slice-of-thai.com Journal 2/17/00: Back in Bangkok

This is an entry from my travel journals about Thailand and Laos.

Support
This Site
I work on this site in my off hours. Please help me to push aside my day job and work on it more by supporting the site in one of these ways:
donate now   Donate Now
Use your credit card or PayPal to donate in support of the site.

get the best thai-english phrasebook app
Experience Thailand richly with my Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook app.
get the best thai-english dictionary app
Learn Thai with my Talking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary app for iOS, Android, Windows.
get a cool thai-english paper dictionary
Don't leave home without the Thai-English English-Thai Compact Dictionary I co-authored.
get thailand fever
I co-authored this bilingual cultural guidebook to Thai-Western romantic relationships.
get the best chinese phrasebook app
Visit China easily with my Talking Chinese-English-Chinese Phrasebook app.
get books or almost anything
Pick a Thai learning book from my list or buy anything at all from Amazon.

Feb 17 2000

Jan and Bruce liked Nang's tours so much that they arranged some more outside Khao Yai. But don't tell the feds! Guiding anywhere in Thailand requires expensive, sometimes site-specific, boon-doggle government "permits," the application process for which seems to involve 99% connections and 1% guiding competence. Nang saved up her money for 2 years and completed the several-month, all-Thailand guiding course, passing all tests, but was then refused the permit. The alleged reason was that she had filed one piece of paperwork two days late at the beginning of the course. The reality is almost certainly that someone, at some time, lost face and wanted to take it out on her.

Our first destination was Ayuthaya, the site of one of the Ancient capitals of Thailand. I had visited this place on my first trip (see earlier in journal) but we saw different temples and ruins this time. Nang showed us the proper way to make offerings to the Buddha at one temple. At some other temples, art students were making amazing studies of the structures in charcoal, watercolor, and other media. We visited the museum, which was definitely a welcome sight for Bruce, who found the pummeling Thai heat and humidity almost intolerable.

We boarded a longtail boat at Ayuthaya and took a long, cool boat trip to Bang Pa-In, the royal family's summer palace. Some parts of this palace are now a public museum and boast some amazing architecture. The windows, doors, walls, ceiling rafters, roof details, and furniture of one large red building were filled with incredibly detailed Chinese wood sculptures and paintings. Other buildings had European themes and priceless antique furniture. Canals and bridges divide the whole place up with an almost fairy-tale appeal. Some Thais believe unmarried couples who visit Bang Pa-In are bound to split up under bizarre circumstances, so maybe Nang and I are doomed now, but the curse must have a quite delayed reaction. We saw a water monitor lizard sunning itself by a canal. Including the tail, it was about 6 feet long!

The next stop was at a temple which we just referred to as the "stork wat." Hundreds, if not thousands, of storks of one particular species choose to nest in this small protected area, and just as many eco-tourists arrive by bus to ogle them with binoculars and telescopes. But with trees literally full of birds just a few feet in front of you, you hardly needed any help to see every aspect of stork life in action. It was the "where isn't Waldo?" of the nature world. Even Bruce and I could see the birds.

Finally we completed our route to Bangkok, where Bruce and Jan had purchased 4 nights at the ritzy Royal Orchid Sheraton hotel in the upscale Silom/Surawong district. Nang went back to Pak Chong for work. Bruce, Jan, and I wanted to check out a local Indian restaurant called Himali Cha-Cha, which Nang had recommended.

Exiting the hotel, I suddenly remembered why I hated getting a taxi in this part of town so much. The high proportion of farang tourists creates a reality distortion field where taxi drivers will fight not to use the meter, instead offering "great" fixed fares which are between 2 and 10 times what they should be. Every single time I wanted a taxi, I would have to go through the same ridiculous conversation: "Please use the meter." "No mee-tuh—I give you special price today—200 Baht cheaper than mee-tuh—traffic very bad today!" "Well, if 200 Baht is cheaper than the meter, why don't we use the meter!" At this stage the taxi driver would either get a confused look, loop back to the previous statement, or pass me on to the next taxi driver. I would generally have to repeat this ritual between 4 and 6 times before getting a taxi driver willing to use the meter. Often, I found that after 4 tries or so, the taxi drivers would realize that I was not the mark they were looking for, and would pass me on to younger taxi drivers parked on the street.

Eventually I found a meter taxi. The taxi driver repeatedly asked me if I wanted to go to a seafood restaurant, even though he clearly understood that I was looking for an Indian place named Himali Cha-Cha. Apparently, the seafood place was offering enormous commissions for bringing in foreign tourists, and drivers would use any excuse to bring their passengers. After stretching my Thai to the limit, circling around town a bit, and stopping to ask a tuk tuk driver, we found Himali Cha-Cha and had a pretty cool meal. We wandered randomly around town for a bit, Bruce and Jan retired to their hotel, and I went back to my (one-tenth as expensive) guesthouse.

Feb 18 2000

Today I went to various tourist destinations with Bruce and Jan. We visited the excellent English-language Asia Books bookstore in the World Trade Center shopping mall (in the Siam Area; there is an identical Asia books in the nearby Siam Center shopping mall!). We went to a store across from the World Trade Center which collects all of the traditional silk, ceramics, woodworking, weaving, sculpture, and nearly anything else you can find all over Thailand into one, air-conditioned, marked-up location. This three-story monster store is a gold mine for last-minute gifts before you head on your airplane home. Bruce and I visited Panthip plaza, a 6-story computer mega-market where you would probably have to search for hours through fifty stores to find music, videos, or software that wasn't pirated. For example, CDs were readily available for a few dollars which contained the 10 or 20 most popular commercial applications (totalling a few thousands of dollars). The common availability of the CD-ROM burner and inkjet color printer has created an entire second level of software sales in Thailand. Occasionally, the Thai and/or American government comes and "cleans out" these places but, like Napster, all the same titles return in a matter of days.

That evening, we wanted to check out the Mango Tree restaurant. Against my better judgment, we had the hotel staff find us a taxi. They quickly stuffed us into a cab and off we went—to the seafood restaurant! Since none of us had ever been to the Mango Tree, it took us a few minutes to realize that we had been intentionally misdirected to this place so the cab driver could get a few hundred baht (significantly higher than the cab fare) commission. My impression is that the cab driver gets some of the commission whether or not we choose to eat there. To this day, I don't know whether the hotel staff was in on the scam as well; they were quite fluent in English so it was clear that this was not a simple misunderstanding. The cab driver was (strangely enough!) still around when we exited the restaurant and he took us where we really wanted to go.

Mango Tree turns out to be a quiet little enclave in the middle of the Patpong (red light) district of Bangkok. They had some pretty cool Thai classical music and good food.

We wandered around Patpong for a bit, soaking in the bizarre environment (see journal entries from last trip). Bruce had come down with bad cold symptoms so, after a requisite ride on the new BTS elevated train, we went back to the hotel.

Feb 19 2000

Today Bruce, Jan, and I visited Jim Thompson's house, Chatuchak Weekend market (see Feb 12 entry), and then went for a swim in their hotel pool. As I nearly always stayed in guesthouses, this was a first experience for me. It was surreal to be in this exclusive area with so few Thai people, where smoothies were 230 Baht instead of the usual 15 Baht. Everything about this place locked out and contradicted the Bangkok that I had known. I realized that the river view from the pool was the most that many of these people would see of Thailand. Kind of sad really.

Today was an important Buddhist holiday known as Makkha Buchaa. We took a cab to nearby Wat Traimit and hung around to view the ceremony. Hundreds of patrons showed up (about an hour late, in proper Thai tradition). Each of them knelt before the Buddha, and then marched around the temple holding a candle. An old Thai layman with a microphone gave a long, repeating speech, but I was not able to understand any of it.

Bruce and Jan had reserved a seat at Silom Village to see a dinner show with a very tourist-oriented display of Thai classical dance. The dancers themselves seemed quite talented, and the movements seemed authentic, but the program definitely was not what a Thai audience would get. The numbers were proceeded by short (but nearly inaudible) explanations in Japanese, French, and English, and were significantly shortened (presumably to fit the typical tourist's tolerance for unfamiliar tonalities and styles of dance). At some points, in particular during a number with the famous white monkey Hanuman, the dancers came out into the audience and played with people. This is typical even in a normal performance, but in this case the dancers stopped every few feet for photo-ops with long tables of Japanese tourists! The food was extremely sweetened and watered down and not very representative of Thai cuisine. This may be a good way to see Thai dance if you are in Bangkok for a very short time; otherwise, perhaps ask around to see if there is a concert going on somewhere.

Nang was in town this evening to pick up some folks for her guesthouse. We had some drinks with her and a friend of hers at Bruce and Jan's hotel.

Little did I know that an absolutely typical Thai scene was unfolding. You see, on arriving at the hotel, Nang had told her van driver that they were only going to be "a few minutes." You quickly learn that when a Thai person says this, they actually mean "more than one minute, and maybe if we feel like it a half hour or so, unless on a whim we find something to do for a few hours." Nang and her friend were actually with us for two hours. The concepts of punctuality and planning-ahead are almost nonexistent in this country. As a foreign visitor, you will never be happy until you stop expecting clarity and foresight and instead observe how things work if you just "go with the flow."

Being a countryside type, the van driver was uncomfortable with ritzy places like the Royal Orchid Sheraton, so he stayed in the van and stewed the whole time. In fact, he thought Nang's friend was cute and was annoyed that he did not have the opportunity to hit on her. When Nang finally returned, the van driver was as angry as a Thai person allows himself/herself to appear (i.e., he sort of smirked rather than smiling and he did not talk a lot). After dropping me off near my guesthouse, he drove Nang and her friend to their guests' hotel, left the van there, and promptly quit his job as a Garden Lodge van driver, disappearing into Bangkok. Rather than show offense, he decided to bottle it up and announce his angst with a big bang. A week or so later, he showed up again in Pak Chong and went back to his job. The more you travel in Thailand, the more you realize that ridiculous things like this are constantly happening; their non-confrontational culture also has some disadvantages.

Feb 20 2000

I had now contracted whatever cold/flu Bruce had and was more or less out of commission. I did some easy stuff with Bruce and Jan (national museum, River City shopping, etc.) but mostly slept.

At night we took a taxi ride to the Cafe de Laos (during which I had to say three different times, in three different ways, that I did not want to go to the seafood restaurant). This place served cool Laotian food, though I could not get Bruce to try any of the riverweed dish!

Feb 21 2000

More sleeping as I recovered from Bruce's nasty ailment. Bruce and Jan flew to the south of Thailand for the Krabi part of their short trip. I contacted Nang and arranged to come back to Pak Chong (the town where her guesthouse was). I also decided that I wanted to visit Cambodia so I bought plane tickets and made other arrangements.

Feb 22-24 2000

Every previous time I had been in Pak Chong, I felt like a prisoner of Nang's guesthouse. The Garden Lodge is quite far from both town and Khao Yai National Park, and so getting anywhere involves either an expensive Garden Lodge shuttle or an infrequent sawng teeo pickup-truck bus. Since Nang was working most of the time, I wanted some way to see more things around the area and otherwise keep myself occupied. So, this time, I stayed in an apartment/hotel in Pak Chong (which, though in the city, was cheaper and in many ways nicer!), and more importantly I borrowed Nang's sister's moped.

The difference was remarkable. I would strongly recommend anyone visiting the more remote areas of Thailand acquire some form of independent transport. Motorcyle rentals are extremely hard to come by in rural towns, so this may mean renting a vehicle in Bangkok or Korat.

I spent most of these days cruising around random places in town and in the countryside, seeing all sorts of cool farms and ranches and Thai people. Suddenly it became feasible to explore the town and its markets, and even start to get to know some folks in town, without a constant rush to get back to the Garden Lodge. Plus, there are few pleasures which can compare with walking past a horde of touting tuk tuk and motorcyle taxi drivers and speeding away right in front of them on your own vehicle.

Feb 25 2000

Returned to Bangkok International Airport for a flight to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Unfortunately Nang had already way overstayed her time off, so she could not attend.

Information on Cambodia (Feb 25-Mar 5), and the last days in Thailand (Mar 5-Mar 16th), still to come.

Support
This Site
I work on this site in my off hours. Please help me to push aside my day job and work on it more by supporting the site in one of these ways:
donate now   Donate Now
Use your credit card or PayPal to donate in support of the site.

get the best thai-english phrasebook app
Experience Thailand richly with my Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook app.
get the best thai-english dictionary app
Learn Thai with my Talking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary app for iOS, Android, Windows.
get a cool thai-english paper dictionary
Don't leave home without the Thai-English English-Thai Compact Dictionary I co-authored.
get thailand fever
I co-authored this bilingual cultural guidebook to Thai-Western romantic relationships.
get the best chinese phrasebook app
Visit China easily with my Talking Chinese-English-Chinese Phrasebook app.
get books or almost anything
Pick a Thai learning book from my list or buy anything at all from Amazon.
See AlsoYou'll probably also like these sites...
allaboutpai.com
A site about Pai, my peaceful home in the mountains of Northern Thailand.
lurkertech: video tech and diversions
Buzzword bingo, bill the borg, MEZ, lurker's guide to video, and Thai, oh my!
mapfling.com: free custom maps with your own labels
Party? Meeting? Request a map, label it yourself, and easily fling it to your friends!
world's stupidest everything
See some of the worst the world has to offer, and add some of your own!

World's Stupidest Holiday and Birthday Presents - stupidest-presents.com
World's Stupidest Wedding Websites - stupidest-wedding-sites.com
World's Stupidest Baby Websites - stupidest-baby-sites.com
World's Stupidest TV, Movie, Music, and Sports Stars - stupidest-stars.com
World's Stupidest Politicians - stupidest-politicians.com
World's Stupidest TV Shows - stupidest-tv-shows.com
World's Stupidest Movies - stupidest-movies.com
World's Stupidest Blogs - stupidest-blogs.com
World's Stupidest Websites - stupidest-websites.com
World's Stupidest Company Websites - stupidest-company-sites.com
thailand your way
Travel with my friend Nang, who is a great nature, birding, and cultural guide.
jeed illustration
My English-fluent Thai friend Jeed is a freelance illustrator who is available for hire.
CopyrightEntire website copyright 1999-2016 Chris Pirazzi unless otherwise indicated.

License for use: