The Storks of Böbs

The Storks of Böbs
A Very Fine Pair

Around the World (Again) Thailand Bangkok (Day 1)

Thailand and Bangkok - Arrival and First Day. 
I arrived at the appointed hour, after a smooth flight with Thai Air, nice food, I had the green chicken curry. The plane was only half full so I had a double window seat and could stretch out. At Bangkok airport because of the late hour no customers at immigration and actually made it to the baggage collection long before the carousel had started turning. My private pick up, Noe (arranged by Nina, Linda’s niece) was waiting and whisked me off into town. During the Journey I thought this is taking a long time, but because the last time I was here was for a 2 night stop 15 years ago and they have built a new airport at Suvarnabhumi it is a long way out of town. But Noe who picked me up was a good (and fast) driver; I was actually at their apartment before midnight. I had been on the go since 10:00 and was shattered so it was straight to bed for me.

I met the family for breakfast and also the children who I had never met, I was intent to cover as much of Bangkok in 4 or 5 days so that I could make my way by whatever means I found most suitable to the Cambodian border and from there on to Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor.
I had first to do my stint in the bustling, racing capital of Thailand Bangkok , I asked Jasmin the house maid for directions, she told me to get the Sky Train which has a stop at the end of the street and then onto the Siam centre.

Leaving the gated compound I got to the end of the street and was at once embroiled in the crowds of demonstrators, I had chosen an opportune or inopportune time to arrive in Bangkok as the opposition were trying to shut Bangkok down, I shall not go into the politics as that is their business, but it is a strange thing to be shouting about democracy and then trying to stop the forth coming elections.But that is their problem and I, a non-Thai decided to wander amongst the crowds of demonstrators. Got to the Sky Train Terminal without any problem and got my ticket from the machine 31Baht a very economical means of transport, clean quick and not a piece of graffiti in sight. I got off at Siam, this is called a square, but it is in fact a intersection of a lot of roads, I went through the automatic barriers (I have a horror of these things) and walked across the bridge that connects the overhead station to a large shopping mall and looked down.

Now I have in the past been on many demonstration, against almost everything from free Pirate Radio, through  ban the bomb  to being an active member of the anti- apartheid movement. This had more the atmosphere of a German Folksfest, everyone singing and waving, food, drink and anti- government T-Shirts, badges, hats, streamers but all very friendly. (though I have since learned that after dark it does at times turn a little ugly).
 I wandered along the Phloenchit Road in the direction of somewhere (I actually didn’t have a clue) with only the map that I had picked up for free at the shy train terminal for free (Jasmin gave me the tip) to guide me. I stopped at a stall to watch a lady make that Thai staple salad  Söm Tam, of spicy green papaya, tomato, chilli and roasted peanut salad. A couple of female demonstrator’s (taking a break) were sitting on the curb side, and indicated to me it was very tasty, and one said in English “why don’t you try it”. I said I would, so I pulled up the plastic chair (there was only one) and got on chatting with the girls (well middle aged women). The one that spoke English had lived in Liverpool for a while with a Scouse boyfriend; she did NOT have a lot of nice things to say about them I may add. But she asked did I want it very spicy or not so spicy, now having been caught with this a good few years ago in Singapore, I said middle. The Söm Tam that was served was fantastic, I was also offered sticky rice and noodles from the plastic bag (they seem to have replaced the banana leaves that I remember, from many moons ago). 

I finished paid my 30 Bhat about €1,- and journeyed further along the road ,the demonstration organisers had cleverly set up free food stations.

Then  through a set of barriers that signalled the end of the demonstration area and almost immediately was at my first Wat.

Wat Chaimongkhon

Wats are Buddhist temples and most if not all have monasteries with their saffron robed monks attached. This was not a large one as Wats go but as it was my first one of the day I decided to pop in and have a looky-looky. I had arrived at midday and prayers and meditation were in full sway.
Behind a golden Buddha in an inner sanctum were a group of white robed female, I can only think, Nuns, reciting a rhythmic chant, it was not at all unpleasant on the ears, so I stopped and listened in the cool courtyard for a while. I took a few photo’s , but didn’t enter as I am a great respecter of other folks religion’s, I just pried from behind a fat golden effigy.
I wandered around the complex admiring the intricate carvings and the gold leafed pagoda like structures. I have been to many different types of religious buildings, structures and monuments, but I find the Buddhist ones the most calming and least hectic.

I left the court yards and returned to the street had only walked a matter of 200 to 300 mtrs and I was at the next Wat, this time it was Wat Samgarm, this time it was a reclining Buddha (not the most famous one), for those of you not familiar with the temples, I will enlighten you a little, there is never just one Buddha, there will be a main one but besides that there are likely to be many more, even hundreds more, with a statue of the king thrown in for good measure. There are also many side chapels and those inverted ice-cream cone structures that house the ashes of the monk, or royal personage that paid for the building of the temple. 

I once again left the courtyard and walked up the incline over the railway line and there to the left was the next Wat, Srabua, it was larger than the first two, but that was enough kW for now. 

but I didn’t cross the street to visit it. Below was an area that seemed to be inhabited by fish driers, as here and there were grids of split fish lying on upturned boxes drying in the sun.

I had as yet not decided what mode of transport I would be using to get to the Thai border, I had read that there was a train that travelled from Bangkok to the border town of Aranya Prathet.
The main road seemed to go straight ahead, but according to my map the main station was a sharp turn left, so crossing the road, I walked along the canal in the general direction. I saw what looked like a very colonial type building that proclaimed to have something to do with the state railway on the other side.

I had already passed some very decorative wrought iron bridges that crossed the canal, but ahead I saw a road bridge.

I crossed and looked down, noticing a movement, on the bamboo barrages meant to catch the canal flotsam and jetsam. There sitting on top was a large monitor lizard, it was all of 1.5 mtrs head to tail. It sat licking its lips until it got bored and slithered into the canal over flow sewers.

I went into this stately building, with its relics of bygone days sitting in the court yard plus a bust of the King (he is always not far away).


The cleaners with their dusters on long bamboo poles, were not at all perturbed at a “Falang” wandering about. I saw a window open and inside was a couple of men, doing nothing in particular (so most likely civil servants) I enquired if this was the main Railway Station (by this time I had realised it was not). The polite reply came “no sir, this is the headquarters of the state railways, you must go out of the main gate turn left and walk about 800 mtrs and you will find it”. 

So that is what I did, returned from whence I came and found the main railway station –Hua Lamphong.
Inside was as a one would expect to see in a railway station out here in SE Asia, full of hustle and bustle, kiosks and eating booths everywhere, and sitting either on the seats or on the ground, a seething mass of humanity.  

I headed for the information booth, made enquiries and discovered that there were two trains per day that went, one at 05:30 and another at 13:00, the journey takes about 6 hours. There was no way that I could make the 05:30 as the sky train didn’t start running until 06:00. The 13:00 one wouldn’t cut the mustard either as it arrived too late, the border facilities close at 17:00. I took the timetable just in case (just in case of what I didn’t know) and went in search of a city map, at one of the booths, a sort of news agents cum stationary store I found a very nice one, with all of the places to visit and some others to give a miss, it was on waxed waterproof paper and folded nicely to fit into my trouser side pocket. I was now ready for action.
Once outside of the railway station the first piece of action was to cross the road, there are no rules, you wait for a gap, take your life into your hands and make a mad dash across. On the other side I noticed a nice looking street eating place (they are not hard to notice, they are everywhere). I stopped perused the photographic menus that all have, the lady said did I want to sit on a table inside or out, I chose outside so that I could people watch.

I looked at the menu card and chose shredded pork hock in a spiced broth with noodles, bean sprouts and greens.

It was very tasty and just what the doctor ordered after a good coupleof hours walking the dusty streets of Bangkok.
That finished I decided to seek out the Golden Buddha, there is a strange story behind this one. During the rebuilding of Wat Traimit Witthayaram Wora Wiharn, it was decided to replace the rather plain plaster Buddha with a more elaborate figure that was more besetting the size of the Wat. For some reason, either, one of the lifting strops had not been fixed correctly, broke or slipped, the Buddha slipped to the ground and some of the plaster broke away, revealing underneath a gold colour, further examination, revealed that underneath the plaster was a gold figure of Buddha, it was solid gold. To date this is the largest gold statue in the World. To think they almost got rid of it!
I, armed with my new, all singing, all dancing, map of Bangkok, walked along one of the main streets of China Town (the Wat is situated at the edge of China Town), I turned into a side street and was met with a clatter and a din that sounded as if I was back in a shipyard, I had landed in the metal working industry part of China Town.

But ahead I could see a golden glittering Wat and there I was right outside of the temple.

You should know the ritual by now, you take your shoes and head gear off (yes even my old friend had to be removed). Here at the top of the steps was a rather stern lady that made sure you did. I went inside and there it was a massive chunk of gold, I though good job there were no scousers around, or that would be missing tomorrow morning. I took some photo’s and had my photo taken (well the opportunity arose to show of my T-shirt).

I then wandered back to the main Railway Station via a different route this took me through the dried fish bladder, sharks fin and birds nest quarter, all very interesting. I watched as a young  using dental picks, carefully removed the last of the bird poo from the nests.

I had been informed by Nina that her cook would be preparing a special meal for us that night (wondering if it would contain either fish bladders or birds nests). So it was time to hop on the MRT ( a sort of Bangkok take on the Berlin S-Bahn), this took me 1 stop  away from the one that I would have with the Sky Train and walk the last bit.

This took me past all of the street food Hawkers, each one smelling better than the next, I couldn’t resist the stuffed squid on the BBQ, I bought one and ate it with gusto as I walked the last couple of hundred meters back to Nina and Johns a sort of entrée I suppose.

The evening meal was delicious, it was two types of curry a chicken and a beef, I was unable to enquire further about it as the cook had already left and all Nina had to do was heat it up and make the rice.
I was shattered so after watching the news and having a natter about the troubles in Bangkok (it seems it is only in Bangkok) I headed for bed.

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