Week 1: Day 1 – Day 3
Tuesday December 13th – Thursday December 15th 2016
Day 1: That First Step is a Doozy
So here we were at the airport. On the brink of our “Winter Weg” trip…
Plans had been made, tickets bought, bags packed, anticipation built, so with a ting of homesickness at leaving Perth in perfect summer weather, we boarded our first of two dream liners to BKK.
Not all the Sabretoothed Chickens would be boarding today. Initially my mother Pamela in her late seventies, Reuben now nine and a half years old, Felix – turning eight in just two months and Prunella in her mid forties; were heading off on yet another glorious adventure.
This time it would be over the boys long summer school break, a six week period, leaving just a couple of days on our return before the start of a new school year in February 2017.
As this was Lucas’s final year in primary school. He and Graham remained behind until the end of the last school week, whilst the rest of us set off as a four days advanced party on the exotic road to the megacity that is Bangkok.
The journey to Bangkok was hard and exhausting. We had originally planned three carry-on bags between us but decided to take four. Pamela was trying a backpack for the first time. Felix’s bag weighed 4.5kg. Reuben 4.8kg and Prunella’s came in at 7.8kg. We had put all electronics, liquids and food in a seperate bag for easy access and later re-packing. We had packed food for the plane and refilled our empty water bottles in the departure lounge. We then boarded “Bo-eng Boeing“ meaning super busy in the Hokkien dialect. We heard Felix say “Good bye Perth” as the wheels left the ground.
Our Perth flight was delayed by 15 minutes and we left about 7.30pm. We had a five hour transit in Singapore and had to endure the hellish procedure of completely clearing immigration and customs before checking in for our next flight in the departure hall. We laughed as we stopped for a coffee and breakfast at a place called Kaffe & Toast, (these Kaya toast stores are a Singaporian cultural icon started in 1944 by Loi Ah Koon) only to find at this indecent hour, a lack of decent coffee and they had no bread, only spicy noodle soup?!
As we all know Changi is a big, beautiful airport, so lots of walking, loading luggage trolleys, unloading trolleys, toilet stops, etc were involved, in our zombied state. Changi was having a Pokemon promotion, so we distracted the boys with hunting and capturing Pokemon on our camera, which they enjoyed. The boys eventually caught about an hours sleep at the boarding gate before we boarded our next flight named “Goin’ Scootin’”.
We hit the ground running in balmy Bangkok at 7am on the 14th. Thanks goodness to Thailand immigration that have always put families like us with small kids straight through. We looked for a local bank ATM (not the first one we saw/ standard 200THB bank charge) to cash out a wad of Thai baht, then caught a taxi for the hour ride to our homestay in the Thon Buri District.
On arrival at our room, Prunella set off to the nearest 7-11 – Thailand has more 7-11’s then you could count – for some hot pork buns, congee, snacks and drinks. So with our AUS$12 dinner under our belt we slept the deep, well-deserved, sleep of the weary traveller.
On waking we decided to ease into our first trip out by heading to the movies. With that in mind we headed to one of the nearby mega malls that dominate Bangkok, Rama 2.
There we were lost in the palatial, air-conditioned, manicured beauty of the consumer dollar. Harrods tea shop, slick designer labels and every type of cuisine. Tickets first: “Rogue One” was released on December 14th but only released in Bangkok on the 15th, so we settled for “Fantastic Beasts”, which the boys really enjoyed. Wednesday is cheap movie night in BKK and a one-price ticket set us back only 100THB each (less then AUS$4). Due to the recent death of Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn on October 13th, we stood for the obligatory minutes silence, a practice that will probably continue in the three year mourning period to follow.
We ate at one of the many enormous food halls, negotiating the enviable card system. That is buy and load a foodhall card with cash, buy food with card then refund left over cash from card. Pamela and Prunella both set off separately to buy dishes to share and both came back with roast pork and rice – a hard one to beat Mmmm. Felix and Reuben then indulged in the classic Swensens Icecream.
Day two found us heading to the wonderland for children that is Kidzania. Prunella had researched it in Perth and Bangkok is the largest of this franchised, fantasy theme park for aspiring child employees. This worldwide phenomena that lets kids play at real jobs i.e. ever wanted to make a McDonalds burger, deliver a parcel or be a Fireman?? and earn/spend KidZos cash was perfect for the younger set and a treat for our two. As we checked-in before the doors opened at the pretend Air Asia, beside the real aircraft fusalage, we were met with the kindness of strangers. We were approached by a friendly travelling mum and her two sons who volunteered to take our two under their experienced Kidzania wings. We felt reassured as we saw them excitedly running in with maps in hand.
This left Pamela and Prunella kid free to explore with a 5pm pickup in mind. We were both keen to leave the even larger mega mall of Siam Paragon which houses Kidzania and even has an Aquarium containing a whale shark, to hit the city streets. First stop was the central city temple of Bangkok.
It is always mind boggling that in the throng and bustle that is BKK you can always find a slice of peace and quiet in its many temples. Entering the temple complex containing multiple buildings, lakes and gardens; you are taken back to a simpler time surrounded by beautiful religious art, sculptures, incense curtained alters, trickling fountains and beautiful flowers.
Then a short walk down the road to a famous four faced Buddha idol. There on an, open street corner was the golden image in a swirl of worshippers, dancers, incense and tourists.
Next a taxi ride to the Grand palace.
Pamela had this destination in mind on her last visit to Bangkok but had never gotten here. Now amongst the thousands of black clad mourners, being plied with free food and free drinks, we walked to the entrance of this historical site. Here we enjoyed the wonders of the palace whilst intersecting with the processions of mourners who were separated from us by roped areas and guards. It was definitely a historical experience and of course we beheld the famous emerald buddha. I was delighted to learn that it had travelled like us to Luang Prabang and Vientiane in Laos, plus changed it’s golden costumes in tune with the changing seasons.
Historical sources indicate that the statue surfaced in northern Thailand in the Lanna kingdom in 1434. One account of its discovery tells that lightning struck a chedi in Wat Pa Yia (Bamboo Forest Monastery, later renamed Wat Phra Kaew) in the Chiang Rai, revealing a Buddha covered with stucco inside. The Buddha was then placed in the abbot’s residence, who later noticed that stucco on the nose had flaked off, revealing a green interior. The abbot removed all the stucco and found a Buddha image made of a green semi-precious stone, which became known as Phra Kaew Morakot or the Emerald Buddha. “Emerald” here simply means “green coloured” in Thai. Some art historians describe the Emerald Buddha as belonging to the Chiang Saen Style of the 15th century AD, which would mean it is of Lanna origin. – Wiki
Before exiting we visited one of the many museums in the large complex, a perfect choice for a girls day out, the textile museum. Here we were delighted by the stunning building with it’s swooping marble staircases and the equally stunning fashionable dresses of Thailand’s first lady – Queen Sirikit.
We walked the nearby streets before catching a tuk tuk ride to pick up the boys and head home.