Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lynn's Trip to Thailand part 11: Back to Bangkok

As usual, I will quote the text and then comment on it:

There are just a few days left before we face the long trip home. Travelling with no checked luggage and no set schedule gives you a lot of freedom but it makes for some long waits and last minute decisions. The thought of going to Tokyo for a few days and skipping Bangkok on the way home sounded good but, with Chinese New Year being such a big time for travel, all the flights were full. We booked for Bangkok and arrived around noon. Not having a hotel was a challenge and, to end the search, I suggested we try the Holiday Inn! A travel agent at the airport booked us 2 rooms with the caveat that we also book a tour of the city through her agency - which we did. I asked if this meant a mandatory trip to the tourist trap jewelry and silk stores and she just smiled.

Expedia tells me that there are no direct flights from Phuket (HKT) to Tokyo (NRT). It also tells me that most flights would connect through Hong Kong, Singapore or (you guessed it), Bangkok. That makes it a little suspicious that Lynn can get to Bangkok, but she can't get to Tokyo, eh? Expedia also tells me that this trip has a total flight time of 9 – 10 hours at least with very long layovers. Unless Lynn and company started off to the airport early in the morning, they are looking at an overnight flight to Tokyo. I can see why stopping in Bangkok may be more appealing.

This website describes Chinese New Year in different countries. It makes it look like the celebrations are mainly in the Chinatown districts of each country, even in Bangkok. That is also expressed in the website discussing Chinese New Year in Bangkok:

The best places to enjoy Chinese New Year in Thailand are Bangkok's chinatown Yawarat district and Nakhorn Sawan. Bangkok's Yawarat district was founded in year 1783.

At last, Lynn Johnston finally explains her much earlier comment about no checked luggage she made in a few of her earlier travelogue entries. It appears that that big deal is less the “no checked luggage” and more the “no set schedule”. Somehow Lane and Katie managed to talk Lynn into an open-ended vacation, which pretty much tells me that Lynn is not worried about meeting any upcoming comic strip deadlines. In other words, before Lynn took this trip, she had already set the strip up to go to straight reprints. We are in the end times.

As for the Holiday Inn, there are 3 in Bangkok. They are all about the same distance to the city center, so I have no idea which one Lynn is in:

1. SILOM BANGKOK Distance from city center: 2.32 MI / 3.73 KM
2. HOLIDAY INN BANGKOK Distance from city center: 2.56 MI / 4.12 KM
3. BANGKOK Distance from city center: 2.52 MI / 4.06 KM

Naturally you can call Hotel Reservations for Holiday Inn directly and not have to sign up for any tours; but Lynn and company don't seem to know that. Judging from Lynn’s comments, it sounds like she was hard-pressed to get Katie and Lane to agree to go to the Holiday Inn. From the prior travelogue entries, it looks like they have been favoring the hotel and spa kinds of places.

Surprisingly, the Holiday Inn has been one of the nicest and most modern hotels we've seen and of the service is... well... overwhelming. There are people to open the doors, people to press the elevator buttons, people to show you where the restaurant is, and people just... well, bowing and pressing their hands together in a gracious sign of welcome.

Ah, the joys of American hotel chains in other countries.

Our tour of the city began from our hotel. A sweet young man accompanied us and a driver in a spotless, air conditioned car to the center of the city where the old original Bangkok was still evident - tucked into the maze of skyscrapers and modern concrete architecture. Here the signs were in Thai and Chinese and Arabic. The facades of the buildings were ornate. Tiny crowded shops were bustling with activity as people did a ritual cleaning of their homes and offices, putting out offerings, and socializing with neighbors in a real holiday atmosphere.

"Ritual cleaning of their homes"? I can't find any reference to Bangkok home-cleaning rituals.

This website actually discusses a study done of the different signs in Bangkok. It says:

Huebner (2006) explored the linguistic landscape of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. The official language policy of the country has Thai as the national state language while English is the language typically used for wider communication. To encourage the use of Thai, the government provides a tax incentive for including that language on commercial signs in Bangkok. However, not all businesses take advantage of this, and when they do, they often put Thai in small print in a corner of the sign, which shows the popularity and importance of English. Less than half of all signs (45 percent) contain only one script. The majority of those signs (57 percent) is written in the Thai script, with 38 percent in Roman script and 5 percent in other scripts, such Japanese (8), Arabic (3) and Chinese (1). A majority of the signs (55 percent) contains multiple scripts, either in Thai and Roman script together or in the three scripts Thai, Roman and Chinese. Government signs in Bangkok are quite similar all over the city, but privately posted signs display considerable variation across neighbourhoods. In most of the fifteen neighbourhoods that were studied the signs are either monolingual Thai, or bilingual Thai-English signs; however Thai-Chinese multilingual signs dominate in two neighbourhoods and languages other than Thai are dominant in four other neighbourhoods.

The number of signs spotted in 2006 with Arabic are not very many, however Lynn takes the English on the signs for granted and shows more interest in the Arabic (mysterious women in black, the women in chadors she mentions below) since she has been in Thailand. My guess is her next trip will be to a Muslim country.

Flower sellers had long wreaths of orchids and yellow chrysanthemums stacked in piles and hanging from posts - all part of the ritual. The small shrines and the big ones alike were spotless and decked with wreaths, candles, food, and drink. Overhead, rows of orange lanterns hung like necklaces above the streets, colored lights flickered along the shop walls and everywhere there was the feeling of joy and excitement. This is the Thailand I was looking for - not the cosmopolitan streets of downtown lined with the English signs; MacDonald’s, Dunkin' Donuts, and Starbucks pressed into glass malls with Gucci and Prada and Guess.

Based on this website, I am not sure these are yellow chrysanthemums. The website says the marigolds are the flower of choice for Bangkok shrines. Looking at this website, it appears Lynn’s description of the shopping malls is accurate. However, I find it very amusing that the same woman who detested Lynn Lake for its lack of shopping, is complaining about what appears to be a paradise for shoppers.

This website follows the Mad Traveler who was in Bangkok at the same time as Lynn for Chinese New Year and his pictures are a lot better than hers. The best part of all this is that Lynn Johnston, who has been complaining nonstop about not finding the Thailand she was looking for, while comparing it unfavorably to Beijing, China, now announces she has found it on a day where the Thailanders are celebrating a Chinese holiday and have Chinese decorations up like the orange lanterns. I can imagine Lynn in the San Francisco Chinatown on Chinese New Year saying the same thing, “At last, the San Francisco I was looking for.”

We toured two beautiful shrines which we entered barefoot. The artwork in these places always takes my breath away. In the courtyards there are places to buy lotus and incense and they teach you how to pray - just for your own peace, not to any one God in particular. People from all denominations and backgrounds shared moments of personal thought as others took photos, herded kids, and just marveled at the rich, awe inspiring buildings. Gold tipped rooftops, ornate blue, red, and yellow mirrored tiles, paintings, murals of inlayed pearl and precious stones all attest to the intensity of devotion to these sacred places.

I have been unable to find the shrine featured in the picture. This website has pictures of the most famous Bangkok shrines and it does not appear to be any one of those. However, to get an idea of just how many shrines there are in Bangkok, take a look at this video.

At the drink stand was a fortune teller and for about $20.00 Canadian, he told me I was a good person, my lucky number is 5, and I’m going to live to be 87. Lots of travelling years ahead!

According to this website, fortune-telling is a big business in Bangkok. The man in this picture appears to be doing a palm reading and he has an astrological chart by his left arm. I wonder who is in the signed celebrity picture under Lynn’s right arm? Bobby Curtola? And look, there’s Lane! Can this be the first picture we have seen with Lane in it?

The website says:

High-end fortune tellers command prices as high as 10,000 baht per hour, though on the street it’s possible to book a fortune telling session for as little as 40 baht.

According to this CAD to Baht converter, Lynn paid about $632 baht, so her session was a little pricey for a drink stand fortune teller.

Then we were lambs to the slaughter. Disguised as "traditional handicrafts", jewelry is the main reason for taking you anywhere and, like many tropical ports, seems to support a huge population. We expected the ruse, made our way through the mazes of glass cabinetry full of very expensive trinkets, and were finally allowed to escape to our hotel. The next city tour I take will be with a private guide. But, even THEY get a cut from the gem shops!!

In this area, Lynn is absolutely right and kudos to her for that. This website describes the gem market in Bangkok and strongly recommends not buying a gem in Bangkok for a number of very good reasons. Here's the one that applies to Lynn:

Guides will take you to the Government gem and jewelry shops that are just insanely expensive, because you will be paying government set prices, and also be paying the cut that the guide, and the taxi driver receives. They each get their cut if you are foolish enough to pay the outlandish Government gems store prices. I would however like to make one thing clear. The gem that you get at the Government store will stand the best chance of being real. When you get home and realize how much you paid over the world market price you may regret your decision unless you have money to burn, but at least we can say with reasonable confidence that your purchase will likely be a real gem, and not a fake, so that is something to consider if you absolutely have to make a gem purchase in Thailand.

This evening, we got a cab to the night market and the one here is something to see! It is easily a square mile of shops featuring everything from fake name-brand handbags to the finest of silk dresses. Tattoo artists work away next to women in chadors selling beaded shawls and handmade carpets. Women in saris float by men in white robes and ladyboys in tight fitting skirts and impossibly high heels work side by side in narrow alleyways. A honeycomb of tiny cubicles full of colorful wares take your attention away from the uneven flooring so you have to be in full shopping stamina to keep from falling over. We saw several foreign women with taped ankles and on crutches - it's easy to see why. I am still together, in one piece, and I thank my luck and my bifocals for keeping me this way. The fact that we can't carry anything has kept us from shopping but we walked 'til we dropped anyway.

Lynn still has not learned about shipping back things she buys, but that's OK. I think Lynn is talking about the Patpong Night Market as described in this website. However it could also be the Suan Lum Night Bazaar as described in this website. Both are in Bangkok, but Lynn does not give me enough detail to figure it out. As for the uneven ground, an internet search for “bangkok night market uneven flooring” found several entries of tourism blogs talking about the difficulties in walking there and various and sundry walking-related injuries.

As for the kathoey or ladyboys, it appears Lynn has learned the English language phrase for them, which she didn’t know the last time she talked about them in travelogue entry #2. Surprisingly the term “ladyboys” is not considered to be offensive in Bangkok, but is the popular English term. They even have a touring show with the name Lady Boys of Bangkok.

Well, today is a new day. We have taken the train to a less swanky part of town to seek cheap internet. My time is just about up and there's more stuff to see and do. Until the next installment, the intrepid explorer signs off, Sa wa dee ka! LJ

I don’t why she continues to write the endings of these things like she is in Thailand seeking the internet connection which will allow her to write it and that she is not already back in Canada and this trip didn’t occur in February. The Chinese New Year references are the giveaway, not to mention her daily entries which are posted every other day.

Last time around she wrote:

We are off to continue the adventure, so I'll sign off for now. Sa-was dee, ka!

There is one less “s” than last time, but Lynn is still trying to say, “Hello” as said by a female. Maybe before she is done someone will teach her to say "goodbye" in Thai.


Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said...

It's strange to have to admit this but it does seem that Lynn is actually helping to promote Thailand as a tourist destination; it would probably kill her were she to learn that she's doing so by getting people to check her facts for her but that's how it is.

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In this area, Lynn is absolutely right and kudos to her for that. This website describes the gem market in Bangkok and strongly recommends not buying a gem in Bangkok for a number of very good reasons.

Mm. I'm not sure how accurate that link is, given this flat statement from another article I found:

The Thai government and/or the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) does not own, sponsor, promote, endorse or authorize any gems stores in particular, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is lying.

The article (at does however go on to confirm that you shouldn't venture on the Thai gem market unless you know what you're doing.

Which sensible statement of fact is a vast improvement on Lynn's sketchy attempt at a James Bond caper. The one leads into an interesting slice of Asian life; the other... involves Lynn patting herself on the back. Never mind, I think I just answered my own question.

8:19 PM  
Blogger howard said...


It's strange to have to admit this but it does seem that Lynn is actually helping to promote Thailand as a tourist destination; it would probably kill her were she to learn that she's doing so by getting people to check her facts for her but that's how it is.

It does seem like an interesting place to go, and I have would have to admit that the knowledge that a good number of the street signs had English on them, would encourage me to travel there. However, the apparent openness of the sex trade operators would encourage me not to bring children there. In fact, reading up on things like Phi Phi Island, informed me that there age lower limits on a number of the places Lynn Johnston has been.

10:07 PM  
Blogger howard said...


The Thai government and/or the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) does not own, sponsor, promote, endorse or authorize any gems stores in particular, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is lying.

As I regularly learn, don’t believe everything on the internet.

The one leads into an interesting slice of Asian life; the other... involves Lynn patting herself on the back.

Lynn seems to be very determined to shop and not buy anything, for reasons I don’t understand, especially when she was all about the bargain shopping in Mexico. She can pat herself on the back if she wishes, but it seems to me to be more a part of her overall scheme as opposed to outsmarting wily gem salespersons.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

exporters of sri lankan precious and semi precious gems.
the lapidary
sri lanka

6:00 AM  

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