Monday, 21 January 2013

Mon 21 Jan

Last day in Bangkok and what a day it has been!
We had a very leisurely breakfast with Wendy and Andrew, threw the last minute things in our suitcases and checked out!
We hailed a taxi and headed for the Royal Palace. When we got there a man met us at the taxi to say that the palace was closed until 1pm as the Buddist monks were having a special prayer. So he ordered a tuktuk for us to see the reclining Buddah and the Thai Center for $20baht. Alarm bells should have been ringing but we decided to go anyway. Much too cheap at 20 baht. We went to the standing Buddah instead and there a gentleman said he'd tell us all about the Buddah for free...we listened for awhile and then said someone was waiting for us. Dont know what he was on about or after! The tuktuk driver took us to the Thai center...a jewelry shop. We said no to the tuktuk driver but he said even if we go in he will get a payment so we went in. Jan did find a lovely ring that she liked and reasonably priced. When we got back in the tuktuk he said he would take us to another shop and we said NO take us back to the Royal Palace which he did...our adventure for the morning! Had heard about such things happening but I guess we were over confident as nothing had happened so far!!
Back at the Royal Palace there was no special Buddhist prayer morning surprise, surprise! But what a beautiful place! The intricate designs are really something to see as are all the statues, big and small, all around the grounds. It took us ages to walk around everywhere!
Took another tuktuk to the reclining Buddah. We had seen one in Mae Sot in the Burmese style that was longer but this one was much nicer. We were going to have another foot massage in the grounds but there was almost an hours wait so we decided to go on a boat ride on the river instead. We took a long boat around the canals and on the river..such an interesting boat. They have this huge engine attached to the back of the boat. When the driver wants to turn the corner, he has to lean so far out of the boat to do so! Not a terribly exciting view in the canals but as it was 35C it was lovely and cool on the water!
Back to the hotel on the sky train to have something to eat at the shopping centre and then off to the airport to await our midnight flight.
So modes of transport today: lift, taxi, tuktuk, long boat, sky train, limousine, escalators, plenty of walking and shortly an airplane!
This is my last blog! Hope you have enjoyed our adventures and photos! I've really enjoyed taking the time to blog about our trip! Until next time! Thanks for reading,!!!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Sun 20 Jan

Decided we would explore Chinatown today! Got in a taxi and the driver said 400 baht to Chinatown and we said no, that last night was only 200 baht and we said put the meter he said 250 baht and we said okay and he took the freeway and he paid the toll so all worked out about right! Wandered around just looking at the stalls when we saw a discount shoe shop and thought we'd head there. Unfortunately (or fortunately for our wallets) it was closed but we walked past a massage shop that had reflexology foot massages so we thought we'd try that...oh what bliss for our feet, which have certainly coped with a lot of walking this trip. One hour $10! They also did our arms, shoulders, back and head. Wow could they sort out the sore spots too! It felt like we were walking on air when we left there!
Headed then for the Siam Centre then where you can buy everything from Maserati's to tea! The art inside was very impressive and the shops were quite different in their displays. We found this terrific coffee shop, Mr. Jone's Orphanage. Teddy bears and trains everywhere with toy soldiers for the children to play with. We had Red Velvet cake and Kit Kat cake, I had tea and Jan had a milkshake called "wanna, wanna have" of chocolate, macadamias and caramel. All the milkshakes had such cute names. Great lunch! (Have to be naughty some times!)
Took the sky train back to the hotel...think we've tried every form of transport in Bangkok! Packed up as we have a big day scheduled for tomorrow! Will do the last log from the airport tomorrow night!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Fri 18, Sat 19 Jan

A bit behind with my blog, never seems to be enough time to do everything! Friday we explored the shopping centers near the hotel, interrupting at noon to meet the agent from the rental car company to return the car..glad to get that out of the way!
It was really interesting at the shopping centre car park. Because they have so many people that visit this centre, they park nose to nose as we do but they also park one line in with parallel parking! Everyone locks their car but leaves the car in neutral with the parking brake off. If someone parks you in, the car park attendant helps you roll the car/cars so that you an leave or park. Imagine doing that in our car parks...alarms going off everywhere because cars are being moved, not to mention that our newer cars will only release the key in park!
Treated myself to a spa treatment in the afternoon, 2 1/2 hours of absolute bliss consisting of 5 spiced rub, hot oil massage finishing with a Thai herbal balm foot massage! I really get terrific after that!
Andrew had arrived from Mae Sot and Wendy from Chang Mai so we caught up for dinner at a Korean place ( might as well try all types of food while we are here!)
Sat was another adventure, we went to experience the Chatachuck markets, (only at the weekends). This place is huge, hard to really put a size on it but a few football fields would be dwarfed in it! They sell everything: cooked food, packaged food and food ingredients of all kinds, clothes, clothes and more clothes, small furniture, large furniture, animals for pets and everything you need to dress them and care for them, jewelry, hair accessories, hats, name it and it is there! Best buy of the day...Converse shoes for Matt, 2 pairs high tops, two pairs low, total price $130. We shopped for nearly 5 hrs before we headed back to the hotel. Wendy and Andrew buy quite a bit, sell it in Aust to raise money for the school that they sponsor.
Sat night we celebrated Jan's birthday with a dinner cruise on the Manohra boat on the Chao Phraya River. What a memorable night. As we got to the pier there were some Thai dancers that we watched while we beautiful and serene. The boat was elegantly rustic and each of the seven courses was delicious. Advertised as authentic Thai meals...the roast duck with tamarind sauce was the hit of the night. All this while seeing the stunning lights of the city...what a way to spend the evening!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Thurs 17 Jan

Happy Birthday to Jan!
Jan got up at the crack of dawn this morning to hopefully see sunrise at the cemetery for the POW's but that didn't work so she went down to see the Bridge on River Kwai but was still too early so took the photos and ended up seeing sunrise over another bridge near where we were staying. I slept in a bit more and then went across the street to the river to view the sunrise.
We had breakfast, packed up and went to the River Kwai markets. I bought two dresses and two skirts for the grand total of less than $20! A beer t-shirt for Matt was $4. You wonder how they make any money!
We then headed off to Bangkok, with Jan navigating using Google Maps and the trusty blue dot and me driving. We were going great guns and had made really good time with Jan's excellent navigating until at the very last turn into the driveway to the hotel, I turned 10 metres too soon! It then took 45 min driving the back streets of Bangkok, up the highway and back again before we found the hotel again!! What a relief to get into our room!
What a trip! Jan and I drove over 1500km, never seeing an accident or being involved in one! Some hair raising situations but all ended well!
We had the most glorious shower tonight..not that we didn't shower every day but the pressure of water has been lacking in places. And this hotel had a hair dryer..amazing how you are grateful for the little things!
We dressed up and had the buffet dinner downstairs to celebrate Jan's birthday...lovely evening!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Wed 15 Jan

Viewed the sunrise this morning as we had an early start! We played tourist today, joining a bus group to the Ewaren Falls. There are seven levels to the falls and I was so pleased with myself making it all the way to the top! It was two km to the top and we only had two hours before we had to meet for lunch. Now normally I could do 4k in much less than 2 hrs but this seemed to be all mostly straight up! (And of course I had to fit photos in too!) There were lots of rocks to maneuver around, plenty of stairs, both wooden and concrete, areas that you really had to look for the path, a huge tree to walk across and several shallow streams to cross. In several areas I needed to hang on arial roots to get where I needed. But the scenery was amazing! So very pretty...each waterfall being so different. Would love to see it after the would be spectacular.
Next on the list was the Hellsfire Pass museum, dedicated by the Australians as a memorial to all those prisoners of war and romusha's or Asians who helped build the Burma/Thailand Railway during WWii. We then walked down into Hellsfire pass and were amazed at how deep the cut was into the mountain. They were really worked to the bone and many of them died in the harsh and unrelenting pace of work that the Japanese demanded.
We then took a train ride where the POW's had laid track and finished the day at the Bridge on the River Kwai.
We are both exhausted...we left this morning at 8 and returned at 5:30...the distances between places was long so it was close to 4 hrs of driving. We dove into the shower as we were just filthy...I even washed my shoes from all tracking at the waterfall and Hellsfire Pass.
Early to bed...that will be a first!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Tues 15 Jan

This morning after our cuppa's, we found a beautiful bunch of flowers and thought we'd try all the filters that are a feature of our cameras.(Jan and I have the same camera which has worked a treat this trip as we just grab the one closest and know how to use it (or think we do anyway!) We were snapping away when Jan looked more closely to see if she could figure out what flower it was...Joke was on us as it was a bunch of artificial flowers that someone had popped in several of the bushes...we laughed so hard, we couldn't believe we didn't notice earlier!! Wonder what the people around thought....
Today we had signed up for a cooking class to learn how to cook Thai. Here is a person who hates anything spicy or hot learning to cook Thai!! But I have been trying lots of different dishes while here and have been amazed that I like the flavours! As we gathered at the table (6 of us) Noi told us about Thai food: sweet, salty, spicy and sour and how they all work together. Off to the markets, with a spoon in one hand and a skewer in the other and pen and paper close at hand with our cameras around our neck! We stopped at so any stalls and sampled so many things...favourites were the black bean cakes, banana that had been tossed in rice flour, coconut and tapioca before shallow frying and the many fruits (mangosteen, longan, rambutan etc).
We tasted all sorts of herbs and spices and compared them. We were at the markets for two hours. What an education! Technology is everywhere. At the markets I saw these two kids playing with a mini iPad while their mum had a food must be good!
Back to Apple's Retreat (where we are staying as well) to start cooking! First dish of the day was a Pork Salad which had pork that had been marinated with pineapple juice to tenderize it, then grilled or baked. The salad is made with the pork, spring onion, celery, shallots and tomato wedges that have been slightly cooked in a salt, sugar, palm sugar, fish sauce and lime mixture to which some chilies have been added (then taken out when the flavour has been reached!
Next was Phad Thai with fresh rice noodles, shallots, egg, bean sprouts, sweet radish, spring onion, carrot and pork in a sauce made with tamarind sauce, fish sauce, sugar, lemon juice, chili powder and peanuts. We then all sat down to eat these two dishes! Delicious!
We then started on the Kang Massman Kai or Massaman curry that was made with a beautiful curry paste cooked with onion, sweet potato, carrot and coconut milk. We then added palm sugar, tamarind sauce, fish sauce, peanuts and chicken.
Last was Tom Kha Kai (chicken and coconut milk soup) that had ginger, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, straw mushrooms and chicken, all cooked in coconut milk with fish sauce, crushed chilies and sugar.
The kitchen was purpose built and had heaps of bench space and 6 burners to work on. All the dishes were very easy to fix as we cooked and ate all four dishes in 3 1/2 hours (a little of the prep work of cutting had been done. Great for washing up!! Cost was $52 for over 6 hours and a recipe book. What a treat!
Managed to get a sunset tonight but nearly missed it as I had walked across the street to look at the river!