Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Interrogation, Bangkok 13th March 2012

Interrogation, China town and Butterworth.

Following yesterday's failed mission it's off to the tourist office, just by Thammasat, and some serious interrogation. Armed with a map downloaded from google, surely this time there can be no mistake. After a few minutes of consultation and deliberation, the staff  agree on another bus number, guaranteeing me it stops on that road, by the Air Force Museum, well, we'll see in due course. They pull out from the depths of a cabinet a map. It's a tourist map but this version I hadn't seen before, comes with bus numbers, and the area is expanded to include greater Bangkok. Well, at least the odds of reaching the museum by bus have improved a bit! Yes, I could have taken a taxi for about £5-6 but that's just not  the true spirit of getting around as the people do, at the peoples prices! So, I'm not beaten yet.

Time is ticking, just 2 weeks left on my tourist stamp before I need to be out of Thailand, on the 28th. The plan is to head on down to Penang, an island off the Malaysian west coast, by overnight train. Unfortunately, Air Asia didn't include Penang in the recent seat sale, otherwise I would have flown. Anyway, it's 22 hours by sleeper train, which I need to book today at the latest. So, on to to the express boat once again getting off at the marine department pier, just outside the Chinatown area. Walking through the area, a little bit more extensively than last time, determined to find something that reveals the reason for the areas status. But, like last time it's a struggle to really see to any great extent a typical flavour of China. No Chinese restaurants in abundance as there might be elsewhere, Malaysia or London for example. The odd Chinese temple perhaps,  small and not any great exhibit. The place is quiet, not even a great deal of traffic. A detour then towards the railway station, not too many steps away.

The ticketing process is easy. No queueing, pay by card and it's all over in 5 minutes! £26 for the 22 hour journey into Malaysia with a bunk bed and air-con, not a bad price in my opinion. I think the VIP bus on the same route is a similar price, perhaps slightly more, depending on who sells the ticket! According to endless research, Malaysia in general is going to be more expensive taking the trip someway over budget.

Route from the station to central pier is a long, long walk but does pass through the smart shopping area of Surawong and Silom, and a chance to cool off whilst comparing a few prices. Eight lanes of highway is going to be a challenge to cross here but luckily the nearby underground station also serves as a subway - problem solved this time, but it's not always the case that a subway is conveniently located nearby! Getting underground involves a security check which is just a quick look in the bag then looking for the correct exit out.

Out, is into the basement of a shopping complex and immediately at the entrance to a Tesco supermarket, just a small metro type. Surprisingly, prices of some goods are similar to those at Tesco British stores. Colgate toothpaste, for example is £1.10 here and kids branded cereals like Coco pops sell for about £2.20. Bakery products are roughly 50 % less here, so I take advantage and grab a quick snack. The shopping complex is 4 floors, lots of glass and thankfully, escalators. The goods being sold are generally high end and branded being quite similar to prices in the Uk. For example, a Samsung Galaxy Tablet is £440, not much of a saving really. Other gadgets are often more expensive - gadgets like the new style earphones and hi- tec accessories are all quite pricey.

That's enough window shopping, I really should get to the boat before they finish. Last one is at 7, it's 6.30 now!

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