Wednesday, 21 November 2012

And finally......At least from Thailand!

Jackie's bits in purple type, Brian's thoughts much further down!

Well we survived the bus journey, I suppose it was more comfortable than a plane, but they kept turning the lights on and stopping - we had 2 police inspections, more passengers and a food stop at 02.25! It was nice to get off and say hello to the service station cats! I suspect the police inspections were normal - every bus journey we've done, even much shorter ones have been stopped at least twice, mostly though as we've been heading towards Burma so assumed it was that! They may have been more vigilant though as a bomb went off in the 'troubled south' on a train on Saturday night, no tourists involved!
Rather than pay for a taxi, as we weren't pushed for time we got on a local bus, and the lady conductor told us when to get off, to get on the 'skytrain' - a very nice air conditioned above ground tube, which stops close to our hotel, so that cost us 100 baht total, the taxi man wanted to charge us 200 to get to the skytrain! So we are feeling quite intrepid (and knackered). 

We were hugely pleased to get to the hotel at 0800 and find we could get into our room, so we are now showered (first time we managed a hot shower here at all, and we are in the same room, so that was a pleasant surprise!) and breakfasted, B is reading the Bangkok Post, and I'm just waiting to see the cat! There is a cat I recognise from last time, but it's not 'the cat', though I must admit I was a bit worried about her when we left as she had a very stick eye! 

It's cloudy today, and I can't say I'm sad, though a day by the pool is still quite an attractive proposition, it's still in the 30's! We've also got to that tricky point of wondering have we got enough Thai baht, don't want to get any more out, eat cheap!......  According to B and the Bangkok Post, there has been heavy rain and flooding in the thinnest part of Thailand, between us and all the beach resorts, so what sort of a time our friends we bumped into are going to have who can tell!
Also according to the Bangkok Post they are putting up the minimum wage to 300 Baht (£6) about the same as the UK he said, but no, that's per day! He really read the paper from cover to cover!

That was yesterday, we did lie by the pool until it got really hot, so went to the Aircon of the room, B had a little doze, but I couldn't sleep for the thunder, and then it hammered down, so glad we hadn't gone far! We have packed, with military precision (as long as the hotel scales are accurate, and as long as we can sling our hand luggage over our shoulders with enough nonchalance to make it look light!) Booked and paid for a taxi, checked in online and printed put the boarding cards (at an internet cafe) and have 530baht left, average price of a plate of fried rice is 100baht so ideal really!

The 'most photographed foyer in Bangkok', notice 'cat' asleep in the chair bottom right.
The next bit is about the hotel so perhaps should be in green, B also says it reads a bit like an advert for them:
The Atlanta is a strange hotel, the foyer is beautiful as you can see, but it and the restaurant have no aircon, only lazy fans, and are the only place the wifi works. It was the first to have a swimming pool in Bangkok, though this it would appear was not planned - it was the pit that the owner, a chemist, kept the cobras whose venom he was trying to milk in! This is their ethos from their web page: 
The Atlanta has a 'zero tolerance' policy with regard to trouble-makers and all illegal activities, including the use or possession of illicit drugs. Such miscreants are reported to the police without advance warning, without hesitation and without apology.
Those who object to this policy, and those who wish to spend their time in Thailand whoring, indulging in alcohol abuse, drugs or other illegal activities should stay elsewhere.

The Atlanta is against sex tourism.
Sex tourism is exploitative, socially damaging and culturally demeaning:
those who want to buy sex should do so in their own country.
Tourism is not about going on a rampage through other people's country:  those who cannot go abroad without behaving badly should stay home.


There is a sign with the above on outside the front door, on the other side is a sign which says:
This is the place you are looking for, if you know it.
If you don't, you'll never find it".  

And it's true, it's at the end of a quiet sidestreet, off the busy road full of girly bars and European men

The Atlanta is the bastion of wholesome and culturally sensitive tourism and is run as a test of the viability of those principles and values that are associated with it. 
 The Atlanta is not run as a commercial enterprise with a view to maximising profits; its financial aim is merely to cover costs, which explains why tariffs are so low.  

There is a sign at the top of the stairs that says "Complaints are not permitted - not at the prices we charge"

The page with directions on also has this piece of advice:
What to do with a turbo-charged taxi meter readout? If your meter reading is suspiciously high and you think that you may be a victim of a turbo-charged meter, remain calm. Do not alert the taxi driver that he has been rumbled. Make sure that the taxi reaches its destination directly outside The Atlanta, at the far end of Sukhumvit´s Soi 2. Remove your luggage from the taxi immediately, then make your excuses (such as you need to change your money for Thai currency) and summon help from the Reception staff at the hotel who will deal with the matter on your behalf. Never leave your luggage in the taxi while dealing with a problem relating to fares.

SO, it's quirky, helpful, a bit tired, has a mad cat lady, but is to be recommended, even if the prices have gone up since the beginning of our trip! Oh yes, and the food is good quality, and value compared with 'outside'

Brian's thoughts:
I've really enjoyed Thailand, its a safe, relatively stable country filled with very friendly, laid back people. I could live here, at least for a year or so, its a bit too hot for anything too active, which might be a slight drawback, but as a place to chill out and view the world, its great.

Cost-wise its pretty cheap for us Westerners, fuel is around 30Baht (60p) per litre, which is very expensive for natives here, but quite cheap for us. Cars cost about the same as for us and house/apartment purchase is relatively dear, probably 50-60% of what we'd pay at home, but food is pretty cheap, if you're prepared to eat and drink like the locals.

It is possible to eat and drink exactly as at home, with all European tastes catered for, British and Irish pubs, French, Italian, Belgium and German restaurants, but you do pay for these. We saw Guinness in an Irish bar at something over 300Baht (£6+). Restaurants offering Thai food were pretty cheap and the food generally superb! Its not too spicy either, ask for something hot and you get something much less than a 'Madras' equivalent at home, but with a fantastic taste. A typical Thai Red Curry or Pannang (delicious!) would cost around 70Baht (£1.20), with sticky rice around 15 to 20Baht. The local Chang beer (lager, served with iced glasses) is 44Baht in the convenience store and 70 or 80Baht (£1.60) for 640ml in a restaurant, so a night out with a few beers might cost 4-500Baht (£9-£10) for 2 people. If you're prepared to go into a local's place (much less homely, more like a cafe), you'll get it even cheaper, maybe 35-50Baht (70p-£1) and its great fun, as long as you're prepared to eat whatever you manage to order! We did this a few times and found the people really nice and as helpful as sign language will allow! Don't worry about the ice being safe, its all shipped in and we had no problems tummy wise.

Hotels are also cheap. Our advice, ALWAYS get a room with aircon, fan's just aren't good enough! We got decent rooms with private bathrooms and aircon for 600 to 900Baht (£12 -£18),(bit more in Bankok). If you're prepared to pay 1200Baht (£24) you'll get luxury! I'm talking per room, not per person! At the other end of the scale, we saw beds in dormitories advertised at 150Baht (£3) per night, so it works for any budget.

If you're thinking of a different holiday, come to Thailand! Its not scary, English is pretty widely spoken and most places have English menu's and signs. Booking hotels, these days is very easy, wi-fi is pretty much everywhere and all research can be done on the internet. Its just not necessary to book things before you leave, its really easy to do it as you go along. That way, if you like somewhere, just stay a bit longer! I bought a local SIM card for my mobile, it cost £2 and it came in use over and over again in booking hotels and trips. I've probably made a dozen phone calls (all local) and there's still credit left now, so I've no idea how many calls £2 will buy!

Anyway, we're off to the airport in about 2.5 hours, next stop Auckland, New Zealand. In my hand luggage I've got socks, another top and my fleece. I looked at the temperature in Auckland the other day and it suggested 19 C maximum. It is heading for their summer, which is pretty similar to a UK summer, but shorts, T-shirts and sandals might be more of a rarity! Think I'm going to miss the heat!

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