Bangkok is full of wonderful surprises and, if you know where to look, you can find them all over the city. Take Sathorn for instance, some say the centre of the city, with it’s high rise office blocks, glitzy hotels and European style bars and restaurants, but it’s also home to M.R Kukrit’s Heritage Home. If you’re interested in history, this beautiful teak house won’t disappoint.
Mom Rajawongse Kukrit was born in 1911, educated in England, and was Thailand’s 13th prime minister between 1974-1975. He was a very talented artist and writer and he has over 40 novels to his name. His home represents the man he was, and it’s been left just the way it was when he lived there. There are many of his personal souvenirs and you can really see the passion he had for traditional art and literature through paintings and books that are displayed.
The house is of traditional Thai design and it took over 20 years to be completed. There are 5 beautiful teak buildings, all of which came from different parts of Thailand; the owner had them transported and reassembled. As well as the buildings, there is walled garden, a lily pond, a bird pavilion, and a European style garden with a lawn surrounded by colourful flowers, trees and shrubs.
M.R Kukrit’s home was registered by the Department of Fine Arts as “the home of an important person” and they point out that it’s not for exhibition purposes like your usual museum, rather it’s the home of a person who lived there, which, in my opinion, makes it more interesting. The other thing I liked about it was its location; tucked down a leafy lane, smack bang in the middle of one of Bangkok’s most affluent districts, but a world away from all the noise of the busy road, just one street away. 🙂
It was the Christmas of 1999, and my boyfriend gave me a wonderful surprise, but when I opened the present, I found an apple and the look on my face said “I hope that’s not all he’s got me!” The clue didn’t register until I was given a hint from his parents; the Big Apple?! “Oh, wow!” I was off to New York for 6 days. I was one happy girl.
A few days into the new year, we found ourselves in Manhattan. We had a fabulous time there, but one story sticks in my mind. A night we went clubbing.
We got all dressed up and went out for dinner and then made our merry way to a club, called Liquid. It was quite a big club, from what I remember, and the pink and purple colours dazzled as the lights flashed around us. It was early when we got there, so there weren’t very many people there. We made our way to the bar and asked for two red bull and vodkas. We nearly fell over in shock with the reply we received! There was no liquor license! That was the year 2000, and only 10 years after the internet started, so it wasn’t really the norm to check out places before going there. Had we been able to do that, I don’t even know if the club had a website back then, but we would probably have found out that Liquid didn’t serve booze.
We were slightly taken aback, seeing as we were in the city that never sleeps, it seemed that was true, but we would just have to experience a night without our vodkas, after all we had paid money to get into the club, so we weren’t going to leave just because of a minor (in our case, major) detail. So, we ordered red bulls, minus the vodka, and moved away from the bar and found a place to people watch.
What happened next really made our night. As we sipped our non-alcoholic beverages, both of us thinking, “once we’ve finished these, we are outta here and gonna get drunk,” when a circle of people formed in front of us. We wondered what was going on, a fight maybe? But the atmosphere didn’t feel like that, there was no-one sizing each other up or shoving going on.
All of a sudden, music blared and, in the middle of the circle of people, a guy began break-dancing, moving this way and that, head spinning, body popping and getting into seemingly impossible positions. It was thrilling to watch. Another guy, who had been on the other side of the circle, took over and it was his turn to display a variety of gymnastic movements; one-handed handstands, leaping so high in the air and almost defying gravity. The determination and skill these guys had was phenomenal. It’s very difficult to balance you’re body on one hand, while trying to spin (believe me, I’ve tried, I didn’t even get to the spinning part!) yet, these very talented men were doing it with ease. We were blown away and couldn’t tear ourselves away from the action, our eyes not daring to look away in case we missed anything. It was the longest time I’ve ever taken to drink a vodkaless red bull in my life. All too soon, the break-dancing stopped and the crowd dispersed, and we were left to our drinks. It was like it never happened.
What a night though. How fantastic that we were there when they decided to have a break-dancing battle. We left not long after, excitedly chattering about what we had just witnessed, found another bar and got drunk!
The Bangkok Folk Museum is tucked down Charoenkrung Road, Soi 43, and it’s a great place to spend an hour or so. It was built in 1937 and was the home of the Suravadee family during World War II. There are three buildings to explore; the first one is where the family lived and you can see the living area, the dining room, library and bedrooms. The beauty is that they have been kept just as they were when the family lived there all those years ago. There is a dressing table and a washing bowl, old photographs and dining sets, all of which give a fabulous understanding of how they lived their lives.
Outside is a gorgeous little garden full of leafy green trees and plants, and a pond with a fountain in the middle.
The second building is just as beautiful. It was intended to be the clinic and living quarters of a Dr Francis Christian, who was the stepfather of the owner, but he died before moving in. His medical equipment is displayed in cabinets and his four poster bed is upstairs.
The third building is full of old artefacts; old brushes, sewing kits, cigar boxes, cooking utensils, magazines, and money. It’s a real treasure trove.
Finally, a fabulous collection of photographs of Bangkok, and some of the notable people who have lived in the city.
Over the years, I have travelled to over 20 countries and I’ve seen and done so many amazing things. But, there are a few places that I hold dear to my heart for one reason or another, so here is a list of my favorite places on Earth.
My home for the past three years, Bangkok excites me like no other city. Before I lived here, I never thought I would be a city girl at heart, but it turns out I am. It’s exciting because it is so diverse, there are traditional Thai temples, Hindu temples and Islamic mosques. Shopping malls that will make your eyes boggle at the sheer size and extravagance, some of the most delicious food you’ll ever eat, and rooftop bars where you can gaze in wonder across the city and almost touch the stars. The city has a fascinating history, part of which has European influences and people from all over the world call Bangkok their home. It’s a fabulous place for exploring and every twist and turn throws something new at you. It’ll take a long time to ever get bored.
Darling Harbour, Sydney
The first time I went to Australia, in 2005, I was wowed, I loved everything about it. The Blue Mountains, Fraser Island, travelling across the outback, but one of my favourite’s is a simple pleasure. I love everything about Sydney, but the best place to be is sitting in a bar, just as the sun is setting, in Darling Harbour. The day’s light slowly diminishes and the neon lights of the city and office lights of the skyscrapers, across the harbour, come on. It is, quite frankly, spectacular, especially when the lights are reflected in the water. I remember sitting there one day when I had a sudden rush of happiness and comfort, so much so, I had to ring my mum, back in the UK, to tell her how amazing it was.
Northampton is the place I’ve lived since I was 12, and it’s the place I go back to for holidays. It’s where my family are, and the friends, that know me the best, who welcome me home with open arms to pick up conversations, just like it was yesterday. My family are the single most important thing in my life, so I look forward to my annual trip, where I can spend time with them, eat some of mum’s delicious food, drink wine with mum and dad, and share more than a few laughs along the way. I get to see my gorgeous niece and nephews, who seem to be growing up way too fast, and spend precious time at Christmas with my sisters, brothers, and their families, it’s a fabulous time all together. Time that goes all too quickly, so it’s time to relish every moment spent with them.
Sri Lanka is where I got married first time round, and it’s a place that I probably would never have gone to if it hadn’t been for my marriage. We spent two glorious weeks there before jetting off to the Maldives for our honeymoon. We stayed at a plush hotel, which has since been rebuilt, following the 2004 tsunami, and we had our wedding ceremony in the hotel grounds. On the morning of our wedding, we got into our wedding outfits, both in handmade sarongs and tops to match. We met each other in reception, and walked outside to the gardens, accompanied by a troupe of Sri Lankan dancers, we signed the register, fed each other cake, our arms entwined with silk ribbon, and then sat and watched the dancers perform a traditional dance, while we sipped cool champagne. After that we went to the beach and had photographs taken, and we spent the rest of the day in the pool with the few guests that had gathered to watch our special day. This marriage never lasted, but it’s still there in my memory. I’ve been back to Sri Lanka twice since then, and it’s always going to hold a piece of my heart.
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
I only spent a few hours here, but the reason I was in Mexico was for my husband’s sister’s wedding. We stayed at the Moon Palace, a palatial and beautiful hotel, and, apart from the odd day tour, we didn’t really see much of this part of Mexico. However, an evening out saw us in Playa Del Carmen, which, back in 2000, was a world away from the glitzy malls, bars and clubs of Cancun. The thing that I remember was hundreds of tiny streets, with restaurants filled with locals who were there to enjoy their evenings. I bet it’s a different story today.
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Koh Phi Phi is another place that holds some fond memories for me. I was travelling in Thailand with my friends and they had the most wonderful birthday surprise in store for me. They had been plotting with my family for my folks to come and visit. It was nothing short of amazing when my family turned up at the bar we were having drinks at. We shared a wonderful week all together and it’s on record as the best birthday I’ve ever had.
I went to KL the first time in 2005, when I was on the way home from Australia. It was the first time I’ve ever travelled to the other side of the world alone, and I spent 3 days in Kuala Lumpur. I stayed in a lush hotel, which is, sadly, no longer there, and it’s there I dined alone for the very first time. I went to the bar to have a couple of drinks first and chatted to the bar man, who made me feel a little less nervous about being on my own. When I went to the restaurant for dinner, I remember feeling very self conscious when I first sat down, thinking everyone was looking at me, they weren’t. I ordered, and then the resident band sang a Robbie Williams song to me, making me feel even more uncomfortable, but then I relaxed, helped along by the wine, and started to enjoy myself, I even started singing along with them.
Fun Island, The Maldives
Fun Island is where I spent my (first) honeymoon. The island was small enough to be able to walk around it in 10 minutes, pristine white sand, and private beaches to go with our private villa, such a romantic place, ideal for a honeymoon. The water was turquoise blue, and so clear and warm, we went swimming every day. We saw dolphins and sharks, and swam with the many other beautiful fish that made those waters their home. We ate good food, drank cocktails, and even paddled across to a smaller uninhabited island which we had all to ourselves, because no one else was stupid enough to wade between the two islands where the current swept our feet from beneath us.
Ibiza was where I spent my (second) honeymoon, but first my boyfriend and I used to go there every year for at least 5 years prior to our wedding. We loved it there, the clubs are amazing, and the island, if you get out of San Antonio, is beautiful and we had many wonderful holidays there. We needed a holiday after the holiday, mind you, because of all the partying we did, but still, it was an exciting place. Not only did we spend our honeymoon there, but we got engaged, sitting outside Cafe Del Mar, watching the sun disappear below the horizon, followed by applause from everyone around us. They weren’t applauding us, they, as well as us, were applauding the sunset. It made the hair on my arms stand on end, and to add to that, we were sporting huge grins as we continued our celebration into the night.
Adelaide, South Australia
Adelaide is home from home. I have family there, my mum’s second cousin, Helen moved there over 40 years ago. Helen and her family all make me feel so welcome whenever I go and visit. And it’s in Adelaide that I made a life changing decision. I originally went there in 2005, because my second husband and I needed to have time apart to decide whether we should continue our marriage. It took many walks up the beach to come to the decision that would set me on a path that would, eventually, lead me to living abroad permanently. Whenever I’m in Adelaide, we share so many laughs together, I just love spending them with them, they’re like my second family.
My mum’s other second cousin, Gill and her husband Norm, live in Bundaberg, and the first time I visited them, we went on a road trip together to the town of 1770, Agnes Water and Fraser Island. They were so gracious and I was astounded at just how much Norm knew about everything, from the different species of trees to the history of Australia. They took me to the rum distillery and we watched bats fly off from the mangrove trees in town, we took a drive to Bargara for lunch and walked across their property in the countryside. I did so much with them in the short time I was with them and it was the first place I went to when I went travelling alone for the first time.
Uluru is the place I got to sleep in a swag under the stars on the first night of a 6 day trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide. The whole trip was one of the best experiences of my life, but Uluru seemed almost mystical, once the sun left for the day, only the sounds of the outback to keep us company, and it’s around 600 million years old. From a distance it looks smooth, but get up close and you see holes and gorges, springs and caves, it’s just incredible. Throughout the trip, I did some amazing things, like walk around Uluru before sunrise, hike up Mount Ohlssen Bagge, and spend the night in Coober Pedy and Parachilna, but I also met some wonderful people who are still my friends today. And travelling through Australia’s outback was such a memorable adventure, I didn’t want the trip to end. In fact, when we arrived in Adelaide, we had one more night all together before leaving.
I spent seven weeks in New Zealand, travelling across the whole of the North and South islands on the Magic Bus. When I first arrived, I hated it. I had just spent five months in Thailand, I left behind some good friends, it was freezing, and I couldn’t muster a smile for anything. But when I started my journey around the country, I realised just how spectacular it was. The scenery is just stunning, especially in winter when the mountain tops and valleys are covered in snow. I hiked Mount Tongariro and Franz Josef Glacier, I went cave tubing, sand surfing and horse riding. I spent time with new friends and time alone, I even took a road trip and had waterfalls, gorgeous beaches, and hiking trails all to myself. When I left, I vowed I would never return, but I’ve since changed my mind and will go back someday. I learned a lot about myself there, like how to enjoy being alone, and it was New Zealand where I acquired a love of walking and getting out and about.
A few years ago, I started my love affair with foreign lands but at the time I wasn’t sure whether I was brave enough to begin this journey alone, so I researched ways that I could travel but with like-minded people. What I found seemed right up my street. I’ve always had a love of horses, so the Australian Jillaroo/Jackaroo School was the perfect way to spend eleven days doing something different in Australia’s outback.
After a quick stop to buy cheap work clothes, hat and boots and the all-important booze for our nights on the ranch, we arrived at Leconfield, 50km east of Tamworth in New South Wales. We were shown our rooms, I was sharing with a woman called Emily, and we were over the moon when we found out we would be sleeping in the, fondly named, Penthouse. Believe me, even though it was a dark and dingy shed, it was the best room on the farm, most of the others got housed in the sheep shearing shed. The one down side was that it was so cold at night and we wore socks, hats, and hoodies on top of pyjamas to try and keep warm. And getting up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet in the main house didn’t help things either.
We got given our horses for the eleven days. I got a lovely bay stallion that went by the name of Lightening. Don’t believe everything that the name suggests because he was the slowest horse I have ever ridden. Actually, lazy is the word, no amount of geeing him on was going to make him go any faster.
Leconfield was a working farm and as such there was a roster of different jobs to do. One of those jobs was to get the calves into their shed at night. There were two calves and their mother and every day they hung out at the top of the field. It took us quite a while to get them down to their shed, arms waving and yelling, trying to make them go in the right direction. Poor things were probably scared to death! At one point, there were three of us racing down the hill after one calf but it decided to double back on us, so we had to chase it back up the hill only to start again. It was as if the cows were laughing at us racing back and forth after them.
We had to get up at 6am to milk the cows. We had to sit on a small stool at the back end of the cow, not easy when the cow was stamping its feet almost knocking us off. I managed to get a few litres which, being a totally self-sufficient farm, was put in the fridge for use at breakfast.
In the afternoon, we rode two hours to the top paddock for our first cattle muster. A very hard task to learn, especially when you are on horseback and the cattle seemed to have other ideas. But we managed to herd them into a fenced off area where they were weighed for the owner, Brian. He was 85 years old and still riding horses, and managing his 4,600 acre farm. 4,600 acres seems huge but when you compare it to some of the other farms and sheep stations in Australia, it was actually quite small.
Day four was spent in the forest chopping down trees which we had to debark and load onto a truck. No mean feat because we had to clamber up a slope to get the trees and the only way to get them down was to slide them down onto the dirt track. Trees are heavy! Then we had to strip them of their bark and load them onto the truck to take back to the farm.
We rode to a large field near the farm and practiced trotting and cantering which was great fun, even though it took me three attempts to get my trusty steed to comply. Rather than kicking with our feet, we learned how to control the horses with our knees, a slight squeeze is all that’s required to get your mount to move but I don’t think Lightening understood the concept of move!
A well-deserved day off, so we went to town for more provisions, followed by lunch and a few cool beers at the local pub.
Day seven consisted of mustering the sheep back to the farm. We caught three of them, sheared them and watched two of them get slaughtered. It was not a pretty sight but our lesson of the day was that the farm had no choice, the sheep were no more than food and wool. Even the dogs and horses had jobs to do and we were told not to pet them. The remaining sheep looked naked after its recent shearing and appeared to be watching the massacre in terror, then it speedily retreated to the nearby field, safe for another day.
Our second cattle muster, this time we had a go at throwing the calves. They may look very cute and cuddly but when we tried to catch them, attempt to grab their back legs and throw them on the ground, we soon realised how strong they were. We learned how to separate the male and female cows and calves in order to count them, so the farm knew they were all present and correct.
With the trees that we had collected on day four we built the fence around the house. It was extremely hard work but thoroughly enjoyable. It was such a sense of achievement when the task was completed, even though I somehow managed to put my finger in between the hammer and the post. Ouch!
Today’s lessons were calf branding and ear tagging. These calves were slightly bigger than the ones before, so they were much stronger. The animals were also ear marked, so they could be identified at a later date, which meant ripping a bit of its ear out. It wasn’t over for them yet because they were branded, twice if they were male, and castrated. I felt more than a little sorry for the helpless creatures.
In the morning, we had a horsemanship lesson. We took our unsaddled steeds to the paddock and all stood in a circle. The ranch manager told us how the horse would respond if we gently ran our thumb from under its cheek to its shoulder, it would follow us without reins. We put it to the test by walking slowly back to the stables with the horses duly following. I think the real reason they were following us was that they knew it was feeding time! The afternoon was spent playing horsey games, egg and spoon races and races in and out of poles. It was great fun and I think even the horses enjoyed it.
I didn’t embark on this adventure thinking it was going to be a breeze in the park, it wasn’t but we learned a lot in those 11 days, not just on how to care for our horses but it was necessary to act as a team and to be able to communicate with one another. We were presented with a reference to say that we had basic experience in all the activities that we were involved with, so if I ever wanted to work as a jillaroo again then Brian’s reference was a good one to have. I had an absolutely fantastic time in Leconfield, yes it was hard work but I got to ride over some of Australia’s finest countryside and I had plenty of laughs along the way.
These days it’s all too easy to use the internet to research a destination and find out about the country you may be visiting for things to do and places to go but what did we do before this new age of technology? I have a love hate relationship with the internet, it’s great for finding out about things and maps are especially helpful when you’re out and about but where is the fun in that? I like challenges, so here are my ideas about how to travel to a destination without using internet.
Invest in one or two good travel books like the Rough Guides or Lonely Planet, which really won’t take up that much room in your luggage. They are full of useful information from what a country or city is like to where to sleep and what to eat when you get there. You’ll be able to find out about the weather, the currency, practical telephone numbers and whether you need a visa. Everything the internet will tell you but isn’t it so much more satisfying to read a book and find out things that way? Maybe you’ll think differently.
Talk to People
When you land in a new country after a few days you’ll get your bearings and naturally start talking to like minded people you meet in cafes, bars or organised tours. Think of them as a resource of information and ask them about their travels so far, Where they have been? How did they get there? What did they think of it and is it worth going? They might tell you about somewhere you hadn’t thought of going yourself, so you’ll really be able to make the most out of a destination. Don’t forget chatting to the locals, they are the ones who really know what’s what so make friends and listen to what they say.
Go To a Destination Without Knowing About it First
You could pick a destination, go to the travel agent, book a flight and arrive without doing any research whatsoever. Look up places to stay in your travel books and just turn up. Keeping basic safety in mind, walk around the city exploring its many streets and alleys and see what you find, talk to others for help and advice, get on a bus to somewhere, anywhere and see where you end up. Generally just go with the flow and experience life as it happens.
Travelling without internet can be a liberating experience, you’ll become more aware of your surroundings and you’ll also experience the here and now. What an achievement it would be if we could find our way without relying on Google.
In the sprawling metropolis of Bangkok, with all its pollution and towers of concrete, who would have thought that there are pockets of green dotted across the whole of the city. The parks of Bangkok not only add to the diversity of this wonderful place but also provide a natural setting for the millions of people that call Bangkok their home to relax, exercise or simply to enjoy. Here’s a list of the top 6 parks in Bangkok for you to explore.
#1 Suan Luang Rama IX Park
Rama IX park is the most beautiful park I think I have ever visited and I go there a lot and out of the top 6 parks in Bangkok it’s my favourite. The park covers some 200 acres and has 2,300 plant species including trees, shrubs, climbers, foliage and flowering plants. The park is split into six different areas.
The Garden of the Great King with Ratchamangkala Pavilion at the centre with three ponds and different kinds of trees, plants and flowers lining each one. The layout reminds me of the Taj Mahal.
The Botanic Garden where many species of plants are used for research, conservation and education and Thakon Phrakiat Pavilion, a beautifully ornate temple that sits, all alone, in the middle of a lotus pond.
The Reservoir is a large lake created to reduce the effect of flooding in east Bangkok. People are able to enjoy boat rides on the lake or to practise Tai Chi on its banks.
Romanee Garden with flowers and plants that have been taken from other parts of Thailand and used to re-create the different environments that can be found here so that people can imagine that they aren’t in Bangkok.
The Water Garden, a natural bog-like habitat which is home to a number of aquatic birds and animals including huge water monitors who lurk under the water waiting for their next meal.
The Sanam Rasdara is used for outdoor performances and, at the end of each year, the lawn is filled with flowers and plants for sale, as part of the Magnificent Plants that Beautify the Suan Luang Rama IX Flowers Festival.
As well as these six areas, there is an International Garden which has different gardens from around the world. Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, English, French and Italian gardens have all been created to show the different garden styles of each country.
Suan Luang Rama IX Park
Open: Daily, 5.00am-7.00pm
Admission: Free, 5.00am-9.00am and 5.00pm-7.00pm; 10 baht, 9.00am-5.00pm
Getting there: The easiest way to get there is to take the BTS to Udomsuk and take a taxi from there
#2 Lumpini Park
Lumpini Park is another favourite of mine. Located in the middle of Siam and Silom, it’s a wonderful place to relax if you are out and about. It is around 142 acres and, although not as big as Suan Luang Rama IX, it still offers a lake, where boats can be rented, paths for jogging, a wonderful variety of trees and flowers and around 30 species of birds. In the eastern corner there is a Chinese clock tower built by Italian architect, Mario Tamagno, for the Siamrath Phipitthapan Trade Fair that was held in 1925. Throughout the year Lumpini Park is host to a number of festivals such as the Bangkok Street Festival.
139/4 Witthayu Road
Open: Daily, 4.00am-9.00pm Admission: Free Getting there: From Sala Daeng BTS (exit 6) cross Rama IV Road
#3 Benjakitti Park
There isn’t much to Benjakiti Park, not if you compare it to some of Bangkok’s other green spaces, but located right in the middle of the city it provides some respite from the busy goings on of Sukhumvit and Asok. With a big lake in the middle and bicycle and jogging tracks that surround it, the 52 acre park sees exercise enthusiasts flock there each evening. For those that don’t fancy jogging there are bikes for hire at 50 baht an hour. There’s also a playground, skate ramps and swan boat rides for kids.
Open: Daily, 5.00am-9.00pm Admission: Free Gettingthere: From Asok BTS (exit 4) go down Ratchadaphisek Road and Benjakiti Park is on the right hand side
#4 Benchasiri Park
Located next to Emporium Shopping Mall is the humble Benchasiri Park. At only 11.6 acres, it is one of the smallest parks but, due to its central location, it’s still a popular place. Suan Benchasiri means Park Commemorating the Fifth Cycle Birthday Anniversary and it was built to honour the 60th birthday of Queen Sirikit in 1992. Surrounding a central lake, there are many species of trees and plants, as well as several sculptures, areas to skateboard for the younger generation and exercise or just to sit and relax.
Located in Chatuchak district, the park is around 75 acres and was opened in 1980, making it one of Bangkok’s oldest parks. There is a train museum in the park and a lake in the centre with a few bridges crossing it. It is a popular place, especially in the evenings, for people to go and enjoy the cooler temperature by the lake. It is situated right by the BTS and MRT stations and Chatuchak Weekend Market and JJ Mall are nearby.
Open: Daily, 4.30am-9.00pm Admission: Free Getting There: Mo Chit BTS, or Chatuchak MRT
#6 Rot Fai Gardens
I happened upon this beautiful oasis by accident when I visited Chatuchak Park but it’s so much quieter than Chatuchak, almost as if not many people know about it. What used to be a golf course which was converted to a green space for the people of the city, there are actually three parks in one, Rot Fai Gardens, Wachirabenchathat Park and Queen Sirikit Park. It spans 150 acres and it feels like you are entering private property until the landscape opens up to green expanses with huge palm trees and flowers of every colour. There are fountains in the pools which dance to music and a butterfly garden, although there are plenty of butterflies fluttering around the park itself, as well as birds and other animals, like the water monitors that frequent these spaces in the city.
Rot Fai Gardens
Kamphaeng Phet 3 Road
Open: 4.30am-9.00pm Admission: Free Getting there: Chatuchak BTS. Walk through Chatuchak Park and cross over Kamphaeng Phet 3 Road
In 2000, I took a trip to Cancun in Mexico, with my boyfriend and his family because his sister was getting married and they had chosen the Moon Palace for the venue.
The wedding was fabulous and the hotel was stunning with several restaurants, a huge pool, bedrooms with a hot tub for two, and ocean views. Most of the time we just hung around the hotel, but me and my bf ventured out alone a couple of times.
One day, we were chilling on the beach when we started talking to this Mexican guy who turned out to be a fisherman. As the day progressed he told us that he was going on a fishing trip the next day and would we like to tag along. Yes, of course we would, although the boat didn’t look up to ocean travel, we weren’t going to pass a chance up like this. We agreed to meet the next day and off we went all excited about the prospect of the day ahead.
The following day, we met the guy as arranged and he told us that we couldn’t go fishing because the sea was a little rough and it wouldn’t make for a very successful day’s catch. Although, we didn’t really fancy our chances in the tiny boat he had, we were so disappointed and we resigned ourselves to find something else to do.
The guy said, it’s okay you don’t have to leave, I have some fish that I caught already in the fridge, so why don’t we hang out and I will make you dinner. Our frowns turned upside down and we cracked open some cold beers. The beach was the perfect setting for our little impromptu day, the wind lazily blowing as we sat in deck chairs, watching the blue ocean crashing onto the white sand.
Our new found friend produced a tray of my first ever dish of ceviche, raw fish flavoured with lime, chilli and coriander, with potato crisps to scoop it up, so simple yet very delicious, I can still taste it now.
We had a fab day, ceviche on the beach, cold beer, sun shining, new friend=simple pleasures in life and some fond memories.
In 1989, I took my first ever foreign holiday to Hammamet, in Tunisia, with my boyfriend, at the time. It was exciting, to say the least, to be going on holiday somewhere new and exotic.
The first few days we just explored Hammamet. We relaxed on the beach and took the obligatory camel ride. We even got dressed up, as Bedouins, to enjoy a traditional feast out in the desert. So far, so good.
One day, as we relaxed on the beach, a guy approached us. He asked if I had any European money, because, apparently, he could sell it on the black market for a higher price. Being a little naïve, I opened my purse and began rooting around for some change. Meanwhile, he was coming closer with a jacket over his arm which I hadn’t noticed. After a few minutes, we realised that he was going to try and snatch my purse and we chased him away.
Afterwards, we heard of the very same thing happening to others in the same resort. So we counted ourselves lucky that he didn’t manage to succeed.
A few days later, another guy came up to us selling oranges. When we told him we didn’t want any he ran off with my sunglasses which were lying on the sand. So, you can imagine, we were feeling a little bit hacked off with all this dishonesty. We asked ourselves:
“Why did we come here?”
“Why are people trying to steal from us all the time?”
So, in an attempt to forget about this and make the most out of what remained of our holiday, we took a trip to Tunis. The tour took us to the Medina, in Tunis, Carthage, to see the ancient ruins, and Sidi Bou Said, a beautiful seaside town with blue and white buildings. It would be a great day out. Or would it?
We got up for an early breakfast, excited at the idea of a day out of Hammamet. We met the tour bus and off we went. The journey took around an hour and we arrived in Tunis late morning. The bus dropped us at the Medina and the tour guide told us we had a couple of hours to explore.
The Medina is the old town of Tunis, which is a tourist attraction in itself. We went into the souk and wandered through its many alleyways, going this way and that. We saw stalls selling everything you can imagine. From jewellery and perfumes to books and kitchenware. It was full of colour, with traditional clothes and shoes, beautiful silks and blankets everywhere we looked. The smells of the fresh bread and spices found their way to our nostrils. We were so engrossed in all the hustle and bustle that we almost didn’t realise what happened next.
My boyfriend was carrying a backpack, and he suddenly turned to me, and said:
“I think someone has slashed my bag!”
So we stopped in our tracks and checked the bag. Sure enough, there was a rip in the bottom of it. Luckily, his wallet was in the inner pocket of the backpack, so it was still there. The alleyways were so narrow that there was no choice but to brush up against people on the way passed them. So a thief had taken advantage of that and tried to rob us. Again!
By this point, we had been in the souk for a while and thought it would be best to leave and find the bus again, so we could go to our next destination. So feeling a little dejected at all this thievery, we backtracked and made our way out.
The souk had many, many alleyways, all going in different directions, so it was very easy to get lost. And we did.
We tried to find the way out, and every time we thought we knew the way, we came to a dead end or ended up back where we had started. It was like a maze. And knowing little of the language, our attempts to ask someone were thwarted. Panic was rising. How were we to get out? We had a bus to meet. Would the bus wait? Surely the bus would wait.
The bus didn’t wait.
We eventually found our way out and, thoroughly relieved to be out in an open space again, we searched for the bus. There were lots of buses. One of them must have been ours. No. The bus had left. We were stranded in Tunis.
How could the bus have left us?
What were we to do?
Our earlier feeling of dejection had now turned into one of despair. And our faith in the Tunisian people had all but gone. People had tried to rob us three times, and now we had been left in Tunis by the bus tour. We sat for a moment, tried to calm down, and thought about what we were going to do.
A few minutes later, a Tunisian guy came up to us and asked what was wrong. He could obviously see we were a little agitated.
“Are you guys ok?” he said. His English was perfect.
We looked at him and, trying to keep calm, explained what had happened.
“I can’t believe this,” he said, “I am sorry you have experienced these things when you are visiting my country.”
“Don’t worry. I will take you to find the bus.”
We couldn’t conceive what he had just said to us.
“We can’t expect you to do that” we replied.
“It’s OK. I want to help you. But first I have to go home and get changed. You go to the mosaic museum and I will meet you outside in an hour.”
So, off he went and we made our way to the mosaic museum which was close by. All the time we were thinking There is no way he is going to come back! There is no way he is going to take us to find the bus!
How wrong we were.
We went to the mosaic museum and an hour later we were outside. As promised, the guy met us there and took us for lunch at a local café. We couldn’t believe how kind he was.
After lunch, we got into his car and we drove to Carthage, which was the next stop for the tour bus. The bus wasn’t there. So we had a quick look around. Then it was back in the car to Sidi Bou Said.
The bus was there.
We couldn’t thank this guy enough. We couldn’t believe this complete stranger had come to our rescue and taken time out of his day to help us.
We exchanged names and addresses with a promise of keeping in touch, which we did for a while. And now, 28 years later, even though I can’t remember his name, I will always remember his act of kindness towards us. People like that really do restore your faith in the world.