The 2 sides to Bangkok
9 August 2017, fine, thunderstorms, 31°
I had another early start, up at 5:15am to go for a short 15 minute walk ( but being 28° already and 80% humidity it was not an easy walk ) to a Chinese Cemetery south of where we are staying. I only managed to get lost once when I turned down a blind alleyway, but it was a pleasant wander through the back alleys, with people starting to set up their food stalls ( they seem to be everywhere, in every street and alleyway ). I finally found the entrance to the Cemetery at about 5:50am ( for a 6:05am sunrise ). Far from being a dead place ( pun intended ) it was teeming with people ( mainly Chinese ) running, doing weights, boxing and Tai Chew ( the local form of Tai Chi ). And this is at 5:50am in the morning. I found the location I was looking for: a pagoda in the centre of the exercise zone. A woman was very kindly sweeping the area for me, and even the local stray dog that I disturbed seemed friendly.
After shooting through a stunning sunrise ( the sunrises and sunsets are short here in the tropics ) I then took some photos of the graves with the vegetation growing over them. The grave stones themselves were well tended, but the mounds of the graves had been left to the weeds.
I then wandered back to the hotel in the start of the rush our traffic. More food stalls opening up and people in business clothes coming out of their ( seemingly ) run down houses. I even watched a smartly dressed woman come out of her house with a bag of rubbish, wander along the footpath for a bit, then casually toss the rubbish into the bushes.
Back at the hotel we headed down for breakfast at the Hotel ( included in the price; toast, juices and hot food ( both western and asian ) ). Then back up to the Hotel room to rest for a bit, then out again at 8am and we walked along Sathon Tai Road for about 900m to the Myanmar Embassy. After falsely entering a couple of doors and finding hordes of locals ( Myanmar and Thai ) a man told us the queue to join ( obviously to the only door with English above it ! ) and we waited on the footpath for a few minutes until the door opened at 8:30am. After grabbing a couple of visa forms, and a queue number ( 003 ) from the man at the door ( whose main jobs seemed to be be to keep the locals out ) we then sat down and filled the forms in. Nothing too challenging, just the usual things plus your occupation and where you were staying in Myanmar.
At 9:05 the curtains opened and 2 counters slid open ( one for business visas and one for tourists ). After waiting for the 2 people ahead of us it was our turn, up to the counter, all our information was good, paid the B4500 for the 2 visas, to be ready today from 3:30pm. Out at 9:30! Very quick and painless.
So we wandered to the Surasak BTS station and caught a Skytrain to Siam. This is a modern / touristy area of Bangkok, and is a complete contrast to where we are staying. Here the shops are Prada, Gucci and the restaurants are McDonalds and Dennys. Not the street vendors and little shops of Bang Rak where our hotel is located. We carried on walking along the street then into the CentralWorld Mall ( more chain stores like H&M, Boots, etc ), had a drink at a cafe, then wandered around the shops. This certainly fulfilled any need for retail therapy so we headed back out onto the street and walked along Lang Suan Road to Lumpini Park at about 12:30
At this stage it was getting hot again so we grabbed a drink, sat in the shade, watched 2 monitor lizards go for a swim the pond next to where we were sitting; you know, just the usual Wednesday afternoon day in the park.
We decided it was time to head back to the hotel for a bit so we jumped on the BTS at Sala Daeng and got off at Saphan Taksin, walked to the Robinsons Mall and grabbed a bite to eat at the foodcourt, then walked back to the hotel at 2pm.
We have decided that the best way for us to deal with the heat and humidity is to get out early, do as much as we can, then head back to the hotel in the afternoon to cool off and recover, then head out again when it cools down a bit around 4pm.
But today we had an appointment to keep at the Union of Myanmar Embassy so we left the hotel at 3pm, walked along the road and went back into the Visa Section, and grabbed a seat to wait for the counters to open at 3:30pm. The local couriers who were there to pick up visas had a system where they would put their water bottles in a line on the floor in front of the counter, in order of when they arrived, and then went and sat down. It looked very odd to see 2 lines of water bottles on the floor when we arrived. At 3:30 the counters opened and there was a controlled rush of people to grab their passports with visas in them ( and their water bottles ) We waited for the queue to die down a bit then grabbed ours. All done in 10 minutes.
We walked back to the hotel and had a quick swim in the rooftop pool.
For a bit of a treat we decided to head up to the nearest of Bangkok's many rooftop bars; The Skybar at the Lebua Hotel. This 5 star hotel was a 5 minute walk from our hotel, and was again in stark contrast to the street it is located in. So we walked around the block, and headed up to the 64th floor. The Skybar didn't open until 6 so we grabbed a drink on the deck of the Distil bar (which is 1 floor higher than the Skybar, but with less outdoor space). We were happy to pay the required price for the 2 drinks ( about NZ$50 ) as we just viewed it as the entry charge for the viewing deck.
Soon after we arrived we noticed a rain shower off to the west, which seemed to be heading southeast and would miss us, but as we watched the shower developed another rain centre northwest of us, which was getting closer and closer, and bigger and bigger. So at about 6:15pm they got everyone inside from our deck, closed the Skybar decks and then the wind and rain hit us. It was all over pretty quick but was pretty spectacular to watch. We left not long after as the sun had set and they weren't looking like they were going to open the deck again soon.
So back down in the express elevator and back onto the raw streets of Bangkok in the light rain, and back to the restaurant we were at last night for some dinner, and then to the hotel again at 7:30pm.
Another busy and productive day, and our onward journey from Bangkok all sorted. Time to play tourist tomorrow for our last full day in Bangkok.