When I was 12 my grandfather died.
Not the usual start to one of my blog posts is it! However, it is very relevant, because he left a small amount of money to my mum, and she decided to take the family on an exotic holiday. Up to that point, the only other holiday I remember is going to a farm in Denmark. Actually, the only thing that I remember from THAT holiday is encountering an electric fence for the first time – lifting up the wire with both hands to go underneath it. A memory that’s literally seared into my mind!! Anyway, getting back on track; our exotic holiday was to Thailand. My first memory is of the long haul flight – very long haul in those days. We stopped at Dubai, and also Calcutta, or Columbo – I can’t remember which, but I do remember having to get off the ‘plane and go into the terminal building for an hour each time. Walking across the tarmac in the dark, and (blasting never felt before,) heat, was an experience in itself. But then, the first night we arrived – Dad, my brother and myself all in a rooftop swimming pool – in the dark – outside – in February. And that’s when I knew that there was a big wide world out there waiting to be explored.
Now, fast forward 40+ years. When my son Aaron finished school, he and some friends ‘went traveling’. And ‘did’ parts of Thailand. Because it’s cheap. £4.00 a night each for a cabin on a beach – with air con. Then last year a friend’s daughter took herself off to Thailand and had an amazing time. My friend also found herself in the same situation as me – her mum had died, and she suddenly realised that we really do only have a finite time on this earth. “I want an adventure” she said. “Do you want to come backpacking in Thailand”? Now, being the supportive friend that I am, I felt that I really should say ‘yes’, and here we are! (Actually, I did the thing that I normally do if an opportunity arises to travel – I didn’t even engage brain, but simply opened my mouth and out popped the word.)
I think that within a week our flights were booked and we have survived the gloom of winter with the knowledge that we’d be escaping it to the heat 🙂 So, offspring and mothers, Jayne and I thank you. (Well, we don’t thank our mothers for dying, but you know what I mean!)
So, we survived a couple of months of winter and were really looking forward to getting away. Unfortunately I’ve never left for a holiday feeling quite so lousy as I did on Friday afternoon. I’ve had a horrible virus that wasn’t the flu as I could still get out of bed and just about function, but was so much more than a common cold and cough. I was determined to have a long time in bed on Thursday night, knowing that I would be spending the following night on an airplane, so I dosed myself up, had a hot bath, fell asleep in said bath at 8.15, dragged myself out and into bed for 8.45, and surfaced at 10.00ish the following morning, still feeling like I needed another couple of days sleep. The flight on Friday night was fine, and Thai Airways cabin crew lived up to their reputation for being immaculately and elegantly presented and providing a good service with a smile.
Arrival in Bangkok was smooth and by the time we’d cleared immigration our luggage was on the conveyor belt. Getting a taxi was much more straightforward than Trip Advisor reviews and upon arrival at our hotel they didn’t have a twin room on an upper floor as we’d requested, so they upgraded us to a suite. By this time it was late afternoon and we checked out the rooftop swimming pool and worked out the lift system in an attempt to get back to our floor. One set of lifts only goes to certain floors and to go from the top floor to our own floor involves going down to the rooftop pool on floor 6, crossing over to another lift and then going back up to the 13th floor.
We decided not to venture too far yesterday evening as we wanted an early start for our first full day, so we had a very delicious dinner sitting outside on the terrace at the side of the river – 2 courses cost us about £8.00, which may well be the most expensive meal we have here!
And on to Day 2. We were both awake before 7.00 and filled up on the buffet breakfast that would have cost at least £22.00 in a London Hilton, but which is included in our rate of under £45 pppn. For a suite.(Did I already mention that?) With a lounge. And a kitchen. And free fruit. And free water. (And a building site down below but if we keep eyes left from the balcony we can pretend it’s not there.)
Then it was a quick hop across the river on the hotel shuttle boat, and joined a long and chaotic queue for the river taxi to take us 20 minutes up river to the Grand Palace. We really weren’t sure which queue we were supposed to be in, but another helpful tourist heard our conversation and reassured us that we were in the right place, and the each journey would cost 30Baht – 60p.
So, up river we went. Jayne had been warned that the river was smelly and dirty, and whilst it is definitely the latter, we only had one whiff of smelliness (unless I’m actually benefitting from this cold and it’s blocking out a stink.) A short walk and we entered the Grand palace with the throngs of other tourists. The palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782. First stop was a ‘dressing room’ where we had to borrow ‘suitable’ clothing. No shorts or bare arms allowed, so Jayne and I were given simple wrap-around sarongs to cover our legs. We’re glad we got there early, because it was already busy and crawling with people. It’s pretty much what you’d expect – very ornate and colourful, hot and humid and we are glad we’ve seen it.
We then walked to Wat Pho which is one of the largest temple complexes in the city and famed for its giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 metres long and is covered in gold leaf. It was much quieter there and we were able to wander round and take our time without battling the crowds.
By about 2.30 we’d had enough of temples, heat and humidity, so made our way back to the pier and then back to the hotel for a welcome sit down.
Early evening saw us venturing out and catching a taxi to China Town as we’d decided that we would probably eat there. We got into the taxi and realised that the driver didn’t have a meter and when we asked ‘how much’? he huffed and puffed and said ‘100 Baht’. A quick calcultation and we thought that we could afford £2.00 so we agreed to that. The journey took about 25 minutes……… I don’t think a taxi in England would get further than the end of my road for that amount.
China Town was crazily busy, full of cars, motor bikes, Tuk Tuks and people.
The smells and sights and humidity reminded me of Hong Kong, and it took a long time to find a food stall with a) anywhere to sit, and b) anywhere that I was prepared to risk eating at. We had been advised that pretty much anywhere is safe providing that the food is freshly cooked in front of you and hasn’t been sitting around for a while, but I still approached the idea with trepidation. We eventually came across a stall where I found Pad Thai, which had been recommended to me by Aaron. It’s a stir fried noodle and vegetable dish, and this particular one had egg and chopped peanuts thrown in, together with other spices and flavourings. Jayne opted for deep fried crab, and we perched on stools on a shared table whilst chatting with some local teenagers and thoroughly enjoyed it. There was an ‘Ah’ moment when Jayne realised that using chopsticks was not optional, but she got to grips with them very quickly. Pad Thai = 40 Baht. Deep fried Crab = 60 Baht. Total cost of two meals – £2.00. The offspring weren’t kidding when they said that street food is cheap……..