Our last day in Thailand.We were real lazy bones this morning getting to the breakfast room just before they closed.Seems lots of other people had the same idea.
Last night we were reminded that departure tax is 500 baht and has to be paid in cash no plastic accepted.This we had not budgetted for so we were left with 180 baht( about $9) and not wishing to withdraw cash from the ATM we had to carefully budget.
At 11.30 we got our cases down to the lobby then went for a last wonder down the shops.We did not last long the heat and humidity drove us back to the hotel for a coffee and a walk through the airconditioned shopping arcade where prices are naturally higher.
However we did find an eatery where later on for 40 Baht we had a good lunch.You picked the dish from the picture on the wall and the meal was prepared in quick time,very spicy but delicious.
Our tranfer to the airport turned up,we gave out last coins to the porter and were driven to the airport by a guy who thought himself to be Michael Schunacher but without brains.The trip out took about half the time of the inward trip.
At the airport he stood hopefully waiting for a tip but was ultimately disappointed.In any case our pockets were empty.
Checked in ,went through passport control to the departure lounge where we got some duty free stuff and presently boarded a very new Airbus 300 the one with interactive screen which gives almost unlimited choise of music and movies,videos etc.
Tried to sleep but the natural sleeping pills we had bought were in fact pretty useless.Next time will get some real ones from the doctor.
Got to Auckland on time though our cases took a while to arrive.Went through the MAF check as we had food from Europe but no problems.
Our good neighbours Carol and Roy were a welcome sight.They whisked us home along the new Waikato Expressway which certainly cuts time.
Stopped in Cambrige for coffee and noticed the cold keeping in mind that for the six weeks we were away the temperature had never been less than 30C.
The thermometer in our home showed only 10C so the fires were quickly lit.
Managed to last till about eight before crashing.
So ends this narrative.
Yesterday we had booked for a day trip to that well known bridge of the Burmah Railway fame so we got a 5.30 am wake up call and were waiting for the breakfast room to open.
At 6.30 we were collected and like yesterday were taken to central depot.Already the traffic was heavy..
There are 10 million people in Bangkok,2 million motor bikes,300000 taxis ones with four wheels.three wheels and even two wheels.To ease traffic problems there is the beginning of an underground and an elevated railway.
Bangkok and its slurbs seem to stretch enlessly interspersed with cultivation almost up to the our destination.
Our first stop was one of the three war cemeteries at the River Kwae,not as we know it Kwai.
It is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and its the best cemetery we have ever seen,lawns immaculate and a plant between each headstone.We were taken to the grave of one of only two Kiwis buried there.The people buried there are mainly Dutch,English and Australian.
Across the road was The Death Museum all about the construction of that infamous railway that claimed so many lives not only Europeans but also Asians who tend to be forgotten.The irony is that the railway was of limited benefit to the Japanese.
We had a buffet lunch in a restaurant overlooking the bridge,a spicy repast followed by fresh fruit and tea.
Now on to the Tiger Temple a rehabilitation project for that very much endangered species run by Budhist monks and volunteers from all over the world who give their time in return for board and lodgings.The abott met us with one of the tigers in tow not on a leash.As we walked to The Canyon where we find more tigers each of us walked with the unfettered cat who allowed us to stroke it.
There were at least 8 or 9 tigers in a canyon,no fences,no leashes.no cattle prods just the abbott quitly talking to the animals.
While the rest of us stayed behind a rope those who were game enough were taken by the hand and wondered among the relaxing animals who had obviously had a a good feed in the morning.Another attendant took photos to record the encounter for posterity.
Being a natural coward I forewent the pleasure but Maria was right into it.
Out last stop was "the bridge" and as we arrived a train which had left Bangkok early in the morning was trundling back across the bridge.We walked across to the other side.Realised at this stage that our digital camera was approaching its capacity so were a little more selective.
On the way back to our hotel traffic was so bad that it had taken us 30 minutes to move 500 meters.The tour guide suggested that as it would take us another hour to reach the hotel by road and if we did not mind a 10 min.walk he would escort us to the hotel as his apartment is in the vicinity.
No problem said we so off we went through very narrow alleys and streets,no shops but little factories open to the road making clothes,shoes,repairing motorbiles etd.As our tour guide told us the average tourist does not see this.We even bought some shusi from a Japanese street hawker.Our guide pointed out an over bridge which would take us direct to the hotels mezzanine floor.We were glad to get back into an air conditioned environment.
After a tidy up we repaired to the Gallery Bar for our complimentary drink then spent time in the Lobby Bar talking to a couple from Palmerston North.It had been a long,busy but fascinating day.
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
There were long queues at passport control and we ran into a spot of bother.You see in the plane they gave us an arrival and departure card not telling us that you fill in one but do not detach the other which I had done.The guy who had obviously had a bad hair day asked for the departure card.When I told him I was arriving not departing he got snarky and told me I would have to get the required bit of paper.So where do I get it I asked him.I do not know was the curt reply.Things got a bit hot when I asked him how was I supposed to get that blasted form if he was not going to tell me where to find it.A female official made her entrance at this stage and poured oil on troubled waters by producing the pukka chit and the guy stapled it into my passport and waved me through.As I passed him I apologised and he answered with a smile.Face had been saved
In the meantime Maria had gone downstairs to collect a trolley for our cases.
Collected our bags and headed for the exit where we saw our name displayed and were whisked to our hotel in Central Bangkok in air conditioned comfort. Traffic was heavy and to us seemed chaotic with trucks,utes cars,tuk tuks and swarms of moterbikes.
We were lucky that our room was available and we crashed at 9am for two hours much needed sleep.Previously we had confimed our prebooked city and temples tour.Found a very good coffee shop in a shopping mall attached to the hotel so a good start to our short stay in Thailand.
After a quick snack we got on a bus to be taken to central depot where people from other hotels joined us.Noted that lots of people were wearing yellow t shirts and there were lots of Thai and royal flags as well as numerous photos of the king stuck on buildings,shop fronts,along the motorways and city streets.Today was the 60th anniversary of ascension to the throne so a great display of loyalty for the monarch.
Our tour visited a number of fabulous Budhist temples so well maintained.One had a sitting Budha comprising 5.5 tonnes of solid gold.It was discovered by builders in 1954 encased in concrete to keep its real composition hidden from the Japanese.In another temple we saw a 27m long reclining Budha.Learned all about the Garuda the half man half bird seen on the top of temples to protect it.Drove through China Town with its myriad gold shops,also candle shops selling all sizs up to 2 meters in height,clothing shops etc etc.After our return to the hotel went shopping in the heat.One small shop after another all bidding us to buy,buy which we did.
We then had our evening in a small eatery where the menu was limited but the food was great and so was the price.For $4 NZ we got two big plates off a pork dish and a big bottle of beer.Delicious.
Got some clothes for our grandchildren and a wheeled cabin bag for Maria.Back at the hotel enjoyed a cocktail and being entertained by the piano man.Early to bed
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
We were up shortly after 4 before the wake up call.Even had time to make a cuppa.Down to the lobby with the Cubans and Billy Nettles and soon David turned up so we were all present.From reception we got a packed breakfast,into the van and to the airport through mostly deserted streets with only groups of young party animals heading home after a Saturday night out.Very quiet at the airport so check in a breeze and our cases were checked through to Bangkok.
Went upstairs to have our breakfast,not something to write home about.Saw a middle aged guy come running up and asking in broken English if we had seen his passport or tickets.When we said no he was off again at a half trot to return a little late looking a lot brighter.At the bottom of my backpack he admitted sheepishly.He said down for a chat and he ate most if not all our unwanted food.He told us he was a Romanian working in BC Canada as fitter turner for an Romanian company.He had recently suffered a hernia and was of work for three months so decide to go home as his wife did not have residency in Canada.He told us that his daughter and her husband both university graduates law and engineering could not find work and were keen to get out of the country preferably to Germany or France.
Boarded the Malev plane for the flight to Rome and got served a good breakfast.On the bus from the plane to the terminal spoke to an Hungarian who recognised our NZ accent and opined that we are very difficult to understand as we tend to speak fast and not pronounce our words properly.He is dead right of course.
To while away a six hour wait we walked several times from one end of Terminal C to the other dodging people on cell phones oblivious of the rest oof the world,trolleys,running kids the whole catastrophy as only found at an Italian airport.
Found out our plane would leave from the new Terminal C and that it could be reached by a shuttle.Eventually got an answer that made sense.Go down to that end of the terminal take the first left exit you see,up the stairs and there is only one shuttle,an automatic train.Had some coffee and it was good but expense,you would expect that at an airport captive market and all that.
Took the 2min shuttle to the new terminal to meet an even more chaotic scene.Now I am sure some whizkid architect may well have received first prize from the International Federation of Air Terminal Designers but as a practical place to dispatch international travellers it was an absolute disaster.Roughly a dimond shape with departure gate around the periphery and in the centre it was an a nightmare for passengers to move as there were no departure lounges as such attached to each gate but when the boarding call was announced people simply rushed(Europeans regard queues as something to jump not join),by rights they should be good at playing rugby but pushing kids or frail old people out of the way is a little different from tackling a 120kg loosey.rhe gate complete blocking access for other passengers to find theit departure gate.Only in Italy!!!!
Eventually we got aboard a stinking hot vintage Jumbo Jet ie we had to crane our neck to see the only screen available and the three rows in front of us had a wall to look at.As wel the sound system was on the blink for a while.Eventually we got underway and the aircon kicked in. Its a long haul to Bangkok but some good food a wine or two and a few hours sleep broke the boredom of long haul flying.It must have been around midnight and we were somewhere over India when there was an almighty screeching,grounching noise accompanied by a kerosene smell.In an instanrt everyone was alert.a young girl in the seat in front of us let out a scream but otherwise no reaction.One of the crew walked through the cabin telling us not to worry the captain was checking.Eventually the smell and the noise disappeared,we never got an explanation but the plane never lost speed or altitude so we came to the conclusion that maybe one the four engines had given up the ghost.
One more bit of excitement was seen on the port side where we were sitting.Way to the north of us we could see an enormous electrical storm.Huge lighting bolts lit up the sky,a fantastic sight and it lasted for about 15 minutes before we left it behind so it must have been huge for we were travelling at over 900kph.
Breakfast was served before we descended to Bangkok early in the morning
Location: Budapest., Hungary
A day where the temperature was alittle more bearable,even some rain
As usual on the road around 8 and a 2.5 hr drive to the town of Oradea.not far from the Hungarian border.It is actually a city 180000 inhabitants.We were dropped at McDonalds for they always have clean toilets very important in parts of Europe.We walked along a pedestrian mall in progress to the centre.Enjoyed window shopping and had a more than decent cappacino which are few and far between.It was so good we had another one on the way back.Took photographs of the river om the bank of which was a magnificent synagogue,ate our luch the back to the bus.No hassles going through border control though our tour guide thought the Hungarian chappy was having lunch and hated to be interrupted. Back in the country where we had started our tour almost two weeks ago.On to Budapest along roads a bit like the parsons egg,good in parts.Like many other former communist countries the roading infrastructure is under pressure from too many cars and heavy transport.Our hotel in Budapest was on the northside of the Danube in Buda.Checked in and organised a wake up call for 4.15 in the morning then went lookng for an eatery.Met one of the tour group who told us she had just had a goulash soup to die for so we found the place and agreed with her.Also had a giro,pita bread shaped into a cone and filled with meat,chips all sorts of things and topped with a dressing.Delicious. On our walk to the eatery had passed a church with a wedding party on the steps so took some photos,on the way back paid a visit as it was Catholic one.Mass was just past the sermon so stayed till the end then back to the hotel for an early sleep.
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Now there are Irish Pubs everywhere but we found a Scottish Pub in Pest.
At breakfast one day David West retired and from Florida (where else) He was keen to get home and watch the College World Series.A World Series eh said I .How many countries are taking part said I innocently.I beg tour pardon he said and I think for the first time the silliness of one country only being at a world series dawned on him.
In Serbia we saw a bus with passengers still in their seats sitting in a shallow lake.One of our group suggested the engine had become overheated and what better way to cool it in 38 degrees heat.
In Sofia we saw a truck wadged up against a tree and another vehicle trying in vain to extracate it.
In the same town we saw a five vehicle pile up.
In Romania on the way to Sinaia there was an almighty bang from the back of the bus and the ride suddenly became very bumpy.The bus was stopped and the driver did an inspection but declares all OK.That night as we preparing to go out for dinner the driver arrived at the hotel looking very grubby.Turned out one of the air suspension bags had burst but he got it fixed.
In one hotel room we found that the air con was not working so we changed rooms.By this time we had unoacked and everything was threwn round the room but with the help of the porter we got everything moved down the corridor.Maria discovered that she was missing a pair of earrings so the porter went down to reception to get a card so we could have a look at our old room,no luck.The following morning we spotted the room cleaning crew who again checket even tearing open the vacuum cleaner bag to search.No luck.However as we left we were gien an envelope with the missing articles.
As we sat in the bus waiting to depart on hotel the tour guide approached me and said that reception would like to speak to me.Seems there was an unpaid bill for our room.Seems someone either accidently or maliciously had charged food and drink to our room.There was no signarue so easy to say no way,and it was left at that
You can tell how much drinks in a hotel, are goning to cost by the size of the lobby ie the bigger the lobby the higher the prices.Found one ideal hotel in Cluj Napoca Romania where the bar was in fact open to the public so very cheap drinks.