After another poor night’s sleep, we were woken by the chambermaid trying to gain entry to the room. (Luckily, we had put the safety chain on the door.)
After breakfast, armed with Nancy Chandler’s excellent technicolour “Map of Bangkok”, we set off to find the Skytrain to take us to Mo Chit and the famous Chatuchak weekend market. After a couple of kilometres’ walk, we boarded the train at Ratchathewi for the short journey to the northern outskirts of the City.
By the time we got there we were already hot. The market is a veritable labyrinth of stalls, selling everything from garden accessories, to fine Thai silk, and second-hand clothes. Everywhere, food vendors offer satay, curry, fruit and (mercifully) cold drinks.
To John’s despair, Brigid was in shop till you drop mode. At every stall, she paused, hummed and arghed over some silk, blouse, or wicker basket, before rejecting seemingly exquisite items, and wandering on. Once we had finished our Christmas shopping, John was left holding the carrier bags, while Brigid (infuriatingly) fussed about, trying to get a photograph of the scene.
At last, nearly dead from the heat, we headed back to Ratchathewi, where we caught a traditional 3-wheeled ‘tuc tuc’ back to the hotel. Swerving in and out of Bangkok’s traffic in one of these little vehicles could be said to be a ‘spiritual’ experience – at least one probably feels closer to God than usual! All around us, whizzed kamikazi motorcycles, hell bent on self-destruction. Suddenly, from somewhere in front, came a clatter and the all-too-familiar sound of cracking plastic. A small 110cc bike, loaded with about 10 cases of tinned fruit, had over-balanced at the traffic lights, sending its cargo spewing across the tarmac. We have now been in Thailand a week, but it still amazes us just how overloaded these little bikes can be. The record number of passengers we saw on one bike was FIVE adults!
Back at the hotel we found that the tiny gift shop in the foyer offered a fine selection of cheap silk shirts and other souvenirs. “Could have saved ourselves a long walk”, commented John rather sourly, as he wandered off to find the hotel’s masseur to ease his aching back!
Later we went out to find a popular riverside restaurant called Rim Nam for dinner. Brigid took both cameras, hoping that she would get a good picture of the festoons of lights that bedecked Thanon Rajadamnoen Klang. Better than any Christmas illuminations in London’s Regent Street, the lights were put up in honour of the King’s birthday, on 5th December. However, on stepping outside the hotel, it was clear that we were out of luck. The lights were off. Brigid cursed herself for leaving the cameras behind last night!
Dinner was a rather solitary affair. Far from the buzzing night spot, with live floorshow, that the guidebook had promised, we had the place more or less to ourselves. The view across the Mae Nam Chao river was nothing to write home about – particularly as it was partially obscured by the bridge and ferry pier. But the food was good, and the guitarist did his best to liven the atmosphere. Perhaps it was just a quiet evening.
We asked about the lights when we got back to the hotel. “Oh yes”, said the receptionist, “the King asked them to be turned off to help the economy”. Long live the King!