Waiting to board the plane
So, we started our journey in not quite the way we intend to continue!
Our flight wasnt til 9.35pm on Thursday so we spent the day running around sorting out the last few (few=many) things we had left til last minute. We left for the airport at around 4pm, figuring it was better to be too early than too late. Thank god we did! We got there in plenty of time, arriving at 5.30 and headed straight for check in. We handed the lady at the desk our passports, grinning like loons because we were finally going. The lady then asked if we had onward or return tickets which we replied no to as we were planning to decide where to go next once we were there. She then asked if we had visas, again we said no. She then said that she couldnt check us in as we would need to speak to a rep before she could proceed.
Our personal TV's
We were told to take a seat as the rep wouldnt be down for another 15 minutes or so.
Fifteen minutes passed and there was still no sign of a rep so we asked a middle aged lady standing near us who looked like she was a tour rep or something. She said that Thai immigration are quite picky about who they let into the country, they like you to prove that you are planning to leave again, hence the onward or return ticket required. We were happy to purchase a ticket if it was refundable once we were in the country. She pointed us in the direction of the eva air ticket office, which was empty when we went to it. We hung about for a further half hour before anyone showed up. When we finally got to speak to someone we explained our situation and said we were happy to buy a ticket if thats what it took to get checked in.
The view from the plane
We were told that to purchase a ticket from them would be very expensive and very difficult to get refunded. We were told to go to the Thai airways desk and get a ticket from them, so with vague directions we set off to try and get this sorted. After explaining ourselves again, he looked up tickets to different places, seeing if he could find a cheap flight. The cheapest he found was one onward to Phuket
but it would cost us eight pound each to get it returned. Before we could even decide if we wanted to buy the ticket or not we found out that we couldnt buy the ticket as we hadnt purchased our original ticket from Thai airways. We trudged back to the check in desk and waited til the lady we spoke to in the first place had finished with her customer before nipping in to talk to her again.
Our first view of Bangkok
We then told her the big fat waste of time expedition we had just undertaken. She smiled sypathetically, took our passports and disappeared off to see what she could do, while we crossed our fingers and said a little prayer. After five minutes she returned and told us to go down to a desk a little way down to speak to a different lady. This lady was very friendly and very chatty. She spoke to us for a few minutes, having a laugh and a joke, looked up a few bits of information about immigration requirements on her computer then declared that we would be fine just as we were. It took us an hour and a half to be told that we could check in!! *swears several times*. Once our bags were checked in we headed upstairs for some food and a chance to de-stress.
A little piece of home
Once we had gotten over the checking in debacle we went through baggage check to the departure lounge. We had to wait a while before our departure gate was shown so we pottered round, looking at the various overpriced shops and bought a few snacks for the plane. At least after the hassle of this check in everything else would seem a breeze!
The plane was pretty nice, we had managed to get a window seat for just the two of us so no snoring stranger sitting between us for 11 hours. We also got complimentry slippers to wear, and individual tvs set into the back of the headrest in front of us! We could choose what we wanted to watch and when, with a range of films, tv shows and music channels to pick from. I watched a couple of films before settling down to sleep, or at least to attempt sleep.
Every alley is like this
The ride didnt seem quite as long as we knew it was, and landed at 3pm Bangkok time (that 10am UK). We approached immigration with some trepidation, rehearsing over and over what we would say to try and convince them we only wanted to be in the country a short time. Hearts thumping, we were waved forward by border control. We handed over our passports and waited for the questions to start. He told us to look at the camera, took our picture, handed our passports and waved us through. HUH?!? That was it???? We nearly pooped our pants the whole way across the ocean to be given a thirty second cursory glance and not even a hello? *stomps foot*Once we got outside we were hit by the heat, it was so intense we were slightly stunned by it. We found a taxi and gratefully climbed into air conditioned bliss.
Rachel enjoying a refreshing drink
it was a long drive to our guest house, which turned out to be down a dodgy looking alley, but we quickly realised every alley here looks dodgy. Our guest house was nice, air conditioned and clean, with western toilets. We didnt do much beyond venturing down to the guest house restuarant to get some food that first night.
The next day we headed across the road to our guest house's fellow facility for breakfast. It was a buffet breakfast that looked a bit ropey, rather tired looking fried eggs and pancakes sitting on a table along side rice and uncovered fruit. We picked what looked the safest, leaving the butter and jam which was full of wasps.
We have spent the last few days taking it easy, letting our bodies get used to the extreme heat, drinking plenty (water that is) and resting often, taking walks round the local area.
Our five star hotel!
The whole place has streams of stray dogs and cats wandering around, some being fed by locals, others perfecting their Puss in Boots (think Shrek) big eyes look. After two days we moved to another hotel, my birthday present from Rachel. Turns out it is a five star hotel!! On the way over our taxi driver asked if we wanted to visit a jewellery store (a popular scam), giving us a professional looking leaflet. We declined, he insisted that it would only take us five minutes with no obligation to buy. We declined again, and I said that we had people waiting for us at the hotel. He finally gave up after we insisted we had no time and wanted to go straight to the hotel.
The divide bewtween rich and poor is so stark here, just metres from the steps of our five star hotel there are homeless people sleeping on the street, you round the corner and you come across row upon row of stalls selling dvds, clothes, knives, binoculars, belts, and a host more, all claiming to be designer and all obviously fake.
We are planning to practice our bartering skills at some of the many markets here so look forward to your gifts people!
Today we went down to one of the markets on the skytrain to test out how easy it is to get around on the skytrain (way cheaper than getting a taxi and much safer than a tuk tuk!). We got off at the station and walked down, stopping to look at a buddhist display outside a shopping centre. As we were admiring it a Thai woman came up and started talking to us, first about the buddha display then asking us questions about where we were from then where we were headed . When we said the market she told us that it wasnt open as it was buddhist day. She then told us about a temple we could go visit, the 'lucky buddha', and she would sort out a tuk tuk for us as we didnt speak Thai.
We were a bit stunned by this so agreed, finding ourselves sitting on the back of a tuk tuk before we could blink. She had arranged with the driver to take us to the temple, wait for us and then drive us back for 20 Baht (thats 31pence). The ride to the temple was rather dodgy, we were thankful we couldnt see much as I think we would of been a lot more nervous than we were but we arrived in one piece. As soon as we arrived a guy popped up out of no where and tried to sell us a rather poor looking flower for 20Baht each as an 'offering'. I bartered him down to 20Baht for both *pats self on back* and walked about two steps where we were met by another guy who told us to place our flowers on a piece of wood outside the door. We then removed our shoes and entered the building when we all knelt down and the guy prayed.
Taxi's in every colour of the rainbow
Being not in the least religious I took the time to look around, spotting the cat that was shading itself under the buddha. We spent some time talking to the guy, trying to be polite. He said he was a laywer that had come by to pay his respects but I quickly got the inkling he wasnt quite everything he made out. He was asking too many questions about where we were staying and where we were going, telling us that the market we said we were going to was closed and offering to take us to a travel agency to get us discounts on travel, 30% off but 'for this day only'. We said no, I told him we were with a group of people and would have to talk to them first. As we were leaving he asked if we wanted to buy jewellery, rubies and sapphires were his exact words. We declined saying we needed to get to the market, he again said it was closed and that he could take us straight to the travel agency. I stated that we were meeting our friends at the market and if it was closed we should go meet them immediately as they would be lost and better get going. Turns out we ended up at a dodgy gem store anyway as our tuk tuk driver took us there. He practically begged us to go in, saying he gets gasoline vouchers for bringing us and that we had no obligation to buy. A group of guys that had obviously been caught in the same scam turned up just as I was gearing up to have a row so I figured that if anything kicked off (like not being allowed out until we bought something) we could let them sort it out so went in, walked very briefly round and came straight back out again without any trouble. We then got taken to our intended destination, and would you believe it, it was very, very OPEN!!
Its going to be a case of trust no one except each other, take everything told to you with a pinch of salt and always go and find out for yourself.