28 May 2012

No Breakfast

We were up early this morning to check out the city.
On our way out of the hotel we had the usual, for Asia, “You want tuktuk?”  Unfortunately we said yes.  For 20Baht we thought it was a bargain.  I should have picked up the problem when the person doing the negotiations wasn’t the tuktuk driver.  I am blaming this on jetlag.

The day started out well, our tuktuk driver was nice and drove us to our first Wat (Temple).  The Golden Mount.  Apparently made by Rama the 1st.  A whole heap of logs placed in the middle of a swamp with a hill made over the top.  It has been rebuilt since the 1800’s and is now a proper hill with a lot of concrete.

Anna complained that our first day in Bangkok, and I had still found a hill for her to walk up before breakfast.  It was a nice view as we worked our way up, with lots of bells ranging from big ceremonial gongs through to little individual offering bells.  The shrine at the top of the hill had a massive gold leaf linga/stupa (decorative pointy thingy and Buddha.)

From here we went to a ticket office near the railway station to book an overnight sleeper train to Chang Mai.  After a while, this turned into a day trip to Damnen Saduak (the floating market), the river Kwai bridge, and the Tiger Temple at Kanchanaburi.  From there we were off to another city and then up north to Chang Mai.  Will not fill you in on all the details, so you will have to read up on it over the next 5 days or so.  – OUTCH!  We dont usually do tours, but somehow we ended up with this one.  Not jetlag this time, but missing breakfast.

So, still without breakfast we were off to see the golden Buddha at Wat Traimit.  This is in a large Wat complex with a 5 1/2 ton Buddha at the top made out of solid gold.  This was only discovered about 50 years ago, when moving to a new building by crane they dropped it, breaking off the plaster.
Although there were a LOT of tourists here it was still worth seeing.  The Thai temples are over the top with decorations, glitter and gold leaf.  Broken bits of coloured glass and pottery make up the decorations, with the painted gold everywhere it made the real gold plain by comparison.

Back at the tuktuk, we were driving through the streets, which were getting a lot more active than when we started in the morning, we were to be taken to a place where we would get a free beer.  The land of beer and honey turned out to be an exclusive tailors shop.  Taken up the steps after saying that we didn’t want a suit, we were thrust through the door into the waiting arms of about 3 staff.

I wasn’t having any of this.  Politely saying that we were not interested, even though we could go in sit and talk (I know this trick from Greece and Turkey) and have a free beer, we turned and left.  Working out the scam alluded to this morning, we started to realize that we may have been over charged for our upcoming trip (we are still actively trying not to find out more realistic prices) we wanted to go back to the hotel.  After a quick discussion with the driver we were rushed through the streets, now without conversation back to the hotel.  By this time it was about 2pm!  Anna still wanted breakfast.  I now needed a drink to go with it.  At the hotel we paid the driver his 20 baht, and hoped he got a good commission from the tour agency.

Found a nice street lunch and went for a walk.  The thing with Asian cities is that nobody walks.  ever!  Locals pay about 5 baht per trip in a tuktuk, however as a tourist you pay tourist tax and 40+ baht for the same ride.  This adds up.  $1 a trip is cheap, however 10 trips a day to see 4 things….  On our walk to the centre of the old city we came across a Thai that wanted to talk, he told us that we had been ripped off this morning.  There is a tourist booking centre set up by the government to stop this from happening, but we had been told in the morning that it was only tourist info and couldn’t do any booking there.  Also explained the tuktuk prices, and to only take tuktuks and taxis with yellow number plates as they were government licensed ones.  He also couldn’t believe we were walking!

After crossing a number of major roads (interesting, but not too bad) and a few cannals, that although a bit smelly looked fairly clean of garbage and even had floating plants in them, we made it to the town centre pillar.  (Lak Meuang) This is where all distances are measured from, and is a very special spiritual point in town for the animistic religions (pagan).  Across from there is the imperial palace, and although the king only visits rarely, it is closed off to the public, but we got a good look at its walls as we worked our way around it.

Then into Wat Pho, home of the reclining Buddha.  He is massive.  Big, long, golden, and looks really bored lying there.  15m high 46m long. As we were walking up to below his head we heard a plinking sound.  Plink.. Plink.. Plink. Plink Plink Plink.  Seeing a person there painting the wall, we thought it must be repairs or renovations at the back of the Buddha.  The woman painting the wall was doing very fine delicate work.  Rulers were involved for straight lines, and I swear her brush had only 3 bristles.  Onto the Buddhas feet.  Sticking up with really cool concentric circles for toe prints.  On the pads of the feet were 108 representations of Buddha, mixed in with elephants, dragons and other scenes.

At the back of Buddha,we found the plinking sounds.  You could buy a small dish of coins, and you would throw a coin into a long line of copper bowls.  Each bowl was a different size and made a different tone of plink.

After this we walked back to our street (Khao San) and explored the streets around, had dinner and called it a night.

Last night was fairly peaceful, but around 1am the Karaoke started up.  With how loud it was in our room, I would have hated being there as we were almost deafened.  It was also really annoying, as at the end of the song there would be a long silence.  Almost long enough to get back to sleep, before they started the next song.  The level then was ok, and they would build up the volume to a crashing crescendo at the end.  Just what you need for a 6am start!



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