Friday, February 12, 2016

Day 1 Comes to an End.

On the long walk home.

We ended our first day in Bangkok the way we started it - with a long walk and a meal.

After wrapping up our visit to Wat Pho, we decided to call it a day.  The Wilted Lily was more than ready to escape the oppressive heat and humidity and the other two were feeling the effects of jet lag.  I think everybody was looking forward to getting off our feet and maybe even catching a short nap.

We could have retraced our steps to the ferry pier, taken the ferry back to Saphan Taksin and from there, either walked back or taken the BTS.  But no, we decided to explore some other options - starting with a tuk tuk even though every forum and guidebook says to avoid them.  I had delegated out the navigational duties to the other two so I decided I would *sit back* and go with the flow.

Bro took the lead to find us a ride.  He approached a couple of tuk tuk drivers and showed them the map of where our apartment was  located.  Given how poorly they spoke English, I suspected that they could not read his map.  So, when one of the guys replied back that the wanted 400 baht to take the three of us just a few kilometers, I quickly shot back a "No!"

We were standing on a very busy street, in a spot that was difficult for taxis to stop so we decided to walk in the direction towards our apartment and as we were walking keep an eye out for taxis.


Too bad the areas that are in Thai are pointing in the direction that we want to go in. 

We ended up on a street filled with fabric stores.  We didn't do this intentionally.  Had I been not in such a desperate mood to get back to the apartment, I would have stopped in a few.  The Thai silks are just gorgeous!!


There was quite a bit of traffic on the road and lots of taxis passed us by.  Pretty much all of them had passengers in them.  It was not our lucky day.  We kept walking, gawking at window displays and occasionally keeping our eyes out for an available taxi.

A lone tuk tuk approached and was able to stop near us as the traffic light turned red.  Bro rushed over and showed the driver the map.  I don't think the guy could read it.  Before we could get an answer, he had to move off or else risk getting run over by the car behind him!


We kept walking and the Wilted Lily was getting more despondent by the moment.  Seemed to me like we should have just stopped walking and waited for an available taxi to pass by but Bro insisted on walking on.  I don't think he was quite as tired as I was so understandably he wanted to explore the city as we made our way back to the apartment.  If I hadn't felt so tired, I would have been on the same page as him.

Bro's navigation led us to another market.  This was large covered one.  The street had been reduced down to pretty much an alley - just wide enough for carts and motorcycles.  In many ways, it reminded me of the souks in Fez and Marrakesh though with much less charm.



It wasn't until after I got back to the apartment and Googled it, that I discovered that what we had wandered into was Sampeng Lane Market. Sampeng Lane, otherwise known as Soi Wanit 1 is the city's oldest market.  It comprises an entire alley and all the little lanes that connect to it.  Given its proximity to all the fabric stores we had just walked by, it's not surprising that the market offers plenty of clothing items for sale. The market is also known for its vast selection of Thai fabrics. Although Sampeng Lane Market is mainly a wholesale market, retail options are available.

The market seemed endless.  It does span several streets so just when I spotted sunlight and thought we had reached the end, we had actually just reach an intersection.



When we finally exited the market, we were on Yaowarat Road.....in the heart of Chinatown.  Too bad, we're all so tired or we would have explored Chinatown.  Another time.

It's Chinese New Year and the banners are up!

Joss sticks and candles for Chinese New Year.

Based on my pre-trip planning, I knew we were near the Hua Lamphong MRT (aka metro) station.  I did not want to risk Bro getting us there the *long* way around so I fired up Google maps and took over leading the way.   Unfortunately, as we all know too well, Google Maps isn't perfect so after just a few steps, it felt like we were walking in the wrong direction but a quick check with a local confirmed we were on the right path.

As we neared Hua Lampong, we neared a bit of construction mess.  My two travel partners saw a sign for Hua Lampong Railroad and decided to head off in that direction.  There was no telling whether or not the train station was also home to the MRT but eventually a barrier to getting to the railroad station had us turning around and looking for another entrance.

Luckily, we were in a spot with excellent GPS reception and Google Maps was able to reroute us to the correct location.  As we stood to cross the street, there was a policeman navigating traffic.  He waved us to hurry and cross the street so we scooted like bunnies.   On the other side, we continued to walk until we heard the sound of someone telling us to stop.  So we did.  For a few seconds we were confused so we started to walk again and once more, heard the sound of someone telling us to stop.  That someone turned out to be the policeman. When I asked a nearby vendor why we had to stop walking, he replied that someone important would soon be driving by.  Okay, I can understand why cars have to stop but people can't walk?  Apparently not.  When I asked him who was the important person, he thought it might be one of the royal princesses.  We patiently waited for the motorcade to approach and then with the vendor, tried to guess held the ever so important person.  We all had a good chuckle over that moment.

When the motorcade passed, we resumed walking.  Hua Lamphong MRT station was just around the block.


Bro and Ayşe did the ticket buying duties.  I just wanted to make sure that they knew we were getting off at the Sam Yan stop.  Of course, they didn't believe me but after a check of the system map, they came to the same conclusion.  Some day, they will realize that I am always a step ahead of them....even if I don't say anything :-)  It's simply the result of being the one that does all the trip planning and research.


Using the MRT was a breeze and the train was modern and comfortable.  From the Sam Yan, Google Maps directed back to the apartment via Surawong Road.

Back in the apartment, the first thing I did was crank up the air conditioner!!  Instantly, I started to feel better.  We were all a bit weary and in no time, were napping.

I was the first to wake up.  It was early evening.  I decided to wake the other two up as well.  No good for anyone of us to sleep for more than a hour or so otherwise, we wouldn't be able to fall asleep later.  We have to kick jet lag as quickly as we can.

When night fell, we headed out for dinner.  Given how convenient Surawong Road is, we headed there to find a restaurant. 


Of course, we had to check out Patpong Market first.   We had warn Ayşe about the bars and ping pong shows.  Thankfully, nothing happens right out on the street so it was okay.  There was nothing of interest to us at the market....same exact thing as last night.  We headed back to Surawong Road.


We checked menus here and there and eventually on a night looking restaurant. It looked like it catered primarily to tourists.  I knew Ayşe would not be okay with the street food and even some of the smaller, more local eateries would not appeal to her.  It's understandable as this is her first visit to Asia.  What looks familiar to Bro and I is completely knew to her so there's some adjusting that needs to take place.  In time.

We ordered a few dishes to share.  The good thing about Thai food is that we have so much of it in the US that we're familiar with many of the dishes.  Even Ayşe.  She ordered a Panang curry!  I wanted a cold drink and had a Thai iced tea.  Bro did as well.  On a daily basis, he doesn't drink any caffeine - no coffee, no tea.  Very unusual, I know.  So, even the tiniest drop of caffeine would ordinarily keep him awake but given how tired we all were, I figured he would sleep right through every sip.

Dinner was fine.  The food was okay though the portions were a bit on the small size, in my opinion.  The service was terrible mainly because there were only two people working the room and when a small tour group arrived, they were immediately overwhelmed.  In fact, our drinks came from the cafe next door!


As okay as the meal was, the company was excellent.  A short nap does wonders to revive the spirit!!


It was a late dinner.  By the time we got back to the apartment, it was nearly 10:30.  We had just a few minutes to relax some more and get ready for another day of sightseeing!  Can't wait!

Good night from Bangkok!