Tanzania to Thailand

Every day during my Tanzanian African safari I meant to catch up and write, but each day was just so packed with cool things to see and do. I didn’t want to miss anything at all. Some of the people I was with were smarter than me. They took advantage of the amazing camps/lodges we stayed at and took much needed breaks from our daily adventures.

I, on the other hand, pushed myself until I was pretty much totally exhausted. Four of the 8 days of the trip were “early” days. We had to be up, dressed, packed and in the jeeps by 0545. The other days we got a break and had until 0700 until things got started. I haven’t got many photos online yet, so I’ll write all that up later.

We all flew out of the Serenera airstrip at around 1000 on the 23rd. Flew into Arusha and had a last lunch together before we all went our separate ways. We had a really nice lunch at “George’s”. A nice Greek restaurant none of us expected to find in the middle of a fairly small city in Africa. I had a huge pork gyro with properly cooked french fries. Others had the calamari and loved it. The stuffed avocados were bigger than grapefruit.

A few of us had the early flight out of Arusha, so we left the rest of the group having lunch and took off for the airport. My flight left at 1710. After a layover in Doha, Qatar I arrived in Bangkok at 1200 on the 24th.

I was so tired, I didn’t really want to deal with anything but a big air-conditioned bed. I took a cab from the airport to my hotel in Chinatown (500 baht ~ $15 with tip), had a little lunch in their bar/restaurant and passed out by 1600. I slept in til around 0930 the next day and felt SO much better!

I’ve been to Bangkok a few times before, so didn’t feel obligated to make the rounds of the usual tourist sites- the Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha, Wat Po, Chatuchak market, etc). Instead, I decided to just wander around. I’m staying pretty near the river which is a major traffic artery here so I decided to try to follow it along.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. The streets are not all marked, they’re not formed in a grid, they wind around in different directions and the names change. I was in no hurry tho, so I just kept on walking and taking it all in.

The smells- of roasting chestnuts, seafood sizzling over charcoal fires, kim-chi, coriander, cinnamon and pepper – the sounds,- of ringing bicycle bells, trucks and tuk-tuks passing by, vendors calling out to passers-by- the sights-golden Buddhas, complicated carvings covering Chinese temples, bright red party favors, intricate tile work covering important Thai buildings, miniature spirit houses filled with daily offerings, neon lighting up the streets at night as the traffic streamed by, overflowing stalls offering intriguing fruits nuts and spices, smiling people everywhere.

I walked through the back alleys and watched people cooking and having their meals sitting at tiny plastic stools on the street. They all smiled at me tho I’m sure they were wondering what was the crazy white girl doing passing by their back doors.

At the Rachawong ferry pier, I watched the swarms of catfish along the seawall and the long-tailed boats zip by as I enjoyed the breeze off the river and took a little break. My map showed a flower market not too far away so I kept on heading towards it.

I started passing trucks unloading bunches of flowers along the street. Plastic bags of golden marigolds and dozens of roses wrapped in newspaper were stacked waist high while men with hand trucks struggled to get them to their final destination inside the market.

The market was immense. Open areas covering blocks with 30′ high ceilings, filled with rows upon rows of fresh, beautiful, sweet-smelling flowers.  Roses, marigolds, chrysanthemums, tuberoses, orchids, and so many more. I certainly can’t name them all. People were buying everything from huge bags of marigolds to individual little arrangements of orchids or bamboo.

I took a while wandering around, it turns out there was more than one market. Theres one on the river side of the road and another on the opposite side. There’re also a couple of fruit and vegetable markets. I doubt if I could identify even 1/4 of the items they had on offer. I always enjoy seeing what other people like to shop for and these Bangkok markets were really pretty interesting.

After spending most of the afternoon at the markets, I headed back towards my hotel and took a little detour through the back streets of Chinatown. My hotel is on one of the main roads (Yaowarat Road), there are all kinds of winding little back lanes all around. It’s a great place to just wander around and see what there is to see.

There is another huge market almost right across the street. People are selling everything you can imagine: clothes, food, fabric, hair ties, shoes, hardware, clocks, ribbons, Christmas decorations, handbags, tea sets, and on and on. The tiny little lanes are crowded with all kinds of people, including traveling ice-cream hawkers, blind karaoke singers, and every couple of minutes a motorcycle rider comes through.

After a while, the crowds started getting to me. It got to be downright stifling after the sun went down. Some places got so crowded it was hard to walk and I’m just not up for that. I picked up a few sticks of satay from a street vendor- one of the ones with a place to sit along the sidewalk- and had a beer to go with it for dinner.

I still wasn’t really back to normal after being so tired for so long, so I headed back to the hotel for a fairly early bedtime. I was sound asleep by midnight. 🙂

This post is running pretty long, so I’ll have to finish up on the next 2 days tomorrow. I’ll be heading to Hanoi, Vietnam tomorrow evening, so have to leave the hotel here by 1300 latest.

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