Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bangkok, Thailand March 2012 (part 1)

I went the last week of March 2012, the 26th-April 1st to Bangkok, Thailand for the EARCOS Teacher's Conference. It was fantastic. I went with a colleague and then our Director of Studies joined us later in the week as the Administrators one back in November was cancelled due to flooding.
We left Monday morning. I had purchased and booked my own tickets as I don't meet the length requirements for a foreign teacher being sent to the conference but that is fine with me. The Owner's wife though had asked for my ticket information so she could book the two of us together. That was fine with me. On that Monday my coworker got to the airport ahead of me and checked in. Her tickets were not the same numbers as the ones on her paper. She went back and told them she was going on a business trip and that she was supposed to sit next to her colleague. They were able to switch one of her tickets but not the other. The first flight was uneventful. The second one leaving from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok was not. The first thing is that we went when it showed it was open but not really close to boarding time yet. I walked down first and it showed that it was last call already. My co-worker was stuck at the top as they switched her seat number again. I got on the plane and she was now seated in the same row as me. When she got there though that seat was taken so she had to go back to her other seat, which was ok. There was some major turbulence so I didn't eat anything for my meal. When we landed and got off I stopped and got new sim cards. After that my co-worker mentioned about renting a car and would they be holding her name up. I told her I didn't think there was any reason to rent a car and I didn't think the teacher's conference would have all of us renting a car. So, we hailed a taxi to the hotel. We stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel. Even though I had to pay for everything else I was allowed to share a room with my colleague, so that was nice as I don't think I could have afforded to stay there. I think it is the nicest hotel I have ever been in.  When we went to check in then my co-worker pulled out the paper with the check in information for confirmation. On the page was the information stating that we were to be picked up by a limo at the airport. The hotel staff was upset because their person had waited for two hours. I apologized as she had only just showed me the information. We were told we still had to pay and I said we understood. After that was straightened out then they showed us up to our room. It was really nice. Two comfortable beds, a window seat with a nice view, a desk, and really nice bathroom.

Looking out hotel window-Assumption Cathedral

After we got checked in I looked up on the Internet some of the places I thought I would like to see. Many of them closed between 3:30 and 4:40 and it was about that time. I found one called the Golden Mount 'Phu Khao Thong' in the Wat Saket compound that said it was open until 9:00p.m. and people could walk all the way up the stairs on the outside and look out all over Bangkok. We went to the concierge to ask about it. They said that they thought the place was closed but the write up also in their map said it was open until 9:00p.m. They called but couldn't get an answer, so we decided to get a cab and go down there anyway.
'Phu Khao Thong' Golden Mount
It turns out that the concierge was right and they were closed. We were able to walk up half the steps to the bottom of the temple but then there was a huge door that was closed and blocking the rest of the stairs. We came back down the stairs and starting walking past the other temples in the compound that we also closed or closing.  As we were walking a tuk tuk pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride. I said no and kept walking. He did a U turn and asked us again. I was like No, we are ok. I told my co-worker I wanted to get a cab but not a tuk tuk. When we got all the way to the exit he was there waiting for us. He asked us where we wanted to go. We said we didn't know. He told us there was a tall Buddha statue about a 30 minute walk from where we were but he would take us for 40 baht. I was like what the heck, let's go and hopped in. So, he took us to Wat Intharahiwan Buddha  and it is 32 meters tall.
Wat Intharahiwan Buddha

The guy told us when we got there that today was a special day and all the places were free of charge. He told us there was a Thailand Silk place and that he would take us there afterwards just to look and that we didn't have to buy anything. If he took us there they would pay for his gas and then he would take us around everywhere we wanted to go for the evening for only 40 baht. I thought that sounded like a good deal. So we went and looked at the huge Buddha and the other small statues and altars that they had set up. Then we hopped back in the tuk tuk and away we went. We stopped at this silk pace and looked around. They had lots of fabric and designs but it was a little too much for us. They did show us a room with ready made items so we got a few small items for gifts. Then we hopped back in the tuk tuk and went to the large Marble Temple Wat Benchamabophit. It was very beautiful. Of course, by then it was dark out and so it was closed but we could still take photos outside and they turned out great.  
Wat Benchamabophit
 After that he said he could take us to the Grand Palace even though it was closed to take pictures outside. On the way he stopped at some other complex with many temples and beautiful buildings. There was a black cat outside of one of the buildings that rubbed up against me. There was another cat as we were leaving stalking the black cat, that had flopped down on a bench next to this one monument, walking along a small ledge on the side of one of the temples. After that the tuk tuk dropped us off by the Grand Palace but there is a huge stone wall and only the tops of the temples and buildings can be seen. So we walked across the street to this other complex that had a temple in the middle and several pavilions around the outside that they were either newly building or also remodeling. It was about 10p.m. and I hadn't eaten all day, so we decided to call it a night and go back to the hotel. We ate at Angelini Italian restaurant in the hotel. It was very good food and then we went to bed as we had to get up early for the first day of the pre-conference.

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