Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Our Thailand Adventure: Chapter 2. Bangkok

"When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you feel comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable".    Clifton Fadiman

DAY 2: Monday 22nd April 2013

 Wat Arun, Tempe of Dawn on the Chao Phraya Rver, Bangkok

"I awoke to thunder and lightning and rain, Oh my!! Bangkok is putting on a show for us. I slept well, it's heavenly not getting up to kids in the night. I'm feeling very relaxed. I spent my first night in a different country. I feel the same- just in a different place! haha, dont know what i was expecting. That some sort of 'different country cloud' would fall on me and i'd be transformed :)
I'm looking forard to exploring the streets and culture today. Hurry up and get in the shower Bec!"

It was lovely waking up to a storm but luckily the rain ended and things were looking bright for our day in Bangkok with my sisters. Well things were looking bright until 9am when Liv rang from the Bangkok airport saying that she has lost Ana! She thought maybe she was having VISA issues. My heart sank,  they were suppose to meet us at our hotel at 8:30am and instead Ana was lost at the airport! They got separated cos Liv has a diplomat passport and can just go straight through, Ana had to line up with everyone else. I had visions of Ana being questioned in a little room and being put back onto a plane to Sri Lanka... haha Gosh I really shouldn't watch those airport shows!!!  
Todd and i went for a walk while we waited:

"Toddy and I just went for a walk up the road. We saw MBK, The Siam Center, Siam Paragon- but none of them open till 10am. It's hot out there already, and it's only going to get hotter, i think I might die. Im already sweating and the humidity is making my hair frizzy and feral. Oh it's all part of the adventure. Now, I have to keep calm and hope my sisters get here really soon."

This hold up with my sisters arriving made the reunion even sweeter. Oh the joy to see them and hug them and hear their lost in the Bangkok airport story. No Ana didnt have Visa issues, you don't even need a Visa in Thailand! Ask them about it :) All together again, let the adventure continue...

We headed to the Chao Phraya River, via the SkyTrain, it was so easy and cheap! Id read so many reviews that I knew exactly where to get off and how to find the Chao Phraya Tourist boat which we used to travel up and down the river to see the sights. All went to plan and I was feeling pretty pleased with myself :) The whole way there i kept saying, "We are in Bangkok, we are in Bangkok" like an excited little kid! Yeah i was definitely excited and it all felt so surreal!

My day pass on the Tourist Boat. I'm a proud tourist :)

Hot and red :) How come Todd isn't red??????

 The River is really dirty, im glad I didnt fall in :) Along the river there were little run down houses and next door there were huge, beautiful hotels. I call it the city of Contrasts. Here is an example of a house on the river. I love the plants!

The river is an excellent way to see Bangkok as all of the main tourist attractions ie, The Grand Palace and Temples are along or near the river, and the boats stop at each one. If we had more time in Bangkok we would have visited these places. My fave temple was Wat Arun, The Temple of Dawn. It is named this as it is lit up at Dawn and looks spectacular. Is is made of mosaics, amazing!!! You can also climb it, the steps are really steep! Here are a few photos I snapped of it on the way past :)

 River life

We got off the boat at Wang Lang Market. it was hot and really smelly. The walkways were narrow and claustrophobic, I didnt enjoy it. We were looking for some street food to eat but nothing looked appetizing. The only thing I bought was water from 7/11 Oh how heavenly is water in humidity like that!

 Outside Wang Lang Market
Me in Wang Lang Market

After a little explore we got back on the tourist boat and got off at Chinatown. We discovered that Monday is not a good day to be looking for food in Bangkok. The street food is really hard to find as the streets are cleared for cleaning. We were so disappointed, we wanted street food and couldn't find any!! By this stage we were so hot that we decided to catch the boat and train back to Siam and go to Siam Paragon for lunch in the air-conditioning. What a good idea! We had a delicious lunch and i could cool down and un-'betroot' myself for a little while! Im still amazed at how easy it was to get around Bangkok, the boat and Skytrain system is amazing! Well done Bangkok!

Skytrain Traveling

"I had a moment- a good moment. We were standing on a crowded Skytrain and I just stopped and looked and really looked. Here I am, standing on a crowded Skytrain in Bangkok- WOW!! It was an amazing feeling, it was a surreal feeling. It made me happy. We tend to get so rushed and stressed about finding the way, changing money etc that we miss the surreal moments. Take time to stop and actually enjoy the moment"

 Lunch at Siam Paragon. Thankgoodness for air-conditioning!

After feasting on yummy Thai food we spent some time exploring Siam Paragon, Siam Center and MBK. These are the three main shopping malls in Bangkok. Siam Paragon is full of all the expensive brand name shops, some even had a dress code. They scared me and I felt so out of place in my shorts and havaianas.  This complex was so posh and beautiful to experience, I loved it.

 Tea cup chandelier in the food court in Siam Paragon
Todd found his shop

 MBK looks pretty funky.  (so do my legs)
An inside shot of MBK (not all of it)

MBK is the shopping mall with 2,000 shops on 8 levels. It's just like a market, you can bargain and get rip off t'shirts etc. I was so sick of walking around and so hot by this point that I couldn't even be bothered looking. I kept saying to myself, you are in Bangkok at MBK, you are meant to be shopping, but it was all a bit too much. I still wasnt comfortable with converting Baht to Aussie dollars at this point and it was all too much! I think we all felt the same, so off to the hotel we trotted for a swim in the pool!

"Our swim was so nice and relaxing and fun- we laughed SO much. I hadn't laughed that much in ages"

Our infinity pool overlooked the city. I'd been looking forward to swimming in this pool for months and it really did live up to my expectations. At this point it was the highlight of my day in Bangkok. We used the underwater camera for the first time which was fun! I was so sure it was going to die when i put it under water, but alas, it lived up to it's name and survived ;) 
These photos make me so happy, this was such a precious time with Toddy and my sisters. I felt so peaceful, happy and without a care in the world. Time stood still while we joked, laughed and swam around like crazy people. Oh the BLISS! It was good for my soul!

Afterwards we sat by the pool bar and drank cocktails. Pina Colada time! Don't ya just love the guy in the background, he was very comfy in his speedos :)

This brings us to the evening,  we took the free ferry over to Asiatique!
Asiatique is this awesome place along the river, it's newish so it's all modern and clean. There are restaurants, cute shops and of course, the Bangkok Eye, which for some reason I REALLY wanted to go on! If I ever go back to Bangkok I will spend an evening at Asiatique... we just didn't have time to explore it all this time.

I was very excited to be at Aisatique!

We headed straight for the Bangkok eye. Ana and Liv didnt go in it cos Ana felt dizzy just looking up at it... i still didnt click that it would be high, that I'D be up really high. It wasnt until we started to move that I realised that I actually am scared of heights!! This led into a slight panic attack, man i was freaking out. I was so scared!!!!!! I didnt want to look down and Todd wasnt allowed to move cos that would rock the compartment we were sitting in.  I told myself to breathe, in, out, in, out, in, out...and i got through the initial lap without  screaming. I settled down after that first lap and enjoyed the rest of the ride. At least now I know I don't like heights. Im so happy that I went on it!

 A tad worried :)

 All good now
 Sexy man

That night we arrived back at the hotel exhausted, feeling dehydrated and ready to collapse into bed. I had survived my first day in the heat, and although now resembling a beetroot, I think I did well. I had my grumpy, this place sucks moments, but the good moments far outweighed the bad. Now a month later I can hardly even remember the bad moments, and when I look at the photos I long to be back there, even though when I was in Bangkok I didnt care if I never did return. It was surreal but I was still me, I still got tired from walking and annoyed at the heat... life is the same no matter where you are.

The next day we met up with Liv and Ana at Siam paragon and had pretzels at Auntie Anne's, YUM! I found Starbucks which I was rather pleased about, although they didnt sell chai lattes which was sad. We took silly photos with a shark and just enjoyed our last moments together.

The goodbye was sad. I cried. Who knows when i will see Liv again, at least a year probably. Thankyou so much Liv and Ana for flying into Bangkok especially to see us. We appreciate it so much. And what a fun time we had. Remember that time in Bangkok when...

What an amazing experience Bangkok was. It is truly a city of contrasts. With the very poor, on the ground selling things in front of huge, bright dazzling billboards advertising the latest product on the market. Poor people wash their clothes in the dirty river, right next door to some amazing, grand hotels. The old and the new all in together, the big fancy shopping malls and the smelly lane ways where the people will do anything to get you to buy something from them so they can feed their families. What an experience.

Next stop PHUKET...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Our Thailand Adventure: Chapter 1. The Journey

If you actually look like your passport photo, you aren't well enough to travel!

DAY 1: Sunday 21st April 2013

Here I am in the Melbourne airport, sitting and waiting to board our plane to Bangkok.
 I'm feeling relieved, the heartbreaking 5am goodbyes to the kids are over. I cried but didn't want them to see me really upset. I held Elias and cried, he started crying, oh my heart. Anyway, we got to the airport and Toddy bought me a chai, i needed a sugar hit :) 
As we were walking onto the plane I said my goodbyes to the cold and assured him (I think cold is a boy?!?) that i would miss him. I was cheered up on the plane by the lady sitting in front of us, she was reading a book and the chapter was titled, 'What does your dog teach you about Spirituality?' I had a good old laugh, you never know, she might be onto something! 
I'm also feeling relieved that the International check in went smoothly, i had no idea what to expect and was rather nervous. But here, I have my ticket in my hand and im ready to go. I have entered the unknown and the adventure is about to begin. I wrote in my journal:

It's so surreal that I will get on a plane here and get off it far far away in Bangkok. My first experience as a International traveller- Bring It!

The flight to Bangkok took 9.5 hours. Here are a few snippets from my journal that i wrote during the flight:

Wow! The plane is so colourful! Yellow, pink and purple seats. And all the flight attendants are dressed in colourful Thai clothing. I like it. Im surprised.

5 hours and 40 mins to go: Im sitting here with a lovely purple blanket on me. I just watched Pitch Perfect. My knees are sore. Im feeling rather peaceful.

3 hours 30 mins to go: We are flying over Indonesia. Whoooo! Im watching the Silver Lining Playbook. Hello down there Denpensar.

That was a long 9.5 hours. I was so happy when we landed. Bangkok here we come!!

I first stepped off the plane and the heat full on smacked me in the face. I was like, "NOOOOOO". I found it hard to breathe and really thought I may suffocate. I was thinking, what have we done? Why have we come here? I'm going to die. How am i going to survive 10 days? All of this was running through my head before I had even stepped off the bottom step of the plane! On the outside, i looked very composed, im sure :) 
They herded us onto a bus, which i wasn't expecting, and drove us to arrivals. I was rather panicked by this stage. I was stressed about getting through customs, i've watched too many Border Security shows! I was also worried that we wouldn't find our transfer and that we wouldnt find our luggage... all of those first time traveler stresses. Thankgoodness Toddy was with me!!!! He put on a brave face for me, even if he wasn't feeling it.
 I was so excited to get my first stamp in my passport, that's what ive dreamed about ever since i watched, 'While you Were Sleeping' all those years ago :) So far so good, through customs, now where is the guy holding a sign with our name on it?? Good question! He wasn't there as we were told he would be. After standing there for 5 minutes someone told us to follow him, we did, cautiously, we had heard stories... he tried to put us in a mini van and Todd was like,"show me our names on your list?" But the guy wouldn't show us he just keep saying, "yes yes, get in bus." Todd's like, "No, where are our names?" The guy looked on his list and they weren't on there! He then led us to some parked cars and there we found our driver who said, "BARKER?" I'd never been so relieved to hear the word Barker. Im so glad that Todd was so adamant about not getting on that mini bus when the guy assured us our names where on his list. Who knows where we would have ended up! Our driver was lovely, and he reckoned that we should have 11 kids. No thanks :)

As were were driven to our hotel we got our first glimpse of Bangkok, I was in awe of all the lights. If I was a mosquito, i'd fly straight to the light and get zapped. Bright lights, Huge Billboards, traffic everywhere, it was all so exciting!! After a year of dreaming, planning and reading trip advisor reviews, we were here, BANGKOK! 

Our hotel, Siam@Siam Design Hotel and Spa,  looked exactly as I had expected, id walked the streets around it on Google earth ;) We where whisked out of the car and through to check in... it happened all so smoothly and quickly... we were put in a lift and they pressed a button, the door opened and we were directed to a seat... all so professional, i felt like a star!

           Outside our room at Siam@Siam Design Hotel and Spa.

This hotel was seriously funky, around every corner you would see something different and unusual. For example, look at the lift and our bedroom wall :)

I worte this after arriving in our room:

I am sitting in my room at Siam@Siam in Bangkok!  Surreal. I can see the Skytrain passing below. 
 It's hot out there!! It's all been so rushed since we got off the plane- I need to settle. Man that flight was long.

To wind down we went up to the rooftop bar and had a drink. Pina Colada baby! The drinks were expensive but we had to do it, it was one of the draw-cards to the the hotel.  What a view from the rooftop. It was glorious. I spotted the Bangkok eye far away in the distance and was so excited for the next day. Our Bangkok rendezvous with Liv and Ana.