2.1.1: Bangkok and Koh Chang
Day 59: Bangkok
In the morning I took a walk around Banglamphu and Khao San Road. Many tuk-tuk drivers lined the streets wanting to take me on tours of the city for very cheap. I avoided them all as they would probably take me to dodgy gem shops. Later I got a metered taxi and the driver was as bad as the tuk-tuk drivers and wanted to take me to a travel agent instead of the Grand Palace. I wanted to go to a travel agent anyway as I wanted to arrange a trip Koh Samet so I agreed. The place seemed legit enough and the guy suggested that I go to Koh Chang instead as it will be the Loy Krathong festival then and Koh Samet will be packed. Koh Chang is bigger and further from Bangkok. I agreed and booked a four day holiday. I went back to the taxi and this time I actually made it to the Grand Palace. First I went to the Wat Phra Keo, the holiest temple in Thailand and the resting place of the Emerald Buddha. Somehow I got in with shorts, though I guess they were quite long shorts. The temple buildings were spectacular though the emerald Buddha was less so considering its importance.
59.1. Wat Phra Keo and the Grand Palace
I then went to the Grand Palace grounds and then to Wat Pho which is nearby. It was not as spectacular as Wat Phra Keo but it was less busy and felt more relaxed. The highlight was the huge golden reclining Buddha which was very impressive. Afterwards I walked back along the Sonam Luang, one of the few remaining areas of parkland in Bangkok. Most of the area was closed off though due to the upcoming funeral of the King’s sister.
59.2. Wat Pho and the reclining Buddha statue.
Day 60: Bangkok
Today I walked back the way I’d come yesterday from the Grand Palace. I was a bit confused as to which road I’d been on and it took me a while to remember. I was planning to go to the National museum but it was closed as it was Monday. Instead I continued on down past the Grand Palace and on towards the pier. I was thinking about going on one of the boat rides but they were quite expensive so in the end I didn’t bother and walked back. In the afternoon I sat about in my room and wrote the postcards I’d bought in Kathmandu and later went to the post office to send them.
Day 61 Bangkok to Koh Chang
I got up and had some breakfast in the hotel lobby and at about 8:00 a short Thai man on a motorbike came to meet me. He showed me and some other tourists to the bus for Koh Chang, which was decent and had air-con and plenty of legroom. It took a while for the bus to escape the urban sprawl that is Bangkok but soon after we left we stopped for a lunch break. It was a bit early for lunch so I just had a can of drink and a banana. The bus stopped again to let people off for Koh Samet and at 15:30 we arrived at the ferry terminal. We stopped to buy tickets and then we were taken down to the pier where we boarded the ferry. The boat waited at the pier for quite a while so I had a beer whilst I was waiting. On the other side I got on a pretty crowded sawngthaew, a truck with two rows of seats on the back. I didn’t understand how it worked and assumed it was like a bus that stops at each location. It wasn’t like that at all and I was supposed to tell the driver before I got on but I didn’t realize and he didn’t see me get on as it was so busy. I ended up at Lonely beach with all the other travelers but I’d booked somewhere already on Whitesands beach which was back in the opposite direction. By the time I arrived at my bungalow, the Baan San Sabay, it was getting quite late and I was relieved to find that it was still open. The bungalow was very nice though once I’d gotten inside. I went straight out for dinner and then came back and went to bed.
Day 62: Koh Chang
In the morning I went for a walk along the nearby Whitesands beach and it was OK but quite crowded so later on I went to Klong Phrao beach which was quieter and more pleasant with a few small islands just off the coast. I got a sawngthaew from near the bungalow and got to the beach by walking through a very expensive looking spa resort. I swam for a bit and then went to a bar for lunch. I then came back with the same sawngthaew driver I’d gone down with. In the afternoon I went to an internet café/travel agent run by a bloke from Northamptonshire and his Thai wife. I went to a restaurant on the beach in the evening, my appetite had now fully returned after my sickness in Kathmandu. Tonight was the festival of Loy Krathong and I was given a Krathong as I entered the restaurant. It is made of banana leaves in the shape of a lotus flower and has joss sticks and candles in the centre. You light the candles and joss sticks and float them on a body of water for good luck for the year ahead. I put mine in the sea as I was by the beach. It took a while to get anything lit because of the wind and when I eventually did get a few of the joss sticks going and put it in the sea it was immediately capsized by a wave. I floated the now sodden Krathong anyway and went back to the restaurant and finished my beer – so much for my good luck this year!
62.1. Lighting a paper lantern on the beach on Loy Krathong.
Day 63: Koh Chang
I spent most of the day at the internet café interspersed with brief walks along the beach. In the afternoon I booked a half-day snorkeling trip through the staff at the bungalow. In the evening I went to another restaurant on the beach and had some deep fried mixed seafood, which was quite good.
Day 64: Koh Chang
In the afternoon I went on the half-day snorkeling trip that I’d booked yesterday. At midday a sawngthaew arrived at the bungalow and we drove south towards Hat Kai Bae beach, picking up a couple from the Netherlands along the way. It was to be just the three of us on the trip and they were friendly and we chatted on the journey. We got off at a small pier and were given a snorkel and mask, a pair of fins and a floating jacket. We then got onto a speedboat and went off to an island about 10 minutes away from the beach by speedboat. We got off onto a small beach and were given some bread for feeding the fish. I got into the water and instantly many small brightly coloured fish came up to me. It quite took me by surprise and all the bread was gone pretty quickly. My mask steamed up at first but after coming back to the beach and adjusting it, it was fine. I swam for almost an hour and there were many fish and corals. I headed back to the beach but by this time the sea had gotten a bit rough and it took quite a while to swim back to the beach. I sat on the beach for a little while and waited for the Dutch couple to return. When they did we waited for the speedboat to come back and we went back to Koh Chang. It was a bit early to go back so we wondered along Hat Kai Bae beach before getting the sawngthaew back to our respective bungalows. I had a shower and then went back to restaurant that I went to on Loy Krathong and had some grilled tuna.
Day 65 Koh Chang to Bangkok
This morning I was up early and got a sawngthaew back to the pier. On the way a German guy and an American couple got on and we were all headed for the same bus on the mainland. We arrived at the pier early so I had a coffee with the German. When we boarded the ferry I chatted with the Americans for a bit. They were on honeymoon and were drinking a lot of beer. They had been down south on Koh Samui but it was monsoon season there so they had come to Koh Chang for the better weather. I got the bus on the other side and it arrived in Bangkok just as the sun was setting. The bus couldn’t go all the way to Khao San Road as the roads were closed because of the Princess’s funeral which was tonight, so we were dropped off at the Pinklao Bridge and I walked to Banglamphu. I went back to the Sawasdee Krungthep and the only room they had was relatively expensive but I was tired and couldn’t be bothered to keep looking so I took it. In the evening I went to the Sonam Luang to see what was happening for the Princess’s funeral. There were many people about and everyone was dressed in black and white. I was wearing green clothes. I managed to get onto the Sonam Luang and saw the monuments lit up with many people sitting in front of them. After I’d looked around for a bit I tried to get back but the crossing I’d used before had closed and all the roads surrounding the park were also closed. I was stuck there for about an hour until the authorities eventually began to let people cross back again.
65.1. At the funeral for the King’s sister in Bangkok.
Day 66: Bangkok
This morning I went to Boots on Khao San Road to buy some doxycycline antimalarial. I was worried about getting mosquito bites when I go further north as I was bitten a few times in Koh Chang, which is apparently malarial. Later I went to the National museum. The first section was about Thai history and there was a lot about the former capitals Sukhotai and Ayutthaya. I found it interesting as I was planning to visit these two towns over the next couple of days. The rest of the exhibits showed artifacts from throughout Thai history. Before the end I was starting to get tired so I went back to Banglamphu and got some lunch. In the evening I went for a pizza and then watched Everton play Middlesbrough and drank Chang beer.
66.1. Outside the National museum.