Bangkok has been a short pleasant interlude en route for the Cambodian border. We landed safely with Emirates, transferred by slow train to the city and battled the traffic by taxi to the Silq Hotel. With much of the day before us, we ventured back into the chaos by tuk tuk only to find ourselves hijacked by an enthusiastic entrepreneur driver whose mission is to visit as many tourist shops as possible before his passengers suspect his motives. We bargained repeatedly and the fare came down with each new destination, he getting a rubber stamp for free fuel and we getting the hard sell on silk or gem stones. We eventually escaped for 50 Baht at the waterfront into a little restaurant and had our first rice meal.
It was a short walk to the temple and palace complex of Wat Phra Kaew housing the Thai royal regalia and the Emerald Buddha, the latter made of jade and clothed in gold. The whole site is spectacular and the temples magnificent though the buddha looks on with unseeing eyes and makes no comment, much the same as last time I came except that the golden clothes have been changed. By now hot and tired, we wistfully wended our weary way westward (this is a quote from Waldolf and Cecil in a comic I read in childhood – how on earth do I remember that?) and to reach the waterfront and the ferry down river to the start of the Metro by-passing all the congested roads. The river breeze revived us for a time and we soon were speeding underground to Terminal 21, a new mall near the hotel.
A shortcut found us in the mall listening to readings from the Christmas story, handbell ringing and singing of carols, courtesy of the girls of Bangkok Christian College, God bless them all! We lingered awhile soaking up the seasonal atmosphere. We did not stay ahead of the jet lag for long. An early meal and bed saw us sleep for many hours more than usual, right through the delivery of the gift of rice and honey from our good friend Nusont, fellow student of Liverpool Medical School 40 years ago.
Reinvigorated by sleep and given a new lease of life by the continuance of the world’s existence, we explored the famous weekend market of Chatuchak Park on Saturday, resisting much of the proferred goods, drinking loads of water in the heat and saving energy enough for a reunion meal that evening with our doctor friend. The chosen venue was the most exclusive Japanese restaurant we have visited, a splendid meal provided courtesy of the owners who joined us for most of the evening and explained patiently to the uninitiated the sequence and method of eating such rare exotic food.
The whole Siamese episode has been a surprising and most enjoyable introduction to our Cambodian Christmas adventure – not that the World Without End was a surprise, such prediction has failed many times before and we are reliably informed that God alone knows when that will be.