Thailand (Bangkok and Chiang Mai) Travelogue

by Keith Stanley
(copyright 2000, 2008)

    I was in Thailand in late 1998, the second stop on my (first) Asian Vacation. Basically, I kept a journal while on vacation and took pictures. After returning, I wrote this page, based on journal excerpts and the pictures.

Bangkok

Wat Pra Keo Grand Palace Area Traditional Thai Dance Traditional Thai Dance

Sunday, November 22, 1998

Things that have happened since last time:

    () The travel agency persuaded me to stay at Bangkok Centre Hotel rather than White Orchid because it was said to be one of the best Bangkok Hotels, having more to offer. I was disappointed in Bangkok Centre--the room was run down, there was some smell of cigarette smoke residue, a cockroach under the TV, and the room didn't look very secure. I seriously considered checking out and trying White Orchid for the next day, but was so tired I could barely think. I got a good night's sleep, despite my doubts. The complementary breakfast was excellent--the full spread--eggs, french toast, cereals, breakfast meats, rice with scrambled eggs, etc.

    () I took a city bus (to the Wat Pra Keo complex). On the bus there was an attendant who actually made change for my 5 baht coin (keeping the change, etc., in a long, cylindrical, metal container (1.5' long, 2' diameter) that opened on a hinge lengthwise).

    () As I entered the Wat Pra Keo complex, a nice seeming woman private tour guide asked if I'd be interested in an hour's tour for $300 baht. I hesitated, uncertain what I wanted to do, wanting to check out the situation a little. The crowds were large and I felt a little lost. I bought a 125 baht admission ticket, learning the group tours were already gone, and decided to try a private tour, generally intending to go back to the woman (if I can find her). I asked another guide his rate, which was 300 baht, seeming to me to be the going rate. I'd prefer to look for the woman but am immediately introduced to a male, English speaking guide. I accede to his services, although my heart's not really in it. From here, things go downhill badly.

    The guide didn't speak English very well, speaking with an accent I could barely understand, and he wasn't telling me anything but the most rudimentary stuff. Effectively, it was fruitless to ask questions. I was very dissatisfied but figured I had no choice but to continue with this guide (even, though, if I'm remembering right, I hadn't paid yet). How could I do this?????

    It got very bad, I couldn't appreciate the sights (the ornate Stupas and places of worship, etc.), so resentful and brooding was I about the situation. The tour guide suggested various shots that would make good pictures and waited expectantly for me to take the pictures, seeming to me as if he'd be insulted if I didn't want to take a picture of such significant religious artifacts. So, I took pictures, all the while feeling I'd rather be alone and taking my time. The crowds are very bad, and interfered with good picture taking. Sometimes I faked taking a picture to please the guide. Pathetic!

    By the time we get to the highlight of the tour (the temple of the Emerald Buddha), where I'm permitted 15 minutes inside on my own for contemplation, I was not at all serene. I went inside. Angry, hostile thoughts were flashing through my mind, even as I realized how inappropriate to the place my state of mind was.

    On the one hand, I considered leaving the temple immediately, out of a sense of not wanting to "desecrate" it with my stormy mind. On the other hand, I'd paid my money, and, "to hell with it," I wanted to get my money's worth. I stayed but grew concerned the Buddha might put a "curse" on me, such that a string of misfortune would befall me (as I'd heard tell sometimes happens in the case of unpropitious conduct). [Aside: I really know how to enjoy myself, don't I? :-) I took longer than 15 minutes in the temple area, not minding keeping the guide waiting a little.

    As the tour is over an I am paying the guide, he suggests I give him an extra 50 baht for a tip. I hesitate, saying, "I expected to pay 300 altogether." He said it was up to me and waited. I gave him 350. Ahhhhhhhhhh!

    If I were doing it over again, there are some things I'd do differently <understatement!>.

    As for the pictures I took that day, none of them came out as well as I'd have liked, primarily because it was cloudy. Nonetheless, here are some of the pictures I took around the Wat Pra Keo complex and the National Palace area (click on the "thumbnail" image to see a high resolution image):

Wat Pra Keo Wat Pra Keo Wat Pra Keo Wat Pra Keo Wat Pra Keo Wat Pra Keo Wat Pra Keo Wat Pra Keo Grand Palace Area Grand Palace Area

    () After the guide was gone, sitting on the bench putting my shoes back on, I began talking with the people next to me (or they with me). They were David and Gary from Maine. We talked for quite a while about our vacations and whatnot, and agreed we would try to connect later about going together to see Patpong (Bangkok's infamous sort of "redlight" district) (I'd like to see it, but I'd not feel comfortable going there alone).

    They again bumped into me a little later, as I'd pretty much finished looking around the temple on my own and was looking to leave. Since we'd both talked of going to Chinatown earlier, I went along with their suggestion that we go together, although I partly (maybe even predominantly) would rather be to myself. Having "gone along," I was again feeling a bit trapped, further obligating myself when I allow David to do me the favor of taking my picture back at the temple.

    We waited for the river boat to take us to Chinatown stop but it didn't come, and I was again ready to go back on my own by taxi. It so happened, though, that they were also ready to leave, so we left together, and they "persuaded" me that we go by tuk-tuk, despite my reservations. I was nervous about the tuk-tuk, figuring this would be a good chance for the Buddha to take me out. [Tuk-tuks are 3-wheeled open air vehicles bigger than a motorcycle, smaller than a car--sort of like a golf carts with souped up engines. They are small, maneuverable, tend to duck in and out, around and through traffic in rather alarming ways, and seem not to have shock absorbers.] I wondered, during the ride, why David put his arm around me, holding on rather tightly and squeezing my arm a number of times, but chose to say nothing, not wanting to chance hurting feelings. With relief, I got to Chinatown in one piece and finally was on my own again.

    () I wanted to buy an electrical current converter (that will convert the local 220V current to 110V, so I can plug-in my laptop). In "Thieves Market" area of Chinatown, I saw a shopfront selling hardware (electric drills and whatnot) and asked a friendly, young, Chinese woman working there about converters. She didn't speak much English, so it became a challenge for me to convey to her what I wanted. Somehow, with my pointing at the shape of the plugs on the drills and whatnot she (very nicely patient) understood and brought an adaptor from the back. It wasn't sufficient because it didn't convert 220V to 110V; she suggested I try "Ban Mor" a few blocks away.

    As I was wandering about, trying to head in the general direction I thought she suggested, I decided to inquire at a lamp store. I was talking with two guys there, out in front of the store, who, if anything, seemed to know even less English than did the Chinese woman. They were not understanding what I want, although, again, they were quite willing and interested, trying to understand. I hit on the idea of trying to draw a picture of what I wanted. Believe you me, I'm no artist, so this is quite a bold step on my part. How would I represent what I wanted? I ended up drawing a picture (two views) of what my computer plug looked like and what the wall outlet looked like, etc., and they understood! I was very pleased with this success! Nevermind they don't have what I want--they, too, suggest "Ban Mor." So I continued on.

    Now here's something interesting: As I was walking along, coming to the corner of a block, the sidewalk disappeared, turning into an eatery, then a bazaar. I asked a youngish woman at a stand, showing her my diagram, and she took me to another stall. They had a voltage converter for 180 baht, but it's plug shape wasn't right. She says "Ban Mor" and drew me a detailed map of how to get there. She is just so nice and helpful (throughout Thailand (the few parts I visited, anyway), I found the people to be a delight--friendly, relaxed, well centered, etc.). She tells me "Ban Mor" is a neighborhood, and that they will have "everything I want."

    A few blocks away, I found a Ban Mor shop with a middle-aged Chinese male proprietor who had a converter for 180 baht and a plug adaptor for 20. I was surprised, and pleased, to see the converter going for the same price here as it was at the other place, suggesting to me the price was competitive, that there was no need to bargain. (In Thailand, certainly in any of the street markets, and in many others as well, bargaining is commonplace and even expected.) I was quite pleased to purchase the converter/adaptor. My shopping venture was a success!

    Once I got back to the hotel, I find I could not use the converter because it won't accommodate a 3-pronged plug (I'd not foreseen/remembered this aspect of the problem). Ironically, however, it turned out I didn't need a converter anyway because (taking a bit of a risk to try it) I found I could plug my laptop directly into 220V through the AC to DC adaptor that came with it. Although I ended up not needing the convertor, still, I cherished my shopping adventure.

    () Later that evening, feeling I am up to seeing Patpong, having recovered from my earlier adventures, I got a cab from Bangkok Centre to the hotel where David and Gary are staying; from there, the three of us rode over together.

    Patpong is not as outrageous as I'd expected, at least from the outside of the establishments, which is all I ever saw. From the outside looking in, I found a number of the establishments intriguing, very nice looking women, scantily clad, entertaining and reputedly "very friendly." I'd have gone in, but not alone, and David wasn't that keen on it. While we tarried there, the girl at the door enticingly trying to pull me inside, Gary, not knowing we'd stopped to browse, apparently had continued on and momentarily become lost to us. So, one of the reasons, I explained to the girl, for our not going in, was that we'd "lost our friend."

    The girl asked if David & I were "friends." By the way she asked, or the context, I thought she was asking if David & I were gay, together, a couple, partners. When David said "yes," I quickly corrected him, saying "no." As we went on to look for Gary, I was concerned David seemed a bit put off. I was wondering whether David (and Gary) were gay, remembering how David had put his arm around me earlier in the tuk-tuk, squeezing my arm and holding me "tight."

    It didn't take me much longer to find out. We found Gary. He and David wanted to go to another section of Patpong, "where the boys were." I tagged along, it wasn't far and not very lively, and yes, the establishments promised naked men "and boys who take it all off so you can see how big they are." David and Gary were eager to go in and I was eager not, so I said they should go ahead, that I could find my way home in a cab on my own. So we parted, I came back to the hotel, and that was it. Oh, well . . .

Some additional observations on Bangkok:

    () Bangkok has terrible traffic congestion and fumes--it's not uncommon to see motorbike riders and even tuk-tuk drivers wearing masks over their noses and mouths. Also, there's a pretty fair amount of "squalor." Thankfully, it was not really hot and humid the two days I was there.

() If you've going from one place on the river to another, transportation by water bus (public boat) is relatively fast, comfortable, refreshing, and quite inexpensive (under 10 baht). A fare attendant will make change on the boat (and carries a metal cylinder of change and tickets) just as on the regular buses.

[Train Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai [to be added]]

Chiang Mai & the Baan Kaew Guesthouse

Wednesday, November 25, 6am

    I'm in Chiang Mai at the Baan Kaew guesthouse. I love it (the guesthouse)! It's very quiet, away from the "hustle bustle" (as my guidebook says) and very much the antidote needed after Bangkok. There are maybe 14 rooms here, both upper and lower (two floors) stretched out in a line like at an old time (before freeways) motor hotel, but it's L-shaped and nice. The L, along with the "office" at one end, enclose a quiet garden and patio, with a tall and solid fence on the fourth side. It makes a cozy and peaceful respite. As an added plus, there's even a outlet for my computer out on the patio (which, of course, also has tables and chairs and, occasionally, other guests).

Baan Kaew Guesthouse pictures:

Baan Kaew Guesthouse Patio Rooms

10:30am

    Now, let me tell you true: I've been MISERABLE here in paradise! I haven't been able to write anything since talking with Wayne Stier, the accomplished author, here in the guesthouse garden, for an hour yesterday midday.

    He's had books published, commercially successful, it seems. He written, if not in various genre, in varied forms of prose. For example, he's written a humorous historical novel, with a pendant's footnotes for historical accuracy, a subtle love story, probably with layers of depth (the superficial story itself, with some of the richness of a low-key humor upon closer reading), and this is all just one work: "The Mandalay Crescent".

    Clearly, he is very creative, often gets into flow with his writing, has travelled widely (including to Borneo) and had many experiences. He has been a professor teaching the writing of English (expressively, creatively) to the Japanese. He's thinking of hiring himself out at a flat fee (minimum $5000, which might cover 100+ pages) to others who would have their biography written, as filtered through Wayne.

    I found this an interesting idea, thinking I might even like to have my biography done. Of course, I admitted no such vanity. I did, however, share that my world is largely an inner world, but got no further. I regret (a bit) not having acknowledged my interest.

    He said in the course of our talking he had a book he wanted to sell me. I excused myself after about an hour, consciously not having followed up. I knew he and his wife, Mars, were leaving on the morning train to Bangkok, that, with my leaving the patio, I'd likely not see him again before he was gone, yet I left it that way. I felt misgivings immediately. I'd left something unsaid or undone, hadn't said "good-bye" adequately. I felt the loss.

    [I don't know if I can write anymore. My chair was getting a bit uncomfortable and hard, so I switched chairs (metal to plastic), but there's something on the seat. I didn't want to make a scene about finding a way to wipe it off, so I'm now sitting on it. Objectively, it's not a big spot, or one likely to come off onto my pants or hurt me, but it's there--my self-consciousness arising, perhaps, out of my anxiety about what I'll write.]

    Anyway, as I was saying, I've not been able to write until now, suffering, I think, from subconsciously comparing my writing, my ability (or lack, thereof) with Wayne's. I did tell Wayne about my difficulty with (and infrequency of) flow, and he made some response, not understanding, that for me, this is an existential state. There's almost nothing I can do without anxiety.

    One thing I can do is to sleep, and my inner prosecutor has indicted me for oversleeping this morning, both before and after breakfast, maybe four hours. I'm now out of my room sitting in the guesthouse garden in the shade of the patio's roof, blessedly focused (no jinx, please) on a beautiful sunny day, temperature just about right, delightful slight breeze, the humidity high, the air rich and thick with the possibility (and reality) of life. In the air, there's a bit of incense or marijuana (or maybe those people down the street are again burning what smells like autumn leaves) and the sound of birds, the fluttering of butterflies. There's a bird call I've not heard before with four notes, the middle higher and held longer, all somewhat roughly throated, like a rooster's call, but higher pitched. A bit of pollen or whatever occasionally come sprinkling down on me from the tree above.

    Hey, I'm writing!

    Just now some flies have become a bit noisome. I'm glad there are no mosquitoes this time of day. There's the sound of a repeated musical refrain coming from a vehicle moving on neighborhood streets, reminding me of the ice-cream trucks of my youth.


    Last night I had a bit of an adventure finding Chiang _____ Plaza, in search of cereal and milk. It was further than expected, I asked for directions from 4 or 5 different people, found it, went downstairs (as directed), but saw nothing that looked promising. I did ask at the J.J. Bakery, though, and found they sell baked "museli" (pronounced mu-SEE-lee)/trailmix/granola. Finding no other cereal, I bought a big bag of museli and at (7-ll) a quart of lowfat milk.

    At both J.J. Bakery and 7-11, I first asked one person my question, that person called over another who understood English better, and several people collaborated in helping me. Most everyone is friendly and has time to help.

    By the time I had the milk and museli, I was weak with hunger, and it was a chore getting home through all of the nightmarket conjestion. It was not as miserable for me, though, as it'd been earlier in the day when, seemingly interminably, in the hot afternoon sun, I made my way home, after buying the 3-prong to 2-prong adapter, frustrated (to the point of anger and hostility) with my inability to get at the "defective, overly-frozen, watered-down Slurpee I'd purchased at a 7-11 (I wanted it so much, but could have so little)).


    I heard a rooster's greeting of the day first at 4am this morning, after having been awakened by the sound of an angry cat's snarling, yeooowlling growl. I've not been around cats much, and it was surprising to me just how fierce a (presumably) big growling housecat can sound. At least 3 cats live here at Baan Kaew.

4pm

    I'm feeling a little sad now, realizing just how quickly my time here is coming to an end. Next time in Thailand, I may come here direct and stay longer for a retreat. This place is quiet, beautiful, clean, inexpensive, the service is good and the staff friendly. Also, one can work out on the covered patio, other people not interfering or prying (based on my one-time experience), yet one potentially can also meet other guests.


    I just placed a long distance phone call from here to the Y in Singapore, which ending up costing 240 baht for 6 minutes--expensive, but maybe worth it. I could, instead, have gone into the night market area and found an international phone service where I might have used a phone card, or purchased prepaid phones, but I didn't want to go in on a hot afternoon, not knowing exactly where I would be going or what the cost. Nor did I want to delay the call until this evening (when it would be cooler and when I'm planning to go in to the night market anyway) out of concern I might lose might chance to find a vacancy. Then too, I thought I could do the call within 3 minutes. So what if it may have ended up costing me an extra $5? It's just that with the price of some things (like accommodations) being so reasonable here, I hate to spend so much on a phone call.

    I am pleased I was able to get a room at the Singapore Y, which clearly was my first choice (based on what the guide book said and my positive experience at other Ys). Furthermore, I will be able to get exercise there (I presume)(perhaps both on Friday, the day of my arrival and on Sunday morning before I depart), thereby justifying my not getting much exercise for today and the next few days.


    It would be nice to learn the names of the staff here, so I could greet them and refer to them by name.


    The biggest unknowns on my trip now will be--(1) my arrival in Jakarta (from Singapore) to connect with a shuttle flight to Bali, for which flight I've not making advanced reservations (thinking I can get a better price in Jakarta than I could through the travel agent at home), and (2) my finding accommodations in Bali at a small guest house or similar facility (which cannot reasonably be arranged beforehand (because they're too small to be on the internet or known by travel agents)(the later being my supposition, not based on evidence, perhaps rooted in my inexperience and hesitation with and about using travel agents (as opposed to arranging things myself)). At any rate, it is a matter of some curiosity how these things will work out.


    Currently, I'm sitting in my room (# 110 on the end). Of the 450 baht per day I'm paying for the room 100 is for air conditioning. The weather here is warmer than usual for this time of year, with highs seeming to be in the upper 80s with high humidity. Nonetheless, I need the air-conditioning only in the afternoons, and it's a powerful system, able to cool the room down in 5 or 10 minutes.

    The room is dark, well shaded, it get little direct sun. It's quiet, the walls are solid plaster, there's no TV or radio, and not much in the way of artificial light. The floor is patterned, brownish linoleum sheet, rippling a bit, the furnishings simple, the bed comfortable, and the linens changed daily. The view out the front is of the garden, although it can barely be see past the veranda, through the two large bushes.

    I was concerned at first about how the shower would work. There's no tub or shower stall, just a shower curtain (not extending all the way to the floor) separating one corner of the bathroom's blue tile floor from the rest, with a drainhole under the showerhead. The drain didn't seem to be much lower than the rest of the floor. I also was concerned that there'd not be much water flow and that there'd be no hot water. Needless to say, it worked out fine on all counts--there was sufficient water, and hot, and none of it flowed out of the corner area. Amazing technology (although I did choose to squeegee standing water in the corner down the hole after my shower).


    This afternoon I lunched, for the 2nd day in a row, at The Whole Earth Restaurant, about 3 blocks from here. It's a beautiful restaurant, set back in trees and greenery, with excellent food and service. Luncheon is served outdoors, in the front on a separated, free-standing, tree-shaded deck. The seating is at sturdy, clean, place-matted picnic-type tables on benches.

    I began with a fruit "smoothie" so good I sipped it down through the straw in one continuous flow until empty. I had a satay (spelled "sate" there) chicken appetizer served with delicious complementary red sauce and a bowl of clear, sweet liquid with bits of onion, cucumber and a few pepper cross-sections. The main course was three-flavored Thai tofu in a sweet brownish clear sauce, each tofu piece about the size and shape of a large scallop and topped with a mushroom cap of the same diameter that had been drenched in the sauce. For desert, I had the fresh fruit plate of melon, watermelon and pineapple. This cost 199 baht and I left a generous 40 baht tip, less expensive, all told, than the 6 minute phone call I just placed (still haven't forgotten about that damned phone call, have I ;-).

11pm

    Tonight I went out shopping in the night market (and did some bargaining too, coming back with--(1) two pewter medallions for 160 baht apiece, (2) a pewter salt & pepper set for 350 baht, (3) a framed butterfly display for 130 baht, and a silk tie for about that same price. Big spender that I am, I laid out about $30 U.S. :-). I also took a picture of a few of the hundreds of stalls in the night market, had a personal pan seafood pizza at Pizza Hut, and saw some pretty Thai women and girls. I've gotten pretty good at smiling and ignoring touts from the stalls, tuk-tuk drivers, etc. (the tuk-tuk drivers are the worst).

Thursday, November 26, 1998

    It's my last day in Chiang Mai, my vacation is half over and thoughts of vacation's ending and "having to" go back to work had already begun to creep into my mind, even yesterday. I'm hereby resolving to put those thought aside, at least until I've be to Singapore, through Jakarta, and am down to a day (or two, at most) left on Bali.


    I've been wondering about Buddhism and my life, pondering what Wayne Stier said the other day--that Thais (Buddhists) are amused at one's complaining of having a miserable life (as if his quality of life could be blamed on someone or something else) when all this shows is that one is not living one's life well. I'm not sure just what this means, but I'm thinking it has to do with living in the present, accepting & letting be.

    In other words, Thais (who knew me and my subjective state) would say I am living life very poorly. This may be, there may be something to this, thus suggesting I might want to make changes in my awareness or attitude; but the big question is how to integrate the Eastern Buddhist perspective into my life developed in the West. I'd like to look more into the teachings of Buddhism and especially would like to talk to practicing Buddhists to see how their beliefs work in everyday situations and in answering the big questions about life. Where do feelings fit in? Is there room for self?

5:30pm

    I just made the train with not much time to spare. I left Baan Kaew about 4:45 to get 5:25 train. Walked out to street out front and tried to get transport. No cabs (red trucks) or tuk-tuks were coming by in front of Baan Kaeo. (Where were they when I needed them; I'd just assumed I could hail one, but none went by. NONE! After 5 minutes I went back to desk and asked the (Filipina looking young) woman if she could call one. I went back out to street. The night desk guy (nice) (I never did find out anyone's name, but he was the person I talked with for a while last night) arrived, stayed with me (still no transport) and helped me (when I ask) take my bags down to the intersection, where I got a cab (truck) for 50 baht.

    Next the cab is stuck in traffic, and I'm still anxious, although remember the Buddhist precepts I'd been reading about earlier in the day and realize the moment will pass soon enough, that it is ephemeral. Still, I'm not perfectly serene. (Actually, I didn't even remember the Buddhist precept until traffic started moving again).

    We got to station 10 minutes+ to spare. A sort of a seedy-looking guy hanging out in front of the terminal got a cart and was ready to help with my luggage, but he was very impatient, demanding to know what train, etc. I can't seem to communicate to him to relax. I have to get my ticket out of my luggage. Once I do, he started running with the baggage truck down the side of the train (long) up toward the front. I didn't know if he really knows where he is going (which car is mine), but figure we have a few minutes to spare and ask nobody (so as not to offend him). He arrived at a car and seemed literally to be throwing my baggage onto the landing, so hurried was he. I'm not sure the car is the right one, so I asked the official standing outside beside the tracks. It turned out the correct car was just the next one in front, which I can access from the landing (just go through the doors), so it was looking ok.

    Next on my mind was the question of tipping the guy who had "helped" me with my luggage. I knew I only had a 50 baht note, much more than I'd otherwise have given, but figure "what the heck" and give it to him.

    Now comes the outrageous part: the guy started washing up in my compartment's washbasin without asking, throwing water on his face, splashing on the mirror, spilling on the floor. I try to tell him to stop, basically saying "hey . . . hey . . . HEY" but he's not responding. I start to tell him I want change from the tip back if he's going to act that way. He finished with a leer, and I figured he did it all just to insult me. I really felt angry but also remembered the Buddhist Way. That guy is the only rude person I can remember meeting in Thailand.


    My compartment had the seat facing backwards (not my preference). I asked about switching to another compartment, but it's not possible and I don't try very hard, not being as concerned about looking out as I was on the way up. What did bother me was that our car, being the very first on the train after the engines, tended to suck in some of the exhaust fumes coming therefrom. I could smell the fumes coming in the A/C. I didn't want to turn the A/C completely off (it'd get uncomfortably warm) and might not completely eliminate the fumes anyway. Mind you, the amount of fumes, while definitely noticeable was not great--it wasn't as bad as being on the street in Bangkok, for example. Nonetheless, I was miserable about it and went to check out some of the other cars further back. I went back maybe 5 cars and in all of them the fume situation was definitely better, but none were first class. All were 2nd class, with seating that pulled into sleepers with curtains but not with separate compartments. This looked pretty good, and were I doing it again, I'd probably recommend 2nd class A/C with sleeper (which I understand would be about half the price of first class), but wasn't ready to go to the trouble of arranging to move to 2nd class (giving up my private compartment to get away from the fumes). So, I went back to my compartment discontent, thinking "this is no way to run a railroad--why didn't they have the sense to put 3rd class first after the engine?" I was unable to sleep until later. I can say one positive thing, though--it was nice having a private compartment when it came to freshening up and dressing in the morning.

    Rather than taking the train all the way to downtown Bangkok and the main train station (where I'd originally boarded), I got off at the airport exit on the outskirts, even though it was about 6 hours before my flight. Once off, the airport terminal seemed to be just across the road but I saw no way to get there. The road was limited access and busy, with (if I remember correctly) a center barrier. I couldn't see any entrances to the terminal from the road. I did see what looked like a covered, windowless pedestrian overpass leading to the terminal but no way to get to it.

    I saw a number of cabs going by and some people taking cabs, so I thought maybe the way to go was to hail a cab and have it drop me at a passenger drop-off entrance. Once I was able to hail one, the driver didn't understand me. The next one I hailed, seemed to say I should get an airport bus. Well, there were buses passing by and some stopping, but I didn't know which one and saw no likely English speakers to ask, so I got on one of the buses (the entrance was at the back, the driver at the front). This was not all that easy, being as I had 3 bags, two of which were pretty heavy--I remember tripping as I tried lifting the big suitcase aboard and someone's helping me. I had serious doubts whether it was the right bus, the more so for seeing that most of its passengers were military personnel (perhaps going to a base somewhere). I headed up the aisle to talk to the driver. I was pretty anxious and don't even remember now how I became convinced I was not on the right bus. Somehow I managed to get myself and my luggage back off the bus before it pulled out.

    Finally, an older, and fairly distinguished looking, man, among those waiting at the side of the road, asked if he could be of assistance, speaking some English. Yes! He was indeed very helpful pointing out a walkway above the road and telling me the way to go to find it's entrance on this side. It was a bit hard getting my luggage up the stairway to the walkway, but I managed and ended up having a rather pleasant wait at the airport, reading my biography of Kafka, etc.

END

Ten years later (February, 2008), I was back in Bangkok (now married) with my wife, Jana.  We took a daytrip from Bangkok to Samut Sakhon (aka Mahachai) and the Amphawa Floating Market, which are pictured below.  We began with a local commuter train from Bangkok (Thorburi) to the market town of Samut Sakhon (Mahachai).  One of the more remarkable things is that the train pulls right into the central market--trains are infrequent and, when a train is not passing, the space taken by the tracks is part of the market itself--customers and vendors have to clear way and lower their awnings to allow the train to pass:
IMG_3905 Mahachai, market along the railway tracks.jpg (89164 bytes) IMG_3908 clearing the pathway - train about to roll through market.jpg (97964 bytes) IMG_3909 rolling through.jpg (92451 bytes)
Market on train tracks
Normal operations
When train is passing When train is passing
IMG_3910 getting through - market soon to resume.jpg (97245 bytes) IMG_3878 Mahachi station, market - girl.jpg (96007 bytes) IMG_3883 gold shop, Samut Sakhon.jpg (107732 bytes)
Train departing -
Getting ready to resume
normal operations
Mahachai (Samut Sakhon) station Gold Shop in Samut Sakhon
Later the same day, we made our way to the floating market and Amphawa (taking another commuter train from Mahachai to Samut Songkram, then a tuk-tuk 6km to Amphawa):
IMG_3913 floating market boats.jpg (99690 bytes) IMG_3914 ship and shore, floating market, food.jpg (100013 bytes) IMG_3921 floating market, woman with wares (ok).jpg (112206 bytes)
Floating market food boats Serving customers Woman with her wares
IMG_3923 canal scene.jpg (104808 bytes) IMG_3925 floating market (ok).jpg (98277 bytes) IMG_3929 river market scene.jpg (117470 bytes)
Along the canal - Amphawa Amphawa Floating Market What would you like to eat?
IMG_3937 floating market scene.jpg (126429 bytes) IMG_3947 jana, floating market, dusk (ok).jpg (88511 bytes) IMG_3953 bringing the food, floating market night.jpg (91535 bytes)
Across the way Jana, floating market at dusk Jana brings the food
IMG_3982 paddling (good).jpg (79657 bytes)
Paddling
For more Bangkok daytrips, see http://www.bangkok-daytrips.com/daytrips/index.php.

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