Wat Arun and a Myanmar visa

Day 56, Wednesday 29 Feb 2012, Bangkok

Leap year this year, huh – Wahoo, 0ne more day of travelling!

Today we go back to the Myanmar consulate to (hopefully) get our visas. We have booked flights to Yangon from Bangkok on the 12th March, with me returning to Bangkok on the 27th and Mike flying to Kuala Lumpur to head to Europe.  In the meantime we will do a quick tour of Cambodia and head off by bus to Siem Reap tomorrow morning.  The consulate opens at 3.30 so a slow start to the day.

I spent some time on the internet this morning, updated the blog “The Plan” page with the new details and caught up with a mass upload of photos to Flickr, as I was way behind, all this interneting is time consuming, and I still owe a few people some emails – so sorry!

We left the hostel around mid-day and stopped at a hawker stall on the street for an absolutely delicious banana and chocolate crepe, for the massive sum of about 40 cents. Auckland really needs to have this sort of street food – of course it would be against some food or health regulation ! We took a couple of trains back out to the Chao Phraya river and caught the ferry again up to the Wat Pho stop like the other day. This time we jumped on another ferry that just went back and forth across the river to Wat Arun.  Not sure if I would eat this guys catch to be honest.

Skippering a ferry across the river is not that exciting obviously, when we set sail and were aimed in the general direction of the far bank, he continued his knotting and steered with his knees.

Obviously nothing sexist about the dress code! Personall,y I think shorty shorts should be encouraged, with conditions attached of course.

Wat Arun translates to temple of the dawn, and it would be fabulous to be there at sunset, though I think I would really struggle to get there at the moment, cannot get enough sleep and feel really groggy in the mornings. The Prangs (the large towers) were built in the early 1820’s and are decorated with shells and bits of porcelain. We spent an hour or so wandering around the site. There is info  on it here.

http://www.watarun.org/index_en.html

In the cloisters, under the encircled buddha figures are hundreds of photos, I am assuming of people whose ashes may be in the cloisters, I could not find any information about it, the site itself has very little information available in English sadly.

Climbed the very steep staircases, it was great to be to get close to the detail.

For some great views over Bangkok.

I took a lot of photos of stone heads again; they had quite a few different ones to Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. I have posted these in a prior post as there were a few : ) but I do think they are cool.

We then caught the ferry back to the other side, had a quick lunch and caught the ferry back to the  train and the train back to the Myanmar Consulate where we got our visas – Yes !!! mission accomplished, a day later than planned, but at least we have visas and can now fly to Yangoon in 12 days knowing we wont get kicked out at the border.

After the consulate it was a train back to the hostel and some lying down, very tired tonight, we had an early dinner. We were planning on going back to the place we ate at last night as it was so good, however it was closed. I really wanted rice as I had a noodle dish for lunch, but none of the rice options appealed so we went to the cafe we had dinner at a couple of days ago. Sadly it was not great, very greasy pad thai. I left feeling bloated and blah – hope it is not something coming on, as tomorrow morning we leave for Angkor !!  Early night.

The music bit…

As promised – The Subliminals.  I first got into The Subliminals through Michael and Chantal, two of my bestest friends.  Jared, the bass player was a friend of theirs and after hearing their EP and seeing them live I was hooked.  The music speaks for itself, just fabbo!, lots of droney post rock, with the odd vocal track thrown in.

This clip is from the recent Flying Nun 30th anniversary gig and I am still kicking myself for not going to this show.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiCEU0vlrNw&feature=autoplay&list=AVGxdCwVVULXeE02xMfqJG3Z-xzf_DvPIa&lf=list_related&playnext=1

A day at the embassy

Day 54, Monday 27 Feb 2012, Bangkok

Grrrrr, lousy sleep again, so tired again today, I really wish I could just go to sleep any where and any time and sleep till I wake up or the morning – whatever is more important at the time. It is so frustrating.

Today was Myanmar visa day, so Mike and I set off soon after 8.30 to the Myanmar embassy, it is conveniently located close to the Surasak Skytrain station which is the station before Saphan Taksin, where we caught the boat yesterday, in fact the skytrain almost goes over the top of the embassy. (subtle hints for anyone thinking of a Myanmar visa)

In rush hour being a monk would be a good thing, as long as you were first on.

 The embassy opens at 9.00 and we arrived at 9.15, there was already a big queue waiting to get in.

The word on the street was to go up to a small shop just up the road to buy the visa form for a few cents so it can be filled in on the street while waiting. The shop will also photocopy the front page of your passport and take the required two passport photos (and sell you a pen) if you need all that stuff. It was a nice little business for them, and handy for tourists, so good for us travellers to support those who show initiative – and don’t try to rip us off…

It took about thirty minutes to get to the door of the visa section, luckily we were in the shade as it was hot already. Mike getting excited about getting into the air con !

Once inside we queued for another thirty minutes or so, just to get a number so we could sit and wait some more…. after almost another hour our number was called, we handed over the passport and the money and left, two hours after we arrived. Passport pick up was between 3.30 and 4.30. it was now 11.30 so Mike and I decided to catch the boat again and head up to the infamous Khao San Rd to check it out.  KSR is not infamous for its girly bars it is primarily famous as the backpacker hub of Bangkok, but for the beer guzzling, party all night type of backpacker, not the forty somethings interested in temples and stone heads type, hence we are not staying there.

This monk was obviously second on the train this morning!

KSR is a couple of streets away from the river and we stopped for lunch at one of the big backpacker cafes, I had a very nice chicken cashew and banana/coconut shake. We started to see the first signs of KSR habitués here, a few dreadlocked and tattooed teenagers drinking large bottles of cheap Anchor beer for lunch. It is definitely a more bogan area than the hostel we are staying at– and I imagine a hell of a lot noisier at night, though the day time liveliness is good. We only had an hour so it was a quick walk around.

Loved these phone boxes.

While waiting for the boat I had a wee walk around and found Phra Sumain Fort, built in the late 1700’s. As part of the defence of Bangkok –  a moat was built around the city, with fourteen forts at strategic points. Only two forts now remain – unfortunately you cannot go into them.

While reading some ones blog on applying for Myanmar visas this morning I found a reference to Bangkok’s ghost towers. Apparently there are (were) a number of unfinished and therefore deserted towers scattered around the city, they have collectively been called ghost towers and are popular with a certain type of photographer. We passed one today….

We got back to the Myanmar embassy just after 3.00 to join the (not so) happy throng waiting to collect their visas, it was stinking hot so we all gathered on the shady side of the road, away from the visa section door. At about twenty past a couple of people started to gather near the door and then there was a sudden rush to queue in the sun, luckily they opened the doors a few minutes early!

And here the story turns – well, not bad, more – frustrating.

After five minutes of queuing I got to the counter and handed over our ticket to collect our freshly visa stamped passports, and….. was advised that ours would be ready on Wednesday as we had paid for a three day turn around and not a one day…. F**K. There was not one single sign or notice of any kind inside the embassy advising on visa turnaround times or how much the visa cost, when I handed in the forms was I was told 1820 baht so that is what I handed over… Oh well, back to the hostel and hope we can get two more nights (we could). We had planned on another day in Bangkok as I want to do some shopping for travel things, insect repellent for instance and I also want to post some stuff back to New Zealand, all the clothes are clean mum – honest. Guess we get another day of sightseeing – yay more temples!

We headed back to the hostel and I managed to find a cardboard box at the local hardware store, I have tried a few places lately, so I can package up things to post – going to send the tri-pod back as it is getting heavy to lug around and I am not using it enough , along with some clothes and all the tickets and brochures and crap I have collected over the last few weeks (most of which I am sure I will toss when I finally get home !).

After a wee lie down we wandered up to the supermarket where I bought a bottle of whisky – no need to rush out of bed tomorrow and a packet of Pringles.  Though I did stop and get some satay chicken and salad for dinner on the way back to the hostel.

Another night in, blogging, emailing and drinking cheap scotch!

The music bit.

Loves Ugly Children were a Christchurch band from the late eighties to mid nineties, they released two or three great EP’s (I have two and may be missing one) and a couple of great albums and remain one of my favourite NZ bands.  Flying Nun records are apparently about to release a compilation CD, which I will look fwd to getting.  Their sound moved around a bit, but underneath the noisy/punky/thrashy sound was some great pop song writing. Simon McLaren has to be one of NZ’s best un-heralded musos, he was in The Subliminals as well, which I will do tomorrow I think. I will also confess to a wee crush on the bass player Fluff back in the day….

The worlds biggest market

Day 52, Saturday 25 Feb 2012, Bangkok

As seems to be the tradition lately I had a lousy sleep, if I  slept at all.  Up earlyish for an explore of the hostel and to see if they had free breakfast at or at least coffee –  they do.  The hostel is nice, roof garden, good views and a nice little shrine out the front. We are on the 4th floor, under the roof garden and there seems to be a good number of, mainly young, people here. It was a good choice I think, hard to choose hostels on the internet.

After breakfast I got the wireless log in and checked my email and had a message from an old friend Trudi.  I travelled Europe in a Volkswagon Kombi van in 1987 with Trudi, two of her sisters and my then wife, Deana. Trudi is Australian and is working for their immigration service out of Colombo in Sri Lanka and has come to Bangkok for the weekend with her daughter Bella. We made a plan to meet for a meal later in the day, it will be great to catch up as I have only seen Trudi a couple of times in the past twenty five years.

The plan was to go and see some of the key sites this morning and then head to one of the big malls for some aircon, lunch and for me to get a few things, zip lock bags, new board shorts, t-shirt and more USB drives being top of the list. However the hostel manager told us to go checkout Chatuchack, supposedly the worlds biggest market, which is only open on the weekends and a convenient ride away on the Skytrain – so we did…

The market is huge ! 9000 booths selling a mix of clothes, shoes, bags, shoes souvenirs, fake watches, jewellery, household items and general tat. I loved it and could have spent a day there perusing and shopping. The t-shirts were amazing, the best range I have ever seen of t-shirts that I would buy for ME to wear, I may go back tomorrow and buy a load to post to NZ, at about $5 a shirt you cannot go wrong. I did buy some new O’Neil brand boardies ($10) a t-shirt ($5) and a pair of shorts with zip pockets ($6), that I wore tonight and may be a bit small, damnit – i think it was all the beer 🙂

Not one of the shirts I would wear, but i did like it.

We walked around for a while and then stopped at a food stall for, what was an awesome, chicken noodle and cold drink lunch.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the market, especially after the Philippines, was it was entirely smoke free, even outside ! Bangkok – you are awesome.

We then caught the Skytrain to the MBK mall which was on the way back to the hostel, this mall is again huge with over 2500 shops!

But similar stuff to the market, though I did pick up another dry weight t-shirt for a couple of bucks and will send some other less useful clothes back to NZ tomorrow – though mum,  I will wash them all first time ! I sent mum a package from Miri in Malaysia with some not quite so clean articles in and it just arrived the other day, I think mum had to wait a couple of days to build the courage to open it.

On the subject of packages, earlier this week I also received an email from the shipping company in Auckland advising that the box of stuff I delivered to them before Christmas to ship to the UK (my good camera, laptop and winter clothes) finally left on Feb 24th!

 Outside the mall there was a group of what appeared to be uni students, doing something, not entirely sure what, there was a small march and some “singing” and dancing and some dressing up, I dont think all the girls were girls 🙂

After the mall we went back to the hostel and I did the usual catching up with blogs and emails and talking to friends. I also gaffer taped over the video record button on my camera as I keep accidentally pressing it and recording hours of video of the inside of the lens cap – and flattening the battery. I finally found a use for the small amount of gaffer tape I brought with me! Some bits around the hostel.The neighbours.

I caught up with Trudi and Bella at Asok station, couple of stops up the line from where I am staying, we had dinner in one of the local food places and it was the hottest noodles I have had – had to have a couple of Singha’s to wash it down. Great to catch up with Trudi and I am tempted to go to Colombo on the way over to Europe. I will see what flight options there are.

The view from Asok station.

After dinner I had a beer on the hostel roof with Mike and then called it a night.

A good first day in Bangkok, clean, easy to get around and reasonably hassle free – it was much better than I expected.

Auckland band Muckhole were around in the late nineties but I only saw them once. It is a big call but I think they are my favourite ever Auckland punk band, I mean I loved the Spelling Mistakes and the Scavengers, The Warners and a string of other bands, but these guys were cool and their records were well made and sounded great. Muckhole – Cool guy