Russell has to work today but Sharon and the kids are on holidays so we toss around some ideas for a day excursion. I mention that we have never done the tourist river cruise. No worries, we’ll just catch the sky train into town.
We call a taxi to take us to the station and the inevitable fluorescent pink Camry arrives in due course. It’s a five seater and, including driver, there are six of us. I remember all those motorbikes we have seen carrying families of six and realise that we don’t have a problem. A couple of local roads then we’re on the main freeway. We’ve waited until after peak hour so the trip to the “nearby” station only takes about half an hour, despite the driver cruising at 120kph for much of the way. This is gonna cost! Yep – 135 Baht, a bit less than five dollars.
The sky train is a marvel of modern high-tech engineering, supported by the lowest-tech ticketing system we have ever seen. We spurn the ticket machines that only take small coins and head to the ticket window. The lady smiles and we hand over 320 Baht in notes for our five fares, again just over two dollars each. To my surprise, she doesn’t hand us any tickets, but gives us a fist full of 10 Baht coins to feed, one at a time, into the machines we had passed by earlier.
The sky train is very fast, however the trip to town still takes nearly an hour. Bangkok is big! We stop off at one of the super high-end shopping malls that are signs of the new Thailand. Our coffee and donuts are definitely not Tim Hortons, but we’re sustained for the short hop to the boat terminal. There’s a sort of organised chaos at the ticket office and waiting area. Sharon’s excellent command of Thai language and politeness means we are not only assured we will get on the right boat, but we also get mothered by the ticketing lady.
This boat really is a “must do” for anyone coming to Bangkok. The ferry stops are located near a variety of popular sites like Chinatown and the Grand Palace. The driver slows down so everyone can take pictures of Watt Arun, an iconic symbol of Thailand that features on much of the money.
We decide to miss the main tourist stops and look at the “small local market” near the last stop. When we arrive, Sharon chats with a local stallholder and discovers it’s just a short walk to Khao Sarn Road, the most popular tourist market destination in Bangkok. We wander along looking at the myriad of shirts, shoes, handbags, and even a couple of stalls that sell extremely convincing ID cards from driver’s licences to CIA security passes. We grab a bite at a typically Thai place called Macdonalds, only to find that some of the street stalls mysteriously vanish and others start packing up while we’re eating. It’s rainy season, but the stall holders aren’t just worried about their genuine Rolex watches getting wet – word has run through the market that a security check is imminent and apparently some of the merchandise may not quite pass official inspection.
The combination of tired feet and impending rain is our cue to retrace our path to the river and hopefully boat back to the train station before rush hour. I have visions of ten thousand office workers queuing up to feed their coins one by one into the four ticket vending machines. Yep – let’s go. An hour or so of fast train and fast taxi later we’re back home. We suddenly realise we haven’t thought about packing for tonight’s flight yet. Russell is preparing dinner – Thai curried prawns with squid ink black pasta – so we head upstairs and throw our assorted essentials into the cases. Now, time for one last relaxing dinner with our good friends before we head out to the airport.
The flight doesn’t leave until five minutes past midnight, so, technically, that’s part of tomorrow’s story.