My last day in Hong Kong was supposed to be spent at Ocean Park, but I woke up to this…
You can’t make out much from this photo taken from my phone, but it was raining heavily!
Realizing such weather would ruin a far off visit to a theme park and delay my departure to the airport, I decided not to go and sought to get a refund for my ticket. I bought it from Fiona at the hostel itself, but she hadn’t come in yet. I asked the housekeeper who was Filipino and her reaction went something along the lines of this: “You want a refund? Ha! No way… Fiona won’t give your money back… Chinese don’t do refunds!”, with a laugh. Continue reading →
My final day in Thailand… and I still made most of the time I had before flying out.
Even though I still had an entry ticket to DreamWorld theme park which I got for free via Cleartrip, I decided to chuck that and opted instead to do something I couldn’t do last year.
I booked myself for a floating market tour via the lady who owns Thai House Inn and she got it for me for ฿600 (Rs. 890/$20/€14).
Left Bangkok at around 6am; headed to the neighbouring district of Ratchaburi, a 100km drive
Passed by a lot of shrimp farms. Turns out Thailand is largest exporter of such shrimps. (That explains the abundance of prawn crackers)
After an hour long drive, the van reached a canal where there were other tour groups gathered near some boats.
We would then be split up into groups for each boat
I grabbed the spot in front
No roads from here on out, just canals all the way to the ‘floating’ market
It was a lovely morning ride
It was a charming sight to see houses and entire villages live by these canals
Kind of appears as though the ‘roads’ are flooded
That’s where we were heading
Once we reached the market, we got out of our boats and were informed by our guide that we had nearly an hour here. But, if we wanted to boat ride around the market, we would have to pay ฿50 (Rs. 75/$1.6/€1.16) and it was not included in the tour package. Obviously, none of us wanted to simply walk around the ‘floating’ market, so I paid up.
I sat right in front again
Mind you, there are many boats carrying tourists around the market all morning. The market closes by afternoon.
Plenty of hawkers (on boats of course) pull your boat over to try and sell you their wares
A lot of the stuff for sale are souvenirs and other Thailand memorabilia
No shortage of eateries as usual
And as usual, you can haggle for a much lower price than what they initially quote
Even under a bridge there was no shortage of hawkers
From preserved animals…
.. to even getting photographs with a massive snake. All available under the bridge.
Nicely shaven coconut
After much pandering, I ended up buying two of these hats for my nieces. The hats can be folded into fans as well. Paid around ฿100 each.
Best advised to keep your hands inside at all time. The boats do ram into each other.
It was time to turn around and go back
This is what a floating market traffic jam looks like
And this is what it sounds like
Yes, lots of hats
After riding for around half an hour, we were dropped back on to the platform.
Continued taking photos on foot
The floating market is one of those ‘must see’ places in Thailand
Yes, you can get a massage just about anywhere in Thailand
How paddle boats are ‘parked’
I would have liked to have gone through there
How heavy must the boats be to hold the weight of two gas cylinders?
I walked back to the designated meeting point for our tour group. It was time to leave, so we all got back to our respective vans.
I was under the impression the floating market tour was over and that we would be on our long drive back. But no, instead, the van took us to a nearby Elephant Village.
After waiting for nearly half an hour for the few from my tour group who wanted to go for the elephant ride, we finally got moving again. Next up, the Cobra Show.
Again, they only drop you here, you still had the option to pay and enter
Even though I had seen videos from the ‘most exciting show in the world,’ I did not want to wait outside in the heat again. So I paid the ฿30 or ฿50 it was for the ticket and went in.
The arena inside (Panorama comprised of 6 shots)
They start off with the announcer welcoming everyone and explaining in fairly understandable English that the purpose of the facility is to ‘educate’ visitors that snakes are not all that dangerous as people make them out to be.
A badass-looking Thai staff member showing us how they extract snake’s venom
The also bring around snakes to you in case you want to take photos with one around your neck. And since I hate snakes…
I thought I’d give it a try
They have all kinds of snakes, like huge pythons as well
The ‘exciting’ parts kick in when they demonstrate how the trained staff catch snakes. Which has to be seen in action:
The guy also caught three cobras, one by one, which was quite impressive.
The excitement continues when they bring out a snake’s worst enemy in the animal kingdom, the mongoose — and then make the two fight.
“Snake, meet mongoose”
“Snake… meet mongoose!”
Introductions over I guess
Here’s a video of the mongoose fight some more:
Thirty minutes of, erm, animal cruelty, the show was over. The staff went around seeking donations from the visitors, and I tipped ฿100 to the guy who caught the snakes with his bare hands, because that’s quite some skill.
Outside, there have a mini-zoo with a few reptilian creatures.
If you want photos with much bigger snakes, you can take them here
But I wanted to sit in the air-conditioned van as it was quite hot!
I asked our guide if the ‘tour’ was over, but he said there was one final stop. Ugh.
This was some handicrafts showroom where they specialize in wooden sculptures.
But I must say, quite impressive wood work (That sign seems a bit ironic btw)
Scratch that, some *very* impressive wood work!
Wonder how many weeks it takes for such stunning works of art
They’re all for sale but it’s not like they’re easy to fit into a suitcase and take back with you
Needless to say, none of these wooden sculptures carved out of teak wood come cheap. Most of them were in the thousands of dollars (yes, dollars, not Thai baht)!
They have a showroom with some smaller pieces of wood work inside
After another half-an-hour spent here, we headed back into our vans. I was finally done with the ‘floating market’ tour. As touristy as the above sights may seem, I still feel a visit to the floating market is a ‘must-do’ in Thailand. Damnoen Suduak is the most popular floating market, thus the hordes of tourists. There are a few other floating markets across Thailand.
The journey back into the city took a lot longer for me as I was going to be the last one dropped. I eventually got down at MBK to have lunch… at KFC.
Last year, KFC Thailand introduced a sweet ‘n’ spicy variant of their chicken, and it was my last meal before leaving. This year, KFC introduced a seaweed infused varient. It was alright, better than last year’s sweet ‘n’ spicy.
With my final meal in Thailand complete…
Oh for god’s sake Thai people, there’s NOTHING special about Krispy Kreme!
Anyway… I headed back to Thai House Inn to pack up and check out. I sat down for a bit before stepping out again, but this time, without my camera bag for a change. I wanted to give my shoulders a rest after the nearly two weeks I strained them. I walked further down from Nana BTS to see whether there were better sub-฿1000 accommodation available so that next time if I do choose to stay in the Sukhumvit area, I don’t have to stay to at Thai House Inn.
Hopefully, next time I’m in Bangkok, if I don’t have much shopping to do, I’ll stay in Khao San road.
At around 5:30pm, I took the BTS to Phaya Thai station. They had only recently opened the new skytrain link directly to Suvarnabhumi airport, saving passengers both time and money.
The Phaya Thai airport link station
And as an introductory offer, the ticket to Suvarnabhumi was a cheap ฿15! I paid nearly ฿500 last year for taxi!
The journey took just 30 minutes. Clearly a better option for those with less luggage. I was early enough for my 9:20pm Thai Airways flight to Bangalore.
The entry into the airport from the BTS station is at the basement
Walking up to the departures section, I was quite stunned to see just about every Indian passenger heading back to Mumbai with a massive LCD/plasma TV in tow. It’s as though everybody knew how much to pay off the Mumbai customs officials upon arrival.
Quite ridiculous really, especially seeing many of them pleading with the check-in personnel not to impose excess baggage charges… because some of them were (unsurprisingly) way over the allowed limit!
After checking-in, I headed to the VAT (value added tax) refund office to declare my purchases and get my VAT refund forms stamped by the officials. Then came the rather long queue at immigration.
Passport stamped, I was through
I checked out the Duty Free, bought two bottles of liquor that my friends requested (prices and selection are fairly good here) and then went to the VAT refund counter to get my cash refund. Submitted my form and got 7% of the total value of my purchases back in cash. I mentioned this last year and I’ll mention it again: for the VAT refund, one needs to shop at stores that participate in the VAT refund scheme for tourists. Upon purchase, you will get a VAT refund form from the store and it’s only upon showing that same form at the airport will you be eligible for a refund. You can’t simply show a bunch of store receipts and expect a cash refund (‘cos I’ve seen people do that).
Sitting at my gate, I had plenty of time for a flashback. Another trip to Thailand that didn’t feel ‘complete’. Had I successfully covered the big lantern release in Mae Jo, Chiang Mai, I would have scratched North Thailand off my list and only focused on South Thailand for my next visit.
I wasn’t even in the best of health the first week, which sucked. Still… all I can say is that I did the best I could and I hope my readers enjoyed this series.
So until Thailand 201_, it’s back to India for now!
DTAC is Thailand’s second largest mobile service provider
Drove through China Town again
Got down at Chakphet road
Reached Pahurat road
I could see a sign stating Gurudwara Sikh, but all it pointed to was a wall of shops on the side of the road I was on
I still waded through Pahurat market
Figuring the gurdwara was behind the shops, I found a gap and walked into an alley. There, an old Thai man saw me and just raised his arm to point to where I needed to go. I guessed I wasn’t the first Indian he may have come across in search of the elusive gurdwara.
Kept wondering how much more I had to walk to find it…
…but there it was (finally!)
The ‘desis’ were in sight
Gurdwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha
You can read about the history of the gurdwara at their official site, but apparently Sikhs have been in Thailand since the early 1900s. All non-Sikhs have to cover their heads with a scarf, which they provide by the stairs in the main hall.
You also have to take off your shoes if you want to go upstairs. They have a big shoe rack in the main hall and you get a token.
The Sikhs were being their charitable self today with a blood donation camp
The 6-storey gurdwara is one of the largest outside India
The first floor is a Langar hall, where visitors and devotees had sat down for the free meals
The floor above it looked like it was hall used for weddings and other events
Above that was the main prayer hall
This kid was waiting for his chance to ‘photobomb’ this shot
The fourth floor is a school
The fifth floor was a hall with rooms…
… with priests (I assume?)
Not sure what this signifies or what they preach
That looked like a more accessible entry
I had reached the top
So naturally, I went back down
The sexes are segregated in order to maintain ‘concentration’ it seems
Assuming the prayers were over, I went down
Decided to eat
As much as I love Thai cuisine, after nearly two weeks, eating simple dal curry, sabzi (vegetables) and chapathis felt soooo good.
Feeling full, I went all the way back down, collected my shoes and left the gurdwara.
Stepped out to a world where samosas and spring rolls are sold side-by-side
Now to get back out…
I walked through the Pahurat textile market
I finally came out through here
Rajamangala University of Technology was across the road
Here’s a map to give you a better idea:
(Image source: Google Maps)
I moved on
I was on the hunt for Sampeng Market next
The traffic scene here is *quite* different from the Sukhumvit side
After a bit of asking around, I was directed to Sampeng Market.
This wasn’t the main entrance or anything. Just one of many lanes in.
Sampeng market is known to be an integral part of China Town
The lanes eventually all meet at one main straight path…
…which extends a long way
Sampeng market is a massive space with stores selling, well, just about everything: clothes, Chinese medicines, other Chinese specialties, toys, households items, pirated CDs and anything else China mass produces.
Today being a Sunday, it was very crowded!
Thus, very stuffy… and quite suffocating at times
It’s through one narrow lane visitors, traders and porters all the pass through
Sampeng isn’t for everyone. It’s quite congested inside (or I assume it’s like this every weekend) and it can get very hot. Also, I didn’t find much of the merchandise to my liking, so unless you want loads of stationary for your kids, cheap, then Sampeng is the place… if you feel it’s worth the effort. I only stopped to buy one of those inflatable travel pillows/neck rests (cost ฿50).
I finally got out and I had the option to move to the next section
Instead, I wasn’t confident I’d find anything more worth buying and therefore, decided to end my Sampeng trek
If you want to get a good starting point at Sampeng market, this is the road to get to first
The main China Town area was just a few steps away
I still felt like ‘buying something,’ so decided to head back to my favourite ‘market’ in Thailand.
Took a taxi to the nearest BTS station
Victory Monument, as seen from inside the train
“Thai Prince” Nichkhun was selling something (one of the many products he shills for in Thailand)
Yup, back to Chatuchak market
That’s what it looks like from up above
Walked past the park again
I plunged in
I was eying some more good t-shirts, among other things
Though most clothes shops sell more or less the same merchandise, there are a few (relatively speaking) independent studios selling something creative that sets them apart from the rest.
This was one such shop
Called Paracetamol Studio, the guy in the photo above says he does all the drawings and art himself, and then prints them on t-shirts and bags. I really liked his art and ended up buying three t-shirts at ฿300 each. He wouldn’t allow for bargaining but if you bought more, the price per t-shirt comes down.
There are more such ’boutique’ stores
You also have studios selling paintings and other works of art too
I just can’t recommend Jatujak market enough! There’s a reason why I like coming here. The variety of things you find is simply amazing. A lot of it is inexpensive and the rest, still rather affordable.
But do get here early in the morning if you plan to cover as much of this place as possible
Because despite coming here for a third time, I still can’t tell you how much of Chatuchak Weekend Market I have covered!
If you asked me where Paracetamol Studio is located on this map, I couldn’t possibly tell you
So if you wish to return to a store you once shopped from, take my advice, note down the store number.
This clock tower is one of the most important landmarks at Jatuchak. Important, because it stands high above the shops and can be used a point of reference in case you get lost (which will happen!)
The clock tower is also where you can find porters in case you buy more than you can carry
It was lunch time and I reached the phase where one wonders if they are walking around in circles
Tried this on the way out
This guy is a bit of a celebrity here at JJ market
Just as I was rushing out, I stopped by a store that sells genuine rock band t-shirts, many of which are seconds, but in very good condition and well washed. I finally managed to score a Def Leppard (my favourite band) Hysteria t-shirt and got it bargained down to ฿300 with the excuse it was my last night in Thailand. I was quite happy
Back at Siam Paragon, there was still a big line for Krispy Kreme
I called up my friend Sawmteii as we had agreed to meet for lunch, but she was still busy with family.
Siam BTS interchange. One train plys the Siam line, the other, the Silom line
I therefore headed back to my room, freshened up and got my ticket printed for tonight’s Jay Park fan meet at Siam Paragon.
I have already written about the Jay Park fan meet in another post, which you can read here.
After the fan meet, I went to a supermarket to pick up snacks and other items to pack in now itself as I was leaving Thailand tomorrow.
Bought some prawn chips, and this one had Nichkhun and his fellow 2PM members on the packet
As I was packing and trashing unwanted covers, I ended up having a right laugh reading the instructions on the Chinese travel pillow I had bought from Sampeng earlier in the day.
My Thai Airways flight was at night, so I still had tomorrow morning to do something. Which means, there’s one more post before I conclude this trip!