April 2009 18:53
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Bangcok
Bangkok cont...
Bangkok to Koh Samui Island
Koh Samui
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Koh Samui - Songkhla
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Day 53: Monday 13th November - Bangkok

 

After a really good nights sleep, so much so that we missed breakfast which was served until 10.00am, we decided to split the rest of the day into checking our email etc and heading for central Bangkok to check the prices of electrical goods. I am seriously thinking about buying a laptop to improve our internet access. It took two hours to check our mail on the hotel's network which was reasonably fast and even longer to find our way downtown thanks to the transport system.

We decided it would be good to catch the river bus and then take the skytrain in to the centre. Our first mistake was trusting a tuk tuk driver to take us to the river. Instead of taking us to the main waterway on our map he dropped us off on a canal which had river boats but not going our way. Whilst jumping up and down cursing him (tuk tuk driver long gone with money) I made my second and by far biggest mistake I allowed another driver to take us to our destination which was now further away than when we set out. This clown had no intention of taking us anywhere other to see Lucky Buddha, only opened once a year (lie!), the Government Jewellery Factory (just to look (lie!) and some stadium to collect his petrol tokens (true). We were told by a Malaysian who lived in London, as we stared at Lucky Buddha, it was actually opened once every month and the driver was working a scan. After another bout of arguing with the driver he promised to take us to the city centre and set off to the factory. After another more heated argument at the factory we agreed, no pressure to buy, to look round quickly and, therefore, get him his petrol coupon. We left him smiling at the door. When we returned ten minutes later empty handed, after being set upon inside by two women who looked like Imelda Marcos and could sell snow to Eskimos, he lost his smile. After the third and most heated exchange we parted company, him no richer than when we met and us lost in Bangkok even further away from our destination than ever. This little episode took over two hours of sitting in the worse congestion I have ever seen and destroyed our itinerary.

Eventually found a taxis driver who took us where we wanted to go. The Siam Paragon makes Meadowhall look like a rundown old fashioned shopping mall. The place was just wall to wall glass, lights and enormous screens. There was a bookshop which had some bookshelves and books but mainly consisted of workstations with monitors positioned at different angles from the roof. It looked more like a super modern internet café than Waterstones. The centre had all the latest stores but only two computer shops selling Apples and Toshiba's and these were no cheaper than in the UK. On checking out more IT shops we were directed to another shopping centre just a few blocks away but this was unwalkable because the area between was a no go area. The next taxis driver thought nothing of taking us the few blocks and sure enough the four story centre consisted of hundreds of IT stores. It was now 8.00pm and the centre was shutting but managed to buy another battery for the camera - the one I bought in Kathmandu doesn't charge up and so is useless - an 8 gig USB drive and a card reader that gives me an electrical shock each time I use it. All in all a pretty useless day. We didn't use the riverbus or the skytrain and the new battery is no better than the last one.




Day 54: Tuesday 14th - Bangkok
 

Yesterday's experience with the robbing tuk tuk drivers has left me scarred and so today's excursions fill me with trepidation. Our intention today is to find a post office to send a parcel home, visit the Grand Palace and finally take a guided tour of Ayutthaya the old capital of Thailand before the Burmese forced them to relocate further south in Bangkok. The 1500 baht included the transport by coach which would be picking up from other hotels, admission to all the sites, a 45 minute boat trip on the river and finally a romantic meal for two by the river.

The post office is not far but once again we decided to go by metred taxi. I had a good idea of its direction so when the driver took off in the opposite way things didn't look to good. Things slightly improved when he stopped to ask the way and then did a U-turn hitting a tourist in the process. The tourist wasn't injured and at least the driver was trying to find the way. When we arrived Noreen who walked in less time than it took us to drive was wrapping another large parcel to send home. Ours cost 2,400 bahts about 20 pounds.

We decided not to grab another taxi but walk with Noreen to see the Grand Palace. It was much further than we thought and even spent a couple of minutes staring at the body of a young man laid face down on the hard hot pavement. He didn't move a fraction and I'm convinced he was dead. Walked away feeling really guilty. Met an Australian couple heading through Asia to Europe and spent the last quarter of a mile to the palace talking to them. We walked from the palace entrance gates down the main drive and paid our entrance fee before finding out that we were improperly dressed and refused admission. We had to walk all the way back to the entrance gate to hire a long sleeve top for Anne and a sarong for me. When we got there the queue was very long and moving very slowly and after ten minutes we abandoned the idea. Anne managed to get her money back and when I tried to give my ticket away to a young woman for free she gave me the same look I gave the tuck tuck driver the day before when he was working his scam on me.

The afternoon trip to Ayutthaya brought back my tuck tuck fears. Firstly we sat around waiting for 15 minutes for the coach and when a driver turned up in an old black Volvo to take us to join up with the coach or at least that's what we thought it my suspicions began to grow. After a few minutes the driver informed us in his poor English and and in answer to our questions about us being the only ones on the trip that he was actually our guide for the day. We'd only paid 3,000 bahts, a few pounds, surely it didn't include a chauffeur, guide, boat trip and romantic meal by the river. He then passed us a booklet showing us artist impressions of the old capital. Why not show photos? I have to say I was convinced the old temples shown in the booklet had long fallen to the warring Burmese and he was pulling some scan. I kept reminding myself that the trip was booked through the hotel reception. When he pulled into a stadium area manned by guards to get the Thailand equivalent of LPG my suspicions grew and when he pulled into another a few miles further on I was convinced this was one big scan. I don't know much about PLG but I do know a car does miles and miles on a gallon so why was he refuelling after just a few miles? Was this some other government fuel scam. The drive which lasted eighty minutes was more stressful than the tuck tuck one.

Once we arrived in Ayutthaya it turned into an excellent excursion. Firstly we enjoyed a bowl of noodles and the spent a great atmospheric two hours visiting the various temples around the town. As we left the last site, as dusk descended quickly, thousands of very large fruit bats burst forth from one of the underground passages and created a black funnel shape against the dying red sky.

The boat trip was incredible as we glided along the river passage ways Swallows swooped low across the water's surface darting to and fro amongst the thick cloud of insects attracted to their deaths by the bright headlight illuminating the way forward. As the boat swerved at the last minute to avoid floating debris the birds dived under the bow changing sides and following the bow wave with the skill of a shoal of dolphins. As night took hold stoopers, dark and threatening, over shadowed the river imposing an ancient will on all around. Even in the dark the river was still a working avenue with dark hulks looming through the blackness pulling tubs of essentials.

The restaurant meal was served on a decked area overlooking the boat and the river. The meal was memorable not so much for the food which was good but for the atmosphere and location.

The journey back in to Bangkok was slightly quicker thanks to the lack of traffic and apprehension and all in all the day was pretty amazing. How much would it cost in the UK to be chauffeur driven to a site, have a personal guide, an hours boat trip round an ancient city and a three course romantic meal by the river and returned to your hotel door? I'm absolutely certain it would cost more than a few pound. I gave the guide a tip of over £10 and still felt as though I was cheating them. It's amazing the difference a day can make. As we set off I felt everyone in the city was out to rip us off and by the end amazed at what a few pounds can buy.






Day 55: Wednesday 15th November - Bangkok to Koh Samui Island
 

After the leisurely time in Bangkok today's 7.00am early start came as a shock to the system. When I got to the bus our new guide Tami was impatiently enquiring about our leader Leighton and seemed very miffed that he was not the first out of the hotel to meet her. When the clock passed seven and he'd still not appeared her impatience turned to anger. Eventually Geof pulled him out of his pit in a terrible state and the battle began between them. I was probably the last to see him the night before when he approached me as I sat using the Internet at 12.20am and he reminded me of the altered start and said goodnight he was retiring. When he eventually came round in the late afternoon he said he was hungover but how is a mystery to me. I think he was so embarrassed that he'd overlaid he used drink as an excuse. Out of all the people on the bus he's without doubt the wost at getting up and now that Marcus has gone it's beginning to show. Quite often Marcus would go back to their room to wake him. It was interesting that Sue tried to get Tami to leave him behind saying it's what he'd do with one of us and I have to say she's right he would. She related the story about Ben in Romania and very nearly convinced her to depart without him. So Tami got the wrong impression that he had a drink problem. He does have a problem but it's pride and admitting he's wrong or apologizing is seen as weakness.

The first part of the journey was fine with Tami telling us about Thailand and Leighton now
asleep at the back of the bus. The early start was needed because the group had asked to give tonight's scheduled stop a miss so that we could have longer on Koh Samui island.

Once we were out of Bangkok and over the river the road was straight and reasonably well maintained as was the countryside. The fields contained Palm trees hanging with either coconuts or bananas, rice with the occasional vegetable patch which Tami told us is a way of allowing the paddy fields to recover. What few houses we saw looked clean and comfortable sitting on the edge of the palm groves.

The lunch stop at a transport type café was memorable for the hotness of the food which caused many including myself some discomfort. Tami dismissed the complaints, some (Anne) felt she should have been forewarned and when she dismissed the criticism the gap between the two leaders narrowed. The first fight back from Leighton came as Tami was shouting at us to hurry for the ferry and he told her to shut the f... up.

The ferry journey lasted 90 minutes and although pleasurable was slow and dark so there was not much to see. The transfer from the port to our beach resort (Home Bay) consisted of two pick-ups and a minibus. I was lucky (it was now raining) to be allowed to sit in the cab of the pick-up and talk to the young driver who smoked and coughed like an old man with consumption whilst the rest of the men hung on to the rucksacks and cases on the back.

Our first real view of the resort was from a large dark wooden dining area set just off from the beach and surrounded by gardens and palms. This became the venue for some excellent breakfasts and a couple of good evening meals. Our accommodation consisted of a wooden beach hut with double bed, toilet and shower and central fan that constantly turned all the four days. The word paradise was used by our new guide on a number of occasions but it certainly couldn't be applied to the accommodation. Sue and Mary stuck it for one night and moved into town to get away from the resorts dogs and nearer to shops etc. I chose shark from the menu and Anne settled for chicken and cashew nuts in a source and both were good. I got a telling off from Leighton for ordering shark after I jokingly asked the waitress if it was caught off the beach? She answered seriously 'no from the deep' and he said he was disappointed with me for not being more environmental. Goodnight from a rainy paradise.



 
Day 56: Thursday 16th November: Koh Samui
 

We didn't emerge from our hut until just before 10.00am and celebrated Amy's 30th birthday with an American breakfast which consisted of coffee or tea, fruit juice or fresh fruit, toast and jam and bacon and eggs either fried or scrambled. Just as I was about to tuck into my bacon and eggs a minor bird landed on the next chair arm, whistled at me very loudly and casually strode along the chair and took the piece of toast I held out for him from my fingers. He or she was followed by another two or three who were just as cheeky.

Breakfast was followed by a swim in the Pacific which was choppy and unclear. The weather out to sea looked menacing and it started to rain before I got back to the hut. The rest of the day was spent doing nothing other than eating and drinking and accessing the Internet up the road.

I had picked up a message in Bangkok purportedly from my bank informing me that my account had been cancelled and to follow the link etc. I was certain it was a phishing hoax because I had used my bank card after the message was dated. This was the first opportunity to really check it out and try and also upload some of the 40 blog pages now stored on my PDA. The first café failed to find my email and bank account and when it informed me that Google was probably down I knew there was more chance that Blair had turned honest and decided to go further up the lane to the next café. I managed to collect my mail and upload 7 or 8 blogs but for some unknown reason it was still not allowing me to delete my junk mail which is now blocking up my account. I'm convinced it is something to do with my account which has really deteriorated since being taken over by Virgin. I have worked out why I can't upload photos. Blogger only allows 8 mbs of photos for each page and all of mine are over 4mb. The chance of finding an Internet machine with Fireworks or Photoshop software on it to compress them is very unlikely. It took nearly three hours to upload the files.

On a brighter side the rain stopped in time for us to check out the little beach bar two minutes from our hut. Although cocktails are not my forty the bar is run by a young Thai couple who are into Bob Marley music and so it is worth going just for that. The cocktails are not that expensive but contain very little alcohol which is a good thing looking at the amount she drank.

We tried to contact Amy but because of the 5 hour time difference it proved fruitless. However, did manage to send an email message to her work account. Unfortunately she had taken the day off.


 

Day 57: Friday 17th November - Koh Samui
 

After our total inactivity yesterday we decided to hire a jeep to take us round the island. At 800 bahts or £12 a day this a bargain even though they were only 600 up the lane. Anne had decided she wanted to see a couple of waterfalls inland up in the hills and I just fancied seeing more of this supposed paradise.

The weather had other ideas and at one point the jeep operated more as a motorboat. I enjoyed a beer and a sandwich in a lovely bar on the south of the island. Before we could head off to find the waterfalls we needed petrol. The station was manned by a young smiley woman with a child and when I asked for petrol she answered 'two litre bottle or one'? When I pointed to the pump she said 'diesel no petrol'. Whether she had petrol or not was irrelevant as I suddenly realised the only key I had did not fit the petrol cap. When I pointed this out she took the key, shoved it as far into the keyhole which was not very far and started to twist it back and forth so hard that I feared the key would break. She then pulled out the key and screwed the cap off. Things got more bizaar when she emerged from her attendants cabin with a 2 litre plastic water bottle filled with what looked like Tizer and started trying to pour it into the tank but spilled most of it. After a further attempt with a funnel she gave up and fetched a whiskey bottle with a long neck and after slapping it into the hole stood and watched as it glug glug glugged its way into the tank. This was repeated until she'd emptied 4 litres of the red stuff into the tank.

As we got out of the jeep at the lower of the two falls Anne noticed the funnel rolling about in the back of the jeep. The first of the falls was impressive but we agreed it was not in the same league as High Force in England. The second was more interesting because of its location further up the hill in the forest. The guide book said it was a 10 minute walk whilst the young man trying to sell us an elephant ride up to it said 25 to 30 minute walk up very steep terrain. Unfortunately the elephant boy was right and with something like 70 percent humidity it was very hard work indeed. We were just enjoying the fruits of our labour when a large group of Germans arrived to spoil the peace and quiet. Time to return the funnel.

Our next site was prominent on postcards of the island and consisted of two large rocks by the sea one called the grandfather and the other grandmother. Why they were called this was a mystery to me. One was shaped like a large penis and the other, of course, had a large crack in it shaped very much like Virgina. I can see the male and female connection but not the grandparents. If they had wrinkles perhaps. But who knows.

Anyway the site was well signed and even had a car park. The sign took us from the car park, down onto the beach, up and over a series of rocks that even included a bull rope with knots to lower you back on the each and finally up another steep climb to the objects. In all a stiff 300 metre. When we raised our heads over the final hurdle we found ourselves in the company of bars and restaurants, an old man singing songs to a guitar and drum accompaniment, a number of Buddhist monks having their photos taken and an avenue of stalls selling clothes and mementos which lead all the way back up to the road. Once back on the road it was less than a 30 foot walk to our car. No signs announced the shorter more direct route ideal for old crocks like us.

Final destination of the day took us to Bophut a fisherman's village. This was probably the most beautiful place on the island consisting of proper shops and restaurants although there was an English pub doing roast beef and Yorkshire pud on Sundays and an Irish pub selling Guinness and Irish Stew. We settled on a beautiful beach side restaurant with palm trees encircled by lights. Unfortunately the food did not live up to the location but enhanced a very interesting and pleasant day. Once back at the resort we once again took advantage of the good music and cocktails on the beach and caught up with the day's gossip.

 



Day 58: Saturday 18th November -  Koh Samui
 

Beginning to get use to having a base after only three days in one place. It's quite astonishing how quickly we've settled down to leisurely mornings based round late breakfasts, the great birds (feathered) and the beach. We were seriously considering the jeep for another day but decided to make most of the resort.

Spent a good hour or so bathing in the sea which had calmed and cleared over night. Although the Sun didn't seem that hot my head and shoulders were very red later in the evening. The real reason why we left the sea was because of either baby jellyfish or sea leaches which were stinging everybody. Ian from Australia also fit and seawize warned us about three fish in these waters that are very dangerous at night. The only one I can remember is the Blue Octopus probably because it can be deadly.

We decided to join Barry and his new Thai girlfriend Chang for afternoon lunch. Service very poor and not impressed with the café which was situated above a very wet swamp area. Food nothing to write home about and so I won't.

As always the evening finished up on the beach at the cocktail bar. All in all a very uneventful day.



 



Day 59: Sunday 19th November - Koh Samui - Songkhla

 
Left Home Bay at 7.30 to catch the ferry and sadly leave the American beakfasts, the entertaing birds and this relaxing haven. Only just made the ferry. The ferry journey back was no more memorable than the outward. However, the return to the bus was quite eventful for the eventual head to head clash between to the two guides over Leighton's missing mobile. As we sat on the ferry heading to Samui Leighton suddenly discoved his mobile was missing with all the Ozbus numbers etc. He immediately assumed he'd left it on the bus with his keys which were gone. On entry to the bus his keys were there but not his phone. On informing Tami she took little notice and basically ignored him and his request for her to ask the driver. When further asked she said why didn't you tell me on the island and I would have phoned the driver. He then made out he wasn't concerned about it because she'd said we could leave antyhing on the bus. In effect he was trying to shift the blame and she was having nothing of it intimating he was drunk the morning we left Bankok and he was to blame. With Fe now demanding that she rang the police to report the theft which was tantamount to saying the driver was the thief things were made worse. He was unable to defend himself not speaking any English at all. Personally he was a good driver, pleasant, friendly and very helpful at all times and would be foolish to steal something from his own bus risking his job and prosecution. Eventually it was agreed that the police would be contacted once we arrived at the hotel.

Another session of shouting and recriminations broke out in the hotel forecourt with a policeman present this time. Eventually Tami stormed off shouting that Thai people are not thieves and that she refused to stay in his presence any longer. She also accussed him again of losing the phone as a result of being drunk in Bangkok.

The hotel we were now booking into was a fine looking establishment with three stars, a rooftop swimming pool, bars etc.
Last Updated on Monday, 20 April 2009 19:22