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Colin and Sue’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 06 May 2007

Location: Bangkok, Thailand

MapOur journey to Bangkok was very simple - it's all set up to make it really easy for travellers here with co-ordinated transport - not like the UK at all. We booked a joint boat/train ticket through an agent. Everywhere advertises "joint tickets" but we were surprised that the boat was actually called "Joint Ticket." The agent sorted out transport to the port; we upgraded to VIP on the boat (for about 40p) which got us comfy reclining seats and two DVDs to watch and a coach met us off the boat and took us to the train station.

We had met Lorraine from England who was also catching our train at our spa visit so we had something to eat with her before getting our first ever sleeper train. There was just one carriage (which got attached to a larger train at some stage) with double bunks along the length of the train rather than in compartments. The beds were made up when we got on with clean sheets and pillowcases and in the morning the lower bed converted to two seats and the top folded away. As we booked late we had two upper berths - the lower ones go first as they're bigger and by the window. They were quite comfortable though and much better than sleeping on an overnight bus.

Thai trains have a pretty good reputation but we arrived late -that worked out well as we got in at 7.30am rather than 6am so went for breakfast with Lorraine before going to our first choice hotel (Soi Rambutri Village Inn). Most of the budget type places don't take advance phone bookings and will only take internet bookings with several days notice. We've no idea how they sort any bookings since everyone pays day by day and they don't know you're leaving until you do. It's an astonishingly busy place with people coming and going all day - which is not surprising as the location is central but quiet (just near Khao San Road - the main backpacker haunt in Bangkok) and the rooms are good. Consequently it's best to arrive at check out time as we did and were able to check straight in just as the rooftop pool opened so we had a swim before setting out to brave Bangkok taxis and buy a new camera which took nearly all day.

Next day we decided to try the camera out on some sightseeing so went to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (wat = temple) which is a joint site. Unfortunately the palace was closed as it was the anniversary of the King's coronation and he was coming for a ceremony - we hung around for a bit but no-one seemed to know when he would arrive and it was really hot so we headed for the wat. It was very impressive but undergoing restoration work so we could only glimpse the famous (but small) Emerald Buddha. Suitable dress is required (no shorts, vests etc) and we thought sandals were out as well so wore our trainers for the first time in months - hot or what. Hard to imagine wearing proper shoes again - we live in sandals and flip-flops. In fact sandals are OK but the place was full of farangs like us in proper shoes. After this we took the ferry up and down the river to cool down - definitely the best way to travel around Bangkok and avoid the traffic jams.

We are really enjoying Thai food and Bangkok is no exception. We go for fusion breakfasts -delicious fruit plus muesli and yoghurt or toast or muffins - although cornflakes and full English breakfasts are available everywhere (and we even saw Weetabix one day), pad thai or similar noodle dish for lunch and wonderful curries at night. The fruit is great - perfectly ripe pineapples everywhere and more mangoes as they come into season. Khao San Road is full of food stalls with lots selling prepared mango and sticky rice. We go for straight mango which means the mango is peeled and cut before you (all very hygienic with a latex gloved hand holding the mango) so we don't worry about the "peel fruit yourself" sort of advice. Drinks are pretty good too - especially lassis with fresh fruit - we always have the ice now and seem to survive. The beer's not bad either, although it's not wise to have too many Changs (6.5% alcohol) - oddly, though this is the cheapest beer it is also the strongest so the drink of choice for the younger backpacker - we stick to Singha or Tiger.