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After all that planning and all that agonizing, Karen and Julie finally did it!

After all that planning and all that agonizing, Karen and Julie finally did it!

Old Mar 3rd, 2006, 06:54 PM
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It's funny you should mention Cotton House...I was just cursing them last night. I had some blouses made- copied from one of my own. They left off the flaps over the pockets on one, and the buttons were in the wrong place on both. (when I leave #2 button open, its too high, when I leave #3 button open I show a little too much).

anyway, the decision to unbutton #2 or #3 is moot at this point as all the buttons have been falling off...poor quality thread and not enough of it on the buttons. Started deconstructing on the 3rd wear, and I've run out of safety pins!

Again, these were things I can blame on myself for not looking at the finished product closely enough, but it was delivered a couple hours late and I was in such a rush, I didn't think to examine them. I too will patronise them again, but next time will allow more time for fittings and inspections.

A good tailor will know and ask you all the right questions, but for first timers, I definitely recommend having an item copied. I think the more clothes you have made, the better you know what to look for. My first experience, NOT at Cotton House, I just let them call the shots, and they delivered the finished product with no extra fittings! Still sits in my closet...too nice to toss, but I've never worn it!


Anyway...back to your great report.....
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Old Mar 3rd, 2006, 07:16 PM
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all good points...karen will enjoy reading this tonight when she gets home...she sews so understands all the things you have said....

for others i can not stress enough that time is the most important factor in our opinion...we give them a few weeks to work on things and check back every few days....this allows for an orderly progression....this is one reason why things come out so well for us...plus karen's tailoring eye...

but also you must know ahead of time exactly what you want or it almost guarantees disappointment...

karen can't wait for the next episode....great report
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Old Mar 3rd, 2006, 09:13 PM
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Your comments about having clothing custom made are well-taken. I think many/most people don't realize that custom means they have to make a decision on every little detail. And what you think is perfect fit is not necessarily what the tailor thinks is perfect fit. Taking a garment to be copied is a great idea for a first-timer.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2006, 10:31 PM
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Hi Karen,

I'm also loving your report! You are taking me back to our days in Bangkok as well when we visited in December...I can't wait to hear about your visit to the China House as well as your trip to Siem Reap. I appreciate what you say about having custom clothes made and your experience at the Cotton House. To commit to this also means committing to 2-3 fittings to get the fit just right, which definitely cuts into precious touring and shopping time! Looking forward to hearing more...

Terry
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Old Mar 4th, 2006, 08:10 AM
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Day 4, Thursday, Floating Market

We were up early the next morning to go to the floating market – too early for Julie’s taste, but I must say she was a trooper. Bob had wondered how we’d do together given our differing styles, and I must admit we had some trouble.

We have a great relationship and love each other deeply, but travel, even when you’re having fun, is stressful. You’re out of your routine, in an unfamiliar setting, with lots of unknowns. And spending 24/7 with the same person, no matter how much you love her, takes a toll. What’s more, we are indeed different! I’m focused, task-oriented, and high-energy. My style: “Let’s get up, get moving, and get this sight-seeing done! You think we’re on VACATION or something?” My dear Julie likes to take it easy, sleep in, and take her time getting ready.

Consequently, I always seemed to be waiting for her. She always felt like I was pushing her. We both sincerely believed we were trying to accommodate the other, but there were times when tempers flared and fights erupted. After the first week, it got much better as we adjusted to being together all the time and settled into a routine. I’d often get up before her and head out on my own for awhile. And if we had a midday break, I might go off for a walk while she read or napped. It made life easier. And I’m sure I can speak for both of us in saying our most vivid memories will be of the wonderful times we had together, not the arguments. Ok, on with the story (just wanted to share that because I’m guessing many of you can identify!)...

Julie Taxi picked us up promptly at 7 and off we went. In hindsight, I’d have left at 6 given the crowds by the time we got there. But more about that in a moment – first a little about Julie (Taxi). I cannot recommend her highly enough. She is warm and personable. Her English is great, her sense of humor even better.

We were so lucky to get her – and in fact, we got her AND a driver (Paul). She said she usually tries to go herself for new clients visiting Bangkok for the first time – and she was especially interested in joining us because I had mentioned in my email that my daughter’s name is Julie!

What was cool was how well she and (my) Julie hit it off. By the end of the day, they were walking around with arms linked. And “Julie 1” (she decided they each needed a number so we could keep them straight) must have taken 20 pictures of my daughter (“Julie 2”) with her cell phone. She bought us coconut drinks at the floating market, candy at a stand before arriving (wonderful candy made of coconut sugar and peanuts and tasting a lot like peanut brittle), and she paid for lunch – and at the end of the day only added 100B to what she had told me (2500B)! I said no way and gave her more to include the cost of lunch and a tip, but she was fabulous. It was a fun-filled, laughter-filled day in a nice, air-conditioned Volvo. If you’re looking for a guide, Julie (1) is great. (Julie 2 probably isn’t ready to be a guide just yet.)

I asked how she came up with the name Julie, by the way, and she told us that when she first started her taxi business about 10 years ago, she told one of her first clients (an Australian) her name. When he tried to say it back to her, he pronounced it wrong such that it came out “you die one day.” She roared at the recollection – said she was afraid every day she’d be dying at the hands of her customers and decided to adopt a Western name. Julie sounded somewhat similar to her own name (although much shorter), so she took it as her new moniker... and decided thereafter to give ALL her drivers Western names to make it easy. (That Julie is one savvy business woman.)

So Julie 1, Julie 2, Paul, and I set off for the floating market. Traffic was a mess – it was, after all, a workday and 7 in the morning (although it seemed Bangkok traffic was ALWAYS bad!). But finally we were out of town and rolling. The countryside around Bangkok is flat and not particularly scenic. Lot of agriculture – field after field of various vegetables.

We came to one spot that looked like a picture from my seventh-grade geography book: a group of people harvesting the field by hand, wearing big straw hats and filling big straw baskets with onions. The sky was blue, the heat from the morning sun already intense, and the field went on about as far as the eye could see. And here was this group of people gathered in one small area (fortunately for me, near the road) bending over and harvesting onions by hand.

I remembered as a small child visiting a family farm in Virginia and going out to a huge garden to dig potatoes. It was fun – for maybe a half hour. These people were doing it for a living. Not sure why the memory came so vividy to mind, but it did.

I asked Julie 1 to stop so I could take a few pictures. It was one of those little eye-opening moments: these people live like this every day. They’re not on vacation digging onions for fun. And as big as that field was, I can’t help but wonder if they’re STILL over there harvesting those onions. Asia is chock-full of photo opportunities (and I took advantage of every opportunity – just ask my daughter). But it touches the soul, too, in a way that photos never quite capture and words can’t convey. (I hope that didn't sound corny. I'm guessing many of you know exactly what I mean.)

Julie (1) had planned to stop at an orchid farm on the way, but I think we were running later than she’d anticipated so we skipped it (we weren’t that interested anyway and told her we’d be fine with going on). We arrived at the starting point – on the canal a mile or two from the floating market – and got in our boat. It was a motorized, long-tail boat with a roof, and it was just me, Julie, Julie, and the boat driver. (Paul took the car ahead to pick us up.)

If you want a boat paddled by one of the women at the market, let Julie know on the way. The advantage to what we did is it gave us a look at the canal before we got to the touristy part – and it was fascinating – beautiful and lush with far fewer houses than the klongs in Bangkok. What a cool, pleasant ride.

Shortly before the floating market, we stopped at a small market area under a roof and got off the boat. There was a guy making coconut sugar. Or maybe it was palm sugar, I forget. (They made a distinction between “palm trees” and “coconut trees,” as if they’re two entirely different things – one tall, the other short – rather than just two varieties of the same tree.) Anyway, that’s where Julie bought the candy – we didn’t realize she was buying it to share with us, but we were glad because it was delicious! I forget how much it was, but cheap – maybe 40B for a half-pound bag, with each piece individually wrapped.

There were a few souvenir stands and Julie obviously knew everybody. A man carrying his grandson, about 8 months old, came over and started talking to her. Before you know it, he’s handing the baby to us. So we’ve got a couple of great pictures of me and Julie (2) holding a baby Thai boy (unfortunately, we missed getting the beaming grandfather in the background).

Then it was on to the floating market. I must say you all were right – it’s very touristy and I may never do it again (or if I do, I’ll get an earlier start). But I am so glad we went. It’s unlike anything you’d see in the West. The women in their hats paddling boats filled with fruits/vegetables were fascinating, although the numerous tourist boats detracted from the charm. Still, for a first-timer to Bangkok, I think it’s worth the time and effort – especially if you go with Julie Taxi!

At one point, we pulled alongside a woman whose boat was filled with coconuts. Before I realized what was happening, Julie had ordered three, and the woman hacked off the top of each with a large knife in one stroke, inserted a straw and handed them over. Fresh coconut juice. I’d never drunk coconut juice straight from a coconut. What fun! And it was GOOD.

Hundreds of pictures later, we were finished. Julie (mine) wanted to browse the shops and almost right away found a pair of pants she wanted. Julie1 said we could get the same thing at the night market for less. The woman originally asked 800B, and I was ready to give her 600, but Julie1 looked indignant and told her, no 300. The woman’s face fell, but as we were walking away, she said ok and everyone was happy. And the lesson I took away was that while the seller may look disappointed during the negotiations, when the deal is done, it’s all smiles and thank-yous. Still, I’m such a softie that I never bargained very hard on my own.

(In Laos, I overheard a man telling a woman firmly that $3 was as high as he’d go – he was pushing her hard over FIFTY CENTS. For some reason, I bristled – perhaps it was his tone. But here was this rich American man [rich compared to her anyway] in his nice clothes telling this Laotian woman at the night market that no way would he give her an extra 50 cents for the handbag she was selling. I know that bargaining is expected and that the person won’t sell for less than she’s willing to take, but I couldn’t be hard-nosed – it just wasn’t in me. My view was that an extra dollar or 50 cents meant much more to that person than to me – and that I was getting a great deal anyway. So I bargained, but probably not very well. But I digress.)

And I realize this is getting unwieldy, so I’ll take a break and finish this day’s chapter later... hope you’re still hanging in there with me! I’m having a ball writing this (but I've GOT to get my laundry done!).
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Old Mar 4th, 2006, 01:53 PM
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Please keep going! We go in April and reading your posts makes me even more excited about the upcoming trip.

Superior writing, btw. Excellent voice and your level of description is perfect.

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Old Mar 4th, 2006, 03:35 PM
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Day 4, Part 2

After the floating market, Julie said she had a little surprise for us, but it turned out to be a BIG surprise: elephants. We stopped at an elephant camp, and although we didn’t ride (it was a little too circus-like for me, plus we had elephant plans for Chiang Mai), it did give us an opportunity to touch one! Elephant skin feels just like it looks like it would feel. Rough and dry – but with long, course hairs. They had a baby elephant, and we wandered over to the group gathered around him (her?). Just then the trainer asked for volunteers to receive an elephant massage, looked straight at me, and said, “How about you?” Who could refuse? So I lay down on this little table, the guy covered my back/legs with a blanket, and the baby elephant flopped his trunk around on my back – almost as good as that 550B Thai massage (just kidding, just kidding). But it was fun, and when the elephant finished with me, Julie got her chance. So we both touched an elephant that day!

Then it was back in the car for the return trip to Bangkok. We stopped briefly at the Royal Thai Craft Market to see carvings, furniture, and various other items being made. Didn’t buy anything (except a small wooden mug), but watching the carvers was entertaining, the furniture was beautiful, and it was definitely worth a half hour.

For lunch, Julie had planned to stop at a rose garden (sounded a little touristy), but Paul had other ideas. We ended up outside a government building on the outskirts of Bangkok at an outdoor restaurant along a river – with hundreds of large catfish thrashing in the water beside our table – and not a tourist in sight. On the way in, Julie bought two loaves of bread and handed one to each of us. (I wondered whether it was part of lunch.) Turns out it was to feed to the fish! OH! (I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes.)

So we fed the fish in this idyllic little spot, while Julie and Paul ordered for us – we said no fish (because of my allergy) but other than that gave them free rein. And they ordered a LOT – pork fried rice, chicken/cashews, large steamed prawns (I can eat shellfish – yum), fried vegetables, and some other stuff. Total cost, including drinks, was 600B – for all four of us! What a deal, and what a treat.

Then we headed for Wat Traimit and Wat Benjamabophit, with a glimpse of Chinatown and a flower market in between. All are worth a visit, and on my NEXT trip (yes, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m definitely going back), I’ll spend some time wandering the streets of Chinatown – it looked fascinating. Our drive-through just made me want more. The trouble with Chinatown is it seems there’s no way to get there other than taxi, and traffic is horrible. We largely avoided the traffic during our stay by using the Skytrain and river boats, but there are some places they just don’t go. (Is it too long a walk from the river pier to Chinatown? It’s hard to tell from the map.)

I was initially a little disappointed in the Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit. After Wat Po, I was expecting something BIGGER, although I know size isn’t everything! This Buddha was SOLID gold, after all – so yes, impressive – but don’t expect him to be as big as the Reclining Buddha. Plus, he’s in this tiny little wat – small digs for such a high-priced guy, I thought (although I rather liked the intimacy of it all). Wat Ben is also worth a stop – it’s more contemporary than any of the other wats we saw and is very beautiful.

That ended our day with Julie (back to the hotel around 5) – and we made arrangements for one of her drivers to take us to the airport when we left for Mae Hong Son a couple days later. We had enjoyed her company so much – our day with her and Paul was a trip highlight (of course, there are many yet to come!).

Dinner that evening was at Bed Supper Club (a 10-minute walk from the Skytrain), and coincidentally, Julie and I ordered exactly the same thing: some sort of tomato soup-like appetizer with cucumber ice (interesting and delicious), penne pasta (good, but nothing special) and – drumroll – mango crepes with caramel ice cream (to die for). Total cost (it’s fixed price) was 1250B each. I probably won’t go back to Bed (so to speak) next time. The food was very good and the atmosphere certainly unusual. You really do eat on beds and everything’s white and it looks like the inside of a space capsule – but it seemed like a theme park restaurant and rather expensive. I’m glad we went, though – definitely a fun evening and excellent meal. (It’s freezing in there – but they’ll give you a blanket, white of course, if you ask.)

Back home to Centre Point Silom via the Skytrain. Tomorrow, last day in Bangkok: klong tour and night market. (Julie 1 had put us ahead of schedule, by the way, because I hadn't planned on Wat Traimet/Wat Ben/Chinatown until the next day, but she said we could do it that afternoon - so I took her up on it while we had the taxi. It meant less time than we might have spent otherwise, but it worked out well.)

More to come...
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Old Mar 4th, 2006, 03:45 PM
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Please overlook my typos! (Coarse hair not course, Wat Traimit not Traimet, and probably tons of others.) I'm typing and posting just about as fast as I can. I'm reliving the whole trip as I type this. My notes were scanty, but as I look at them, the memories come flooding back and my fingers just start flying!
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Old Mar 4th, 2006, 05:14 PM
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Wonderful report Karen. Yes you can catch the river boat up to Chinatown area - its very easy - I usually get off at Memorial Bridge (Tha Saphan Phut) and walk up (a little way) to Prahurat (cloth) markets and then work my way down Chinatown and boat back from around Tha Ratchawong. Also from Centrepoint its only a taxi ride straight up New Road out the front so very easy and sometimes less effort especially if you are not sure where the piers are.
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Old Mar 4th, 2006, 06:50 PM
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fabulous....i'm loving it....

poor julie 2---an overbearing mother!!

just kidding...interesting how that generation is all like that....
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Old Mar 4th, 2006, 07:51 PM
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Love your report. The way my friend and I manage to come home still friends after a month trip is by not sharing a room for all or at least most of it.
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Old Mar 4th, 2006, 07:54 PM
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Re: having clothes made. it took me several trips to get it right-- both in terms of understanding the fabrics and knowing how to deal with the whole process. And, as Bob said, a key for me is having a lot of time and to check in every few days -- never a problem since 1) I'm never more than 5 minutes from the tailor and 2) My days aren't as packed with must do sightseeing so I can take things easy.
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Old Mar 4th, 2006, 09:31 PM
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well said gloria---as usual...
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Old Mar 5th, 2006, 04:29 AM
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Gloria - yes, I'm convinced you're right about the clothes. That's why I wasn't unhappy with COTTON HOUSE but rather with my inability to tell them what I wanted. Here I am with these clothes and I KNOW they could be much better if I could do it all over. I like low-waisted skirts with a wide flat waist-band and plenty of room - someone else might think it wasn't a good fit. I KNEW I didn't like a skirt that would be curvy and sit almost waist level and taper in at the waist and legs. But I didn't think to tell her up front and at my first fitting I thought it was too late. And I KNEW there was something not quite right about the pants on my next to last day, but didn't quite know what it was and felt a little rushed because she had already packaged them up (she had confusion about our departure date). So we basically just had the measurements, one fitting, and a final check. So next time, *I* will know how to do it, and will allow more time. And yes, all that sight-seeing that I insisted in cramming in there definitely cut into my tailor time.


Will work on my last day in Bangkok today and maybe shorten it a bit (it was a light day anyway) - am eager to move on to Mae Hong Son!

Thanks, everyone, for all your comments so far. It's so satisfying to know you're enjoying this along with me. Let me know if you have questions or if (hard to imagine, I know) I leave out anything of interest.
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Old Mar 5th, 2006, 07:29 AM
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Karen-
I'm enjoying your report and appreciate the dynamic between you and your daughter. Good thing you worked out your travel style differences. While my mother and I share a similar travel style, our problems seem to come when we are either over-tired, or over-hungry. Plus, even at 37 I'm still prone to bouts of "Mom, you're embarassing me! If you saw the last featured Fodor's trip report about Spain, that's me and you'll know what I mean. Still, I wouldn't trade our travels together for anything and I cherish each one.

Question about the Centre Point Silom-do you think it would be a good choice for only 2 nights? How far is it from the skytrain stop? I'm thinking my husband and I may stay there for our first 2 nights in BKK to save a little money. The last two nights we get to splash out at the Pen!
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Old Mar 5th, 2006, 08:10 AM
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Kristina - would definitely recommend Centre Point even for just two nights. It's only a little over a block to the Skytrain - a short 5-minute walk. And it's so reasonably priced for what you get - I bet you'll be astonished (and I can't wait to see how you compare it to the Pen!) I'd go for the river view, though. The apartments are identical on the city view side, but I thought it was worth the less than $10 more a night to be able to look out on the river.

Also, appreciate your comments on you and your mom - glad you can identify with my comments - and glad to hear (from the daughter's perspective) that it's all worthwhile in spite of the spats! I'm sure *I* never embarrass MY daughter, though. (haha)
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Old Mar 5th, 2006, 02:32 PM
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Day 5, Friday, Last day in Bangkok

We slept in! I had wanted to do the Amazing Bangkok Cyclist tour (next time, for sure), but Julie wasn’t interested and it seemed rushed to squeeze it in. So I agreed to a radical idea – an easy, relaxed day with no major sightseeing. It was tough, but I was trooper...

We finally got rolling around 10:30. I was up earlier, of course, and spent the time organizing my stuff in preparation for departure the next day. Having an apartment with a separate living room was great for that kind of thing.

We went down for our usual breakfast before heading out. One thing I neglected to mention earlier is how much Julie enjoyed the omelets at Centre Point – they made them fresh to order with whatever ingredients you wanted – and they were small so you could get one and still enjoy other things on the buffet. Also, there was a yummy yogurt I had never had before – the name wasn’t in English on the container, but it tasted like tapioca pudding and had a similar texture, kind of lumpy and slimy. Anyone know what it might be?

We then walked over to Cotton House for our first fitting. Julie was delighted with her things; mine needed some work. As already discussed, I didn’t know quite what to tell Reed. We made some improvements, but I knew even then I wasn’t going to be happy with the results – things were too far off from what I had in mind and I didn’t know how to fix them. Next time, I think I will.

Afterwards, Julie wanted to do some shopping, so we decided to try Siam Center (had seen it from the BTS station). I was disappointed because it’s just a regular Western-style mall, with Western stores and prices to match. We didn’t buy anything, but we did have lunch there. We decided to go for the familiar and had pizza. Enjoyed it immensely. (Next time, will do more shopping research in advance to figure out where to shop besides MBK.)

On the way back to the Skytrain, we came upon a little stand (inside the station actually) that sold Hi-Chews, and Julie went bananas! She’s been on a Hi-Chew quest since discovering them in New York several months ago (I’d never had them). Made in Japan, they're are similar to Starbursts but put Starbursts to shame – mm, so CHEWY. And here was this stand in a Bangkok BTS station selling them! Needless to say, we stocked up – and it made our day. Wow, what a trip – Bangkok, the temples of Angkor, a Mekong boat ride, elephants, hill tribes... AND Hi-Chews. (Sometimes it’s the little things. Grape is best.)

It was mid-afternoon, but there was still plenty of time for our klong tour. I had wondered if we’d need to arrange a boat in advance or have our hotel arrange it or what – but no, we just did it on the spot. We headed to Sathorn Pier since it’s right at the end of the BTS line (and was familiar to us since it’s in OUR neighborhood).

A couple of men were hanging around the pier obviously looking to rent boats. And we were glancing around with uncertainty, obviously looking to rent a boat. Presto, one man approached us and gave us the spiel. He said we could do a klong tour, to include the Snake Farm (those who remember my earlier posts will know I nixed that IMMEDIATELY) and Wat Arun, in two hours for 800B (total, not each). Without the Snake Farm, he said, ok, 700. I thought that seemed reasonable and off we went. Our boat driver spoke no English, but although he seemed gruff at first, he slowed down to point out things of interest and smiled a lot, and we ended up liking him and giving a nice tip.

I realized later, though, we didn’t get exactly the tour I wanted – I had thought there was only ONE klong tour. We missed the Royal Barges and Khlong Bangkok Noi. A word to the wise – have the facts in advance and don’t get sidetracked by what’s offered and assume it’s the same thing. Still, we had a great time, saw a klong, stopped at Wat Arun – and passed by the Snake Farm. For a brief panic-stricken moment, I thought he was going to stop there, but he was just pausing to have another boat driver pull weeds from the propeller. Whew. (I’ve been able to reconstruct our route – we went downriver from Sathan Bridge to Khlong Dao Khanong, north on Khlong Chak to Khlong Mon.)

The klongs (or khlongs, as they’re sometimes spelled) are another of those “you-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it” sights. Others have described these Bangkok canals so I won’t go into great detail, other than to say that hovels – intermingled with occasional nicer houses – line both sides, right to the very edge. Boys play in the filthy water, diving from their homes. A woman glides by paddling a boat filled with fruit or souvenirs. Another woman, at home, hangs clothes out to dry – no doubt having washed them in the canal. A man snoozes in a hammock. A young mother with an infant sits on her porch. Nearly everybody waves. Occasionally, you come to a wat.

It’s a glimpse of everyday life – away from the clogged streets and hustle-bustle of Bangkok commerce – and it’s fascinating. Again, it’s unlike anything you’d see in the West. And DEFINITELY worthwhile. (It’s a nice thing to do while it’s still hot. If your boat has a roof, and I think most do, you’re out of the sun, and it’s relatively cool with the breeze.)

Toward the end, we came to Wat Arun, one of my favorite wats: small, off by itself, right on the river – and with architecture and colors that set it apart from all others. Unfortunately, when doing a klong tour, they only give you a 15-minute stop. There’s not a lot to see, really, but I felt rushed with only 15 minutes. (The view from a river boat is DEFINITELY not sufficient – you’ve got to see it up close.)

It was here that Julie’s fear of heights first came into play. She gets extremely uneasy going down steep stairs, especially with no railing. I don’t like it much myself, but for her, there’s a paralyzing fear that makes the experience especially difficult. And at Wat Arun, there are lots of VERY steep stairs. We didn’t go very high – and if I came down in front of her, it helped immensely, but she still found it unnerving. Anyway, the wat is gorgeous, the architectural details intricate – and much more delicate than in-your-face Wat Phra Kaeo – with pastel inlays rather than bold primary colors. It was delightful. I consider Wat Arun a must-see, albeit, a relatively brief one.

After a short rest, we walked to Harmonique for dinner. And... I can’t seem to find my notes on what we had! We spent 700B and I distinctly remember dessert – fried bananas with ice cream for Julie and a brownie sundae for myself (both were quite good, not outstanding, but more than we could eat). Unfortunately, I can’t remember our entrees. (Will search and see if I can add that later.) What I do remember is that we loved the atmosphere and very much enjoyed the entire experience. It’s like you’re in this old-time courtyard or something – or no, more like the veranda of a mansion with a cozy little alleyway in the front. Dimly lit. A feeling of being transported back in time. Antiques and lots of plants. Hard to describe. (Those of you who have been there – help me!) Anyway, I’d recommend it.

Then we caught a cab to the Suan Lum night market. (I saw the recent post on taxis, by the way. We only had one time where the driver refused to use the meter – it was late at night, we were tired, and relented. We stuck to the yellow/green or blue/red taxis, and never had the slightest problem.)

Ok, the night market. What to say. How to describe it. Row after row after row of little shops – most not more than 10 feet wide – each with its specialty: souvenirs, silver jewelry, lamps, handbags, skirts, t-shirts, silk scarves, pillowcases, lamps, shoes, CDs/DVDs, and on and on. There’s a large food court, with a band always playing (loud) rock music. The coupon system (you don’t pay for your food with cash – you go to a coupon counter, buy coupons, and pay with them) seemed a little confusing. Suan Lum was still going strong while we were there - no sign of plans for closure - and hours are about 6 p.m. to midnight.

Bargaining is the name of the game. And there’s no time to browse the goods unescorted – within 10 seconds of stopping, the shopkeeper is at your side. Of course, there are no prices on anything – it’s all guesswork. The routine goes something like this...
You ask how much. They give you a price. You say it’s too much. They say they’ll give a discount – for YOU a discount (as if you’re special). You act uncertain or maybe make a counter-offer (some people say to offer half – I usually offered more than half). They’ll say no, no and come back with a counter-offer. You might start to lose interest. They’ll hold out their calculator (they ALL have calculators) and ask you how much you’re willing to give. And finally, one of you accepts the other’s offer, or not. If so, there’s a smile and a korb-koon-ka (thank-you, feminine version) with folded hands. Played out a zillion times! Always the same game!

Some people think it’s fun. I wasn’t very good at it and never really felt comfortable doing it. Still, you do what you have to! And we snagged a couple handbags, two or three scarves, a necklace or two, some earrings, and a couple of small, inexpensive lamps. Someone else might have saved a little by bargaining harder, but I thought we got great deals, and it was so much fun. One thing Julie and I are good at together is shopping! So it was a great way to end our time in Bangkok.

Tomorrow... a whole new chapter: Mae Hong Son.

(I’m thinking of starting a new thread – with Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai in the title so people can easily find what they want, especially since this one’s getting so long. What say you – is that a good idea? Or should I just continue under this thread? We’ve still got MHS, CM, Luang Prabang, and Siem Reap to go... if you’re in for the entire marathon!)



althom1122 is offline  
Old Mar 5th, 2006, 06:26 PM
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Karen - It sounds like that yoghurt would be lychee. Its yummy.
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Old Mar 5th, 2006, 08:15 PM
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Interesting to read about your experiences as we just returned yesterday - 8 days in Bangkok + 3 days each at Angkor Wat and Luang Prabang. We did many of the same things you did even though it was our second time in Bangkok. Our trip report (with far less detail, I'm afraid) appears in a separate post.
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Old Mar 6th, 2006, 04:15 PM
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Lychee. Oh. Maybe that was it.

And, Craig, thanks - I plan to read your report in its entirety, too.

Don't know if anyone's still hanging in there or if you need a break, so maybe I'll start fresh with Mae Hong Son under a new thread in a couple of days.
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