Tuesday – Thursday, November 27-29, 2007
We traveled in style today. We left our guesthouse in Koh Lanta at about 6 a.m. in a minivan that would take us directly to the airport for our 11 a.m. flight to Bangkok. We were able to find a flight for $50 US per person on NOK Airlines, saving a 12-15 hour bus trip. Once in Bangkok we got a taxi directly to the Hotel we wanted to stay in and got dropped of at the door, took our room (with AC, hot water, TV and a pool on the roof) and flopped on our bed for a few minutes to relax. Bangkok is an interesting place. It is what we might call a gritty city. It is polluted and dirty in lots of places, but there are some wonderful things to see and the shopping is amazing (this is Ted writing this … a confirmed non-shopper). Traffic is always snarled and while the sidewalks are better than some we have seen, pedestrian safety and amenities aren’t a priority. We walked around “our neighborhood” to find that it is farang central. Farang is the term used for foreigners in Thailand. There are lots of guesthouses nearby and we are a half block from Khao San Rd., one of the street markets that caters to farang. Apparently, Bangkok is a city where backpackers often start or end their trips through southeast Asia because of the many cheap flights in and out. Along the street near our hotel, many locals are selling stuff they bought from backpackers going home or needing cash to continue to live. You can buy used guide books, backpacks, shoes used clothes and lots of other stuff. Also for sale are all the usual tourist things produced and sold by locals. Clothes are cheap, knock offs galore, including software, dvds and cds. Sheree found some cheap silver shops and bought a charm for much less than we have paid elsewhere for similar charms. Also along the pedestrian streets are tons of food vendors. We have eaten lots of cheap meals prepared on the street. Right outside our hotel, you can get Pad Thai (a noodle dish) for 20 Bt, less than 50 cents US. We also discovered a new favorite snack, Mango and sticky rice. Basically, this is a sliced up mango with a pile of sticky rice over which a sweet coconut flavored sauce is spooned. It costs 20 Bt as well and we are addicted. We have also eaten fire roasted corn on the cob, Thai pancakes with egg, chocolate, banana or other stuff (sort of like a crepe for 15 Bt.). A one liter bottle of fresh squeezed orange juice is 25 Bt. and it goes on and on. I’ll quit the food dialogue because it is making me hungry and maybe your too.
The next day in Bangkok we had some business to take care of so we set out to do that and then we intended to go to the Grand Palace and the temple right next to it. We had to purchase our airline ticket to India and get our India tourist visa so we set our for the Indian Embassy. We opted to go by bus and left our room at about 8:30. We got breakfast along the way and caught a bus in the direction of the Indian Embassy. We had determined that this bus would take us close and we could walk the rest of the way. Remember I mentioned the traffic snarls? Well, we figure there is a reason buses only cost 7 Bt. (20 cents). It’s because they don’t get you anywhere very fast. It probably took us close to 2 hours to get part way across town to the area near the Indian Embassy. About another 45 minutes walking and we were there. Oops, a note on the gate that visas are now given at another location, only 20 more minutes walking… actually not too bad. So we hoofed it down there. We arrived in the early afternoon filled out our application forms and paid about $100 for each of us (ouch!) and then were politely told to come back in a week to drop off our passports in the morning to have the visas issued and then we could come back that same afternoon to pick them up. No where on their web site or in any of the information we could find did it say anything about a week to process. Most times, you can get visas on the same day. Fortunately, we decided to get the visa before purchasing the airline ticket. Our original plan was to fly out to India, maybe Dec. 4th, but our visas couldn’t be picked up until then. So we adjusted. We went from there to the office of Mihin Lanka airlines to buy tickets to India. Along the way we spotted an LDS church and made a detour to take a look. We met a Thai woman who now lives in Provo who was back for a visit. It was the stake center and they were preparing for their live Christmas nativity that was scheduled for the weekend. We walked on to the airline office. We found a really cheap flight from Bangkok connecting through Columbo, Sri Lanka to Trivandrum, India ($202 US… yahoo). We figured it was so cheap because you can’t buy it online and have to go to their office to purchase it. We arrived to find a single woman sitting at a desk reading magazines. She seemed disturbed that we wanted to buy a ticket and as it turned out, since we had to leave later than planned the weren’t any flights available after the 4th until Dec. 12. Plan B. Upon reflection, we now think we were fortunate not to be able to go with Mihin Lanka Airlines. The dubious purchase system was the first clue, the second the lady at the desk, and then finally we heard just today about some bombings by the Tamil Guerillas in Columbo. We were thinking while there we might take a few days and see a bit of Sri Lanka. We sought out an internet place to devise Plan B and found a mall nearby. We found a suitable flight alternative and then looked around the mall a bit. On the 3rd floor was IT Heaven. There were computers, gadgets, software and all kinds of stuff. Most of it was dirt cheap. Some day we may make a trip to Bangkok with empty suitcases and load up before going back home. The trip would certainly pay for itself. We went to the food court to get dinner and found numerous stalls with Thai language only menus and proceeded to eat lots of unknown foods that we thought looked “interesting.” Actually, we had a great tasting collection of things that we could never pronounce and we’re not sure it would be prudent to figure out what they consist of. Back home on the bus in the dark (another hour and a half) and to bed. The whole day spent doing a couple of simple tasks. No temples or palaces today.
The next day was temple and palace day. This was within walking distance of our hotel so we didn’t have to rely on any form of transport. It took us about a half hour and we were there. We had to borrow long pants and a skirt (Ted long pants, Sheree skirt) to be able to enter the temple grounds. This place was incredible. The buildings are so ornate and there is gold guilding everywhere. Within the grounds of the temple and the grand palace that we visited later, you were definately in a hidden sanctuary in this gritty city. The palace was equally grand. It was the residence of Thailand’s King until about 30 years ago when he moved to a new palace. The King is truly beloved in Thailand. On December 5, he celebrates his 80th birthday and the city was already getting prepare for a great celebration. We enjoyed our day in this beautiful place and went back to the hotel to prepare to leave for Cambodia the next morning. We will come back to Bangkok after the excursion to Cambodia to pick up our visas and fly to India.
posted Wednesday December 2007