|The very welcoming sign|
We arrived just before midnight Dec. 31 after almost 24 hours in transit. As soon as we stepped off the plane we knew we were in the tropics—hot and steamy! We were met as planned by Mr. Boonya who was holding a lovely sign with our names—very welcoming. He very thoughtfully took us to a 7-Eleven enroute so that we could buy a few groceries for the next day. (7-Elevens seem to be everywhere here.)
Our home base in Bangkok is a studio apartment owned by a friend’s brother and his wife. It’s in a northern suburb called Nonthaburi which is the terminus for the river boats. The river boat pier is about 2 km from the condo, a short taxi or bus ride away.
|Our home away from home in Bangkok|
Mr. Boonya picked us up at 9 AM for a first day of sightseeing on New Year's Day—he drove us south of Bangkok to “Ancient Siam”, a very large open-air museum of traditional Thai buildings, both reconstructed and original moved from other parts of Thailand. This was an excellent introduction to the variety of architectural styles of houses, temples, palaces, and gardens. One of the best parts was that admission included a bicycle rental, and we contentedly cycled around the place on creaky old bikes.
|Lloyd's bike is sized for a person half his size!|
|My bike fit me a bit better but was very rusty|
It’s lucky that we arrived when we did, in the midst of a four day holiday for New Year’s. As a result, the Bangkok traffic has been comparatively light because those people who can get out of the city did so. January 4 was the first day back to work for everyone and we could see and hear an immediate difference—rush “hour” lasts at least 12 hours, 7 AM – 7 PM.
|Lloyd gazing out over the river from the boat|
|A long boat on the canal|
So far in the three days that we’ve been here, we have experienced most forms of transportation in this hectic city and our favourite is the river boat. Yesterday we caught the express boat from Nonthaburi pier and travelled about an hour south to N1 or Oriental pier. From there we wandered the back lanes and streets before venturing onto the Metro (underground) and then transferred onto Sky Train (very similar to Vancouver’s). We also took a long boat on a canal—now that was quite the ride! The two attendants wore motorcycle helmets with good reason—for protection against the low bridges just in case they don’t duck in time! The canopy of the boat was also dropped as we approached these bridges. We’ve taken a few rides in “tuk-tuks” and that is the most uncomfortable especially for Lloyd. He can’t sit up straight, and even slouching in the seat has no room for his legs. And coming back from Nonthaburi pier we caught a “hot” bus (meaning not A/C) to the condo.
|The setting sun|
We enjoyed a beer at a floating restaurant near the pier and watched the sun set at about 5:45. Easy to tell that we’re not too far from the equator because there is very little twilight and dawn, and the days are just a little shorter than the nights.
We’ve experienced hectic street markets selling all manner of things, from household goods and clothing to food. Surprisingly, there seem to be more fish and meat stalls than fruit and vegetables, however we have been able to buy bananas, mandarin oranges, and green mangos. We’ve eaten lunch and dinner “al fresco”, either in little sidewalk stalls where you can see the food being prepared a few feet away or in restaurants near the condo. I think it might be difficult to be a vegetarian here—so far the menus are heavy with meat (pork or chicken) or fish and seafood.
On January 4th we rode in a luxurious express coach to Ban Phai in the north-east—comfy seats that recline with foot-rests, a uniformed attendant who handed out blankets, water, juice and cookies, and lunch (a cooked—tepid—meal of rice, vegetables and spicy pork).
We have been very well looked after—what we’ve experienced of Thai hospitality so far has been absolutely wonderful. Our hosts have lent us a cell phone, and keep in touch with us to make sure that all is well. We’ve been equipped with written instructions to show taxi drivers to ensure we don’t get lost. We were met yesterday afternoon in Ban Phai by our local guide and driver, Mr. Pao, who phoned us while we were on the coach and talked to the attendant to confirm where and when to pick us up. Mr. Pao took us to his own home to use the washroom and to see his wife’s work—she is one of many women working in the silk trade—and today we visited more weavers and dyers. I'll save that for the next post!