Friday, 22 November 2013

Day 8 - In Bangkok

Floating Market, Tiger Temple and River Kwai Bridge

I had an early pickup at 6:20am to do the floating river market, river Kwai and the Tiger Temple. I had set my alarm for 5:30am, and by 5:40am, I received a call from We Tour Thailand advising me to be in the lobby at 6:10am....10mins makes all the difference at this time of the blinking morning. The driver was on time and so was I more to the point and I was also the first pickup. After we picked up the other guests which took a good 1.5-2hrs due to Bangkok traffic we  then made our way out of Bangkok city.
The First stop was the Floating Market which was great fun and would certainly do this all over again, absolute chaos, so many boats along the river, clashing into each other whilst the market stall holders hurl you in with their sticks and hook so you can take a close up view of their goods.

After 30mins along the river, we then went back to the bank where we could shop some more, it was here I brought a couple of bits for family members. After the Floating Market we moved on to see the Elephants where some people rode on them, I was not interested in this as I have ridden one before in India and on a tour in Phuket. Some other guests also did not bother with the Elephant ride so our tour guide who was constantly rushing us and putting a 2min time frame on everything so I named him "Mr quick, quick, 2min man", suggested that we go to a snake show, as most of the other people were going to go to kill time and save us waiting for the Elephant rides to finish, Snakes do creep my out but figured I would go with the flow. We drove about 10mins before we arrived at the show, and it was here that I realised that you had to pay to go in, it was only 200bht but that was not the point. The guide from We Tour Thailand "Mr quick, quick 2 min man" was by now starting to get on my nerves with his rushing around and blatant lies, he actually said to me when I was contemplating going into the Snake show that his previous guests had said it is "the best show they have ever seen".....absolute rubbish!! I just paid the money and went in and what a joke it was, I also did not like the way the Snakes were being spun around and grabbed and thrown from one place to another.

After the Snake show "Mr quick, quick 2 min man" rushed us on again to the van where the other guests from the Elephant show had been waiting, we drove on further and the group separated depending on what tour you had booked. After we was in our new groups we stopped for a spot of lunch. It was average to say the least, and after here we drove on for about another 1hr to The Tiger Temple. We spent about 20mins here, queuing and being led from one tiger to another snapping pictures, after which I realised was time to move on to the next stop so we did not even have time to feed the baby cubs which I had really been looking forward to.

Initially, I had wanted to do the VIP morning tour as people seem to have different reviews from when they visit in the afternoon, but due to the cost I decided against it. I have no idea if these Tigers are drugged but what I do know is that they were pretty lifeless some more than others, I am not sure when you are able to lift up any Tigers head from off the ground and simply place it into someone's lap without the Tiger literally biting your head off!!, but what do I know. 
Once we left Tiger Temple we drove on for about 40mins when we arrived at The River Kwai Bridge. We all got out of the bus and that's when Mr quick, quick 2 min man said we have 10mins, by this time everybody had really had enough of him so we decided to just take our time, think we stayed about 30mins on the bridge and never got to see the cemetery where the 7000 POW are buried. 

By the time we left it was roughly 5:30pm, and we got back to Bangkok city at about 7:30pm, I had met another lady on this trip from New York so we decided to get something to eat before we would say our good byes, we thought we would try the Sky view bar but that didn't go according to plan, me because of my flip flops and my new NY new friend because of her shorts. I did not even think of there being a dress code, Oh well, you live and you learn so in the end we just found a decent restaurant and had something to eat and a local Singha beer before we said our goodbyes as I was moving on the next day to Phuket.
Video link to the floating market

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Day 7- In Bangkok

The next morning, my plan had been to go to The Temples and on the way back do the Klongs. So, I showered and changed and went to Asok BTS, bought my ticket and changed at Siam to get the connecting train to Sathorn Pier to get the boat to the Pier. As I waited for the 2nd train, I suddenly felt tired so I turned right back around and went back to the hotel. I then partially slept\relaxed until 2pm when I suddenly felt awake again. I done a quick Google search to find out what time The Temples closed and figured I had time. I started my journey once again, heading to Asok BTS, taking the train to Siam, then getting another train to Sathorn Pier and get the boat. Once I arrived at Sathorn Pier it was quite hectic and there was 2 queues, the queue on the left had definitely been there the longest as most of the people in the queue had been there when I arrived at Sathorn Pier, I somehow got pushed into the queue on the right and thankfully when the boat came, the lady at the Pier let the rope down for my queue so we all piled on the boat, the people in the left queue also let their rope down and some of them managed to board until the lady realised and then quickly put the rope for there queue back up again, to which this caused some complaints to put it mildly. The boat was an experience itself, going from 1 stop to the next with the breeze, I would of been happy staying on the boat and just going with the flow. We eventually arrived at the stop for The Grand Palace and I followed the useful directions which was posted on Trip Advisor to get to the temple itself, plus you could also just follow all of the other tourists.

Fellows, please wear appropriate clothing if not you will be force to wear these Elephant pants!!

The palace was beautiful but as time was moving fast, I did not spend very long here, I had also wanted to go the other 2 temples but decided to give this a miss as I really wanted to do The Klongs, so I went back to the boat stop and took it to another stop which was a good ride away, this was where I was to hire the long tail boat and the man would take me along The Klongs for 500bht. As I had not realised how long it would take to get there, by the time I got there it was already 16:30pm so it soon started to get dark. I sort of regret doing The Klongs now but only because I didn't go on the Chao Praya dinner cruise because I wanted to do The Klongs instead and it was dark, so my regret is that it wasn't earlier but I will return to Bangkok and do it again at a sensible time and also do the temples all over again.
Long Tail boat

Along the Klongs

Along the Klongs

Along the Klongs

Along the Klongs

The Klongs tour lasted about an hour, after which I went back to the boat river stop to wait for the boat to take me back to Sathorn Pier.

On the boat going back to Sathorn Pier.
After I got to Sathorn Pier, I took the train to Siam and decided to pop into the cinema as Catching Fire -Hunger Games had been released the day before and I wanted to inquire how much it would cost to get the VIP treatment, this VIP treatment apparently consists of blankets, popcorn, refillable drinks and reclining seats, anyway the answer was 3000bht as they only charge per couple and not individually, so I gave this a miss!! I then headed back to Asok with the plan of eating in Terminal 21 as it was now getting quite late, came to realise Terminal 21 had already closed so I ended up having the most cultured and tastiest food ever....wait for it..McDonalds, after this I went back to the hotel as I had an early start the next day.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Day 6 - Bangkok

Arriving in Bangkok & Siam Ocean World

After a couple of hours of sleeping we arrived in Bangkok, went through passport control, collected my luggage and proceeded to arrivals where my transfer (at least this one bothered to turn up). I was dropped off to The Legacy Suites in the Sukhumvit area Soi 29, 4 star hotel but nothing glam, however the room was big and roomy! By the time I got to the hotel it was about 10am, but at check in they needed a deposit and I did not have enough money on me as I had only changed up a little bit of money when I got to the airport, I gave her the thai bahts that I did have and explained that I needed to go to the bank. The lady at reception was fine with this but I had also pre-booked tickets for Ocean World at the Siam Paragon shopping mall but this particular ticket meant I had to get there before 12pm that was apart of the deal and today was the only morning that I could fit this in. Luckily there was a room available for me at that time, so I showered and changed and headed towards Asok BTS station, bought my ticket for 28bht one way and was at Siam in around 10mins. I entered the shopping mall and noticed the sign for Ocean World and took the lift down, by this time it was about 12:20pm, but figured there was no harm in asking if I could still go in and luckily she let me in. It was my first aquarium visit so I really did not want to miss it although I had viewed the big display in Dubai mall.

Ocean World - Bangkok
A varied amount of sea life here, some not so pretty that I would have to brace myself to turn the corner wondering what I would be facing next. I spent about 1.5hrs looking all around me and sometimes just sitting and watching. After the time had passed, I went to leave the mall but wanted the ATM  to which I got "Computer says no", yep...good old Natwest had decided to block my card in case there was fraudulent activities....Here we go again!. I went back to the hotel and tried to ask the reception to call the Thai operator as Natwest had informed me before I left England that if I had to call them due to any problems, (ie, blocking my card), then I can reverse the call so this is what I was trying to do but then the receptionist advised that they do not have a Thai operator, in the end I went to my room and called the bank directly as I needed cash and fast! Got through to someone who then unblocked my card and told me they would credit my account with what I thought the cost of the call was to which I had no idea so I just said £15 and 24hrs later it appeared in my bank so I was finally able to withdraw cash and give the rest of my deposit to the lady at reception. That same evening I had planned to go to china Town but tiredness was creeping up on me, so in the afternoon I went to one of the many local 7-11's and bought some bits and bobs to put into the fridge and later that evening I went to Terminal 21 as the lady at the reception had advised that this was the best place to go locally for food. About 8pm I got to Terminal 21 which is about 10min walk from the hotel and it takes even longer to cross the damn road....still all part of the fun in Bangkok in my opinion. 
I was not used to the system in the mall as it was my first time in Bangkok, but if you have never been to Terminal 21, you get a card (pay as you go card type thing), go to a counter and tell them how much money you want to be topped up on the card and then you hand over the cash, you then go to whatever food\drink station hand over your card, tell them what you want and the price of the food\drink is deducted from the card. It took me a while to figure out what the heck I was doing. Anyway, once I got my food (80p), I was struggling to look for a table as the food court was packed. Whilst I was roaming I noticed another guy roaming and looking for a table with his tray of food. I find a table first and then he asked if he could join me, he had obviously noticed me before looking for a table and figured out I was travelling solo, so we sat and ate. He was from Germany and he was travelling around SE Asia and was due to move on the next morning. After the meal, my energy had picked up somewhat so he asked if I wanted to go 1 stop away on the MRT to where it is a bit more livelier, so I agreed as Bangkok is busy in numbers and the MRT is packed so I couldn't suddenly go missing. We went the 1 or 2 stops to Nana and yes, it was a lot more livelier in the lower Soi's rather than the latter Soi's where I was staying. I also said to myself, that next tine I would probably stay nearer to Nana BTS. As he was familiar with the place, he suggested a couple of bars, so we had a couple of drinks, couple of snacks, talked and people watched and this was my evening, I then took a taxi for 100bht back to the hotel.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Day 5 in Dubai

Seawings Tour

After an early night last night, I woke early as I had a pretty much full on day. I was due to fly to Bangkok that same night with a departure time of 23:10pm, but as I would be out during the day this also meant that I had to pack my stuff and check out of my room at The Bonnington. On this particular day, I had a Seawings tour booked for 11am, planned to visit the Souks and I also had afternoon tea booked at The Junsui in The Burj Al Arab for 4pm.
After I had showered, changed and packed, I called reception to arrange for them to collect my bags so I could be in the lobby by 9:45am as this was when Seawings was due to pick me up. I waited in the lobby and by 10:15am as nobody had turned up,  I asked reception to call them and it was then that they advised the flight had been delayed by an hour so my pickup was to come at 10:45am instead. I am an easy going person pretty much all of the time but at the price I paid for this trip I would of expected them to get a call or email to me as they had emailed the day before to confirm the booking and plus this meant I would loose an hour of my day. Anyway, there was not much I could do about it other than wait for the driver who eventually came and collected me at 10:45am. We arrived at the Jebel Ali Golf resort where we was due to depart from and because we was super early, I had to walk around a kill time though there was not much walking that I could do other than people watch the golfers on their buggies. Finally, we was called to the buggy to take us to the seaplane.

The route
The Burj Al Arab

The Palm

The World Islands

The World Islands

A developed Island

A partial view of The Burj Khalifa

This was a 1st time experience for me taking a Seaplane and I am glad I chose to do it especially in Dubai with all their amazing buildings. It was just a shame that the day was quite cloudy and there was a bit of turbulence which is why I guess the flight had initially been delayed. Would I do it again, no but I am glad that I did it and would recommend to those who can to give it a try.
Video link to the Seawings tour

The Souks

After the Seaplane trip, as I had a 2 way transfer, my plan was next to go to the Souks so I was supposed to ask them to drop me off at the creek where the Abra crosses but instead I said Dubai Creek which is where Seawings other branch was and for them it was not a problem as they had to drop one of their staff members there. Once, I got there I looked around and asked "where's the creek with the Abras", anyway, at this point I realised I had stupidly given them the wrong name and so I had to get a taxi to the Gold Souks, this annoyed me a bit although it was my own fault but it meant I was quickly running out of time and I was still yet to cross over on the Abra. I didn't have much time at the Souks at all, maybe an hour or so but I think it was enough to get a taste of it though an hour longer would of been sufficient enough for me, but this means I have to visit again the next time I come to Dubai.
The Abra

Gold Souk

Burj Al Arab

Once I got to the other side, I took a taxi to the Burj Al Arab for my afternoon tea, I got to the hotel at about 3:40pm so had a little time to browse and stop and stare at the decor. When I arrived there was many taxis outside which made me feel a bit more with the crowd as I too turned up in a regular taxi, although I am sure most of the people outside was staying at the hotel as opposed to me who can only afford afternoon tea! Again, this was to be a one of treat to myself.
The Burj Al Arab is a luxury hotel which stands at 321m (1,053ft) and it is the 4th tallest hotel in the world. It stands on an artificial island which is 280m from Jumeirah beach and connects to the mainland by a private curving bridge. It is shaped similar to the sail of a ship and is referred to as "the worlds only 7-star hotel".

The Entrance

Going up the escalator

Looking up

Rodeo Drive

Lift doors to go down 1 floor

Walkway to The Junsui

My table and view

                                         The Burj Khalfia in the distance if you look hard enough.

Addictive crackers with various dips - Liked A lot!

Crispy Wasabi Calamari Ring on Garl Ginger and Cristal Tobiko 
(Deep Fried Calamari, Wasabi, Sesame Seeds, Spring Onion) 

Liked A lot, though the ginger was quite apparent

Sushi Prawn Tempura Avocado Maki Roll 
(Japanese Style Deep Fried Battered Prawn)

This was fine

Indonesian Satay Bakar with Peanut Sauce (Chicken and Beef) 
(Indonesian Style Chicken and Beef Satay)

Very nice

Steamed Cantonese Dim Sum served with Soy Sauce - 
(Har Gao, Siew Mai and Vegetable Dumpling)

I discovered I am not a fan of Dim Sum

Pan Fried Radish Cake, Scrambled Egg with Xo Sauce
(Shitake Mushroom, Prawn and Chilli Sauce)

Could not stand this at all.

Crispy Banana Tempura with Green Tea Ice Cream served with Chocolate Sauce
(Chocolate, Almond Flakes, Fried Tempura Banana and Milk)

DELICIOUS but stuffed by now!

I also had a few glasses of Ice Tea, my favourite being the Jangsu with is described as (Life and Beauty infused herbal tea, cucumber syrup and lemon juice. Also the Apple Fantasy which is Apple fantasy tea, apple syrup with Lemon Juice.

The bathroom

Ceiling in the waiting area - Off course it is one of the most expensive in the world $1m Swarovski Crystals.


The base of the hotel

Jumeriah Beach Hotel

After the meal, I walked back out across the bridge and went to the taxi queue to get a taxi back to my hotel. Once there, I got my luggage and went up to the gym area and showered and changed, I had an hour to kill before my transfer and then finally made my way to Dubai airport to get my 11pm
flight to Bangkok. 
Video link to more pictures at The Junsui at Burj Al Arab
Video link to 3 days in Dubai
Departure to Bangkok
Whilst at the airport, I did a bit of browsing on cameras, now I was not going to buy one in Dubai airport but just wanted to check out the functions on the latest cameras and also get an idea of price. I was still in a dilemma weather to buy a new camera, stick with the current camera with the annoying lines or use my Iphone! Time quickly passed and then we was called to the departure gates. When I had previously checked in online earlier that morning, I had changed my seat to a row where it was empty so I was keeping my fingers crossed that it stayed that way. Boarded, stored my luggage, this time I had my camera in the carry on luggage, and sat down. It wasn't a full flight so before I knew it the doors was closing so I smiled sweetly to myself as it appeared that I had the window seat with the other 2 seats free, this was good enough for me and my 5ft2.5inch self. As we took off, I quickly started to browse the films and sitcoms, my plan was to put something on the screen with the headphones until I dozed off. My plan didn't go very well, because 30mins after take off, I noticed a slight figure about to sit down in the aisle seat in my row. As he sat, I looked at him and then he looked at me, crossed his legs, then bowed is head and smiled at me, I then returned the smile but instantly thought this is going to be an interesting flight. Soon after we started chatting, turns out he comes from Bangkok but works in Dubai, we spoke for a few hours and eventually I put my headphones back on and tried to watch a movie, my new friend however wanted to continue chatting. I dozed off at some point and then he must of woken me to ask me if I want to be woken when breakfast comes, I said "yes, please", I dozed off again and I was woken up again some time later by my new companion for drinks as he was going to get one for himself, it was at that point I decided to join him as I figured I would not get much sleep with my new companion.