Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Another busy day in Bangkok!

Across the river from the Grand Palace is the Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn.. Again we travelled by skytrain and then river boat and were now feeling like old hands at getting around Bangkok, especially Ads who seems to have an inbuilt sense of direction - not sure where he gets that from - not from either of us!!

Anyway, a sign on the trains you won't see else where - please give your seat up to monks!

The Wat Arun is seriously tall with very high steps - we got up as far up as possible and could definitely feel our thighs later that day - especially poor Wills whose muscles had the shakes!

 The views were pretty good though.

The boys decided to go dress up!

Next stop was Jim Thompson's House. Said man was an American who was employed in Thailand from the US, fell in love with the country and then retired there. One day aged 61 and 5 days he went for a stroll in the jungle and was never seen or heard of again - either dead or alive. We took a tour of the house but our guide seemed to focus primarily on the toileting issues from bygone ages. Apparently Thai's being very hygienic preferred outdoor toilets. However, if there was a call of nature during the night they used well disguised pottys (not so hygienic). A pottery cat with a removable head was designed for the gentleman's usage and a sort of frog with a hole in its back for the ladies to squat thereover. They say if you kiss a frog it may turn into a prince - not sure what the comparable is here. Anyway it was a very nice Thai style teak house!

At Jim's pad, as all over Thailand, there was a little shrines outside. The theory is that when you build a new house you may displace the spirits who were previously resident. In order to escape their wrath one builds a little house outside for them to live in comfort. Food and water is regularly provided for their welfare.

Next stop the biggest indoor market in South East Asia -The Bangkok weekend market. This is a labyrinth of stalls selling everything - from clothes (knock off designer gear), foods, ornaments, pets and clothes for them, scrap booking and crafting stuff, candles and incense, household goods, knives and knuckledusters........

It was very busy - even the approach.....

Luckily Ads is taller than the average Thai, so even when he'd speed ahead, lag behind or wander down a side street as he is prone to do - we didn't loose him!! He was always at least a head above the crowds!!

 Even Simon who hates to shop was entertained in this market for several hours!!

Last stop in Bangkok was the Erawan Shrine - a very active and busy pray center. I do love the way Hindu's and Buddhists -in fact all religions except Christians  it would seem  - can get down and pray wherever, whoever is about and whatever is going on around them.  We seem to prefer the privacy of  cold dark churches. The Erawan Shrine is right below the sky train and an over road foot path.

None of those at pray seemed remotely concerned by the surrounding activity of everyday Bangkok.

There was a haze of incense and some very Chinese looking dragons, and some acrobats, the significance of which I didn't work out.

 The Thai dancers prayed for folks by request, chanting and dancing the relevant prayers while the person requesting the prayer knelt on a mat in front of them.

It was then time for us to pick up our bags and return to the airport on the ever efficient public transport.

Three nights in Bangkok and the Towers family happy
Not much between the temples and all the shopping
I feel a return visit coming to me

OK that is terrible but I don't have time to do any better - Thursday off to Pushkar to take pics of Camels......Camel Chaos, Camel Confusion, Cavorting with Camels....there will be camel blogs to come!!!!!

Busy in Bangkok!

Bangkok - the modern monochrome city. I don't think it was just the contrast from the highly coloured India. Seriously the vast majority of people were in black and white or similar dulcet tones. And the legs.........now that is a reaction to India. Micro mini skirts, tinsy winsy dresses and cheeky shorts...all very tasteful but so short!!!

This was the first major Asian city I have visited outside India. Population of Bangkok 6.335 million, Bangalore 4.3 million. And boy what a difference! No pot holes, way less trash, smooth roads, public transport that connects and is scarily efficient, street food you can not only smell but can eat whatever, wherever.........Bangalore - what is your problem????

However Bangkok has a hugely divided society the 'hi-so' (high-society) set we saw in central Bangkok of pretty people, with milky white skin, twinkling jewels, designer clothes, auburn rinses and speaking school learnt English, an electronic device in each hand. At the Siam Paragon Mall we went into in a Lamborgini show room with a yellow merchilago and a black aventador (had to steal that information from Ads Facebook status!!) However the inequality stats are scarily close to those in the US, wealthiest 20% own more than 85% of the wealth, lowest 50% own 3 or 4%.

We stayed in a wonderful apartment on Asoke - less than 5 minutes walk to the sky train. Modern apartment with all we needed on 35h floor with views over the city. We all loved Bangkok - the kids when asked which they preferred Cha Am or Bangkok - voted Bangkok without hesitation. Getting around was so easy, the food so good and so much variety -maybe we'd overdone the seafood in Cha Am.

We did quite a bit of Mall walking and shopping but also explored the old parts of Bangkok by boat. The public river boat was just as efficient as the sky train. The first stop was the Grand Palace - which was very Grand - an orgy of gold, spires, paintings - total opulence!

The size of the palace, number of buildings and the perfect condition everything was in, was quite incredible. The Thais are very fond of their Royal family and picture of the King and Queen pop up everywhere. The powers of the King are these days purely symbolic but he still attracts the respect and reverence of the Thai people.

However their political premiers don't always attract the same. While we were in Bangkok the politicians and lawmakers approved a draft amnesty bill which would allow the previously exiled premier back in. The protest marches were busy, noisy but peaceful.

 A busy day before returning to our apartment to relax and enjoy the view.........

before another busy day on Bangkok!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Still Chillin"!

We spent a couple of days on the village beach. Its very organized.  You pay for your beach chairs and table.....
 ...and then it's waitress service all day - the most yummy seafood snacks to choose from.
The local Thai people hate the sun and go to all lengths to minimize any rays on their skin...but they must get hot!

 And being boys just sitting and chill in on the beach needs to be complemented with a bit of action!

We did visit the local market where again an abundance of seafood and fruit and vedge even more lush than we see in India.

After four days of rest and relaxing in Cha am - it was time to head back to  Bangkok to explore the city - we were ready!!

Chillin in Cha Am

This was our first trip in Asia outside India (except Sri Lanka). It had been a very long half term - well more like three-quarter term - thirteen weeks of it and the kids were over ready for a break. We flew out of Bangers on October 31st after "trick or treating". Wills out and about in the 'hood with his friends and Ads elsewhere. Simon and I left to open the door to the very heavy stream of other ozone kids in costume. Very embarrassingly we ran out of candy and had to shut shop, bring in the decorations and turn off the lights - never run out of candy before!

Ads returned just in time to get into the taxi and head to the airport. Drive to the airport had one slightly hairy moment when (bear in mind we drive on the left here) taxi ended up off road on the right hand side of the two lane road. Taxi decided to pass an oil tanker which in turn suddenly decided to pul out to pass a tractor. not room for all of us on the tarmac - survival of the biggest - taxi being the smallest gave up and pulled off the road. In typical indian style no one even blinked, let alone waved a fist or yelled an obscenity - engine was restarted and we carried on our way.

Bangalore airport was all go - an expat exodus for the Diwali break. Considering kids must all have been on various stages of a Halloween sugar high it was relatively peaceful but by then it was rather late.

When you arrive in an Indian airport - you are without a shadow of a doubt in India. I'm not sure what exactly it is, or why India has such a strong unmistakable character but arriving at Bangkok airport you could have been anywhere in the world!

As we waited for our car to take us to Cha am - a couple of hours from Bangkok, it was obvious there were some visitors in town for the beer during the day and we know where they were going to go when the light got low. Over the week or so, we saw quite a few  Thai/UK couples. Brit guys with a Thai gal - maybe 15 or 20 years younger - very respectable, happy looking couples. Brit guys you wouldn't have noticed walking along the street on their home turf - sort of nondescript slipper and pipe types - not raiders of the lost ark types - who had somehow (no idea what their stories were)  repositioned themselves to be spending the latter part of middle age onward with attractive, younger but still mature Thai chicks who seemed to be genuinely fond of them, hanging on their every word. I was actually quite impressed!

To Cha Am. First stop on the highway had to be Starbucks and very good it was too. Cha Am is a sleepy little fishing village which comes alive on the weekend when Thai's from Bangkok head down for a weekend or day by the sea. Our apartment was a little out of town so we hired three bikes and cycled around the back roads. The usual debate was who got Wills to chauffeur about - more often than not it was me!

Cha Am is essentially a fishing village - I never managed to get up early enough to see the fisherman come in with their nights haul but we sure ate a lot of it! The seafood was phenomenal - I don't think I have ever eaten so much, so fresh and so yummy!

I wasn't too sure about the bright green mussels - but they tasted good!

The little harbor was full of brightly colored boats.

After biking and eating - there was plenty of chilling!!