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World Travel Log

Follow James and Jay on a trip around the world.

Dec '09

Two Days in Bangkok

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Arriving at midnight in the Bangkok airport made it easy to get through Immigration, find a cab, and get to the hotel. After being in Bangkok, I have a feeling the Bali experience would have been different if we stayed in a large city like Jakarta. While Bangkok certainly has its 3rd-world moments, it really is a 2nd-world location.

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The Mohawked Taxi driver dropped us off at what looked like an alley, but assured us the hotel was just down the road a little. It was a shady walk to say the least, but he was right. The hotel was at the end of the road. The budget hotel offered free breakfast, free internet, private rooms, private bathrooms, and A/C. The cost? Some where between $20 and 25 USD a night.

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While in Bangkok we visited the Golden Palace, the city of Siam, caught a night of Kickboxing, took boats around the Floating Markets, saw a live cobra and snake show, and visited the famous Tiger Temple. We packed our two days with as much as possible.

Grand (Golden?) Palace


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Walking towards the Golden Palace we were told by several locals that the Palace was closed, but they were willing to take us to the Golden Buda monument. This is their “clever” tourist trap. Even though I knew they would pull this trick, I was really starting to think by the 3rd or 4th person that the temple might have actually be closed. Standing across from the entrance, shop owners tried to convince me it was closed, even though I could clearly see people streaming into it. Being an active place for prayer, it was necessary to borrow some pants to cover my legs entirely as I was wearing cargo shorts.

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The Temple is absolutely breathtaking. Every building and statue is made out of Teak Wood covered in Gold. In the middle of the complex is the Emerald Buda. Pictures are not permitted inside of the prayer room, however the front window is wide open. This allowed us to snap a picture in front of the statue, while not being inside of the prayer room.

Siam City

Grabbing a taxi to Siam to do some shopping was a little more difficult than expected. The hotel employee told us that it should cost around $100 baht for a taxi. The first taxi driver Jay asked said $10 baht. This is the other common tourist scam. Offer really low taxi rates to get you in the cab and then they take you to an area where you are forced to buy junk. Obviously we found another cab. Jay negoiated $100baht ($3 US) and we were off. Within a mile or two of the city, the driver informed us that he couldn’t go on any further. I had noticed the A/C had been turned off. Glancing at his instrument panel showed that his car was overheating. Surprisingly, he did not charge us for the partial, yet near complete, journey. We walked the rest of the way. Most of the shopping area was similar to the streets of Bali. In the center of Siam is a 6 floor shopping mall, all packed with vendors selling junk, er stuff. It actually appeared locals might shop here as well, but none of the items really appealed to me.

Thai Kick Boxing

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One of the must-do activities for Thailand is to see a kick-boxing match. We were less than 2 miles from a ring and so we headed that way for the night. Ringside seats were $2000 baht, while 2nd class were around $1500 baht ($15 US). I actually preferred the 2nd class seat because it was up slightly higher than the ring and had an unobstructed view. 3rd class was behind a cage and clearly where the regulars sat. Beer purchase was interesting, since you can take beer into the venue, as long as it is in a plastic cup. So we bought beers from a vendor on the street for 40 baht ($1.5 US) and walked in with them. Inside beers were twice as expensive at 80 baht! Can you imagine paying $3 for a beer at a sporting event?! What a rip-off!

The kick boxing was amazing. The gambling going on was even more so. Each pair of boxers would go for 5 rounds. After the 2nd or 3rd round the entire crowd would go crazy shouting orders at each other. It wasn’t entirely clear to me who the bookies where or how they kept track of the bets. During the fights it was very clear who the favored opponents were. Boos and cheers surrounded points as they were earned. The interesting thing about this process is that when Jay and I first sat down, we picked some random seats that looked good to us. Shortly after the first match started, an employee came and asked us to move to a section marked “Foreigners.” Interestingly, these were probably the best seats in the house. At the time, we didn’t understand why we moved. As the fighters got better and the betting more fierce, it was obvious we were originally sitting in the wrong place.

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The scoring was difficult to keep track of, since it wasn’t posted anywhere. However, it was fun to watch the guys fight and then bow in honor at the end.

Floating River

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Early in the morning we got on a tour bus and headed for the city of Kanchanaburi. This city is home the floating markets, Tiger Temple, and a bridge over a river built by prisoners in World War II. The floating markets had the same junk, er stuff, as other shops throughout Indonesia and Thailand. The difference is that we were on river being driven around by boat. The process seems a little rigged in that, it was difficult to do any kind of shopping with 6 other people on the boats. However, it was cool to see knick-knacks, fried noodles, fresh fruits, and even coffee being sold from the boats.

Cobra Show

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Before leaving the floating markets, I was given the option to see a “cobra show.” The show included the chance to see snakes, alligators, and crocodiles in cages. Every hour or so, a show was put on in a ring. The show included cobras, pythons, and a couple of other snakes. I’m not sure how you talk someone into doing this job. Except for the cobra all of the snakes are non-poisonous.

The guy showing the cobra was literally pissing it off for 5 or 6 minutes, avoiding being bit. After playing with the snake, a demonstration of the venom was shown. Also, for the first time in my life, I got the chance to actually touch a cobra. Just a quick grab, but I felt one.

Tiger Temple

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The name Tiger Temple is a little misleading, since there isn’t a temple in the traditional sense. Instead, this is a sanctuary run by Buddhist monks who care for wild animals, among them, Tigers. The Jurassic Park style cages, and refined picture taking process contradicts the notions of being a wildlife preserve. This area is clearly a zoo with a special title. Nonetheless, it was absolutely amazing to pet tiger cubs and sit next to fully grown tigers.

Lastly, we stopped at a World War II memorial. After that, we were on the way back to the hotel to grab a red-eye flight to Cairo!

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