Our pans for Bangkok expanded quickly (from the nothing we had planned previously).
While in Delhi, we arranged to fly to Phuket, which is an island in the southern part of Thailand.
We had heard a few good things about the place, including good diving. When we made the change, we had planned for 2 days in Bangkok and 2 days in Phuket.
11/12: We took the train from Jaipur to New Delhi in India. It arrived at the station around 10:30.
We decided to make a run for the 12:15am Thai flight to Bangkok. After a frightening cab ride, and some waiting for standby, we managed to get on the flight. Lucky break!!
We were so ready to leave India. The flight was delayed until about 2:00am, so we arrived in Bangkok at about 5:30am or so.
Only slept an hour since we watched U-571. Also made some duty free purchases from the plane ..... mostly to say we did. Arranged a hotel from the airport.
Not smart for budget traveling, but we were very tired and ready to rest. The rate was reasonable, but a bit over our budget.
Turns out that the room is great. Best place we have stayed. All the extras.
Robes, a scale (Don's was down to 242 from 260+ at departure ... at least before dinner), slippers, on-demand movies, a "command center" for the lights, AC, etc.
These things may not sound that special, but they are very special after some of the places we have stayed.
We slept most of this day since it was time we had not planned on having in Bangkok anyway.
We quickly decided to stay another night and to sign up for some tours. We've been winging a lot on our own, but Bangkok seems like a good place for a tour.
Finished the day with some amazing Japanese/Chinese/Thai buffet. It was great!!!
11/13: Started the morning tour (we have 2 tours today) to the Grand Palace.
It was beautiful. It consists of many buildings used by the Kings of the Thailand Kingdom through the years.
Everything is brightly colored, and there's lots of gold. They change the gold every 50 years to keep the palace pretty.
They say it's important for the place to be beautiful for Buddha. It's also a pretty nice move for tourism.
We go in to see the Emerald Buddha. You can take pictures from outside, but not inside, so we rattle a few off.
He has 4 different outfits, depending on the season. He just changed into his winter robe (gold) from his rainy robe (we think).
Quite impressive. We have to take our shoes off at all the temples. We're wearing our hiking boots, so it's less than convenient.
Tip: wear shoes that are easy to remove and that you won't worry about being stolen.
Gortex hiking boots are not good "temple gear".
We also visit the coronation hall, with the throne where the kings are crowned, and the funeral hall, where they keep the bodies for like 100 days when the king passes on.
There were a host of other impressive buildings also. The palace is a mixture of Thai, European, Cambodian, and other
Asian architectures. It seems that King Rama V traveled to Europe for the better part of a year.
When he returned, he decided that he wanted things like roads, electricity, a marble temple, and buildings of European design.
This King is much beloved because he exposed Thailand to so many outside influences and he built much of the important infrastructure.
The bus took us to the gem factory after the tour. This approach of dropping you by shops is pretty common for tours everywhere we have been.
We don't mind though because we want to look at the gems. There are many gems there in a giant room, with a lot of display cases.
They say it's the world's largest
jewelry store. Unfortunately, they assign you a helper while you look.
This person is constantly applying pressure to buy. It takes away from the fun of looking.
We priced a few items. Dawn confirmed that the price of a sapphire and diamond bracelet was very good compared to home.
Despite the bargain, and our helper's
insistence that Dawn needs some new jewelry, we do not buy anything. The carpets in India pretty much covered the major purchase category of the trip.
Back to the tour office we go to start our second tour. It's called the Temple Tour, and consists of 3 temples.
The first is the temple of the Golden Buddha. This guy is huge. Weighs in at 5.5 tons.
He's worth several tens of millions of dollars just in terms of gold. The story of how they found him is interesting.
They found a stone Buddha statue near the river. While transporting it, the statue fell and the stone broke, exposing the gold underneath.
Imagine their surprise when they uncovered the golden statue!! The theory is that he was covered up with stone in the old capital so that the
Burmese attacking there would not get him.
Next comes the Reclining Buddha. He's about 150 feet long and 45 feet high.
He lays on his right side, with his head in his hand. It's hard to take photos because he is so large.
Lastly, we go to the Marble Temple. Again we experience an interesting combination of Thai and Italian architecture, with ornate roofs on marble buildings.
The tour ends with a trip to the gem factory. Yippee. We depart the factory as soon as we get our free drink.
Another big buffet ends the day, except for one last blessing. As we're about to fall asleep, one last pass by ESPN yields Sunday Night Football.
Don almost cries with joy. Despite the happiness, we do not make it past half-time.
About this time, we are so happy that we left early for Thailand. We like it a lot here and highly recommend people to visit.
The part of Bangkok we are in (Holiday Inn - Crowne Plaza) is nothing like the image on TV.
That street, with go-go clubs and other such places, exists but is not near us.
We feel fine walking around at night. The people are very nice, the food is great, and things are pretty cheap relative to home.
You can have a great time for a reasonable fee. On top of that, the sites we have seen thus far are very impressive and worthy of a visit.
Oh yeah, we also love our cushy hotel room!!
11/14: The plan for today is a bus ride to the ancient capital, a tour of the capital, and a boat ride back on the river.
We're very excited for this tour ...... until we wake up. Dawn is very sick and Don is getting there.
We contemplate our options and finally decide to cancel the tour, eat a bit, and spend the day resting.
The sports gods must be smiling on Don because Monday Night Football is on ESPN (it's Tuesday morning here).
They follow that up with the Utah Jazz against the Portland Trailblazers. How is a guy supposed to rest in such surroundings?
Don is very happy to see something besides soccer or cricket. H e did watch half of a cricket match on TV in Nairobi and thinks he might understand most of the rules now.
It's an oddly addictive game. We end the day with many naps and room service.
11/15: Up early for a flight to Phuket. Still feeling pretty sickly.
Maybe the sun can bake it out of us. Oops. No sun. It's overcast when we arrive and there's no sign of it letting up.
Despite this unfortunate discovery, it's very pretty in Phuket. We rent a car and head out, taking the long route to our destination in Patong Beach.
In a little over an hour and a half, we have driven around most of the island. Lots of hotels and beaches.
We try the nice hotels north of Patong, but they are too expensive. We settle on a little bungalow hotel on the beach in Patong.
It's obvious early on that Patong will be an interesting place. There are many go-go bars and other bars and many of the tourists have that standard beach look to them
(tattoos, in shape, riding performance motorcycles, etc.). Feels like a spring break location waiting to happen.
After a nap (yeah!), we have Phuket Lobster (overrated) for dinner and check out the main drag.
We venture into a place where there is Thai boxing going on. We saw it on TV the day before.
There's a lot of kicking in this sport. We get a table to watch. Pretty interesting.
We quickly realized that it was a show and not an actual match, although they were definitely laying into each other.
After the match, the boxers walk through the crowd for tips and optional photos.
Next comes a guy who plays with snakes. He has a cobra out first and lays it in the ring.
He sticks he hands and head by the snake to provoke it. The snake strikes at him several times, but he avoids the snake.
He then lets the snake bit his arm. Pretty nasty as we can see the snake chewing like they do to push their venom into a victim.
The lady announcing keeps saying the same things, "See the snake biting him."
"He's still alive." "Don't be afraid." "See his amazing powers."
"He's still alive." Quite comical. We are happy to learn that it's his amazing powers, and not the removal of the snake's venom, that keeps him alive.
He does have what appears to be blood on the spots where the snake chewed on his arm.
We figure it's faked somehow. However, when he comes around for tippage, his arm is pretty well bruised and seems to have puncture marks.
Could be fake, but we do not think so. We think he's just got a tough living.
He also played with a "jumping snake", which was more fierce than the cobra, and a smallish python.
Dawn loved this part of the show the best. Not!!!
After walking around a bit, we setup shop in a small bar. It was interesting people watching in the street.
The collection of bars across the street, which we walked into briefly, has all women working at them.
They are not all bartenders either. We suspect that the world's oldest profession is alive and well in Phuket.
From our bar stools, we see a number of "gentlemen" walking down the street with one, and one time two, local women leading them.
These were not studly beach types who happened to do well at the local singles
joint either. These were office types who were helping out the local economy.
An interesting site. A somewhat sad site too. Guess seeing such things is part of the world traveling experience.
11/16: We contemplate chartering a sailboat today, but they are too expensive.
So, we extend our room until we leave on 11/18.
After walking on the beach a bit, we decide to rent a jet ski. We buzz around the bay for a half hour.
Good fun. Then we rent a Hobie Cat for an hour. The wind is very random in the bay and comes from a different location depending on which side you are one.
With five minutes to go in our hour, we find
ourselves far from shore and lacking wind. Guess we're on the two-hour plan today.
At one point, we appeared stopped so Don jumped into the warm water. When he popped up, he said, "hey, you're leaving me" as Dawn was sailing away.
An Olympic-type (yeah right) stroke or two and Don was safely back on the vessel. It was really fun though, just lazing around the bay.
Got some good sun. Not as much as the topless ladies and men in
Speedos, but our fair share. People are not shy at the beach. They wear small or no clothing, whether they should be or not.
It's not always pretty!! After another nap, we eat and find ourselves here posting to the web.
Heading to a traditional Thai massage next hopefully. Dawn is over her ills for the most part.
Don is about a day behind her in the cycle. On top of that, he strained his back a bit today pulling the Hobie into the water.
The massage will hopefully help. Not sure what we're doing tomorrow.
you know though.
11/17: We rented a Hobie Cat
again. Had a nice sail, but struggled to get the boat back in. The
rental shop was directly into the wind and we were running out of time to get it
in. We ended up swimming the boat back in the last 100-200 feet or
so. We sunned a bit and just relaxed mostly, as one should do at the
beach!! We fly out in the morning for Bangkok and ultimately Hamilton Island,