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Bangkok, Thailand, Travels

Chao Phyra River

I had checked in to the Atlanta without a reservation, and at that time I was informed that they could only host me for the night. After sleeping in ’til 10AM, I headed downstairs with my luggage to check out, or possibly score a cheaper room. Were there any available? No, but I could stay in my suite until Thursday. Sure!

I had eggs, bacon, dry white toast, and a pot of coffee downstairs while I tried to figure out my next move. I wandered down to the Nana Sky Train station, with the idea of finding my way over to a point at which I could take a Lonely Planet walking tour. But how to get there? The nice lady at the Tourist Information booth asked, “why not take a boat?”

“How much is that?”

“Not more than 15 baht.”

Gee …

I took the Sky Train to Central Pier, where I caught the appropriate boat upriver, wowwing at Bangkok’s riverfront. The last commuter boat I’d taken was in Venice, with Janet. This boat was far more inscrutable than its Venetian counterparts. Instead of color-coded route-maps, there were markings to indicate spaces reserved for monks. We made several crazy moorings through nasty clouds of the boat’s diesel smoke, passengers occasionally leaping on or off or at least making very wide, calculated strides between boat and pier.

Inside the boat
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A view from inside the boat, while mooring at a stop. Note the plume of dark exhaust.

Riverfront housing.
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How the “other half” live: with a cool riverfront view.

Unfinished tower.
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I really love this tower. I suspect it remains unfinished, as a victim of the 1997 crash. The color variations add to its tiered, wedding-cake personality.


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Another imposing waterfront tower. Probably a western luxury hotel.

My stop was interesting because I got to walk along a raised walkway between stalls of people selling various things, mostly food. I made my way slowly around the walking tour, fending off tuk-tuk drivers who wanted to show me their lucky pagodas. I didn’t get to see much because the shiny Wats – Buddhist temples – that make up the backbone of Thai tourism really don’t impress me much. Plus I’d moved slow enough that a lot of things were closed, around 5PM.

I should explain here that a tuk-tuk is a small vehicle based on a motorcycle, that is hired out to passengers. Tuk-tuk drivers are known to sell bogus tours to tourists and generally just try to squeeze the walking sacks of easy money that we represent. Lonely Planet had specifically mentioned the “lucky pagoda” scam – Wat Po is closed today, but he’ll drive you around for a long time to see the lucky pagoda, which doesn’t exist. But how do you know some random small shiny temple is or isn’t the “lucky pagoda”? Ethan boiled it down for me: never, ever take a tuk-tuk!

There were a lot of food vendors near the boat pier, which was also next to a University that was letting out. I strode through the market and grazed from the vendors, by pointing my finger at interesting-looking foods, and ingesting the objects of my curiosity. Good. Cheap. Orange Juice for 10 baht. The lady greeted me in English and was very excited when I addressed her as ma’am. I returned to her stall to sample a red juice, figuring it was cranberry. Whatever it was, it was horribly vile. Beet juice?

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Categories: Bangkok, Thailand, Travels