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!
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!
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......