6th Week of our 6-Week Journey
JAN 6, 2020 BANGKOK Day 1
We wimped out again and took a car to our next destination Airbnb in Bangkok. It cost 2000 THB (60 USD) for another door-to-door service. I estimated that it would have cost about 1000 THB for public transportation, and it would have been a nightmare in the 95ºF heat.
The trip was 120 kilometers and took nearly 3 hours. When we arrived at the Airbnb, we were met by our new host, Nik. The Airbnb turned out to be on the 19th floor of the Commonwealth Pinklao Condo, on the west side of the Chao Phraya River. It was a two-bedroom apartment with a single bathroom. The building, once a beautiful place, was in the early stages of deterioration. The apartment, however, has been well kept up.
The one real disappointment was that the pool area on the 6th floor, was in a poor state of affairs. The pool itself was OK, but the water was cold. The sauna, steam bath, and whirlpool were inoperable.
After settling in, Diane, Heinrich, and I walked to the Tesco Lotus Mall 1 kilometer away. It was an easy walk, even in the heat. The Mall was a bit of a disappointment. It was on the smaller size, the buffet restaurants were average, and the grocery store was also average. But, we picked up some groceries. The apartment building has a tiny convenience store that was stocked in Leo. We were pleased.
Bangkok has a very modern highway system, yet it is always congested. Traffic is dense. The best way to get around is by motorbike. Motorbikes drive between the rows of stalled or slowly moving cars, even if there are only inches available to them. There are even motorbike taxis that specialize in getting to your destination when the traffic is backed up.
I spent much of the rest of the afternoon trying to come up with a plan of action for the next few days in Bangkok. Unfortunately, the heatwave was predicted to continue - maybe even intensify. We noticed that an MRT train station was located right next to the condo. That should make for easy transportation. That line was under construction, according to my 2-year-old tourist book. Hopefully, it must be completed by now. We also noticed there was a night market next door to the condo.
In the early evening, we went to the Indy Night Market. It was small but well laid out. The rows of vendor booths were modern and clean. The food was presented appealingly. We were impressed. I tried a stick of grilled mini hot dogs wrapped in ham - yummy. In the end, we bought a bunch of grilled chicken kabobs with a terrific BBQ sauce and a chicken gyro kabob. Beef is on the left and chicken is on the right. They were pretty much like a gyro except the sauces were different. We loved them. 50 baht each ($1.65).
JAN 7, 2020 BANGKOK Day 2
It was early morning. We were going to the Grand Palace and wanted to get going before the outdoor blast furnace turned on. Still, it was 80ºF and sweltering by 8 am. Taxis are easy to flag down and affordable in Bangkok. We flagged one down within 15 seconds of hitting the sidewalk and it cost only 67 THB (2.15 USD) to cross the river and arrive at the Grand Palace.
The Grand Palace is considered to be the must-see tourist site in all of Thailand, akin to the Alhambra castle in Spain, and Versailles in France, so we were pretty stoked to check it out. As soon as we entered the gate, Heinrich and I (and a long line of other tourists wearing shorts and tank tops) were herded into a shop. We saw women with above-knee length skirts get in, but not us guys with knee-length shorts. We had to purchase a pair of loose-fitting pajama pants (200 THB) to wear over our shorts. When in rome ...
The entry tickets were 500 THB (16 USD) apiece. So far, Wanda and I had 1200 THB (40 USD) invested in this experience. Finally, we were approved to enter the grounds. The Grand Palace is a massive walled-in compound that consisted of the Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaraman (known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in English), the Grand Palace, and a bunch of other auxiliary buildings. We started our tour with visiting Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaraman first.
The Wat Phra Kaew Temple complex was amazing. The various buildings and chedis were intricately decorated and spectacular. Sadly, only one temple building was open to the public for viewing. We didn’t see any grand Buddhas. Still, the architecture of the buildings, the dragons, and the figurines were all wonderfully restored and absolutely beautiful.
The Grand Palace was a terrific mashup of a British building with a Thai roof attached. We read that the Thais removed the British roof and replaced it with a Thai-style roof. The result was a unique and beautiful building. It actually worked. Again, the interior wasn’t open to the public. Even Versailles Palace had a limited number of rooms available to tour.
Our tickets included two museums on the grounds, the Textile Museum.was not about the textile trade in Thailand. Instead, it was about the past King and Queen of Thailand and how they regularly toured their country, keeping it united during difficult periods, including during the communist insurgency of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. It was interesting, but it had little to do with the textile industry, except that in one of the queen’s many travels, she met a woman hand-making silk cloths. The queen apparently helped keep that dying art going by promoting Thai silk cloth making.
The other museum seemed to be a record of the restoration of the buildings in the palace area. It had many rotted and insect eaten wooden beams and decorations that were replaced in the restoration process. The restorations worked. The buildings in the Grand Palace area were spectacular. I noticed that in one informational plaque, the restored wood beams were treated with an insecticide.
The tickets also included a side trip to the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theater to see a traditional Khon Masked Dance Theater performance. There were open-sided tourist trams ready to transfer us to the Theater 6 blocks away from the Grand Palace.
The 30-minute performance was short but sweet. Like the dance theater we enjoyed in India, this dance told a story of a great battle. The theater stage sets, costumes, and the live band playing traditional music made for a delightful experience. Even the Theater was beautiful. There was a nicely sloped lower floor seating, and a top wrap-around balcony. The stage provided an ample area to present a play.
It was a pleasant surprise to have the show included in the ticket. We didn’t know anything about it until Wanda noticed a poster mentioning the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theater. Most posters on the Palace Grounds are written in Thai, but there was a website listed on this one. Wanda discovered the site had an English translation and explained what the Dance Theater was about, the times, the transportation, etc. Way to go, Wanda.
After the Dance Theater, we found ourselves in downtown Bangkok. There wasn’t a return ride set up after you finished watching the Dance Theater. We decided to take the MRT to the nearest station by the river and do a little water-taxi boat hopping. At the N07 ferry pier we discovered this pier was closed.
What? There was a shopping center along the river we checked out to cool off. On the river, we noticed several docks with lots of expensive tour-boat operators. We were looking for the Orange Flag water taxi that was only 15 THB to ride. On my map, Pier N07 was listed as a stop for the boat. Oh well, time for Plan B.
We took the 60 THB tour boat to Pier N13, another Orange Flag water taxi pier. From there, we finally caught the Orange Flag water taxi. For 15 THB the Orange Flag water taxi took us from Pier N13 (the north side of town) to the south end of town to Pier N01, also called Oriental. The Oriental stop is the gateway to a section of Bangkok called the Farang neighborhood.
We didn’t get too far into the Farang section, but we did come across a Catholic school with lots of uniformed kids just getting out, and the OP shopping center. The OP was the first ultra-high-end shopping center we came across. The military-looking doorman actually saluted us as he opened the entrance door. The OP mall was mostly art shops and an expensive restaurant. Feeling like the Clampetts visiting Beverly Hills, we enjoyed looking at the different shops but felt conscious that we were the only patrons in the place.
On the way down to Pier N01, we noticed that, although the water-taxi skipped Pier N07, it did stop at a dock with no signage, just south of Pier N07. Our next plan was to take the Orange Flag water taxi back to the pier with no signage. It is near the MRT station that would take us back to our apartment. It also had the added attraction of being right in front of the fabulous Flower Market.
The Flower Market is supposed to be best seen early in the morning when the flowers are mainly delivered. However, even at 5 pm, the market was remarkable. It is half of a football field under one roof, lined with rows and rows of vendors selling all things flowers - flower petals, flower arrangements, etc. The scent under the roof was sweet and not typical Bangkok.
Outside the market were fruit and veggie vendors. Diane bought some baby cucumbers, and Wanda got some very expensive but absolutely delicious oranges.
At the MRT station, we got a real surprise. After we bought our ticket (actually, it’s a magnetized plastic coin) and got down to the train, we found out that the MRT station in front of our apartment closed at 4 pm. What? Time for another Bangkok-Plan-B.
Plan B: Take the MRT across the river to get closer to the apartment and hail a taxi. The flaw in the plan was that, unbeknownst to us, this put us farther from the apartment. The first taxi we hailed offered to take us for 200 THB. That seemed excessive to us. I asked about the meter. He replied that the meter would be a lot more. We foolishly let him go to try our luck in another taxi. The next taxi refused even to take us to that destination. Another taxi wanted 300 THB. Finally, a songthaew agreed to take us for 200 THB. It took at least an hour for the driver to pick his way through the traffic snarl while we inhaled a lifetime of carbon monoxide along the way. We learned a valuable lesson. Bangkok taxi drivers are, as a rule, honest - we should have listened to the first Taxi driver for 200 THB.
JAN 8, 2020 BANGKOK Day 3
When we first arrived in Bangkok, Wanda and I got our teeth cleaned and checked. Wanda had a cavity and chose to schedule an appointment for January 8, when we returned to Bangkok for the last week of our journey.
At 8 am, we hailed a taxi to return to the BIDC, Bangkok International Dental Clinic. When we stayed in Bangkok back in early December, we stayed on the other side of the river specifically to be just a block away from the Dental Clinic. From our new Airbnb location this week, the taxi quoted 300 THB (9 USD), I didn't flinch. It took 55 minutes of the most heroic driving to inch our way through six miles of dense traffic in Bangkok. At 9 USD per hour minus expenses, how do they make a go of that?
Again, Wanda was pleased with the dental care experience. It cost (75 USD) for two X-rays and two fillings. I expected her to be drooling from the Novocain, but she looked normal. She said she wondered if the young dentist even used Novocain, as she didn't feel a thing before or during the treatment - magic?
We poked around the old neighborhood for a bit while we decided what to do next. Wanda voted for going to the Icon Siam Mall, a massive glass mall she saw from across the river. She Googled it on the spot, and it seemed worth checking. I was skeptical. A mall is a mall. Right?
Wrong. Icon Siam is something way over-the-top of any mall we have experienced. It was befitting a location at an ultra-wealthy destination like Dubai. (More on that later.) Finding our way to Icon Siam was half the fun. First, we took the MRT subway to the Si Lom MRT station. There, we walked, via a skywalk, to the BTS Sala Daeng Sky Train station. The transportation system in Bangkok is well laid out and easy to use. All these commuter trains are top-notch, world-class ultra-modern trains.
The skywalk also leads to a small mall that we quickly checked out. The mall was nice, refreshingly ac-cooled, but nothing earth-shattering.
As a rule, I disdain malls. So, for me to get excited about Icon Siam is saying something. This mall is an eight-story window into how the 1% lives and shops. Want to buy a Rolls Royce, or a Maserati, or maybe a Porsche? Come to Icon Siam. How about a multi-million dollar yacht? Icon Siam is your one-stop shopping center. Icon Siam wasn't a Thai version of Mall of America - it is an entirely different species altogether.
Each floor is designed with a different theme. One level might have a traditional Thai theme, while another floor will have a tropical theme, and another will be ultra-futuristic. Each theme had fanciful artistic touches added to enhance the already spectacular decor. The architects were given a free creative reign, and they delivered. Being set on the main river artery of Bangkok, several anchor stores, like Apple, provided fantastic access to observation decks overlooking the river and the skyline. This Apple Store, by the way, is the first Apple Store in Thailand.
Not all the eateries were high-end. I found a Muslim vendor that sold me a two-topping dish over rice for 50 THB. Just pure deliciousness. Wanda got a Mango Smoothie made with just sliced mango at the height of ripeness for 60 THB. I had a hand-squeezed orange juice that rivaled the sweet hand-squeezed OJ I always ordered in Puerto Vallarta. The oranges used in Thailand are tiny, so the vendor had to squeeze a zillion of them to get a 6-ounce glass of juice. It was expensive at 70 THB but worth it.
We had to leave far too early to ride the MRT back to our apartment, which quits at 4 pm. We had to figure out a new route back to the condo from Icon Siam, which started with bus 84 to the Tha Phra MRT station (cost 13 THB). Another 32 THB and we were back to the apartment. The new route was wonderfully satisfying to figure out. Too bad it shuts down at 4 pm. The only thing I can figure is that they are still working on the line throughout the night between 4 pm and 10 am. We could see that another line is being built near this line. It will eventually have a station right at Icon Siam.
For supper, we hit the night Indie market again, got a bunch of grilled chicken sticks, tried a few new dessert items and washed all down with a Leo.
JAN 9, 2020 BANGKOK Day 4
While we spent yesterday going to the dentist and visiting Icon Siam, Diane and Heinrich went to see the National Museum of Royal Barges and Wat Arun. We swapped stories and convinced Diane and Heinrich to check out Icon Siam. Diane was very skeptical. She shares my disdain for malls.
Precisely at 10 am, the gate for the Bang YI Kong MRT station opened, and we were on the first train that went to the Tha Phra train junction. At Tha Phra, we caught bus 84. The electrical lines along the route were being worked on - good luck with that. Unfortunately, this closed down one lane causing a near standstill. It took nearly 45 minutes to travel the short distance from Tha Phra to Icon Siam. Thank goodness bus 84 was one of the few air-conditioned buses in the Bangkok fleet.
Icon Siam, we learned, was a $1.5 billion unique project. There are no others anywhere in the world. It opened in 2018 and included two hotel & residence towers. One is 52 stories high, and the other is 70 stories. A tall Hilton is right next door. The entire complex was bankrolled by a giant private conglomerate with ties to Thailand, China, and Japan. It is so essential to the future of Bangkok that a metro train station is being built right in front of Icon Siam with tracks that will be tied into the MRT system. This is scheduled to open this year - no more bus 84 will be required.
Diane and Heinrich were just as blown away as we were with their first visit to Icon Siam. This time Wanda and I had more time to explore more and headed to the top floors - we didn't get to yesterday. These floors didn't have the usual self-contained box stores. The entire middle of these levels was utterly open designed an incredible artistic flare. Each store carved out their space within fanciful decorations allowing each floor's theme to flow without interruption. I loved the concept.
The restaurant floor on the 6th level with its Avatar-like jungle theme was our favorite. One restaurant had private seating in round cup-like booths surrounded by water. The illusion was that each booth was floating lotus. The main attraction was a cylinder of water that fell from a two-story-high circle in the ceiling. Multi-colored lights changed the appearance of the water as it descended into a pool. The amazing part was that the cylinder of water came down in patterns and words.
It was challenging to get good photos. Many of the areas were very dark accented with bright accent lighting. This high contrast consistently fooled my iPad's amateur camera. Other areas were very bright, with ample use of glass. The reflections off the glass and other highly polished surfaces also perplexed Mr. iPad. My photos just couldn't do the place justice. Readers will have to take my word for it.
Before leaving Icon Siam, we bought some French baguettes at the only bakery in all of Thailand that sold them. Thailand's bread is poor. Rice, not wheat, is the principal grain in Thailand. Bread of any kind is rare and expensive. Our Icon Siam baguettes were as good as any bought in Europe - to the delight of Diane and Heinrich.
The trip back to the apartment was an adventure. With the confidence of any Bangkok resident, we jumped on bus 84. When I told the money collector that we were going to Tha Phra Station, she flipped out; "No Tha Phra!!! No Tha Phra!!!", she emphatically stated. What? But this was bus 84. Another lady that spoke a bit more English chimed in with, "This yellow 84. You want red. You want orange."
So, we got off at the nearest stop and looked for a red or orange bus 84. The next bus, 84 was orange, so we tried it. When I announced, with much less confidence, "Tha Phra?", the lady collector smiled and said, "22 baht." OK, now we are in business.
The station at Tha Phra is complicated. It has three levels. It is a junction for a couple of different train lines and hovers over a large, very busy traffic circle. Getting to the proper level and proper track takes a little map and signage study. It isn't hard; you need to get your bearings once inside - the maps and signs are well laid out.
Here is where the famed Thai helpfulness wasn't. We barely reached a map on the wall to review the map when a helpful Thai gentleman came over to be helpful. "Where you go?" he inquired. "We are going to Bang YI Klung," we replied. Of course, our pronunciation was unrecognizable. By the fifth attempt, we finally connected. He pointed out to a different escalator than we were figuring it to be. We balked with very quizzical and doubtful looks as we longingly looked toward the escalator that we thought was correct. He insisted that we were wrong. We insisted with our longing looks at the escalator we wanted.
During our communication impasse, he blurts out, "wait," and runs over to the security station to consult with a couple of Train Attendants. After some haggling, he smiles with triumph and points to the escalator we thought was the correct one all along. Like all Good Samaritans, he believed he saved the day. All was good.
The rest of the ride went without a hitch. It is glorious to look at the gridlocked streets and highways below us as we glide over the top of Bangkok in the sleek modern air-conditioned trains.
At 6 pm, we hit the Indy Night Market. We found a young couple operating a booth that seemed to be a gold mine. They featured a large variety of meats, mushrooms, seafood, and tofu. You pick out the ones you want and put them in a small metal pail for 10 THB per choice. The young Thai guy had three large pots with boiling water. Each pot was subdivided into three chambers. He put your choices into one of the chambers. He also had some cabbage or lettuce (or whatever) and glass noodles, cooking. When done, he scooped your cooked choices, along with the cooked cabbage (or whatever), and the glass noodles into a bowl. He added a couple of ladles of a clear brown broth. I got one of his noodle bowls, and grilled pork sticks to make a sandwich using the baguettes we purchased at the Icon Siam.
Supper turned out to be great. Everyone loved my soup and vowed to get one tomorrow. I noticed at Icon Siam, some of the restaurants had little boilers on each table. Guests would get a platter of various items to cook right at the table. The young couple just brought a bit of Icon Siam's swankiness to the night market. Leo flowed freely. It was a good day.
JAN 10, 2020 BANGKOK Day 5
There were so many things left to do and see in Bangkok, but I had one absolute “have-to-do” adventure left on my bucket list. I wanted to boat the back channels of Bangkok. Both sides of the Chao Phraya River have networks of canals filled with water-taxis and tour boats. The tour boats are expensive. The water-taxis are dirt cheap (or water cheap?). Either way, the canal networks delve deeply into the obscure neighborhoods of Bangkok.
Like the bus routes, with different numbers and colors, the River Bus system is insanely color complicated. The network is carved up into different sections, serviced by different water-taxi systems at different docks. It is a really efficient system once learned, but the learning curve is steep when you only have a few days in Bangkok.
In my research, I found a pier that seemed to be a gateway to the eastern network of channels. Wanda was having some trouble with poor air quality in Bangkok and chose to stay back. Diane and Heinrich gamely followed me out the door.
As I said, just about everything in Thailand is an adventure. Through Heinrich’s phone, we set up a Grab Taxi to pick us up at the apartment and drop us off at the Phanfa Leelard Pier on the Saen Saeb Canal in Old Town Bangkok. Grab Taxi, Thailand’s Uber, promised to pick us up at 9 am. This probably would have worked great, except our phone data card ran out, resulting in no internet connection once we were outside. DRATZ!
No worries. When a taxi with a big green Grab Taxi sticker showed up at 9 am, we slid right in. Oops! The driver couldn’t speak any English, he didn’t seem to know what Grab Taxi was even as we pointed to the sticker, and he just scratched his head when I showed him the google map route on my big screen iPad. The Phanfa Leelard Pier, on google maps, was written in English and in Thia scrip. Maybe he was just illiterate?
We were well down the street before we realized that not only was this not the Grab Taxi we summoned on the app, but this taxi was going the wrong direction. I was sitting in the front seat with Google Map on my iPad, trying to show him that we needed to go in the opposite direction. Finally, after two kilometers, he stopped and pointed backward. YES! I vigorously nodded. He stared again at the map with that glazed look. Then he grinned, pointed backward, and took off to look for a spot to make a U-turn, not easy to do in Bangkok.
We thought that maybe he was going to just drop us off back at the apartment, which we would not have been opposed to. But he zoomed right by the apartment. He had some Thai pop tunes playing, and when I showed an interest with some exaggerated head bobbing to the beat, we just seemed to bond. He was genuinely excited about my preference for his music. Now, I was able to attempt to direct him using Google Maps on my iPad. He caught on, and we were in business together.
Our last hitch came at a complicated intersection just a block or two away from the Phanfa Leelard Pier. He made a wrong turn and saw the consternation on my face. He stopped and consulted with a passerby. Then his face lit up, made a U-turn to drive a quarter block the wrong way into traffic to return to the complicated intersection.
Somehow, he weaved his way to Phanfa Leelard Pier and triumphantly dropped us off. We didn’t get a discount on the fare, but it was only 107 THB (3.54 USD). I gave him 120 THB and he happily interpreted it to include his tip. It was worth the extra .50 USD just see that triumph in his face.
I had read that from Phanfa Leelard Pier there was a Hop on Hop of tour boat for 200 THB (6.40 USD), or take a water-taxi for 12 baht.At the Phanfa Leelard Pier we saw two maps of the canal, one in Thai and one in English, both depicted the pier was served by the water bus. However, all the advertising at the pier displayed only the tour boats for 200 THB. There wasn’t a word anywhere regarding the water busses. Yet, somehow we blundered our way past the tour boats and found the water bus we were seeking.
Getting in the long-boat taxi was no easy task. The pier was high and the boat’s roof was low. You had to crouch and crawl into the boat as it bobbed up and down in the turbulent water. Turbulent? The narrow lengthy boats really throw up a wake as they high-tail it through the channel. There were so many boats that the water never settles. To Diane and Heinrich, these inconveniences were difficult. Too me, it just heightened the experience.
Some of the bridges were extremely low. The boats have devised a makeshift, but ingenious roof system, that swings the roof even lower than it normally sits. Of course, this squashes the passengers way down in their seats - one more adventure.
The big stinky Diesel engine roared as the long-boat leapt away from the pier in a hurry. About every 30 seconds another long-boat passed us by going in the opposite direction. The channel was narrow, but the boats managed to miss each other. The wakes of both boats merged to send us flying. The approach to a pier was the same as in the main River. Slam the tranny in reverse to kick the tale end into the dock’s mounted tires - no finesse, just ram- slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am.
The water quality is poor at the River. It gets far worse the deeper into the center of Bangkok you go. It becomes an inky green-grey gravey.
Our first water-bus traveled up the channel for 5 kilometers before we had to take a different water bus. At the end of the 5-kilometer water route, we had to jump off and immediately jump onto the next water bus to continue up the channel.
The second water bus was larger, more comfortable, and much easier to get in and out. The total cost for the 17-kilometer water-bus route weaving through many neighborhoods - some shabby, some modern, some near tall buildings - was 30 THB.
In the end, we turned around and went back the way we came. I made the mistake of sitting in the back. Although the visibility to take photos was best seated in the back, it had one huge drawback. Approaching each pier, when the driver clonked the tranny in reverse, the foul diesel air and mucky water vapors wafted over us in a sickening black cloud. Right from the start of the return trip, the boat was overflowing with people. I couldn’t move out of the way.
Life along the River looked slow, like at the Floating Market area in Damnoen Saduk. We saw a couple of people fishing. We couldn’t believe that anything could live in these morass waters, and still be edible. But, I am painting a much worse picture than it was. It was a fascinating glimpse into deep Bangkok. The ride was wild and fast. I wanted more.
The water busses returned to Phanfa Leelard Pier, where we started. For the last kilometer to the Chao Phaya River, we had to take the tour boat. An older Thai Geentleman hustling for the tour boats kept saying, “Unered baht, one way. Go to River, unered baht.” For 200 THB, you can Hop on - Hop off whenever you want, but it was 100 THB for a one-way trip. The rip-off part of that deal is, there isn’t anywhere of note to hop off along the last kilometer to the Chao Phaya River. We toyed with the idea of walking the kilometer but It was too hot, so we plucked down the 100 THB and went to the River by tour-boat
I planned to find a way to cross the River to tour the western channels and found a long-tail boat that would take us on a giant loop through the heart of the western canals for 2000 THB (64 USD). We were short on time, and since I never found western water busses, I decided to pay the 2000 THB (64 USD) for the giant loop boat ride. However, It would entail over 2 hours in an uncomfortable boat.
Diane and Heinrich didn’t think they could do it. They didn’t even think they could get in the boat. They were probably right, so we split up. I took the boat ride, and they went off to Icon Siam on a mission to secure a more baguettes.
The tour boat had a driver and a lady attendant. The lady spoke a bit of English. I literally crawled into the boat. To my surprise, there were three women already in the boat. The plan was to go way down the Chao Phraya River to the Khlong Yia canal, then take a crossing channel up to Khlong Noi, and finally, drop me off at the Thornburi Railway dock on the western side of the Chao Phraya River. If that included the ladies, I was okay with that.
The little long-tail boat was getting pounded in the churned up Chao Phraya River. The boat traffic was almost as thick as the highway traffic. I got a little concerned when we blew by the Khlong Yia canal. We went all the way down to Icon Siam before turning around. When we stopped at the entrance of the Khlong Yia canal, the ladies started to throw a fit. They insisted that they paid good money to see the Flower Market, which was across the River. The driver gave in and bee-lined it for the Flower Market dock. As we were docking, the ladies upped the ante. “Not the Flower Market, the Floating Flower Market,” they insisted with a heavy accent that I couldn’t quite place.
They had a map and kept pointing to what they thought was the Floating Flower Market. The lady attendant tried to explain, in her limited English, that there were floating markets, and there was the Flower Market, but there wasn’t a Floating Flower Market.
She looked at me, rolled her eyes, and smiled - the world-wide universal look of, “what a bunch of putzes.“ Apparently, the spot where they showed the lady on their map was actually the dock for Wat Arun. That is where the driver dropped them off, and they seemed very happy. I knew there wasn’t a floating flower market there.
Oh well, not my problem, and good riddance. I got an extra 45 minutes tacked onto my river experience. So, it was off to the Khlong Yia canal. When we reached the canal, I discovered that a lock and dam system regulated the canal’s water level. We had to wait for the lock to open. Once the lock gate opened, 20 long-tail boats squeezed into the lock. The water only rose two feet, but that was enough to keep Khlong Yia canal at a good level.
The water quality in the western canal system appeared to be better than the eastern canals. The neighborhoods were varied and distinct from each other. We passed a huge Buddha that the lady was keen for me to see. How could I miss it?
We stopped at a shady spot where five tiny flat-bottom paddle boats were hanging out. One quickly paddled over. He had all kinds of wooden carvings. I declined the wooden penis and the wooden elephant he offered. Then he offered me a small can of Leo beer. When my eyes lit up, he suggested that I get one for the driver and the lady.
The sky was heavy and even slightly dark in some patches. I suddenly heard a loud crack of thunder. On this whole trip, we only witnessed two minutes of rain and that was in Chiang Rai around 5 am. That has been it. Later, Diane and Heinrich claimed it rained on them for a brief moment down near the Icon Siam mall. Wanda read that a reservoir just outside of Pattaya was nearly dry. It has been a scorching and dry for December and January. On this boat trip, the one thunderclap was it. Not long after, the sky cleared.
We had to go through another lock when we entered Khlong Noi, the largest of the canals in Bangkok. The entire trip took nearly three hours. It was fascinating and eye-opening. Life on the canals is very different from Bangkok as a whole. As I stated earlier, it seemed a lot slower, much like Damnoean Saduak. During the whole two-hour ride, I didn’t see one affordable water-taxi, only the long-tail tour boats.
Once on dry ground, I decided that I needed to do a little walking. I sat in boats all day and needed to get my land legs working. One benefit from boating, was how cool I felt. The water breezes kept my old radiator functional. Instead of hailing a cab to return to the apartment, I walked about 2 kilometers to the MRT train station. That really heated things up - I was sweating profusely by the time I got there. My route to the station took me through some gross markets. They were even more sad knowing that Bangkok, on the whole, has such wonderful markets.
The MRT train was short. I was only one station away from the Bang Yi Khan station. The fare, for a one station ride, was free.
Speaking of wonderful markets, for supper we returned to the Indy Night Market. Everyone went to the soup couple and built their own soup versions. I opted for the chicken soup again, but with a ton more mushrooms.