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Later part of Year 2004 was a busy time for me. I was on two business trips to China and Australia respectively. Nevertheless, holidays are holidays. Our Bangkok trip was envisaged couple months ago. My initial plan was to stay in Bangkok for a couple of days, then 3 days in Kanchanaburi, then back to Bangkok. Unfortunately, it did not turn out as I planned. Despite this setback, three of us had a rolling good 12 days in the capital of Thailand, created in 1782 by the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty.
Bangkok has changed so much since my last visit 15 years ago. One thing that is never changed – the chaotic traffic. Yes, that dreadful jam. The BTS skytrain and the MRT subway have certainly eased the transport system there. As a matter of fact, I find it very convenient and easy to travel using the trains. Another mode of transport which I find cheap and easy is the ferry and boat. With many canals and rivers bisecting Bangkok, this is the way to go. One thing that is unique in Thailand is the motorcycle taxi – probably the only kind in the world. You get in the back seat, pay the fare and the motorcyclist will fetch you to your destination. The only drawback is it only seat one.
I had asked my daughter where she wanted to go for her long Nov-Dec holidays. Her reply was Thailand. A decision, I think, which we all did not regret. I had booked Asia Hotel for four nights and thinking it was easy to book another hotel for the rest of our holidays. How wrong I was ! Every hotel we asked was fully booked. Asia Hotel could not extend my stay because it was full too. Sometimes, we just cannot take things for granted. Luckily and without much zeal, finally we stayed in Nana Inn, a very old and uninteresting place. Not worth the value.
With low-cost carriers coming into the air industry recently, travel to further destinations has been very affordable. We took Tigerairways. As with budget airlines, it is no frill – simple and cheap. Arriving in Bangkok from Singapore takes about two hours and here it’s our adventures….
Along the MBK and Siam Square area, it is a shopping paradise. If you love shopping, you can stay in Thailand forever. Numerous shopping centres can be found here to meet different budgets. Upmarket Gaysorn Plaza has all the top international brands. The always packed MBK shopping centre has everything under the sun. Beware, there are lots of imitation brands here too. These shopping centres are linked through covered linkway and BTS skytrain stations. A very convenient and easy access for shoppers, I must say.
JJ market is one place you have to visit when in Bangkok. Here you can find anything – from puppy to what-u-haves. An interesting bazaar to explore around during the weekends. I was told it also open during week days.
It is the third largest province in Thailand that has area of 19,473 square kilometers. It’s about 2 hours drive from Bangkok. This place is famous for its Death Railway – many POWs died while building it during the second world war.
We joined the one day trip to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok at 1000 baht per person. Picking us from our hotel at around 6.30am, we were on a merry-go-around hotels to fetch other tourists.
I marvelled at the railway line especially cutting through the mountains. Imagined it was built without the advanced technology and modern machinery we have today. Remarkable.
I enjoyed the trip and hope I can return in future to stay for a day or two.
Was the capital of Thailand from 1350 to 1767. Roughly about 85 kilometer north of Bangkok. Depending on traffic, should be one and half hours ride from Bangkok.
My first impression of Ayuthaya was it was an old historical province with its many ruined temples and ancient sites. I think it was preserved as a kind of heritage site.
Summer Palace is impressive and huge. I was told the current King of Thailand sometimes also came here. The garden was very well kept and clean. Interior decorations were beautiful.
Jim Thomson’s House
Before I came to Thailand, I had read about this place but did not give much thought to it. Ironically, it turned out to be one of my favourite places to visit. Actually, it was by chance we visited this place. I saw the signboard of Jim Thomson at a skytrain station(cannot remember which) and decided to go there. After some searching, we managed to find the place at a remote corner of a small lane, Soi Kasem San 2 off Rama I road.
If you see some wooden buildings in red, that is the place, the impressive home of a Thai silk entreperneur. A guide will bring you around the place. Our guide was a young Thai lady by the name of Lily. I kind of found her when she talked, she was like chanting away.
This place is very well decorated Jim’s collection of Asian art, antiques and pottery. Nobody knows where was Jim Thomson after he disappeared in Cameron Highlands. I find it very peaceful and pleasant. There is cafe that made very fresh salad and delectable club sandwiches. You can also purchase some souvenir and JT tee-shirts from a nearby shop.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
As part of our side trip, we joined a tour to sightsee the floating market of Thailand. It was a sight to behold. If you are in Thailand, try not to miss it.
Actually, floating market is the way of life in Thailand. Take an analogy of busy street with vehicles moving around, people selling and buying wares, shops everywhere. Put all these that can float – you get floating market. To me, it seemed it is more of a tourist attraction now. I saw more tourists than the local here. Nevertheless, it is an experience for us – city folks.
Khao San Road
This is the home to a very lively travellers scene. It is a haven for backpackers. At cafe of one of many guesthouses there, I saw people just sitting around – reading, chatting or merely idling.
There are many shops selling clothes (mostly imitation brands), numerous restaurants and even road-side salons. You have to be there to absorb the atmosphere of the area.
Wat Phra Kaew/Grand Palace
This is the important and sacred temple of Thailand. It consists of many brightly coloured buildings with its golden spires and glittering mosaics date back to 1782. It also houses the Temple of Emerald Buddha which ironically is not made of emerald but rather of green jade or jasper. No photograph is allowed and you have removed your shoes when entering the temple. As a mark of respect, a certain degree of dress code is required when entering any Buddhist temples. For example, it is better to dress in pants than shorts.
Adjoining Wat Phra Kaew is the Grand Palace. It is no more used as the royal residence but for occasional ceremonial purposes.
You can reach Grand Palace by taking a ferry from Central Pier and alight at Maharaj Pier
Chao Phraya River
Take the BTS skytrain and alight at the last station, Saphan Taksin. Within walking distance is the Central Pier/Sathon Pier. This is where you can take the ferry transport to many tourist attraction spots. There are few types of ferry transports. The public type is the cheapest, maximum fare is 8 baht.
During the period we were in Bangkok, we came here many times just to take the ferry to our destinations. During the night, there are many floating restaurants plying along the river mainly catering to tourists.
We all know the hospitality of the Thais is genuine. Three episodes had confirmed the Thai kindness and helpfulness when we were there.
I read there is a big shopping centre call Future Park Rangsit (I hope the name is right) in the area of Rangsit. Not knowing it was so far away from Bangkok, we decided to pay a visit. After enquiring bus 514 will take you there, we boarded the bus at around 5pm. After an hour ride, I was a little worried. Was this the right bus ? Did not see any big shopping centre in sight nearby. I did not want to alight because the place was too remote. I realise, when you are lost, always alight somewhere there is lot of activity on and people around. This was exactly what I did. We alighted and to our delight, it was Rangsit. However, it was almost 7pm. We were tired and hungry. Quickly, we chose a Japanese restaurant to have our meals. Checking with the waitress on what bus and where to take proved to be quite a hassle affair. Communication is a problem here as English is not the common language spoken. I could not speak or understand Thai except for a string of limited words. How frustrating !
Lo and behold, when we were walking out from the restaurant, a young waitress followed us. Not only did she guide us to the bus-stop, she also waited and made sure we boarded the correct bus. What a wonderful gesture !
In the bus, we had no idea where we were. Sitting next to my daughter was a young Thai lady. Fortunately, she could speak English. She assured us we were on the right bus to Bangkok. Upon reaching a BTS station, we alighted together with the young lady. She was also going to same BTS station as we. What touched us was she waited for us and made sure we were going to the correct direction. Good deed, lass !
Another occasion was when I was asking a teenager the direction to the Royal Museum. Apparently, I could sense he was not sure or we were speaking different language. Came a well-dressed gentleman to the rescue. He introduced himself as a teaching academic in the nearby university. He invited us to the canteen and we chatted like long lost old pals! Unfortunately, he told us the museum was closed that day. Nevertheless, he told us some information about his country (can sense he loves his country very much) and even came out to hail a tuk-tuk for us for our next destination. A total stranger met a few minutes yet so kind. Khop-Khun.
Though we were in Thailand for a short period, we have begun to like the Thais for their helpfulness and kindness. To me, some Thais look stern and fearful. However, they are nice people. No wonder, it is called the Land of Smiles….[ ]
During Second World War, forced labour (including Allied Prisoners of war) was used to construct the railway known as “Death Railway” in Thailand. The harsh condition coupled with lack of proper tools tool many lives. Many also died from cholera, dysentery, starvation and exhaustion.
There is a museum at the site to commemorate the suffering of those involved in the construction of the railway. Visitors are allowed to walk through the cutting itself and section of the former railway track.
Bridge over the River Kwai
Renowned for its black iron bridge, the Death Railway is enclosed by verdant forests, then opening out into a sheer cliff before crossing the Kwai Yai River at the Bridge over the River Kwai. A daily train is still following the historical route from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok Railway Staion.