Day 3, April 27, 2013, Saturday - On the train to Bangkok and city of Bangkok
I set my alarm at 5am and duly awake when it went off. Since I had decided the night before to take my normal early morning bath I prepared myself. Taking a bath on the train is easy and fun. The good thing about this express is that one of the toilet has shower bidet. So it was even easier for me. The trick is to have flip-flop, or selipar jepun to us Malaysian, small towel and loose attire. Knowing I had to be quick I still took my time with my bath. There was a small opening above the closed window and I could see still dark morning outside.
After I said my suboh I changed my cloth and as ready as I was on any normal morning. The only exception today I was sitting in bed watching Thai’s morning passing by and breaking in front of me. I did not know really where we were then but the yellow streaking sunlight breaking over the horizon indicating to me we were close to the sea and it was beautiful morning. A bit further along the journey a picturesque morning was breaking at the horizon courtesy of Allah All mighty and I sat looking out enjoying it. I took few photos and the outcome did not do justice to the actual scene.
My breakfast on the train was a simple bread and coffee. Another art of traveling light. A lot of people asked me this. So travel really light and to me that means packing what really necessary only. For this trip I packed inside my work backpack a traveling pant, apart from what I was wearing 4 extra dry fit T’s, small towel, kain pelikat, short and enough underwears. Of course traveling accessories and toiletries. I suggest to wear a suitable sandal for this kind of trip unless you are expecting a winter ‘sonata’ he he he.
By now I was really enjoying the journey. After miles of natural landscape slowly the scenery changed to paddy fields, farmland and villages. Although the climate and contour of the earth is similar with Malaysia I found out the landscape is different. I wondered while looking out why is this so. I was looking at the same paddy fields and the same types of shrubs and trees found in Malaysia. But definitely different scenery. It took me awhile and suddenly it struck me that the people and the culture actually shaped the environment and the landscape, even the landscape. We may have the same type of earth, rivers, contour and crops but the way we treat the land make the difference.
We arrived at Hua Hin at 6.30am Thai time. Hua Hin is another town along the route that is close by the sea.
My fellow travellers on the train started to wake up one after the other and made a bee line for the washroom and water basin to clean up. To avoid this it is encouraged to do it early like I did. Breakfast was sold on board but it is not advisable for muslim to take. I continued my leisure admiring the scenery outside. Town after town we passed and a change in scenery. The towns started to grow bigger and bigger indicating we are moving closer into Bangkok. By now the attendant started to make up the bed and we were back to the sitting arrangement. However my dear wife persisted a bid longer to enjoy the bed.
We reached Nakorn Patorn station at around 9.25am. Nakorn Patorn is a town I know and visited once before, alas years ago as a 19 year old rugby player. It indicated that we were not that far away from Bangkok. I calculated that we would be in Bangkok about two hours earlier of the schedule. I checked with the attendant and he confirmed we will be in Bangkok at around 10.30am.
Then came the first of the several long waits at certain stations. I just do not understand until I saw the many crossings that we had to pass through to Bangkok.
Going into Bangkok on the train slowly means passing some of the backyards of somebody’s home or the slump area of the city. No different from any other cities in Asia. You will see the other part of Bangkok or the other life of Bangkok.
Finally, we arrived safely at Hua Lamphong Station at around 11.20am Bangkok time. It was sort of unexpected to me. Yes the attendant did announce the arrival that the train crawled into the station without much funfare. We excitedly disembarked as finally we were in Bangkok after years of postponement.
We were not tired but vibrant and could not wait to explore Bangkok. Knowing that there was still plenty of time we took our own sweet time at the station acting like tourists taking photos and all. Also, knowing that there were halal food there we decided to have our lunch before we proceeded to our hotel to check in.
Halal stall at the food court would be on your left as you exited into the main waiting and ticketing hall of the station. You have to purchase coupons first to buy the food. Do not worry if you could not used the total amount of the coupons as you can return them for refund. So we ate our first Thai food, especially Pad Thai for the girls, in Thailand. They were different but nice. An indication to us that the food in Thailand are fabulous.
After our lunch we did not go straight for the MRT station to our hotel but lingered a bit at the station to do a bit of exploration. As I was at their information counter I saw a Bangkok city map on sale and I thought it would be useful addition the the ones that I had already. It was a mistake as I found out in the room later. The map was at best just indication where things are and not at all helpful for travellers like us. So, my advise is do not waste your Baht to buy them. You are much more adequate with whatever you have already. This actually the first sign to me to indicate the other culture of Thailand. In summary train is still one of the major transportation for the Thais. We observed a lot of them buying tickets and waiting to board their trains. The main atrium of the station was full of passengers sitting on the floor waiting. Just like a pasar minggu without the goods in session. We noticed also about three quarters of them are muslims.
The Hua Lamphon MRT Station is on your left as you exited the station. You are not going to miss it. Our first MRT in Thailand and we were heading for Si Lom station. We bought our tickets from the counter as we were not sure of the fare and how to use the ticket machine. The MRT token to Si Lom was B12 per person The underground train was as good as what we have in KL. We enjoyed our first ride and definitely excited to be in Bangkok after so many years of planning. Though excited I knew that everyone was still tired either due lack of sleep or because of the long train ride. Being Saturday not many people on the MRT and the ride was smooth. In no time we were at Si Lom station already.
According to the map that I studied our hotel would be about 400 hundred metres after we turned left at the first junction and I am pretty sure of it. Nevertheless a very helpful tourist guide or police at the exit asked us where we were going. I told him and he duly said just take the left corner at the junction 20 metres from where we stood and the hotel would be a short walk from there.
Saladaeng (pronounce Saladeng) Colonnade was a hotel apartment that I had booked. The two bed rooms apartment could accommodate all the six of us comfortably. However when we checked in I made a mistake of letting everyone into the small lobby and submitting all the passports. The lady clerk straight away notice the number of us and being a bit of a high end apartment did not allow all of us to check in one apartment. I did not know they were that strict or maybe because of their small lobby and no other entrance making it easy for them to spot us. I asked her what’s our option and of course she said to take another room. Upon checking initially she said unfortunately there was no room available for the next 3 days. So she suggested and asked her bell boy to walk us to the nearest hotels around the area to enquire. I followed with the boys and to cut the story short after three hotels we still could not get a room for the boys. I did not realise it was peak season. When we were back at the Saladaeng the lady clerk rechecked her booking and managed to find a room for us. Alhamdulillah, we got to stay in the same place. So, we took one 2 bedroom apartment that I had paid as well as a deluxe room for the boys. When we entered our apartment I was right in my earlier assessment that the 2 bedroom apartment can comfortably accommodate us. Even the boys’ deluxe room was big enough for all of us. nevertheless, the place was one of the best that I have stayed. The rooms came together with either American or European breakfast that going t0 be served in our rooms. We chose American and when the breakfast was served the next day it could last us until evening. Our two rooms apartment was 307 while the boys at 208.
While Sam and the girls were taking a bit of rest I started to plan our day. Without thinking I knew I wanted to walk Bangkok straight away and I pour out all the street maps that I have and charted our assault for the day. The plan was to take a BTS to one of the pier at Chao Phraya River and walk the historic sites along the river. My main reference was the Walking Tour of Bangkok guides that I sourced from/through the Net. You can find a lot of these guides online as most backpackers or travellers like me would write and chart the experiences to share.
Once I was done I waited for awhile to give everyone a bit more rest.
Refreshed we started to walk out of the hotel towards Si Lom BTS station. Si Lom Shopping Complex was just beside the BTS station and in trying to get the feel of how branded things are priced in Thailand we walked into the shopping complex to check out. We found out the price for branded items were the same if not slightly higher compared to Malaysia. Also we found out there was a supermarket on the ground floor that stocked with our food supply.
We took the BTS train to Saphan Taksin station to get down at the pier of Chao Phraya River to start our walk along the river. When I boarded I immediately saw a group of European with their bicycles. I remarked to one of them 'Can you do this here in Bangkok?' They said yes and they have been doing it since 9 am this morning. I was astonished and said, 'We can never do this in KL.'. Not unless it is a folded folding bikes. So take note to all cyclists, you can take your bike on the BTS Skytrain in Bangkok. They seemed to having fun and seriously not a bad idea touring Bangkok on a bike especially after I knew how was it like walking Bangkok.
Once at Saphan Taksin we walked down towards the pier and when we arrived there only I realised it was not possible to walk along the river all the way as there was no walkway. We stood at the pier for awhile absorbing the activities around us.
We turned back and walk through Bangrak Market. Bangrak Market is a mix of everything market. We just passed through without shopping anything in particular. Guided by three maps I led everyone to walk as close as possible along the Chao Phraya.
We walked and walked. The tourist map was quite confusing so I abandoned it for the map I bought in KL. You can misjudged the size of the block on the map here as some of them could be a big block in reality. The main road we were on was Charoenkrung Road and once in while we walked in towards the river and two of such places were Royal Orchid Sheraton and River City. I thought we could take a boat cruise at one of the jetties and I was wrong. There was only a crossing service to the other side. So with that we continued to walk and from the map we were walking towards the Hua Lamphong Train Station where we can get on the MRT back to our hotel.
It was indeed a long walk especially for my wife and luckily the boys were around to help their mum. Mostly there were nothing much to see as most shops were close. Only a surprise or two along the way. One of them was a very old rundown wood building by the river.
When we arrived at Hua Lamphong we stopped at the food court to buy take aways for dinner. I did not but anything as I planned to buy bread and canned tuna or sardines at either Silom Shopping Complex or the 7-Eleven on our walk back to the hotel apartment.
When we disembarked from the MRT at Silom we found out a flea market cum pasar malam was every where. We traversed the street looking for good bargains and only later went into Silom Shopping Complex to by our food supplies.
As we were walking along down the street I noticed ‘strange’ objects on sale openly and I tried to shield them from Mar but I was too late. In fact later on, right in front of us a road sign says Patpong Road ha ha ha ha.
Nevertheless, we went round zigzagging trying to find something nice and interesting to buy. In the end nothing materialised. We walked backed towards our apartments where along the way we bought a lot of fruits.
Really tired all of us slept early and soundly. Another big exclusion the next day.
My FB friends could view photos of Day 3 here
My FB friends could view photos of Day 3 here