First full day in Bangkok

Breakfast in a hotel was just that – a typical hotel breakfast. Nice and I did get to try some new fruits. Rose-apple and dragonfruit (which when out of the skin looks more like Dalmatian-fruit) both pass muster. The fruits and fruit juice over here are fantastic. Fresh, juicy, tasty and in much greater variety than back home. If you get a drink in a bar, it’s made from fresh pulped/crushed/juiced fruit and you can really taste the difference.

We made our way to Saphan Taksin on the Chao Praya River by Skytrain. This is the city’s rapid transport system (it also has a subway) which opened in 1999. It’s fast, frequent, clean and cheap. The traffic was even worse before it opened, though chaos while it was being built as the track follows the major roadways through Bangkok. This, apparently, is because when a person in Bangkok buys a property, they buy the land it is on and all the land below. Therefore the laws would have to change and masses of money spent to build underneath properties or to buy them out for building on. The land owned by the transport authorities (i.e. the roads) was used instead.

A one-day pass for the Skytrain is 100Baht. At the time of writing this is roughly £1.40, and for the quality of service is outstanding compared to the rubbish we have in the UK. Of course, to a Thai this may seem pricey.

Once at the river, we opted for a small long-tail boat trip around some of the canals to look at the buildings, houses and so on. The water is filthy, it has to be said. Yet as you plough round, you see children playing in it and adults using it to wash. Tim spotted one snake swimming around as well. Lou almost experienced the river close up and personal as she slipped backwards getting into the boat. That would have utterly spoiled our day as nobody was videoing at the time. What a (potentially) wasted opportunity for &pound250 from You’ve Been Framed.

We made one stop on the way round where we paid 20Baht for a large loaf of bread each with which to feed catfish. The water round the boat turned into a slippery seething cauldron of open mouths, Tim even managing to feed them by hand. Catfish don’t look scary until you realise they can jump a bit and you’re surrounded by roughly 500 of them. The Thais have clevery managed to create a small industry whereby Farang (foreigners) pay money to feed their livestock for them. Which they then catch, slaughter and serve to farang in restaurants. A smart way to increase your income and save work at the same time!

Some of the buildings on the way round were stunning – because of the “how can people live like that?” factor and also from the “wow – how luxurious” factor. One thing about Bangkok is that there’s very little division (geographically at least) between the classes. People in shacks live next to people in 7-bedroom classically-built villas. Skyscrapers are next to temples. The architecture is varied but in all cases eyecatching in some way. Stupidly tall and glorious, or a miracle of hodge-podge; metal sheeting bolted to wood leaning on some old framework that gravity seems to have ignored, at least for the time being. There’s more diversity here than I think I have ever seen in one place before.

Another thing that’s noticeable is the extent to which Western culture has seeped in. Partly, it’s beneficial as it brings in tourists and gives them a little bit of familiarity. Conversely, it spoils things a bit when you can’t walk down a street without seeing BK, KFC, Dunkin’ Donuts, Boots, Tesco, 7-Eleven…

The Thais are also a 90% Buddhist nation (5% Christian and 5% Muslim, the latter mainly in a small area in the south of the country), which means they don’t harm animals for any purpose other then eating them. This is shown by the number of dogs and cats wandering around that are utterly oblivious to the constant flow of people. They don’t walk up begging for food, act savagely or run away scared. They’re just so used to people and generally will just lie in a corner and watch the world go by, unlike in the UK where chances are a stray dog has been abused and will attack or flee.

Dinner this evening was in the Bull’s Head (Lou’s cousin Joy’s western pub) which was rather nice. We then just got wasted and retired for the evening.

This week is becoming rather expensive on the food front! Oh. And the beer.

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