Tour of Asia - 2007-2008 travel blog

Having brekkies at our nice hotel in Bangkok

Sunrise over the Chao Phraya river en route to the floating market

Arriving at the Floating market

Boat breakfast at the floating market

All the ladies at the floating market were nicely dressed and made...

It was an adventure in eating

Why it's called a 'long-tail' boat

Saw woodcarvers doing the most incredibly detailed work on teak

We hit the night lights in Bangkok! Yes, us! Bruce even stayed awake! What we did was to go to a "Ladyboy" show that included an incredibly good dinner. A tremendous buffet, much of it cooked to your preference as you stood there and waited. For example, you could have seafood pasta - your choice of pasta, sauce, seafood content and flavourings (garlic, for example). They also did sushi to your choice, and some Japanese dishes, and there was a full range of stuff like shrimp cocktails and cooked meats and veggies, etc. We were really pleasantly surprised because it was a package deal with the show and we thought it would be a quick in and out buffet to move the masses along. We were picked up at our hotel and driven along main streets with the most spectacular, massive displays of Christmas lights we have ever seen. (Ladysmith, B.C. - eat your heart out!) It was stunning and, wouldn't you know it, it's the first time I've gone anywhere without my camera on this trip. Because, wouldn't you know it, the Ladyboy Show was probably the first show I've ever been to that cameras were actually encouraged. I wish I could show you......... We were seated cabaret style, with a gin and tonic included and we had really good seats - slightly raised from the floor in front of us, so we had great views. Unfortunately, the follow spot was right above Bruce's head, and if he hadn't kept ducking it would have kept bonking him on the head. (Luckily, he learned after the first three or four times!) There was a cast of about 50 with a lot of wonderful costume changes and some pretty imaginative routines, although some of the lip-syncing left something to be desired (probably due to the cast being Thai and the songs, mostly, being English). Bruce was convinced there were a lot of women in the cast, so after the show, when we were encouraged to mingle with the performers and have photos taken with them (grrrrr, again, for not having my camera with me!) I asked one if it was just men in the show or ladies, too. He answered "No men, no ladies - just lady boy". Fascinating.

So, the swimsuit I had left behind at our hotel in Sukhothai arrived! Talk about efficiency. I mentioned it only once to Mr. Tee and he got on to the phone right away to the hotel in Sukhothai, and when it arrived at the Spice Roads office in Bangkok Mr. Tee then delivered it personally to our hotel - all at no charge to us! (Note to bike-tour company 'Tour d'Afrique' (who did our Paris to Istanbul ride earlier this year): it would have been nice to have had similar help regarding our still-missing tent - especially as it was the fault of our tour crew who left it behind in Budapest.)

Yesterday morning we took another tour - this time to the Floating Market at Damnoen Saduak. Bruce is still mumbling about it. It was supposed to be a half-day tour that left at 06:30am (yes - before our normal breakfast time), but we didn't get back to the hotel until nearly 3pm. It would have been later still except there was a couple with us who had to be back for their onward travel, so after the guide initially kidnapped our van full of passengers to take us via Gems Gallery ("you don't have to buy anything - just look - then we get you ride to your hotels from there") finally this young couple spoke up and said they had to get back for their travel arrangements and absolutely could not go to the Gems Gallery. The guide was quite perturbed and said they should have told her sooner, but she finally relented and allowed four of us to continue directly to our hotels in the van and she took the remainder of the passengers inside Gems Gallery in hopes of getting some kick-back, I guess. (We'd already done the gems thing in Chiang Mai.)

The floating market was not all it was cracked up to be either, which is what particularly bothered Bruce, but I found it nevertheless interesting. It wasn't until we got out there that the guide informed us that the full market was not in operation as it is not high season. We got into another long-tail boat (named for the long shaft that goes from the engine to the propeller) that took us up canals until we reached the busiest part of the market at which point we each paid another 150 Baht to transfer to a smaller, oared boat to travel amidst the vendors in their boats. Bruce said we could have walked it and seen the same things - oh well..........

After that, and again something we had not been told when we booked our half-day tour, the van took all of us to an elephant park as some people had signed up for a three-location trip while we were on the single location trip. We didn't need to see anymore elephants chained up or giving people rides, so we just hung out until the others were ready to go at which time they took us to the third location - horrors! - a snake farm!!!!!! Aaaaaaargh. It was hard not to see glass cases with monster snakes and pictures of the darn things all over the place, even though I did my "no way - it'll be a frosty Friday in hell before I step foot in there" routine. Bruce went in though and watched the cobra show they put on, and I got the full benefit of hearing (and imagining) the whole damn thing because they thoughtfully carried it on loudspeakers throughout the area. So I was in no mood to be kidnapped to the Gems Gallery when that idea cropped up, I can tell you - nor was Bruce because of what he felt was the scam of the floating market. Again, oh well..............

Anyway, swim suit safely returned to me we had a nice hour or so at the delightful swimming pool at our hotel after we got back. This hotel, the Majestic Grande, has been a lovely place to be in Bangkok. It's not anywhere near as expensive as the major hotels nearby (Marriott, etc.) but it is a lovely boutique hotel with excellent staff, service and amenities. I think the breakfasts are probably the best we've had en route, with lots of nice little touches like each day a fruit bowl is left in our room - just in case we need further topping up. Neither of us, contrary to hopeful expectations before leaving home, has shed a pound so far - in fact, I'm up a quart or two.

We met a very nice couple from Dubai at the pool who, before parting company, had invited us to come and stay with them some time. (We met another couple from Dubai in Budapest who did the same thing - very hospitable people.) Last night we walked up the street and went to a Lebanese restaurant that had been recommended to us by the piano player in the lobby at our hotel, a nice, ex-pat Brit named John, who has been in Thailand (with a Thai wife) for about 40 years. Each time we pass through the lobby he does something dopey like playing "Bicycle Built for Two". Anyway, our Lebanese meal was truly excellent and there were lots of mid-Eastern looking people eating in there so I guess they thought it was good, too. Parental advisory time: Walking back to the hotel we passed what, through the day, had been just an innocuous looking side street but at night was abuzz with bars and young girls and all sorts of sleazy action going on with some disgusting looking old white farts. We couldn't resist wandering in there to watch the action for a bit but didn't stay and felt the need for a shower when we got back to our room - it was outlandish. (Here endeth the parental advisory.)

Here's an odd thing, too: watching the news on CNN a couple of days back, there was a story about Cuba and Christmas and changing times, etc. when Bruce suddenly sat bolt upright and said "There's Nellie!" Sure enough, there was the lady whose home we had stayed in just outside Havana (both on our way in and way out of Cuba) sitting in a pew at church! What are the odds of seeing someone you know from a country like Cuba on a television in Thailand? We also, in Laos, saw a piece on hauntings that showed the cemetary at the cathedral on Blanchard in Victoria, B.C., and a bit on the Whistler train. Just like being at home...........

This morning, Bruce is packing up our bikes in the lobby of the hotel to the amusement and interest of the concierge and bellboys while I sit here writing. We went to the Post Office earlier and mailed home a bunch of stuff we don't need. That's lightened our load by about 15 pounds and, where every ounce counts, that's a lot. They have a great service at the Post Office: you take your stuff in and they find a box that fits, we stuff the box, they wrap it and tape it and then you simply address it. Very convenient! (Canada Post, take note!)

Tomorrow: Siem Reap, Cambodia

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