Back in the hostel, I repacked my bags to what I thought would be more convenient. With the colorful bag I bought from Bac Ha Market, I placed my camera, jacket, and phone and decided to include my passport cum money bag hanging around my neck.
The bus was full of tourists heading to different islands down south, with just the two of us bound for Phuket. When the bus finally arrived, we learned that the bus was only going to Surat Thani and that all of us will be transferred to our respective onward buses. And there goes yet another nasty surprise!
On the first bus stop, I was still awake. As my allergies started to worsen, I opted to stay in the bus.
With a long journey ahead, I placed my bag down on my feet, in between the plastic bag of food and my friend’s backpack, and placed on top of it my Vietnamese hat. Tired from the whole day walk and groggy with the anti-histamine pill, I dozed off. When I suddenly walked up, I found my bag already behind my feet with the hat still on top of it. I thought it must have just slid when I put my feet up on my seat. The bus was dark at that time, so I just opened my bag and searched for my passport bag. Everything seemed perfectly in place, just how I packed it.
Once at Surat Thani, around 6:30 A.M the next day, I took my passport bag to get the 100 baht I returned in the side pocket supposedly to buy a cup of coffee. It was not there. Before I could start looking for it, the driver who will be taking us to where we’re going to take the bus bound for Phuket, told us to hop on the car as we might miss our 07:00 trip.
At the bus stop, there was a convenience store across the street, so I brought out my bag again to get money but I really couldn’t find the 100 baht I remember putting back at the 7/11 counter as I used the Thai coins to pay for the bread. It was impossible dropping it because I never brought out my passport bag after 7/11.
Then I felt something was wrong about my bag, it felt thinner even with my passport in it. My cards were intact. It was when I opened the pocket where I kept the Philippine money my brother gave me that I realized I was robbed! Even the crisp 20 baht bills I kept as souvenirs for my babies back home were gone. I was left with just coins, a few Vietnam Dong, Cambodian Rials and 140 Philippine Peso. I felt numb and my mind went blank! When my friend returned from the toilet, all I could say was, “Kuya, nanakawan ako! (I got robbed!)”
While I agree that what I lost was just money and that I should be grateful knowing nothing worse happened, that we’re safe, accepting the fact that such happened to me was not easy. For someone who is without a job, worked so hard and sacrificed so much trying to make the trip possible, it is not JUST money. It’s the sacrifice that came before I had that money that made it difficult to accept it. But yeah, like the thief really cared!
And while I am thankful the thief left my passport and cards intact, how it happened keeps me wondering until now. It’s just amazing how the thief did it. How he /she had the time to go through each and every pocket of my bag in the dark and select which money to take and spare when he/she could have just taken the whole bag with all my valuables in it. I always had my bag close to me. It was one time…JUST one time, and it’s gone!
And unless I earn the amount back, I probably could move on…but will never forget. What I thought is a well-deserved break turned into a nightmare. A supposedly backpacking trip turned into a very expensive travel.
There was a kind of vibrancy on the street outside the Grand Palace when we arrived. Marching soldiers with their rifles, hundreds of tourists taking photos, some crossing streets and others by the souvenir stalls at the sidewalks. I was excited.
We queued with our tickets, very eager to get in, when I was stopped by the guard claiming I was dressed inappropriately. I was wearing black leggings and a long shirt but short sleeved. Thank God I brought my jacket with me and my scarf. You don’t have to figure how I looked like, I’m posting my photo anyway. I paid 500 baht so I cared less even if I had to look like a clown or a mascot just so I could enter. (“,)
Inside the palace, I wondered how very inappropriately dressed I was with other visitors wearing above the knee skirts, dresses with short sleeves and knee-high leggings. Next time, am gonna dress like a princess! Seriously speaking, wearing proper clothes is a must when visiting the palace as it is not just a tourist spot but a place of worship. And while there are stalls outside the gate that offer wraps for hire, it is still best to come prepared and avoid the hassle.
It was the intricate design of the temples and palaces in the 218,000 square meters Grand Palace complex that awe-struck me. The top of the structures glistening in shades of gold, silver, red-orange, yellow-green and blue, jutting off the 1900 meters long concrete walls enclosing the complex, were inviting.
The Grand Palace was built in 1782 after King Rama I ascended to the throne. Each of the structures and every single detail found in the compound is steeped in rich history, a tribute to the life and works of the kings that came before and a holy place to venerate the Lord Buddha.
Apart from the Royal Residence and throne halls for state ceremonies and banquets for visiting heads of states, the complex is home to the Royal Monastery of Emerald Buddha; monuments housing Buddhist sacred scriptures inscribed on palm leaves, a miniature Angkor Wat, the Royal Pantheon where statues of past sovereigns of the ruling Chakri dynasty are enshrined; and, the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles.
Thousands of visitors from all over the world swarm here every day. Some are curious travelers like me while others come to pay tribute to the Lord Buddha and His teachings. That being said, arriving early is the way to go to avoid the rush. They are open from 09:00 A.M to 04:30 P.M. Since most visitors flock directly to the palaces and shrines, why not try walking through those paths on the side corners for a nice and quiet view. Aside from giving you a different perspective, it’s a fun way to take a photo of yourself back-dropping the temples without destruction.
Capping my palace tour is a visit to the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles. It is a state of the art museum launched in Spring 2012 that focuses on traditional Thai textiles, with special emphasis on silk. It is the museum’s goal to create awareness of Thai identity and culture and an appreciation of the beauty of traditional Thai textiles through research, exhibition and interpretation.
The museum displays a range of the Queen’s elegant gowns made out of silk produced by local weavers, an audio-video room that details the efforts of the Queen and King in encouraging and supporting local folks to turn weaving into an income generating endeavor instead of having it merely for personal stuff, an education studio presenting the pre and post production of silk, Thailand’s first dedicated textile conservation laboratory and a classy souvenir shop. Shopping here was oh so tempting! I walked out of the museum with a blue paper bag. At least I’m done thinking about what to give my oldest sister on her 40th birthday. Oops, did I just say that out loud?! Sorry Manang Joyce! (“,)
We grabbed a sandwich by Subway for lunch. Sometimes, when you’ve been guzzling over local food for a while, it’s kind of comforting to devour a bit of familiar meal. I remember our last day in Nepal, my girl friends and I were so thrilled to see a Pizza Hut chain in Kathmandu. At times like this, suddenly the food seems tastier like it never was.
When the traffic is bad, cruising by the river is the way to go as the piers are linked to bus stops and train stations. This also makes for a convenient way to see the city. We took the public boat to Sathorn Pier, squeezing ourselves in on the jam-packed boat. The travel is breezy and fast so need not worry of asphyxia. I’ve seen more temples line the other side of the river and large hotel chains towering over on the other. The river is quite busy with fishing boats, speed boats and tourist boats cruising along.
We took the train from Saphan Taksin station, zooming over the city, to the National Stadium and back to the pier. The train facility is clean, fast and not cramped, at least not at 03:00 P.M when we were there, but not considerably cheap if I compare it to Manila or Dubai’s.
The temperature was unbearable after the river cruise, sapping further what’s left of our energy, hence a walk back to Rest Inn was not something we’re keen to do. And with tuktuk service hard to get at this time, we boarded the public bus. Thank God the lady seated next to us can understand English. She told the bus driver and the lady giving out tickets where to drop us off.
And just when I thought I could go shopping for souvenirs to bring home, we were told by the travel agency which the hostel recommended, that the sleeper train is fully booked, with the next available schedule only after 2 days. Had we known earlier, we should have booked it as soon as we arrived back in Bangkok. We dreaded last time’s long journey that’s why we wanted to take the train to Surat Thani then a bus to Phuket. So with only a bus ride to choose from, we decided to leave that evening.
Barely an hour before pick-up time, I shelved my shopping plans for Phuket. Of course I did not want to end my Bangkok trip disappointed. So what could be a better way to end it than a mouth-watering coconut ice cream!