Technology really is an incredible thing. When I did the typical Australian early-20s thing and spent a year travelling I kept in touch by writing a weekly letter. Occasionally a photo would be included. Very occasionally I’d make a phone call. Now I can write daily blog posts, send emails, and post to Instagram – all wifi permitting, of course (we’re not paying for international roaming data)! For me, there is nothing quite like being able to record our trip with the details fresh in my mind. So much happens that if it wasn’t recorded fairly promptly it would all turn into one long blur.
We began our day with a short walk to the local train station to travel a couple of stations to meet up with our guide for a food and canal tour of the Thon Buri area. Last time we were in Bangkok we’d really enjoyed the walking food tour we did around the Bang Rak area (where we stayed this visit, actually) so thought it would be an enjoyable and informative way to spend the day. We weren’t wrong!
Our tour guide, Lucy, was absolutely wonderful. She took us on a walking tour down back laneways and local markets, answering our many questions as we went. And there were all sorts of questions – not just about the food. Questions about daily life for her in Bangkok, about the rate of construction currently taking place on the south side of the river, about education, about Buddhism. As always, I was intrigued and amazed at how life and business is conducted immediately adjacent to train platforms, railway lines, and roadways.
Clare was happy to try most of the foods that were offered to us, but Stella was highly resistant. Looks like she’ll be subsisting on pancakes and rice for the next few weeks. Dan really enjoys hot food, so the prevalence of chilli in the local cooking was a real bonus for him. Me? Not so much. I like the flavour of chilli but not the heat. Does that make sense? Anyway, between us we managed to try a wide variety of foods.
Yes, that last photo was of coffins for sale. Thai style – the highly decorated ones – and chinese style. Some of you might know that in a previous career I worked for a funeral director, and as a result I am always interested in death and burial/cremation practices from other cultures. We certainly don’t have shopfront coffins for sale in Australia!
The Buddha in this temple is unusual as he is lying flat on his back, in a “death” position. Lucy explained that buddha statues are in positions found in those of everyday people – sitting, standing, reclining, and in this case, lying flat. There was building going on in the temple grounds, and we made an offering to add our names to a roof tile and ask for blessings. Stella in particular attracted quite a bit of interest in this area for her very pale skin and long strawberry blonde hair. It is always a little weird being the obvious tourists in an area where there aren’t many!
The markets were full of foods that I recognised and foods that I didn’t. There certainly wasn’t much refrigeration, but there was plenty of ice around. The weather here at the moment is just wonderful. It’s hot, but not too hot. Not particularly humid. Pretty much perfect, really!
Next we were on the canals in a long tailed boat. Stella in particular loves transportation that goes quickly, and she loves it even more if there are waves and bumps. Clare and I just want to vomit in those situations. However, we all enjoyed our trip on the water. There were water monitors, loads of fish, and people all living right beside the water. Bangkok is so multi-layered. There are elevated roads and train tracks way up high, other roads at ground level, narrow laneways snaking between other roadways, and then the canals and the walkways in between. Any vehicle that is small enough to travel along any space does and will – motorbikes drive straight through the narrow laneways in the markets that are only one person wide.
We stopped off at an artist’s house beside the river. The girls had a ball feeding the fish – there were so many fish trying to eat the food that the water was positively boiling with them. It was slightly revolting in a way.
I really enjoyed the coolness and quiet of the smaller canals. Despite it being high tourist season there really didn’t appear to be loads of tourists in the area we were visiting – I suspect that was thanks to Lucy knowing where to take us.
We had quite a giggle at this Christmas tree with lights inside it – it’s made from plastic water bottles! Ingenious!
We went around the outside of Wat Arun to avoid a traffic jam on our way to the next market. We visited quite a few wats last time we were in Thailand. This one is very impressive, but had an equally impressive number of tourists at it. There were also plenty of locals though, as it was Saturday and a good day for families to be able to visit the temple together.
Who said that money doesn’t grow on trees – it does at this temple! From here we visited another market, tasting roti, other local thai dishes, and some icypoles made from soft drink in a tub full of ice and salt.
After the tour we returned to our hotel by passenger ferry. In my opinion it is ABSOLUTELY worth paying for tours like this with guides who speak great English and know the area well. Yes, we could have wandered around by ourselves, but wouldn’t have even learned 1% of what we learned about life in Bangkok by taking this tour with Lucy. For me, travel is as much about the people and how they live as it is about the “sights” – although of course I enjoy those as well.
We were especially fortunate to have just enough time to meet Meg and her husband Tim for cocktails at the Shangri La! Meg and I first met by accident at Tessuti in Melbourne when she was on holiday a year ago – we recognised one another from our blogs/instagram. Rather hilariously we both turned up wearing green linen dresses sewn from Stylearc patterns.
Sewing friends are everywhere! Then it was time to check out of our hotel and head to the main train station to catch an overnight train to Laos. The train actually goes to a small town before the Thai border. From there you catch another train across the Mekong River to Thanalaeng in Laos, and from there on to Vientiane by road.
I have to say – Thai Railways, you are IMPRESSIVE! Australian train services could learn a lot from this! We had first class sleepers, with two interconnecting two berth cabins. They came with wifi, small sinks, individual televisions/screens with up to date travel and weather information, and a USB port. Talk about luxury! And the train left on time, was comfortable to travel on – although a little bit cold, take layers if you travel on the overnight train – and even arrived on time. So I am typing this from our superb accommodation in Vientiane, Laos – but I’ll fill you in on that in my next blog post! Thanks for hanging in there through this EPIC one.