Friday, February 20, 2009

Bangkok sightseeing

My first full day in Bangkok I went on a River Kwai and Tiger Temple Tour. Its was amazing!! (to say the least). Golden Dragon Coaches took us on the tour and their coach was so nice and the tour guide was fantastic - she had a sense of humour and everything. The tour went via the Katchanaburi War Memorial, then via the Bridge over the River Kwai. We took a longtail boat up the River to the War Museum (don't sit in the back of the boat - i learnt the hard way and got saturated). After the Museum we had lunch at J.R River Restaurant - a beautiful wooden structure that sat out over the water.
From here we went to the Tiger Temple for an hour and a half. The tigers were gorgeous and absolutely beautiful!!! I had pictures taken with the tiger in my lap (for an extra cost) and they turned out amazing!! They were so gorgeous but it definitely would have been better if there were less people there.

I really wanted to visit the Grand Palace but wasn't sure about the best way to get there - so I ended up catching the skyrail to the Boat dock and bought a river taxi pass. It let me travel on most of the river taxi's from 9am to 5pm during the day and it only cost $6. I ended up spending most of my morning on the water cause it was so much cooler and it was nice to just look at the boats on the river and the temples and buildings that we cruised past. The taxi went past most of the main temples near the river, as well as the Museum, China town and the Grand Palace.

Everything within the Grand Palace grounds was gorgeous and immaculate. Most of the temples that I had seen in Chiang Mai/Rai were beautiful from far away but were a bit rough round the edges up close, but these temples and buildings were beautiful - every piece of glass on the buildings was polished to a tea and the whole place shone. I didn't end up having enough money to pay for a tour (either in person or by a recording), but looking back now I wish that I had paid for one because I think I would have got a lot more out of the grounds. It almost got to the stage where everything started to look the same.

Later that night I decided I wanted to go to the top of the Baiyoke Sky Hotel (right next to the Indra Regent), and get the most gorgeous view of the city. I went up just before sundown and went right up to the revolving deck on the 80-something floor. It was rattly and basic but it was the most AMAZING view and it gave you a real sense of just how big Bangkok is - i couldn't see the edge of the city. I went down a few levels to the Baiyoke Skybar for my complimentary drink and wished I'd had some company because it was the coolest place and i could have chilled out there all night - but i didn't. I dragged myself back up to the deck after sunset to take some more photos and see the city lights, but didn't stay long because the moths at the top were crazy and it was like i was being swamped by them.

The only other place I would really recommend going in Bangkok would be Lumphini Park. The huge park has a lake in the middle where you can hire paddleboats. I think i sat in the park for a good 3 hours on Sunday. Every Sunday they have a free concert and music in the park and so I saw the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra play for free. The music was fantastic but it was such a strange thing to leave it and walk through the park and see people jogging and doing dance lessons and aerobics - not something that you'd often see in Australia.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bangkok - crazy, bustling, hectic, hot Bangkok

It's time for me to leave the daily meals, beautiful country, and the friendly, amazing and inspiring people of Mirror. It's time for me to adventure on to Thailand's capital Bangkok. Before I even leave Mirror I'm a bit 'iffy' about heading back there. I wasn't the biggest fan for the first night that I stayed there, and I have heard mixed reviews since. All i know is that I have to go there with my eyes and mind wide open to the mix of culture, poverty, cleanliness and attitude of the city. 

Bangkok is nothing like I've ever seen before. What can I say - its crazy. It probably doesn't seem that big to people who come from large overseas cities, but for an Aussie, this is massive !

I'm staying back at the Indra Regent Hotel for a couple of nights before heading back to Australia. I have a few plans while I'm here - Grand Palace and Tiger Temple are high on the list, but besides that its just me, my map and a few days of exploration.


The area around the Indra is one of the main shopping districts in Bangkok. 

First stop is Central World - 7 floors of expensive sports, tech, fashion and home decor. 

Next stop, Siam Paragon - yet another enormous shopping complex with a decent and fairly well priced food court. There's a huge array of thai inspired dishes and the Paragon has a fairly unique payment system - you purchase a food court card (similar to a gift or debit card) - you put as much money on it as you want and then everything in the food court is purchased using the card. to get any money back that remains on the card you just have to return it to the main desk. 

The Pratunam markets have a very cool (but dirty) vibe. There's some really cheap items and food available if your willing to barter. The streets of Pratunam come alive at night. The street vendors and stalls creep over the sidewalk and out onto the road, leaving barely a lane for traffic to drive. 


There are a couple of places I ate at during my stay. 

The first was an outside area at the Gold Palace Plaza (one block behind the Indra). As far as I know it has no name but its brightly lit and has a huge sign that says "Food". They sell everything from steak to seafood, hamburgers, chips as well as Thai style dishes. 

Across the lane from the Palace Plaza is a cool looking little place called "The Sidewalk" which I decided I'd come back to eat at the following night. I was a little disappointed in the meal - rice and vegetables that didn't have that much flavour, but at least it was still cheap - $2.25 - Bargain!

The final place I ate at was an Indian/Pakistan Restaurant on the backstreet of the Baiyoke Sky Hotel. I kind of stumbled across the place - I was wandering around the streets looking for something different to look at or to eat and I stopped to look at their menu. A friendly stranger walked out of the restaurant as I arrived, said it was the best meal in Bangkok, and so I decided that this would be where i'd eat. I had butter chicken, a butter nan bread and some water. I'm not into spicy food at all and this was making my nose run, but it was still amazing food. I can't recall exactly but I'm sure the restaurant was called 'Al-Dara' (or something similar).