Greetings! Now that I have something to actually write about (three weeks in Thailand and Cambodia), here I am posting again. Maybe I'll even continue after I finish my write-up!
You can see all my pictures from the trip at flickr, and read on for the first installment of my notes.
Suvarnabhumi Airport, the new international airport in Bangkok, is a massive complex, but you exit out of Customs into a space that feels cramped; this is mostly due to the large mass of greeters and touts waiting at the exit. Every guide book will tell you the same thing: unless you're actually part of a tour group that is being greeted, head straight for the official taxi stand, which is on the first floor. On the way, there will certainly be friendly official-looking people with clipboards asking you where you're going; these people should be politely brushed off unless you feel like paying twice what you should for a taxi ride to your hotel. You're going to be saying no to a lot of tuktuk drivers as you make your way about the city, so take it as valuable practice.
As I had been up for about 25 hours by the time I landed, I was reasonably impressed that I managed to negotiate this and get a proper metered taxi; the awake-but-out-of-it feeling was probably the best state of mind for the 140 km/hr ride to the hotel where my friend Paul, who I'd be travelling with for the next 2 weeks, was already staying. Head finally hit pillow about midnight local time, which was about 10am according my body.
Aside from a couple typical stops (Golden Palace, Reclining Buddha), we don't hit a lot of the main tourist attractions in our two days in Bangkok, choosing instead to wander and see the city. A few highlights from doing just this:
- Our first night, we went east over across Chao Phraya river via the Krungthon bridge, and all the streets were flooded. The steps off the bridge lead into an alleyway that looked into someone's livingroom; the room was covered with about six inches of water, and a man lay on his couch watching TV.
- Also at the tail end of the bridge, I spotted a place named 'Joan of Arc Business Administration School'. Sadly, my picture of this ends up not turning out.
- The tail end of the rainy season produces some truly impressive storms (and we Vancouverites know from rain); unlike Vancouver it remains very warm and is pleasant to walk in, especially with a rain poncho that removes any worries about your camera equipment getting wet.
- There are markets everywhere, usually right on the sidewalks. There tend to be a numbing sameness to them, really (red bull tshirts, yellow we-love-the-king shirts, silk, buddhas, tasty fried snacks), but on the second day we came across a market that seemed to specialize in false teeth and large wooden phalluses.
- Thanks to Paul deciding on a whim that he needed a haircut, we learned that Bangkok barbers still use straight razors (and rather deftly).
- There is a riverboat stop along Chao Phraya that will sell you a bag of fish food for 20 Baht so you can feed the hundreds of catfish that live there. The feeding frenzy that results pushes some fish completely out of the water; this is strangely compelling.
- There are few things I enjoy when visiting a strange place than just sitting in a cafe watching life go by: