Grand Palace and more


Up bright and early this morning. Well actually I was awake from about 4am and then got up and wrote the blog at 5am before Karen woke.

Breakfast was reasonable. A good cup of tea and fresh scrambled egg with some decent brown bread. The less said about some of the non western offerings the better. We weren't sure of it was actually dead, alone edible. A particular favourite was something called Porridge with fish, which looked like dirty dishwater with things floating in it. No cinnamon rolls was a pleasant surprise. Perhaps the Holiday Inn chain have realised that they taste foul and that cinnamon is just pure evil.

We took a taxi to the Grand Palace which was fine and very cheap (less than three pound for a 20 minute ride). I was going to gloss over the scam the driver tried on us by telling us that the Palace was closed until lunchtime and wouldn't we rather go 30 miles to the Floating market instead? I was already aware of this and told him we would just wait for it to open instead. Sheepishly he dropped us just short of the Palace. After pointedly waiting for my change giving no tip we walked round the corner to find hundreds of people already going into the supposedly closed Palace. Karen fumed about the scam he tried to pull all day meaning it was hard to forget.

The Palace was busy. No make that stupidly busy. We walked in 28 minutes after it had opened to be met with a mass of all humanity, all of whom were obviously far more important than us as they had to prove by pushing and shoving and generally getting in the way.

We had dressed as required respectively with trousers etc to enable us to enter the temples. However as each one required us to also remove shoes after the 3rd one we resorted to just peering through the door. Once you seen one Buddha........

The recommended visit time is 2 hours. We were both agitated by the heat and crowds and ready for a sit down after 40 minutes to consume the first 2 large bottles of water of the day. We decided to move on.

After a 800m walk we arrived at Wat Phra Kaeo which was much quieter and more pleasant and better organised. A hour later and 2 more bottles of water later (free with entrance fee) we were done with here as well.

We then started to walk down to the bridge to cross over the river to get Wet Pho. It didn't look far on the map. Wrong... Even after a short stop for lunch it took us ages to even find the bridge. Then even longer to get up the other side of the river to the next temple. We walked through building sites and over a flyover and after asking further directions in a Naval base we found it. Again impressive in its own right with lots of steep steps but by then we were templed out. A further stop with a load of monks for more bottles of water we decided to head back. We had a challenge finding a taxi but eventually got one back to the hotel.

After a quick doze we were up and out to hit Happy Hour at Jim Thompsons. This time we took a TutTut down the dark alley and back. We were greeted like returning heroes with bows all round and Karen being told they had her Carrot Cake ready (which she misheard and thought they said they had run out). Four drinks and a Chocolate Fudge cake later we were ready for our meal at (surprise surprise) Outback. No steaks for us, but the burgers were excellent.

We had noticed a poor middle aged man a couple of times before as we walked to and from the Hotel. He was wheel-chair bound and had obviously some physical and mental development problems but was sitting there quietly. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped and looked at a street vendor selling cotton trousers that everyone seemed to be wearing in order to go into the temples. They were priced at less than three pounds 50p. Karen thought they would be ideal to have as a back up for our River Kwai adventure tomorrow. I ended up buying a matching pair of shorts (well I thought they were shorts - but they could be boxers) for the same reason for two pounds. We didn't realise the wheel chair man was with the lady selling her wares. The look of sheer delight and pleasure on his face as we handed over the money, absolutely made our day. We were genuinely moved that so little money meant so much to him.

I have a policy of never giving money to people on the street as you never know the background story. I would rather do so through more coordinated joined up means. This instance reminded me of something that just happened on New Years Eve as we walked back to our car in Norwich. There was a couple ahead of us walking on St Benedict's who suddenly stopped. They were in their early 30's. She got her purse out and he took a twenty pound note out and turned round and headed back in our direction. Just ahead of us he stopped and spoke to what I would describe as a old 'tramp like' man who was just hobbling along. He was giving the money as we walked past and said you look as though you need this more than us. Happy New Year he said and walked off to rejoin his partner. We could hear the old 'tramp like' man just kept saying as we walked past - "you have given me twenty quid - wow". The spirit of Christmas lives on in Norwich. It won't change my approach but what a lovely gesture and lovely reaction.

Overall impressions of Bangkok so far. Too hot, too sticky, too unfinished, too many scammers and did I mention too sticky. Far far too sticky. It's as though stickieness was invented here. It was definitely a 2 pair of pants day. Prices are all over the place. Some things are just absurbly cheap. Others you look at and think 'how much???"

Not sure we have seen the real Thailand yet but I have probably seen enough of their culture already for this trip.


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