National Geographic Photo of the Day

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Kingdom of Thailand – Day 5 (June 18th 2009)

Got up and finished the remaining packing. Left Pattaya Hill Resort around 12 in the afternoon in a minivan arranged via the hotel. Looks like my pimples are making a bit of a comeback thanks to the change in the type of food I'm eating over the past few days. Nose is getting dry and scaly too (I mean the exterior).

Along the way we stopped at the Sriracha Tiger Zoo. This facility has the largest number of captive tigers I've ever seen in any one place. All well-maintained, well-fed and kept in spacious enclosures. There are even enclosures with a tiger raising piglets as well as a sow feeding tiger cubs. The Sriracha zoo also houses several species of crocodiles(as many crocs as our croc farm back home) and elephants. The animal shows that they had at half hour intervals were well worth the admission ticket prices. Had lunch there too, a very tasty and filling meal for 4 for just 400 Baht. And no pork in it, which we're avoiding like the flu (sorry for the pun).

We continued on to Bangkok from there. The Sukhumvit road is the highway that goes all the way from Pattay right into Bangkok. It stops when it reaches the expressways of Bangkok. These expressways form a massive network of wide, high-speed roads raised 30-40 feet in the air. This is the kind of network which any city needs to speed up traffic.

From the expressways, we took one of the exits on to the normal roads below. Now it began to look more like the Chennai city we were familiar with. Roads and most pavements were around the same size, but buildings are pretty big, and there are some pretty large malls (like our Spencers) all around the place. The traffic might appear a bit more unruly, but people still walk only on pavements, and the drivers follow every rule to a fault (except two-wheelers which weave in and out a bit) and they give way to pedestrians. And you won't find any people crossing where there's no zebra crossing.

We got to the hotel soon enough with the assistance of my N79's GPS voice navigation, because the driver himself wasn't sure where it was. Settled in to the large deluxe suite we had booked here and started planning where we could go in the next 4 days (excluding this one). Decided to run off to MBK (Mahboonkrong Mall), so we walked to the nearest station from here (Saphan Thaksin Station), from where we took the BTS Skytrain to National Stadium. The BTS Skytrain is again on a track raised to the level of the city's skyline and it runs all over Bangkok. Quite a marvel this, though ticket costs are around 30-40Baht per person for a trip between two stations over a good distance. Still, its far more comfortable and spacious than our crappy trains back in India.

The National Stadium station has a direct exit into MBK, via the Tokyu (yes its Tokyu, not Tokyo) department store. Leaving the store you step into the main section of the mall. Pretty big, and it'll take a long time to see every shop here, and these range from small shops to flea-market type areas to big name brands to huge electronic paradises (yes you silly girls, electronic equipment store = paradise, for me). Bought a few t-shirts and Mum, Dad and Aunt spent a lot of time in watch and clothes stores, so my time in “paradise” was short. Why you ask? Because here all major stores, food courts, international brands... everything just closes down at the stroke of 10pm, just like in the US. So if you want to eat after 10pm, you'll need to be satisfied with McDonald's, which once again like in the US, stays open 24 hours a day. Swensen's is all over Bangkok too, but it closed and we had ice-cream at McDonald's instead.

Left via Skytrain and reached the hotel soon. And so ended our first (half-)day in Bangkok.


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