Saturday, June 11, 2011

Surigaonon Barkada in Bangkok

I always travel alone; seldom with friends. This bangkok trip is the second after Singapore in August last year that I went overseas on tour with friends. I tugged along Dupong (we travelled together in Hongkong, Macau, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur), Nang Lolong and Nanan.

I always travel with my own itinerary. This time however is different. Instead of me as the tour guide, we availed of an affordable tour package; a travel agency in Surigao has arranged for our hotel and food accomodations and some daytours.

Manila is our point of departure, so the three of them flew from Surigao a day before the trip. As a pre-celebration, we had a dinner at Big Buddha, Greenbelt 3 Makati sponsored by Mr. & Mrs Jun and Ruth Go. It was wild dinner party attended by other Surigaonon friends who married, worked and lived in Metro Manila - Patine, Ruby and Tonch, Nanan and Johnny, Nang Lolong, Dupong, Nang Jackie and me.

June 10, 2011

I reported for work until 4:30pm. I dropped by a barbershop on my way to the airport and have my hair cut. It was supposedly a traditional mojok but the young barber who tended me suggested a "layed" mojok instead.

On the night of our departure, the four of us agreed to meet at the airport; I came from the office with my backpack ready and the three arrived from their hotel. They brought with them some dinner for me, a box of pizza and ube-hopia. The flight was an hour delayed and so we landed at Bangkok at early dawn.
The very first convenience I experienced with package tour was that we were picked up by hotel transfer van. I am saved from the hanggling with taxicab drivers.
Since it was Saturday dawn, the heavy traffic welcomed us; it was around the highstreets of the city where most Friday night's gimmicks happened. Nevertheless, the so-slick and trendy Baiyoke Boutique Inn was so welcoming that we found ourselves at home right away. We dozed upon entering the rooms.

June 11, 2011

It was lovely to stay in bed but we were instructed to be ready by 8 o'clock in the morning. Even with few hours of sleep, we rose to get dressed and eat breakfast at the Hotel's restaurant at past 7am. David, our tour guide, approached our table at exactly 8am. Despite David's limited fluency in english language, we somehow were able to understand each other. Though there were times that it took us a while to decipher the message. I realized that Filipinos, as fluent as we can be in American English, need not mind completinga grammatically-correct sentence.

He led us to city tour, starting with Reclining Buddha then to Leaning Buddha. We stayed for a long time at the reclining buddha temple admiring the intricacy of the contructed temples in different styles, colors, sizes. We headed to Gem Factory and Leather Factory after. We simply point at various items, some we dared to hold or touch, but bought not even the synthetic items which are affordable. I personally visit Bangkok not to shop but to see the place. Whatever the sales people may comment, but we left them with zero sales and tired of tailing us to salestalk.

We completed the first leg of the tour at past 12 noon. David proposed to visit the Honey Factory after taking lunch, but we opted to canceled that tour. So we had buffet lunch at Bangkok Palace Hotel. This was the turning point of my concept of Bangkok Tour. It renewed my future purpose of coming back to Thailand; Bangkok specifically. The food were amazing! Deliciously wonderful! If you can imagine how my palate enjoyed everything Thai that I mouth, I bet you will be left drooling. In fact, I also toured around the whole buffet sets. I am not fond of hot and spicy foods, but Thai food is definitely and perfectly different. It took us more than an hour for lunch.

Now that the Honey Factory was cancelled, we went instead to MBK Mall and found it as one Greenhills' shopping center. We went back to hotel to recoup our lost sleep; rested from 3 to 7pm. Before David left us, we asked him to arrange our access to the Ladyboy Show in Bangkok. He picked us up at 9pm and ushered us to Asia Hotel for the Calypso Cabaret Bangkok scheduled at 9:45pm to witness the vaudaville performance of transvestites. Indeed a well-known ladyboy show, I found the whole repertiore very entertaining; all effeminate gays are lovely, dance flawlessly; male dancers however lacked the charms, don't have the best look as compared to lady-counterparts.

inside Calypso bar

around Asia Hotel lobby
June 12, 2011

The same buffet set welcomed us during the breakfast at 6am, but we never cared... yet. Maybe because we were in the hurry to beat the 7am pick up, as adviced by David. He warned us that somebody else will guide us in today's tour. Initially, I was disturbed by the several stops and van transfers. We passed through one place to be pinned with colored badges, then another stop for regrouping, and more. Well it was bearable anyway, that was their system of handling large number of tourists with varied interests. 

I was fortunate to find new friends to chat with while taking the 2-hour ride to Damnoen Floating Market. There was this Bahraini couple who are fond of white sand beaches. They loved Phuket, Thailand; I suddenly got interested of Phuket but I convinced them to visit Boracay in the Philippines as well. Upon arrival at the floating market, our guide recommended the canoe ride, a 40-minute ride along the canals within the central market. And we did find it enjoyable, entertaining. Despite the boats or canoes bumping each other packed with tourist-riders. Despite the rainshowers which made us parked from one shade to another; shade catered by floating market stalls. But of course, our stomachs ended up full due to uninterrupted buys of fruits and delicacies from crossing vendors here and there.  


After the canoe ride, we embarked in a speed boat which route was around the floating village. The morning tour ended past 12 noon. We climbed back up the van and headed to one floating restaurant (which name I forgot) for our lunch. This time, it was a set lunch, way too far from the Bangkok Palace Hotel's lunch accomodation. Afterwhich, we proceeded to Crocodile Farm to drop some tourists (the Ilonggo group) and to Rose Garden, our next destination. We found out, as most tourists do, that the garden did not live up to its name; with little roses, its major attractions were the Elephant Show and the Traditional Thai Village Cultural Show.

Dupong arranged a meeting with his neighbor, a couple who worked in one of the Bangkok's cosmetic surgery hospitals, in the afternoon but we got back to the hotel at 5pm. We never thought of a 2-day guided tour in the package we paid. And that the second day tour would extend until afternoon; thinking t'was just same as the first half-day. So we met the couple in the evening and treated us to a buffet dinner at Rama Rimfa restaurant located at the 77th floor of the Baiyoke Sky Hotel. This hotel is the tallest tower in Bangkok adjacent to the inn we were staying. The eat-all-you-can-10-set buffet was sponsored by Mr and Mrs Petallo. I learned that the husband hailed from Mainit, Surigao del Norte and the wife from General Luna, Surigao del Norte, Dupong's hometown. I feasted and savored everything I find interestingly edible. When done, we climbed up the 85th floor to experience viewing Bangkok at night through the Revolving Roof Deck. I also learned that the viewing is free only for diners.

June 13, 2011

This is the last day of our trip and the same breakfast buffet set bored us. I proposed to visit Ayutthaya but decided to cancel and have it on the next visit to Bangkok. Instead we went shopping the whole morning for pasalubong and souvenirs. These shops crowded around the hotel we were checking in and hence accessible. Tired of, complete and satisfied with
the pasalubongs and souvenirs, and done with checking out, we visited malls in the afternoon, particularly the Discovery Siam Mall where Madam Tussauds was exhibited. We backed out because it was too pricey. Since we were scheduled to be picked up for the airport transfer at 7pm, we stayed the rest of the afternoon at Starbucks.

On our way back to the hotel, we were tricked by the taxi driver and billed at 300 baht for a very short distance he called short cut from the heavy traffic brought about by the rush hour. And so Dupong paid the amount despite our petitions. Lesson, make sure the meter is on before jumping in the taxi during rush hour or change a taxi.

The airport transfer pick up at 7pm was on time and our flight back to Manila was delayed, so we enjoyed taking pictures at the airport. Much to my disappointment, the pricey thai foods served in the airport restaurants are not delicious, too hot and spicey, never enjoyable.

And we arrived in Manila at 5:30 in the morning of June 14.

All in all, I enjoyed Bangkok, Thailand, from the tourist destinations to the foods and hotel accomodations. It was the real deal of what we called "value for money" that we paid our travel agency P8,000 in exchange for a better hotel and food accomodations and a 2-day tour.

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