Well as we are sitting here waiting on what appears to be a delayed flight, I thought to myself lets try blogging again. I say again because I haven’t been able to access WordPress for the past couple of days due to the “quality” of internet connection. Therefore, apologies in advance for what may became a wordy blog due to the delay in processing it.
Last day in Phuket
We had an early start on the morning of the 26th (well, by holiday standards) as we arose at 7am to ensure we had a decent breakfast before being picked up by our tour company for the day. Mr 6 by now had bounced back pretty well.
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary
We arranged a tour for the elephant sanctuary on the back of promising our son that he would see elephants while we were in Thailand. Our visit to the elephant sanctuary cost roughly $180 NZ – sorry I can’t remember baht but convert x 24. The tour itself was quite well run and included transfers to and from the resort, a meet and great with baby elephant, big momma elephant, water buffalo, a cooking demonstration (and lunch), rubber tapping demonstration and an elephant safari. All of the elephants appeared well nourished and well cared for (I am not an animal expert so can’t confirm that for sure) and the local staff appeared to be fairly passionate about what they did. Once again they were very good with Mr 6, befriending him and making sure he had a fabulous time (which he did).
Our mahout was a bit of a character (and sometimes a bit of a pain in the butt) – he was good with Harrison, but the motive revealed itself after a while when he tried to sell a cheap rope bangle with crappy plastic elephant on it as a souvenir for 300 baht. He also offered to get off the elephant and take a photo of us on it – which while being inherently unsafe (no one to control the elephant), he would have no doubt attempted to arrange payment for this also had we accepted. Overall, he was really the only downer from the experience and the rest of the experience we were more than happy with. Mr 6 can now say he has ridden an elephant.
Promthep Cape for Sunset
Well, if you think New Zealand’s Wanaka Tree is over-populated during the “golden hours” you should experience this place at sunset – remarkable! Taxi fare return from our resort set us back 1500 baht.
On arriving at Promthep Cape we made our way up to a local diner set on top of the cliff and overlooking the cape and a couple of near by islands. The view was something else and positioned perfectly for diners to watch the sunset as they ate. Cost of our meals was again reasonable with three mains, two rice, and three drinks coming to 730 baht. All meals were once again very tasty and the service great.
After dinner we moved further up the hilltop so I could do some photography of the sunset. There were literally hundreds of people watching – many locals also. A busker played some nice music in the background and it was actually a really nice atmosphere. Harrison made friends and played games with some young girls who were their also with their parents as I began to shoot a brilliant red circle dip beneath the clouds and behind the horizon. The sky didn’t fire quite as much as it looked like it was going to (there was a bit too much cloud close to the horizon for the sun to get in under) but it was still a stunning sight and experience. It is something that we will definitely take in again in future visits.
Urban Jungle Bangkok
The following day we began very early to catch our flight to Bangkok. Breakfast was had at Phuket terminal – there wasn’t a great deal of choice but enough there for a quick and dirty feed before jumping on the plane for the one hour flight to Bangkok.
On arrival – to say we were floored was a bit of an understatement. Bangkok Airport is massive! Combine that with the impressive architecture and it makes for quite a sight. Once again our transfers which had been prearranged by the Flight Centre through Buffalo Tours met us on arrival and escorted us through to the city itself. To say I was incredibly jealous, as a New Zealander, of the comprehensive transport network and infrastructure – both motorway and train, is an understatement. You really are left thinking we have missed the boat with this type of infrastructure in our major cities and are being left well behind by modern international standards. Hopefully we catch up.
We walked around Lumphini Park which was located very close to our accomodation (about 5 minutes walking distance) and spent the afternoon meandering around here. Our initial thoughts were that there is some lovely gardens and structures but is let down by being a bit dirty and smelly.
As you walk around you can see some nice statues and buildings. There are also crows/ravens everywhere and some very large lizards either lounging in the ponds or walking across the path in front of you.
There is a nice spot for photography next to one of the lakes in which you can look out on the city and capture reflections of tall buildings
I did notice that I sweated a lot more while walking around Bangkok – the humidity was higher even though the temperature was not. Be sure to drink lots of water.
The Grand Palace
The following day we were really looking forward to a trip to the grand palace. I’ll say it right now – this was the worst experience the whole trip and was thoroughly unenjoyable and something we are not looking to do again anytime soon (although the architecture – from the outside anyway – was magnificent). As most know the Thai King died about four months ago and his body is still held in state. After getting through security – 1 km away from the palace – we walked up to the main entrance, past literally hundreds of Tourism Police, Security Officials and others before reaching the entrance to the palace grounds. It was only at this point that we were told we were not dressed to a satisfactory standard. Choices – leave or buy some expensive pants from a local rip-off merchant (or get some after paying a tour guide for the opportunity to go in). No doubt back-handers were being given by these people to the security officials when unsuspecting tourists elected to pay rather than walk out in the searing heat without seeing anything. We certainly paid. We should’ve turned around.
Once inside we were confronted by thousands of Japanese tourists – not the nice ones, but the rude self-absorbed ones-who were hocking and spitting everywhere, pushing children and smacking people in the head as they walked around with their umbrellas wide open deapite the space restrictions imposed by queues, without a care in the world for anyone else – including those there to genuinely mourn.
I think its about now that I’ll stop writing about this aspect of the trip as we are coming close to the point where we got so fed up we turned around and walked out. My overall lasting impression is that while there were a large number of people there to genuinely mourn, there were quite a few who seemed to be commercialising the death of the king (I’m not sure how much of the 500 baht entry fee goes to who – but this is set to carry on for the next 8 months).
My condolences do go out to those Thais who are genuinely there out of respect to the king! To others who may read this – stay well away until this all goes away and visit other temples instead.
Golden Mountain Temple
After a 150 baht tuk-tuk ride wd arrived at the Golden Moutain temple. This was more like it! As we wandered around soaking in the culture and grandeur of the place we said to each other “why aren’t more people coming here” – this was the cultural and religious side of Bangkok we had come to see and we nearky had it all to ourself! The temple was as you would expect – extravagant, beautifully decorated and as you can imagine from the name rather tall. We walked all the way to the top and were greated with fantastic views across Bangkok city. Where earlier I said stay away from the grand palace for now – turn instead your attention here!
By now the walking and heat had well and truly sapped the energy from us so we jumped in a taxi and headed back to the hotel (via the Rama viii bridge) for a bit of recovery time.
MBK market and Light Trails
We headed off to the MBK market to have a bit of a look around and spend the last of our hard earned. Head up to levels 5 and 6 here for the bargains (there are 7 stories all up). We spent the last of our cash predominantly on clothing but with a few trinkets thrown in also.
At night, we headed out to some nearby over-bridges to do some light trail photography. It was interesting watching the traffic during the day, but it’s a whole other level of fun at night with all the lights streaking past in a whirlwind of organised chaos. It amazes me that with the lack of enforcement and disregard for rules that there are not more accidents. Having said that there is obviously a regard for other road users – you rarely see anger or even exasperation, there is give and take from everyone and a realisation that you will get where you are going and there is no need to be a dick! Perhaps New Zealand drivers could learn from these people. As one person we met put it, they do have a wonderful attitude to driving – it’s just some much different to ours.
Well – that’s our Thailand trip done. But we will return , definitely to Phuket but next time we will probably incorporate Chiang Mai rather than Bangkok.
Over the coming weeks I will be processing photos from my trip so follow me on Facebook to see them as they’re done!