Bangkok

The capital
Bangkok, Thailand

 


After reading some terrible reports about how awful the train is, I was dreading it.

But I was impressed, a nice big comfy seat.

My bed was made at 6.30pm – the woman was super quick!

Within half an hour she had the whole carriage made up! And my bed was so big and comfy!!

The past 4 nights I’ve slept on a bed that felt like a rock. This was amazing!

The rest of the evening I lounged on my moving train bed watching the stewards running up and down delivering food and drinks to people’s beds, until I tried to fall asleep.

Although I didn’t sleep particularly well, there is quite a lot of train noise and bumping along!

The beds were put away at 5.30am and after 15 hours of riding along, we rolled into Bangkok at 8am, an hour behind schedule.

My hostel was rather conveniently located right opposite the train station entrance!

I left my bags and started making my way to the Indian visa centre in the Asok area.

This was just a short tube ride away! In order to apply for an Indian visa, one must have filled out an online application form, printed this form out and bring it along with several photos (in a rather random square size), plus photocopies of various other documents including flights in and out and hotel bookings.

The embassy no longer deals with visa applications, instead have outsourced to a visa processing company. And I was very annoyed when just a couple of weeks ago, they doubled the price of a visa for just English people – now costing £100. Ridiculous.

The whole process was rather easy. I arrived at 8.30am, when the office opened and there were already about 10 people ahead of me.

The first queue was to have all your papers checked. As far as I could tell, not a single person passed. Having wrong size photos, no photocopies, no flight booking and even no application form! Do people not check the requirements?!

So I was surprised when they said I was fine and let me through! You then wait until your number is called, to move to another window where they take all your documents and you pay. Now I just have to wait 6-8 working days. That’s a long time!!

So far all I have done is move place to place acquiring the various visas required to travel around the world:

– in Tawau (Malaysia) I waited just 1 hour for my Indonesian visa;

– in Chiang Mai, it was a 1 day wait for the China visa;

– I applied online for a Vietnam pre-approval letter (which took all of 5 minutes);

– I applied online for a Sri Lanka visa pre-approval (which again was a very fast 5 minute process)

– and yet again, here in Bangkok, I find myself standing in line waiting to drop my passport for yet ANOTHER visa.

You would think some countries don’t want any tourist visitors, given the time and effort and money (!) involved in obtaining a visa to visit them.

For the rest of the morning, I went shopping! In possession of (I guess rather a lot of) pairs of shorts and t-shirts, I am in need of some slightly more substantial clothing for when I head up into China in a couple of weeks.

I miss shopping.

And love my new clothes!

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I’ve read several airplane magazine articles recently about Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn) so thought I would go and have a look!

I caught a (very crowded!) river ferry upstream about 20 minutes. The main ferry doesn’t stop at Wat Arun, instead you have to catch a separate 2 minute long ferry (for 3 baht) that just crosses from one side to the other!

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The temple from afar looks a silvery colour. However, up close, the detailing is all made out of broken crockery.

It’s very elaborate close up – flowers, elephants, little people statues are all made out of these bits of porcelain. This porcelain was left overs from Chinese ships that called into Bangkok port when the temple was being built in the 1800’s.

It’s a very steep climb up the side of the temple, but offered lovely views across the river towards the grand palace. I didn’t stay up there too long, not a fan of heights!

For the rest of the day I was too tired to do anything….one nights sleep, then back on another night train!

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Tuesday 5 February 2013

I had no sleep in my hot (no electricity, fuse blew in the night) and noisy (people coming and going all night long) room.

I am exhausted.

I went for a bit of a walk in the morning.

I’m staying right next to China town, they are all gearing up for Chinese New Year, which is in a couple of days.

There are red lanterns and banners hanging all across the streets and lots of decorations for sale.

In the middle of all the hustle sits Wat Traimit. This is a tall house-style temple, the top floor containing a 3m tall, 5.5 tonne solid gold Buddha!

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It was a really nice looking Buddha, very shiny! It was apparently discovered by accident when the statue was dropped from a crane when being moved 40 years ago and a plaster coating fell off.

The streets were busy and full of food stalls and markets.

As with other China town areas around the world, there is a plethora of weird things for sale – dried squid, birds nests, strange dried mushrooms, fish heads, dried seahorses and shark fins 😦 There were many restaurants advertising shark fin soup. Ranging from £40 to £200 (!) per bowl. Many fins proudly displayed in the windows too. You could even buy your own fin for £1,000. So sad.

I was too tired to do much else for the rest of the day!

Where to next?

That is a difficult decision.

With many days until I can collect my passport, I don’t particularly want to be hanging around in Bangkok for the whole time. I want to visit some islands as well – Thailand is not short on those, with a possible 1,430 to choose from!

In the end, with some friends to visit, Ko Lanta won. However, as with all these things, getting there was not going to be quick and called for another overnight train.

I booked my train ticket yesterday. No sleeping carriage space left?! What!! So I am left with a seat in a fan carriage.

For 15 hours.

The worst it gets.

Oh no.

I checked several times if there had been any cancellations for a sleeping seat, but no.

So at 5pm, resigned to my seat all night, I made myself ‘comfy’. It could be worse. Loads of leg room, but all open to the outside, so very noisy and I’m under the only non-working fan.

Wonderful.

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