Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
Bangkok, Thailand - November and December, 2012In the fall of 2012, I spent six weeks in Bangkok. I was there for some dental tourism and had four crowns replaced. I also visited with friends and just took it easy.
Tuesday, November 13: Boston, MA, USA to Tokyo, Japan
Well, after one false start trying to leave Boston as scheduled on the morning of the 12th, I finally got out of Boston today. Even still, todayís trip wasn't without its hiccups. Yesterday's problems were weather related delays in New York that would have prevented my making my connecting flights so they didn't allow me to leave Boston.
Today, my brother-in-law who has once again gone above and beyond, giving me rides a bit too early in the morning, dropped me off at the T (Boston's public transit system) where I started waiting for a train only to hear about delays due to a disabled train on the tracks. Thankfully, that was quickly resolved and I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare.
On my first flight, I met a couple who would also be going to Tokyo so they invited me to join them in the Delta Sky Club. How nice of them to offer. And the Sky Club was nice, too, with drinks, snacks, comfortable seating, etc. Then they extended an offer for me to join them in the Sky Club in Japan, too. Sushi for snacks. Yum!
One last potential hiccup will be whether or not my backpack, which did make it onto my Detroit to Tokyo flight, will continue with me to Bangkok or will it get stuck in Tokyo. I had checked my bag when I tried to leave on the 12th and when they rescheduled me, I didnít want to lug it around Boston for an extra day so they held onto it at the airport. But that meant potential problems as the bag somehow did not get routed all the way to Bangkok.
Either way, if my bag doesnít make it to Bangkok with me, itís not a big problem because then the airline will have it sent to where Iím staying. In a sense, that would be great as I won't have to lug it around town to get to my friend's place.
Anyway, I'm using the computer in the Sky Club right now, but I'm bleary eyed so I'll sign off for now.
More reports to come over the next 5-6 weeks from Thailand and maybe Burma, too.
Sun Nov 25, 2012 2:46 am
My journal is up to date but my transcribing is not. Oh well.
In the meantime, in case anyone has been paying attention to Thailand in the news, there was a demonstration here in Bangkok yesterday. I was on my way to the dentist when the car I was in drove past the police as they were preparing for the rally with riot gear, shields, razor wire, and streets blocked off, etc. But, I was nowhere near the rally as it happened. Tear gas was used. Politics is in play in the aftermath.
The rally was well publicized but only attracted 20,000 of the one million the organizers had hoped for. It was easy to avoid the area and at no time was I in danger.
Anyway, unlike most of the other journals I post when I'm traveling, I haven't done much in the way of tourist attractions since I've been here. The first few days, I was dealing with jet lag. Then I started a series of dentist appointments.
Wednesday, November 14: Tokyo, Japan to Rattanakosin Island Condo, Bangkok, Thailand
In addition to the sushi and other good munchies in the Tokyo Sky Club, there was also an interesting beer dispensing machine. I watched as someone placed a glass under the dispenser and then pressed a button. The machine then took over, tilted the glass, and dispensed the beer without too much of a head. I wondered out loud to Dick, my host, if that would have worked with Guinness.
I said my good-byes to Dick and Marg, my hosts at the Delta Sky Clubs (check out Wabun.com, their boys and girls canoe camp business) and made my way to my next gate. It was packed. That and the 55-minute allotted boarding period indicated another big plane.
Once again, I got an exit row and I truly appreciated the leg room. This time, I was sitting next to a friendly Thai man. We had great conversations during take-off and landing, but he mostly slept during the flight. He had also just come from the States, having visited a sister in Arizona and taken a three-week road trip.
On my second flight, I think I dozed off once or twice but never for more than a few minutes. I've never been good at sleeping on moving vehicles. This time, after being awake for over 24-hours, I think I actually slept for the better part of an hour at one point, and maybe caught a few other naps, too. Still, I was exhausted by the time I got to Bangkok.
My flight got in half an hour early and my backpack landed with me. If I hadn't needed to stop at an ATM, get smaller change, and then figure out my way around the airport, I probably could have caught the last train. Instead I ended up grabbing a taxi. Even though I was prepared with a map giving directions directly to my friend's condo, the taxi driver ended up calling someone for directions after nobody answered Vii's phone. My friends had fallen asleep and didn't hear the phone but someone else the taxi driver knew was able to direct him to the right place.
The guard brought me right up to their door and they sleepily answered the door.
Thursday, November 15: Rattanakosin Island Condo, Bangkok
I got up to briefly see Stuart and Vii before they headed out and then went back to sleep. When I got up, Vii had left soup and rice out for me to have for breakfast. A typical Thai breakfast was a nice way to start my stay here.
I took a walk out to the road, past a bit of green space that was teeming with butterflies and some birds. At the road, I took a left and was immediately thrust into the bustling sidewalk scene of Bangkok. I started passing all the vendors selling everything from cakes and breads to dried fish, umbrellas, clothing, lottery tickets, and more. I had to duck under low hanging makeshift awnings, while side-stepping broken pavement and misplaced manhole covers, all the while trying to take in the sights and avoid getting in the way of people out and about for their daily routines.
I crossed the divided highway at the first intersection with a light and then made my way back up the other side. I passed a McDonald's and headed into the Pata Department Store. I meandered around the first couple of floors, enjoying the air-conditioning, and then headed down to the first floor where I bought some stuff in the local Tesco-Lotus Supermarket. I remember the chain from last time I was here. The supermarket isn't all that different from those at home but the proportions of various items are different. Even in this market, there was an entire aisle devoted to oil on one side and dark sauces (fish, soy, etc.) on the other. The local ex-pats have influence, too, and peanut butter, Nutella, and baked beans are all present, though their locations in the store may not make much sense to western eyes.
Western options are more expensive than Thai. A fairly small jar of an American brand of peanut butter might cost $4. Seedless red grapes from America might cost $4/pound. But the local fruits and vegetables are all very reasonable, even cheap. Of course, I often don't know what I'm looking at. Some are marked with English names and even still I may not know what it is or how to eat it. They have a section of hot prepared foods to grab and go and bakery items in individual sizes. The only diet sodas here are Coke so I bought a Strawberry soda to have the bottle for water.
I bought some watermelon, bakery items and then continued my counterclockwise way around the block. I bought some shumai from a sidewalk vendor and then went back to the condo for lunch.
After sleeping through the night, I still took a three hour nap. Stuart, usually busy in the evenings preparing for the next days classes, had time to catch up today and there was no lesson plan to prepare for the following day's field trip. He's teaching Math and Science to grade school children and his school day is nine hours long not including preparation time for lessons at home. Oy!
Stuart and Viiís condo building is 38 stories. Stuart and Vii live on the 19th floor. The garage is on floors one through six and there's a nice park with walking paths, fountains, and greenery on the seventh floor. So, Stuart showed me around the park and pointed things out in the surrounding area. The seventh floor park is a nice facility to have in the middle of a big city.
When Vii came home, we went for dinner on a nearby soi. A soi is generally bigger than an alley but smaller than what I would consider a side street.
Friday, November 16: Rattanakosin Island Condo, Bangkok
After seeing the bird life in the green space adjacent to the condo building yesterday, today I took my binoculars with me as I left the building. I spent an hour or more looking at birds and butterflies on my way to the main street.
Bird list: (as best I can make out given a 30-year-old bird guide that's not all that well organized)
After another Tesco stop, I bought some lunch on the street. I got a pretty fish cake thing wrapped in a banana leaf and some green leafy vegetables with a bit of meat. Fresh pineapple rounded out the lunch. For about $.65, I got half a pineapple, peeled, de-eyed, and cut into chunks.
Back at the condo, I ate lunch and crashed for three hours. These long naps may prevent me from getting over jet lag quickly but they are the only thing getting me through the day and as long as I'm sleeping at night, it seems worth it.
Stuart, Vii, and I went out to meet some friends. First we crossed the street (on a foot bridge over the busy road) to meet up with James, a friend of Stuart's from work. Then we grabbed a taxi to go to Central World, my old haunt from when I was here five years ago. There, it took a while, but we eventually met up with a couple of Vii's friends from high school. We had intended to go to one of the beer gardens on the plaza but the long lines made us rethink our plans. Together we then went to the Tree House Restaurant, a surprisingly beautiful setting with seating outside among the trees. We met two more of Vii's friends there.
Mostly, Vii and her friends talked while Stuart, James, and I talked, sometimes with input from Pat, the girlfriend of one of Vii's friends who, after having spent three months in the US at one point, seemed more comfortable with English than Vii's other friends. Two 100oz+ beer dispensers kept the gang going for the evening along with a selection of food. As is usual, I'm happy to let the locals order and almost always enjoy the outcome. The check came to about $9.50 each, reasonable for the evening but perhaps expensive by Thai standards. I wouldn't want to do this every night I'm here but every now and then is OK.
James left a bit before us, heading for a karaoke bar and maybe to meet some girls. He's just back in the dating scene after a recent divorce.
Saturday, November 17: Rattanakosin Island Condo, Bangkok
I got online this morning to catch up on some email while Stuart and Vii went for a walk on the 7th floor. I then went for lunch and unintentionally embarrassed some people as I pointed to something they were eating. But I smiled and laughed and they also smiled and laughed. The lunch I got looked good and turned out to have noodles, squid, shrimp, fish, pork, tomatoes, some woody stalk with leaves that were good to chew off the stalk, onions, and was spiced deliciously. So far, much of the Thai food I'm eating seems spicier than I remember from last time. Maybe because I'm out of the typical tourist/embassy zones and while expats do live in this area, there are many fewer here than where I was last time. But, I really just think that it's different cooks.
Again, I had a very long nap. I'm wondering if this is going to turn into a habit. So far I'm still sleeping well at night.
I went shopping with Vii. We started by dropping off some sewing I needed done to a woman she had already found inn the area. Then we went looking for her favorite vegetable vendor and was disappointed when she wasn't there. When it started pouring, we took refuge under a nearby building's overhanging facade. We watched others trying to dodge puddles and even the cars driving by had to try to avoid the waterfalls coming off the elevated highway.
Finally, we ran for it to get to the stairs to go over to Tesco. By the time we got there, we looked to be taking part in a wet t-shirt contest. Vii and I laughed as we dripped our way into the supermarket. Vii was worried about getting sick from being wet, but in the 80+ degree weather, we were in no danger of hypothermia and I only felt a bit of relief from the heat.
I took a trip to the toilet while Viii was shopping. I couldnít figure out why the attendant insisted I wait for another toilet until I realized it was one with a western toilet. Given the deteriorating state of my knees it was probably good that I waited. But, then I forgot to check the toilet paper situation. There was neither a bum gun nor toilet paper so since I couldn't ask in Thai, I just opened the door and stuck a hand out, making as if to grab something. That worked as another international symbol and someone soon passed me some paper. Phew!
By the time Vii and I left with our purchases, it had stopped raining, Vii's favorite vendor was in place with prices much more reasonable than she had just paid in the supermarket, and we hurried back to the condo, dodging deep puddles.
Vii cooked a delicious meal. One scrambled egg dish, a Thai eggplant dish with pork, and brown rice, a product making inroads in Thailand, too.
Sunday, November 18: Rattanakosin Island Condo, Bangkok
We all had a quiet morning at home, all working. Cabbage soup with mushrooms for lunch.
I took a long walk to the river, crossed on the ferry for three baht (10 cents), and wandered the backpacker zone. I think I hit all the streets other than Khao San Road. Khao San Road is the center of the backpacker zone in Bangkok. I had stayed there one night on my way from China to Nepal in 1997 and had no desire to stay there again. It's busy, noisy, and there's a lot of partying going on there. It's a place I don't mind meandering through during the day, especially if I'm in need of a dose of English speaking people and/or menus listing items in English or with pictures, but mostly will avoid at night.
Sometimes when traveling, you just want an easy day where everything doesn't involve thinking, etc.
Staying with my friends, I haven't gotten to that point yet.
It's consistently hot here. In the apartment, I used air-conditioning my first night and for my nap the first day but since then, I've just made use of strategically placed fans and tried to get a breeze going through the apartment. But wandering around Bangkok is a sweaty affair. The Thai habit of taking two showers (or more) a day makes a lot of sense.
On my way to the river, I had noticed what seemed an unusual number of police around. When I crossed over, I found a tourist information center where I picked up a map that showed bus routes. It was there that I found out Obama was in town today. He would be at Wat Pho this evening to see the huge reclining Buddha after visiting the King in the hospital.
On my way home, after my time in the backpacker zone, the police presence was even greater. It turns out part of my walk home is along the route the President will use to get from the hospital to the Wat. An hour later, the motorcade would drive by but I wasnít going to hang out or come back to watch cars drive by.
Back at the condo, I was hanging out when I noticed flashing lights on the road. I looked out and got a good view of the motorcade. It had just left the hospital and I watched as it turned and went over the bridge on its way to Wat Pho.
Being on the 19th floor has its advantages.
It's hot here and doesn't cool off that much at night. I find myself wishing there were more cold meals available on the street. Every now and then, I see fresh spring rolls, but mostly it's hot noodles, rice, or soup with stuff in or on it.
Monday, November 19: Rattanakosin Island Condo, Bangkok
After my first day without a nap, I was exhausted when I went to sleep last night so why did I wake up at 4:30am, unable to fall back to sleep. I finished "The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean." My interest in the subject matter was piqued long ago by a friend who studied waves while at MIT. This book, ostensibly written from the perspective of surfers pursuing waves, mostly seemed to use the surfers as layman's fodder to attract readers and find a way to keep them interested in what might otherwise be passed over as too much of an academic book. But I found it very accessible and enjoyed reading about the history of big waves, the study, and the pursuit by big wave surfers.
After that, I started on "Port Mortuary," a book by Patricia Cornwell. When traveling, it's unusual for me to find inexpensive copies of the adventure non-fiction books that I prefer. So, I resort to good fiction and I find Cornwell writes well, provides intrigue, and isn't too heavy if I just want to read without thinking for a while.
I finally got up and out at 8:30 to head to my first dental appointment. One of the reasons for my trip to Thailand is to get four crowns replaced. My appointment was at 10:00 and I was taking the long way around so gave myself plenty of time. I walked to the river, took the river bus to the BTS Skytrain, an elevated rail system through parts of Bangkok, and then walked to my appointment in the embassy district at the All Seasons Place. There was some confusion about which teeth to work on so the dentist started on the one I was sure of and we'll start the others at my next appointment.
I got a ham and cheese roll for lunch in the Tops supermarket in the All Seasons Place. This place is a small supermarket but they cater to so many foreigners that you never know what you'll find. For example, I had brought Marmite with me from the US for Stuart but they have even bigger jars at Tops. They also have Vegemite, something I hadn't seen in the standard US supermarkets though I'm sure I could have found it in the specialty stores. I'm planning on eating from the salad bar when I come back for other appointments. This is one place with a good selection and safe food handling habits.
As I was walking towards the shopping district, I couldnít resist and got a Magnum bar for 40 baht, or about $1.33. Magnum bars are a delicious ice cream bars that I ate in Australia and New Zealand in 2003. The brand just got to America this past summer.
Walking past Central World, a huge mall, I stopped in Big C, a very large, multi-storey department store. I found a watch there that had numbers big enough for me to read, and had the day, date, and an alarm - everything a traveler needs. It was 100 baht - $3.33. I really am back in Thailand.
To get back home from the shopping district, I took the klong (canal) boats. They travel quickly and cheaply through the otherwise congested parts of the city. Some tourists and expats use them but its mostly Thai people on the klongs. Getting off the klong, I found my way to the local bus. This is where you see even fewer tourists. Unless you can tell them where you're going, it's hard to take a bus. This time, I could tell them Pata Pin Klao and since my accent is horrible, she has to think before understanding what I'm saying. I think I paid a total of 25 baht to get back to the condo.
I picked up my sewing. The skirt was fixed, not the way I wanted it to be but good enough. The pouches she sewed from scratch were good.
Tuesday, November 20: Rattanakosin Island Condo, Bangkok
I had a slow day but I got a lot done. I found out I was called for jury duty in January. I'll be back by then but postponed anyway. My assigned courthouse is far from where I'll be living in January but relatively close to where I'll be by my postponement date.
I got an email that mentioned Thanksgiving and started thinking about the holiday. I decided to make a meal here at the condo for Stuart and Vii. I went to the store to look at my options and came up with a list of options.
I finally identified a Magpie Robin I had been seeing. Thunder had me rushing back to the condo just before a torrential downpour let loose. I read. I napped.
The seventh floor park, complete with walkways, fountain, greenery, and good views all around, attract people who bring their children to play, runners using the path, and many who just come to sit on the benches or eat at the picnic tables. For such a large building, I'm always surprised how few people I encounter in the elevators.
With southeast exposure, the apartment is hot in the morning. The windows all have a coating on them to keep the sun out. Between the windows, the blinds, the judicious use of cross-ventilation from the two sliding glass doors, and the fans, the heat in the apartment is manageable. I only used the air-conditioning on my first night and then again during my first day when I took a nap.
Wednesday, November 21: Rattanakosin Island Condo, Bangkok
I went shopping for tomorrow's Thanksgiving meal. With only a two burner stove, a microwave oven, but no real oven, my options are limited. I bought apples and made applesauce, peeled potatoes to make mashed potatoes, and got some other stuff ready for tomorrow.
Thursday, November 22: Rattanakosin Island Condo to Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
I went back and forth to Tesco twice today. I did most of the shopping in the morning but the roast chickens weren't ready yet. I went back when they were ready. There might be turkeys for sale somewhere in Bangkok, but certainly not here. And I would have had no way to cook it.
Dinner consisted of chicken, broccoli, corn, applesauce, mashed potatoes, cucumber and tomato salad (no lettuce available in the nearby supermarket - or on the street). Everyone ate a lot so there was only one meal's worth of leftovers. Ants got to the banana cake I had bought for dessert so we just had fruit.
Friday, November 23: Rattanakosin Island Condo, Bangkok
The condo building has ants. It's nothing unusual here in Thailand so the condo was sending an exterminator today. But we didn't know they still had to be scheduled for each unit so they bypassed Stuarts and Vii's place. Oh well.
I finished yesterdayís leftovers for lunch then made my way to an internet cafe where I could get online for 15 baht an hour. I can use Stuartís and/or Vii's computers at the condo but it's easier to type at the cafe.
More birds I've seen include Common Mynas and a Black-naped Oriole. There are some very large butterflies, very large snails, and very large toads around, too. There is one type of very beautiful butterfly that I've almost never seen alight on anything. When I finally did and approached to take a picture, I realized why it wasnít flying... It wasnít one but rather two very beautiful butterflies making more butterflies. And yet, at one point as I watched, they were disturbed by a passing car and flew off while still attached to one another.
Saturday, November 24: Rattanakosin Island Condo, Bangkok
I got picked up to go to the dentist this morning. The driver was early and so was I. Not too much traffic. I'm pretty sure I'm probably the furthest he's ever had to drive to pick anyone up for the dentist. Along the way, I started noticing streets blocked off and the one blocked off with Jersey barriers topped with razor wire. There were police in riot gear standing shoulder to shoulder with the shields overlapping to form another solid barrier. It's been two years since demonstrators were shot at and another demonstration by the Red Shirts was expected today. I remarked to my driver that this was probably not the best way to drive back after my appointment.
Once at the dentist, my new front crown didn't match as well as my dentist wanted it to so she put the temporary one back in and started on another. Then I had to wait an hour so she could start on a third. I got online while waiting and found out there was already political backlash due to the use of tear gas against the demonstrators today. It started raining and I realized the demonstration would be over long before I left the dentist's office, if it hadn't already been disbanded.
I had gone there for a one hour appointment and stayed for three hours. It was raining when I finished so since the driver couldn't take me all the way back to the condo, I started reading the paper to kill time until the rain let up a bit. I read about a book sale at a library in town that caters to English speakers. The driver was able to drop me at the nearby subway entrance. By the time I emerged from the subway, the rain had stopped so I made my way to the library and found it in a beautiful setting with garden and attached cafe. I started out by buying three books. I figured that would be enough to get me through Thailand with book swaps if I didn't make use of Stuart's Kindle when I traveled. Then I toured the library, built 100 years ago and designed by an Italian architect, it was truly amazing, with wooden glass-fronted shelving and a gallery.
Most used books available for sale in the tourist zones cost nearly as much as they did when new. To find books on sale for prices comparable to library sales at home was a welcome relief. For the time being, I had access to a Kindle that I had brought for Stuart, but I'm not sure if I'll have it the entire time I'm traveling or if I'll need some books to get me through. In any case, I'll need a least one to get home with.
While there, I talked with some of the students shopping for books, some of them volunteering for the sale, some of the other volunteers, and stopped at the cafe to talk to another patron for a while. Once again, it strikes me how much people are willing to tell complete strangers that they wouldn't tell family and friends.
I found out yet another meaning for "mara." Apparently, it means "to hit" in Hindi.
Sunday, November 25: Rattanakosin Island Condo, Bangkok
I wandered the area around Khao San Road again. Stuart and Vii have more company coming this Thursday so I'll clear out for her then. Stuart and Vii are so apologetic about my leaving but I think they felt better when I pointed out to them that I had planned on coming to Bangkok even before they knew they would be moving here.
Stuart recommended a guesthouse in a quiet area near the river but they are full through December so the guesthouse recommended the place next door, the Riverline Guesthouse. I couldn't see any of their rooms but the guests there seemed satisfied.
I spotted some travelers hanging out at a hostel in the busy part of town. They pay more for a room with six people than I will for a room to myself. I just have to be willing to walk an extra five or ten minutes to get to the tourist zone. But we were having a nice conversation so I ended up joining them for a drink on Khao San Road. Rose, Emma, Aaron, and Hannah got a beer tower to share and I had my first fruit shake of my trip. This time it was watermelon but I'm looking forward to other flavors, too. Conversation flowed but when the rain came, we were forced to move undercover. It was a pleasant place to be "stuck" for a couple of hours until the rain let up enough for me to head back to Stuart and Vii's place.
Vii came in just behind me, returning from a visit to her Mother's place. Then Stuart came in, having been working at his friend, James' place.
After two days of getting caught out in the rain, I've developed a blister on the bottom of one of my feet. I've been breaking in my new Chaco's. They're just like my old ones but it's a toss up as to whether I'll break them in before they break me. Needless to say, the blister is likely to slow me down a bit for a few days.
Monday, November 26: Rattanakosin Island Condo, Bangkok
I was glad to have a day mostly off my feet. I had a dentist appointment where she started on two teeth on both sides of the bottom jaw. That meant I left the dentist with no feeling whatsoever in my tongue or lower jaw. I felt like I was drooling and could barely talk.
I was on my own to get back so I grabbed a salad and baguette from the salad bar at Tops, grabbed the shuttle to the klong (canal) and took the boat to the National Museum. I then took the local bus back to "my" neighborhood, feeling rather good about being a traveler negotiating the local buses, something most tourists never do.
Before I even got on the bus, one of my teeth started throbbing. It got worse and worse along the way as the Novocain wore off. I'm not used to having toothaches and I was a bit dismayed at having gone to the dentist pain free and leaving with pain.
By the time I got back to the condo, the Novocain was basically gone and I was in considerable pain. So, I called the dentist to find out why I might be in pain and if there was anything I should do other than take ibuprofen. They didn't think there could be any major problems so concurred with my suggestion to try ibuprofen first. If that didn't work, I should call back. I ate some of the baguette, took some ibuprofen and an hour later, I was feeling considerably better.
Later for dinner, I enjoyed my salad and more of the baguette. It was a very welcome change from the Thai street food I've been eating.
Tuesday, November 27: Rattanakosin Island Condo, Bangkok
I took another low key day. I ate lunch at the Tesco cafeteria. Figuring out how to pay was interesting. I had to buy a card and then use that to pay. I then bought an ice cream cone for 9 baht ($.25) at McDonald's with comfortable cafť seating. I spent a couple of hours there reading in air-conditioned comfort.
I bought some fried chicken for dinner but when Vii came home, we went back to the street and I bought my first Pad Thai of the trip. 45 baht or $1.50 for shrimp Pad Thai. I'll eat the chicken tomorrow.
Wednesday, November 28: Rattanakosin Island Condo, Bangkok
I spent some time getting organized for tomorrow. I had to figure out what I could leave behind at Stuart's knowing I may travel for a week or two while I'm gone. The more I could leave behind, the better. I eventually decided I could leave behind my backpack and travel with just my smaller knapsack.
In the evening, Stuart and Vii stayed home and I went down to the river to see the Loi Kratong happenings. This holiday, with its candlelit floats on the river, is beautiful site. These floats can be small, costing as little as one or two dollars or large and elaborate. Khom Loi, sky lanterns, are also a beautiful sight, floating up in the sky, imparting a warm glow.
In most places, people launch their own floats. Here in Bangkok, the places where people can get to the water level are few are far between. Some enterprising people make launch poles. These are long poles with grates attached to one end. People can put their floats on the grate and lower them into the water with the long poles. Many light the candles and joss sticks on their floats, offer a prayer with a wai and then send off their floats.
As beautiful as the floats and lanterns are, there are some down sides. While most of the floats are made from natural materials such as banana trees or bread, there are still plastic doodads and staples used in the construction of many of the floats. Even with the natural materials, the floats end up leaving a mess along the Thai waterways. This will become apparent tomorrow.
The sky lanterns not only end up littering the environment, but can be a fire hazard. While most will continue to rise until the flames go out and are long cool by the time they come back to earth, there are those that donít rise according to plan. Some people fail to take the wind into account when launching their lanterns and I saw two go straight into trees and get stuck with the paper eventually flaring into worrying flames. Thankfully, neither of the lanterns I saw flare into the trees resulted in anything but the lantern catching on fire. The trees did not catch.
I also saw some lanterns that didn't have the lift to get above the crowds or traffic. One came down in the middle of a crowd. Enough people were paying attention to ensure nobody was burned. Another was launched off the Pin Klao Bridge and it floated across the lanes of traffic, at car level, before finally taking off. Thankfully, there was a lull in traffic and the float was across the road before a truck came by that would have likely hit it. They lanterns are rather large with a diameter of maybe half a meter and a height of nearly a meter.
On my way back to the condo, I saw some people selling live eels, live turtles in a variety of sizes, live fish and other live animals. It was unclear to me whether they were meant to be released, kept as pets, eaten, or what.
The Phra Sumen Fort was a center of celebration with one stage having loud modern music and another having a variety of traditional entertainment, from concerts, to plays, to dancing. There were also many vendors there selling a wider variety of food than typical Thai street food and other items including colorful chemical lights, typical of night time celebrations.
I met Patricia, a Thai beauty queen who was a little depressed because she knew she hadn't won this evening's contest. But she looked beautiful in her traditional costume.
It was close to midnight by the time I got back to the apartment and I was surprised to find the lights blazing. Stuart and Vii were there but asleep so I quickly and quietly just got ready for bed and left them to wake on their own.
Thursday, November 29: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
I got up early today and got the laundry in the wash by 8:30 and hung to dry by 9:30.
Then, I hung out all day, waiting for laundry to dry to finish packing and remake the bed.
I left the keys behind when I finally left the apartment at 4:00pm when "O," my driver, came to bring me to the dentist. It was to be my last appointment but it became apparent that there were yet a couple of more problems that would result it yet another visit to the dentist. Once again, I grabbed a salad and a couple of rolls before heading for my guesthouse.
I took the BTS to the river and was surprised to find the river boats had stopped at 7pm. So one other traveler, also caught out, and I decided to get to our neighborhood together. A couple of tuk-tuk drivers and one taxi driver, hanging out near the BTS station, tried to get us to pay 150 baht for the ride. I knew better and asked if the taxi driver would use the meter. He said 'no' so we made our way to the main road and caught another taxi. With the meter, it only took 75 baht to get to our destination.
As usual after one of these dental appointments, I was exhausted so I wasn't all that happy to get to my guesthouse only to be told there was no room at the inn. I finally ascertained that they had changed my reservation to the other building, around the corner and the original one I had visited but been unable to see a room. When I had called to make the reservation a couple of days ago, they had indicated I would be in their associated guesthouse around the corner. So, back I went and finally checked into my small and spartan but clean room.
Friday, November 30: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
I spent the day getting my bearings in my new neighborhood. I located some internet cafes and found out my crowns wouldn't be ready for my appointment tomorrow so rescheduled my appointment.
The chicken shawarma sandwich with hummus, salad, and fries at a local Israeli restaurant was delicious. 130 baht was a bit pricey for Thailand but cheap for home. 35 baht for Pad Thai for dinner. I think I'm going to have a hard time going out for Thai food once I get home and paying $8 for the same thing.
I spent some time reading in the park, a good place to watch for birds, too.
Saturday, December 1: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
I woke up to find I had been bitten by a few bed bugs. I think they must have been in a blanket I hadn't used the first night. Last night, I put it on the bed to have something to lean against the wall while I was sitting up for a while.
The "management" was a little skeptical until I found one on the bed and brought it down still crawling. They thought I must have brought it in with me but since I had been at a friend's place for two weeks before coming here, I knew that couldn't be the case. The guesthouse was full so they couldn't move me to another room so I told them I would like to stay if they could thoroughly clean the room. I moved my stuff out of the room and was pleasantly surprised that they started cleaning immediately. I could see them cleaning and spraying while I was still eating breakfast.
After breakfast, I had to do my laundry to ensure I neither spread bed bugs elsewhere or re-infested my room. I'm just glad I learned my lesson about bed bugs years ago and knew better than to have put my pack anywhere near the bed. I only had to wash the clothes I had worn the previous two days.
I bought some laundry detergent and took my laundry to one of the washing machines that line the road. Enterprising people who live in the storefront apartments lining the road put out a few machines here and there. Many also do laundry by weight. I prefer self-serve. For twenty baht, I did a load. While waiting, I got online and then got some lunch to go. I picked up my laundry and took it back to the guesthouse where I hung it to dry on the lines on roof.
The guest house roof has a couple of tables under gazebos and a couple of benches overlooking the river. It was a nice place to hang out with a view of the river. I ate lunch there and hung out there for the afternoon while my laundry dried. In turn, it was sunny, then cloudy, then rain threatened, then sunny, it thundered, it got sunny again, it sprinkled, but it never rained enough for me to have to bring in my laundry until it was dry.
I passed the time reading and talking with the other who occasionally came up to the roof to enjoy the view. When my laundry dried, I moved back into the same room with high hopes of a bug free existence.
The Pad Thai on Khao San Road is disappointing. Unlike the vendors that cater to the Thai, the tourist vendors have precooked noodles piled on their carts to hasten the process of serving up their Pad Thai.
I had an interesting wildlife sighting today. There was a rather long (> 1 meter) water monitor in one of the canals I walked across today. It had yellow circular spots and a long blue tongue. I watched it for a while as it tried to climb one of the walls and then perused some of the holes in the foundation along the canal.
Sunday, December 2: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
I met Dave, an Aussie, at the guesthouse this morning as I was eating breakfast. He's a mostly retired builder from near Hobart in Tasmania. His partner, Kathy, still working at home, runs a naturopathic retreat.
Dave and I were talking so long that when it got to lunch time, we ended up going to the Green Bar for salads. Over lunch, Dave let it slip that it was his birthday today so I took him to Mille Crepe, a bakery I had noticed yesterday. I had a piece of chocolate cake and Dave had a piece of the signature cake, an ingenious cake made from at least sixteen crepes layered with vanilla custard and served with delicious strawberry coulis.
We sat all afternoon in the eclectically furnished cafe. This place could be plunked down in Harvard Square or Belmont Center and fit right in. Dave said the coffee was the best he's had in a couple of years.
A couple of days earlier, one of the other travelers at the guesthouse have given me a recommendation for a restaurant I had passed repeatedly on the other side of the river when I was staying with Stuart and Vii. Dave was game so we went there for dinner. It was fun to show him the "Sydney Opera House", really just a gazebo shelter with a familiarly distinctive roof line at the river boat bus stop at the Pin Klao Bridge, where the restaurant is.
We were seated at a riverside table. The restaurant is an all you can eat restaurant with table top "grills." These grills are domed so that runoff from grilled meat goes into the broth reservoir on the side. Some of the meat or fish goes directly into the broth to cook. One of the attendants (not really a waitress), showed us how to make it all work. I learned to start with some pork fat just to grease the grill so subsequent meat doesn't stick too badly. She also showed me how to cook the greens in the broth. The lines for some of the raw meat options was long at times. You really just had to be assertive to take your turn. Eventually, the broth was flavored with so many ingredients it was delicious.
There were also fully cooked options. We sampled some of them as well.
I ended up partial to cooking fish right at the table though one of the ground pork options was surprisingly delicious.
The dessert options gave me a chance to try many of the colorful options I've seen around town. I found I didn't care for the sticky and gelatinous concoctions. I ended up enjoying some ice cream.
The ferry had stopped running by the time we left the restaurant so we walked back across the bridge. The riverside walk was also closed in places so we zigzagged between the road and the open sections of the river walk back to the fort.
Monday, December 3: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
After spending the morning at the guesthouse, I got picked up to go to the dentist at 2:30. With the King's Birthday (otherwise known as Father's Day) coming up, there were even more pictures of the king going up all over town. Yellow and white bunting lined many of the walls and both the Thai flag and the King's Royal flag were apparent everywhere.
I was relieved to finally finish my last dentist appointment. I grabbed a couple of salads and then the driver gave me a ride back to my guesthouse. At one point we were stuck for about half an hour. I'm pretty sure there was an accident holding up traffic. Once we started moving, there were no more significant delays.
As planned, I met Dave back at the guesthouse. I had gotten him a salad, too, so we sat down and enjoyed salad and baguette for dinner. Then we went for a walk and ran into family I had met at the Loi Kratong festival last week. Dave went off on his own, I got online, and then I went back to read at the guesthouse.
Oh! After a couple of nights, I'm now sure there are no more bed bugs. It's nice to have a comfortable and clean place to call home for a while.
Tuesday, December 4: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
Dave woke up sick so we scuttled our plans to go to the snake farm. I spent the morning sitting at the fort, catching up on my journal. For lunch, I bought some of what I call Indian Spring rolls. They are slightly spongy crepes wrapped around filling and served with a warm curry sauce. I also bought some shrimp rolls. I brought them back to the guesthouse. Dave wasn't up for eating anything but he was happy to have the Gatorade I brought him.
Wednesday, December 5: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
Today is the King's 85th birthday. It's a big national holiday.
After breakfast, Dave, feeling much better and able to eat again, and I hopped onto motorcycle taxis to get rides to the palace We figured the roads would be too crowded for a taxi or the buses.
It was a quick ride without too much weaving in and out of traffic. After getting dropped off, we joined the throngs trying to get as close to the palace as possible. Not only were we some of the very few foreigners in the crowd, we were conspicuous for not wearing yellow, the King's color. Vendors were selling fans, cold drinks, and flags among other items. We declined to buy flags but once ensconced in the middle of a good-natured crowd, people around us insisted we take their flags.
It was extremely hot so I was very glad to have my umbrella with me. I had bought one a few days ago with a reflective silver coating on the outside. We found a place to stand with a view of one of the large screens set up. But with flags, umbrella, and camera, it was quite a bit to handle, so we backed up a bit and managed to get in the shade of some trees. Even still, I couldn't drink water fast enough to stay hydrated.
We stayed until the King's motorcade arrived from the hospital where the King has been living for the last few years. With failing health, even last year, it didn't seem likely he would last until now.
When the crown prince started speaking and there were no subtitles, and since Dave's back was bothering him and I was getting dehydrated, we made our way out of the thick of the crowd. We felt almost immediate relief at the slight breeze that got through once we were away from the worst of the crowd.
As we walked away from the palace, we marveled at a woman in a shimmering gown, stopped for pictures with a pink clad soldier in a ersatz beef-eater hat, and stopped to sign a guest book under the beautiful arbor along the walkway in front of the palace.
We then meandered through a Thai crafts tent, sat by the canal for a while watching the colorful tour buses going past, and eventually made our way to a restaurant that had a very limited menu. We enjoyed fried chicken wings, green papaya salad, black sticky rice (which was remarkably purple), and a noodle salad. There didn't seem to be anything else on the menu. The only variation I saw on other tables was purely in the volume of food. This was definitely geared towards Thais. One of the people there knew enough English to help us order but there was nothing written in English on the menu and at no point, did any other westerners wander in.
We walked back to the guesthouse after lunch. I napped for three hours.
In the evening, we made our way to the large park in front of the temple of the Emerald Buddha. It was lit up with beautiful lights. We were hoping for a good view of some expected fireworks. We found a good spot to sit and wait at the statue of four elephant heads on Ratchadamnoen. We waited a while and eventually, the crowd stood for the National Anthem, another song - maybe singing Happy Birthday to the King, another song, and then some ground based fireworks that were barely worth mentioning. Someone had given me a candle to hold for the event as all the locals were doing but then we were hungry and neither of us wanted to brave the crowd in the park.
We made our way to the Indian restaurant I had tried once before. For 130 baht (about $4), I had a thali that included chicken tandoori, chicken curry, dal, vegetables, rice and poori. Can't beat that.
Thursday, December 6: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
Dave and I finally made it to the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute in the Red Cross compound to visit the Snake Farm today. We took a local bus, another new transportation experience for Dave. The Farm is a Red Cross facility for breeding, milking, and producing antivenin. They offer a milking show in the morning, a handling show in the afternoon, and plenty of snakes, both native and from other parts of the world, for people to peruse.
We got a pleasant surprise when we got there. It's free today in honor of the King's birthday. So, we meandered around the large cages outside, marveling, in particular, at the size of the King Cobras.
The milking show was inside. They showed a video and then milked about five pit vipers. It seemed two didn't want to be milked and I was happy that after trying a few times, if the snakes didn't bite the membrane stretched over the jar, they weren't forced.
After the milking, we finished looking around the first floor. For lunch we found some nearby street vendors and then made it back to the Farm just in time for a heavy downpour. Once it slowed down, we went upstairs and looked at the exhibits there.
Back outside for the snake handling show, they showed us many of the local deadly snakes, a few not so local snakes, and quite a few non-poisonous snakes from around the world.
Finally, they asked for volunteers to handle a snake and I was happy to volunteer. With some coaxing, there was only one other to raise his hand but they had me come down first. They tried to distract me before putting the snake on my shoulders but I saw them coming. I think they are used to having people be scared of snakes but I've handled enough pythons to feel comfortable around those that are obviously well socialized. After a couple of us survived our snake encounters, other started volunteering and eventually, I think most of the audience took a turn holding the snake.
We took a long walk to the river and then the river boat back to the guesthouse. It was nap time again. It's obvious I'm pushing myself too much.
For dinner, Dave and I shared a whole fish. Delicious! After dinner, I got a banana and egg roti, hoping to share it with Dave. He wasn't interested but agreed to taste it. Then he was interested. No surprise, to me. They taste so much better than their description. But as much as they seem like dessert, a roti easily can be a meal unto itself.
[Wikipedia confirms roti is related to the Indian bread even though it seems so different to me.]
Friday, December 7: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
A slow day today. I did a load of laundry and then found an internet cafe with working USB ports. I've been having problems finding places where I could both transfer my photos to my hard drive and charge the Kindle I've been using.
I met Dave for dinner and we went to the Fort for a concert we had been told about. But it never materialized though it's obvious they are preparing for some sort of performance. There's a large stage with lighting here that was erected over the last couple of days. Perhaps the concert will be tomorrow.
Saturday, December 8: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
I spent some time this morning at an Internet cafe with Dave. He was interested in what I had done on my last trip to Thailand when I spent time in Northern Thailand. I couldn't remember details so reading my journal helped me make some suggestions.
At 3pm, there was a benefit concert by and for disabled musicians. This concert wasn't related to the concert on the stage that had been erected the previous couple of days. Unfortunately, they overlapped so at 6pm, there was a good section of the park where you could listen to both concerts at the same time.
The big concert that started at 6pm was part of a larger celebration for the 230th anniversary of Ratanakosin, or old Bangkok, the section of town we happen to be staying in. The road is blocked off, vendors are set up for a kilometer long section of the street, and there are also two additional performance areas set up along the street. Unfortunately, the competing and overly loud sound systems left a bit to be desired.
I just wish there was some sort of schedule so I could figure out if and when I might like to be at any particular performance area. I did see some handouts available only in Thai but even they had no schedule information. I did manage to find out that the street fair and performances will continue every weekend until mid-January.
Tonight however, was obviously special. There was a beautiful spread set out for the obviously well-heeled and invited crowd. Plus, the chairs were all covered with beautiful white covers. Only the food was for the VIPs. Everyone as welcome to sit at the performances.
One of the performances was by a traditional music group. We recognized some of the people in the group from the local music school we pass every day near the guest house. We've stopped by to listen in during some of the lessons.
Sunday, December 9: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
Dave and I did lunch at the same place we ate the day we met. Then shared another roti in the Fort park.
The sound checks on the main stage showed promise. There was one band there with traditional Thai instruments including a xylophone, hammered dulcimer, three-string guitar, an interesting bass that almost looked like it was made out of a solid piece of wood, wooden flute, and a box drum. But rather than playing traditional music, they played loud rock.
Dave and I said good-bye as he's heading north today. Perhaps we'll meet again if he and Kathy end up coming to the US to hike the Appalachian Trail, a distinct possibility.
I took a nap after an internet session and then headed back to the fort for the party. For dinner, I tried a Thai omelet, a fluffy, almost deep-fried affair stuffed with Thai vegetables. Delicious. The Chinese dancers and Mui Thai (a Thai martial art) groups provided some good entertainment.
The highlight for me was when I found a group teaching people how to weave pandan leaves, for free no less. They were surprised when I showed interest but were willing to deal with the language barrier and help me anyway. I was the only westerner making one and I think some found it a pleasant challenge to teach me. With the help of a bunch of different people at each of the steps, I wove a long base, made four leaf flowers to go with it, and then attached them to the base with some beautiful orchids. I was surprised how nice it came out and so did many of the other people also learning. As a matter of fact, after a while, there were some people that I ended up helping out. Walking around with my creation afterwards, I got a lot of smiles from others in the crowd who gave my creation an admiring glance.
Back at the main stage, the band Dave and I had seen rehearsing earlier in the day was playing. Among other songs, they played Hotel California and Gangnum Style, a song that has almost turned into a theme for this trip. I hear it everywhere, including from little children's toys in the dentist's office.
Something else I remember from other trips... Regardless of how rockin' the music is, the spectators stand listening without nodding a head, tapping a toe, and certainly no dancing to the beat of the music. Me? I can't be so restrained so I stood near the back of the crowd and just moved a bit to the music.
Monday, December 10: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
I slept late today. Then I found the best cheap lunch at an on street restaurant on Rambuttra street. I had stir-fried veggies with chicken over rice with a banana shake for 70 baht.
I was surprised to see the street by the fort closed yet again. The fair will be set up again this afternoon and evening. I got to the internet cafe and a few minutes after I sat down, it was pouring. Phew. Good timing. I took yet another nap today.
This evening's entertainment included a concert by and for women for peace. The group that sponsored this concert brought 200 Muslim women to Bangkok from the south of Thailand. There was also a wonderful game of chess being played in human scale by a group dressed up in fantastic costumes and making wonderful moves. It wasn't enough to move from square to square, the pieces danced from place to place, one knight used a bit of Mui Thai to knock another piece away, etc.
Tuesday, December 11: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
Because I decided not to go to Myanmar, I needed an extension to my visa so took the train as suggested by the guesthouse. That was a mistake. It took hours to get there. Once there, it was easy to fill out the forms. I had to go downstairs to get photocopies of my passport. Then I could go back upstairs, get my number, and start waiting. At one point, when someone else realized I was in the same line, he gave me his number as he could no longer wait. Number 73 was certainly going to save me time over number 88. Unfortunately, I didn't get in line until about 11:30 and the place shuts down for an hour between noon and one o'clock. So like most of the others, I went back downstairs to grab a bite to eat.
Back upstairs at 1:00, it was obvious that a number of people either didn't return or didn't return on time as quite a few numbers were called without response. I ended up being called within 15 minutes or so and sat down to talk with the immigration officer. It was mostly a formality. She gave me an extension and even indicated that I wouldn't be charged for the one day overstay that would be necessary. Then I had to wait again until they could complete the paperwork. At this point, I gave my original number 88 to a family with an even higher number. I eventually got my passport back with the visa extension.
The government building housing the immigration office also housed a number of other governmental offices. The building is huge. It was probably under construction when I was last in Thailand as the immigration office was in downtown Bangkok then. Now, it's far away from the main part of town and while local buses do run here, there's no rapid transit to get here. The center of the building is open for all floors of the building though completely roofed over and climate controlled. I think the open center is bigger than many Bangkok city blocks. The various offices surround the center. The ground floor houses a number of restaurants, cafes, convenience stores, a copy shop, and other support type businesses.
When I left, I managed to share a taxi to get to the nearest BTS station. It cost a few dollars but it certainly saved me hours of getting to and from the train as well as waiting for it to leave and for its slow progress back to town.
Wednesday, December 12: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
I slept in this morning and then spent the afternoon being a tourist. I walked to the Golden Mount, a temple built on the top of a hill. I walked up, ringing some of the bells along the way, and got a good view of the city from the top. The temple had too much incense for me to enter so I just took my time coming down. I hadn't remembered coming here last time I was in Bangkok but once I started climbing up, it seemed familiar and I remember I had, in fact, made it here last time.
After descending, I made my way to the nearby Wat Ratchanatdarum, and climbed Loha Prasat, an interesting structure with 37 spires. Each level had a focus. One had a "library" with a few books sprinkled around some of the low shelves. There was also seating there. There was a walking meditation level. The top had a bell and a great view of Bangkok. The bottom was a museum of sorts. I was glad to leave the building if only to get off the hard concrete floors and put my shoes back on.
After all this walking, especially barefoot in Loha Prasat, my feet hurt. I made my way back to the guesthouse, dodging raindrops along the way. For dinner, I had falafel at a roadside place that also served poutine, a Canadian concoction of fries, cheese curds, and gravy. It's rare to find poutine in New England, just a couple of hundred miles from its normally available area, much less on the other side of the world in Thailand. The mystery was solved when a Canadian guy showed up, most likely in a relationship with the woman who ran the place.
Thursday, December 13: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
I got up early and did laundry first thing. It was a nice day with no rain threatening so I hung my laundry and then made my way to Thanon Ratchawithi to visit the Dusit Palace Complex. This large complex includes museums, the Vinmanmek Mansion, and at least two throne rooms. I easily kept me occupied for the day.
I was a bit early for the larger museums and throne rooms so I started with the Chang Ton National Museum (or the Royal Elephant Museum). This museum comprises two elephant stables where the royal elephants used to be housed. They have a few pairs of tusks, some howdas and other accoutrements, pictures and some information about the royal elephants and especially the "white" elephants, not necessarily white or albino, but pale.
After a stop to take pictures of a large water monitor hanging out on the grass, I made my way to the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles. This museum shows examples of weaving from all over Thailand. The colors, patterns, and types of clothing made from such textiles are all beautiful.
At 11:00, I took the English language tour of the Vinmanmek Palace. This mansion, built in the mid-1800s, is the largest teak building in the world and built entirely without nails. There are times when areas within the building are still in use so some areas are off limits to tours. We could see formal dining areas, sitting rooms, bedrooms, china, stemware, and other items ordered for the palace from other parts of the world, as well as gifts from world leaders on display. There were also children's toys and mementos from a variety of events that took places over the years. No cameras were allowed inside the mansion.
I stopped into one of the exhibits of the King's photography. He was an avid photographer. Not only were there pictures that he had taken of other members of the royal family and of people and sites in Thailand, there were also pictures of him taken with the likes of Benny Goodman. He played a number of instruments including both brass and woodwind.
The Abhisek Dusit Throne Room, a singles story building housed smaller items in cases.
The piece de resistance of the public areas of the Dusit complex is the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. This very large two story throne hall is impressive not only in its construction, but in its meticulously crafted artwork. Sections of both the walls and the artwork are not only constructed in gold, silver, and beautifully carved wood, but also gorgeous blue and green iridescent beetlesí wings. These beetles live and die naturally and are then collected so their wings can be used in such artwork.
Many types of traditional Thai crafts were being lost with modernity. The queen, in an effort to preserve them, started an organization to provide support to those rural families who were willing and able to learn and preserve the traditional crafts of their areas. In the throne room, there were a number of large pieces made with some of the traditional Thai crafts. Very large carved pieces, incorporating not only wood, but also gold, silver, and beetlesí wings dominated. There was also a carved palanquin, traditional canoes, and other ceremonial pieces. Large embroidered tapestries told traditional stories in pictures.
The downstairs had smaller works.
The building itself was designed by Italian architects and incorporates a large dome, a number of smaller domes, and murals depicting elements of the history of Thailand.
Surprisingly, shoes were allowed in the big throne room. They are not allowed in any of the other buildings in the complex. The entire complex is also subject to the rules of respect. Those showing up wearing shorts, short skirts, or tank tops are not allowed in. Rather than turning people away, sarongs are available for sale on the premises at a very reasonable price.
Friday, December 14: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
After a tip from Rebecca, another traveler at the guesthouse, I had breakfast at a place on the nearby klong. There were booms of bamboo stretched across parts of the canal on which water monitors lounged. I watched at least five different monitors come and go while eating breakfast and catching up on my journal. It was a great place to meet other travelers who also appreciated getting away from the main tourist area. Rebecca, showed up at one point, too.
In the evening, I set out to meet Stuart and Vii and got delayed by a wonderful "live action" shadow show on the main stage at the fort. Once again, the street fair and concerts have come back to life for the weekend. I wish I could have stayed to watch but I needed to meet up with Stuart and Vii. We met at the same riverside restaurant I had eaten at with Dave. They brought James with them who was obviously already two sheets to the wind and quickly started working on the third as soon as we sat down.
Although I had invited James, I hadn't invited him drunk. He was loud, boorish, and was trying to get us to join him as he met his new 18-year old Thai girlfriend who was going to be arriving on a late train. All this while he also wondered out loud if the young woman at a nearby table was available. It put a damper on the evening. After dinner, James tried to get us to go to karaoke but none of us were interested. I weaseled out of it as my digs were back over the bridge but ended up leaving Stuart and Vii to weasel out of it on their own as they walked back in the other direction.
Saturday, December 15: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
I slept late and got up later today. Mostly did nothing during the day.
The celebration continued at the fort this evening. There was a great martial arts demonstration - highly choreographed but still well worth watching. I found fried shrimp like I had eaten quite a bit last time I was here. A bowl of about six medium shrimp for about 20 baht. Earlier in the day, I had some fried bananas, another favorite. I stopped to watch some skiing on a large TV set up along the road and it seemed almost cold just watching people on snow. And I'm going back to that environment within a week. Brr!
Back at the main stage, I watched the end of a music act and then realized they were setting up for a repeat performance of the shadow people. There was a great deal of setup and break down for a ten minute performance but the performance was wonderful. I just wish I knew Thai characters. Some of what they did was spell out Thai words.
Sunday, December 16: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
Monday, December 17: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
Slept late then breakfast at the klong where I had a long talk with Mattes, a guy I met at the guesthouse through Rebecca.
Chris, another traveler from the guesthouse, is on his way to Burma. He was lamenting the weight of his backpack so I explained my background and asked if he would like me to take a look at what he was carrying with him. Maybe I could make some suggestions for lightening his load. So, we took an hour or two and I "tuckerized" his backpack. He was able to take a few pounds of gear out of his backpack and get ideas for future cuts when and if he's ready to replace gear or if he ever plans to do more backcountry camping and hiking.
I needed to pick up my backpack so met Stuart and Vii for dinner. This time sushi and just the three of us. They treated me tonight, for my upcoming birthday. I also left the Kindle with Stuart tonight. From now on, I'll be reading actual paper books.
Tuesday, December 18: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
Breakfast at klong with both Rebecca and Mattes. Then some shopping today. I got so hot I stopped for a 1.5 hours to nurse a Gatorade. Then I walked back. For dinner, I was still feeling the heat so I went back to the Israeli place and then to McDonald's on Khao San Road to hang out in the air-conditioning. This McDonaldís has some comfortable chairs.
Wednesday, December 19: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
Breakfast with Mattes. After he left, Rebecca came by. I ended up going to MBK, a large Mall with a variety of vendors on different floors; one floor for tech, one for crafts, etc.
Thursday, December 20: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok
Rebecca treated me to a bakery breakfast this morning to celebrate my birthday. I had found this place, with wonderful breads and pastries a few days ago. I had a wonderful roll/brioche with almond, chocolate, and orange. Delicious. I hung out after she left, reading, and eventually getting another roll, this time with cheese and bacon. There was a Thai man there who does translations, not just written, but simultaneous translations for government and other businesses. It was obvious he had a thing for languages. His English was nearly as good as mine and he was teaching himself Spanish. I had brought my backpack with me this morning so I wouldn't have to lug it around later, in the heat of the day. I dropped it off at the travel agency where I will catch my shuttle to the airport later today.
For lunch, I had one last plate of Pad Thai along the klong.
I did some last book reading at the fort. Later in the afternoon, I went back to the guesthouse to grab one last shower. I had left just a few things there to shower and change. Then I brought everything to my backpack and switched out the book I finished for another book.
My usual roti maker wasn't there after lunch so I grabbed one for dinner. Then I met Stuart and Vii who hadn't had a chance to eat so we went to the Israeli place. Then we all went for cake at Mille Crepe. I ended up treating them as I had some leftover baht that I wouldn't otherwise be able to spend. And it wasn't enough to change back.
We went for a walk down Khao San Road. I usually avoid the place, especially in the later evening. Sure enough, it was packed. We got to the other end and said our good-byes. Maybe I'll see them again in another five years.
I got to the travel agency early and was ready to go when my airport shuttle showed up.
On the drive there, it turned out there was one other traveler heading out on the same flight as me. We decided to figure out our flight together. When we got to the airport, we still had hours to wait until we could even check in so we found some benches and settled in for the wait.
Friday, December 21: Riverline Guesthouse, Bangkok, Thailand to Boston, MA, USA
Neither of us were inclined to sleep so we took turns exploring the airport while the other watched our stuff. At one point, I met a man traveling stand-by. He had previously worked for the airline so traveled for free. When he realized I lived in Massachusetts, he asked how I like Deval Patrick. To make a long story short, he said he was Deval Patrick's uncle and was proud of his nephew.
At 2:45, the counter finally opened. Checking in went easily enough and I was soon heading for the gate. I spent the last few baht buying some overpriced snacks and then found a place to settle in. Rather than make use of the comfortable recliners (I was afraid of falling asleep and missing my plane), I found a few computers with free internet access. At this point, I had been up twenty hours and was very tired.
I flew home by way of Tokyo and Minneapolis. With a bit of finagling, I managed exit row seats the entire way. One of my seats had sketchy electronics so the bursar offered me an extra 5,000 miles. I wasn't sure, but it did end up putting me over 25,000 miles for the trip. I may be able to get another flight out of that.
I'm not very good at sleeping in moving vehicles but I slept on and off for a couple of hours on my first flight. Not so much on my longer second flight or shorter third flight. Even though it was a domestic flight, everyone seemed a bit punchy on the last fight. I could swear I heard something about putting your small children under the seat in front of you. One man, upon seeing some glances when his baby started playing with a squeaky toy, quickly exchanged it for a quieter option. When the pilot announced a short delay while waiting for some passengers making their way to the gate, there were murmurs about leaving them behind. Even the flight attendants seemed a bit punchy, too.
Back in Boston, I took the T to Malden where my sister picked me up. It was great to see family again. I was out of it though but still stayed up until after 10pm. All told, I think I slept three or four hours of the previous fifty hours. I was exhausted.
Last updated, June 29, 2013.
Tips and Tricks
Gear Reviews and Discussions
AT FAQ and Stats
Trip Reports Gear Lists Mail Drops About Me Acknowledgements Photos Updates Fun Email Mara