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An asian adventure Part One: Bangkok

The story begins here, 10,000 feet over the British Columbia coast as we climb out of the Lower Mainland on our way first to Tokyo, then on to Bangkok. In the distance, the city of Port Alberni and beyond, the open Pacific. In a few hours we'll be far, far away.

Having landed in Bangkok near midnight, it was about 2:00 AM before we finally arrived at the hotel. Just five short hours later, we awoke to this: the Chao Phraya River and our first Asian dawn. In tropical Bangkok, the condensation forms on the outside of the windows.

One of the perks of our hotel was the airport shuttle - one of these late model BMWs was a welcome sight indeed at the airport after our nearly 20 hours worth of flights from Cranbrook.

The Peninsula Bangkok. Five stars and a superb location.

Since all the single rooms were booked, we had no choice but to select a suite. Poor us. Nearly 800 square feet of luxury included this sitting room, a bedroom, a dressing room with walk-in closet and two (yes, two) bathrooms.

First things first: a riverside breakfast. That's fresh mango juice, right there. The breakfast buffet was amazing. Each morning we stuffed ourselves with tropical fruits, custom omelettes and breakfast specialties from five continents. They even had oatmeal.

Fresh mango, two kinds of smoked fish and some salami. Just the thing to start off my hour-long breakfast.

Bangkok is nothing if not up-to-date. There were some amazing examples of modern architecture along the river.

In search of a pair of scissors, in the morning I left the hotel grounds and embarked on a solo walk around the immediate neighbourhood. On the way, I passed this roadside altar.

Just a few feet from the tranquility of the Peninsula's grounds, I discovered this. The real Bangkok. Foggy with jet lag, I strolled along the street to the right of this construction site.

Asia is the land of street life. Many businesses operate out in the open air.

If you look carefully, you can see that as she works, she's watching a movie on her phone. Bluetooth speaker, too, for good sound.

There don't seem to be many rules governing how and where things get installed. Safety and appearance don't matter. Like the Dutch, Thais are pragmatic.

This guitar shop signage has seen better days.

A half hour later, my scissors quest completed, I returned to the hotel grounds, where this palm caught my fancy.

As did this fountain. The hotel grounds were an oasis of calm in a world of chaos.

Now, it was time to go exploring. First, we caught one of these little boats which took us from our hotel, to the other side of the river to the public transport boats.

An instant favourite of Carol's, these little boats are operated by the hotel. Free, for guests.

The public transport boat took us a half hour upstream, provided you had the fare. About fifty cents.

A common sight in Buddhist Thailand, these young monks check their social media account.

Our first stop this morning was the Flower Market. It's huge, covering several city blocks. Fresh flowers and produce are important businesses for Thailand. In a day or so, these products might be for sale on a street in Amsterdam.

This woman was processing the most amazing fresh ginger. The smells!

Chili peppers. Don't even think about tasting one of these. The smaller they are, the harder they bite.

Kale in baskets worth bringing home, if only they'd fit in your carry-on.

The market was endless. We spent hours there, looking, tasting, smelling.

Eventually, the heat and noise got to us. It was time to return to the relative peace and quiet of the hotel.

How's this for a location for a quiet supper?

Fortunately, Carol knows more about wine than I do. I deferred to her excellent judgement.

While Skyping with Thea, she showed me a realtime image of our sun room with this exact same sun, only it was dawn in the Kootenays, not sunset in Asia.

The next morning, we hired a "Long Tail" a long, narrow boat unique to tropical Asia.

Rather than install the motor deep in the bowels of the boat, the Thais simply mount it on the transom and extend the drive shaft and propeller far behind. A noisy, yet practical solution, it makes for easy maintenance and a hair-raising ride.

At full power, the noise from the engine is overpowering, but you get places fast!

Our pilot took us on an hour-long tour of the "back streets" of Bangkok - on the "klongs", or canals, that lace the geography of Bangkok. Much of the city is actually below sea level.

As well as seeing the back streets of Bangkok, we did see some wildlife. Including this three-foot beast, resting in the shade.

And this poor, brave little plant, eking out an existence on the wall of a lock, somewhere in the klong system.

The destination on our "long tail" klong tour was this chaotic scene: the "Royal Palace", the prime tourism destination for Bangkok. It was hot, humid and packed.

The former King's palace. Yul Brynner would have lived here.

Saturated with tourism, we returned to the hotel and forsook the five star luxury of The Peninsula for this across-the-river establishment: Jack's Bar.

Jack's is a Bangkok delight. I'm not sure it would meet code in any jurisdiction on the planet, but we ate one of the best suppers of our entire trip here. The people watching was excellent, too. I'm fairly sure I heard a lot of air crew conversation.

Carol said that her wine was "incredibly bad". I was glad I stuck to beer.

Now, it was time to leave Bangkok. Bhutan awaits and the flight departs at 05:00 AM.

Stay tuned for Part Two of "An Asian Adventure"

Created By
Peter Mclennan
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