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Hong Kong 2012: Getting there

After a span of 9 months, and after writing about all my past travels, I had the itch to see the world again. I had to. I had nothing else to write about for this website besides the usual K-pop reviews! The past few months I contemplated where to go next. I really wanted to be in Europe for the Euro Cup and the Olympics, but with the Indian Rupee getting clobbered in value against the British Pound and the Euro, I soon let go of that dream.

I then thought about Vietnam. I would fly to Singapore as my visa is yet to expire, then take Tiger Airways to Ho Chi Minh, ride all the way up to Hanoi and fly back to Singapore. But upon researching, I realized whatever I would see in Vietnam would not have been that much more ‘new’ having already been to Thailand and Philippines. Also, the truth about Halong Bay is that it looks amazing when you get an aerial view — which is not how most tourists see it when they get there.

So then I thought about China, a country I have wanted to explore for years. Just like India, China has an ancient and much revered history. It’s also a large country, with lots to see and amazing geography. But China also has a government hell bent on restricting your freedom within its boundaries. So when I read foreigners wouldn’t be allowed to visit Tibet unless they went with a guide, I changed my mind. Taking the Lhasa express ranked highly in my list of “to-do” things in China. And the way I travel, I don’t want someone telling me I can’t go there or don’t take photographs the government doesn’t want you taking.

I initially thought of using Hong Kong as an entry point to China, but in the end I decided to just visit Hong Kong and Macau for now. After all, I got a pretty sweet deal on the flight ticket from Cleartrip. For around Rs. 27k ($505/€407), I would be flying Thai Airways via Bangkok to Hong Kong. My return journey had a 22-hour layover in Bangkok too, meaning I had a day to spend in Bangkok as well.

I left Bangalore on June 27th and arrived at Suvarnabhumi around 6am.

Suvarnabhumi airport travelator Bangkok
Hello Suvarnabhumi! Haven’t seen you since 2010 🙂
Suvarnabhumi airport terminal
It was a bit of a ‘trek’ (as always with Suvarnabhumi) but I eventually found my transfer gate
Thai Airways plane to Hong Kong
My connecting flight to Hong Kong was scheduled to leave at 8:35am

Continue reading “Hong Kong 2012: Getting there” »

Damnoensaduak floating market tourists Ratchaburi Thailand

Thailand 2010: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market tour, Cobra show… and leaving Bangkok

Date:  29th November 2010

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).

Bangkok Rama bridge early morning Thailand
Left Bangkok at around 6am; headed to the neighbouring district of Ratchaburi, a 100km drive
Shrimp prawn farms outside Bangkok Thailand
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.

Floating market tour starting point boats Thailand
We would then be split up into groups for each boat
Canal longtail boat Bangkok Thailand
I grabbed the spot in front

Damnoen Saduak Ratchaburi canal boats Bangkok Thailand

Damnoen Saduak river taxi boats Bangkok Thailand
No roads from here on out, just canals all the way to the ‘floating’ market

Floating village longtail boats parked Thailand

River to Damoen Saduak floating market Thailand
It was a lovely morning ride

Damnoen Saduak river pier Bangkok Thailand Floating village Thai women canal Bangkok

Damnoen Saduak floating village house by river Bangkok Thailand
It was a charming sight to see houses and entire villages live by these canals
Damnoen Saduak floating village river Bangkok Thailand
Kind of appears as though the ‘roads’ are flooded 🙂

Damnoen Saduak floating village Bangkok Thailand Damnoen Saduak river homes Yamaha Fino Bangkok ThailandDamnoen Saduak village boat lift Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoen Saduak floating market flower pots Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoen Saduak floating market sheet Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoen Saduak canal house Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoen Saduak floating market river motorboat Ratchaburi

Damnoen Saduak floating market sign Ratchaburi Thailand
That’s where we were heading

Damnoen Saduak floating market row houses Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoen Saduak floating village houses Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoen Saduak floating market pedestrian bridge Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoen Saduak floating village home Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoen Saduak floating market canal Ratchaburi Thailand

Damnoen Saduak floating market lanes Ratchaburi Thailand

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.

Damnoen Saduak floating market old boat lady Ratchaburi
I sat right in front again

Damnoen Saduak floating market boats fruit hawker Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoen Saduak floating market paddle boat vendor Ratchaburi Thailand

Damnoen Saduak floating market paddle boats Ratchaburi Thailand
Mind you, there are many boats carrying tourists around the market all morning. The market closes by afternoon.
Damnoen Saduak floating market hats vendor Thailand
Plenty of hawkers (on boats of course) pull your boat over to try and sell you their wares

Damnoen Saduak floating market hats ThailandDamnoen Saduak floating market souvenir vendor ThailandDamnoen Saduak floating market vendor pulling Ratchaburi Thailand

Damnoen Saduak floating market saffron spices Ratchaburi Thailand
A lot of the stuff for sale are souvenirs and other Thailand memorabilia

Damnoen Saduak floating market vendors Ratchaburi Thailand

Damnoen Saduak floating market pork noodles Ratchaburi Thailand
No shortage of eateries as usual

Damnoen Saduak floating market Paew boat service Thailand

Thailand souvenirs for sale floating market Ratchaburi Thailand
And as usual, you can haggle for a much lower price than what they initially quote

Damnoen Saduak floating market morning rush ThailandDamnoen Saduak floating market restaurant Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoen Saduak floating market under bridge Thailand

Damnoen Saduak floating market handicrafts Thailand
Even under a bridge there was no shortage of hawkers

Damnoen Saduak floating market lights boat Thailand

Damnoen Saduak floating market insects bugs Thailand
From preserved animals…
Damnoen Saduak floating market snake Thailand
.. to even getting photographs with a massive snake. All available under the bridge.

Damnoen Saduak floating market hawker boats Thailand

Damnoen Saduak floating market coconut boat Thailand
Nicely shaven coconut 🙂

Damnoen Saduak floating market bags sculptures Thailand Damnoen Saduak floating market hawker boat ThailandDamnoensaduak floating market water canal Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoensaduak floating market tourist paddle boat Thailand

Damnoensaduak floating market fan hats hawker Thailand
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.
Asian tourists floating market Thailand
Best advised to keep your hands inside at all time. The boats do ram into each other.
Damnoen Saduak floating market end Thailand
It was time to turn around and go back

Damnoensanduak floating market souvenirs sale Thailand

Damnoensanduak floating market boats jam Thailand
This is what a floating market traffic jam looks like

And this is what it sounds like 🙂

Damnoensanduak floating market Durian Thailand
Durian. Ugh.
Damnoensanduak floating market hats hawker Thailand
Yes, lots of hats

Damnoensanduak floating market handicrafts Ratchaburi ThailandAfter riding for around half an hour, we were dropped back on to the platform.

Damnoensaduak floating Thailand flag boat Ratchaburi
Continued taking photos on foot

Damnoensaduak floating market morning Ratchaburi Thailand Damnoensaduak floating market boat ride Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoensaduak floating market shops Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoensaduak floating market dog Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoensaduak floating market boats crossing Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoensaduak floating market fruits boat Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoensaduak floating market paddle boats fresh food Thailand

Damnoensaduak floating market tourists Ratchaburi Thailand
The floating market is one of those ‘must see’ places in Thailand
Damnoensaduak floating market massage chairs Thailand
Yes, you can get a massage just about anywhere in Thailand

Damnoensaduak floating market canal boats Ratchaburi ThailandDamnoensaduak floating market long boat Ratchaburi Thailand

Damnoensaduak floating market paddle boats parking Thailand
How paddle boats are ‘parked’
Damnoensaduak floating market smaller canal Thailand
I would have liked to have gone through there

Damnoensaduak floating market entrance king portrait Thailand

Damnoensaduak floating market food boat Ratchaburi Thailand
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.

Now, I had been to an elephant camp in Chiang Mai back in 2009 so I knew what to expect and more importantly, why they bring tourists here as ‘part of the package’.

Floating market tour elephant ride village Thailand
It’s ฿600 for an elephant ride -_-
Elephant village ride tourists Thailand
I wasn’t interested
Elephant village forest history Thailand
Instead, I sat at the cafe and read up trivia

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.

Cobra Show entrance ticket counter Ratchaburi Thailand
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.

Cobra Show arena Bangkok Thailand
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.

Cobra show extracting snake venom Thailand
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…

Cobra show Mithun snake around neck Thailand
I thought I’d give it a try 🙂
Cobra show python snake showing tourists Thailand
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.

Cobra show mongoose snake fight Thailand
“Snake, meet mongoose”
Cobra show mongoose snake fight tourism Thailand
“Snake… meet mongoose!”
Cobra show mongoose fighting snake Thailand
“Snake… snake…snaaaaake!”*
Cobra show mongoose not fighting snake Thailand
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.

Mangrove snake cobra show ThailandCobra show crocodile Thailand

Cobra show python tourist neck photograph Thailand
If you want photos with much bigger snakes, you can take them here
Cobra show Thailand snake park Thailand
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.

Thailand wood craftsman at work

Buddha statue wood carving Thailand
But I must say, quite impressive wood work (That sign seems a bit ironic btw)

Thai craftswoman handicraft carving Thailand

Teakwood amazing woodwork craftsman artist Thailand
Scratch that, some *very* impressive wood work!
Teakwood detailed amazing woodwork craftsman artist Thailand
Wonder how many weeks it takes for such stunning works of art
Wooden elephant sculpture handicrafts Thailand
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)!

Thai wood handicrafts showroom Thailand
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.

KFC seaweed flavour chicken Bangkok Thailand
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 variant. It was alright, better than last year’s sweet ‘n’ spicy.

With my final meal in Thailand complete…

Siam Paragon Krispy Kreme line Bangkok Thailand
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.

Phaya Thai airport line BTS station Bangkok metro
The Phaya Thai airport link station
Phaya Thai airport link to Suvarnabhumi BTS station Bangkok
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.

Suvarnabhumi airport metro BTS entrance Thailand
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!

Statue Thai art Suvarnabhumi airport ThailandAfter 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.

Thai sculpture Suvarnabhumi airport gates
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! 🙂

Previous posts in this series:

Thailand 2010: Gurdwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha, Sampeng Market, JJ market (again)

Thailand 2010: Back to Bangkok — Chinatown, Patpong, Platinum Mall and Chatuchak Market

Thailand 2010: Pattaya — Beach road, Viewpoint, Jomtien Beach, Walking Street

Thailand 2010: Golden Triangle in Mae Sai; Chiang Rai’s White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)

Thailand 2010: Heading to Chiang Rai by bus, Wat Jedyod and Golden Clock Tower

Thailand 2010: Last day of Loi Krathong; Sunday Grand Parade (Day 4, Part 2)

Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai Zoo (Day 4, Part 1)

Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai Loi Krathong celebrations; first Grand Parade

Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai cooking class; Loi Krathong celebrations in Mae Jo, Sansai

Thailand 2010: First day in Chiang Mai for Loi Krathong; driving up Doi Suthep

Thailand 2010: Arriving in Bangkok and preparing for Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai


*Metal Gear Solid referance

Sukhumvit road Bangkok traffic BTS Skytrain tracks

Thailand 2010: Arriving in Bangkok and preparing for Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

Last November, I decided just a few weeks earlier to go back to Thailand. The main purpose of this trip was to witness the Loi Krathong (or Loy Krathong) festival, one of Thailand’s most beautiful festivals and one that I always wanted to cover. Although it’s a national festival, Thailand still doesn’t get a public holiday for it.

Usually falling in November, I first booked my flights in October via which had a really good offer:  a return ticket from Thai Airways (direct flight) + Indian Rupee ₹2,000 hotel voucher + Indian Rupee ₹1,000 worth of credit for a Uniconnect Thailand SIM card + an entry to DreamWorld theme park… all for Indian Rupee ₹16,742 ($375/€262). Awesome deal if you ask me!

But, one week prior departure, I won the chance to go see Linkin Park in Abu Dhabi! So I delayed my departure by a few days, and then again after I read Jay Park was going to be performing in Bangkok. I left for Dubai on a Friday early morning and returned to Bangalore late Sunday night. I then went to office on the following Monday and then left for the airport in the evening for my early morning flight on Tuesday!

Inside Thai Airways flight TG325
The flight wasn’t full, so I had an entire row to myself
Thai Airways flight TG325 inflight chicken meal
The Thai chicken curry meal was yum

Unlike my first visit to Thailand, in which I tried to cover the entire country in 9 days (I did it, but I didn’t quite enjoy the experience), this time around I was only going to focus on North Thailand. Most of my time would be spent in Chiang Mai covering the Yi Ping Festival (as Loi Krathong is called in Chiang Mai), after which I planned to go to Chiang Rai & then a day in Pattaya before heading back to Bangkok.

Arriving Bangkok at dawn
Arrived in Bangkok at dawn
Inside Suvarnabhumi airport Thailand
Hello Suvarnabhumi!
Suvarnabhumi airport Thailand travelator
Sigh, the many travelators you have to cross…
Suvarnabhumi airport Thailand moving walkway
… to finally get to the visa-on-arrival section

Once I did get to the Visa-on-arrival counter, I submitted my form, showed them how much currency I was carrying and got my visa-on-arrival without having to pay the usual ฿1000. After that was customs and then collecting my bags. Last year, I took a taxi from the airport into Bangkok city which cost ฿320 but this time, I decided to take a shuttle bus.

Suvarnabhumi shuttle bus to Bangkok
The private bus going to Sukhumvit cost ฿150 (Rs. 222/$5/€3.5)

Thai Airways office near Suvarnabhumi airport

Suvarnabhumi airport from afar
That’s Suvarnabhumi airport
Sukhumvit from afar Bangkok Thailand
Getting near Sukhumvit took only 20 minutes

But then, Bangkok’s infamous traffic soon began. And my god did it last long! It took the bus nearly an hour just to get into Sukhumvit road.

I finally got dropped at Nana BTS station. I chose to stay at Thai House Inn, a place where I spent two nights at last year — because it’s 30 seconds walk from the metro station (literally) and its not far from all the malls. I needed to stay here because first on the list of things-to-do was to buy some camera equipment, so I had to have quick access to the shopping centers, especially MBK. Those whole followed my Singapore & Malaysia series must have read that I couldn’t pick up a good camera tripod while I was there. So this time, I just couldn’t go to Chiang Mai without it!

But first, I had to get some sleep! After a whirlwind trip to Dubai and then hopping on to another flight to get to Thailand,  my body needed some proper rest.

I got up at lunch time, took the BTS SkyTrain and headed straight to MBK Center, one of my favourite malls in Bangkok.

MBK Center Mahboonkrong mall Bangkok
From Nana, the Siam station is only 3 stops away; costs ฿25

(Here is the map of the BTS service in Bangkok)

MBK houses Fotofile, the store from where I bought my Canon 7D and other accessories last year. Fotofile also manages the official Canon store and two other stores in MBK! List of things to buy included a 70-200 f2.8 lens, another 16GB card, an interval remote, and a good tripod. I went to all of Fotofile’s stores, a BIG Camera branch and jotted down the prices for all that I wanted.

MBK Bangkok food court
I had lunch from the food court which offers a lot of variety (though mostly Asian cuisine & fast food)

I left MBK and thought I’d check out some other stores.

Sukhumvit road Bangkok traffic BTS Skytrain tracks
I never walked on that pedestrian bridge below the Skytrain tracks
Sukhumvit road Bangkok traffic
The traffic is like this from 8am to 8pm
Ratchaprasong skywalk Sukhumvit BTS bridge
The skywalk bridge connects to a lot of the malls along the Ratchaprasong area
Centralworld mall Bangkok Thailand
I didn’t even step into Centralworld last time

Ratchaprasong BTS skytrain Sukhumvit Bangkok

Ratchaprasong BTS skywalk Sukhumvit pedestrian bridgeRatchaprasong walkway Sukhumvit pedestrian bridgeSukhumvit Bangkok Renaissance Hotel Thailand

Ratchaprasong pavement Bangkok
I got down from the skywalk

I decided to head to the parallel Petchburi Road where Pantip Plaza is located.

Centralworld Bangkok mall
The side section of Centralworld Mall

Ratchadamri road bridge Bangkok ThailandBangkok river boatride SukhumvitPetchburi road steps to overbridgeRatchadamri road Bangkok ThailandBangkok Petchburi road shopsBangkok city bridge wayBangkok Petchburi road traffic Thailand

Amari Watergate Hotel Bangkok Petchburi road Thailand
Amari Watergate Hotel is located on Petchburi Road
Platinum Fashion Mall shopping Petchburi road Bangkok
Right across Amari Watergate is Platinum Fashion Mall
Platinum Fashion mall Petchburi road Bangkok
Petchburi road is also famous for the Pratunam market area

Pantip Plaza is essentially Bangkok’s equivalent to Singapore’s Sim Lim Square and Kuala Lumpur’s Low Yat Plaza.

Pantip Plaza ground floor shop
Bangkok’s most famous IT mall

Pantip Plaza inside floor storesI came to Pantip Plaza because none of the camera stores in MBK (and the Siam malls) sold tripods from the brand Vanguard. I had a particular model in mind but even after stepping into pretty much every Pantip Plaza shop that sold camera equipment, none stocked products from Vanguard.

Pantip Plaza ground floor stores
I left Pantip Plaza disappointed

I wanted to try and buy everything I wanted from one store, so that I didn’t have to swipe my card three or four times and incur additional charges for each transactions.

Ratchathewi station empty land Bangkok
I decided to head back to Sukhumvit road
Ratchathewi station graffiti walls Petchburi Bangkok
It was nearing sunset and my body was telling me 4 hours of sleep wasn’t enough
Ratchathewi station platform BTS Bangkok
Ratchathewi station is at the far end of Petchburi road
Sukhumvit traditional Thai dance night
By the time I stepped out of the train, it was already dark. The sun sets rather quickly out here.
Sukhumvit Ratchaprasong skywalk lights Bangkok
I decided to check one last mall before heading back

Centralworld Mall entrance Bangkok Thailand

Centralworld mall interior decor Bangkok Thailand
Centralworld is actually one of the biggest malls in Thailand

Centralworld mall Aunt Annie's Bangkok ThailandUnfortunately, Centralworld was quite badly damaged during last year’s ‘Red t-shirts’ protests and an entire section of the building was off limits because they were renovating it.

I looked up the store directory and saw that BIG Camera had a bigger branch here but unfortunately, it was in the part of the building which was under renovation.

Centralworld mall Christmas tree BangkokAfter checking which ever stores were open, I left CentralWorld.

Siam Paragon IMAX Novotel BTS Bangkok

Bangkok Sukhumvit skywalk christmas lights decorationSukhumvit road at night BangkokPresident Tower Holiday Inn hotel BangkokThe one good thing I liked about the area I was in is that it’s actually full of Arab visitors, and therefore plenty of businesses exist catering to tourists from the Middle East and Africa.

Bangkok Nana Sukhumvit Arab area

Bangkok Nana Sukhumvit Arab restaurants
Which meant, plenty of Middle Eastern cuisine for me to eat!
Nana Sukhumvit Dubai center Bangkok Thailand
Yeah, it’s *that* Gulf-y!

I picked up a beef shawarma (฿50) and a drink from a 7-11 and made my way back to my room. I had kept the air conditioner on for a while to ventilate the room and rid it of the Bangkok ‘stench,’ which takes a little getting used to. (The ‘smell’ of Bangkok city is essentially the smell of fish sauce emanating in the air.)

I needed more sleep and I had to wake up early the next day. I assessed all the camera products and all the prices I made a note of. I had to pick up everything tomorrow itself and then leave early enough to get to Mo Chit bus terminal.

Next day

After waking up and breakfast at Au Bon Pain in MBK, I waited for the Fotofile stores to open.

MBK mall bags clothes small stores section Bangkok
Walked around the ‘street market’ stores on the 6th floor to pass time
Fotofile camera equipment store MBK Bangkok Thailand
I picked up an additional 16GB card, the interval remote and an extra battery for the Canon 7D from the Foto Thailand store on the 3rd floor
Fotofile MBK used lenses store Bangkok
Lots of second hand lenses for sale

The telephoto lens I was keen on picking up was the Canon 70-200 f2.8 IS Mark 1. Unfortunately, that model was recently replaced by the newer Mark 2, which was obscenely expensive and thus made finding the Mark 1 a challenge.

MBK mall escalators advertising BangkokSo I ended up picking up a brand new Canon 70-200 f2.8 non-IS lens and using the substantial savings to purchase a good tripod instead. I needed one anyway.

Official Canon store MBK collection display Bangkok
I picked up the lens from the official Canon store managed by Fotofile
Canon camera store MBK collection display Bangkok
None of these are for sale, just on display

The Canon store had a few Manfrotto tripods on sale and I considered the Manfrotto 055x Pro B but it was too pricey. I went down to the BIG Camera store and picked up a Sirui tripod for around 7k baht. The model was very good value for money and complimented my newly acquired 70-200 lens well.

With all my shopping done, I went to one of the two main food courts in MBK.

Fifth Food Avenue food court MBK mall Bangkok
Fifth Food Avenue is the name of this food court
Nasi Goreng MBK mall food court Bangkok
I was still on my Malaysia high, so I had Nasi Goreng (although they went overboard with the soy sauce) ฿160

After lunch, I still had some time to kill, so I went to Siam Paragon to find out where the Jay Park concert was going to be held.

Siam Discovery mall interior decor Bangkok
Siam Discovery, which is the older and slightly more wallet friendly mall
Strip Ministry of Waxing Siam Discovery mall Bangkok
Clever ad 🙂
Siam Paragon mall open area Bangkok
Siam Paragon mall is the more posh offering
Krungsri IMAX theatre Siam Paragon Bangkok Thailand
The Royal Paragon Hall was on the top most floor, near the cinemas
Cool gel attack Thai film cinema poster
Hmm, interesting

After finding out where Royal Paragon Hall was, I made my way out.

Siam Paragon conference hall BangkokSiam Paragon mall open lobby Bangkok

Audi showroom Siam Paragon Bangkok Thailand
Walked past the luxury car showrooms on the second floor
Lamborghini showroom Siam Paragon Bangkok Thailand
Last year, they had a ‘No Photographs’ sign on the glass

So this time, I went in and got up close to the Lamborghinis. You don’t realize just how big these sexy machines are until you stand next to them. I spoke to the sales girl and I asked her how much the import duties for these cars are and she told me it’s over 100-150%, including the many taxes on these luxuries… making them super-expensive in Thailand. She wouldn’t disclose how many they sell a year but at such prices, I’m guessing not many. I hardly ever saw one on the road in the two trips I’ve made to Thailand.

Porsche showroom Siam Paragon Bangkok ThailandOnce back in my room, I re-packed my bags and checked out. The lady who runs Thai House Inn asked me why I was leaving so early and assured me there would be plenty of buses, but I didn’t want to risk not getting a seat. Going to Chiang Mai early is what I essentially came for.

I took the BTS all the way to till last stop, Mo Chit station, and from there I took a moped taxi (to Mo Chit bus terminal, which caters to North Thailand).

But when I got to the terminal, a lot of the buses to Chiang Mai leaving that night were already full! Especially the luxury buses, and I had to go from one transport company to another to find available seats. Fortunately, I got a ticket in a regular push-back seat bus — it was their last for the night!

Last year I got a seat in a luxury bus which cost me ฿700, for which I just showed up at the station and got my ticket. Of course, the sold-out seats today were due to the Loi Krathong weekend rush. So word of advice, if you want the luxury buses during Loy Krathong weekend, buy the tickets in advance.

Not that the bus I got was  bad or anything, it was just one of those regular buses used on overnight long distance journeys, in my case an 8-hour journey.

Bangkok to Chiang Mai bus night journey
A seat costs ฿403 (Rs. 597/$13/€9)

The bus made a rest stop for toilet break and for picking up dinner/snacks. In a few hours, I would arrive at Thailand’s second biggest city, and my second trip to Thailand officially begins!

Next few posts in this series:

Thailand 2010: First day in Chiang Mai for Loi Krathong; driving up Doi Suthep

Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai cooking class; Loi Krathong celebrations in Mae Jo, Sansai

Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai Loi Krathong celebrations; first Grand Parade

Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai Zoo (Day 4, Part 1)

Thailand 2010: Last day of Loi Krathong; Sunday Grand Parade (Day 4, Part 2)

Thailand 2010: Heading to Chiang Rai by bus, Wat Jedyod and Golden Clock Tower

Thailand 2010: Golden Triangle in Mae Sai; Chiang Rai’s White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)

Thailand 2010: Pattaya — Beach road, Viewpoint, Jomtien Beach, Walking Street

Thailand 2010: Back to Bangkok — Chinatown, Patpong, Platinum Mall and Chatuchak Market

Thailand 2010: Gurdwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha, Sampeng Market, JJ market (again)

Thailand 2010: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market tour, Cobra show… and leaving Bangkok

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