As always we were on a budget and was told of a super cheap way of getting there, by train (sleeper in fact) so I shot down to Ipoh station to enquire, lucky for me which is not always the case I got someone who could speak good English (thank the lord) and they explained to me that there were only two tickets left in the whole of December for that train...yesh the whole of December!!! I was asking on the 4th... the only day you could get to Bangkok was on the 13th of December and they were the only two tickets available. I paid immediately and I paid 113 MR for me bottom bunk (larger) and 103 MR for Stephanie top bunk. This price to travel 22 hours on a train was £17 each thereabouts....British Rail eat yer heart out.
Of course being Malaysia we could not catch the train from Ipoh we had to go to another station called Butterworth and the bus to that location was 20 MR (£3) each.
In Malaysia I have to say never try to get close connections when travelling, the bus drivers and train drivers just leave when they are good and ready regardless of what your watch says, they call it Malaysian time, our bus left an hour late...and that is very reasonable in Malaysia, we were lucky.
In Butterworth all of the buses, trains and ferry's over to the island all depart from the same location, so we popped across to wait for our train....there I was expecting a huge 10 carriage monster but a piddly 2 carriages rolled up and we all got on, the train was at first sight very basic and even uncomfortable and we could not work out how we would sleep at all, what we did not realise was that your sleeper part of the ticket only starts at the border with Thailand before that seats were sold so we had people next to us until then.
The border was cool, and the passport control was on the middle platform, so we all got through and back on the train, there were massive clunks and bangs as other Thai carriages were added on including a buffet car and more sleepers, then loads of ladies and men pile on with offerings of food, some very strange items it has to be said some not so. This happened every time the train stops, and you could as I did buy food straight out of the train window by just catching their eye or by calling them over. Another thing that's cool on Thai trains is that no doors are locked they let the breeze flow through so all of the windows are wide open and in the join between carriages you can sit with your feet dangling outside, you could even jump off at stops as many locals did, even in between stations when the train slowed crazy but fun. I found myself sitting there watching the world go by, an experience you'd never get in the UK..
The Journey through Thailand with the wide window view we had was stunning, it is a beautiful albeit poor country, the landscape really is a joy to watch go by and we were touched by it because you see how they farm the land and their methods clearly have not changed over the years and look so out dated, but the romance of it all, its as if you could taste it. But of course this must be a very hard life, and the poverty on the railways edge looked painfully sad.
As twilight drew near we were fascinated to see how they started to set the beds up, and the basic seats we had turned into lush freshly clean sheeted beds mmmm, it was so cool I was like a 5 year old, being on the bottom bunk too was great as I had the window view, but Steph snuggled down for a while as it was that large....sleeping was a breeze and when morning came I just sat up and watched the sun-kissed landscape roll by, it was something I will never forget and hope to repeat, SEAsian trains are kinda cool.
During the night though id awaken occasionally when the train stopped at a station, you'd look up and out of the window looking all sleepy and be seen by loads of people looking in at you waiting at the station, but not only that your in the nod and they are bemused by your state, and remember a lot of people in Thailand sleep on small station platforms as they stay dry. It was interesting to say the least.
Well as we slowly wound our way into the seething metropolis of concrete Bangkok, it was sad to see the country fade into a concrete jungle, they were doing so much work along the railway lines, building a mono rail above ground I believe. Slowly the train creaked its way in, crossing multiple lanes and criss crossing tracks on its way in. Bangkok station is in itself not too bad, a small crappy imitation of Waterloo in London from 1978 ha ha....with really weird food....(I was starving)
We got off and walked into our first real experience of Thailand, the shouting of taxis drivers tuk tuk drivers all baying for your financial blood, once we escaped them we caught the mono rail, got lost and then slowly found our way to the hostel (sweating profusely at this point). The hostel we used was a flashpackers called Lub D Hostel (meaning 'sleep well' in Thai). It was a hostel I would recommend with a bar and great staff, beds are as you'd expect, but all you needed was there, even a travel agents etc etc.
Be in no doubt Bangkok, is not traditional Thailand in any sense, it is a manic crazy fucked up place, where everyone is baying for your money, you are seen as nothing more than a walking wallet, the hostel protects you from about 2M from the door, but as soon you walk out side of that imaginary zone, the shouts start...''Hey you where you go?....come I take you now get in!!!!'....etc etc etc. The Taxis are a complete rip off and most of the Tuk Tuk drivers have scams where your taken to shops and get locked in until you buy something off of their sponsors....!! crazy but fun..well sort of.
In Bangkok we saw in our short time there -
- The Grand Palace 500 Bhat. - stunning really really stunning, something I will never forget.
- The laying huge Buddha - again a wonderful experience, tearful in its beauty, very emotional if honest.
- Travelled by the river boats most of the time.
- Experienced dodgy and good tuk tuk rides.
- Saw the craziness of real china town...
- Climax the Night club (the most famous lady boy club in Bangkok)....we made it out alive just!!
- Koa San Road - an amazing experience not to be missed...we stayed until 6:30 am...no need to do it again though at our age...amazing.
- Found a superb blues band Bar and drank cocktails on a street corner whilst listening.
- Met some great peeps.
That aside the markets are fun, I bought some Birkenstocks for £3 (they lasted me 3 weeks then i dumped them) killed me feet to be honest, i got some Thai shirts nice to be fair for about £3 not sure if washing will destroy the stitching well see. so you can get cheap stuff but my oh my it is crap......also when you buy something out here after you've paid they tap all the other items on the stall with your cash as if to spread the fortune of a sale over the stall, again the romance is nice. You do get hassled a lot and after a while it can get a bit annoying but thats Bangkok for ya.
It is without doubt the Palaces that took our breath away, some of the sculptures the Buddha's the buildings and the detailing is very impressive indeed, we were touched by it all, it was in a spiritual way very emotional, you could not help but be in awe and be humbled by it. It really was beautiful and we timed it right as we were nearly the last to leave the Grand Palace and we simply did not want to. The amount of pictures we took of the palaces is crazy and to many to show here you really must visit and for the best pictures get up early or go late to get the lower sunlight it catches everything and will make you pictures better, it is and will always be worth the money for sure. At the bottom of the post we have selected about twenty images or so to try and convey how impressive it was, i was very interested in the forms and the detailing hence some of pictures show this instead of classic shitte holiday pics or twaty selfies...hope you enjoy them.
We then bought some train tickets 2nd class to Hua Hin, down the coast and hoped for some Rest and relaxation away from the city hustle and bustle, the tickets were in a fanned carriage no aircon we paid about £7 each, for a 5 hour train trip approx. buying tickets were easy, and we love travelling by train in SEAsia. The train itself was comfy enough with big old reclining seats and we were not the only Europeans on this train either, lots of travellers.
Whilst waiting for the train to move onwards I once again found myself chilling in the doorway between carriages facing away from the platform side and watched kids washing in the water that was being released from another train, it is these scenes that touch you SEAsia, no police hassling them nothing, just having a wash on the railway line..simples.
Enjoy the pics off to Hua Hin next down the coast.
They are black before being sealed gold, I thought it made an interesting picture, some of the people were still working on them and there seemed to be no shortcuts or secret quick methods, it was intricate slow and meaningful work done by very dedicated people....attention to detail lost on the modern youth of today.
The Grand Palace will never be forgotten it was too beautiful really, it stays with you....
Hundreds of pictures we took, none of them really do it justice as is often the case, you'd need private access and hours with many lenses to get it in its best light....we tried.
Personally I loved the colours and the lines, the tiling and the layouts and space used in its design, courtyards creating such peace and serenity, even with tourists around you would occasionally find yourself alone, and you didn't want the peace and quiet to end, you kind of wanted to stay all night, well I did.
Thats all folks....off somewhere else now.