The last city of my visit to SE Asia
10.10.2008 - 18.10.2008 28 °C
I decided to go by bus to Bangkok from Siem Reap. I would be picked up at the guesthouse and the stop in Bangkok was a short walk from the area I had selected (Khao San Road) to look for a hotel. There was a lot of information on the web of things to look for with a passage through Poipet, Cambodia border town to Thailand.
http://www.talesofasia.com/cambodia-overland-bkksr-self.htm None of it too comforting. The road on the Cambodian side is dirt and almost impassable in the wet season. I was traveling in the dry season, so it was very dusty and many deep ruts in the road and travel was slow. The travel agent said it would be a 45 passenger bus with air conditioning. However, I have learned that you can never rely on what you are told.
We were picked up by a minivan and taken to the departure point of the bus at 7:30AM. I was pleased to see an Irish couple from my guesthouse on the mini van with me. As promised we had a 45 seat bus with air conditioning!
We started out on our journey going very slow due to the road conditions. We passed many poor rural villages and had many detours as the government is building bridges and doing some preparation for what may be paving this road. We stopped in a regional center for lunch. One look at the kitchen and I decided not to eat.
We arrived at Poipet around 2PM. The bus driver did not speak English, so we were not given any directions on how we were to make the transfer to the Thailand side and the bus that was to take us to Bangkok. They took our tickets and gave us a badge to attach to our clothing, something you would see with a children's group to identify them. We had a long walk to Cambodian immigration and no man's land to the Thailand immigration to complete forms and enter the country. Then a walk to the bus area, where we were informed there was no bus until 5PM, but we could take a mini van that would be arriving shortly. I wanted to arrive in Bangkok before dark so I was going to take the first mode of transportation offered. 11 of us plus the driver and all our gear was put in the mini van and away we went. The driver drove very fast on good roads and we made it to Bangkok by 6pm just as the sun was setting.
There was a Spanish woman in the minivan that had been traveling in Vietnam and Cambodia for three weeks and she and I started walking to find a hotel. I had a map I had drawn of the area from the internet and after a few false starts we found our way to a very attractive walking street with lots of people and a nice hotel, Four Sons House, 78-80 Phraarthit Rd. (email@example.com)
Bangkok is the largest and most modern city I have visited with 8 million people. Bangkok was originally called the Venice of the East for the many canals. Many have now been eliminated, but I traveled by boat (very fast) on some of them.
I went to Chatuchak (JJ) Weekend Market on Saturday. The largest market in Bangkok and some say the world. Up to 200,000 people visit each day and there are more than 8,000 vendors. There was an amazing variety of goods and lots of opportunities for people watching. They have places set up for foot massage to keep the shoppers refreshed and on their feet!
Next day I went to Chinatown, a labyrinth of streets with restaurants, shops and warehouses. I took the river ferry to Chinatown and had a great view of the city. The streets were very crowded and the shops were overflowing with merchandise. Lots of beads, pearls, costume jewerly, plastic toys, adding machines and other electronics, military clothing/equipment, fabric, clothing, household items. It was a very hot day. 7-11's are on every street corner of Bangkok. I went inside to get some air conditioning and to purchase the largest soft drink they had! My first 7-11 in SE Asia.
I met a 37 year old German doctor over dinner who is traveling in SE Asia for 6 months. I shared my experiences and recommendations for Vietnam and Laos and we decided to explore Wat Po the next day. We met at the river ferry and toured the major flower and vegetable/fruit/fish market of Bangkok. Early in the morning it was very active as restaurants were there buying food for the day.
Wat Po (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) is the largest wat (temple) in Bangkok. The 150-foot sculpture covered with gold has 10-foot feet with the 108 auspicious signs of the Buddha inlaid in mother of pearl. It is also home to one of the oldest universities in Thailand and a Thai massage school.
I sampled the massages of Thailand during my stay. I had an oil massage (not my favorite), a traditional Thai massage (enjoyable) and foot massage ( I prefer the foot massages I had in Laos).
The Thai massage is more energizing and rigorous than the more classic forms of massage. Thai massage is also called Thai yoga massage, because the therapist uses his or her hands, knees, legs, and feet to move you into a series of yoga-like stretches. Many people say Thai massage is like doing yoga without any work. Muscle compression, joint mobilization, and acupressure are also used during treatment. Laos also has a Lao traditional massage which is similar.
I visited the National Museum for the once a week English tour given by an Australian woman who has lived in Bangkok for 8 years. She did an excellent job of showing us the highlights of the collection of one of the best museums of SE Asian art in the world. Several of the royal funeral barges are there and they were all being repaired and readied for the King's sister funeral that will be held November 14-19 2008 with a budget of Bt300 million (about $US8.8 million) being set aside for the ceremony.
The first four days of the ceremony are associated with the cremation, while the latter two with the collection and entombment of the ashes and royal relics.
There will be six grand processions for the four days of the cremation (November 15, 16, 18, and 19) ceremony involving 3,294 soldiers and the three royal chariots: Phra Maha PichaiRatcharot , or Great Victory Chariot (มหาพิชัยราชรถ), PhraWetchayanta Ratcharot (พระเวชยันตราชรถ) and Phra RatcharotNoi , or Little Charriot (ราชรถน้อย). I hope to see some of it on TV.
I enjoyed walking the streets and seeing the fine silk garments offered by the tailors, the many Chinese imports and beautiful Asian art in the stores. I had read about the air pollution in Bangkok but was surprised to have my eyes red and burning at the end of each day from the pollution. It was in the high 90's every day I was there and the heat in the middle of the day was unbearable. Thailand was the only country where I saw overweight people including children. It was also the only country that had American fast food restaurants on every corner.
There are a lot of tourist scams in Bangkok and the tourist police do their best to warn tourist of them, but it is the only country I visited that had such a presistent problem with tourists scams. I did find many people who were very helpful to me on buses and on the streets to find my way. The people and food were wonderful.
Picture are at http://community.webshots.com/user/splendrous