| Part 3: Bangkok
Back to part 2 of the Thailand 2013 travelogue
17.8: Khao Lak
-> Ratchaprapha dam -> Surat Thani -> Bangkok
Pantip Court Serviced Residence,
Bangkok. 3480 Baht for a huge (really huge, perhaps almost 200 mē)
apartment with lots of space and several rooms. Largest room/apartment
I've ever booked. You could play football in this place. The room is on
the 14th floor with a balcony and a great view of Bangkok. There are
windows with views to the east, west and north. The only negative is
that this place is old. You can see from the furniture that this place
must have been built 20+ years ago. Otherwise the place is great. A
huge living room with a sofa, several chairs, a sofa table and an
additional table with chairs. Kitchen area with fridge, microwave,
stove etc. allowing you to cook should you wish to do so. No hair dryer
in the toilets. Cable internet in the rooms for a fee (268 Baht/hour),
ridiculously expensive given that for 49 Baht you can purchase one day
of Internet on a smartphone (160 MB with AIS, possibly there are
Weather: in the morning
overcast in Khao Lak, but some blue sky here and there. As soon as we
start driving towards Surat Thani it starts to rain heavily for about
an hour. Then the weather improves and the sun comes out. Dry initially
at the Ratchaprapha lake, but also there it starts to rain a few
minutes after we arrive. The rain lasts only about 20 minutes, then the
weather improves. Sunny again in Surat Thani and only a little rain in
Bangkok in the evening around 6:30pm.
We leave the hotel in Khao Lak at 9am and start driving towards Surat
Thani. The idea would be to make a stop at the Ratchaprapha dam on the
way to the airport in Surat Thani.
When it starts to rain heavily I regret to have woken up so early. But
by the time we reach the Ratchaprapha dam at 10:55am, the weather has
At the dam there is a visitor centre with a large parking. From there
there is a nice view of the lake. Lots of visitors, most of them Thai,
some school classes. It's even possible to do boat tours on the lake
(on a long tail boat for instance). The boat seems to be an excellent
way to explore the lake and the Khao Sok national park as well, given
that the lake extends deeply into the park.
We are at the dam until 12:10pm, then start driving to the airport,
arriving there at 1:20pm. It's still too early to check in for the
flight to Bangkok with Nok Air, so we wait for a while. At 1:40pm we
finally check in. Still over two hours to go until the flight takes
off. We ask about a shopping mall nearby, but the one I had in mind is
very far away (25km). So we just spend the time in the airport (cold
A/C by the way).
The Nok Air flight leaves on time and arrives in Bangkok (Don Muang) a
After that we take a taxi. Long queue at the taxi stand, but then the
taxi only charges by the meter + 50 Baht. This totals just 230 Baht for
the transfer to the hotel (in central Bangkok). Compare that to the
fixed 300 Baht fee for the short distance in Khao Lak.
We are in the hotel shortly after 6pm. After a rest, we leave the hotel
at 7:15pm and take a taxi to the Paragon shopping mall. This is not far
from the hotel (in fact you could walk), but due to the traffic jam it
takes a while to get there.
The food court of this mall is outstanding. An incredibly wide choice
of different types of food, all very good and high quality. The prices
are quite high however. I spend 300 Baht on an Indian dish, Shirley
spends 100 Baht on an icecream. Very special ice-cream which you can't
find in Europe, but not exactly cheap. Delicious cakes by the way.
After a while in this food court we have a look at the mall. It's
actually not a mall, but a department store. So we get on the street.
There is sort of an open air market with stalls along the pavement.
Could be interesting to shop around, but it's a bit late already
(9:15pm) and there are just too many people.
I check again an ATM and again it charges a fee of 150 Baht for each
cash withdrawal. As I later find out when checking in the Internet, all
Thai banks now impose this fee on foreign cards.
So after a while we decide to get back to the hotel. The taxis now are
refusing to use the meter and charge three times the standard rate (200
Baht for a trip which cost 73 Baht when we came here). After a while
and some negotiations we find a taxi for 150 Baht and get back to the
Pantip Court Serviced Residence,
Bangkok. The breakfast is buffet type. It's ok, although not on the
same level as the one in the hotel in Khao Lak.
Weather: overcast in the
morning, then around noon the sky opens up. Some rain around 5pm for
about 30-40 minutes, then in late afternoon the sky opens up.
We leave the hotel after breakfast at 10am and head to the Chatuchak
market. The main purpose is to buy the dried mango fruits of which
Shirley and her family are so fond of.
We arrive there at 10:30am (taxi trip costs 130 Baht, including 45 Baht
of highway toll).
The Chatuchak weekend market is a huge open air market located in the
north of Bangkok. The market stalls are located under roofs which
protect them against the sun and the rain. There is no A/C, but the
temperatures inside are somehow bearable.
A huge variety of things are offered for sale. Lots of decorative
stuff, handicrafts, cute things. Not so many stalls selling food or
eatable stuff. In fact it takes us a while to find stalls selling dried
mangoes. There is a food court area in the inner part of the market.
Quite a few western tourists in this market, although most visitors are
Asian. The prices are somehow high and the vendors are unwilling to
lower them significantly. Maybe up to 20%-30%, but not much more than
that. Overall the price level is surprisingly high, given that this is
Thailand. Some things are even as expensive as in Germany.
We are in this market until about 12pm, then wonder what to do next. I
suggest to get back to the hotel where we can deposit the stuff we
bought and can take a rest. I'm also low on cash because I was hoping
to find an ATM which doesn't charge the 150 Baht fee, but couldn't find
So we get out of the market and start looking for a taxi. Not that
easy, as all taxis we speak to refuse to use the meter and are asking
ridiculously high prices (400 or 500 Baht - we paid 130 to come here).
It seems to me that Thailand is no longer as cheap as it used to be.
Lots of things here are more expensive than in Malaysia and in fact
some items as as expensive as in Germany.
Taxis are definitely cheaper in Kuala Lumpur, and taxi drivers in KL
when they don't want to use the meter charge twice the meter fee, while
here in Bangkok taxi drivers refusing to use the meter ask for three
times the amount.
Overall a holiday in Malaysia is at the moment less expensive than one
Since there is no taxi, but there is an MRT station nearby, we walk
towards it. We stop in the Queen Sirikit park. There we rent a mat for
20 Baht, after skipping the offer of another guy who was asking for 70
Baht and we rest on the grass.
Then, while I'm here and watch the bags, Shirley and the kids do more
shopping in the market. I guess if she were alone and had enough cash
Shirley could easily spend a whole week in this market, shopping for
Finally Shirley and the kids are back and at 1:45pm we walk towards the
MRT station. Direct line until Lumphini park, quite convenient. The
tickets for the four of us cost 140 Baht, as much as a taxi ride. I
wonder why the MRT is so expensive in Bangkok.
Finally we are back in the hotel. There we take a rest. I call the
Mantanani resort in Sabah, Malaysia and check for room availability.
Only dorm rooms are available, sigh. Then I book flights with Airasia,
BKK-KUL and KUL-BKI (Kota Kinabalu).
Around 4pm it starts raining. At 4:40pm I go down with the kids to the
pool. It's still raining a bit, but never mind. I'm in the pool until
6pm, then go back to the room.
Once there I tell Shirley I want to go to a place for some sunset shots
and will come back after that to pick her up with the kids. Surprise,
she wants to go with me. But the kids have wet hair, need to take a
shower and get ready etc.
We manage to leave the hotel at 6:20pm and get into a taxi. We tell the
driver to bring us to the nearby Benjakiti park. After a while driving
I switch on Google Maps on my smartphone and realise that the driver is
driving to the wrong place. I tell him that we want to go to the
Benjakiti park and he keeps saying "yes, Benjasili, Benjasili". One
more check on the map and I see that there is a Benjasiri park and he is driving to that
More discussion, I repeat a few time very clearly "Benjakiti",
stressing the difference between -kiti and -siri. Finally he gets it
and tells me, no problem he will turn left at the next possibility.
No problem my ass, we are stuck in a traffic jam, not moving and
running out of time. Close to the equator the blue hour time window is
very short. It's basically few minutes in which the sky has the right
brightness and colour. After these few minutes the sky gets dark very
quickly. Within 10 minutes or so the day turns into night.
I am getting impatient and strongly tempted to tell this idiot what he
is, because we clearly explained this driver where we want to go to,
even showed a map excerpt and the name in Thai script. Either he is too
dumb or wants to make more business by making a big detour.
At some time I get out of the taxi, tell the driver to bring Shirley
and the kids to the Benjakiti park and start running towards the
Benjakiti lake. What looked like a short distance on the map turns out
to be a larger distance in reality. I find myself running with a heavy
camera bag and rubber slippers.
Finally at 7pm, with a fully-sweated T-shirt I'm in position at the
Benjakiti lake and start shooting the panorama sequence. Luckily it's
not too dark yet and in fact I get some very good shots. In addition
there is the full moon in the sky and the images turn out great.
At 7:07pm I get the last shot and check where Shirley is. Several phone
calls later I finally realise that the driver dropped her off in the
wrong place. Turns out that the idiot dropped her off at the Benjasiri
park. What a mentally retarded guy.
We are finally reunited at 7:45pm. Then we spend some time looking for
a large mall with a food court, but find none in the area. So we take a
taxi to Siam square (150 Baht, no meter) and spend the rest of the
evening there, having dinner and buying some stuff.
I get a closer view to the Siam square complex and must say that the
architecture is quite impressive. Really beautiful shopping malls.
Great choreography, especially at night. I wish there was a mall like
this in Munich.
Pantip Court Serviced Residence,
Weather: mostly sunny, blue
sky and some clouds, although there is always a thin clouds layer. No
nice clear blue sky as for instance in Germany. Quite hot today. No
rain the whole day.
At 10am we take a taxi to the Vimanmek palace. The trip takes less than
half an hour, but it turns out that today (Monday) the Vimanmek palace
is closed for tourists. So we take another taxi and stop on the Dusit
square, from which there is a nice view of the Anantasamakhom palace.
Then we proceed to the nearby Wat Benchamabophit marble temple
(entrance: 20 Baht), which we reach at 11am. This is a very cute
temple, built with white marble. Quite photogenic, as most wats in
Thailand. Rows of black Buddha statues in the interior.
At 11:45am we take a taxi to Wat Arun. The trip takes only 20 minutes
and we actually don't make it there, as the taxi driver drops us off at
a pier where we have to take a boat. I was initially thinking that the
driver would cross a bridge and bring is straight away to the wat.
So we cross the river by ferry (3 Baht/person) and reach Wat Arun
(entrance fee: 50 Baht) on the opposite side and 12:15pm. Lots of
Alissia and Natasha dress up like Thai deities or Balinese dancers
(some kind of costume from the Ramayana) and we a photo shoot of them
with the background of Wat Arun.
We then spend about an hour in this place. Wat Arun itself is richly
decorated, with a huge central Buddhist stupa structure. It is possible
to climb up this central stupa and get some good views of the
surroundings and the Chao Praya river. There are some other temples
near Wat Arun, all also interesting and free of charge.
At about 1:30pm we head back to the pier and cross back to the other
side. Then we have some lunch (noodle soup with chicken, 40 Baht) at a
stall near the pier.
We continue walking around a bit, checking out the various stalls
selling tourist stuff, then start looking for a taxi. What a
"surprise", nobody wants to use the meter. In the end, after some
searching we negotiate a fee of 200 Baht for getting back to the hotel.
As we later realise, this 200 Baht fee actually is a good deal for us,
because the return trip takes forever. The distance is big, but we are
stuck for a long time in traffic jams. We are only back in the hotel at
After that, while Shirley goes down for a foot massage, I spend some
time with the kids in the hotel room. I check again the Mantanani
island place (still no confirmation of the reservation).
Actually, while in the taxi I had given a call to the Mantanani
Backpacker Lodge and sent them another email.
At 5 something pm Shirley is finally back and I leave the hotel room
for the Pantip Plaza mall. Massive traffic jam. I reach the mall only
after 6pm. Pantip Plaza is a centre for IT: you can buy hardware and
software, all possible PCs, PC parts, mobile phones, tablets etc.
I end up spending quite some time in this mall (too much as I realise
later) and only get out at 6:40pm. I then quickly rush to the Paragon
mall. I'd like to take a blue hour shot of the Bangkok convention
centre right behind the mall, but am about to miss the blue hour.
The problem is that I need to find an elevated spot from which to take
the picture. I get into the mall, first up to the 6th floor, then down
to the 5th floor, the 4th. On each of this floor there is no opening or
window with a view of the convention centre.
Finally I reach the 3rd floor and, coincidence, I happen to spot an
arrow pointing to a garage. Usually garages are open... I quickly get
to the garage and finally I find an opening with a view of the
It's 7pm. I set up the tripod and start shooting a few panorama
sequences. As usual I check each shot for sharpness on the LCD screen,
to avoid blurred shots. It appears that the wall on which the tripod is
staying vibrates a bit. I find myself having to retake some shots
several times until I get a sharp one.
After I'm done with the shots I call Shirley who by now has arrived
with the kids and is in the Siam Paragon mall. We meet in the food
court of the Paragon mall and have a dinner there. Then we head back to
20.8: Bangkok -> Kuala Lumpur -> Kota Kinabalu
Hotel Le hotel, Kota Kinabalu. RM 138
for a tiny basic room (12 mē) with adjustable A/C, flat screen TV, free
WLAN, attached bathroom with shower, tea making equipment. Very little
water coming out of the water basin. The room is on a busy and noisy
street (very noisy even after midnight). The room is ok if you don't
mind the noise, but not terribly good value.
Weather: overcast in the morning in
Bangkok, around 11am the sky opens up a bit. Similar weather in Kuala
Lumpur. In Kota Kinabalu in the evening quite fresh. Apparently it has
been raining the whole day.
We take a taxi (200 Baht + 105 Baht of highway tolls) to Don Muang
airport at 10am. The trip takes only 25 minutes, because there isn't
much traffic. Then we check in and proceed to the gate.
At the airport I call again the Mantanani resort because they still
haven't sent the booking confirmation, even if yesterday I sent them
all my details. Today they tell me that the weather is bad in Mantanani
and they don't recommend that I come. This is strange, because the
Internet weather forecast for tomorrow is good. I wonder if they really
want to have me as a customer.
Don Muang airport is a shadow of what it once was. The infrastructure
is old and there are far fewer shops now than there were years ago when
it was the main airport of Bangkok. I notice three airlines serving it:
Airasia, Nok Air and a third one (offering a flight to Nanning this
The Airasia 1:10pm flight takes off on time and lands in KLIA LCCT
about 10 minutes early at 4:10pm. Huge queue at the immigration
counters. We retrieve our luggage and then I split from Shirley and the
kids who will stay in KL.
I check in for the Kota Kinabalu flight and have a meal in the food
court. Then I proceed to the gate.
The 18:35 Airasia flight is delayed for some reason and only leaves at
7pm. The plane is about 3/4 full. It lands in Kota Kinabalu with a
delay of 15 minutes. After that I proceed speedily through immigration,
retrieve my luggage and take a taxi to the hotel. Quite expensive taxi
(RM 30), given the short distance (only 7km).