Bangkok      Last Updated: 04-Nov-01

      Happy Birthday, Peter!

Go directly to Meals

A quick flight and a smooth transition through the airport landed us in a metered taxi ("You never know if they will take you directly there, or run up the bill," said an agent for one of the fixed price - and more expensive - limousines) and into the famous Bangkok traffic jam. Actually, it was not that bad, with the driver deftly avoiding the worst of it. As he moved along, faster than most of the ambient traffic, his cab sang out its aches and pains. He was more interested in looking at women in other cars and on billboards than at the traffic as he told us a little about his family and asked about us. Before we knew it, we were at the hotel, with a bill lower than even the hotel's estimated 400 baht (about US$9).

Roswitha in Bangkok Taxi  Thai Airlines provided Orchids for all female customers 

We're in the garden wing of the Siam Intercontinental, which we requested because it has a little more Thai character. It turns out that it is also well away from the traffic noise. The hotel is right in front of a stop for Bangkok's new Skytrain, which has helped to allay some traffic, and near the Chulalongkorn University.

Siam Intercontinental  Train station across the street 

We had a snack at the pool while Scott scribed some of this drivel, and Roswitha oriented with the guidebook and avoided getting pecked by a roaming peacock. The inventory of mosquito bites also started. (We are slathering DEET as a strategic maneuver, and performing tactical slapping.) Bangkok has a high incidence of skeeter-borne Dengue Fever, and we will be in Malaria country for the next two weeks.

Siam Intercontinental Pool with Bar  Roaming Peacocks (we counted at least 7, one of them was white) 
Swans are roaming, too; but not begging for food quite as aggressively  Lot's of sea-roses (= mosquito potential?) 

Roswitha continued crafting the Singapore and Penang web pages, while Scott went out to explore the immediate area, which ranges between airconditioned mall and open shops, mostly catering to the uniformed university students. Shoes, dresses, tailors, and other clothing, including entertaining T-shirts ("I look better Naked") seem to make up the bulk of it. There are a few surprising stores ("Applied Physics" turns out to be a study center), but nothing that exciting.

Dinner was at Ban Kun Mae, a Thai restaurant which seems to cater to Farangs (Foreigners) and Thais out on a date. Quite tasty, it was even spicy.

We got a slow start on Tuesday the 30th, after a leisurely hotel breakfast. We spent too much time at a cyber café updating the webpage and fighting Geocities (the website host) to get the pictures to work correctly.

With some difficulty, we found the boat dock along the Klong Saen Sap river around the corner from the hotel. Without much certainty about what we were doing, we boarded the second long-tail boat (water bus), hopping quickly onto the gunwale and over a curtain to plop into our seats, paying about 11 cents each for the ride. Referring to Nancy Chandler's wonderful map (and a tip from an Australian who lives in Bangkok), we determined that we wanted to get off at Phan Fa, near the Golden mount. Along the way, the roof of the boat suddenly started collapsing onto us! We quickly realized that it was being lowered to allow the boat to clear a low bridge. No wonder the boat crew wears hard hats!

The Boat-Stop  Here comes one  Sitting behind the tarp, as much for protection from water as to prevent tourists from getting scared 

At the Golden Mount, we hailed a Tuk-tuk (a three-wheeled taxi with no real shock absorbers), and negotiated a price to take us to Nakorn Kasem (the Thieves Market), which has basically devolved into a huge autoparts and musical instrument center. We strolled through the buildings of this part of Chinatown to the Old Siam shopping center, which is described as an interesting Thai market, but struck us as being yet another air-conditioned (if more crowded) shopping center. We then went through the clothing district to Little India, where we found the Royal India restaurant, and a little air conditioning. After a satisfying (but mild) lunch, we worked our way along the crowded sidewalk to Saempeng Lane, a supposed picturesque street. What we found was a long, continuous market street, which evolved slowly from fabrics to buttons to plastics to leather to toys to electrical items, and so on. This area is primarily a wholesale street (need to buy a gross of plastic bags?), and we were unable to find our primary target, one of those little electrical bug killers.

Motor-bikes (and Tuk-tuks) don't seem to adhere to any lanes  Scott holding on for dear life 
Traffic jam between motor-bikes, hand-carts and pedestrians  Roasted sun-flower seeds, etc.  What is this? 

After a while (and an amusing people/motorcycle/cart/hand truck traffic jam), we gave up and hailed a passing Tuk-tuk. We negotiated travel to MBK, ( Mah Boon Krung), a shopping center near the hotel. (Had we mentioned the hotel, the ride probably would have been three times as expensive.) Slapped inside the Tuk-tuk's roof was a bumper sticker for D'Oriental, a fashion shop. I mused on whether this was paid advertising. As we alternated between traffic jams and weaving around in traffic (dividers on 2-way roads seem to be merely suggestions), the driver asked us if we minded stopping briefly at a traditional Thai shop. He flashed us a "Tuk-tuk gas card" in way of explanation. This is a common thing in Thailand - the drivers are rewarded with "tea money" for bringing Farangs to shops, whether they buy or not. What the heck; he promised that it was on the way, and would not take long. Since we had seen this years before in Chiang Mai ("The jewel scam"), we figured that it would provide a moment's entertainment. So, we gave him the OK. And, you guessed it, he took us to D'Oriental. However, it was a traditional tailor, where they tried to sell us a suit. Within about 45 seconds, it was clear to the tailor that we were a no-sell, and we were released, although there was one final offer to buy a necktie to go with my flamingo shirt. And on we went to MBK, where we finally found the bug device (Raid, of course) in a modern supermarket. As we were walking back to the hotel, the sky opened up in a major downpour, and we were stranded in a mall without even one umbrella seller. We finally braved the dash and made it home.

The next morning, we had a leisurely breakfast, observed how our luggage looked fuller and felt heavier, and headed off to see what Bangkok airways had in store for us for the flight to Luang Prabang, and whether or not we would survive it.

Bangkok Meals:

29 Oct.

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