So we made it out of the airport into absolutely insane heat and humidity, and wandered around a bit till we found the taxi stand. This little Thai woman was really excited to have us and liked using two lanes instead of one. We had absolutely no idea if we were going in the right direction and could hardly understand anything she said, thanks to all those who told us horror stories we were completely paranoid, but she took us straight to our hotel. No wi-fi there, but AC has never been so amazing. Our room looked out over the pool, we had mints on the pillows and a bathroom of our own. Pretty sweet deal.
We had to get up fairly early for pick up for our city tour, and went to wait down at the lobby where we ran into a couple of Kiwis from Tauranga who were on the same tour. The tour itself was pretty cool, just driving around the city seeing the traffic and buildings and markets was just as good as seeing all the temples. It was pretty sickening going from some of the temples where they had spend so many millions of baht on 99% gold leafing then driving through some obviously struggling areas. There were so many times we wanted to get photos but weren’t quick enough, like the girl on the back of a motorbike doing her makeup, or the families of four on one bike with one helmet between them, or the guy who was selling hot food from his wee cart in the middle of the road. On the way back to the hotel we got dropped off with the other Kiwis (Rach and Rob) to MBK, a massive, massive mall with tons of amazing shops to find some lunch. We went into the food court and all got Thai meals (green curry with lots of hot and a pina colada for Hayley and prawn pad thai and mojito for Ella), totalling about $12NZ each. Fortunately Rach and Rob had been on the skytrain earlier that morning cause we would’ve got completely lost. We made it back to the hotel, in absolutely stinking heat, had baileys before a few hours swimming and reading by the pool. That night we missioned it into the shops to haggle for some shirts for Ryan. Didn’t do too badly for our first go, a few of the shops seemed pretty dodgy, but we think we found a decent one, and had fun picking out the colours anyway. After we met up with Rob and Rach for dinner at a restaurant close to where we were all staying, again they were amazing meals and again very cheap – cocktails included. At this stage Hayley decided she wanted to get a dress made so we all went back to the tailors down the road for more haggling and colour picking. We decided to call it a night, as we had a 5am start the next day.
On day two we were up and ready for pickup by 6.30am for our full day tour. With a group of 9 other Canadians/Aussies/Americans we headed out of Bangkok, first stopping at a 7-11 (they’re everywhere!) for some cheap snacks and then at a farmers market. It was interesting to see but the incredible heat and stink of the produce was horrendous. There were buckets of fish everywhere still flapping about with their throats cut open, mozzies, flies, beggars and animals running freely. Our guide went through about 100 stalls, picking up most of the produce – congealed pigs blood, pig skin, bizarre fruits and pink eggs. The next stop was to have a ride on the traditional form of transport in that area – ox drawn cart. It was pretty bumpy but we got some awesome hats and had turns at driving, although the ox couldn’t really care less whether someone was steering or not. Finally we got to the Khao Yai national park – the second biggest in Thailand. Our guide warned us that it would be even hotter in here than Bangkok – it was. We first visited a large dirty looking waterfall, where the steps to get down to it would have been banned anywhere in NZ. They were insanely steep and so small we had to walk with our feet turned sideways. There were also over 100 of them, which is hard when there are tons of butterflies, elephant footprints and chameleons all over the place to distract you. After this we drove a little further into the park to a large and delicious Thai lunch. When we had almost cleaned up the fruit platter at the end, we got to pick up the fruit to feed to the elephants that were waiting outside. The following hour was the highlight of the trip so far… We walked over to a platform where several elephants with riders were waiting for us. We got Nathan – the guide – and Shirley – the elephant - as travel buddies. With one of us sitting on the elephant’s head, knees tucked behind the ears, and the other on the seat on Shirley’s back, we had a turn each at driving our elephant through a river and around a jungle track. Nathan got off and took photos the whole way. Shirley didn’t seem bothered at all that we were climbing over her head and back, but enjoyed the sugar cane we bought for her and fed to her at the end. Two hours later, we were back in our air conditioned hotel, exhausted and filthy, getting ready to go to Bangkok’s tallest tower for dinner and a visit to the rotating viewing deck at the top, and with the other Kiwis. The taxi drive there was our best yet, with our driver cutting across a four-lane motorway, stopping about 50 cars in the process, to save a bit of time. The food at the restaurant was easily the least impressive of the entire stay but the view was epic – Bangkok is so huge, it went on further than we could see in every direction. Another crazy taxi driver later (where are the seat belts? Or speed limits?) and we were back to bed.
On the last morning we got a bit of a sleep in, and breakfast in bed before a leisurely stroll to the Skytrain (total pros by now) to have a better look at MBK. We bought DVDs, jewellery, food, and a manicure, pretty much spending the last of our Baht. We went back to the hotel for one last swim, a repack and a rest before going back to the tailors to pick up Ryan’s shirts and Hayley’s dress. On the way we went through the markets one last time, and had spring rolls from the side of the road for 25 Baht (about NZ$1). Wishing we had arranged to stay in Bangkok longer, and still not being able to get any Internet, we packed up and left at 9pm that night.