As the legendary Finnish rockers once claimed: Bangkok shocks, Saigon shakes, Hanoi Rocks. I think they were bang on the money. And now to Bangkok in Thailand where we have been for the past 4 days; if you want to be driven totally round the bloody twist then come here. You can’t trust anybody for a start, especially if they are wearing a uniform and look like the most likely person in the immediate vicinity to be trusted! Coming out of the airport we got offered rides in to town ranging from 900 Baht (£15) to the lowest we could haggle to which was 500 Baht (£8). We then found out that if we had taken a metered taxi it should have been between 300 and 400 Baht.
Dave in our funky hotel room.
Breakfast in the hotel courtyard.
Tuk tuk drivers will say they take you to your chosen destination for only 20 baht, but will take you a circuitous route to their mate’s jewellery store, dump you and promptly drive off. Some dodgy looking bloke will then come out and try to sell you ’emeralds’ and ‘jade’. Luckily we haven’t fallen for this one as we have read enough warnings but we have met other tourists who have been duped. Even a lot of the metered taxis are duplicitous. 80% of the ones we have used have been okay, the rest are con men. Get in, tell them where you want to go, they say it’s a very long way and will cost 150 Baht, you tell them 5 bloody times to put the meter on and you will pay the meter price at the end of the journey and lo and behold it’s only 70 Baht as expected. Hotel lobby; our escape.
Walking around you will be approached every minute by tuk tuk drivers, by official looking people in uniforms claiming to be ‘tourist police’, ‘security chiefs’ or qualified ‘guides’. Few of them are what they claim to be and they will all lie through their teeth and attempt to part you with your cash. They ask where you are going ‘Where you go?’ – you tell them not wishing to appear rude and ignorant, and then they will lie and tell you that the place you are going to is closed. You ignore them and make your own way there to find it is open for business as usual. We got a taxi back this evening and the driver first attempted to rip us off and once we had persuaded him to switch on the meter he then attempted to drive us to a ‘ping pong’ show instead of back to our hotel. If you don’t know what these shows are then you are best left in ignorant bliss. Despite all of this, come with a sense of humour and it is pretty amusing…….. if not exhausting. Basically we don’t trust anyone outside of our hotel which is a bit of shame really. Ironic when you are in a country with so many strict rules on clothing and personal conduct, greetings and dress; i.e. no open toed shoes in temples, always point your feet away from any Buddha image or monks if sitting in front of them, always remove shoes before entering sacred places, never visit a temple with bare shoulders or wearing shorts…..BUT you can pop out to a lurid ping pong show afterwards. Lots of Western men here with Asian women; basically fat, ugly balding blokes with gorgeous way younger women,dressed in lots of tacky sparkly things and four inch heels cos they’re all about 4 foot nothing. But look carefully because the gorgeous girl could possibly be a gender crossing lady boy who are just as glamorous with even longer legs.
Entrance to the hotel, at least they can’t get to us behind these closed doors!
Our hotel is actually one of the best places we have stayed to date; tons of character, a bit bonkers, fantastic staff, eccentric rooms, great big rose shower heads so it’s like a rainfall shower, haphazardly fitting doors and screens and a great open courtyard with parakeets jumping on you at breakfast. We love it; a paradise hide-away tucked down a side street in one of the craziest cities in the world.
We have been temple hopping again; below is a Buddha at Wat Phro Kaew being layered with pieces of gold leaf. Each person puts a small square of gold leaf on to the Buddha to bring luck.
Wat Phra Kaew
Processions of worshippers at Wat Phra Kaew
The 45 metre reclining Buddha at Wat Po Temple.
To get the sense of scale look down towards his feet and see how small the people are.
Dave looking for verrucas.
Leza at Wat Po.
Preparing the water lily flowers as offerings to the Buddha at the temple.
And the cinemas! Oh my god they have the most amazing VIP cinema screens! You can either pay the normal rate of 140 Baht (less than £2) to see the latest movies or pay £10 each (600 Baht) and see it in a special VIP screening room with incredible sound effects and a huge screen. They are wild. Only about 40 people in the one room, all seats in pairs tucked in to a padded wrap around leather wall so you are never seated close to anyone else, fully electric motorised leather seats that go in to full length recline, gold silk blankets and pillows and waiter service to your seats. Before the performance you have to stand for the King’s national anthem! Talk about First Class; I don’t know how we will ever go back to standard cinema viewing! We went to see Iron Man which is a fantastic fun movie – if you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth the outing. Stacks of fun and Robert Downey Junior is excellent. It’s way better than Spider Man.
Get my priorities right! First day in Bangkok and both Dave and I headed to a hair salon and got pimped, preened and tweaked in to something resembling fairly normal again.
I went to a local coin-op down our road to do the laundry today; it was a bit of stinky, dimly lit place but reasonably clean; I sat for an hour and read my book (Riding The Iron Rooster; by train through China – by Paul Theroux, excellent read) whilst the agitator style washing machine sloshed about erratically but painfully slowly, put a few new holes in our clothing and went in to such a pathetically slow spin cycle that I thought the machine was going to need resuscitation. I guess I could have left the washing with someone to do, but invariably when you hand over a bag of 15 items to be washed, only 9 or 10 items come back; the hotel is also obviously wise to this and doesn’t offer the service and have to accept the agro. I shared the hour with an oversized gasping fish in an undersized fish tank, a flickering strip light and a bloody HUGE rat that kept scuttling in and out from behind one of the machines. I kept my feet up on the chair and concentrated on my book.
Colourful taxis in the Siam Paragon area.
Images of the King are everywhere.