10th March 2008 - At long last we arrived at Bangkok's Hua Lamphong Railway Station. Hua Lamphong Railway Station is Bangkok's main station, equivalent to our own KL Sentral, in role that is, as it serves as the station where train services to Thai's eastern, northern and southern territories commences and ends. Bangkok's MRT station also commences from this station, an underground line running for some 20 kilometres that went into operation since 2004.
Though slowly getting modernisation touch, you would not want to disembark from coach initially as you might not believe that you have actually reached the final destination upon seeing the rundown platform with groups of people peeling onions and potatoes there. I hate to say this but the station really looked so "kampung" not befitting the "city" image that we might be used to with. This is especially true when back home anything belongs to the city would normally be given greater attention in its maintenance, appearance etc etc. Just look at KL Sentral and I'm sure you know what I mean.
Right after "touch-down", we immediately hailed a taxi to head to our Hotel, the First Hotel. Well, we did not exactly hail a taxi but rather we had actually followed a taxi tout already there waiting for prospective clients.
There is no coupon system in place there so, it will all depend much on your luck of either getting a taxi driver whot would use the meter (as they should) or those taxi drivers who are cousins to the taxi drivers at KL's Puduraya, Subang Jaya's KTM Station, Subang Jaya's Carrefour and every taxi drivers at Penang, where pre-determined fixed price prevails.
The fare that I had to pay the cab driver (who didn't use the meter) for the short journey from Hua Lamphong to First Hotel at Petchaburi was 150 Baht, approximately about RM15. It's a bit on the high side, but as we were just interested to get to the Hotel fast, to check-in and and to freshen-up that slightly high fare didn't really bother us then.
And it was at the Hotel's Halong Restaurant where we first had our first real meal of the day. We did not take any meal on board the train as when looking at the menu, there were various dishes of "pork" being served, ending up us getting only Milos.
Halong Restaurant on the other hand is a full fledged Halal Restaurant that also caters to Vegetarian dishes making it a favourite among Muslim and Indian visitors.
Our first real tour of Bangkok started right after lunch when we took a cab to Jim Thompson's House, a house once belonged to an American Jim Thompson who fell in love with Thailand and decided to stay there until his mysterious disappearance during a holiday trip at Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.
He was attributed as the person responsible to revive and commercialise Thai's cottage industry, in particular, the silk weaving industry.
The House itself is a reflection of Jim Thompson's appreciation of local arts and culture. Maintained by a foundation that takes care of Thailand's cottage industry, the House is now turned into a museum displaying Jim Thompson's collection of local arts, antiques and handicrafts as well as those from the neighbouring states.
Right after the visit to Jim Thompson's House, our adventure with the Tuk-Tuks began. With cheap fares of between 20 to 30 Bahts, you can get the Tuk-Tuk drivers to take you to everywhere, especially to all the Gem Jewelry and Silk Outlets, willingly or otherwise!
It was fine for the first two days, visiting a number of Gem Jewelry and Silk Outlets, but it proved to be a bit to much to swallow when the Tuk-Tuk drivers kept on insisting to take us to other Gem Jewelry and Silk Outlets whenever you hailed them to transport you elsewhere on the subsequent days.
We were in a dilemma, a dilemma between hailing a taxi who doesn't want to use meters and charge exorbitant fare and hailing tuk-tuks which are cheap but we would have to follow their itinerary first before your own!
And Bangkok has tons of Gem Jewelry and Silk outlets indeed. And these outlets actually incentify these Tuk-tuk drivers with Fuel Coupons whenever they brought in potential clients, hence the reason for the over-zealousness of these Tuk-tuk drivers taking you to these outlets one after the other, until you buy something that is!
And we did get something for ourselves : a Ruby Gold Ring, a Topaz Silver Necklace and a two-piece suit from visiting of about 8 of such outlets all over Bangkok - all thanks to the Tuk-tuk drivers.
We ended the day by having a taste of Bangkok's hawker food. Though there was no "Halal" sign, the sight of the lady in tudung was halal enough for us to have a bite on the Thai variant of our Roti Canai.
It's very sweet, extremely sweet indeed. Each roti has an egg each, a spoon of sugar and a spoon of condensed milk. So that's Thailand to you, sweet sweet Thailand!