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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by lightcycle, Aug 1, 2012.
Thank you, much appreciated!
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/270.html
It's a grey, overcast day in Bangkok today. Iva has left us to continue her SE Asia tour in Cambodia.
Those two statements might be related...
But we're trading in a Pula Girl for two Belgians:
Yes, Thomas and Eva are in Thailand!
Totally not a coincidence. While Iva may have persuaded us to join her in Thailand for her vacation, what further convinced us to come here was knowing that Thomas and Eva were also spending their vacation here as well! We have been so social the last couple of months and we just want it to continue!
Since we had arrived a couple of days earlier than our Belgian friends, we took them on the requisite temple tour
I always thought bonsai was a Japanese art, but it originated in China and other Asian cultures have their version too.
Farang those bells, Neda
There are statues and pictures of the King of Thailand everywhere. He is a very important figure in the country.
We've discovered that it is a serious crime to speak ill of the King and his throne in Thailand. It's called Lèse majesté and it's different in Thailand than other countries that enforce this rule. In Thailand it's against the law to criticize any royal aspect of Thai life, from development projects, to all members of the Royal family, distant past and present. The Internet is heavily policed and a Thai tour operator got sentenced to 60 years imprisonment for insulting the King on Facebook. Last year, a man from Bangkok was arrested for making sarcastic comments about the King's dog.
I'm going to have to watch my sense of humour while I'm here... Good thing I'm all about the self-deprecation!
I think you're allowed to make fun of Thai elephants. But why would you? They're beautiful! Can't wait to see one in person.
So we've been hanging out with Thomas and Eva for the day, showing them what little we know of Bangkok since we have a 24-hour head start on them, when it becomes very clear that the grey skies above us just cannot tolerate the fact that we are dry. They welcome us to Thailand the RideDOT.com way.
Watching these temple workers sweep water off the floor of the temple in the pouring rain is like watching Sisyphus roll that rock up the hill
"Dry season in Bangkok extends from November to February" -- The Internet
From underneath the awning that we are hiding under, Thomas and Eva glare at us. Almost as if they are blaming us for all of this rain... I shrug my shoulders and look helpless, but deep inside I know we are the real reason it's raining.
An interesting thing happened while we were waiting for the rains to stop. A Thai lady also stopped under the same awning we were all under and started speaking Thai to me. Once again, I shrugged my shoulders and told her I didn't speak Thai. She responded, "Oh, I thought you were a tour guide".
Because if you're Asian in Thailand and hanging out with a bunch of farangs, you *must* be a tour guide! Well, it's better than constantly being called "Jackie Chan!" in Latin America...
Well the rain wasn't going to stop, so we walked into Chinatown during a period of light drizzle
I'm often asked if I can tell the difference between Thai, Chinese and other Asian races. Because apparently I should be an expert. But truthfully, I can't tell. And judging from the "tour guide" comment, Thai people can't tell the difference either.
Thomas, being the perfect gentleman, gives Eva a lift over the flooded streets up onto the sidewalk
After this picture was taken, Neda gave me a lift up onto the sidewalk as well. True love, people. It comes in all forms.
Finding veggies to feed the vegetarians was a strangely difficult task in Chinatown
Rain looks to be letting up
A constant feature on the streets of Bangkok: a dense canopy of telephone and electricity cables overhead
Street vendors selling food
Apart from her lactose intolerance, which Neda has finally licked (like an ice cream cone), we've both been fairly free of stomach bugs - pretty much ever since leaving Latin America. But now that we're out of Europe, we're a bit wary about getting sick from the food in SE Asia. But everything looks sooooo good though!
Strolling through some of the open air markets
Street food is sooo cheap. Typical dishes are about $1USD.
Thomas and Eva live a bit outside of the downtown core, so they introduced us to their mode of transport - the river boat
Buddhist monks get free transportation all over Thailand. There are special seats and waiting areas for them
The Chao Phraya River is the main waterway that cuts through Bangkok
Wat Arun temple on the shores of the Chao Phraya River
We must have the worst luck when it comes to visiting famous monuments. The Roman Colosseum, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Glockenspiel in Munich, the Kizhi Pogost in Russia... all covered up in scaffolding. New RideDOT.com curse? Rain and scaffolding, coming soon to a city near you!
Our last stop of the day, the backpackers paradise: Khao San Road
I can't believe how touristy this place is. Nothing but hippie farangs walking up and down the length of the street. Wall-to-wall stores selling cheap custom-made suits of dubious quality, cheap massages, cheap souvenirs and cheap food and beer. Neda and I managed to dodge the tailors and souvenir stores, but:
Neda fell victim to the cheap $3 half-hour foot massage
Stalls selling all kinds of food
We found an outdoor restaurant and ordered cheap Thai food which was not very good at all. We know what good Thai food tastes like and Khao San Road is *not* the place to get it. We've been here for a few days now and Bangkok is kinda wearing on our nerves. It's so crowded here, and there are so many western tourists it hardly feels like a foreign country. We came here to relax and it's obvious this is not the place to do it, so we're not going to stay long. Thomas and Eva aren't big city people either, so they're leaving the day after to do jungles and beaches, which is our cue to get out of here as well.
More Khao San Road at night
It's so nice hanging out with Thomas and Eva again. We said goodbye to them back in July, not knowing when we'd ever see them again, and here we are together once again! So I think we've all learned our lesson. It's never "goodbye", but always "seen you again!"
Rainy season in Thailand? We were there for only a week and a half so hardly experts, but I remember no rain at all down south in Ko Samui. However, one precious memory lingers. After riding the train up from Kuala Lumpur (in freezing air con) we arrived in Hat Yai and secured cheap overnight accommodations. A rain shower began, and looking down from the 3rd floor window at the busy intersection below there was scads of of scooter traffic in both directions. Each driver had the throttle in one hand and an umbrella grasped in the other, tilted at the appropriate angle of course. Never seen that before or since.
I'm really enjoying your take on Thailand Gene and Neda. I stayed there for a few years in the nineties and have been shuttling back and forth over the years since. It's high on a lot of peoples list of favourite places and seems to rate like Colombia does in South America. I agree that Bangkok can be a bit full on and probably some of the tourist centres as well. But you wont have to go far off the beaten track to find your own unique Thai experience.
How are you finding the travel experience sans cycles?
Great that you could include an Asian country on this RTW sojourn. Any plans for Malaysia? The family reunion would be epic, no? Mum and Dad too?
I spent a month there and in Cambodia a year ago and the weather was pretty good - some rain but nothing serious. My friend and I rented 250cc Hondas in Phnom Penh and rode to the coast for a few days. THAT WAS EXCITING!! Some of the towns on the west side of the gulf are quiet and pleasant - Hua Hin is big and full of farangs but a little further south there are lovely spots.
I couldn't 'like' this update fast enough! Thanks!
Thanks for all the tips!
I'm sure that is something we can remedy.
We missed them quite a bit. Everything is a lot slower and more tedious without our own transportation. We're finding that we're always on someone else's schedule, bus, train, etc. Plus we're constantly having to haggle with the tuk tuk drivers, which I understand is Most Beloved Number 1 National Sport, but when you're not used to it, it gets tiresome after a while: "Look, it was 20 baht yesterday, why do we have to renegotiate again today...?"
We've come to realize that a lot of the fatigue we were feeling was not due to getting on the bikes every day. It was getting off the bikes and walking around doing touristy things and having to set up and tear down our home constantly. That last stint in Europe where we were just riding to and from places, having a base in Pula and not worrying about seeing stuff was actually quite therapeutic. Of course being around friends was a big part of it as well.
Even after years of travel, we're still fine-tuning what makes us happy about being on the road. What got us excited to get on the bikes every morning in 2012 is not the same as it is in 2016. I'm glad we're keeping a diary not just of the places we've been to, but also of our state of mind. I read our blog entries of our earlier trips back in 2007 and whoever wrote them is a completely different person from who I am now. Really bad jokes and terrible puns for starters...
Yes, Malaysia definitely, it's so close. I have a lot of family still living there and I really want to show Neda all the places from my childhood. I invited my mom and dad to meet us there, but they are getting a bit advanced in age and 24-hour plane rides are not in the cards for them anymore. It would have been nice to see them and have them show us around, but there's lots of family members who can do that when we get there.
As long as there is a happy ending you are golden!
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/271.html
That's how you say "hello" and "goodbye" in Thai. The masculine version at least. Guys end every sentence with "khrup" and gals end it with "kah". So, women would say, "Sawadee Kah".
If we're going to be here for awhile, we're going to have to learn some words. It's very difficult since Thai, like all Asian languages is a tonal language, so it's not enough just to pronounce the words correctly, you have to "sing" it in the right pitch or tone, or it's a completely different word.
Today we're venturing out of Bangkok temporarily to visit the Damnoen Suduak Floating Market. It's about a an hour and a half bus-ride west of the metropolis. I woke up today with a bit of a stomach ache. I polled Neda to see if it was something we ate yesterday, but she seemed fine, so it must have been something *I* ate. A year and half in Europe and I didn't get sick once. Just a few days in Bangkok and my insides feel like they're rearranging themselves. This does not bode well...
There are lots of floating markets in the Bangkok area, but Damnoen Saduak is perhaps the most famous one. We had to load the bus very early in the morning to make it out here before the afternoon heat becomes too unbearable.
Our bus lets us off a couple of kms away from the market and we climb aboard a covered boat and ride along the canalways in style
We've left behind the urban jungle of Bangkok and traded it in for the actual lush jungle that presses up against the sides of the canals and over the buildings that line the waterways. This is more our speed.
Our tour guide is a Chinese lady who entertains us by telling us jokes in broken English. Hm, so you don't actually have to be Thai to be a tour guide here, eh? You just have to look the part. Hmm... if I pick up the language, I may be able to subsidize our stay here...
A flashy tour boat with huge twin motors zooms past our rickety barge. Our tour guide deadpans, "That rich people boat. You pay more you go on rich people boat." In turn, we pass by another tourist group, their operator is paddling the boat down the canal. "That poor people boat", she says. LOL! I hope the people on the rowboat didn't hear her... :)
If learning to speak Thai is hard, trying to read the Thai script is a completely different level of impossible. Good thing all the signs are in English too
One of the vendors paddles her way to the market
A local resident watches the tourists go by. Just like the Croatian nonas at their windows above the street! :)
Neda is excited: "SHOPPING!!!!!"
"Final offer!" You can buy anything at the floating market. Even calculators.
Bargaining is Number One Beloved National Sport. If you don't haggle, the vendor will lose respect for you. It's like showing up to play a soccer game and just sitting on the field while the other team keeps scoring goals around you. They won't stop playing and scoring goals, but it's no fun for them anymore.
If you're going shopping in Thailand, you gotta bring your A Game, otherwise go to a farang store.
Colourful displays on the boats floating on the canals
Almost all the boat vendors are women
These women on the boats remind me of the indigenous women in Guatemala selling their fabrics and fruit in the market.
Our boat lets us off in the middle of the Damnoen Saduak and we walk up and down the covered walkways and stalls along the canal. Every 50 meters or so, there is a bridge that lets you walk over the canals so you can take in the view of the action from above.
All stocked up for a brand new day at the floating market
Customers in the tourist boats sidle up alongside the vendors and haggle for food and hats and other trinkets
The vendors are very skilled, maneuvering their boats towards customers who call out to them
The late morning sun is getting warmer, these straw hats do a great job in keeping the vendors cool when they're not in the shade
As we walk around the marketplace, I'm not feeling too well. We have to stop to get a soda to settle my gurgling stomach. I make a note of where the closest washroom is in case of emergency, and Neda gives me a 5 baht coin so I can be ready to pay to get in. In my pocket, I grip that coin like my life depended on it. Neda goes off on her own to do more window shopping as I take a seat in one of the restaurants above the waterway and watch tourists and vendors perform their dance below me.
A vendor goes out in search of more fertile selling grounds
These long poles allow the vendors to sell their stuff to people up on the walkways
Buddhist flower offerings on the bow of one of the boats
As the afternoon approached, the rising temperatures made me very queasy and I had to move to a more shady spot. The smell of the swampy canal water didn't help any. I don't think there's any treatment of the water here, probably a mix of sewage and rainwater. It was in my secluded spot that I saw some of the cooked food vendors stop by and dip their dirty dishes in the murky canal water beside them to wash them for the next customer. Oh my god, that's disgusting!!! So glad I didn't buy any food from them.
I continued watching these food vendors as they made their way back to the main marketplace. As they rowed, their paddles dipped into the water on one side, then up and over to the other side, dripping dirty canal water onto the open food in front of them.
As if on cue, my stomach made a loud sound like air bubbles rising from a pit of hot tar. It felt like my guts were competing in an Olympic tumbling competition and I quickly got up and made a beeline for the washroom, the location of which I had memorized before sitting down.
Time for me to Sawadee Khrup.
Thanks for sharing your adventure. Enjoying the journey
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