Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bangkok and Thailand Continued

Here are a few photos from Thailand...there are lots more on the picasa site in the folder marked week 8!!!
The last few days have been brilliant but very hectic, so below is a summary of what we have been up to!!

Lana, Lisa and a real Tiger - Honest!!
After our shopping expedition we arranged to meet up around 8pm to get some food and have a night out. However, I was on Facebook and Jennifer Parsonage was online and we arranged to go out and get in some shopping. We wandered around the local area, bought some booze and headed back to the Hotel to meet up with everyone who was going out. What we didn't know was that most other people had by now arranged for massages or already gone out, so we sat having a couple of quiet drinks with Chris and Mark in the bar across the road from the Hotel, then the two of us headed back out to get some dinner.
We found a couple of empty plastic chairs in the road by a Thai restaurant and ordered some food. We were really happy as the food was bloody lovely and really filling and it was a great atmosphere in the road, with cars passing by us a few inches away and tourists and locals eating, drinking and enjoying a night out in all the bars, cafes and restaurants on both sides of the street. We decided to head off for another beer, but unfortunately Jennifer Parsonage, wasn't feeling too good, so we headed off home.

In the morning Kenneth, Lana, Lisa, Karen, Maartje, Linda, Amanda, Janet, Mark, Mills and me were all ready and waiting for our day out at 7am.
Our first visit of the day was to 'The Train Market'. This is a food market that for no apparent reason has a train track running right through it. The stalls all side right up to the track, which is actually used a a path between the stalls themselves. 8 times a day a train passes through and on the sound of a siren, all the stall holders move their wares out of the way and pull in their canopies. The full sized train then passes right through the stalls, within centimetres of produce, stalls and people. Then as soon as it is gone, the canopies and stalls are put back where they came from and this weird market continues!!! It was surreal to see and I was expecting a small miniature train to pass down the thin walkway/track and was really surprised to see a normal sized locomotive coming towards us!!!
After the train market it was an hour up the road to the world famous floating market. This is a market on canals, where most of the trade is done between floating boats. It seems that Thai people will put a market anywhere but on a street or road!!
It was fun floating around the market for an hour, but it was very touristy and most of the stuff on sale was tacky souvenirs, like you can get at most holiday resorts. It was a good experience though and on e I would recommend to anyone visiting Bangkok.
The next stop is a Thai arts and crafts market, where the main draw is an open workshop where locals work for months carving elaborate wooden carvings. Some are quite simple like the line of full size elephants we saw, whilst others are incredibly intricate. One was a massive 3d picture carved from one large chunk of wood, which depicts a forest scene complete with monkeys, birds, trees elephants etc.... A sign in front of it explains that it two sculptors, 9 months to complete!!!

After another hour on the bus our next stop of this marathon day, was The Bridge over the river Kwai. If you don't know what this bridge is all about then spend a few minutes checking it our here.....

It was a great experience to visit the bridge and we sat for a while in a beautiful restaurant right next to it, having a traditional Thai lunch. We then had a chance to walk along the bridge itself and take pictures. It was really strange as their is absolutely no health and safety. The bridge has massive gaps between girders that you could easily fall down and a train to ferry tourists over that travel back and forth and has no signal that it is behind you except when someone shouts at you to get out of the way!!
We also later visited the museum dedicated to the bridge and the story which is really quite moving and helps bring together the terrible tales of what happened here. Its a shame that the market stalls and tourists have spoilt the area a little with music playing and bars etc.. but at least it is there for everyone to visit and remember what happened in world war 2.

Our final stop of the day was to The Tiger Temple. This is a place where tigers are reared and looked after by monks.
Linda, Me, Kenneth, Lana and Lisa were the only ones who went in, so the others waited outside for us. We didn't know what to expect, but were really happy when we arrived in Tiger Canyon to see 15-20 live, full size and baby tigers waiting to see us!! The tigers spend most of the afternoon sleeping and are trained so that they are docile enough to touch and sit with. We all went in as a group for some pictures at first, with Lisa holding the massive tigers head. She looks a bit nervous in the photos, but loved every second of the experience.
We then were led by the hand by there workers and took our turns stroking the tigers and having pictures taken with half a dozen of them. It was a wonderful half an hour and everyone came away with a massive smile and the feeling of having done something really special.
We found our way to a small enclosure where there was a couple of baby tigers being walked and another sitting by a tree, so we took the opportunity to get up close again and get a few more pictures.
On the way back to the bus we also saw buffalo sitting in a lake relaxing and wild boars/warthogs!! They were cool, but the tigers were really special.

We than had a two hour drive back to Bangkok so we all got our heads down on the minibus and had a well deserved sleep!
That evening was Janet's birthday (Happy 21st again!!) so we all met up (Less a couple of people who were still suffering from the bus bug!!) and celebrated with her!
She was presented with a cake in the Hotel bar, which to be honest, didn't go down too well!! It was a mix of gelatin and salty coconut, so not much got eaten! However this was all forgotten when we walked down to The Khosan road and found a great restaurant in which to have dinner. Having had Thai food for every meal since we arrived a few of us opted for tasty pizza or pasta and enjoyed a few drinks and a great meal!! Some of us stayed out a while longer to carry on the celebration, but others like me, were knackered after our long long day and went home to an early night!!

Today is Sunday and myself, Chris, Janet, Mark and Jennifer Parsonage all went back up to the MBK shopping centre. We split up after arriving by taxi and spent the next couple of hours looking around the various shops, stalls and cafes just enjoying a relaxing day off from sight seeing. After we were shopped out, myself and JP had a nice bit of lunch in a lovely Chinese restaurant - The dim sum was great and I will have to try it again sometime!!
It was then a taxi back to the hotel for a lazy afternoon and a massage.
I went to the massage parlour (A real massage parlour, not a good time bar!!) about 100m from the hotel and spent a good hour being twisted, poked and bent into all sorts of shapes by a professional thai masseuse. I havent had a thai massage before but afterwards, especially after she cracked my back , I felt really relaxed and realised how much stiffness I had previously in my shoulders and back from the bus.
It was than back to my room until 5.30 when a small group of us are meeting up for a night at the theatre!!
Tomorrow is also a 5am start as we are setting off early on the bus to drive to Koh Samui, where we are staying in beach huts for the next 4 nights!! It should be a lovely relaxing few days on the beach - We are all hoping for good weather!!

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