Wheel alignment

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Travels in Thailand, part 5

The last noteworthy part of our trip wasn't scheduled to happen but like a lot of unplanned events, turned out to be memorable.  Jennie had booked and paid for the trip and we weren't far off leaving when Thai Airlines contacted her and said they'd cancelled the return flight on our chosen day.  They gave her the choice of returning a day earlier, or extending the trip for a day and putting us up in a Bangkok hotel, meeting all our accommodation and food bills.  Naturally, Jennie chose the latter!

Flying into Bangkok from Phuket in the late afternoon, we were met at the airport and ferried to the Novotel a few minutes distant.  This is a seriously nice hotel and far beyond what we thought we'd be staying in.  For starters, the atrium must be 60 metres long, 40 metres wide and maybe 30 metres high, all covered in marble! The quality carried through to the bedrooms, which were huge and beautifully-appointed.  We dined in that night and all that needs to be said is that the buffet was exquisite.  By way of example, there was a block of Roquefort cheese sitting on the cheese stand which must have weighed a couple of kg and at the price of that stuff....!!!!  Suffice to say that we over-ate!

Because our flight didn't leave until early the following evening, we consulted the concierge and arranged a tour of the Bangkok waterways .  Did you know it's locally known as the Venice of the East?  We didn't but it has literally hundreds of canals all over the city coming off the main Chao Phraya river and as part of our honeymoon 39 years ago was spent in Venice, there was a nice symmetry to it.

We ambled down to the atrium in the morning to meet our young tour guide and he asked us to wait a moment whilst he phoned for our vehicle to take us the 50-odd minutes into central Bangkok.  All we (well, me) could do was gape because we thought there'd been a terrible (and expensive) mistake!!  See the picture below.

Oh heck - who's made a blunder???

When a beautiful Jaguar with dark tint windows and a white-gloved chauffeur turns up, the phrase "this must be for us" is not something which immediately springs to mind! Jennie, who has infinitely more class than me swept straight into the back of the Jag like she does it every day, whilst I stood there grinning like an idiot and taking photos.  Jennie thought that I'd let the side down somewhat but at least, dear reader, you can see what I was grinning about. I guess it's expected by the tour company that Airport Novotel guests always travel that way.  All part of the very reasonably-priced tour though.

That ain't workin', that's the way you do it, la la.....

The trip to town on the excellent toll road was interesting as we imperiously exceeded the speed limit all the way with the engine quietly purring away whilst we sipped cold drinks in the back - could get used to this lifestyle very easily!

Big-scale advertising on hotel block

Waiting for the water taxi

Now let me explain something about the longboat water taxis as they are pretty impressive.  Only 2 metres wide at the maximum point and maybe 15 or 20 metres long, they look like oversized canoes.

Front of our water taxi down a narrow canal

That's where the similarity with canoes ends as the propulsion system is pretty impressive.  The motors are turbocharged truck engines beautifully counterbalanced with a long prop shaft so that they swivel like an outboard. The skipper steers the whole thing with a long pole attached to the front of the engine - see the 2 photos below.  Those suckers are seriously fast and the spray and rooster tail from the shallow prop were impressive.  Even more so as there were just the skipper, the guide and Jennie and me on board!

Turbo'd power plant - nothing like a few gee-gees

Showing the counterbalance arrangement

Cruising through the canals was a fascinating experience which gives you the chance to see "everyday life" in a city and we wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Rustic waterside house - complete with satellite dish

Canal supermarket - don't drop your groceries!

Waterside temple

The photo below is interesting.  The little boat was a mobile floating snack bar and the driver stopped to buy some bananas which were fried on the spot in a charcoal-fired wok! There were also little boats which were mobile supermarkets.

Stop me and buy one.....

Suspended fishing net makes a cool picture

I doubt that any of the canal-dwellers would ever starve as the waterways are teeming with catfish.  We lobbed a bit of bread on the water surface and this is what happened:

No over-fishing of resources here then!

Interesting mailbox

Waterside orchid farm

The Royal Palace

Making Chrysanthemum garlands at the market

Just a few chillies!

Local taxi - the 2 stroke tuk-tuk

What a fantastic bonus to have toured Bangkok by water and really added to our enjoyment of Thailand.  The Thais are genuinely nice people and go out of their way to give visitors real value in terms of their experiences.  We probably won't return as there are so many new places to be explored but for anyone who is thinking of going there for a bit of fun, you'll absolutely love it!

Hey ho, back in New Zealand trying to get into a routine - having to cook for yourself is the biggest pain!!!

Hope you've enjoyed seeing another part of the world......


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed the trip! Thanks for letting us tag along....

  2. Oh, you retired folks... la la let's just stay for another day, no panic. Thank you so much for taking me along. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I hope to see all this 'live' myself one day.

  3. Richard:
    Thank you! It was good fun and now it falls on me next year for our 40th. No pressure....... :-(

    Yeah, it's a tough life all right! Nice to make up for all those 60 hour working weeks. Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. That is one seriously cool extra day out! Sometimes, the un-planned things turn out to be excellent and you certainly hit the jackpot there. I loved the way you described Jennie just getting on with it and climbing in the back of the car while you stood there like an idiot taking pictures – very funny. The engines on the boats are serious bits of kit. Thanks for showing some of the sights of BKK that not many see.

  5. Gary:
    Pleased to provide some amusement - Jennie has always been a classy chick and it's a perennial source of amazement that she puts up with a complete hick like me.

    Thanks for the nice words!

  6. I dont know how you bloody do it! Enough said.....

  7. Joy is BMW!

    Just what I have always been thinking...

  8. Nikos:
    Perhaps they had a bigger seat fitted too!

  9. Rog:
    Must be the benign influence of t'other half! I'm the one who always has the manure fall on me!

  10. Geoff, thanks for the write up on a sensational trip - I found the whole thing really interesting. The pictures are outstanding!

    Cheers Jules

  11. Geoff,

    I can only imagine the noise that boat made going down the canal. A hopped up truck motor with no (visible) muffler system. I'm guessing it's not considered a nature excursion. Looks

    Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

  12. Good writing Geoff - have really enjoyed following this. Must get to Thailand myself it seems....

  13. Jules:
    No worries and thanks. Jennie doesn't read the blog normally so I can mention that Western Australia is one possibility for next year!

    You'd suppose so but they weren't too bad, either because of the rearward-facing pipe, the turbo taking some noise out, a generally low throttle opening or whatever.

    Thank you! The only slight downside is that it's a good 12 hours flying time from either the UK or NZ but that's not a big deal in the scheme of things.

  14. What a fabulous trip - and what a great impromptu adventure to have at the end of it all! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Cheers Sue,
    Yep, that last day was something special all right!

  16. Influences come from strange places. I made Thai shrimp salad sandwiches for supper last night. You're messing with my mind you bloody motorcyclist!

  17. Dan:
    Hahaha! As a matter of interest, we ate no dairy-based products while we were away and my stomach is taking a bit of time to get used to them again. You can smile with a certain amount of satisfaction!

  18. WooHoo, bonus day!
    Geez! a Jag? Nice!
    I want to go the Thailand and have my return flight cancelled!

    Been catching up on your posts, and what a great trip. Such great scenery, and architecture. I love all the color you see everywhere. The water taxi looks like a fun way to travel. Beautiful boat too. Interesting to see life along the river.

    Great series of posts on your trip!

  19. Kari:
    Oh yeah, I very occasionally manage to land on my feet, usually when my better half is there to neutralise my incompetence!

    Thanks for the nice comments - the Thais are lovely people and far, far from 3rd world.

  20. Wow, happy accidents. Are you sure Jennie didn't pay someone to cancel that flight for you. Somehow I think she'd do it to spoil you.

    The Jag ride to the city and photos taken from the water taxi are wonderful.

    Thank you so much for posting on your adventures. It makes the rest of us want to travel more I think.

  21. Trobairitz:
    Hahaha - never thought of that!

    Thanks! With the kids off our hands and no debt, it's our time now to see and do things. I don't know whether you've heard of SKI in the US, but Jennie and I have matching SKI T shirts. It's short for Spending the Kid's Inheritance, hehe!

  22. Incredible. I could get used to a cancelled flight that ended that badly.

    Thanks so much for sharing and bringing us along on your adventures.

    Yes, Joy in BMW. :)

  23. Lori,
    Yeah, karma works in funny ways, doesn't it? Jennie is still telling all her mates that I lack class for photographing the Jag first rather than jumping straight in. She could be right of course.....

    An absolute pleasure - thanks for reading them!