We leave early on Wednesday afternoon and will not be in Thailand until the beginning of the afternoon the following day local time. We have a stopover at Dubai, which gives us a chance to stretch our legs and prepare ourselves for the seven hour night flight to Bangkok.
Noa has been amusing himself very well with his own chair and television screen and has fallen asleep in a Dubai airport buggy. We manage to move him while sleeping from the buggy to his chair on the next flight. Because the flights have been quit easy we have energy left and follow the instructions of Anna, our Airbnb host that we booked, to get to her place by skytrain and metro to one of the neighbourhoods of Bangkok.
Thai apartment in-between the locals
In hindsight it wasn’t a very good idea to travel by public transport after such a long flight and traveling with two backpacks, a small backpack, our underwater housing for our camera and a toddler. Noa enjoys every impression, and seems to become deaf at the same time. He runs across railway stations, sings Dutch nursery rhymes in the skytrain and plays on escalators, despite what we say or think about it. We are beat by the time we arrive at Anna’s apartment. Her mother is waiting for us and gives us a small tour of the small but clean two room apartment on the 17th floor of the apartment building in the Thon Buri neighbourhood.
At night we eat around the corner of the appartement building, in a restaurant which barbecues ingredients to your liking with rice porridge in clay bowls. There is a waiter who speaks English and is kind enough the translate the whole menu for us. We have a wonderful dinner without a tourist in sight, while prince Noa is sitting in a highchair and everybody around him is fighting for his attention – adults as well as all the children that are sitting at tables outside. A great start of our trip for all three of us.
New Year’s Eve in Bangkok
We bought a bottle of bubbly at Schiphol Airport in one of the duty free stores and have put it in the fridge of our apartment to cool from being out in the the 30+ degrees Celsius weather of Bangkok. At 11.45 P.M. we go to the eighteenth floor of the building where there is a rooftop garden. A handful of neighbour’s have gathered there. The view from the rooftop is breathtaking, high above the city we see and hear fireworks all around us, and at exactly 12 o’clock the most amazing royal firework show starts at the palace of the king.
When the show is over we are all tired from the new impressions and the jetlag and fall asleep very quickly. When Noa awakens in the morning he starts shouting: “mama, mama, come, there is the swimming pool (he points out the window), are we going?”. Thus our new year’s morning is spent taking a new year’s dip in a beautiful pool.
Spending New Year’s day looking for a storage space
In Holland I had already arranged a storage space for our suitcase with our underwater housing for our camera. This way we won’t have to carry around the thirteen kilo’s weighing suitcase during our first leg of the trip where we won’t be diving.
After a skytrain, metro and walking quit a bit we arrive at the storage facility and find out they are closed for the holiday’s until the fourth of January, and we won’t be in Thailand by then. What a disappointment, after emailing back and forth numerous times I would have expected them to tell me at some point that they would be closed on the date that I told them I’d drop off the suitcase.
I guess there is nothing left but to enjoy Bangkok, we go to Lumpini park and have Noa play in the playgrounds, we go to a mall for a great Thai lunch and some fair rides for Noa, and we walk and walk around to take in the whole city. At the end of the afternoon we soak our painful and tired feet in the cool swimming pool.
Bucket list item number one off my list
Although we’ve been to Bangkok before, and other places where there are floating markets we never got round to visiting one. So high on my bucket list for Thailand is visiting a floating market. We look through reviews of other visitors of Bangkok and decided upon Taling Chan Floating Market, a small market in the outskirts of Bangkok.
The night before I found a guesthouse who might let us store our suitcase for three months, the only problem is that every time we try to call them people pick up who don’t speak any English. So there’s no other option than to just go there and ask. On the way to the backpack-street of Bangkok, Khosavan I realise we might convince them easier if we book a room for the day we come back to Bangkok. And it works, we can keep the suitcase in a secure, locked room! Pff that save us so much effort not having to carry around an extra suitcase.
A long way around
From the guesthouse it’s just a ten minute walk through streets full of souvenirs to the pier which has regular boats going to the other side of the Chao Phraya river, the place where our bus to the market is leaving. The boat is really full and since I’m carrying Noa I am doubting if it’s save enough to go on the boat when some pushes me in my back and I’m on the boat. The Thai on the boat move their belongings so Noa can sit and we are on our way.
The boat goes so quickly that it moved passed our stop before we know it. At the next stop we are ready to jump off so we can get a boat back the other way. But the next boat skips our stop all together. We are back at the pier which we started from. Us moving back and forth is starting to get funny, if it wasn’t for the fact that we are waiting for the next boat in the 30 degrees Celsius weather.
After another ten minutes a new boat arrives, but by now so many people are ready to get on the boat that they start pushing and shoving each other, something we won’t risk going wrong with Noa. The full boat leaves without us. Because we only have a few hours left before we have to leave for the train station to pick up our reserved seats we decided to take a taxi to the floating market.
Turtles, catfish and Pad Thai at the floating market
Two euro from our budget, and half an hour of our time later we get dropped off at the gate of the market. We walk past hundreds of stalls with fruit, food, toys, orchids, fried goodies and other food until we reach the water. We see kids feeding huge catfish, and decide to let Noa do the same.
By now it’s lunchtime and we find a picknick table underneath a bridge floating on a ponton. Next to the table boats float by and food is being prepared on boats. We order by pointing and what looks good and a lady hurries away to different food stalls to collect our lunch. Pad Thai from one boat, beers from another and fried chicken with dips for Noa from yet another boat. What a nice experience.
The night train to Laos
At the end of the afternoon we meet Anna’s mother again, we hand back over the keys to a clean apartment. We take the skytrain and metro to the translation of Bangkok. We have to pick up train tickets that we reserved while being in Holland. The office is opposite of the train station and we are welcomed and Noa is treated to all kinds of candy by three women fussing over him. There is a game arcade at the train station where Noa spends his time racing in cars. At exactly 6 P.M. everybody at the train station stands up while the national anthem is played on a huge screen. We quickly stand up as well and stand together with a couple of hundred people giving honour to the king of Thailand, what an experience!
At 6:50 P.M. we walk to platform 9, where the whole crew of the train is waiting in uniform to welcome us. The sleeping carriage is an adventure by itself – we have two seats where about one and a half person can sit, which are later turned into a bed, with another bed above it. All windows are wide open and once the train starts moving we start enjoying the rocking of the carriage and the lights, houses, people and traffic which we pass. Check out the movie I made from the window. We are welcomed by the steward who is responsible for our carriage, our tickets are checkt, and I get asked to be in a picture with the train conductor, hmmmm ok.
On our way to the Lao boarder
Noa sleeps as a log while Michiel and I talk for another hour while enjoying a rum-coke mix in a water bottle and a view from, what seems like, an endless Bangkok from the window. Finally I climb a steel staircase into my bed above and put all our valuables in my pants and fall asleep. Every couple of hours I wake up and listen to all the sounds the train makes, all the smells that come through the open windows that are open all night.
Water from rivers, the smell of burned coconuts on fires on which food is prepared, sweet unfamiliar smells, rough trash smells, but also the smell of jungle and rice fields as soon as the train leaves Bangkok. The rocking of the carriage makes me fall asleep every time again and around 5 A.M. I am woken up by people shouting and selling barbecued breakfast in the train. We skip breakfast because, next to fish we also recognise rodents on sticks, maybe rats?
Not much later we are surprised by a beautiful sunset and we arrive in the east of Thailand, in the boarder town of Ubon Rattachani. We take a taxi to the busstation, where just fiveteen minutes later the bus to Pakse in Laos is leaving. We hardly have enough time to buy breakfast, rice chicken and vegetables to go for on the bus. Before the border our passports are checked by friendly Thai police officers. And not much later the bus stops and everybody gets of the bus, they all walk a different way. To a market, to buildings on the left of the bus and the right. We go and check with the bus driver where we are supposed to go. When we receive our exit stamps we walk through a scary and dark hallway under the ground to the Lao boarder. Once we see daylight again we have no idea where to go until we see a lady with a baby who was on our bus, we hurry to follow her.
We get six huge forms to fill out for our visa and arrival in Laos. While Michiel waits at the border patrol Noa and I take a look around and are approached by a couple of American Laos people for a talk. When everything is filled out and processed, our passports are brought to another window in the same building, and we have to follow inline to receive them.
Now all is left is to find which of the two identical busses to board (the color of the curtains betrays which one) before we can travel on to Pakse, the border town in Laos. After about an hour we drive across a bridge which gives great views of the river and a small village with one story buildings. The village is surrounded by Karst mountains, a fairy tale. We have arrived in Pakse, where we will spend the night before continuing on to the four thousand islands of the south of Laos.
Do you want to know how our adventure continues? Read up on our first week in Laos next week and check out our first photo album with pictures of Thailand.