Thursday, 10 May 2007

Arrival in Bangkok, Thailand

Well here we are finally. After a wonderful flight we arrived at 5.15am rather tired but VERY excited. Found a gorgeous hotel for the first night ( a two room suite for a little more than what you would pay for a Travel Inn in London!!) and then we managed to find a more reasonable place for the rest of this week. Pool for the kids and free wi-fi for us.
Bangkok is a filthy city but absolutely wonderful too. Just like the flight attendants on the plane all the hotel staff wear fantastic traditional Thai clothing. There are so many amazing things to see, along with the extremely bizarre also! We are constantly pointing things out to each other.

8th April 2007
Just managed to scrape in for breakfast at the Asia Hotel before checking out and leaving for the Hotel De Moc. Fantastic lobby area but the corridors are a little reminiscent of The Beach! The girls checked out the pool straight away before we decided to brave a Tuk Tuk ride. They are built to take a maximum of 3 passengers but it's nothing to see 4 or 5 people squashed into one. So we decided to do as the locals and squeezed ourselves (Lara on my knee!) into one for a memorable experience.
We visited the Khao San Rd, saw strange sights and had two currys for just 50 baht (75p!!) and got a 5 min taxi ride home that took an hour as the driver took us to the wrong hotel. As we have heard of many scams with taxi drivers we were rather worried. He kept insisting that as he drove many officials and politicians around Bangkok he knew where he was and was in the right area. Finally after much nail biting on our part he admitted he was in the wrong area and realised his mistake.

9th April 2007
Feeling a bit jet lagged today. Not quite with-it! Just finishing our work and then hoping to go to the Bethel later if we can find a better taxi driver than last night!
Girls have just been in the pool for a couple of hours. Need to do some lessons later I think, but at the moment everything here is an amazing education for all of us.

10th April 2007
We got up early today to finish our work and leave before lunch for the Bethel. We managed it despite it starting to rain again. The guy at the front desk wrote out the address for us in Thai and ordered us a taxi. They were laughing at where we wanted to go and we were worried it was a bad area ,but it seemed that they were laughing at the chances of getting a taxi over there. When it rains everyone gets in a taxi and there are traffic jams everywhere. It wasn't too bad though and only took about 30 mins. We found the address no problem and walked down a little side street to a building with a large fence around. Nick rang the bell and we were hoping that someone would answer after all our effort. A couple of minutes later the door was answered by a tiny little sister (she was almost a head shorter than Lara!) who told us that it was no longer the Bethel but a missionary home. She invited us in and got us all some water to drink. We all introduced ourselves, her name was Lita and she is from the Philippines. She has been here since 1960 as a missionary and there are six in the home. The Bethel was moved in 1980 but still has it's registered address here for legal reasons. She told us that there was an English meeting that evening not far from us and also gave us some Thai literature and the address of the Bethel. We told her that we would try and make the meeting but had to collect our laundry so were not sure.

Next stop MBK centre for some mobile phones. This turned out to be the hugest shopping centre we had ever seen. Full of stall after stall of absolutely anything you could imagine. The fourth floor was phones, Ipods and other gadgets. Some genuine and a lot fake. We just got the phones though as none of us were in a shopping mood.

Came back around 4pm and had a quick doze before heading off to see if our laundry was ready. We decided to go in our meeting clothes and see if we could make it to the Kingdom Hall. We got there 5 mins early but it was all ready and beautifully ironed. Two bags all for the grand total of £3!!

After asking about five or six taxis to take us ( for some reason the all shook their heads when shown the address) we found one. The little sister had said it was just around the corner from the Khao San Rd but Nick (sensibly) said we should go right away in case we couldn't find it. Good job he did!! 45 mins later in the taxi we arrived, not quite around the corner! It was on the 14th floor of a large tower block. As soon as we walked in Lita saw us and showed us that she had saved seats for us at the back in case we were late. Everyone was so welcoming. 18 different nationalities!!! Truly united every where we go. One of the brothers took Nick to one side and asked if we would be willing to move permanently to Chang Rai in the North as there is a huge need there. Even for us thats a bit too much when we have only been here for 4 days!! It was a lovely experience though to meet all the brothers. The girls commented that it is amazing how it is all the same even though we are virtually on the other side of the world.

As we were all really hungry we ended up back in Banglampu at 'Hippie Hi' for a lovely meal. It's a bar and restaurant in one of the old Bangkok teak houses. Great atmosphere and wonderful food.

11th April 2007
Did some maths and history with the girls this morning. Lara chose Malaysia and Candace chose Cambodia. Bit of a long work morning but we were finished by 1pm and had lunch in the hotel here before deciding to get a taxi to the Bethel. The guy at the front desk said it should take about an hour. We decided not to dress in meeting stuff as we had worn it all day yesterday we have each only brought one outfit and also and we weren't absolutely sure that it was going to actually be the Bethel.

Anyway after an hour and a half ride in the taxi we arrived outside some huge gates at what was obviously the right place. We thought that if we explained about the lack of smartness we would be ok!! Not a chance. We had to borrow some clothes which was rather funny really. Anyway this old brother who came over here in the 30's as a missionary showed us around the place. They don't actually print here, it's all sent from Japan. The Thailand Bethel distributes to the congregations here and to Cambodia, Laos and Burma mostly. They are mainly concerned with the translation and most of the Bethel is geared up for that. Then it is sent to Japan for printing. Well we felt really good after the visit. Missionary home, meeting & Bethel all in a couple of days!!!

13th April 2007
Got up early today as we were getting the bus to Trat and then a ferry over to the Island of Koh Chang. The minibus came to collect us at 8am to drop us at the coach. It took about 2hrs to actually leave Bangkok as they had pick-ups on the way. The coach was packed to capacity but not a bad journey with reclining seats and a lunch stop. Seven long hours later we arrived in Trat to catch the ferry which only took ten minutes.

All went well until we got in the taxi. The taxis here are like pickups with bench seats along either side in the back. Ok so far. Our backpacks got thrown on the roof and we climbed in. We knew that it was the big Thai festival Songkran, the Thai new year with big water fights, but what we didn't think of was how wet we would get in the back of the pickup. It was fun at first but then we started to panic as we had the laptop backpack in with us with our two new computers in and the bag I was holding had our lovely Nikon in that we had bought for the trip. There was nothing we could do though so we just asked the driver to drop us at the nearest Place we could see to stay on our now very soggy guide book. It turned out not too bad as it was some huts right on the beach. Rather primitive but nice and cheap. More importantly when we checked, everything was ok and not damaged by the water.

We laid everything out to dry and found a lovely place to eat overlooking the beach. Rather hot that night as we had just one fan and no aircon. France prepared us well however and we decieded to stay for three nights till the festival was over.

14th April 2007
Basically just got VERY wet all day today while exploring Klong Prao beach. We bought a few sarongs and bits that we needed. We asked around a bit to see if anyone knew of a house to rent for a month or so. Also found a better place to stay for the week on Kai Bae beach just a bit further south.

Spent two hours in an internet cafe catching up on some work while the girls read some books and looked in the shops.

15th April 2007
Studied our watchtower outside the hut. Great spot for a meeting! Then we decided to have a lazy day just on the beach as we did not feel like getting wet again. After three days of it we were a bit fed up of trying to dry things out!!

16th April 2007
Packed up quite early and got a taxi to Kae Bae. Thank goodness no more water fights (never thought I'd say that!!). We've got two huts here next to each other, one for Nick & I and one for the girls.

We got settled in, unpacked a few things and found a fantastic place for lunch. It's a restaurant / bar right on the sand and totally built around some palm and banyan trees. The most amazing place we have ever seen. You sit on cushions on the floor to eat and there are also hamocks near each eating area to relax in after your meal. The downside is the name - Porn Restaurant!!

Found a little wi-fi cafe just down from it overlooking the beach so that is where we will work for the next couple of days. For a Monday work was good and we were finished in about two hours.

We plan on doing some elephant treking tomorrow.

17th April 2007
Plans went awry as straight after breakfast Lara was ill. She had bad stomach cramps and we were a bit worried. Homeopathic kit to the rescue however and a belladonna remedy later she was tons better. We thought we would leave the treking though to another day and just let her take it easy.

Had a lovely swim in the sea, even Lara felt up to it. Went back to Porn's for lunch and had the most gorgeous vegetable tofu & noodle soup.

Found a lovely little organic coffee shop this evening whose owner is trying to do so much for the fairtrade coffee industry in Thailand. He says that the problem is that a lot of Thai people don't want to help as their Buddhist religion teaches that if you have it bad in this life not to worry, just wait till the next one and it will be better. He tries to promote the coffee from the growers in the North of the country.

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