There was much enthusiasm for Singapore despite the immigration delays and, as we made our way toward Bangkok, much discussion about whether the face-to-face passport checks in Thailand would be similarly vexatious. But, in fact, passport control could not have been faster, and Cunard’s organisation of it could not have been slicker.
We had a booked a Cunard excursion to the City: Bangkok On Your Own. We met in the Golden Lion Pub at nine and were led off the ship, and through immigration, shortly after. There was a slight delay on the coach as we waited for a couple of apparently missing passengers (who were on the coach the whole time but had forgotten to hand in their tickets to the driver, meaning he believed we were two short) but we were quickly on our way and we’re dropped off at noon at the well situated but pretty miserable Asia Hotel.
We changed some currency in the hotel – Cunard inexplicably not carrying any Thai Baht – and quickly found one of the Skytrain Stations where we bought return tickets for about £1.50 each. We travelled to the northernmost line on the system in search of The Chatuchak Weekend Market. Unusually, we had listened to the Port Lecture on Bangkok and the market didn’t get a mention despite this being a Sunday. But what little we’ve heard of the lectures suggests that the veteran port lecturer’s research was completed some years ago and his advice is not always to be relied upon. But the Dorling Kindersley Bangkok guide gave the market a great write up and we chose to trust that.
We were so glad we did. The market was wonderful. It’s of staggering size with more than 15,000 stalls divided into discrete sections (including Home Decor, Crafts, Art, Antiques and Clothing). There are a quarter of a million visitors on both the Saturday and the Sunday and, as we found the entrance, a short walk from the Skytrain terminus, we thought we might be overwhelmed by bodies and might need to make a hasty retreat. But once we’d threaded our way down a couple of the passageways between stalls the congestion eased.
We’d intended to spend a couple of hours there and then have a quick glance at some of the city centre. But Bangkok is not a scenic city and the market was so absorbing that we stayed there almost the whole afternoon. We found a nice little cafe for coffee and later had a simple but lovely lunch of fried crabsticks, costing a couple of Pounds, served with ice cold Singha Beer and cold towels.
In between we bought a mountain of stuff, almost all for our grandchildren (born and unborn).
Surprisingly, we saw very little sign of the forgeries, which have made Thai markets famous. Perhaps because of the very visible police presence there were no stalls selling dodgy Mulberry Handbags or Rolex watches. Instead there were lots of good value hand made crafts and cheap clothing and shoes. We both bought deck shoes for about £6 a pair and Jan bought (an apparently silk) shawl for £2.50.
It was great fun and the simple lunch was a particular highlight, sitting with Thai families and being treated with immense courtesy by the staff. We were sorry to leave but it was very hot and it took us some time to get our bearings and find the Skytrain Station. By the time we got back to the hotel, we only had 30 minutes before our departure time. We had a quick meal (Thai Green Curry for me which was terrible) before journeying back to the ship, which we boarded at about 7pm, just in time to get changed for dinner. A great day, with Ho Chi Minh City beckoning on Tuesday…