Tokyo, HuaHin & Bangkok in Feb 2019 travel blog

Recovering from the Saxaphone Pub was more difficult than I thought it would be as I had switched my drink from a scotch on the rocks to a G&T so the ride home was a pleasant blur.

Having an easy day planned we looked forward to our night dinner-cruise on the Chap.... river. However, while looking at things to do, we saw that there was a Golden Bhudda temple complex at the end of a subway line that had a station close to our hotel After checking routes online, Lisette and I decided that after our morning walk we would venture out there if the others did not want to join. It did not take a lot of coaxing for the rest to jump on the bandwagon and so we gave them an hour to finish breakfast, complete their morning abulutions and meet us in the lobby by mid morning.

We headed out for a morning walk in a different direction towards another park I had seen on Google only to find the road we were on ended at the Ministry of Aviation private offices with some roadside food kiosks around the entrance. But I knew that Google would not mark private landscaping as a park so we decided to enter another half shut gate and entered another world of landscaped water features with an elevated path through them. Much of the landscaping was artificial with large concrete walls holding in the water ponds. On the far side of the park we found a cascading series of paddies that probably were build to resemble the hillside rice growing constructions but now only held water lillies in a few of the ponds with the rest dry and abandoned. Maybe in the rainy season they are more productive. We took a few pictures of a beautifully sculptured wall before realizing that we only had 15min to get back to the hotel if we wanted to keep our rendezvous plans. While going through the large building on the property, we realized it was a health college with some interesting sculptures which we just had to photograph. Leaving the building, I knew that there was a shorter way back to the hotel through a small urban village that looked like a remnant of the old city. We had to detour through some private properties to get back to the road way on which was the Austrian Embassy and other condominium buildings before we got to the main road from which we could get back to Pantip Suites.

Everyone was down and waiting for us so we made a quick pit stop and headed off for the Lumphini Subway station from where we were to take a train to the last stop. We got the hotel staff to drop us off to the station in the hotel tuktuk in two trips and made our way to the ticket office to purchase tickets for the subway. We were impressed by the cleanliness and security of the subway system which had metal detectors and enclosed tracks for safety of the riders. The cars were immaculate and well airconditioned for the short trip we took to Hua.... On getting off at the last stop, while we were trying to decide which exit to take, a potential guide was trying to tell us that the Golden Bhudda was closed and we should really take a long tailed boat to a local floating market. Smelling a rat, we decided to walk away and exited the station to the surface taking our time to orient ourselves before heading off to the temple of the Golden Bhudda.

After asking for directions a couple of times, we were shown the spire of the temple between two buildings to orient our direction. We reached it sooner than expected and noticed that there was a fee to enter the temple. Since none of us were interested in going into the temple, we took some pictures from the outside and then headed to the canal which we thought would have a walkway. Unfortunately, it didn't so we headed down a parallel street which happened to be a commercial metal traders domain. We saw a sign for River City and followed it down a narrow street to an area where there were several buses waiting. However, we decided to explore another alley which took us to a small roadside eating area and a 7-11 where we cooled off for a while before heading out for some tender coconut water. After getting to enjoy the soft meat, we headed back out through the lane way with garlands of embroidered roses festooning the trellis and reached River City, a riverside mall which was actually the wharf from where several of the evening dinner cruises left and where we were to return the same evening for ours. After making a round of the eateries in the mall, exploring the stores on every floor and happening upon an art show based on our relationship with dogs, we decided on the Riverport Restaurant which had a patio on the water. We ordered a couple of jugs of Chang and appetizers to tide us over until dinner and after replenishing our energy, headed to the wharf for a complimentary boat ride sponsored by River City Mall to Sathon Pier from where we could catch the BRT (elevated rail line) back to Silom station and either walk or tuktuk it back to the hotel.

On getting off the short exciting ride we took some pictures on the wharf and then were looking around for the exit from the pier to the BRT station when we were directed to the exit by a distinguished looking gentleman who spoke English well and explained to us that the steps we were to take were at the far end of the station for the trip back towards Silom station. He was personable in a dress shirt and tie and explained that he was happy to see 'foreigners' at his station, as he was the station master. Asking where we were visiting from, he proceeded to give us some information about Thailand, including a nugget that Thailand was little known for its quality gemstones. He noticed that we had done some shopping at the RiverCity Mall and told us that we probably got ripped off there. In fact, he knew of a sale on Government controlled merchandise, including gemstones, at a huge mall quite close (40B by tuktuk) that was in it's last of 3 day sale only held once a year! He couldn't believe our incredible luck at having some time to browse their merchandise and even offered to take us to a place where we could catch a tuktuk where he would explain to the driver where to take us and make sure they didn't rip us off. As we excitedly walked to the exit of the station, I smelled a rat but the rest of the group was so pleased to have run into the station master that I decided to go along for the ride. Needless to say, we were taken to a decent store which was hidden off the beaten track and shown first to the incredible array of (probably overpriced) gemstones and jewellry. Since no one was interested in that, we proceeded to the second floor where there were clothing, housewares and souvenir trinkets. Checking the prices against some of the stuff we bought at RiverCity.... these prices were actually higher! When we saw that we knew we had been duped and after making a few token purchases, we proceeded to leave only to find the same drivers waiting for us. We asked to be taken to the hotel, as we had a 6:30pm dinner cruise engagement but they only wanted to take us to another tailoring facility otherwise the fee was to jump up to $200B per tuktuk! This was beginning to get annoying and so we decided to walk out to the road and take our chances with cabs. Since we were approaching rush hour, metered cabs were few and far between but we managed to negotiate two tuktuks for 100B each to get us home. We arrived back with about an hour to rest and re-outfit for our captains dinner.

The 10seater hitop van arrived a little late but we were all excited to see the night sights of Bangkok from the Chao Phraya river. Unknown to us, we were driven back exactly to the place we had spent most of the day but this time it was buzzing with excitement, all the restaurants, cafes and stores were open and displaying their wares. Even the artist from the exhibition was meeting with patrons and explaining her works. Soon we realized that there were several night cruises leaving from the same wharf and were caught up in the melee to get aboard as they were all leaving around the same time. After hanging around for a bit, and getting pushed out into the oppressive heat, knowing that our seating arrangement was already predetermined I decided to chill in airconditioned comfort at the TomTom's coffee shop while the rest rushed aboard. I waited until the crowds thinned out and then leisurely made my way to the table where 7 pairs of anxious eyes were scanning the horizon for me!

I took a sip of my complimentary non-alcoholic cocktail and as we were taking selfies and pictures of the magnificent waterfront, the boat pulled away from the docks and the dinner buffet was opened. It looked like this ship had a hoard of hungry wildebeeste aboard from the way the line suddenly appeared and people were stacking their plates with more food than the average Thai family eats in a week. I decided to hit the salad and dessert bar first, loading up on veggies and soup while the main food line slowed down. There was plenty of food for second helpings and even though my eyes were still hungry, I couldn't stomach another morsel. All the while we were motoring up the river at quite a clip, passing under some elegant suspension bridges and getting scalped by other low cantilever bridges. The view of the illuminated temples on the shore was spectacular and we took many pictures and selfies of them in the background to prove to the world that we were actually there. Photoshop could have done a better job of the lighting. We arrived back to the River City Wharf exactly at 10pm, 2 hours after leaving and stuffed to the brim. On disembarkation we had to weave through another boat that had docked before us and made it to dry ground without any mishaps. Milling around with hundreds of satiated cruisers, the washrooms were in high demand. Our driver found us easily and led us to an exit where he asked us to wait while he drove down the several levels of parking garage he had to negotiate before finding a parking spot while dropping us off. The ride back to the hotel was a sleepy one as it was nearing 11:30pm by the time we got back. Everyone was happy to see their familiar lift, the upholstered felt wall had become a blank canvas for Taj and Asha to draw on every trip!

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