We have been in two places since I last sat down to write a blog. One is a small town, and the other is Bangkok.It is there where we joined more than 8 million other souls in queues of varying lengths. If you type ‘ ten things that I must do in Bangkok ‘ into the WWW. you get page after page of exotic options. They begin with the obvious and end in the deviant or downright expensive. If you type the name of the town where we are now Wiki has nothing much to add beyond the blindingly obvious ‘ it’s near Bangkok ‘.
We have stayed in Nakhon Pathom longer than we intended, and we like it very much indeed. Even when you have typed into the WWW. all three ways that you have seen it spelt, there is still almost nothing to recommend it. There is something very relaxing about being in a place that has absolutely nothing to recommend it. Our journey mostly bumbles along without any need to rub up against the ‘ to do list ‘ that comes with tourism. But when you come up against a tourist heavyweight like Bangkok there is a list, and its longer than a Chinese menu.
We left the bikes and most of our gear with the good people at the Whale Hotel in Nakhon Pathom, and took public transport into the city. In just over an hour we were there, and rather remarkably we had not been involved in a crash. We took a taxi into the city, ” The Grandville Hotel please driver “. Thirty minutes into our drive around the city and the driver pulled over and sheepishly admitted to us that he had never heard of the place. ” We will drive around maybe you see it “.
We had considered this problem, and had planned ahead. Out comes the computer and a screen shot of Google map. ” Here, Grandville Hotel! “. Big smile still, but not the slightest flicker of comprehension. How do you quickly bring up to speed someone who has not the first understanding of maps, and as a side issue, is that not one of the major skill sets needed for being a taxi driver. ” We drive around maybe you see it “.
We try a bit of that, but then we pull over at for a chat with other drivers. We are off again, and within 15 minutes we are on the correct side of the city, and in another 5 we have waved our goodbyes to the driver and are in The Grandville. Floor 23, my ears pop in the elevator it is that high. We open the curtains. Bloody hell!
Bangkok is not even in the premier league of cities, yet it manages to look and feel vast. The contrast with what we have been riding through is giddying. Viewed from our room on the 23rd floor we are intimidated, we just want to stay up here and watch for a few hours and then go ‘ home ‘.
Charles Dickens would have been in a better position to understand what he was looking at than us. We are used to the grim things of commerce being done outside the city, done in big sheds and unseen. Engineering and things that smell of swarf and oil are done in industrial units that sit in an orbit between the ring road that was built in the 70’s and the one that has had to be built in the last decade. Here, everything from the abattoir through candle making, and on to vacuum pumps is done or made, down there, in the streets. It is Dickensian London, but with street stalls taking apart and rebuilding laptops and offering deals on 3G sim cards.
There are tourists everywhere. Which of course is the problem, and there are slightly less smiles, which is not at all surprising. We go for a walk to the reclining Buddha, which is on our short list of ‘ must see things ‘. The walk through vibrant narrow streets is wonderful, but it all gets pushy as we get closer. We feel bad about not wanting to buy this or that and then we start to queue.
It is amazing, but I ask Esther if it is more amazing than the reclining Buddha that we had all to ourselves or the temple complex that we just stumbled across. This is not something that I am just pointing out here, it is something we know already. We love village churches and remote standing stones, for goodness sake I live in Edinburgh and I have never been to the castle. We walk back to our hotel and go the long way. The food and smells, and the hope and the willingness to work hard are in every dark and smelly corner. We find ourselves in a labyrinth of shops and stalls selling motors and pumps and cultivators, with people on the floor taking apart electric motors and rewinding the armatures by hand. None sees the light of day.
We end the day back up on the 23rd floor looking at the city. We have not enjoyed our day at all. We were going to spend two nights, but one is enough. We want to see the Royal Palace and are on our way early the next morning. We take another route and stumble across the printing quarter. Presses from the Victorian era and a Litho age of metal and inking by hand. It is strangely quiet.
The Palace is closed until 12.00 for a special feast or something. We take a ride to the boat launch and ask for the price of a River Taxi. We really do not like haggling, but the price is the same as we have been paying for three nights accommodation. We actually do not have enough money on us, so a deal has to be done. The ride in the Longtail boat is fine, but every time we stop we are asked a landing fee. We are just not good at tourism and we have to look after a budget that needs to stretch and I know it is not much but it all feels like a con and we have been tricked.
We get back to see the Palace. ‘ Closed till 1.00 or 1.30 ‘, ” Where you from?”, ” Oh, where the whisky made “. So, we go and look at another Buddha and join a queue. But just as we try to find out which queue we should join I have an idea ” Esther shall we go home now? “.
We are not in the best of moods when the bus finally arrives 25 minutes late, then takes 1 and a half hours driving around the city, before finally depositing us at the side of the road that goes past the town where we are staying rather than at the bus stop. Back Packers, respect is due. This is what hey put up with all the time and now they have gone up just a little in my estimations. I am in too poor a mood to take a taxi, but in an even worse mood when it finally dawns on me that we are 4Km away from our hotel.It took just over an hour to get to Bangkok and four to get back Here in the little town the children shout ” Hello ” , and ladies at the food stalls beam big smiles and wave. We are the only tourists.
The next day we go a walk around Nakhom Pathom and stumble across a world class exhibition of drawing and print making, and a Royal Palace in beautiful grounds. To top it off, on our walk back we find the perfect cafe. None of this is on the WWW. and if we had missed it we would not have felt bad. The fact that we stumbled across it filled us with more joy than you could possibly imagine. We are going to put it down in writing, right here. We like Nakhom Pathom.