Friday, January 30, 2009

Bangkok Trip (21 Jan 2009 - 26 Jan 2009)

Day 1

Wednesday, 21 Jan 2009

We took the Air Asia 4pm+ flight AK886 to Bangkok. The journey was quite smooth - no delay, no ridiculously long queues - but the Kuala Lumpur LCCT was too crowded as usual.

Having a Drink at McDonald's at LCCT

We waited at the airport for more than two hours. Luckily, the flight was on-time. We arrived at Bangkok around 5:30pm Bangkok time (that's 6:30pm Malaysia time). We checked into Best Western Mayfair Hotel at Pratunam, where we made reservations online weeks ago. The rates were rather good (around RM130 per night for a double room), and the hotel was still new, so everything inside was clean and bright. I forgot to take pictures of the room interior, but rest assured it was really clean and comfortable - something we very much appreciated after a long day out walking in the busy Bangkok city.

That night after checking into our hotel, we went straight to Suan Lum Night Bazaar for dinner and shopping. I bought a pair earrings (80 baht) and a pair of sandals (200 baht). To my horror, I realised after returning to our hotel that the salesgirl gave me different left and right shoes! That was the beginning of my series of unfortunate events in Bangkok. Actually, that was the second unfortunate event since the beginning of the trip. The first one was kinda too personal to reveal here, so let's just leave it as that.

Day 2
Thursday, 22 Jan 2009

We started the day with our complimentary breakfast at our hotel. The food was alright. They had the usual pancakes, sausages, omlettes, breads, fried rice, vegetable salad, fruits, cornflakes, milk, coffee, tea, orange juice, and some other varieties. Breakfast starts at 6:00am and ends at 10:00am.

Since the hotel was located a distance away from the main roads (where taxis can be flagged), they provide free tuk-tuk service to the main roads. This was where we had our first tuk-tuk ride.

Free Tuk-tuk Service by Best Western Mayfair Hotel

Once we reached the main road, we began our walk across the city towards our first destination - The Grand Palace. We knew it was going to be a long walk, but we figured we would be able to see more things by walking.

Here are some photos taken during the walk to The Grand Palace.

Powerpoint on Trees

More Powerpoint on Trees

Bangkok Cables

More Bangkok Cables

Mobile Stall Selling Brooms and Mops

Traffic Stopping for a Passing Train

Resting on a Roadside Bench

Random Bangkok Street

One thing we noticed was the number of 7-11 outlets they have in Bangkok. In the above picture, there is one of them. Right accross the road from where we took this picture, there was another 7-11 outlet! That's one on each side of the road!

Democracy Monument

The Grand Palace View from Outside

Upon reaching The Grand Palace, we were approached by many tuk-tuk drivers saying that the palace won't be open until 2:00pm, and they offered to take us to other places of interest until the palace is open. We have read about swindlers outside the Grand Palace trying to lure tourists, so we ignored them - at first. When we found that they can bring us to many other places of interest with just 40 baht per tuk-tuk (that's 80 baht for two tuk-tuks, since there were six of us), we figured it was a rather good deal. Even if they did swindle us, it was just RM8. So we decided to let them bring us to the three recommended places of interest - a 150-year-old temple, the 50m-tall Standing Buddha, and the Golden Mountain.

The first destination was a flop because it was not open when we reached there, and it did not open after waiting for nearly 30 minutes. I did play with some of the cats there, though. Here's a picture of one drinking water, while cautiously peeking at me to make sure I kept my distance.

Cat Drinking Water

So we asked the tuk-tuk drivers to bring us to our next destination - the Standing Buddha. But then they told us that there was a "Thai expo" which sells cheap "stuff". Since we could hardly understand each other due to language barriers, we thought they were referring to some Thai market similar to the Chatuchak Day Market. So we agreed to let them bring us there. However, the place turned out to be a jewelry store selling Thai's local jewelries and stones. We were not interested to buy such things, so we got back onto our tuk-tuks, expecting to be ferried to the Standing Buddha this time. But the tuk-tuk drivers were not satisfied. They wanted to bring us to
another "Thai expo". This time, we insisted that we did not intend to buy any such jewelries. The tuk-tuk drivers then explained that by sending us there, they get free fuel coupons, even if we just spend 10 minutes inside the shop. We decided to do them the favour, thinking that we just need to spend 5 or 10 minutes inside. But this time, Mom bought something - a ring with her birthstone - and we spent more than 30 minutes inside the shop. The shop was actually a combination of a workshop and a showroom. In the workshop, they have the craftswomen and craftsmen working on the jewelries and stones to produce the final products, which were sold in the showroom next door.

A Craftsmen Working on a Series of Rings

With Mom's purchase, the tuk-tuk drivers finally brought us to our originally intended destination - the Standing Buddha. There was some rather extensive construction work going on around the Standing Buddha, so we didn't get to fully experience the awe of the sacred place.

50-metre tall Standing Buddha

Then we went to the Golden Mountain, where we climbed some long staircases to the top of it, where a temple lies. From the top of the Golden Mountain, we could see the Bangkok city. Nothing too spectacular, though, due to the hazy atmosphere.

Finally, the tuk-tuks brought us back to the Grand Palace. By the time we reached the Grand Palace for the second time, it was already 3:15pm. We hurried into the palace because the tickets stop selling at 3:30pm (but the palace remains open till 5:30pm).

Here are some photos taken inside the Grand Palace.

Wat Phra Kaew, which Contains the Emerald Buddha

Another Picture in Wat Phra Kaew

In Front of Chakri Mahaprasad Hall

Garden in Front of Chakri Mahaprasad Hall

We came out of the Grand Palace around 5:30pm. We were hungry and tired. So we walked to a nearby market looking for food. Along the way, I saw some really cute shirts with elephant prints on them, so I bought one for myself for just 120 baht.

Food-wise, we found this:

Fried Cockcroaches

Of course, we found something more acceptable to eat. After dinner, we went straight home for some much needed rest. After shower and rest, we went out again and this time, we walked to Siam, which was Bangkok's equivalent to Jalan Bukit Bintang and Orchard Road. I wore my new shirt with elephant print, and I loved it instantly! It was very comfortable to wear and I really like the elephant motives printed on it.

We had supper at a foodcourt in Siam Paragon, where I found this gigantic wok:

Gigantic Wok

On our way back to hotel, we came across this stall selling the so-called Thailand's famous local delicacy - fried bugs. There were crickets and a variety of worms (or something that looked like worms). Lil' Bro chose this packet of worms (or caterpillars?).

Fried Bugs

I had just one piece. Tasted just like any
keropok (crackers). Basically, all I tasted was salt. Lil' Bro finished the rest of them.

Day 3
Friday, 23 Jan 2009

Day 3 started with our complimentary breakfast again. Our plan for the day was to visit the Vimanmek Mansion, which was included in our Grand Palace tickets. We decided to take tuk-tuks again. Much to our amusement, the tuk-tuk drivers wanted to bring us to yet another jewelry store. We figured since we had time and the tuk-tuk rates became much lower by making a stop at the jewelry store, we went ahead with it. This time, I bought a pair of earrings with my birthstone - the moonstone.

Moonstone Earrings: 1000 baht, from Gems Gallery, Bangkok

After leaving the jewelry store, the tuk-tuk drivers wanted to bring us to a tailor shop! We have heard about how cheap it is to make suits in Bangkok, and also, we still had plenty of time, so we went along again. This time, Lil' Bro made two pieces of shirts for only 1600 baht total - that's RM80 each shirt. We're talking about pure cotton, tailor-made shirts.

Finally, the tuk-tuks brought us to the Vimanmek Mansion, which was located in the Dusit Palace, where there were other museums and gardens to visit.

Here are some photos taken in the Dusit Palace:

In front of Vimanmek Mansion

In Front of Vimanmek Mansion

Notice the sarongs Mom and I were wearing, and the dorky-looking long pants my brothers were wearing. They were rented from the Vimanmek Mansion reception with fully refundable deposit to cover up legs (we were wearing short pants). I kinda like the sarongs. I feel like buying one for myself. But then again I thought, where the heck will I wear it to?

The Vimanmek Mansion was very interesting to visit, mostly because there was a tour guide that brought us around inside the mansion (which was where King Rama V, also known as King Chulalongkorn, stayed for about six years), explaining things inside the mansion. There was a strict no-photography rule inside the mansion, so no photos inside.

After the Vimanmek Mansion, we decided to take a walk around the Dusit Palace. We saw a huge-ass lizard swimming in a small river.

Huge-ass Lizard in Water

Then we saw another huge-ass lizard strolling on land.

Huge-ass Lizard on Land

One of the Buildings inside Dusit Palace. Name of Building Unknown.

Our next stop was the famous Khao San Road. Here are some photos taken at Khao San Road.

Khao San Road

Roadside Pad Thai Sold at Khao San Road

Orange Juice Stall

You can find this orange juice sold everywhere in Bangkok. It looks quite repulsive at first due to its extremely bright orange appearance. But it really is pure orange juice, and it's not from the normal kind of oranges. They use these locally produced small, greenish oranges that look like limes, and taste a bit like mandarin oranges. Excellent thirst quenchers!

From Khao San Road, we took tuk-tuks to Chinatown in Bangkok. The place was really busy and crowded, that there was hardly any chance to snap photos. From Chinatown, we took the MRT back to Ratchathewi to go back to our hotel.

Some MRT photos:

Probably the most popular MRT signboard of Bangkok. I just gotta have my very own snapshot.

The glass windows in the MRT were
this reflective!

It was rush hour, but this train was so empty because we got on at the first station of the MRT line.

Then we transfered to another train on another line...

Bangkok MRT during Rush Hour

That night, we went out again for supper at Suan Lum Night Bazaar. This time, we took taxis, as we were quite sick of tuk-tuks by then. I made a replacement of my sandals. The salesgirl could not find the other side of the sandals I wanted, so I had to choose another pair. Fine by me, since there were so many nice designs, I didn't know which ones to choose at the first place.

So that's one unfortunate event gotten over with. Another was about to happen, though. On our way back to hotel, we took the free tuk-tuk service from the main road into the hotel. My new shirt got caught on the tuk-tuk's side grills, and it tore my new-found favourite shirt! That's the second unfortunate event (or third, if you count the private one that I am not disclosing).

Day 4
Saturday, 24 Jan 2009

Day 4 was where everything went downhill. Big Bro's girlfriend and Lil's Bro woke up sick. We still went ahead with our plans for the day - visit to Ayuttheya. We hired a taxi for the whole day for just 1500 baht. The taxi driver was Mr. Decha.

Mr. Decha the Taxi Company Owner and Driver

We first stopped at this place called the Bang Pa-In Palace, which was on the way to Ayuttheya. Here are some photos taken at Bang Pa-In Palace:

Cute Elephant Sculptured Plants

Walkway into the Palace

Palace Compound

Palace Compound

Our next stop was this elephant farm where you can take elephant rides into Ayuttheya town for a stroll of about 30 minutes to one hour. We didn't take the ride because of the scorching hot sun. Lil' Bro and Big Bro's girlfriend were also really feeling worse by then.

We did take pictures with the animals there, though.

This was supposed to be a picture of me feeding the tiger (20 baht per feed). The picture ended up looking like I was giving the tiger a lesson.

One-Month Old Tiger Cub

We proceeded to Ayuttheya town, where we first had lunch and then walked to one of the most prominent temple ruins in Ayuttheya.

Ayuttheya Temple Ruin Entrace

Ayuttheya Temple Ruins Interior

Ayuttheya Temple Ruins - Top of Temple

Ayuttheya Temple Ruins - Walking Down

I truly enjoyed myself at Ayuttheya. I don't mean to disrespect the temples, but I couldn't help thinking that the ruins were excellent venues for paintball wars or games of hide-and-seek and treasure hunts.

The rest of the day, however, was simply horrible. I, too, fell really really sick (vomitting and cronic headaches). Big Bro was beginning to feel uneasy himself. Lil' Bro and Big Bro's girlfriend were already barely able to stand up. We had to cut short our program for the day and return to our hotel in the middle of the day. We ended up cancelling our program the next day too. All in all, we missed the Samut Prakan Crocodile farm, the Floating Market, and the Chatuchak Day Market.

So that was the fourth unfortunate event.

Day 5
Sunday, 25 Jan 2009

We did take some medicine the night before, and we slept through the day and night. So when we woke up on the morning of Day 5, we were feeling a lot better (still a bit weak, though). Feeling better, I got up to pack my stuff a bit. That was when I realised my fifth unfortunate event - I lost my mobile phone. After some in-depth recollection, I figured I must've dropped it in Mr. Decha's taxi. I approached the hotel receptionist for his number (none of us had his name card at the time). The receptionist was kind enough to call him up and ask him about it for me. To my relief, Mr. Decha said he did find my phone and that he would be returning it to me the next day when he came to fetch us to the airport. Although I was largely relieved to know the phone was found, I was still slightly worried as long as the phone was not back in my hands. I had questions like "I will be leaving Bangkok tomorrow early in the morning. What if he forgets to bring the phone? Will there be time for him to go back and get it?". So, for the rest of the day, I tried to think positive and hoped for the best.

And that was the fifth unfortunate event.

Mom and Dad (who happened to be the only ones unaffected by any illness) planned to go shopping that day. I decided to join them despite my slight uneasiness. I was feeling OK at first, but after a coupla hours, I began to feel the headache coming back. It was still bearable, though. The shopping was still great. I bought two bags (199 baht each), two pair of long pants (200 baht each), a T-shirt with South Park characters printed on it (99 baht), two long blouses (350 baht each), and three bottles of nail polish from Beauty Buffet (100 baht for 3).

We had Hainanese chicken rice for lunch. It did not taste like the Hainanese chicken rice I've had before, but it was alright. Then we went back to our hotel to rest (my headache was getting worse).

At about 6:00pm, we went out again for our reunion dinner. We decided to have something lighter and probably cleaner, due to our health situation. We chose a Japanese restaurant inside a shopping mall in Pratunam, within walking distance from our hotel. By that time, I was feeling better again.

Some photos taken at the reunion dinner:

Big Bro, his girlfriend, and Lil' Bro were sitting on an adjacent table.

Day 6
Monday, 26 Jan 2009

It was the first day of the Chinese New Year. I woke up at 5:45am Bangkok time and had just a glass of orange juice for breakfast. We had to be at the Suvarnabum Airport by 7:30am Bangkok time. Mr. Decha arrived at our hotel at 6:15am. The moment he passed me the mobile phone, I really felt like hugging him in gratitude. I had never been that relieved for a long time.

Sunrise on the Way to Suvarnabum Airport

When we reached Suvarnabum Airport, I gave Mr. Decha 100 baht as reward for returning my phone, and asked for his name card. I am posting it here to tell everyone reading this that Mr. Decha is a very honest man and if you ever go to Bangkok, please contact him for taxi and tour guide services. He was very friendly and helpful with us throughout our trip to Ayuttheya. Excellent service, highly recommended!

I'm posting this picture twice just to show how thankful I am to Mr. Decha. If he was a bit better looking, I think I would have fallen in love with him.

Finally, we boarded the Air Asia flight AK881 at 9:25am Bangkok time. The journey was rather hilarious because there was a group of Indians making a whole lot of noise, shouting between the front and back of the cabin. During the flight, they all gathered at the tail end of the cabin to gamble, making more noise along the way. They got lots of "shhhh" from other passengers. I could feel many were very irritated by them. I found the whole situation really funny, though, despite my bad air-sickness.

Aeroplane's View of Penang Island en route to KL

We arrived in KL LCCT two hours later, at about 12:30pm Malaysia time.


My experience at Bangkok was only so-so, but I am sure that if we had visited the Samut Prakan Crocodile farm and the Floating Market, the whole trip would have been much more memorable.