In order to meet with the new group, I first had to make my way to Thailand.
This was done in the relatively simple manner of changing an existing flight with Air Asia. Air Asia who are specialists in extracting the maximum out of the customer. Cost of a new booking? £58. Cost to change my existing booking? £56.
The flight was simple and comfortable, and I arrived in Bangkok with no issues.
I took a cab to my hotel which was next to the infamous Koh San Road and checked in. My new room mate for the next couple of weeks had already checked in before me, but turned up not long afterwards.
The introductions were made and we quickly decided to head out for a pint and a chat.
We returned later suitably refreshed and attended the introductory meeting, which was pretty much as awkward as any other first meeting.
We headed out onto the street and went for dinner as a group. I had a great Ped Pannag, which is my favourite Thai dish at home. It tasted great, but the major difference between this and home was the price. With a large Singha beer, the bill was around £2.50. After Singapore and parts of Malaysia it was great to be paying those kind of prices again.
Most of the group retired early, but three of us decided to go for a walk around Koh San and have a couple of beers whilst we got to know each other.
The next morning we were up at 8am to take a look around Bangkok. All of the others had arrived at least a day ahead of me and had already gained their bearings. I would only be in Bangkok for this day, but I think that I will have returned another three times before I finally leave Asia at the end of the year.
We walked from the hotel down to the Chao Phraya River where we rented a long-tail boat to take us on a trip up and down the river.
The Long-Tails are a shallow canoe style narrowboat, with a very large outboard engine attached. They skim the water rather than cut through it, meaning that any chop results in the craft bouncing around quite violently, but also means that they are lot of fun.
We followed the river and took in the surroundings of the people living and working alongside it. It is most certainly a working river as barges containing pretty much everything from rubbish to cranes slipped past us.
We stopped at one point alongside a small temple where the water appeared to be boiling as it churned and bubbled. Closer inspection revealed this to be the work of hundreds of catfish that frequent the waters. The catfish are fed by the temple and they swarmed as bread was thrown to them. As we were sat so low in the water, we could see the change in the surface pattern as more and more fish realised what was happening and started to make their way upstream towards us.
We finished our river trip near Wat Pho Temple, and then made the short walk to the temple.
The temple is stunning, it dates back to the the 16th century making it the oldest of Bangkoks temples. It also claims the record as the largest.
It is most famous for its reclining buddha which is 46 meters longs. The buddha itself is impressive, but most people just seemed to take a look at the statue ans move on. They seemed to miss the incredible details of the paintings and mother of pearl inlays that covered the base of the Buddha. When you consider the size of the paintings where the figures were barely more than an inch, the shear work that was needed to cover the entire base is incredible.
The remainder of the temple is just as fascinating. Pagoda spires around 5 or six meters high dominate the views. Four large spires, much higher than all the others mark the resting place of former kings. This area is surrounded by a long winding corridor which is lined with golden Buddha statues.
Wat Pho is also famous for having trained the original masseurs, and there is still a school there today. It is possible to have a massage, but I didn’t take up the opportunity.
As we had an afternoon train to catch, we decided to start making our way back to the hotel. We took a tourist boat, which stopped were we caught our long-tail that morning.
As we started walking thunder and lightning started to crash overhead. We went to the bar we had visited last night to grab some dinner and no sooner had we done this, then the heavens opened.
Later in the afternoon we caught taxis to the railway station. I was given the money for the taxi I was in, and the driver tried to keep all the change – which would have been 40THB for a 60THB ride. He took the 100THB note and pocketed it with “ah, tip thank you” and went to get back into the car. I walked after him and asked for the change, which he then handed over with a big smile on his face. He’d been being cheeky and we both knew it. I just wonder how many time he goes away with a ‘big tip’.
The train journey was bouncy but pleasant enough. The sleeper carriage was pretty much the same as the Amtrak sleepers I had used when I crossed America.
The carriage is laid out with 2 facing seats on each side, an this is repeated down each side. The two seats then slide and join together to make the bottom bunk, whilst the top bunk unfolds from the ceiling and then given extra security with some leather straps. For a final touch, curtains are hung on rails for both bunks to provide a little privacy.
Because it was dark when we left, we really didn’t get to see all that much. But we chatted and had a pleasant meal delivered to our seats. They made up the beds at 8:30 which seemed a little early, but most people turned in. The of us however walked the entire length of the train and had a beer in the restaurant carriage before we turned in for the night.