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Shopping, Silk and Snakes

sunny 32 °C
View Thailand May 2007 on pythagnz's travel map.

We had arrived in Bangkok on Friday so I could catch up with my friend Lee, as she would normally be at work during the week. She suggested we meet at Chatuchak Market.

We took the Chao Praya River Express ferry from the nearby Phra Ahthit pier all the way to Sakarn Taksin which is the start/end of the Silom BTS (Skytrain) line. Then we took the skytrain all the way to the end of the Sikhumvit Line to Mor Chit or Chatuchak Market. I was very pleased with myself as my navigation was spot on and my timing was also pretty good. We arrived 10 mins before 10am, our agreed meeting time. At 10:02 Lee turned up and we started shopping.

Katherine was in heaven once again but for me it was a necessary chore. Chatuchak is a great place to pick up bargains and presents and we bought t-shirts, shorts, bags etc. Lee intended not to buy anything but of course, went away with a big bag of clothes. We ate lunch there (one of our few disappointing meals) and took a slow ride around in a golf cart train. It was a great way to rest our sore feet. It was very hot and after 5 hours it was time to go. We crossed the road and took bus 524 back to Khao San Road. The bus ticket collectors are very good at telling us where to get off though I followed the route with my map and always knew where I was.

On Sunday we decided to go to Jim Thompson's House. He moved to Thailand after visiting it at the end of the Second World War. As a former architect he had an eye for design and beauty and he revitalised the Thai silk industry. To get there we walked down the streets to the Golden Mount where we took a canal boat to his house.

While walking down the road we were approached twice by men who seemed friendly. They started asking questions about where we were going and how long we had been in Bangkok. The first one told us Jim Thompson's house was closed until noon as it was a Buddhist holiday and he pointed out three wats we should go to. I had heard about this scam so took my map from him and walked away. I doubt it was a Buddhist holiday and Jim Thompson's house was most certainly open at 9am, like it always is. The second man walked off when I said we'd been there a few days and I had visited Thailand more than once. Not as easy prey as we looked.

The canal boat ride was fun but slightly dangerous. Mainly from the disgusting, polluted waters. You can raise canvas sides to the boat to stop the spray coming in and it's a good idea to cover your nose and mouth with something. There are four ticket collectors who stand on the edge of the boat with their arms hooked through a rope. They wear crash helmets and I guess it's warranted when the boat picks up speed.

Jim Thompson's house was one of the more upmarket places we went to in Bangkok. All the staff were very nicely presented as were the gardens and house itself. You can only go through the house on a tour lasting about 35 minutes. There are fantastic works of art, ceramics, statues and wood carvings to admire in all the rooms. Afterwards we looked through an exhibition of embroidery by French artists but most of the pieces were very odd and the meaning was lost on us.

We like to do round trips so planned to take the bus back to Banglamphu area. While walking down the soi we were accosted by a tuk-tuk driver who was so desperate to take us he offered a ride at only 10B. We discussed it and decided to stick to our original plan, We had taken the tuk-tuks in Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya and it's less necessary in Bangkok. On one hand I feel sorry for them as they try hard to get rides and make a living. But on the other hand they are so pushy it is unpleasant. Anyway, we were having a grest time riding the buses (No. 15 this time).

Today, our last day in Bangkok we chose to visit the Pasteur Institute Snake Farm. We packed up and checked out early then walked to the main road to take bus 47. We saw a bus jam-packed with people on their way to work so were glad when our bus arrived reasonably empty. Again, I followed the route on the map so knew when to get off.

Actually, we were quite early arriving at the snake farm as the slide show isn't until 10:30am. We looked at the snakes in their cages and visited the Museum of the Red Cross in Thailand. The woman was very excited to have an interest in the museum and made us sign the visitors book and she gave us badges.

We still had time to spare so ordered an ice chocolate and a Smooch Chocolate to see what the difference was. The ice chocolate had larger ice pieces and the Smooch Chocolate was fought over as we both liked it better.

At 10:30am we went to the auditorium for the slide show. The slides are old but it is an informative lecture, if you can understand the words. The snake farm is the second oldest in the world. The oldest is in Brazil and started in 1901. The one in Thailand started in 1923. They farm the snakes for venom, some of which is sent to the equine donors in another city. The horses donate blood with anti-venom from the ages of 4 to 12.

When the slide show finished we trooped back outside to the arena to be introduced to the snakes. First up was King Cobra. He was placed on the ground within a couple of metres of us and was fearsome with his hood expanded. We saw several snakes including a pit viper. Some snakes we could 'pat'. They milked a snake and force fed it some chicken. Just like with human blood donations the snakes need to eat to retain their energy. It won't be milked again for another two weeks. At the end, we were introduced to the biggest snake they have, a python. I was the game person who volunteered to hold it. At 23kg it was quite a struggle.

We left the snake farm highly satisfied with our visit. We chose to return to our hotel by the sky train and river express boat. Then we relaxed until it was time to shower and get ready for the taxi. Just as we left it thundered and the most massive downpour we had encountered so far began. It lasted for the long, slow trip out to the airport. Luckily we had given ourselves plenty of time and soon we were winging our way back to the cool of New Zealand.

Posted by pythagnz 01:00 Archived in Thailand

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