Siem Reap, Cambodia to Kanchanaburi, Thailand
13.09.2010 - 19.09.2010 32 °C
Bangkok is a place that most people really enjoy but for us we struggled to find the heart of the city. Maybe it’s because we were in the wrong area, maybe it’s because we didn’t do enough research or maybe we have just visited enough cities. Who knows but we were glad to leave after 4 nights.
We thought Bangkok was going to be extremely busy, flashing neon lights everywhere and chaos that was to the point of unbearable but we found it to be difficult to get around as the streets didn’t really match the map that we had; very spread out and apart from the backpacker area that we were in, Khao San Road we found very few other areas with restaurants and bars.
The first day we got scammed but without handing over any money, losing any of our belongings or being stranded in dodgy area we are still having trouble trying to figure out what happened. With plans to walk to China Town and find dim sum for lunch we ventured off from the hotel and as we stand out as tourists against a country full of Thai people, we pulled the map out to emphasis the point even more to try and figure out where we were.
It was then that we were approached by a Thai gentleman who helped us figure out where we were and then all our plans changed. He started telling us that it was a special day as today was Buddha Day and the government were subsiding tuk tuk drivers who drove tourists around visiting all the sites for only 20 baht (60 cents). On this tour we would visit various Wat’s and temples which included the standing Buddha, the sitting Buddha, the lucky Buddha and the Royal Palace and all of these would be free today. The tuk tuk’s that we needed to look out for were the ones with the Thailand flag and the government flag so we thought why not and as we walked away, one appeared from around the corner.
We first visited the Lucky Buddha which we thought was appropriate as it seemed to be our lucky before moving on and in true tuk tuk style, being taken to a Tailor shop where we were showered with suit and dress brochures. We needed to make a decision within the next hour as they were closing so explained that we didn’t have the measurements for our groomsmen who were in London so politely walked out. Next it was the jeweller’s with fake silver rings as some of them were scratched with the black being visible underneath.
Thinking we were going to another temple, we pulled in next to a travel agent where all sorts of tours could be booked but with not knowing what we wanted to see, we asked for a card and left. Hurrah we finally pulled into a Wat where we explored the Standing Buddha and it was here that we realised our tuk tuk driver had abandoned us. We circled the Wat 2 times before realising he had left so made our way to the palace by foot. We couldn’t work out what had happened but maybe it was the fact that we didn’t purchase a $300 suit, a $3,500 ring or a day tour that we didn’t want so his commission was 0. We didn’t pay for the tuk tuk either so essentially we got a ride around the city for free. We noticed a few days later that the same spiel was being given to other tourists so it was a scam but we are still confused as to what we lost.
In true Pete style whilst we enjoyed a casual drink, he ducked off and purchased a bag of what we would normally call insects but to the Thai people are delicious snacks - worms, Christmas beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, frogs and a rather large flying insect of some sort. The bag was mixed up and it was a lucky dip as to what you pulled out and ate. Neill ended up with a grasshopper which tasted like crispy potato skins and Kylie ended up with a white worm which was swallowed like a tablet and not chewed. She couldn’t stomach trying it and after constantly refusing, took a mouth full of water, stuck the worm and gulped it down. Ben put on a great performance of not trying one and whilst ‘enjoying’ his half worm with Heather, Pete poured the remaining bag over his head. He moved to quickly for the cameras and all we ended up with is a blur of Ben. The night ended with us listening to some great live music at a bar on Khao San Road and enjoying delicious spring rolls from the street stalls on the way home.
We made our way to China Town the next day but it wasn’t anything other China Town’s that we have visited. Hardly any restaurants were around and those few that were, were extremely expensive, the markets that they mention in the book either sold fabric, hair clips or Indian clothes which most tourists probably wouldn’t want and not a dim sum restaurant in sight. We were told by a couple of locals that China Town only really comes alive at night when one of the roads is closed off to traffic and is replaced with street stalls so I guess we came at the wrong time. With our expectations shot, we headed to the Siam Square for some retail therapy.
We spent the morning of our last day on the Chao Phraya River cruising up and down and viewing the sights from a different angle and explored Wat Arun which is probably one of the most interesting Wats we have seen. The whole monument is covered in colourful floral mosaic tiles with the main stupa standing 82m high. We climbed to the top which we thought was bad until we realised that we needed to get back down again which proved to be even more difficult than it looked.
We spent our last afternoon exploring Khao San Road and wandering around the market stalls before leaving Bangkok and heading up to Kanchanaburi where the Japanese ran a POW camp in WWII and where the famous bridge of the River Kwai is.
We had a couple of days here to chill and explore and chill we did indeed. It was nice to be somewhere that peaceful with greenery visible when you looked out your window. We wandered across the River Kwai Bridge and with it's gapping holes on the sides, it was a rather scary place to be when dozens of school kids were pushing you and trying to squeeze passed. We strolled through the small town, visited the Chinese Temple and explored the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery where nearly 7,000 allied prisoners that perished during the construction of the 'Death Railway' are buried. Apart from that we ate some really great Thai meals, organised some weddings details, researched jobs and chilled.
A great way to spend a couple of days. Next we are heading off to Krabi to spend a week exploring the islands surrounding with Katie and Taylor as we have a week to do what we like...bring on the sand and the beach.