Bangkok, Jan 3-7, 2012

We booked the flights for this trip well in advance during some AirAsia sale, and it’s probably been the shortest trip (that included flights to the destination) that we’ve had for a long time. Not that that’s a bad thing. Since Bangkok didn’t have any specific sights I was desperate to see, and I hadn’t bothered to research what there was to see and do, I decided to leave our entire schedule up to Jeremy’s capable hands. After all, when we’ve been married nearly six years, he’s got a really good idea about what I’d enjoy doing anyway.

Tuesday 3rd January, 2012

Our flight was delayed by 20 minutes or so, which actually made another flight to the same destination on the same airline that was scheduled to leave 20 minutes after us, depart earlier than us. That just seemed stupid to me. Why couldn’t they give us that plane instead? Of course, this time was likely made back up when we arrived in Bangkok, and some airport employees guided us to a queue at immigration that had no waiting time, just because we had a baby with us. I know airports are meant to have this sort of special courtesy for people travelling with infants, but you’d be surprised by how many we’ve been to where they just let us wait in the normal queue with everyone else. So I was already impressed with Bangkok from this point on.

Since Jeremy had done his research in advance, he hired us a taxi and knew what the deal was when he had to choose between the toll road and non-toll road to get to our hotel. He chose the tollway, which was conveniently empty. In fact, when we got off that road, and entered the main streets in Bangkok that led to our hotel, the driver commented on little traffic there was compared to normal, and credited it to the time of year, and people still being away on vacation. Even so, I doubt in regular times that the traffic could possibly be as bad as it is in Manila.

I’d also booked our accommodation well in advance, and completely forgotten what I’d booked. When we arrived, it turned out that I’d got us a two bedroom unit (with kitchen)… and inclusive breakfast. Well, that certainly seemed like a treat, considering we’re used to having to share a room with the boys when we travel most of the time. It even included free Internet, which helped Jeremy figure out plans over the next three days.

Once we had settled into the hotel, it was already time for dinner, so we headed out to see what we could find. We passed quite a number of restaurants, browsed the street markets, and ended up settling on a small Thai restaurant, where Jeremy and I tried the Pad Thai, Doyle had Thai satay, and Leo munched on chips.

Across the street from the restaurant was a supermarket, and since we had a kitchen in our unit, we decided to pick up some food that we would be able to make there, hopefully saving a little money by not going to restaurants for all our meals. Whilst there, I determined that Bangkok must have a high concentration of American expats, considering how many American food items they stocked. They even had Lucky Charms and Hot Pockets, both of which I’d never before seen sold outside of the US (both of these things had become something of a regular part of my diet when I was living in Laramie in ’04). We didn’t buy much at the supermarket – just some fruit, stuff for sandwiches, and some pre-made burritos.

It was certainly getting late by then, especially considering we’d had to adjust the time back one hour, so Leo especially was getting tired and fussy. After that, we just walked back to the hotel, and headed to bed.

Wednesday 4th January, 2012

Our first stop in the morning was the free buffet breakfast, in another building of the hotel. I gotta say, as far as buffet breakfasts go, this one was pretty good. There was a good variety of food, both hot and cold stuff, and enough that even both boys liked.

Then Jeremy took us on the train, changing at Siam station, and eventually getting off at the ferry stop, where we caught the ferry down the river. There were still signs of the recent floods, with sandbags around, and vegetation in the water. Anyway, we got off the ferry near Wat Pho, admired Wat Arun on the other side of the river, and wandered through some small markets until we reached the temple. I was a little disturbed by the man I saw peeing on the tire of a bus, but otherwise tried to stop myself from watching him.

We went in to Wat Pho, paying the entrance fee, and getting our free water. We had to remove our shoes in order to go in to one of the buildings and have a look at the largest reclining Buddha in the world. It was gold plated and enormous, but probably the most interesting aspect was the designs on the base of its feet. We then wandered around most of the rest of the temples, admiring the architecture, though Doyle was most interested in the room that had stacks of water bottles in it. Go figure.

It was around lunch time when we finished up there, and we were getting hot and thirsty, so Jeremy walked us around the outside of the Grand Palace to find an air-conditioned place to stop for lunch. By the time we arrived, Leo had fallen asleep in the backpack carrier on my back, so I ate my meal while he slept, and then took him out once he’d woken up so that he could eat what we ordered for him.

The restaurant was just across the street from the Grand Palace entrance, so after lunch, we crossed over and paid for our entrance tickets. When we walked through to the main temple area, we discovered a free tour starting in a few minutes, so we signed up for that. As we were guided around the complex, we learned that the various temple structures were built over the course of several reigning kings. One of them, who was the first to travel as far as Europe, brought gold back from Italy for the outside of Phra Siratana Chedi. The decorations on these structures were so elaborate and colourful. Just stunning to look at.

In the middle of the temple area, they had a model replica of Angkor Wat. Having already been to the actual Angkor Wat site in October 2010, I thought it was cool to see a miniature version of it! The open hallways were especially cool.

The tour took us around most of the temple area, stopping every so often to have things explained, and then the last stop inside this part of the Grand Palace was the Emerald Buddha temple. Inside is a small emerald Buddha statue, sitting up on a gold throne. They change his costume depending on the season (summer, rainy, winter) it is in Thailand. Since it was January, we got to see his winter costume. Unfortunately, they don’t let you take photos inside this temple… on the other hand, the statue is so small, that you’d need a camera with a good zoom lens to get a good photo anyway.

After this part of the tour, we were told if we continued on, we wouldn’t be able to come back into the same area to keep looking. Since we felt like we’d seen enough in this area, though, we stayed with the tour, which then went in to the Amarindra Winitchai Hall, where we saw a throne.

We probably could’ve stayed a lot longer at the Grand Palace looking at everything, but it was already getting to be late afternoon, and the boys were a bit unsettled (especially Leo), so we wandered around a little longer, taking photos of various halls and pavilions, and checked out the armoury museum inside Chakri Maha Prasat Hall. Then we headed to the Royal Thai Decorations and Coin Collection Pavilion/museum so that we could have a look at the emerald Buddha’s other costumes. Since the rainy season outfit wasn’t there, I figured our tour guide must have told us (it was hard to listen when looking after children) that he wears that one under the winter costume.

By the time we headed back toward the pier, and look at the nearby markets, it was almost time for the last tourist ferry to run. Not that we were at the right pier for that, but that’s okay because our ticket allowed us to ride one of the regular ferries, too. It turned out it would’ve been a lot cheaper for us to do that in the first place, and Jeremy was a little bothered by the fact he’d been hustled into getting the tourist tickets, until he chalked it up to experience. I wouldn’t have known any better regardless.

After such a long and tiring day, we simply headed back to our hotel, and made sandwiches for dinner (especially after discovering that both our stove and microwave didn’t work so we couldn’t eat the burritos). When the kids went to bed, Jeremy had some work he needed to get done, so I just played on my phone for a while as he did so, before deciding it was time to go to sleep.

Thursday January 5th, 2012

While Wednesday had been a day pretty much to satisfy things Jeremy knew I would enjoy, he decided Thursday would be something a little more entertaining for the boys… indoors, especially, since we’d gotten so hot walking outside most of the previous day. So, after our buffet breakfast, we took the train to Siam station, and wandered through a few malls (Siam Paragon, Siam Center, and Siam Discovery), until we arrived at the place we would spend our morning… Madame Tussauds! I’ve wanted to visit the famous wax museum for some time, but never actually gone to one due to the high cost for entry. Thus, I was very excited when Jeremy had pre-booked our tickets and decided to take us there.

The boys really enjoyed it; especially Doyle. He liked that there were various parts where you could dress up to pose with the various celebrities. At one point, he and I got to pretend we were in Beyoncé’s backup band, and Doyle loved playing the drums. We all had our photos taken with various wax people, including (but not limited to) Ghandi, Princess Diana, The Queen of the United Kingdom, President Obama and his wife, Picasso, Albert Einstein, Mozart, Pavarotti, David Beckham, Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Britney Spears, Spider-Man, Captain Jack Sparrow, Doraemon, Nicole Kidman, Jim Carrey, Oprah, Jackie Chan, Lady Gaga, Will Smith, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie. You can check out all our photos here. At the end of the tour, we were able to choose two collectable photos to have printed and emailed for us, as part of the package Jeremy purchased, so we went with one with Obama and one with Jack Sparrow.

It was lunch time by the time we left Madame Tussauds, and Jeremy decided he wanted to take us to Sizzler, since it’d been such a long time since we’d been to one. The great thing about eating at buffet places is that there is always a good selection of things that children will eat. It may not always be fun having to choose a restaurant based on what your kids will and won’t eat, so as to limit their disturbance to other customers, and make sure they’re fed (and not screaming because there’s nothing they’ll eat and they’re hungry)… but that’s what dates without the children are for. Anyway, they both ate very well here, as did Jeremy and I, so it was definitely a good choice of restaurant for lunch.

Next, we left the malls, and walked along the overpass to the Art & Culture centre. Here we saw an exhibition of photographs taken by a Thai princess when she travelled around the world. Probably the most striking photos were the ones of the recent flooding in the Bangkok area; particularly of the ancient city of Ayutthaya. Some of the other photos were rather… ordinary (in comparison to those, Jeremy takes far better ones, though I may be biased), but it was still a worthwhile visit.

Unfortunately, while we were here, Doyle had a couple of massive accidents in his underpants, which we were not happy about, especially since he wouldn’t listen to us when we kept asking him if he needed help/to go to the bathroom. At least I’d had the foresight to pack a spare pair of underpants for such an occasion. And a bag to put dirty ones in.

After the Art & Culture centre, Jeremy took us across to the MBK mall, where we did a little shopping for various things, before hopping back on the train and heading back to the hotel.

Since we’d had our microwave replaced that morning, we were able to have our burritos for dinner (thankfully we weren’t that hungry), and then we got a babysitter that night so that Jeremy and I could go out and enjoy a bit of the nightlife without having to worry about the boys. We checked out some of the local area, and then popped in to Terminal 21 – a shopping mall designed to look like an airport! Various sections were themed like cities from around the world, and escalators were like airport gates. It was pretty cool, though we didn’t hang around too long. Eventually we ended up in a bar that had a show that included a man who breathed fire. Even though the bar was one train station away from the closest one to our hotel, we decided to walk back the whole way, which was rather relaxing. We got back around midnight.

Friday January 6th, 2012

Since we were up late the night before, we had a bit of a late start to the day today, including a late breakfast, but that’s okay. Jeremy took us back on the train and ferry to get to the same place we got off on Wednesday. From there, he walked us out to the Museum of Siam, though we stopped at the semi-attached restaurant, Black Canyon, for lunch. Black Canyon is a Thai restaurant chain, which we’ve enjoyed a couple of times in Malaysia, so it was good to have the opportunity to try it in Thailand as well. Leo, unfortunately, didn’t much care for the food we ordered for him, but that was probably because he was a bit tired and wanted a nap by that point.

The Museum of Siam was rather interesting, and took us through the history of Siam/Thailand, from early archaeological discoveries, to today. We learned a little about the American influence, too. I think the part I found most interesting was from back when the country was still known as Siam, and Ayutthaya was the capital. Where their religion became a combination of Buddhism and Animism. We learned about how Ayutthaya was eventually attacked and overtaken by a neighbouring kingdom, though not why it then became abandoned. That’s something I would’ve liked to have known about.

When we finished looking around the museum, Jeremy took us on a walk to find a flower market. It was a little hard to find, and he almost gave up, but we kept going and eventually got there. This would be a place where Thai people would likely buy flowers for their offerings, and they had some pretty amazing arrangements around to choose from. We didn’t, however, buy any. Near this area, there were also some interesting monuments and buildings, so we walked closer to them to take photos, though I’m not sure what they were called.

After that, we found the closest pier and took the ferry and train back to our hotel again. It was another day of being a bit hot and bothered, so we all went to the rooftop swimming pool, where Jeremy and Doyle had a swim, while I watched Leo on the deck. From here, I watched the sun set over the Bangkok skyline, and got to take some nice photos of one of my favourite things to photograph (sunsets).

We headed back to our room so Jeremy and Doyle could get changed, and then went for a wander to find somewhere to eat dinner. We stopped at a restaurant called Det 5, which serves both Dutch and Thai food (an interesting combination!) Of course, I’d discovered on this trip that Bangkok seems to be a popular destination for Dutch and Scandinavian tourists. I think it’s interesting to see which Asian cities cater to which Western tourists best.

After dinner, we went back to our hotel again, where the boys promptly fell asleep because they were so tired.

Saturday January 7th, 2012

We didn’t really have any time to do anything tourist related today because of our flight departing in the middle of the day, so we just settled for having the buffet breakfast, and leisurely checking out of the hotel. We walked for a bit until we found a taxi that was reasonably priced willing to take us to the airport, and arrived with plenty of time.

Bangkok airport impressed me even more this second time around. They offered free colouring in pictures and postcards at an information desk, and there was a children’s area in the wing where our flight was scheduled to depart from. We spent most of our time here, so that both Doyle and Leo could play while we waited. It certainly kept them out of mischief! Doyle even made a few friends with various other children who came by; particularly ones who wanted to share colouring in. The most friendly ones were twin boys from Hong Kong, and it was good to see that their father was also involved and interested in watching them, unlike the parents of the other children who came, who watched from farther away.

Our departing flight was also delayed, and then Leo struggled to nap for long whilst we were on the plane, but otherwise the trip back was fairly uneventful.

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