Thursday, April 26, 2007


Kia, A and me at Blue Moon bar.

Matt and Ev at Naga.

Sophia, me and Noom at Naga.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Songkran! Songkran!

When we go down to breakfast the Toks boys are throwing buckets of water around and smearing people with baby-powder-water paste. This is Songkran. It's Thai New Year (based on the ancient lunar calendar), and is traditionally a time for a water festival to encourage the monsoon rains to come and refresh the parched earth and whatnot. What happens nowadays is a three-day, nationwide waterfight, which at some point (because I'm quite sure it's not part of the historical tradition) baby powder has become involved in, so Songkran now looks a little like this:

(This is before we went to Silver Sands and got thoroughly drenched by the water truck, washing all the talc off)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo...

We'd decided that we would go to the zoo today because we want to see penguins (we've watched Happy Feet about 95 times and have developed a mild obsession with penguins). Dusit Zoo's in the middle of Bangkok. The journey would be easy enough – take the bus to Victory Monument (the main central interchange of Bangkok), and from there the 510 to the zoo. So after lunch we hop on the bus to Victory Monument: so far so good. We locate the 510 and it has English lettering listing the stops (unusual in Bangkok): Dusit Zoo is among them – doing well – so on we get. I hand the conductress a note, telling her "Dusit Zoo". Blank look. "Zoo, Dusit Zoo," I try again. Blank look. I start trying to make zoo noises at her uncomprehending expression, when another passenger rescues me by translating. And she finally understands – and firmly shakes her head. "But it's written on the side!" I protest. The other passenger tells us we have to go back to Victory Monument and start again, and to take bus 18. Kia gathers that although the 510 does stop at Dusit zoo, it does so before Victory Monument.

So the bus drops us off, I argue with the conductress to get back the 20B note she hadn't given me back, we trundle over the footbridge to the other side of the road, and wait for the 510 heading the other direction. And wait. And wait. Realising that the 510 must do a huge loop rather than a straight to-and-fro trip, we eventually get on another bus back to Victory Monument, where we start the search for bus number 18. Easier said than done: Victory Monument is huge. It's centred on a massive roundabout, and buses stop at four different terminals around the perimeter. And there's no handy tourist information booth to be seen.

So we start our trek around the edge: up the stairs to the walkway; down the stairs to the first bus stop. No number 18. Up the stairs again, down to the next stop. No 18. Up the stairs again (it's the middle of the afternoon, by the way, and about 36°C), and down to the next stop. No sign of the number 18, but I notice the 515 lists Dusit Zoo as a destination. It's moving slowly through the bus lane (Bangkok buses stop only for the shortest time to allow passengers to get on and off – you'll often find yourself disembarking from a moving vehicle) so I clamber aboard and, finding no conductor, try "Dusit Zoo" on a passenger – to be greeted with another blank look and a shrug. So I hop off before I'm whisked away to the eastern bus terminus or Outer Mongolia.

The next 515 that shows up, Kia tries the driver, "Suam Dusit Zoo?" (Suam is Park – its full name is Dusit Park Zoo). "Okay," he says. Well, it's a response, it's more than I've got out of anyone so far, so we take a seat. And, once we'd managed to make the conductress understand where we were going (which took another passenger translating – who'd have thought it was possible to mispronounce "Suam Dusit" so badly as not to be understood?), we were finally on our way to the zoo. Except we don't know where it is or how to recognise when we get there. Luckily the conductress on this bus is more helpful than on the last, and she lets us know when to get off.

Production of Kia's work permit (Chula still has mine – must pick it up when we go in tomorrow) and a friendly "ben khun kru" ("we are teachers") from me, and we're let in for Thai prices (50 baht each as opposed to the 100 baht price for "foreign visitors")... Only to be stopped by the security guard on the gate for having 50 baht tickets (what did he think we'd done – hypnotised the ticket lady to get in for half price?). Another flash of the work permit and a firm "ben khun kru," and he lets us through. And finally, we're off to see the penguins!

The penguin enclosure is closed. But we get to see elephants and white peacocks and flamingoes and camels and hippos and white tigers and cute monkeys, so it's all good.