Archive for the 'Bangkok' Category

River Cruise, Bangkok Thailand

Thursday 29th December 2005.

At 2pm I met my driver for the afternoon in the hotel lobby. He then set off to a nearby hotel to pick up six English tourists who were also doing the same cruise. An exciting – sometimes breathtaking – fifty minute drive through the traffic of Bangkok ended at the river wharf. We had to wait for about ten minutes before boarding one of Thailand’s famous long boats for an hour long cruise.

Amazing Boats

These boats are incredible. The engines are huge and seem to be more suited to a bus or truck. They are mounted in such a way that the operator (captain?) is able to easily move a handle that swivels the whole engine and the attached long propeller shaft – often 3 – 4 metres long – in order to steer the craft. These great engines are noisy, smelly and powerful, pushing the boat along at a great rate. Sometimes they seem to reach speeds of 40 – 60 kph, depending on the traffic, water conditions and the load.

Transfer to a Wooden River Boat

On our cruise we didn’t reach those speeds but putted along at about 15 – 20 kph taking in the unfolding scenes along the bank. Part way along the motor stopped and we drifted towards the bank for about ten minutes. Eventually the driver managed to restart the motor. After the first hour of the cruise we transferred to another boat for the return journey. This was a much slower, older and more ornate wooden craft. We were served delicious fruit drinks and afternoon tea consisting of a wide variety of local fruits.

Birding in Bangkok

On the cruise I actually saw a few birds. I saw about 8 different species but haven’t yet identified all of them. (Post-script: the list includes House Sparrow, Rock Dove, Spotted Turtledove, Common Myna, Great Egret, Brown Headed Gull, House Crow and Barn Swallow. The last 3 listed are first ever sightings for me, ie “lifers”. All the others I have seen in Australia.)

Social Contrasts

The cruise was interesting and quite fascinating. The river lays bare the huge social and economic gaps in this country. Tall, towering and very expensive condominiums have been built alongside broken down, decrepit shanties almost collapsing into the water.


The river also highlights the proliferation of Buddhist temples in this city. Our guide said that one tourist city in northern Thailand has far more temples than coffee shops. He also said that he feels sad about all the temples. Most Thais, he said, are very poor and very superstitious and give large proportions of their money to the temple priests. He went on to say that they did it for good luck. He said that the money was usually spent on things like gold for temple decorations rather than helping the really poor and needy.

My First Day in Bangkok, Thailand

Thursday 29th December 2005

When I awoke I was very confused. I did not expect the sun to be shining in my window. For the next three days I was constantly confused by directions. That’s what comes from arriving in a strange city in the middle of the night.

First Non-Australian Bird

After showering and shaving I went downstairs for a lovely breakfast. The restaurant used for breakfast was open aired with a roof. While having breakfast I saw my first Thailand bird; a humble House Sparrow hopping around my feet. The choice of food for breakfast was great and it all tasted delicious. I had grilled tomato, fried rice and potato. I finished off with a very sweet banana, much sweeter than the bananas we are used to at home.

Tour Bookings

After breakfast I went downstairs to confirm my flight out and the time of the hotel pick up for Sunday. While I was at the Tour East desk I picked up a map of Bangkok. Later I also confirmed my tours for Friday and Saturday. I had booked those two tours on the internet before leaving home. I have three very early starts ahead of me catching buses at 7am, 6:15am and 7:45am. Early nights are in order.

First Impressions of Bangkok

Mid morning I went for a stroll down a nearby street. Three to four lanes of chaotic traffic and no lights means one uses the pedestrian overpass bridges to cross the street. To attempt anything else is to court disaster. It’s too busy.

I was amazed at the trade being conducted on the footpath. Every available space is utilized for selling an amazing range of goods including many food stalls. There was barely enough room for two people to pass. I managed to find a small supermarket selling bottled water.

At lunch time I used the Botanica Restaurant in the hotel. It has a lovely atmosphere with plenty of food to choose from buffet style. I ate there again tonight for dinner. Some of the food is quite spicy (for my taste) but still bearable.

In Bangkok, Thailand

Arrival in Bangkok

We touched down at 10:20pm local time (1:50am S.A. time). The airport here is enormous! I didn’t count the planes as we taxied, but it must have been well over a hundred, maybe many more. It took 20 minutes to taxi to a stop, 15 minutes by bus to the terminal and then another 30 minutes through immigration. It only took 60 seconds to find my luggage. I was thankful to Simon for giving me a blue and purple strap for my case. It made the nondescript black suitcase really stand out. That plus the bright yellow Peregrine tag (provided by my travel agent) made it easy to identify it quickly.

Humid Bangkok

Customs was just an easy walk straight through as I had nothing to declare. Next I was faced with finding the mini-bus driver from Tour East to take me to the hotel. At first I missed the man holding the sign with my name on it. Eventually we met up and headed off to the hotel. On emerging from the airport buildings one is immediately hit by the heat and humidity of Bangkok, even near midnight.

Crazy City

Bangkok at midnight is crazy. The freeway in to the hotel is three lanes of death wish drivers! I was relieved to arrive safely. (Post-script: if only I knew what was in store for me in Nepal I would not have been at all concerned!) Check in took but a few minutes and after a quick shower I fell into bed at 1:30am (5am in S.A.) I woke at 3 o’clock with a sudden fright. I thought I’d slept until 3pm, but when I opened the curtain it was still dark. I’d only slept for an hour and a half. I soon went back to sleep and managed a few hours of good sleep before breakfast.

Off to Bangkok Thailand

Wednesday December 28th 2005

This morning I had just a few last minute things to pack before my overseas trip to Thailand and Nepal. It is my first trip overseas. I anticipate it being very exciting, challenging and culturally different. I successfully tried to keep a lid on my emotions. This was one of the biggest and most challenging things I have ever attempted but I must keep rational and level headed.

Adelaide Airport

Just before 11am we set off to drive to Adelaide. Simon drove us in the hire car they were using while on holiday here in South Australia. It took us little over an hour to get to the Adelaide Airport. Once there I checked in and then we bought a light snack for lunch. Soon the time came to board the aircraft and to say farewells to Corinne, Simon and Leanne. Again I kept my emotions and anticipations in check.

Rough Trip to Melbourne

I was not prepared for the slightly claustrophobic feel of the plane to Melbourne. The sudden acceleration was also something I hadn’t experienced before. There were some quite turbulent periods during the flight, especially over the Grampians I think. I didn’t have a good window view being in an aisle seat.

Melbourne International Airport

I eventually found my way to the Melbourne International Terminal and checked in for the flight to Bangkok. There was a small delay because I hadn’t received a baggage coupon at Adelaide Airport. The woman at the desk had to do it manually. I didn’t have to worry about my suitcase as it was being automatically forwarded to Bangkok. The passport check-in took another 15 minutes because there was quite a line up. I then headed for the waiting lounge and found a seat for the 90 minute wait for boarding.

Long Flight to Bangkok

At 5pm the Thai Airlines plane started boarding and the plane was under way on time a 5:30pm (Victorian time). The nine hour journey to Bangkok was long and tiring. The seat was reasonably comfortable but it was far noisier in the cabin than I had anticipated. I really felt for the parents of two children three rows in front of me. They had a 4 year old and a one year old. The younger one was very tearful and grizzly but thankfully for everyone he went to sleep about an hour into the flight, giving everyone, especially his mother about six hours of peaceful respite.

The cabin crew was good and kept plying us with food and drinks. An hour or so into the flight we were given dinner. I didn’t really need as much water as Simon had suggested. He has to take quite a quantity of water on his international trip because the plane air conditioning dehydrates him too much. An hour or so out of Bangkok we were given another meal. I am not used to eating at midnight but I was thankful later because breakfast was a long way off. This is because of the three and a half hour time difference between home and Thailand.

The flight was uneventful, the best kind according to Rose. We had a few bumps over central Australia, Bali, Borneo and Vietnam. These short bits of turbulence were nothing dramatic, merely a little inconvenience. After the unpleasant trip to Melbourne this was smooth most of the way.