Bye-Bye Tuk-Tuk

Apologies for the lack of updates. We’ve been alternately without internet access and too exhausted to types since checking out of our hotel in Bangkok…

On our last day in Bangkok we went shopping. We were going to start with a swim, but the water in the impressively decorated pool was only 18 degrees C. The air felt cool too, so much so that B brought a light jumper along.

First we took a Skytrain down to the big shopping complexes of Siam Square. The double decked Skytrain lines tower over the surrounding traffic jams. It’s mostly branded goods out of our budget, but there are some interesting furnishings stores. Alex was fascinated by the dancing fountains between the Siam Paragon and Siam Centre malls.

We crossed over to MBK for lunch at the Thai (6th floor, not the International Food Court on the 5th). They operate via a coupon system where you first purchase coupons to an agreed value, then hand them out to the stalls to pay for the meals.

Alex pigged on the food, though I found my curry quite awful. Nice to have ice snow, mango and sticky rice for dessert.

We walked from MBK to the side street where Jim Thompson’s Museum of Thai Houses is located. Last time we were in Bangkok we stayed nearby and on our last day bought a small metal door guarding dragon from a shop on the same street, which used up our remaining Baht. B wanted a matching pair and she found one, after having no luck elsewhere.

At the end of the Soi (lane) is a pretty canal, lined with a narrow path and houses. When one of the frequent passenger boats raced past canal water splashed up through the drain grills in the street. It stank.

A tuk-tuk waited at the side of the street. Alex wanted to catch one and B had another shopping area in mind. He offered to take us for 20 Baht (less than a dollar) on the condition that we stopped by a souvenir shop so that he could get free petrol.

We had time to spare and, as he said, we only had to pretend to look.

It was a pretty short ride to the gem factory/shop. Straight up past our previous trip’s Siam@Siam design hotel. We weren’t the only tourists in the gemstone jewellery showcase. We did our best to seem interested. On the way out we bought a recycled beer can tuk-tuk model of the kind seen in every market, probably for an inflated price but still for less than we would have paid for the tuk-tuk ride. Besides, we wanted a tuk-tuk memento for Alex.

He was so excited to be sitting in the tul-tuk, shrieking with joy and telling the CB radio to shut up.

The Platinum shopping mall was filled with multiple levels of small local fashion shops. It felt a bit like a Japanese mall, only the clothes weren’t quite as nice. It was all rather overwhelming.

Across the road was the more traditional Pratunam markets. We decided to walk back to our hotel and our route took us around the now closing markets. Lots of touristy knick-knacks near the end, which stood below the Baiyoke Sky Tower. It seemed to be the Indian area of Bangkok.

Once we reached the main road back to the hotel the shops ended and the foot path became quiet. Everyone was in their cars going nowhere fast on the road beside us.

There was on persistent tuk-tuk driver who would wait until we had walked a distance, then drive up to us trying to attract our attention. We just ignored him and kept walking, whereupon the process would be repeated.

I kind of wish that we’d caught a tuk-tuk because we were all sweaty by the time we reached the hotel. Alex became crazy and just wanted to keep taking the hotel lifts up and down. The only way we could distract him was by promising that we were about to catch more lifts.

We dragged the luggage across the road to the Phaya Thai Airport Line station, which did have lifts. The line is built overhead of an existing railway line, which looks old and destitute by comparison. So did the diesel locomotive which sat there waiting while police lights flashed over the nearby railway crossing, an accident by the look of it.

Thankfully we weren’t catching one of the traditional Thai trains, but the modern and fast Airport Link instead. We crammed onboard, while young Thai girls pushed in ahead of everyone. I’ve noticed that the fatter the Thai women the less they are likely to get out of anyone’s way.

Alex was asleep by the time we made it to the airport. He woke up soon after we had checked our bags in. Then it was full steam ahead! Security excited him: “X-ray machine! Bags come out!”

Run run run along the moving walkways and any other path in the airport. We explored the length of the facility. Somebody dressed in a burger suit was out promoting the Burger King outlet, which distracted Alex for a little while. Some dumb European came up to the helper girl and asked if there was a McDonalds around. She acted as if she didn’t understand him.

After one last meal, a relatively expensive one at that, of Thai food it was time to go the departure area. There were some comfy reclining chairs, but naturally they were all taken. So were the two free internet terminals. Alex played with the lift while I tried to use the free wireless internet. The terminal’s system requires a password and only gives 15 minutes access, but I think I piggybacked off the Thai Airways lounge above us.

Finally they called our flight. We were taken by bus to a remote stand and had to climb up stairs to enter the aircraft.

For once I had booked centre row seats so that we could all sit together during the night. I was pleasantly surprised that this Thai Airbus A330-300 had seat back entertainment, as I thought that these Thai regional aircraft were not equipped. Unfortunately, the range of movies and music was far more limited that on our A346 flight up to Bangkok. The seat pitch was also smaller and I felt a little tight.

The flight was surprisingly packed, as I thought many people were staying away from Japan, though Fukuoka is far from all the problems.

Alex soon fell asleep. We were handed juice and a slice of almost stale cake, then I was free to watch some entertainment. None of the movies that I had wanted to watch on the flight up were available. I picked Megamind, which, despite its name, was mindless entertainment. I wish I had swapped my choice as I then began watching The Social Network, which seemed promising (being a web developer myself) but was terminally interrupted by Alex awakening.

Once past Taiwan the cabin lights were switched on and a hot breakfast of an mushroom omelette and sausage, with a fruit salad and croissant or bun, was served. It wasn’t anything special, unlike our last Thai meals. The same went for the Asian rice and pork breakfast.

Alex wasn’t very hungry. All of us were dead tired.

A tailwind meant our flight was over half an hour early. So early, in fact, that the Japanese immigration officials were not ready for our arrival and we had to wait on the aircraft for 20 minutes.

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