Friday, July 22, 2016

A Little Time in Bangkok - Day 2: Old and Modern

After breakfast, booked the next day tour then took a tuk-tuk to Grand Palace (believe me, tuk-tuk is not advisable in a sweaty weather).

Another note to readers: Once you are a step away from Grand Palace, just go with the flow till you reach the ticket booth. Don't listen to what the street vendors and people around Grand Palace say, they are nothing but TOUTS who will scare and convince you to buy that expensive piece of cloth to cover your legs and/or shoulders. Ignore them. Trousers/jeans and clothes below the knees are allowed inside.
Let this be a lesson to you guys: Dress properly and appropriately upon entering the Grand Palace premises.
TR was approached by security (or police?) because, every time I click her photos, she kept removing her jacket in spite of knowing the rules that forbade it (Never ever do this inside the Grand Palace or any temple in Bangkok as dress code is strictly enforced). She was wearing a tight/revealing sleeveless above-the-knee clothes. She was given a warning, was asked to show her phone and delete the photo.
Once you reach the ticket booth, pay an admission fee of THB 500 per head. You'll find a FREE map guide of the Palace, in different language, inside. There are 3 ways to move around the Palace, slow, normal, and fast (just follow the arrows, it is color coded). The slow tour/way is probably the stop-and-smell-the-roses-type, a thorough tour of the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha temple which will take at least 3 hours or more. The fast way is probably the whirlwind-romance-type, you'll move around the complex in a great speed without going into too much details.

Because of the scorching heat (I was melting) and large crowds, we went from normal to fast way. . 
The day I visited the Grand Palace was the same day the Chinese decided to invade it. 
After 2 hours or less, we took a taxi to go to "modern" part and went to Platinum mall, as suggested by the tour agent. Spent another two hours staring at clothes, that everyone can probably afford, then bought a few. I can say Bangkok is the place to be when it comes to clothes-shopping. Clothes are really extremely inexpensive and trendy! My kind of retail therapy! Was too overwhelmed and I later realized that I forgot to take pictures while we were there..

◄ First Night in Bangkok          |          Last Night in Bangkok ►

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bangkok After Sunset - 1st Night

Had dinner at some noodle house, 2-minute walk away from the hotel, at about 6pm. I dunno the name as it was written in Thai script but it was located opposite the Regional Office for Asia & the Pacific Food & Agricultural Organization of the United Nations along Phra Athit Road. Bus stop in front of the resto. Anyway the food is inexpensive and tasty spicy and served in a large portion. Wasn't able to finish it.

After noodle-ing, we checked nearby money changers (first one has same rate with the bank = 8.04 and the other one has slight difference = 8.03) and tour packages offered by two different travel agencies before going back to hotel. We rested for a while in the room, planned what to do next day. 

Our original itineraries (Day 1 - Old Bangkok, Day 2 - Pattaya, Day 3- Modern Bangkok) have been changed to Days 1 & 2 finish the whole damn old & modern bangkok and/or decide later. Still upset about being scammed and lost my excitement to explore. I was feeling so down... If I was doing the whole finding-myself-again thing, it was not helping. LOL

We decided to check the rooftop pool. Swam and did a lot of floating on my back, made me relax. Jacuzzi isn't feeling like one. Anyway, TR wanted to go out after swimming for body massage and some nightouts, and I was like okay, whatever. We went back to our room past 8pm. Had shower and started feeling dizzy right after it. Guess it was fatigue and lack of sleep. Was really feeling a bit under the weather like I was going to collapse, so I stayed in the room to rest and recharge for the next day of scam exploration. 
Overlooking the Rama VIII Bridge (a cable-stayed bridge) crossing the Chao Phraya River
Overlooking the Chao Phraya River (the river of kings) - the lifeblood of Bangkok

TR went down and had night out alone. I was still awake when she returned with beer, mojito, instant cup noodles and few stories to tell me. She was already asleep when I started dozing off.

◄ Bangkok Day 1          |          Bangkok Day 2 ►

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Little Time in Bangkok - Day 1: SCAMMED

Arrived Bangkok mid morning.. seeing Thailand from above it looks like the Philippines. The hot humid sweaty weather, the roads and the traffic makes me feel like I'm in Manila. The people (Thais) - we look alike. TBH, everything look the same... well, except they are having Buddha statues every corner and Temples everywhere. 

Anyway, due to bumper to bumper traffic, reached the hotel (2015 world luxury hotel winner) located in old Bangkok, in the Phra Athit road/Chao Phraya riverside almost 1 pm. Changed clothes immediately, had lunch and started the exploration.

Phra Athit pier (N13) is right next to the hotel and the terminal is in front of the hotel's restaurant. Paid 150 baht for Chao Phraya express boat service to reach Grand Palace & Emerald Buddha Temple  and Reclining Buddha Temple which are 2 piers away from where we came from.

After getting off the boat at Tha Chang pier (N9), the just off the boat thing happened... a SUPER NICE uncle-looking Thai man (let's call him UTM) approached us, introduced himself as a teacher with a wife nurse etc etc and led our way. I wasn't paying attention 'cause I was sweating like a sheep the night before Eid (LOL). UTM said she thought we're Thais, which the roomie (TR) took it as a compliment because according to her anywhere she goes they mistook her as local like she went to HK and China they also thought she was Chinese etc. Anyway, UTM goes on and on and TR listened to his story intently so I secretly kicked her foot as I have read about this scam and told her in Tagalog to cut the crap. I think UTM sensed it because he told us not to worry he won't ask for money he just want to help as he's a teacher in this so and so University blah blah. (Note to self and readers: if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck!). He said the Grand Palace is closed at the moment ('twas 2pm) for some royal event and will reopen 3pm to 5pm (sounds familiar, really), so better go to this and that place (while writing it on the paper and on our Bangkok map about some exhibition centre where "they only sell genuine ruby stones half the price to locals but since today's the last day, they open it to tourists just when buying tell them it's not for reselling but personal use like gift to your mother, you'll get a good bargain" and that we can go to those places for 200 baht by taking a Tuk-tuk but choose the blue one because it's government-owned. I was against UTM's suggestions but he talked TR (well, us) into it.

And some blue Tuk-tuks were miraculously parked nearby as if they are waiting for us. So old Bangkok, here we come in a Tuk-tuk. 

First stop, the Tuk-tuk driver (another SUPER NICE young Thai man, YTM) dropped us at the back/exit gate of some under-construction temple which later I found out it was Wat Suthat. He told us to come in 20 minutes because he'll get fined if he parks there for long.

Wat Suthat

While taking photos inside the compound a not-so-normal-looking guy scared the hell out of me as he was staring at my sling bag, tried several times to come near me and followed me wherever I go. So we hurried up and left the temple without getting inside.

When we came, YTM immediately  excused himself as he needs to pee or something I forgot.

While waiting, TR and me were taking turns taking a pic while sitting in the Tuk-tuk. Some Thai man in the waiting shed offered to take our photos. I was hesitant to give my phone (really have trust issues with strangers) and told TR that if that man runaway with my phone, she will need to buy me a new one. After some shots, he told stranger-friendly TR that he is a Project manager in that temple and some blah blah story of his life (not much of a conversationalist here esp with strangers). He inquired where we came/are going, how much we pay YTM, etc. He even advise us to pay him at the end of the "tour" (Thai men are SUPER NICE). Later I deduced that this man is in connivance with UTM and YTM.
TR and me in a tuk-tuk
YTM finally returned and apologized for taking so long (I guess it was intentional as he wanted to prolong our stay there since we came back early).

Next stop: Exhibition Centre. On our way to that "Exhibition Centre" I noticed we are just going round and round (same road over and over) but didn't say a thing (I know, I know). The Exhibition Centre is just a small jewellery shop, I was expecting a world trade centre kind of a thing. Anyway, I'm not into jewelries so they failed to sales talk me but TR is... So you know what happened next. (I now wonder if her ruby stone earrings are real...).

We told YTM to take us to money changer or bank as TR runs out of baht (she paid around 5 to 6 thousand baht for that pair of earrings).

At the bank, it took us some amount of time for our turn, too many customers that time, the security gave us glass of water to drink. TR half jokingly side commented that I should be thankful because she was with me otherwise I won't get that water and those men earlier wont approach/help us...

We didn't change our dirhams as the rate was too low at the bank, 1dh is 8.04 while in Dubai it is 9.09 baht. Left the bank and YTM drove us back to the Grand Palace area.

It was past 3 pm. YTM stopped at the opposite road of the Palace. When we told him to wait for us, he said his duty/time is finished we have to pay him. TR wanted to hire him to drive us around and took his mobile number. He was hesitant to give but gave it anyway. (Maybe he had given her wrong number, we dunno.) While walking some bystanders told us Palace is closed now. We couldn't believe it so we went inside the Tourist Information booth (TIB) across from the Palace and asked the ladies there. We were told that it's about to close now but we can still check. Then it dawned on us that we had been duped, told TR that I should have had trusted my instinct but since well you know... 

Anyway, we still crossed the road and tried but the guards at the Palace told us that they cannot let us in anymore as it is already closed. I checked my watch,  it was almost 3:30 pm. (Note to readers: The Grand Palace is open from 9am to 3:15pm, Tue to Sun)

We went back to the TIB for the Reclining Buddha Temple, they gave us the direction which is behind the Grand Palace and about 5-10 minutes walk from there.

While we were walking almost ALL of the taxi and tuk-tuk drivers including bystanders and street vendors asked us where are we going and told us to take taxi/tuk-tuk because it's far, some of them said it's closed (seriously, Bangkok is a hotbed of scammers). TR almost got persuaded (again!) by these people because she felt it's far or we're getting lost. Since I was really, really, really pretty fecking upset and annoyed at myself for not trusting my instincts, speaking up, telling what I think and for letting her drag me down with her gullibility, I told her to stop talking to these scamming scumbags and reminded her what the TIB ladies told us - it's 5-10minutes from here, just take left then straight then left, and that they are open until 6:30 pm meaning we have plenty of time even if we get lost. So finally we reached the temple (praise Buddha for that!), paid 100 baht each with free small cold bottled water. Explore the compound for an hour or two. (Note to readers: The Temple of the Reclining Buddha is open daily from 8am to 6:30 pm)

Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

So that's how our first horrible day in Bangkok goes..