Even Better Than The Real Thing

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
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Trip End Aug 27, 2010


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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Our final two days in Bangkok didn't go quite as planned. Throughout our time there we’ve been using Frommer’s city guide and now having explored the city, it has proven to be almost entirely useless or worse than that, misleading. Much of the information is simply wrong; it’s understandable that prices may have changed since the research was done (although the book was only written in 2009), but surely ancient temples that have stood for hundreds of years haven’t recently moved a few blocks away – you’d think they could get their maps right. On several occasions incorrectly listed prices and/or opening hours meant that we missed or had less time than expected at some of the attractions.

On Thursday, to find something more kid-friendly, we trekked across the city to the Snake Farm; a division of the Red Cross of Thailand, originally established to milk snakes of their venom so that anti-venoms could be produced. Now, it is more of a tourist attraction where they do milking demonstrations and people have the opportunity to hold, touch and be photographed with various snakes. Unfortunately, the snake farm closes an hour earlier than our wonderful guide book said, and so having arrived ten minutes before closing we missed the demonstrations and only got to view snakes in their enclosuresL So, we headed to "the best camera store in the city" (according to our guide book) to investigate the possibility of buying a more powerful camera, only to find that it was a Nikon store specializing in high end cameras only.

We returned to our street with the nightly food market and had another wonderful dinner, before heading out in search of the massage centre that was recommended by the hostel we were staying in. We found it easily enough, though to our surprise we were tended to by a very accomplished band of completely bind masseurs. Initially we couldn’t see the point of blind masseurs (groan), but after an hour long foot massage, we realized that it actually seemed to enhance their sense of touch and skill level – wonderfully relaxing.
Still trying to find kid-friendly activities in Bangkok, we travelled to the far end of the sky-train line on Friday morning to the Children’s Discovery museum, an interactive facility targeted at 5-10 year olds. However, our research (which this time included internet research as well as our “trusty guidebook”) failed to yield the information that the museum was currently closed for renovationsL We took a taxi to Vimanek Mansion, an old teak mansion belonging to, and occasionally still used by, the Thai royal family. The guides there took a particular interest in our feet as they had never seen anything like Toe-shoes before and we were probably the only visitors ever allowed in without having to remove our footwear.

After the tour of the mansion it was off to the Indian visa office to retrieve our passports. Thankfully everything went as planned so we can look forward to our visit to India in May.

After six days in Bangkok it was time to say farewell and head further north. We took a day train to a small town approximately two hours from Bangkok called Lopburi. This ancient town has been inhabited since the 6th century AD, however truth-be-told it was not really history that took us there. Lopburi is famous (or infamous depending on your point of view) for some more recent inhabitants… a certain renegade band of mischievous thieves who are lightning fast and will steal your food, drinks or anything else they can get their hands on. Now, for any regular blog followers, you might be thinking of our earlier mustard-mugging near miss in Ecuador and maybe wondering whether we are gluttons for punishment! Maybe, so when we inevitably had our water stolen, one of the bandits tried to steal Alex’s cap, and two of them jumped Derek at the same time, you’d confirm that we got what we deserved. Now these robbers might not be quite human, but at 99.7% shared DNA, we’re pretty sure that it’s not all survival and basic needs that drive their behavior. By now you should’ve guessed that there’s a troupe of monkeys that rule the roost in Lopburi. They roam freely are as mischievous as they are numerous and revenue-generating. Once a year, the local people even hold a festival/feast in their honour.

So, as expected the animal fun began not long after leaving the train station; as we approached the centre point of “monkeyville” where the ruin of an ancient Hindu-turned-Buddhist temple plays host to hundreds of monkeys we found them sitting on rooftops, running along power cables and simply monkeying around. Our first warning of trouble came as we strolled along the sidewalk and were watching one cute little guy trying to drink from a “Coke Zero” can (even better than the "Real Thing" don't you know); when from behind another monkey attacked Sarah and tore holes in the grocery bag she was carrying (which amongst other things contained a bottle of Coke Zero….what is it about that stuff?). The assailant was chased away empty handed by a local street sweeper.

In the grounds of the temple, the monkeys are rampant, though are not allowed inside the temple itself, which contains the remains of two headless Buddha’s. Back outside the temple, it won’t surprise you to learn (if you’ve been keeping track of earlier monkey encounters on this trip) that Lauren was attacked by a monkey! She was carrying a large bottle of water and this was apparently too appealing to resist ….the monkey leapt onto her and bit a hole in the bottle (rendering it useless to us) and was unwilling to let go of Lauren’s hair or leave her alone until one of the temple staff intervened with slingshot in hand – clearly this sort of thing has happens all the time! Ironically, as the thief sat reveling in his glory, he in turn was robbed by another opportunistic compatriot (see video). Lauren wasn’t the only victim of the monkey this time though as while we were in the grounds, both Derek and Alex had monkeys jump on their heads and backs and even have fun springboarding off!

After the fun and games with the monkeys we wandered around Lopburi (Seven-11 surfing as usual for heat-relief) to investigate what else was on offer. Happening across the grand palace we discovered that we had lucked-out and arrived here on the weekend of a festival to celebrate the king. The palace was decorated with flowers and lights, there was a food bazaar, parades, musical and theatrical performances and nearly all of the locals were dressed in traditional (shiny silk) Thai clothing. We had a great time gorging and watching the festivities – a true unexpected bonus that is a real highlight of the trip so far.

After enjoying the festivities for a while we returned to the train station to catch our overnight train to Chaing Mai.
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Comments

Doug on

That would be Sawadee Krup for Derek and Alex. Good to see your kids
handling those bas^%$^ macaws well.

Denise Brown on

Can't wait for the next entry. That is too bad about the guide book, we used the Moon book when we went to Panama. We didn't get to use it too much as we haven't travelled beyond the city, yet.

delsar
delsar on

Hard to tell with these phonetic translations ... things seem to be spelled differently depending on where you are. Alex somehow finds it easier to remember this way :-) Anyways, how would you know .. its Sawadee Ka for you.

Camie Huber-Anderson on

Entertaining update as always! I was laughing so hard about Lauren's most recent monkey attack that I almost coughed up a lung! Abbey will email Lauren tomorrow.

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