Tokyo, HuaHin & Bangkok in Feb 2019 travel blog

 


As we met our travelling buddies at breakfast, the plan was to make our own way to a local floating market based on information gleaned from the internet sited. Talin Chan was one which was recommended as being fairly close and accessible by BTS and taxi. However, from it's position on Google maps, the recommendation for taking a taxi from Wongwain Yai billed as the 'last station' made us wonder about this recommendation as there were several more stations on the line in our maps and apps. While trying to make sense of this we decided to visit the tour operator in the lobby of the hotel and she recommended a private tour since we were 8 people with our own vehicle and guide. She managed to discount it as well as add in another destination of the Railway Market, which, if we left early enough would just be able to catch the last train. Unknown to us, the Railway market would be closing at that time so we wouldn't get the full effect of how the vendors retract all their awnings and wares as the train passes by and then returns it all to the original in a few seconds.

As we discussed the options and pricing, everyone agreed that it would be much better to have a guided tour than trying to wing it ourselves specially after having been duped so professionally the evening before. We paid for the tour and agreed to meet in the lobby at 3:30pm which left us a few hours to kill. She suggested that we could take the subway up 4 stops to Sukhumvit station which was attached to the Terminal 21 Mall. We took her up on her advice so a few minutes later we were ferried over in two trips to the Lumphini station by the hotel tuktuk shuttle and as we waited in the Life Centre Mall just outside the station, we realized that besides the Starbucks in there, there were several eateries and kiosks with clean healthy and tasty food. We made plans to stop there for a meal sometime and as we all gathered and made our way down to the platform after purchasing our travel tokens, we felt like true Bangkokians. The ride was crowded but pleasant with the chilly airconditioning and polite co-travellers, mostly engrossed in their mobile phones. Everyone was plugged into headphones so the silence in the car was deafening. We got everyone together on exiting and got directions to the proper exit towards Terminal 21. The tour operator mentioned that different floors represented different countries but the mall was actually laid out like an airport terminal with the several floors named for large world cities and the signage made to appear like airport terminal signs which directed patrons to the various elevators. After making arrangements to meet 90min later, we all set off in various directions after logging into the free mall wifi to keep in touch by our WhatsApp group. We ambled around each floor with their international chain brands well represented. We were mainly window shopping with the only quest to find animal themed masks to take back as staff presents. Archel found some on the ground floor as we were scoping out the street market on the top floor where you could only pay with a Pier21 card. The only novel food that intrigued me was the PizzaKone... a cone of pizza dough filled with your choice of pizza topping and baked... indeed a novel and cleaner way of eating a whole pizza! We decided against the empty calories opting instead to check out the dessert places on the ground floor and made our way down a series of escalators to the bottom of the mall. There were some interesting stores there including a Ninebot dealer (the Chinese company that bought out Segway) with a series of interesting electric one, two, three and four wheelers! As we were looking around, I found the store that Archel had texted me about and as I looked through their masks, found several with animal and/or teeth motifs on them to be used as surgical masks for our staff. As we were leaving, around the corner from the Ninebot store was a cycle store selling all sorts of accessories for bicycles. The one that caught my eye was an extra-bright, rechargable rear bicycle light which I purchased for 100B! We were getting close to our meeting deadline and without any other requests to change the time, we decided to head up to the meeting point at the entrance of the mall to find everyone already there and waiting.

We made our way back to Lumphini station and, true to our word, selected the sushi restaurant after scoping out the others. After ordering a round of the obligatory beers and making our food selections, we settled in for our meals. Service was slightly slow but when it started getting close to 3pm and one meal hadn't yet been served almost 40 min after ordering, we cancelled it, paid for the rest and made it back to the hotel with 15min to spare. The coach and guide were on time so we left as soon as everyone was downstairs again.

The ride out to Mae Klong to see the final trip of the famed train coming through the market took us a full two and a half hours leaving just a few seconds after arriving to jump out of the van and duck under the warning gates to take our place alongside the tracks. As it was almost 6pm, many of the market stalls had already been taken down so the full effect of the market was lost but we did see the train approach the market and pass through. After the train had passed, we walked down the length of the market, which was quite easy as there were only a few straggling stalls open and purchased some coconuts for their water and meat, which was expertly scraped out for us by the vendor. We also bought some dried banana chips (sweet) and dried mangos (extra sweet). After taking some pictures in front of the train and the station sign, we walked down a busy street to a parking lot to wait for our van. While there we sampled some deep fried silkworm larvae and grasshoppers! Both were chewy in texture without a strong flavour.

We took a short (less than 20min ride) to the Amphawa floating market which, apparently, is only/also open on the weekends. Our guide, Nina, recommended touring around the main land based market before we took a boat ride out to the floating market. However, it was almost 8pm by the time we got on the water and there was not many merchant boats left except for some kitchen boats serving meals cooked onboard to patrons on the shore. The land market was quite quaint with wooden shops and other kiosks hawking all kinds of cooked and fresh foods as well as some unique gifts. We sampled some offerings, purchased others and promised to come back for a meal at one of the restaurants. Nina flagged down a long-tailed boat for us to take a short river cruise to see the fireflies, one of the highlights of a night foray on the river and off we went down/up one of the tributaries of the Meiklong river. We passed the market area, a brightly lit hotel/restaurant complex, some rural bars and another beautiful temple bathed in bright gold light. As we got further from the built up area, the light died down and the bright moonlight lit up the banks of the river. It wasn't long before we saw a couple of fire flies and like the experience in Hawaii of going whale watching, once a plume was spotted, the guarantee was fulfilled and the expedition deemed a success. Although we searched for more flies than the few we saw at the beginning, they were elusive so we imagined the light from neighbouring houses filtering through the foliage were fireflies and soon were headed back to the hustle and bustle of the market. After trudging through a few more areas of the market that were shutting down, we decided to go back to a seafood restaurant we had seen earlier. They had balcony seating under a ceiling fan which was the right combination of ambience and comfort so we ordered our meal with a round of beers and were not disappointed with it at all. After regaling ourselves and settling up the bill, we made it back to our van with the driver on standby and headed back to Bangkok with everyone catching 40winks in the process.



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