Interlude: Bangkok city-break.

After a few months of teaching, I really needed a break. An old friend from the Manchester / Bury area of the UK was going to be in Bangkok for a few days, stopping off before continuing to New Zealand. He suggested meeting up, and I don’t take any persuading to go to Bangkok – it’s one of my favourite cities. I booked my flight.

We made arrangements to meet, and I went by river taxi, along the Chao Phraya River, passing the Grand Palace:

And Wat Arun along the way:

I got off at the last boat stop, then jumped on a bus (the fare was nominal – about 10 or 15 pence / 20 US cents). Thai people are so lovely; I showed my map and the address and other passengers explained to the conductor, then they all told me where to alight and how to get to the hotel. I was quite far south, near the Asiatique centre (I’ve not been there – it seems quite touristy, but maybe next time …) and didn’t know the area but looked for a nice coffee shop, asked the lovely lady for help getting on the free wifi, and waited to meet my friend Alan.

Al and his travelling partner JJ were staying in a VERY nice hotel. They had free boat shuttle to the BTS station so we took that then grabbed a taxi to the Grand Palace. For non-Thais, the entrance is 500 THB (£12) but it is a must-see sight.

Alan from Bury, UK
Alan & JJ waiting for the river ferry to Wat Arun.

I was changing hotels next day, moving from Banglumpoo (near Khao San Rd) to Silom, a backpacker area to a business centre. Next day we met up by the boat ferry, took the BTS a couple of stops, and just hung out in the air-conditioned malls. Alan was asking if there was fast food in Bangkok:

And he was curious about durian, so after he left, I shot this:

I used to love durian but I told a student this and she bought me three pieces. I couldn’t keep it in my hotel fridge (yes, it really does stink), couldn’t throw food away (at least not in my hotel bin, see above reason), so I ate it … all three sections.

I felt like I had food poisoning; dizzy and nauseous. I couldn’t eat for about four or five days, absolutely no appetite.

I stayed at Red Planet, Surawang Rd, near Chong Nonsi BTS station and a great food court, full of locals, full of various curry smells.

No farang (westerners)

And as I have become vegetarian, I bought this: three items and rice for 50 THB (about £1.20)

Sorry for the blurred image – I must have been in a hurry to eat.

My hotel had a view of the Oriental Express Hotel:

It was the week after Tet in Vietnam, so there were still celebrations for the New Year.

But I couldn’t forget Vietnam:

The differences between Bangkok and HCM ?

Bangkok has an efficient and clean public transport system (BTS and Metro. The buses are better and safer than in VN but still a little dirty).

The noise. Traffic stops at red lights in Bangkok, people know when to cross the road without the danger of being hit. Motorbikes drive on the road NOT on the pavement. Traffic drives in one direction only. AND honking … this is considered impolite in Thailand, so the streets are busy but cars are not constantly beeping and hooting.

The taxis are generally trustworthy. If they don’t use a metre, say thanks you and look for a new taxi.

The food smells great, from expensive restaurants to cheap street food.

The people smile and are polite. They queue in order at train and metro stations.

Most people smoking are tourists, not Thai.

AND … in all my travels in Thailand, I have never seen anyone use the side of the road as a personal toilet; I see this just about every day in HCM. The Year of the Pig indeed.

But, unfortunately, I had to go back to HCM with Vietjet and, of course, before my 90-minute flight, there was a 2 and a half hour delay. Then back out into the Sai Gon sun. The taxi touts, the smokers, the noise, the horror, the horror …. and then back to work, back to screaming kids, apathetic adults and erratic wifi.

Yet Thailand is only 90 minutes away …

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