This photo-blog is designed to work either as a standard blog with images or - by clicking any image - a photo-album. To see an image in full resolution in the 2006 journey, click to the left or right of an image in blog mode.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mayhem through Bangkok to Phuket

2006-11-08 We left Chiang Mai the night before last, racing to the station in a tuk-tuk after spending most of the day setting up a blog report on the scam bus incident. Christine was mad when she connected with the fact that the greenstone pendants Rohan and Lorien had given us as good luck charms had gone as well, so wanted to put in a police report at least for the insurance.

The overnight sleeper trip from Chiang Mai to Bangkok was cool and pleasant.

Next morning Bangkok was a nightmare. I struggled around the corner from the station and booked a room for the day in a quaint old Chinese hotel called Sri Hualamphong where we could safely leave our stuff and have a rest if we had time.

Buildings outside the station

Sri Hualamphong Hotel great for a day stay

A nearby canal

We then tried to make our way on foot through Chinatown to the river but found the streets flooded and the flood waters rising. We became caught in the claustrophobic maze of tiny narrow market alleys bulging to stasis with people, carts and motorbikes where huge wholesale deals are done for cheap clothing and jewelry, and finally found our way to one of the piers which was sand bagged and under water, although the boats were still plying the river from pontoon wharves.

We then went up river to try to go on a canal tour to the floating markets, but got caught in a major confrontation with the tour operators who wanted a fortune as scam operators do for a quick, dirty tour. I wanted to see the floating markets but had to give up when they cut me out of any tour. In fact the floating markets had already closed for the day so they were both trying to scam us and get rid of us knowing we would see through the scam once we got on the tour. I've included a few pics of the floating markets to complete the picture for the record. We then travelled further up river to Khaosan Rd and had lunch discovering that the tour would have been a dud anyway because the markets had already closed. 500 Bt saved!

Back to the Khaosan Road neighbourhood

Floating markets internet photo

We then made a pilgrimage by bus and foot to the tourist police station in central Bangkok. Eerily the city traffic was all at a permenent standstill with all the traffic lights red because one of the Royal family was going to drive through. When we arrived it was only to find they had moved to a 19th floor office on the outskirts of East Bangkok were it was almost impossible for tourists to reach them. After complaining to the tourist authority about the lack of effective police support, we agreed to take a local canal boat out to the tourist police.

The eastern canal route begins under the bridge next to the palace compound

This took another long hot walk and several bus rides to the ferry pier in central Bangkok. When we caught the boat it became another of those experiences you accept once in your life provided it never happens again. The boats are nothing like the toursit boats on the floating market circuit. They are East side bullet commuter boats manned by touts in crash helmets and travel at high speed throwing up fetid canal water over the oncoming boats which pull up plastic side sheets to avoid the passengers getting drenched. As well they have to tilt the roof down without warning as the boat surges at speed through low bridges.

Half way along, we had to transfer to a second boat with every transfer involving a hectic scramble on to a tossing boat that was already leaving while you were swinging on the gunwhale, which left Christine apoplectic. After losing the destination for about half an hour and backtracking by boat, we finally arrived at the tourist police to find one of those corrupt institutions fabled in South East Asia.

The tourist police had absconded themselves to the 19th floor of an inaccessible part of the city, had no power to investigate any crime, but were there to make it as difficult as possible for any tourist to report anything, especially for insurance purposes. They insisted we write out our report already typed with pictures all over again. When Christine obliged they proceeded to laboriously translate it into Thai expecting us to sign our lives away for this hieroglyphic confession. When we repeatedly warned them that we had to leave to catch the train, so Christine could have her next rabies shot, they handed the translation on to a female operative who began to question the whole translation as if we were falsifying an insurance claim.

At this point I grabbed the dossier off them and tried to push it through their photocopier and they finally threw the partially completed translation at us and we ran out of the building, first racing down the back stairs and then the lift to avoid pursuit. We then had to catch the two ferries back to central Bangkok with only an hour to spare and walk for about two miles south to the station in the dark.

About half an hour to go I managed to score a tuk-tuk for 20 Bt which got us back just in time to get our stuff out of the hotel and grab a loaf of bread and some chocolate milk and jump into the cool of another overnight air conditioned sleeper to Surat Thani.

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