|Feb 24, 2006 - Bangkok, Thailand - Lost Luggage and New Passports|
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|Bangkok Roadways and buildings|| ||Cousins - Ita and Jules meet in Bangkok|| ||Carl, Eric, Jules and Matt at the Four Seasons in Bangkok|| |
|Bangkok - Lost Luggage and New Passports|
Chaos set in after we disembarked our cruise and arrived at our hotel in Bangkok. We had arranged for a van to take us to our downtown hotel/apartment and upon arrival Eric was thrown into a total and sudden panic as we took our bags from the taxi. His backpack was not there. 'Where is it? How could it not be here? What could have happened to it? What am I going to do?' To go back to the port was not an easy task as it was a $70 US taxi ride one way taking almost two hours in Bangkok traffic. Luckily, at the hotel desk there was a message waiting for us saying the bag had been left behind and they were holding it at the port. Upon calling the port authority we were able to coordinate them delivering the bag to our hotel by taxi where upon their arrival Eric happily embraced his year long belongings once again. We still have no idea how the bag was missed. Whether we forgot to put it on our luggage trolley or the taxi left it sitting curb side while they packed the van, we will never know and nor does it matter now, but with that minor crisis solved we were on to our next dilemma - passports.
Before leaving Canada we had checked and double checked our passports to make sure they were valid for at least six months after our planned return date and knew we had plenty of time. What we did not anticipate was that our passports would completely fill up! Eric still had a few pages in his, but I did not have one blank page remaining and very little white space left on any of the pages for additional stamps. Visas were the hungry page eaters that had cobbled up whole pages at a time, especially in Africa with most countries taking a full page to themselves. Therefore, our number one goal while in Bangkok was to visit the Canadian Embassy and sort out getting a new passport so we can continue the journey. Until then, I was pretty much confined to Thailand with 28 days left on my tourist visa before required to leave.
After a bit of worry, a couple visits to the embassy and some run around to get passport photos that were the correct size, we were able to get our passport applications submitted without the need of a guarantor or our birth certificates. The passports, when they come in 15 days later, will only be valid for one year until we take them to a passport office with our birth certificates where they can extend them for an additional four years. For now though, the one-year is all we need to get us through the last six months of our journey in South-East Asia, Australia and the South Pacific and the new passports are double the size of our old ones with 48 crisp new pages just waiting to be filled!
With our urgent paperwork taken care of it was time to set off to explore Bangkok. By coincidence, Ita and Eric's cousin Jules was in town on holidays and we were all able to get together for a nice dinner before Ita and Lionel flew out the following morning to make their long journey back to Montreal and the cold Canadian winter. Eric and I then set out to explore more of this vast city that travellers seem to either love it or hate. Bangkok appears to be a city of contrasts. The air pollution is horrible, yet for a city its size, the streets are relatively free of litter. The city has the purity and spirituality of Buddhism with the bright orange monks and temples all around town, yet the sleazy sex industry of the Patpong district thrives like nowhere else in the world. The streets are congested with bumper-to-bumper traffic, however above the road the modern, clean sky train quietly hums along. Pictures of adored and respected King Bhumibol are plastered all over the city, nevertheless the reportedly corrupt government and police rule the country. And while millions of tourists visit Thailand each year, luckily the Thais still hold their traditions and culture strong. Travellers either love or hate this city of contrasts but one thing is sure, almost all visitors to Thailand begin their travels in Bangkok and after that love every step of their way throughout amazing Thailand.
We happen to really enjoy Bangkok. For all the noise, pollution and congestion it also gives off an equal energy and vibe accompanied by the warmth and friendliness of the Thai people. There is plenty to do in Bangkok with exploring the Royal Palace, river and canals, floating market, temples, museums, parks, markets and malls. Tempting Thai food can be savoured from incredibly cheap food vendors on the streets to fine dining in high-end restaurants and hotels.
While in town this time we walked miles and miles getting a taste and feel for Bangkok, stopping at roadside stalls for a drink or something to eat. We travelled down the Chao Phraya River by the local water taxi hopping on and off at the sound of the whistle so the boat didn't pull away mid step dropping us into the river below. Although we didn't have the long pants required to enter, we ventured around the Royal Palace viewing the colourful and ornate architecture we would further explore upon our return to Bangkok. And by another coincidence, Eric's friend Gord was in town on business so we arranged to meet up with him for a great Thai dinner on our second evening in Bangkok. It is always great to see friends and family from home while we are travelling around on our year-long journey.
Since we were coming back to Bangkok to pick up our passports, we decided to just spend a few days there now and then head south to the islands for a few weeks before returning to the city again. We plan on using Bangkok as a hub as we explore South-East Asia and figure we will be back at least three times giving us plenty of time to further explore the city and all it has to offer. So we made arrangements with Jules, Eric's cousin to meet him again in Phuket, booked our flight and a train ticket and set off for the islands and beaches of southern Thailand.
GENERAL TRAVEL TIPS AND TIPS FOR BANGKOK
1. When taking a cruise, make sure you note the port agent the cruise line is using and their contact information in each port of call in case of some kind of emergency and you can't reach the ship (or if you leave a bag behind as we did!)
2. If you are travelling for an extended period of time or to a lot of countries that require Visas, pay the extra money to get an extra large passport with additional pages to accommodate the visas. The Canadian government will no longer allow additional pages to be added to passports and instead new passports must be issued which takes about 15 days when abroad.
3. Traffic in Bangkok can be horrendous with bumper-to-bumper vehicles on all the main roads taking hours to get anywhere. Whenever possible use the Skytrain to get around saving you the aggravation of going nowhere in traffic and watching the taxi meter rise.
4. If you do take a taxi, fares are relatively cheap, however taxi drivers often do not speak English and surprisingly, many do not know there way around the city very well at all. Make sure you take a map with you so you can show the driver where you are going.
5. Be aware of Tuk Tuks that offer you incredibly cheap fares or a low fare with one stop along the way. They will try to take you to purchase gems or something you have no interest in and the location is often way out of the way from the direction that you are going.
6. When exploring any of the temples or the Royal Palace you must dress conservatively - no shorts or tank tops although they do allow sandals to be worn. Plan your visits as Bangkok is often very hot and chances are you won't want to spend all day exploring the city in long pants.
7. For a different view of the city and an easy way to get around the way the locals do, try using the river ferry or taxis that run up and down the Chao Phraya River through the heart of Bangkok. The experience is unique and it stops near several of the cities main tourist attractions.
8. Bangkok is a very large and busy city so choose your hotel location carefully so it is easy to get around to the sights, shopping and dining, saving you hassles, time and money in travelling the city.
9. Enjoy the delicious Thai cuisine - spring rolls, green curry chicken, pad Thai, Tom Yom Kung soup, red curries - just to mention a few. If you like spicy food Thai food is sure please your palate. Not to worry if you are not a friend of fiery foods most restaurants cook different for the tourists than they would for themselves.
10. Although Thais have a first name and family name everyone is addressed by their first name so I would be Mr Carl. Also, Thais typically do not shake hands as we would but instead 'wai' as a way to greet people or acknowledge respect. A 'wai' is done by placing your hands together just below your chin in front of your chest in a prayer like gesture.