The City and Weekend Market
Having enjoyed our days in Hong Kong, Macau and China Ken, Darla, Anne and I now headed to our next destination: the bustling city of Bangkok and the historical Kingdom of Siam. We were anxious to arrive as we would be spending our time in Bangkok at a friend's house. Derek, who used to work with Ken and I, moved to Bangkok several years earlier when his wife, Rose, was transferred there. Knowing Derek's pension for good food and good times we knew we would be in for a nice time, and we weren't disappointed.

Arriving at the airport we were met by Rose's driver and car for the ride to their apartment. This would be our first introduction to modern day Bangkok, and we were in for quite a surprise. Traffic in Bangkok is horrendous so you better adjust to it right away. No matter where you are going, no matter what its distance from you, no matter what time of day it is be prepared for a long trip when going by car. When it comes to the streets of Bangkok chaos reigns. Even a simple trip of a mile or two can take an hour or longer.
Our home in Bangkok would be Derek and Rose's apartment on the 18th floor of a modern building complete with a large swimming pool. From it we had our first views of modern day Bangkok.

Derek and Rose's
apartment building

Enjoying the pool

Views of Bangkok from the apartment patio

From our position the skyline was not dramatic and the smog did not help one appreciate it. Derek and Rose quickly indoctrinated us into what to expect while in Bangkok. We were ready to tackle anything and agreed that the next morning we would go to the weekend market. Derek made arrangements with the driver to return in the morning to take us to the market.
We awoke early the next morning for our trip to the weekend market to find ourselves faced with our first challenge. The driver did not show up to drive us to the market. According to Derek and Rose he was very undependable and they were trying to replace him. He was friendly enough, he just didn't show up half the time. Derek decided that he'd drive us which was unsettling with Rose. We all hopped into the car for the short trip to the market. A short trip of probably 2 to 3 miles that took over an hour to complete. Arriving at the market Derek gave us instructions to meet every hour under the clock tower until we were all together again. As we headed off into the market he went to secure a parking space expecting that it might take forever, but he managed to catch up with us more quickly than we expected.

The market was huge and might best be described as a flea market. Vendors each had their own space with their wares laid out on tables or hanging about them. While many of the items were tourist oriented you could find just about anything you wanted. Bargaining was the name of the game and the price changed considerably based on your ability to communicate. There was one price for us who were obviously foreign visitors, another price for Derek who could speak some of the language and still another price for the natives.

Enjoy some of the pictures from the market.
Visiting the market was a good idea as it gave us a chance to do some much needed souvenir and gift shopping. With the trip now almost half over we could begin to pick up some gifts for family and friends and a few trinkets for my bookcase at home to remind me of our wonderful trip.
Having spent several hours wondering the alleyways and looking at all the stuff we proceeded downtown to the Shangri La Hotel for a short excursion. One of the major problems for tourists in Bangkok is because of the traffic. It's difficult to scheduled two major activities for a single day as they are separated by miles and by the time you have seen your first sight and then try to travel the distance to the second sight you arrive to late to have the time to enjoy it. We had to plan our activities carefully and be sure to leave in plenty of time to arrive at our destination on time.

Ken and Darla looking for the perfect gift to take home to someone

The Chao Praya River by the
Shangri La Hotel

Ken taking a defiant stance
before lunch at the Shangri La

Long boat on the Chao Praya River

Two favored methods of transportation while in Bangkok are the river taxis and the Tut-tut.

The river taxis, or long boats (above), are very interesting. They are canoe like with a powerful engine mounted in the back. The propeller is located at the end of a long shaft that the driver maneuvers in the water, like a rudder, to control the boat's direction and speed. River taxis come in all shapes and sizes and are probably best known for the amount of noise pollution they add to the area around the river. The engines are powerful and loud!

The Tut-tut (I can't believe I didn't take a picture of one while there (I do have a postcard of one but cannot include it here because I don't own the copyright)) is another amazing vehicle adapted to the area. Imagine a three-wheel motorcycle with a chases on it that allows the driver to sit up front and four to six passengers on benches in the back ... a minibus!

Another favored method of transportation are motorbikes. In reality they are the best method given the traffic. While Bangkok does have modern traffic lights at intersections many of them are overridden by a police officer directing traffic. It was not uncommon to sit at a traffic light for ten to twenty minutes before moving. Once when we were caught at the front of the line waiting for one of these police officer traffic lights to allow us to go every inch of space was taken over immediately by hundreds of these motorbikes. They made their way through the stopped cars up to the front of the line and were ready to lead the pack when we were allowed to go. They also have motorbike taxis that you can jump on. This was Derek's favorite method of transportation as it was the quickest.
Now, let's leave the hustle and bustle of the city and river behind us and venture over to the Grand Palace. Located in the heart of Bangkok not far from the river, the Grand Palace is absolutely breath taking to behold ...
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