Not sure that I will be able to keep up with the massive posts, but it is hard because I am loving the camera. There is so much to see.
We woke up refreshed, had a great breakfast buffet (tip to anyone who is coming to Bangkok...the Ibis Riverside is a great spot. Affordable and great value!) and hit the pool for a bit of luxury before heading back out into the city.
It is a lovely place to catch your breath before the big smoke.
We set out to walk from the hotel to river express boat on our way to the Grand Palace. None of us was too keen on going there, but in my TripAdvisor research indicated there weren't as many "must see" destinations as we are used to...Bangkok seems light on cultural highlights. So we figured we had to hit at least the top one...hence our trip to the Grand Palace.
We passed this crazy outdoor gym on our walk to the boat. Tons of pretty ripped guys (many in jeans...?) working out in the park for free.
We got onto the boat after a quick walk across the bridge and ventured up about a half dozen stops.
After a long and sweltering walk to the Grand Palace, we arrived there in less than stellar humour. Our expectations were low. They were only just met.
The highlight for me was watching Finny (and Dad) as they were deemed "unfit" to see that palace in their disgustingly revealing Western attire. So they had to rent clothes. Ha! Finny was REVOLTED. Luckily the heat had weakened her resistance. It was 200 baht to rent each piece ($8) and you got it back when you returned them. Dad was thinking about keeping the pants for $8...Finny was ecstatic to return her clothes.
The walk around the Palace was confusing, crowded and very, very (did I mention VERY) hot. Like, pretty much the hottest any of us have ever been. A quick poll of the adults says it was the top 2 or 3 hottest experiences of our lives.
There were lots of stunning things to see. But there was nothing explained. We just pieced it all together the best we could.
If you like gold (Beth, I am thinking of you), this is the place to be.
I took lots of pictures, but I don't really have a clue what we saw.
These guys were cool.
We were constantly taking our shoes off and on...and off and on. For some reason.
We stumbled across a bunch of people dipping lotus flowers into water in a giant gold basin then dripping the water on their heads. They seemed super excited to do it. So we did it too. Who knows, maybe we are blessed for life or we might have given ourselves some crazy waterborne illness. Time will tell.
In the absence of any English explanation of what was going on, I just took pretty pictures. I have no idea what this building is...but so pretty, right?
We did our best walkabout. No one wanted to be the first to say uncle, but we were all casting furtive glances at each other.
I don't remember who said it, but it was said.
We bailed pretty quickly.
We beelined for water and popsicles. Popsicles are cheap, cheap, cheap. We've had at least one a day. They are around 20 baht each, so 80 cents.
We walked up to the Kao San road, which is the uber touristy street in Bangkok. Like Robson for us. Or Las Ramblas in Barcelona. We stopped for a beer in a place called Greens and Cheese (!). It was an upstairs balcony overlooking the madness. We got to watch a couple of blond girls get tattoos across the way that they are almost certainly regretting by now (if not immediately after they got them).
We had to leave pretty quickly so we could make our way to the main train station where our night train was waiting.
It's a long story, but I had been looking forward to the trip on the train...until we bought the tickets. The upper bunks were supposedly narrow, so Eric needed a lower bunk. And the only lower bunk available was in the non-air conditioned car. So he was in a totally different car than we were. Then there were only four together and one apart. So my dad took that one. Which left me and the kids in four upper bunks all by ourselves.
As I got closer to the train, I started to imagine all the worst case scenarios. Children snatched off the train in the dead of night while their mother slept peacefully across the aisle. I got them all settled in and decided not to sleep. I pictured them being rapidly sold by their weights in some creepy child market.
I tucked them in and sat up. I dozed off and on, but did a head count every twelve minutes of so.
There was no cause for alarm. They were totally safe. But, you know...
The train headed out at 10:00 at night. And we didn't get into Chiang Mai until 1:30 the next afternoon. Since I barely slept, I was up with the sun. The upper bunks had no windows, though. So I didn't see the landscape until I crept quietly to the dining car.
The passing scenery was lovely. And the hypnotic quality of the train took me back to our Europe days.
The windows all opened up, so the passing breeze was incredible.
It's burning season in Chiang Mai, so the air was full of smells and heat.
I couldn't park myself in the dining car and order nothing...but none of the food looked good and I hadn't gone to the bathroom since we got on the train (and didn't go before we got off either...it was a horror show in there) so I wasn't looking for a big drink. I ordered a coffee. It was bad. But it was a cool cup.
We all took our turn joining me for my coffee. The sunrise cast a gorgeous light. And we all survived the night together, so I was happy.
It was pretty glorious.
Eric stayed put in his little bottom bunk. We barely saw him, but he apparently inspired some Dutch kid to change his life...so that's great.
As my dad said, the trains had seen better days. It had been used hard over many years. It's cool to think that the history of the train has been vast and varied and our little family had one wee blip on the way...
Which isn't to say that we weren't happy to get off...
...because we were. We disembarked in Chiang Mai on our way to the Rainforest Boutique hotel. Within half an hour, we were checked into an absolutely delightful hotel...and up in their restaurant overlooking the pool with cold beers.
We could see the kids below in the pool washing off the train grime.
And then they came up for a snack and drink before we headed out to the night market in Chiang Mai.
Talk about landing on our feet!!