26 December 2008

Stranded in Macau and Hong Kong

30 Nov 2008 (Sunday)

Thousands of tourists stranded in Bangkok as anti-government protestors took siege of Suvarnabhumi Airport.

More than 190 dead and hundreds injured at Mumbai’s luxurious Taj Mahal Palace Hotel when terrorist violence struck.

One muddle-headed Singaporean lost in Macau after his wallet and passport got pickpocketed.

Even though I had very little left, I was never more tired by the little that I have. My luggage was light, made even lighter by the missing weight of my passport and cash, but it felt heavier on my back. I had everything that I needed in my backpack, yet any place that I laid it down is not home. I yearned for Singapore soil. I missed the safety of home. Yet home, for the people of Bangkok and Mumbai, is the least secure place at the moment. Why do brothers gun down each other and sisters plunge a cleaver into a kin’s heart? Is our right to believe so much more important than another’s right to live?

As I waited to get back to Singapore, I watched our global home get destroyed on TV over smelly beancurd, stewed pig’s intestines and cow’s heart. After all, I’m trapped here and what else can I do but enjoy the inside stench of life?

But the unsavory combination was a delight (no doubt havoc to my cholesterol levels) made orgasmic with some beer. That supper was probably the best taste of Hong Kong. Despite raving reviews on Hong Kong’s culinary traditions, I’ve never thought food there was great. Not now, not 10 years ago when I last visited, and I don’t think ever. What with the dim sums, claypot rice, wax meats and abundance of fatty roast pork, it’s a wonder that most Hong Kongers are still so slim!

A Vagrant in Fragrant Harbour

My misadventure started as a company trip to Macau from 27 – 30 Nov (Thurs to Sun). I popped over to Hong Kong on 28th and 29th and returned to Macau on 30th to catch the plane back to Singapore. After I cleared the ferry customs from Macau (customs clearing is required for commute between the two places), I proceeded to have my lunch and as I was about to pay, my being went into shock when I realized my wallet was gone. And my passport eloped with it.

In order to get home, I had to obtain a temporary Document of Identity (DOI) from the Singapore Consulate. Problem was, the Singapore embassy’s at Hong Kong and I’m in Macau. Without the document, I cannot leave Macau. It was a Sunday and the Macau Immigration Department was closed so I had to stay a night, get an exit permit to go Hong Kong the next day, get my DOI and then come back to Macau to fly. I could’ve flown from Hong Kong back to Singapore but I had pre-booked my flight with Tiger Airways out of panic.

Loss trail

The events went like this… After I lodged a police report about my loss on Sunday, I immediately went to the airport and approached the Tiger Airways reservations counter to check flight availability. The staff told me that flights were all fully booked as year-end is a peak season for travel and she couldn’t help me check for ticket availability because she don’t have a computer. What?!! How can a reservations desk not have a computer?!! So I panicked at the possibility of being stranded in Macau indefinitely with depleting resources. But when I went back to the hotel and checked online, there were available seats on both Monday and Tuesday and many days thereafter. In fact, there were MANY empty seats. So I booked a flight for Tuesday (2 Dec) before even knowing that I had to go Hong Kong to get my document issued. Then when I was in Hong Kong, the consulate told me I cannot go back to Macau and have to fly from Hong Kong (by the way, Tiger Airways only fly from Macau and not Hong Kong)! After much waiting, finally, I was issued with a document that said I will leave Hong Kong via Macau. Phew… Anyway, what lousy service Tiger Airways provide and the airline don’t even have a representative office in Macau. The female staff was such a lazy (*).Well, guess I cannot complain for being cheap.

Travel Facts

Currency used : Macau (MOP), Hong Kong (HK$)
HK$ is accepted in Macau, but MOP is not accepted in Hong Kong.

Exchange rate : S$1.00 = HK$4.70 - $5.00

Accommodation :
Golden Dragon Hotel, Macau (MOP780 incl. breakfast)
Standford Hillview Hotel, HK (HK$550)

Ferry ticket : Ranges from HK$138 to HK $148

Cab fare : HK$13.00 (HK$1.60 per increment)

Circus of Lights

Macau NightIn Macau, the circle of life gives way to a circus of lights at sundown. The casinos explode into a symphony of lights; each trying to outdo the other in scale and design. They were captivating at first, but after one too many, my retinas burned. I saw Grand Lisboa Casino, Sands, MGM, Wynn, a few others, and Golden Dragon, the casino-hotel which I stayed in. No wonder this place is called Las Vegas of the East. But the most talked-about casino at the moment would be Venetian Casino.

Venetian is huge. It has the cityscape of Venice embalmed into its walls. From the European building visage, to the weaving canals complete with gondolas and singing boatman, to the opulently gold Baroque-styled frieze and décor, Venetian is pretty overwhelming. I don’t gamble, neither do I recognize labels so the gamblers playground didn’t appeal to me; equally uneventful was the shopping there which housed mostly luxury brands. The swanky casino-hotel is impressive for its sheer size but apart from that, I don’t find it particularly remarkable. Maybe because it is not my ‘style’ for I find the faux European replica more plastic than fantastic.

Other than Macau being a gambler’s high in getting a royal flush, there’s really not much to see. I went to the A-Ma Temple, supposedly the oldest temple in Macau, hoping to capture some nice shots of Buddhist architecture but all there was is a small and crummy temple devoid of any ‘wow’ factor.

Venetian CasinoNearby the temple, I had some authentic Portuguese cuisine. Out of adventure, I ordered the Pig’s Ear Salad for starters and a Portuguese Chicken Stew with rice. Sony on the other hand ordered one of their specialty, Grilled Codfish. This Portuguese restaurant, Litoral, was recommended by Serene who’s working and living in Macau now. Can’t go wrong right? WRONG. Maybe it was a bad choice of selection. The Pig’s Ear Salad was light and harboured the faint aroma of olive oil with shreds of onions to balance the musky taste of pork. When it was served, I sort of regretted my curiosity. The pig ear’s was tender and crunchy and rather tasteless but not exactly something that opens up the appetite. Sony took a small piece and that was all he wanted to try. After a few mouthfuls, my tongue was feeling a little lardy and heavy, but in the spirit of not wasting food, I managed to finish most of it. That left my stomach little space for the chicken stew, but that dish was not too bad at all.

Then came Sony’s order of fish and it looked delicious with a golden crust topped with heaps of fried garlic slices. When cut, the fish was snow white and tender on the inside, and put to the mouth, it was crispy on the outside… but wait, were we served salted fish soaked in water? It was like licking a salt popsicle! The fish was so salty! The waitress did warn us that it’s going to be salty but I didn’t imagine it would be pure saline terror. The meal cost MOP462 (S$92.40). Needless to say, it wasn’t a meal that I pigged out for there were leftovers.

I don’t find food in Macau great at all but I do like the famous egg tarts and almond biscuits. I don’t have a sweet tooth but these 2 pastries deserve their Macau-ian repute. The best egg tarts can be found along the line of shops that lead up to the iconic attraction of Macau, the ruins of St Paul’s Church. They cost about MOP7.00 each and are freshly made. I had wanted to buy some back on the last day of my trip but alas, I was pickpocketed.

The other ‘swey’ thing that happened was that more than 15 photographs were missing from my camera! I went trigger happy at the ruins of St Paul Church and another church nearby but when I preview my photos the next day, those photos were gone! It’s strange because after I took photos there, I’d do a playback to see the images and they were all there. Then the next day, I went to Lantau Island, took pictures, and when I scrolled back to see the St Paul’s lot, I got this message, “Thumbnails shown only.” Thing is, there were no thumbnails shown and the batch of about 15 or more shots were gone! Without a trace! When I came back and loaded the memory stick, there was an obvious jump in the numbering of the photos. It was P1010999 and the next number was P1020070. And I didn’t delete any photos at all. The peculiar thing was, the St Paul’s set of pictures were in between images taken at the A-Ma Temple and the Giant Buddha at Hong Kong’s Lantau Island. Could it be that the Panasonic Lumix camera I borrowed from Michael is an anti-Christ? Spooky…

The Lung of Hong Kong

Wisdom PathWith its sprawling indigenous forests preserved, the majorly green Lantau Island is considered to be the lung of Hong Kong. But the ex-British colony would need more than one lung to clear that hazy, polluted air that shrouds it. Lantau Island was translated from its Cantonese name, 爛頭山 (literally meaning ‘Rotted Head Mountain’), and I think it’s called ‘rotted head’ or ‘ragged head’ because there’re so many cliffs and clefs, which made for a picturesque view and the Giant Buddha atop one of those peaks more spectacular.

Getting there was very simple. We took the MTR to Tung Chung station (same direction as HK Disneyland), then took the Ngong Ping 360 cable car up the mountain. There’re different price plans for the ride but we took a single trip up for HK$63. For the way down, we took a bus which costs HK$27.50. The cable car ride was about 25 minutes with a panoramic view of the island, while the slightly longer bus ride offered a ground close-up of developments and foliage abet being a tad too bouncy. Seats on the bus were matched exactly to the number of passengers for standing would be a hazard with the bus angled for downhill. Those who couldn't get on will have to wait for the next bus in about 20 minutes.

The main attractions of Lantau Island are the Giant Buddha, Po Lin Monastery and the Path of Wisdom. There’s also a fishing village called Tai-O, but due to us arriving quite late and waiting for the wrong bus, we skipped that attraction. My favourite sight on this Giant Buddhaisland which is almost twice the size of Hong Kong, was the Path of Wisdom. It was a pretty long trek in but the view was breathtaking. The path to wisdom is indeed a long and winding road, but at the end, it is quietly satisfying and self-contemplating.

Po Lin Monastery is a functioning temple and there’s really nothing much to see. There’s vegetarian set meal available there for HK$60 per person. Food’s palatable but don’t think it’s worth the price. That’s the thing about food in Hong Kong.. so expensive. But we needed the energy to climb the stairs to reach the Giant Buddha. The bronze statue was overwhelming and the climb will give you glutes that put J.Lo out of business (is she still in??). The view on top was more undulating mountains meeting a sea that stretches into the horizon. Awesome.

That’s about the highlight in Hong Kong for I hardly shopped as it was winter and I have no need for thick clothes back in Singapore. But the one thing I was very impressed about was how polite the Hong Kongers generally are now. As part of my way-finding to a hotel there, I became lost and asked for directions at a shop retailing window fixtures. Even though the shopkeeper didn’t know where the hotel was, he picked-up the phone and called his friend to ask. Then he wrote down the name and directions for me. Now, that’s hospitality!

Macau & Hong Kong

12 August 2008

KL-ed, Sick and Overspent

I commemorated 08/08/08 with yet another KL escapade. Well, actually, it’s not much of an escapade since this is the umpteenth time I’ve been there doing much the same things, just at slightly different locations. I had decided to make the trip mainly as a celebration of sorts for Eugene, and partly also because I wanted a vacation and going anywhere that required flying is too expensive nowadays. But I think I majorly overspent this holiday.

Darn of all darns, I fell sick before the trip and my nose ran all the way from Singapore to KL and back, all 4 days 3 nights. So with shopping bags in one hand, and tissue sheets in the other, I sneezed and signed my way through the malls and clubs of KL. I think my credit card caught my flu too ‘coz it left trails of blue (sometimes black) mucus on countless receipts and bills.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket


Transport : RM200 (S$85.10)

3 of us took a friend’s car and it worked out to be RM100 per person each way for petrol and toll charges. We fed the car 3 times (petrol cost : RM138 + RM74 + RM100) and had to pay 3 tolls along the way (S$4.90 + RM$40.80 + RM10.80).

Travel Time :

Depart SGP (9.00am) → Arrive KL (12.30pm)
Depart KL (2.00pm) → Arrive SGP (7.30pm; traffic jam at Singapore Tuas Customs)

There are 2 lanes designated for private cars for entry into Singapore. However, many will cut the queue from the 3rd lane meant for lorries and buses. Our car was in the 2nd lane so we had to constantly keep close to the vehicle in front to stop any car from eating into our queue. For the law-abiding, the best lane to be in is the 1st lane (rightmost lane) as you don’t have to deal with those road sharks. Trying to fend off these cheaters caused us to get into a minor accident. No big deal, just a few scratches near the front left-tyre cavity.

Accommodation :

8 – 9 Aug – Replica Inn Bukit Bintang, RM172 (SS73.20 per person for 2 nights)
11 Aug – Imperial Hotel, KL (Formerly known as Sheraton Imperial), US$30 (S$50 per night)

Replica Inn is a standard budget hotel with just the basics (no pool, no gym, no fridge, no safe deposit, no restaurant or room service). The room is clean with a huge bathroom that is fuss-free in its design. The location is really great as it’s at one end of the popular food street, Jalan Alor, and just across from Bukit Bintang Plaza. But it can get a bit dusty and noisy since its right at the heart of action.

Imperial Hotel is what luxury is all about. I’m so used to budget travelling that anything with just a splash of color on the room’s wall would make me see multiple stars. My friend redeemed some of his mileage points so we paid only US$30 a night for the room. I don’t know what the rack rate is but staying on the 35th floor with such a great view, I would imagine the original price to be equally eye-popping.

Imperial RoomEverything is perfect about this hotel. The room is gorgeous with a contemporary oriental design; the bathroom is well-mirrored (a great place to get romantic, if you know what I mean…); the gym doesn’t make me feel like a hamster on a wheel, the pool is positioned along the path of the sun with comfy, cushioned deck chairs and tents; the lobby is grand with layers of cascading marble stairs; and I discovered the deep relaxation of hot-cold jacuzzi at its spa recess.

I’ve heard of the practice where one gets hydraulically massaged in a hot jac and then going immediately into an adjourning cold pool. Without a thought, I stuck my leg into the hot pool only to realize that that thing can make soup out of me (you see, I’ve only been to jacs no warmer than my pee so far). And when I played human thermometer at the cold pool, I thought of the Arctic. It’s pure Nazi therapy. But I tried. As I slowly immersed myself in the hot jac, the heat sent serious goosebumps all over my body that’s still out of water. But once my body got accustomed to the warmth, it was just like soaking in any normal jac. I boiled myself for about 10 minutes. I think the steam must’ve dissolved grey matter along with my tension for I did the unthinkable… I crossed over to the other side.

The water was ice-cold but I felt so comfortable in it. I think fried ice-creams must feel that way too, just reversed. The feeling was indescribable. Heat emanated from my body, cold peeling it away. It was calming, soothing, relaxing, relieving, refreshing, serene, tranquil, peaceful, lulling… ah… and I stretched out my legs. Then the cold bit me right away. Stay in one position and it felt nice. Move around, and pleasure became torture. So staying in one’s comfort zone isn’t always a bad thing. Well, at least until it starts getting uncomfortable.

Exchange Rate : S$1.00 = RM2.37 (Fri. rate) – RM 2.32 (Sun. rate)

Travel Insurance : S$28

Total Spent : S$450 + S$75 + S$310 (Credit Card) + S$101.30 = S$936.30!!!!!

Whore Wallet

Gasp! I’m still reeling from having just calculated my total expenditure. My wallet is such a whore! Always opening its flat legs, ejaculating cash and credit card every store I walked into. *sigh* I told myself I won’t shop much this trip because I still have 6 to 7 bags of new clothes I haven’t worn from previous trips. The only consolation is that what I bought this trip are all radically different from the largely singlet and t-shirt ensembles I had accumulated. This time round I went more for casual shirts, jackets and pants.

Total S$56.00I succumb to sales easily and have this habit of storing new clothes and wearing them only after my old ones are worn out. Yet, I get so comfortable in those old garbs, I hardly throw any out. So I still have brand new clothes from previous purchases, some up to 3 years ago, still nicely folded and wrapped up in plastic bags. But I had given some out because I can’t fit into them anymore. Those wretched cloth time-bombs, so unforgiving of age and a few extra pounds. So I better start wearing them soon or conduct a closet sale.

This trip to KL I discovered One Utama, another mega mall that’s slightly further out from the city. Thanks to David who took us there or I wouldn’t discover how loose my wallet was. But frankly, all the malls are infected by chain retailers and they carry similar products. It was just a matter of who has the right sizes or a slightly wider range. I’m quite a fan of the local brands Padini Authentics, PDI, and Seed. This time round I bought into Malaysian designers Key Ng and Michael Ong, mostly ‘coz they were on sale. Key Ng’s designs are very wayang and what female impersonators might wear on their days off, but his clothes are a nice fit for me. Initially I thought the designs were outlandish and didn’t cast another look, but once I tried the more somber pieces on, my wallet opened its lips. Michael Ong is more understated and I bought 2 super low-neck long-sleeved pullovers. Don’t know if I’ll have the guts to wear them in Singapore though.

Silly Drunk Pics

The other large chunk of my travel budget went down in pisses. Drinking in KL is only slightly cheaper than in Singapore so with that minor discount at the back of my mind, I spent much more than I would on a night out back here. Here’re some bar prices from the clubs we went to :

Absolut Vodka (0.75L) – RM300
Carlsberg beer (bottle) – RM20
Lychee Martini – RM30
Beer on tap (jug) – RM38.50 (happy hour), RM61 (after 1am)

Went to more or less the same places except for Ratkem Celap on Saturday night. This club was pretty obscure and rather out of the way. It looked like a bungalow converted into a party house with outdoor patios and a small, oblong dance floor, which was packed. Given that the door bitch had an attitude so grim, I wouldn’t make the extra effort there next time.

Vodka Power

Of late, I had grown a penchant for photographing friends when they’re in a very susceptible state for embarrassing poses. I, too, don’t escape the fate of my Nokia N82 5-mega pixel eye. Edison Chen would’ve admired my camera work. But that’s the fun part of getting drunk, to be possessed by the ability to act silly. And also have the pics as a refresher when alcoholic amnesia sets in. I used to think that it is bull crap when friends tell me they can’t remember a drunk when they’re drunk. Now, I’m experiencing memory lapses when I’ve gone too far off the end. I don’t even remember bits and pieces. It’s a total mental block or a very slow recall. Time to cut back on the drinks before I lose more of my existence.

Despite my flu, unfamiliar travel buddies and a reprehension that I would have much fun in this KL trip, I must say the score card added up pretty well with stories to tell. For one, I had witnessed the birth of an ear-licker. Ha.

03 April 2008

Black in Bangkok

Date of Exploration : 28 Mar - 1 Apr 08. So I’m back in Bangkok… in black. Black is the color of sin. Black heals. I pawned my salvation in search of redemption. I found it. Thrice. But my squandering still bought me no cure. White becomes most apparent on black, and I observed my living contrast from whence and back. But I can see my thoughts becoming less stark; I can feel my light dissolving into dark. Black heals.

Oh well, enough of the soul searching and self reflection stuff… sometimes I reflect upon my actions so much, I lose sight of who I am. And the scariest is when I stumbled on some of the real reasons behind my motivation, and they are not something that I’d like to meet. I went on this trip weighing much on my mind and heart. Maybe that heightened my need to abandon myself to the senses. And Bangkok never fails to please for all 5 days and 4 nights.

BKK Mar 08 1

Travel Facts :

Exchange rate : S$1.00 = 22.30 – 22.50baht

Air Ticket (Return) : Jetstar (S$198, include. all taxes)

Accomodation : Plaza Hotel, 1 Twin-share room X 4 nights (S$239.55, incl. breakfast)

Plaza Hotel is located at the end of the Surawong stretch of entertainment outlets and about a 10-minute walk to Patpong. I felt like I was living in the early 80s as I stepped into the room because the air-conditioning was still controlled by those push button switches and all the lamps had to be switched on individually. For S$30 a night per person, well, I don’t ask for much.

Moreover, Mel and I were out on foot most of the time retiring to the hotel only for shut-eyes. The facilities were very modest, but the room was rather spacious and it even came with kitchen cabinets and an aluminum sink! It’s like a pseudo serviced apartment, one with the very bare essentials. Some of the bath towels were frayed and had holes in them, and the room window peered over some debris littered roof top. The roof-top scenes from Bangkok love story came to mind, except that what’s in front of me is way messier. And I was surprised to see a guy hanging out his laundry in that squalidness. Was that place even inhabitable? And when I turn back to face my room, suddenly it looked like paradise.

Airport-City Transport

There’s an official airport transport service operator, AOT, which charges 900baht. Walk out of the Suvarnabhumi Airport and use the assisted public taxi service instead. Along the way, many taxi drivers will be offering to take you downtown for 600baht and claimed that it’s the same price as the assisted taxi service, well, it was not.

We used the assisted service which required a 50baht surcharge. As soon as we got into the cab, the taxi driver tried to negotiate for a flat fare of 500baht (S$22.00) which will include the 2 toll charges and surcharge. We insisted he turn on the meter and paid the paid toll charges ourselves. The total cab fare turned out to be : Metered fare (269baht) + Surcharge (50baht) + Toll Charges (65 + 40baht) = 424baht (S$19.00)

Well, the difference was just S$3.00 but I just don’t like to be coerced into tipping. Then again, if the traffic jam was any worse, the 500baht fare would have been more economical.

Travel Insurance : S$28.00

Total Spending : S$700 (excl. airfare, accommodation and insurance). Can use Singapore’s ATM cards with the Cirrus, Maestro logo to withdraw cash from Thai ATMs)

BKK Mar 08 2

Pratunum Market – Wholesale Textiles

After checking into the hotel at about 2.30pm, we headed out for Pratunum Market. I’ve never been to this market before and had been told how cheap clothing items can be there because it is a wholesale center. To get to Pratunum Market, just look for the Baiyoke Sky Hotel. The hotel is reputably the tallest building in Bangkok so it’s pretty well-known.

However, when I got to the wholesale center, I was kind of disappointed because instead of seeing garments strewn in heaps haphazardly (a sure sign of cheap bargains), the market is lined with shops neatly stacked and merchandize properly displayed. My action-ready wallet immediately went limp. We didn’t explore very much of that area and had a late lunch at a roadside stall around there. It cost only 90baht ($4.00) for 2 plates of crispy fried noodles and a bottle of water.

BKK Mar 08 3

My Contribution To Pests Control

That night, I came across a cart that sold fried insects along Surawong Road. Jackpot! I remembered that roadside vendors selling insect snacks were plenty many years back, but had become somewhat of a rarity in the last few years. So I was delighted at the sight of one. The fried grasshoppers were really tasty. When I had them previously, they were huge with abdomens thicker than my index finger, but now, they resembled Kate Moss. The way to eat them is to pluck away the thorny hind legs (tibia) and then chowing down on the femur (thigh), the abdomen and working your way to the thorax and head. Well, that’s how I would eat it because I found that by eating the whole grasshopper at one go pricks the tongue and mouth. Rather unpleasant. Plus by eating part by part, you can savor the different taste and texture. My favorite part is the femur as it is crispy and has a nutty flavor. It also leaves an aftertaste of aromatic fried chicken.

The other insect I have no idea what it was. I had seen it previously but because it resembled what my nightmares are made off, I couldn’t convince my stomach to try. They are huge, black and with an underbelly that looked like a sleeping mummy with its arms folded. It cost 20baht for 3 of those terrors. And they weren’t that palatable. The wings lay on the abdomen and they flatten out so they tasted like eating dust or dry grass and were tasteless. The juicy part is the section where the abdomen joins the upper thorax. That part is thick and when the abdomen was pried from it, it oozes a creamy, brownish emulsion. (Note to self : When something looks diahorrea, it tastes like it too)

I thought I struck gold and lapped at it. Big mistake. I felt like a human sewer. It wasn’t an awful stink, but it had a pungent herbal taste that left the mouth smelling like the ass. I would imagine this is what faeces would taste like. Pui. There were also worms on sale but unless you enjoy doing housework with your tongue, give it a miss.

BKK Mar 08 4

Pain Water At Chatuchak

I never agree with friends who tell me that things in Chatuchak Weekend Market are all the same. If you’ve seen one stall, you’ve seen them all. Each time I endured the sweltering heat and navigated the retail maze, I’m always surprised to find something different, something unique; and though some stalls do sell similar merchandize, there’s differentiation in design. There’re also many well decorated stalls with unique personalities and very delightful to look at.

Lunch was also yummy at one of the stalls that served its dishes on earthenware. The fried chicken was wonderful but the English menu left me to wonder… Pain Water? Is that fluid tapped from pregnant women’s waterbags? Or water scooped from a baptism pool where people leave their pain behind and be reborn in Christ? Imagine when you open the bottle and it screams in agony. Then each time you pour the water out, it moans in pain. Haha…

But I did encounter pain… in seeing this very old lady selling weaved ornaments. But I don’t think she needed my pity. Despite her old age, she was still working, doing something, even if it was just sitting in the middle of the road, under the hot sun and selling her crafts. In fact, there’re so many incidences of cold comfort in Bangkok. Seeing this young guy going from car to car on the road, giving each car a deep bow before hoping to sell a jasmine garland; a beggar with only one arm and no legs on the street; people sleeping by the roadside… how lucky I really am. Despite their adversities, these people are fighting to stay alive, living in the hope of the next stranger that passes by.

BKK Mar 08 5

A Half Day Trip To Top Sights

I had always wanted to know more of Bangkok besides the shopping, bars and clubs. Too cheapo to book a sightseeing package, I decided to play compass and pray I don’t end up in Laos. But as it turns out, it was pretty easy to find my way around and trust me, when it comes to map reading, my hair instantly turns blond. Here’s a rundown on the itinerary and highlights of the day trip that lasted about 4 hours (including lunch time).

8:30 am Wake up, breakfast, make up

10:00 am Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and Grand Palace

Address : Thanon Na Phra Lan

Wat Phra Kaeo shares the grounds with the Grand Palace. For an entrance fee of 250baht (S$11.20), you get to visit the 2 sites, but the Grand Palace is not much to see because a lot of areas are closed to the public. So spend most of your time at Wat Phra Kaeo instead. The 2 sites use a common entrance and are open from 9am to 3.30pm daily.

Expect to be blinded by gold and opulently decorated chedis and temples. The place literally assaults the eyes with a cacophony of colors and mirrored glasses against a still blue sky. We also saw the jade Buddha but it was not very big and sat on an altar of golden pagoda. As with all the other sites, you can book a personal tour guide at the entrance for 150baht per person (I overheard) for a half hour explanatory tour. Wat Phra Kaeo is a playground for shutterbugs.

After going one round the temple, we came to a small slip door that leads to the Grand Palace. Signage posts are pretty well installed so you won’t miss the entrance. Grand Palace has a throne hall and a massive building with manicured gardens. That’s about it. It can get pretty hot so ladies may want to bring an umbrella. And do dress appropriately as all the temples endorse a code of no sleeveless, no shorts or bermudas, and no slippers. If you still insist on tempting the monks, you’ll be dismayed as there’re clothes available for rental.

BKK Mar 08 6

12:00 pm Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

Address : Thanon Maha Rat

Wat Pho is within walking distance of Wat Phra Kaeo. I asked the guards at the entrance to point me the direction towards Wat Pho. It is just a matter of walking along the parameters of Wat Phra Kaeo and then making a turn. It took us about 15 minutes of leisurely pace to get there. Along the way, we met a man who told us that Wat Pho was closed for the day. Thankfully, I’ve been forewarned that this would happen. These dishonest guides will tell you that Wat Pho is closed and then suggest bringing you somewhere else. Just keep walking.

The entrance to Wat Pho was rather unremarkable. Maybe that’s a side entrance and not the main. The entrance fee is 50baht. The main attraction here would be the dunno many feet statue of a reclining Buddha. I’d seen it in my childhood memories, and now that I saw it again, I’m a different person, but the image remained the same. Well, except for huge black patches near the feet of the Buddha.

Other than the huge statue crammed into a small space blocked by pillars (why don’t they relocate the statue to a place that will compliment its grandeur?), there were countless stone statues that around the temple grounds. What’s interesting was that the statues all have different styles. Some looked Chinese, others looked lifelike while some are clutters of abstract carvings. There must be hundreds of statues in the temple grounds.

BKK Mar 08 7

12:45 pm Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

Address : 34 Thanon Arun

Wat Arun is across the river from Wat Pho accessible by boat. We walked from Wat Pho to a small jetty that provides the crossing for 3.5baht (S$0.16). Just follow stench of dried seafood and you’ll find the jetty. When we went ashore, I saw these cut-out standees to pose for photos and excitedly went to one to take my picture. It cost 40baht. The pricing was obscure and blended into the painted boards so just be cautioned that everything in Bangkok costs money. Entrance to Wat Arun is 50baht.

I read somewhere that Wat Arun is most beautiful during sunset. Err… is there a mistake? The temple of dawn looking good at sunset? There was also a sign that read, ‘Do not dangle any doll.’ Huh??

It was a pity that by the time we got to Wat Arun, the sky was overcast and the stone chedis lost their color and looked really grey. Wat Arun is not for people with a phobia of heights. One of the features of Wat Arun is that you can climb up the main chedi. However, the height of each step is very high and the width is very narrow. I literally had to side-step up the stairs and pull myself up. You can go as high as 3 segments and get a 360-degree view of the Chao Phraya River and Bangkok’s cityscape. Apart from the main chedi, there’s nothing much else to see. It is noteworthy that the chedis in the 3 temples are decorated differently.

We tend took the boat back across the river and had lunch at a roadside zi cha stall. Generally, a plate of noodles, fried rice or chicken rice at these stalls cost about 35baht (S$1.57) per plate.

BKK Mar 08 8

Walking Almost Nude Down Silom Road

On Sunday night, we went to Bed And Supperclub as a break from the usual JD. It was supposed to be a themed night called Think Pink, but all we saw was white. White men and ladies. And no wonder because the cover charge was 600baht (S$27.00) for 2 drinks! The place plays Zouk kind of music and there wasn’t much of a crowd. Mel was especially bored and we left about 1:00am. Do bring along your NRIC or passport for identification and entry into the clubs.

So to make up, and it being the last night, we decided to party all out on Monday. It was surprising that even on a Monday night, JD still packs a comfortable crowd. It was good that Mel was my travel buddy this time round because he doesn’t drink much so I ended up drinking less too. But it was the last night. So I ordered a Kamikaze for 500baht. It was potent stuff. I was reaching my desired state of clubbing nirvana and decided to join the podium crowd. So I reach out my hand and someone helped me up. As I was crossing over from earth to heaven, my black jeans ripped.

It wasn’t just a small inconspicuous tear. You can see the photos for the damage. I immediately jumped back down from the stage. What a lousy pair of corduroy jeans! I had worn it about 4 times and washed it only once! The brand is Bontton and I bought it from Malaysia. Without a choice, I had to remove my t-shirt and tucked it as a half skirt to cover my ass. I could already feel the cold drafts circulating. The tear was massive.

Thankfully I was already quite drunk by then so the sting of embarrassment didn’t hurt as bad… and I continued partying! Ha ha… So tragic. And when it came time to head back, I had to go topless, with rags on my ass, and walked the length of Silom Road and Surawong Road. It was hilarious!

BKK Mar 08 9

What Color Next?

Maybe it was symbolic that my black jeans was ripped wide open. Perhaps it represented the cracking of a paradigm, an old strategy that no longer works in this day and age. Join in the black. White stains easily. You can’t see the bleeding ketchup on black.

For the moment, I think I will just open up and enjoy more colors of the rainbow…
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