March 5, Day 17 of our tour, our first day to travel on our own. The holiday has been great in terms of time, but we took advantage of no plans and just lazed around for the morning. It was going to be another hot day, and as it didn’t appear to be far, we slathered up with sunscreen, and headed out to find Jim Thompson House. He was a highly educated American Architect, with a love of the arts, and he fell in love with Thailand and the people while stationed there during the war. He swore when he was released from the army he would return, and settle in Bangkok. His wife did not move with him. He became a mogul in the silk industry, reviving the this art all over the world. His pieces landed on Broadway’s “The King and I” and other such shows. He disappeared Easter weekend, 1967. His body was never found, and to date nothing has turned up to indicate any foul play. The man had a keen eye for art, and transformed his house, into nothing less than a gallery with pieces from all over the world. He played host to countless parties and dinners in the 22 years he lived in Bangkok. His story, and his house are equally interesting and I highly recommend going to see this historical place. The property is a little oasis in the middle of the city with a canal running down the side of it. If you are interested in the legend of this incredibly talented man, and how he revived the art of silk in Asia, you can find more here.
We walked many km today…in the hot humid city of Bangkok. After seeing Jim Thompson house we searched the map for a route to the Victory Monument. It seemed like an easy, and short route, so we off we went. The problem was, several km later, Gus checked his phone GPS, and it actually had us going in the wrong direction, so we turned around, and walked back the way we came, again several more km of back tracking, we checked, and again, it appeared we were still going the wrong way, so we had to resort to the old fashion way, and brought out the paper map! Fortunately the walking was relatively easy. We had easy walking as we basically were following under the LRT. There were four lanes of traffic, then a walkway above that, and the LRT above that, so we were actually in the shade while walking back and forth. Finally a nice Thai lady stopped and asked if she could help us – and gave us directions, but did we follow them? Not so much! Thought we would take a short cut, down off the walking path, and a few alleys later, found ourselves walking away from the monument again. We did get to the monument eventually, then grabbed a tuk tuk back to the hotel – after 17 long, hot, sweaty Km. Enough was enough. We saw more of the city than what we intended but was great seeing the contrast in buildings, how they’ve left the old and introduced the new is very impressive.
Before we went up to the room we decided to find a cold place to have a beer. Although in a busy enough area, there didn’t appear to be very many watering holes so we wandered around for another 20 minutes or so. I noticed several guys sitting along a store front and one was drinking something out of a can! I looked closely, but couldn’t tell if it was pop or beer. They notice me looking as we were walking past, and a fellow came up and asked if we needed some help! Always a little leary about someone offering when not asked, but we told him we were looking for a pub where we could get a cold beer. He started giving us directions to the waterfront, and walked across the street to a round about with us. He told us about a little place, on the second floor overlooking the river, and if we wanted to eat, they also had great food. After our LONG walk I was hoping it wasn’t a scam and I kept asking the distance. Apparently, not far but he started looking for a tuk tuk, but a specific one, pointing out to he ones that might scam us, and the ones that were legit; yes, it was beginning to look like a scam! He flags a tuk tuk over, and gives directions to the new driver, and obviously words of how to direct us to the right place when we arrived, we got in and waved goodbye to our new friend. Two dollars and about 7 blocks later we arrive at the waterfront, and the driver does sign language to go around the corner and up the stairs. We arrived at the Chinatown Riverview & Seafood Restaurant, what a wonderful place, it was just what the doctor ordered. We only intended on a couple cold ones, and then would head back to the hotel however, the food that was being brought out to other tables was looking so good that we ordered dinner as well. We were not disappointed and it was the perfect ending to a long blistering hot day. As the sun set we went back down the stairs, out into an alley and started to look for a tuk tuk, wanting to make sure we got one of the “good” ones. It wasn’t long before one stopped and agreed to take us back to our hotel for another 2 dollars! Would have loved the opportunity to thank our new friend that got us to such a wonderful spot, but of course we didn’t see him again! Unfortunately we never did get back to that Riverside Bar/Restaurant.
When we got back to the hotel we had a night cap, and watched the sun disappear into the smog. Although I’m sure not healthy, it does make for a beautiful pictures. An early wake up tomorrow for the River Kwai and the Burma Railway tour.