Day 1 Bangkok - The Adventure begins
After travelling from Ireland for nearly 24 hours, we were delighted to have reached our first stop on our 2 month adventure in south east asia.
Having been in bangkok in 2010 on my previous escapade, I had an idea of what to expect from this massive city with more than 10 million residents. This was the first time to asia and indeed bangkok for ciara.
However, arriving by plane versus train, are two completely different experiences.
We took the BTS (bangkok sky train) to Nana, the stop closest to our hotel, and a mere 10 minute walk in the early morning heat of bangkok to Hotel Solo, which was located at the end of a quiet street, not far from the hustle and bustle that surrounds the streets of bangkok from dawn til dusk. Hey, i feel a song coming on!!!
A quick change of clothes, a freshening up and hotel check in complete, we went in search of the Vietnamese embassy and we spotted it easy enough.
Getting our visas sorted for Vietnam was crucial
for our trip as there is no possibility of getting these on the border.
Typically, processing of visas takes at least 3 days but luckily, we were able to pay more to have them ready in 2 days time, just in time for departure from bangkok. Payment is in thai baht cash only and as neither of our bank cards would let us withdraw any money for security purposes, we had to change US dollars that we had brought with us. To do so required us to take our passports back from the embassy that we had just handed in. Embarrassing no??
In between all of the above going on, i was approached by an english guy who told me that he was just robbed and was wondering if i had could spare him a bob. I told him that i couldn't get any money from the machine which was not a lie.
Later that evening, in search for some dinner, we ended up at an english bar called bully's for some not so typical thai cuisine, burger and chips.
Well one has to gently acclimatise to their surroundings right!
Day 2 - Visa hunting
After our goings on at the Vietnamese embassy yesterday, we went in search of the cambodian and laos embassies. While you can get the visas at the borders, we felt it would be a little more convenient to have these got before we visit these countries.
Getting off the metro and attempting to follow directions from google, we decided that we would get a tuk tuk there as it seemed quite far and way too hot to walk. Easy right? You would think so, but as we have experienced and are quickly learning, nothing is straightforward here.
We asked a bunch of tuk tuk drivers who were standing around looking for fares but they were not sure of the locations of the embassies even with the address. This didn't stop them from haggling a price with us though. We left these guys with puzzled faces and flagged down another tuk tuk driver who first of all brought us to the Thailand cultural centre and then after further discussions, dropped us to the laos embassy.
However, it was to our disappointment to find out that they needed our passports, which were in the vietnam embassy on the other side of town.
Enough of the boring stuff, we headed to the grand palace and home of the emerald buddha, via another tuk tuk. Getting tuk tuks in bangkok is quite typical and the norm but rules of the road mean nothing. As far as we can see, it's a free for all.
The Grand Palace is home to some of the worlds most amazing palaces and temples cleverly decorated with diamonds and jewels and a must see for any tourist who visits bangkok. Just be warned if you plan to visit here, wear long pants and cover all exposed skin, otherwise you will be forced to don a lovely army green pants or an extremely large blouse for the ladies. Photos to prove.
Almost two hours after leaving the temples, we arrive back to our hotel by ferry, train and foot.
The swim in the hotels heated outdoor pool was very welcome that evening as we settled into our new lives on the road, well at least for 8 weeks.
Day 3 - Hotter than hot/cycling in the jungle
If you don't like heat, then don't come to Thailand. It's not just hot sun, it is the humidity, the cars, the motorbikes, buses and the street food all generating copious amounts of heat and making it quite uncomfortable if you are not used to it. But, i am hoping that we will get used to it and learn to cope.
At 8:15am, we met Lee our bicycle tour guide, and headed off around the city and across to the island of Bang Khra Jao for more exploration of this magnificent and vast city.
We passed by the area of Bangkok where migrant workers live in tenement shacks on the rivers edge, a huge market down a laneway that serves this community, shops, schools and street vendors trying to earn a living.
Then we met a guy with a small boat that brought bikes and us across the water to the island where approx 20k people live.
On arrival, we headed off on a long but enjoyable cycle around the island. He led us along very narrow paths over marshy land and water some with barriers, some without. It was along one of these paths that ciara, to her embarrassment fell off the path while turning a corner. Luckily for her, there was no murky water at that point but it still hurt like hell and gave us all a shock, knowing how easily it could happen.
We eventually got back to the boat, a little tired but delighted to have experienced a little bit of island life.
Back in the city, we had another 15 minute hair raising cycle in traffic until we got back to the starting point and we said our goodbyes to lee.
3 days in, we learnt that we should stay out of the sun during 12 to 3 so we headed back to our hotel to stay nice and cool before the evenings events.
Later that day, we collected our visas for vietnam, did some browsing in shops and availed of the hotel's pool and 2 for 1 happy hour promotion.
We topped off a great day with some nice modern chinese food, nothing like you would get at home and so cheap. Sweet deal!!