Paul and Rita's World Tour 2006/7 - Thailand


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Yet another stop over in Bangkok, this time so we can fly to Myanmar and then onto India towards the end of January.  Bangkok is not our favourite place, although it has some nice points, you've got to get out of the city to see the real Thailand.

History:  Formerly known as Siam, changed its name to Thailand, which means land of the unconquered, maybe because they weren't taken over by the Japanese in WWII, although the Japanese were certainly here, hence the Bridge over the River Kwai.  Recent military coup ousted the President while he was out of the country, currently under military rule but they say they will have elections and hand over power some time in the future.  Or will they?   Language: Thai.  Population: ? Money: 1GBP = 70 Thai Bahts (THB) as at 31/12/06. Toilet Situation: Outlook: Fair to middling.  Guide Book: None  Visa:  Tourist visa issued free on arrival, valid for 30 days.  British Tourists annually: 700,000

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31st Dec 2006 -Arrive in Bangkok 
1st to 3rd Jan 2007 - Bangkok and about
4th Jan 2007, Fly to Yangon, Myanmar
19th to 23rd Jan 2007 - Bangkok and about

Sun 31st December, 2006

Our flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok was an interesting one, for different reasons.  Firstly, there seemed to be so many children on board, even the stewardess said at one point, exasperated, "So many babies!", and so the take off and early part of the flight was dominated by crying babies.   Nice.

The other interesting thing was that we celebrated the new year in mid air, not once, but twice.   We took off at 10:20 Hong Kong time, and at the stroke of midnight the pilot came over the PA and wished us all a happy new year.  Cheers everybody!  We still had a glass of wine at this stage, so had something to celebrate with.  It was soon after this that we changed time zones and went back an hour, back to last year!  How weird is that!  So at the stroke of midnight, Thailand time, we celebrated the new year again.  That's a first for us, but one of the few benefits we could see from flying on new years eve.

On the ground, the airport was fairly quiet.  I had a surprise at the immigration control, I thought the female officer looked quite stern and she didn't say a word as she processed my passport, but as she handed it back to me she gave a beaming smile and handed me a red rose as well, wishing me a happy new year.  How fantastic.  Unfortunately, Rita didn't get one, but I explained it was reserved for the really nice passengers.  That went down well, I can assure you.

Luggage took half an hour to arrive, I must get rid of those few banned items then I wouldn't need to check my bag in, or so Rita keeps telling me.  Its only sharp items that are causing the problem, liquids are only banned on flights to Europe and North America,  strange really.  Booked a taxi through the official taxi desk, can save a lot of hassle from dodgy taxi drivers wanting to take you for a ride, literally.  It seemed a lot further to our pre-booked hotel, the Asha Guest House, than I remembered the description on the website saying, but after 40 minutes we rolled up outside the right place, around 1:45am  I double checked the phone number on the sign outside to make sure, you never know as there are often more than one place in a city with the same name.   The proprietor was very friendly, obviously from England, and gave us some advice about going to Myanmar.  He also asked if we'd heard the news about the bombs.  What bombs?   There had been five bombs set off in Bangkok earlier in the evening, two people had been killed and a dozen or more were injured, and they had cancelled all the New Year countdowns and street celebrations because of it.  We retired to our fan-cooled bed a little subdued.  The room was ok, lighting very dim, but a good size room with a small balcony, not bad for 5quid a night.   Back to Itinerary 

Mon 1st January, 2007

In case I haven't said it already to you, Happy New Year!

Checked the Foreign office travel advice for Thailand this morning, it basically says dont go anywhere in Bangkok at the moment unless absolutely necessary.  It's a strange thing, but sitting in our hotel you wouldn't know there was anything out of the ordinary, but perhaps we should keep a bit of a low profile for a day or two, see what develops.  The authorities dont seem to know anything about the reasons behind the bombs, maybe its because of unrest about the military take over of the government,  apparently a lot of people are unhappy with it, and getting unhappier still it seems.  Time will tell.

After sitting around for a while we decided to go for a little walk around the neighbourhood, just to stretch our legs and check out whats around here.  We haven't been to this area before, and I had to ask the guy on reception to show me where exactly we were.  The joys of not having a guide book!   Found a big supermarket, Big C, unlike anything we've seen for months, nice change to walk around, even though we only bought a few simple bits and pieces.  Very warm for us outside, after the freezing weather in Korea, then only a couple of days to get used to boost in temperatures in Hong Kong, we've now gone up to the low 30's (Celsius, of course), so it's a bit of a shock to the system. I suppose we'll get used to it, although we're not planning on being anywhere cold until we get back home in March so we've got plenty of time to practice being hot!

Tuesday 2nd January, 2007.   

Busy day, lounging around by the small pool next to the bar/restaurant.  Oh what I'd give to have to go to work and be in a cold climate.  Not a lot, actually!  Sorry to rub it in.  Or am I?

In the evening we met up with a Thai friend, Ying, with whom we'd been on a skiing trip with in South Korea,  she took us to a big massage place, where we had a Thai foot massage.  What a coincidence, us being in Thailand and getting a Thai massage!  Spooky, eh?  Never having had a professional massage of any sort before, it was very interesting, starting with bathing the feet, then massaging the feet and lower legs with oil.  I wasn't over impressed when she pulled my toes one at a time to make them click, the first was a surprise but then I knew what was coming for the rest of them, a little unnerving but I sort of got used to it by the last one.  The massage ended with a brief massage of the arms and shoulders, including clicking all my fingers (I do wish she'd stop doing that) and the whole thing was over in an hour.  The time had flown by, and we came away with a sort of tingling, yet relaxed, feeling in our feet

Wed 3rd January, 2007

Met us with Ying for lunch, she new of a great noodle place, quite modern but the food was wonderful. Ying also showed us where she believed the best deals on cameras could be got, a shop not far from the Sala Daeng Skytrain station. I'd more or less decided not to take my digital SLR camera to Myanmar, partly to cut right down on luggage, but also the authorities there can be suspicious of people with big cameras, they might be journalist or photographers, and might confiscate the camera until you leave the country.  So, I was in the market for a small digital, and settled on the Panasonic FX50, mainly because it has a good wide angle capability, equivalent to 28mm on an SLR, and it also has a Leica lens, which is supposed to be quite good.  

Back to Itinerary 

Thu 4th January, 2007

Scheduled to fly on 7:15am flight, (that's mighty early) to Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon.

Up at 4:30 am, quickly showered and dressed, finished off our packing and downstairs waiting for a taxi at 5am to take us to the airport.  The night watchman goes out to the road and flags down a taxi as it passes, can be a bit hit and miss, but there always seems to be a taxi passing every few minutes, no matter what time of day.

300 Bahts and 45 minutes later we were in the departure hall.  The queue for flight FD3770 was long and moving slowly, perhaps we should have got here earlier?  Then we noticed a really short queue for passenger with no luggage to check in.  That's us!  Five minutes later we had checked in and were progressing swiftly through security and immigration.  Had the usual problem at the latter, picked the shortest line and took the longest to get through, thanks to the westerner who had something wrong with his passport, probably overstayed his welcome, they seem to be a little hotter on that in Thailand at the moment.

After a sly traditional pre-flight beer which we had bought with us, (its too expensive to buy at the airport!) we were soon  called up to the gate.  The seats on Air Asia flights are not allocated, so its a free for all, meaning that everybody is pushing to get a good seat.  Why? Its only an hours flight, and the nearer you sit to the front of the plane, the sooner you're going to die when, sorry, if it crashes.  That's what I tell other passengers, any way.  I'm not nice sometimes.

Managed to get seats half way back in the plane, despite being in the second bus load carted out to the plane parked (do they park planes?) at the other end of the airport. Well, if you cant beat them, join them.  The flight was fairly full, thanks to Air Asia offering the cheapest flights to Yangon.  Got some nice pictures of the misty hills, aside from the usual haze problem.  New camera seems to be working just fine.  Still not sure if I've done the right thing by leaving my long zoom SLR in the lockup in Bangkok.  Time will tell.

Continued on our Myanmar page

Back to Itinerary 

Fri 19th January, 2007

Arrived back in Bangkok after a couple of weeks in Myanmar.  After a joyful reunion with my laptop, we settled down to chill out for a few days, before we fly off to India.  We stayed at the Asha Guest House again, partly because that's where we had left some luggage before we went to Myanmar, but also because its quite a pleasant place to hole-up for a while, and the wifi broadband access was working this time.  It was mighty hot and humid when we first got back, being that little bit further south than Yangon, and the heat almost got too much for us, 

We had a couple of shopping expeditions into town, buying some Thai silk goodies and a few other bits and pieces, including a large holdall to put all our rapidly accumulating purchases in.  So much for travelling light! Actually, we'd decided that we'd take advantage of our luggage allowance for the final few flights of this tour, and take back some stuff for our new abode.  Between us we have a luggage allowance of 46kg, and we haven't been using any of it, having taken all our luggage on as carry on.  At least the holdall has wheels to make it easy to cart around.


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