Around The World, Part Twelve

Our Round The World Trip home page is here.
Part Eleven is here.

October 15 (Monday, Day 14, Delhi/Agra, continued) –

Taj Mahal lines (women on the left – very short line and men on the right – very long line)

We finally got through the admission gate and spent 45 minutes walking around the grounds of the Taj Mahal before walking ¾ mile to the car and going back to Delhi.  The Taj Mahal was pretty, but it really was not worth the time it took to get there.

At the Taj Mahal

The guidebooks say to catch the 6 AM train from Delhi for a 2 hour trip and then take the 8 PM train back to Delhi. That would have made more sense, but would have also made for a much longer day.  However, we would have had time to see the Red Fort and other Agra sights besides just the Taj Mahal.  Live and learn…

The drive to and from Agra wasn’t a complete waste of time since we did see many interesting things.  We saw small one room mud huts with thatched roofs that people live in.  We saw women carrying dung patties that we guessed were going to be used for cooking fires.  We saw women carrying water jugs on their heads.  We saw camels toting huge loads of what looked like fiberfill or cotton.

Camels hauling cotton

While stopped so our driver could get out and pay the tax for leaving one Indian state and entering another, we saw a man with dancing monkeys.  He wanted people in the cars to give him money and the monkeys even got on our car but we didn’t give him anything.

Indian shopping mall

We also saw lots of technology universities (full of students) and shopping malls (empty/being built) in the middle of nowhere.  There seemed to be universities all over the place.  We also saw that one side of the national highway was closed due to a protest of dispossessed Indians.

March of the dispossessed

The amazing thing was that this protest just shut down about 10 kilometers of one side of the national highway so our two lanes all of a sudden became one lane each way.  This type of unannounced/unsigned road alteration/closure seemed to happen a lot in India.

While Filbert was waiting in the men’s entry line (and I was standing next to him although I could have entered at any time since my line had no women in it), several Indian guys would come up to us and tell us to follow them and they would show us the shorter line for 100 rupees.  Yeah, right.  If there was a shorter line, all of the Indians in front of us would know about it.  It was amazing that there were thousands of Indians there and literally only a handful of Caucasians.  We were definitely in the minority.  The Indians also try to cut in front of Filbert but I managed to block them out and we both said “Go to the end of the line”.  That got the attention of a guard who yelled at the Indian guys and as they stalked away, the guard was laughing since he was getting a kick out of a Western woman blocking the barricade from Indian men cutting in line. Indians also came up to us many times asking for them to take their picture with us using their camera which they then would have demanded money from us.  One time Filbert pretended to be the confused tourist and said “OK, I will take your picture” and got his camera ready and they walked off.  So many scams….

It made for a very long day with no lunch break (our choice) and we were thrilled to get back to the Regency Club for some “normal” food.  Whereas we were inundated with lots of ready to eat food choices in Bangkok, there just aren’t many street vendors in India.  The people are too poor to buy ready to eat food.  We do see a lot of stands selling glasses of tap water for ½ rupee (~ one cent), but since we would NEVER drink the water here and have no interest in using a communal glass, those stands are of no interest.

Still at the Taj Mahal
Indian lawnmower outside the Taj Mahal’s walls

October 16 (Tuesday, Day 15, Delhi to Hyderabad) –

Since we were staying on the Regency Club floor, the Hyatt provided free transportation to the airport which was nice.  In India you have your checked bags go through x-ray and then they put a strap around each bag to prevent theft (although Judy said that they can easily cut the strap off in the back and then just put a new strap around it).  Then you take your strapped bags to the check-in counter and get your boarding pass.  Before you go through security, you must make sure each carry-on has a blank name tag on it since when the bag goes through security, a guy takes a stamp and stamps the tag.  I guess this is to give another Indian a job!  Our 2 hour flight left on time and we got great service in coach.  It included a glass of lemonade right at the beginning (which we didn’t drink since we didn’t know the water situation) followed by a small bottle of water which was followed by a wet towel.

Meal enroute to Hyderabad

Then lunch was served.  We had our choice of veg or non-veg.  (India has a lot of Hindus and they are vegetarian so everything is labeled veg or non-veg.)  It was pretty tasty for airplane food.  As we were getting closer to Hyderabad we noticed how green it was getting and we were getting excited.  Delhi was such a brown, dusty, dirty city that seeing green was great.

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Delhi anymore.  Yay.

Judy and her driver, Akbar, were waiting for us at 1 when we got off the plane and we loaded up the car and took off.  Akbar took Judy to her office and we spent the rest of the day with Akbar seeing Hyderabad.  It was SO much nicer than Delhi.  The traffic wasn’t insane and we saw real stores and other signs of civilization.  We just couldn’t get over how much better it was.  When we were in Delhi I just kept telling Filbert that I had no idea how Judy could put up with the filth and traffic and throngs of people and I was hoping that Hyderabad was better and was pleased it was.

On our tour around town, he stopped and told us to stay in the car.  Then he appeared alongside the car with two styrofoam bowls filled with gray “pudding” with orange grease floating on the top.  We each took one and ate it.  It was haleem which is available only during Ramzan (the month that Muslims fast) but since it is so popular this particular restaurant continued to serve it for 6 more days which is why we were able to have it.

Haleem is cooked for at least 10 hours in a bhatti (an oven made with mud) and hit with large sticks the entire time until its get its paste-like consistency.  The ingredients are wheat, lentils, lamb, spices and pure ghee (the orange grease floating on the top).  It was pretty tasty and very filling but very unattractive.  Filbert ate his entire bowl and Snookums ate 80% of hers.  Neither wants to eat it again, but it was a nice introduction to Hyderabad.  Filbert also had a cup of very sweet tea (maybe chai??) after his haleem.  While we were eating in the car Akbar was eating his haleem and drinking tea in the tea shop with the other Muslim men.  Our total bill was 160 rupees ($4) which is a lot of money but haleem is a special dish.

Charminar at night

Akbar took us to Charminar which is a monument that was built in 1591 and is in the middle of old Hyderabad and has arches on each side leading out to four thoroughfares.  It is also where a huge open air market is located selling all sorts of bangles, sarees, pearls and wedding items.  We thought it was prettier than the Taj!!  We then walked to Mecca Masjid mosque which is the second largest in India.  (We had already seen the largest one which is in Delhi.)  This mosque had a bombing at it on May 17, 2007 when at least 16 people were killed so we had to walk through metal detectors.  (There are metal detectors and guys with wands all over India, but it doesn’t seem like most of them actually detect anything.)  We got back to Judy’s apartment around 8 PM and went out to dinner with her to celebrate our third anniversary.

The trip continues in Part Thirteen, here.
Part Eleven is here.
Our Round The World Trip home page is here.

Around The World, Part Eleven

Our Round The World Trip home page is here.
Part Ten is here.

October 13 (Saturday, Day 12, Delhi, continued) –

Filbert was wearing the Indian pajama set (called a kurta) that Judy sent him and every Indian man he saw commented on it.  He does look very handsome in it and the Indians all wanted to know if he bought it in Delhi or what.

Jama Masjid was built in 1656 by the emperor who built the Taj Mahal and is the largest and most splendid mosque in India and can seat 20,000 people.  As we were taking our shoes off, an Indian came up to us and started telling us about the mosque.  His tour was actually very interesting until the very end when he said that we owed him 500 rupees ($12.50).  To put this in perspective, our charge to Sushil for 8 hours of driving is 900 rupees ($22.50)!  Oh well, it was a good tour but now we know to not just blindly allow someone to start talking to us.


We could see the Red Fort in the distance but since we’re going to see one near the Taj Mahal that is identical to the one in Delhi since the same architect built both, we’ll just wait to tour that one.

While driving around, we saw another elephant, two camels, cows and horses on the streets.  The cows were untethered and Sushil said that they are allowed to wander since they are smart and end up at home at night.  We also saw “wild” monkeys several times and one mongoose in the grass.

We told Sushil that we wanted to go to Pansath Market so he took us there.  According to the guide books, it is a market area for bargains.  That could be true, but what we saw was an open air market that catered to Indians selling shoes and jeans and stuff.  We walked around for awhile and then found a place for lunch.  It appeared to be a chain restaurant since it had a nice plastic sign and it sold wraps (you know, sandwiches made with tortillas instead of bread).  It wasn’t very Indian, but the other open air market stalls didn’t look too sanitary.  We bought a paneer wrap and a chicken wrap and took them upstairs to an unmanned area with tables and chairs (okay – one table with 4 chairs and 10 chairs at a counter).  They were pretty tasty and we managed to kill two cockroaches on the floor while we were eating.  They were 35 rupees each which is almost $1 so they weren’t that cheap.  I think you can buy hot dishes at the other stands for about 20 rupees.  But, this seemed like the safer thing to eat.

October 14 (Sunday, Day 13, Delhi) –

We got picked up at 10:30 and went to Qutab Minar which was built around the year 1200 and is a Muslim tower and a landmark in Delhi.  We followed the people and then found out that you had to buy tickets across the street so we opted to not go through the gates.  There seems to be no logic for how India has their tourist attractions set up.  The place you buy tickets is often very far from the place you give the tickets.  And they sometimes have separate entry lines for men and women since they search everyone due to the bombings that have happened in the recent past.  They always seem to charge you if you have a camera, too, regardless of whether you take pictures or not.  So, we’ve learned to leave the camera in the car and to just take pictures from outside the walls/gates.

Then we had Sushil take us to an upscale shopping area since we were really disappointed with the markets that we had seen so far.  The upscale one sure wasn’t upscale.  We don’t even like to shop but we just wanted to see if Delhi had any “normal” shops (from a U.S. perspective) and we really didn’t see any.  Filbert found a book shop and did buy 3 paperback books that were 50% of the cost in the U.S.  He had read that India publishes a lot of books for the U.S. and England and that they are cheaper here and that proved accurate.

After window shopping for a few minutes, we walked the neighborhood for 1.5 hours or so.  We walked around parked cars, avoided potholes in the road, walked around standing cows (and avoided some that seemed to be walking towards us) and walked around poles in the road.

When you are walking in India, you have to always be on the lookout on the ground for obstacles (including dog and cow manure) as well as for cars/bikes/scooters coming at you.  There aren’t any sidewalks so you just be careful.  We happened upon a pick-up cricket game being played by college men.

Qutab Minar
“Upscale” shopping center
A friendly cow
Cricket game

One thing you notice right away is that there are very few women out and about but lots of men.  The men are doing the shopping and they are in the tea shops enjoying a cup of tea.  They are also urinating on the side of the streets.  You do see women, but they are always walking somewhere and you don’t see them in the tea shops or snack shops at all.  There are also very few public toilets and we have no idea where women go to the bathroom.

After we walked around for about 1.5 hours we went back to our driver and had him take us to Palika Bazaar near Connaught Place.  This is an underground market and all of the stalls were selling sarees or DVDs or leather jackets or children’s clothing or jewelry.  But, it was amazing how it was just this underground maze (like a subway station) that had right turns and left turns and more turns.  We counted at least 7 entrances.  I bargained for some silk scarves, but that was it.  The stall owners yell out to you as you pass by which I find very annoying so we just walked along and didn’t make eye contact with anyone or any item.

After we surfaced from the underground market, we crossed the street to a park-like setting and we were walking around and for some reason I stopped for 10 or 20 seconds.  There weren’t many people around and I don’t even know why I stopped.  The next thing I know there is a man next to me pointing at my shoe saying “Your shoe is dirty.  Let me clean it.”  I looked down and sure enough on my white, all leather (thank goodness) tennis shoes was a huge pile of SHIT on the toe area.  He kept wanting to clean it and we said “no” and Filbert literally shoved him away.  We had our own portable pack of 20 Wet Ones (you want to have these with you at all times) so I used 5 to clean my shoe.  Then I threw the ones on the ground since that’s what you do in India!!!  We found out from our driver that the man was the one that put the dung on my shoe (and it was a large amount and kind of runny/mushy — possibly dog dung) and his scam was to then clean my shoe and not tell us up front the charge and then when he was done he would have demanded $10 or $20 (in US dollars which we don’t even carry!).  We thought something was up which was why we said “no”.  So, the lesson is — do NOT say “yes” to anything before understanding the price and the services provided.  Also, don’t stop when you are in kind of an open place or you might get “dunged” too!!!  I’m still laughing about it, but only because none of it got on the shoelaces and since my shoes were all leather, it cleaned up very nicely.  As Filbert said, “Welcome to the festering shithole!”

We decided this was enough of Delhi and had our driver take us back to the Hyatt.  When we got there we changed rooms and got one of the newly renovated ones.  (We had electrical outlet problems in the old room.  Several lights were on the master switch and they could NOT be turned off individually.  So, the room was either totally lit up or totally dark – no sense in one person reading in bed while the other slept.)  It was MUCH nicer than our original one and rather than looking at the Hyatt’s swimming pool (which was nice, but was just a garden area with a swimming pool) we got a view of a city street.  (In the opinion of the Hyatt, our swimming pool view is better than the street view.  But not in our opinion.)  We sat in front of our 6th floor floor-to-ceiling window and watched camels and horses and elephants and other things pass by.

Evening rush hour:  Delhi

We also watched a vendor that had two insulated thermoses set up shop and sell some hot beverage.  He obviously was a regular seller since many Hyatt workers would go and sit on the curb and drink his beverage.  Then they would throw their paper cups on the ground.  India is filthy (or, maybe, “festering”)!
October 15 (Monday, Day 14, Delhi) –

Sushil had told us that Delhi to Agra (to see the Taj Mahal) was a 2.5 hour trip so we arranged for a private car and driver to take us.  It was really a 4.5 hour trip (one way) on a crappy national highway.  (Once again, don’t believe anything that an Indian tells you.)  The drive to Agra, according to Filbert, was one of the most depressing experiences of his life.

Going to Agra:

We got out of the car around 12:30 and told the driver we would be back at 2.  We bought our tickets and then Filbert had to stand in the men’s line for about 45 minutes.  The women’s line had no one in it since women don’t really leave the house.

(A cliff-hanger!  Yes!  Will Filbert get into the Taj Mahal?  Will the poop-flinger return?  Tune in again next time for Round The World In 37 Days!)

The trip continues in Part Twelve, here.
Part Ten is here.
Our Round The World Trip home page is here.

Around The World, Part Ten

Our Round The World Trip home page is here.
Part Nine is here.

October 12 (Friday, Day 11, Bangkok to Delhi) –

We walked around the area near the hotel in Bangkok one last time in order to find a shop to print our photos for our postcards.  We succeeded and then went back to the hotel to lounge around and pack before we left at 3:00 for the airport.  We got to use the Thai International lounge due to Snookums’ gold membership level in US Airways.  It was nice, but not as nice as ANA’s at Narita.

Thai International

But, we were able to eat lunch/dinner and relax before the flight to Delhi.  The plane didn’t have seatback videos and the movie that was being shown was “License to Wed” which Snookums watched on the flight to Tokyo so she ended up just reading for the short 4 hour flight.  Dinner was served and it was a chicken curry.  At the end of the flight every passenger was given a 3 orchid corsage since that must be Thai International’s trademark.

As soon as we stepped off the plane and onto the jetway, Snookums could tell we were in a poor country.  The jetway was old and the wheelchairs that were at the entrance were pretty basic and rusty.  We breezed through immigration since the “foreign passport” line was short, got our luggage and walked through customs.  We went to the prepaid taxi booth and paid for our ride to the Hyatt.

An old, little minivan pulled up and we got in.  The driver had a seatbelt but we did not.  We started the ride of our lives.  The street had three lanes in it but it literally had 6 sets of cars and trucks using it.  Our driver, like all of the others, knew precisely the size of his minivan and squeezed us through all sorts of openings.  Filbert’s side of the minivan almost got crunched one time and then Snookums’ almost did, too.  Although it was dark (it was around 9:30 PM), we saw two elephants on the side of the road lumbering somewhere.  Our 30 minute ride was really a lot of fun.

We got to the hotel room and although it is a Hyatt and they did upgrade us to the Regency Club level, it’s not that nice.  However, had we booked our room using the cheapest rate, it still would have cost $383/night.  I’m sure it is opulent for Delhi, though.  The room only had one robe and only one set of slippers and didn’t have a clock in it and after many calls, we finally got everything that we needed.  We were told that the water at the Hyatt is safe to drink but then the man said “To be on the safe side, though, only use bottled water”.

October 13 (Saturday, Day 12, Delhi) –

Delhi morning
Very light traffic in Delhi

We met Sushil, our driver for the day, and told him the things we wanted to see.  He drove us by the embassies and the home of the Prime Minister but due to high gates with barbed wire on the top, we couldn’t see anything.  We were impressed, though, with the buildings for the Defense Minister and other government offices.  They were huge and had large lawns all around them and they had military and police at the door but no fences or anything.  We walked around India Gate which is a war memorial arch built in honor of 90,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.

India Gate

We arrived at Raj Ghat, the site of Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation.  It is set amidst large, well kept, undulating gardens and there were a lot of Indian people there.  We chose to walk on the overlook of it rather than going to the actual cremation place since we didn’t want to take off our shoes.

Overlooking Raj Ghat

On the way out we saw a large hose that was pumping foaming water on to the grass.  It’s hard to know what was in the water, but based on the pollution that you can see in the air, it can’t be good.

Foamy water

We drove to Old Delhi and drove through the markets on our way to the Jama Masjid.  We saw lots of live chickens and Sushil told us that you buy the live chicken and then the market guy kills it and plucks it.


We also saw pieces of beef (?) that had hide/skin still on it.  These pieces included legs and hoofs and heads.  We’re not sure what they were used for.  The market was extremely poor and was just a hodgepodge of stuff and the traffic (cars, scooters, and people) was just going every which way.  We decided we didn’t need to actually get out and we didn’t see any foreigners in the market area. Today is the day before Id-ul-Fitr which is the Muslim festival ending the fasting of Ramadan.  As a result, the markets were very busy since the Muslims are buying clothing and food for the festivities.

What the ???

The trip continues in Part Eleven, here.
Part Nine is here.
Our Round The World Trip home page is here.

Comment (0)

Around The World, Part Nine

Our Round The World Trip home page is here.
Part Eight is here.

October 11 (Thursday, Day 10, Bangkok, continued) –

Gallery of tigers:

We were done with the tigers and while walking back to the car we saw pigs, water buffalo, peacocks, cows, a horse and two deer.  The deer were not shy at all and Tong had us pull leaves off the tree to feed them since they couldn’t get to the high leaves like we could.  All of the animals were roaming freely about.

Bovines.  We’re told the tigers don’t get to eat them.
Deer.  Tigers reportedly don’t eat them, either.
Boars.  Not tiger food, either.  We think.

It took us 2.5 hours to get back to Bangkok and Tong was driving about 75 mph until the last 30 minutes when we go in Bangkok traffic.  We only almost died once and it was due to the pouring rain and she didn’t see the brake lights until the last minute.  Hydroplaning is not as fun as it’s made out to be, kids!

Sundown Bangkok

We got back to the room at 4:30, showered off the animal filth and washed our muddy clothes.  Then it was time for the Regency Club at 5:30.  I guess we’ve been in Bangkok long enough since the spread was identical to the first night.  We decided (again) against going to the night market and were asleep by 10.

The trip continues in Part Ten, here.
Part Eight is here.
Our Round The World Trip home page is here.

Around The World, Part Eight

Our Round The World Trip home page is here.
Part Seven is here.

October 11 (Thursday, Day 10, Bangkok, continued) –

A monk started Tiger Temple in 1994.  Somehow a hurt tiger was given to the monk.  (There are about 225 wild tigers left in Thailand’s forests.)  The monk decided to take care of it and now has a wildlife sanctuary that contains 22 tigers, deer, pigs, water buffalo, a lion cub, a sun bear, etc., etc., etc.  Tong and a worker took us to a cage that had Bam Bam in it.  Bam Bam is the sun bear and we got to go in the cage and feed her mangoes and soy milk.  It was pretty amazing to be standing next to a bear holding a bottle in its mouth while it was on its hind legs and using its front paws (with sharp claws) to try to also hold the bottle.  We had to hurry and leave Bam Bam in order to see the tigers.

Snookums and Bam Bam

Around 12:30 every day some of the tigers are released from their cages.  It was pouring rain and she wasn’t sure they would release the tigers but they did.  There was an open muddy yard and the fully grown tiger was chained to a tree trunk and four or five others were running loose so that we could go up to them and take pictures and touch them.  Two of them were cubs and didn’t have chains on at all while the middle sized ones had leash chains and sometimes the workers would have to grab a chain to keep them from getting to “friendly” with a tourist.  One lady did get clawed on her thigh and the marks turned into welts.  It was no big deal, but was kind of neat to see and we were kidding her about getting a free souvenir.  She said they stung a lot, but she didn’t seem to be any worse for wear.  Filbert had one of the medium sized ones take a swipe at his backside and ended up with muddy tiger prints on his vest and butt.  After awhile the monks took the tigers from the open yard down to the canyon.  We could also interact with them in the canyon and the workers took our pictures with each one.

Tiger in the rain
Snookums, Filbert, tiger (1)
Snookums, Filbert, tiger (2)
Snookums and tiger
Filbert and tiger
Snookums and the *censored*cats
Nice kitty
Notice the scratch marks on the tree trunk!

The trip continues in Part Nine, here.
Part Seven is here.
Our Round The World Trip home page is here.

Around The World, Part Seven

Our Round The World Trip home page is here.
Part Six is here.

October 9 (Tuesday, Day 8, Bangkok, continued) –

Tong took us to a local restaurant that she used to eat at a lot when she was getting her guide degree.  We were the only foreigners in it.  We let her order for us.  She ordered a seafood and noodle soup (like ramen) for Filbert and duck on rice for me and her.  Then she ordered pork satay with peanut sauce for us and a bowl of the soup broth for herself.  She also had an iced coffee.  The total bill for the three of us for all of this was $5.10.

I saw that there was a toilet at this restaurant and needed to use it.  It was a squat kind and I’m familiar with them but I couldn’t figure out how to flush it.  I told Tong and she said “pour water in it”.  Now it all made sense.  The squat toilet was on the floor (naturally!) and next to it was a built-in “sink” full of water (also on the floor) with a shabby plastic bowl in it.  You simply take the bowl and fill it with water from the full sink and dump it in the toilet.  Voila, it flushes!  I couldn’t figure out why there was this built-in basin of water on the floor with a bowl in it but then I understood.

Then we went to Vimanmek Palace which used to be the summer home for royalty.  By then we were tired (and Filbert was very sweaty) and although we hadn’t used 10 hours of her time, we had seen enough so we went back to the Hyatt.  And neither of us really wanted to take off our shoes even one more time for another temple or mansion!

Reclining Buddha

October 10 (Wednesday, Day 9, Bangkok) –

We were up around 6 and had a leisurely breakfast in the Regency Club.  The wireless internet is free if you are in the Regency Club but if you use the wired port in the room it’s about $30/day.  (Don’t ask me why???)  And, you can’t really get a good wireless signal in the room.  So, we were in the Regency Club for about 2.5 hours.  But, since nothing really opens until 10, we weren’t in any hurry.

While we were back in the room, our transformer exploded.  Filbert thinks we had too many electrical devices plugged in it.  We now had a purpose for the day – to replace the transformer we bought in Venice.  We went to three different malls and several storefront locations and finally found one.

We ate lunch at Thailand’s biggest Thai food chain (per the English menu that had a picture of each of the 135 items).  Filbert had the fried scallops and papaya salad (two items that were paired on the menu for $2.10) and he ordered his papaya salad “spicy.”   It was.  Very.  I had the pork and minced rice salad ($1.65) and said “no” to spicy and it still burned my lips (but in a good way).  Mine came with a wedge of raw cabbage, too, which helped tame the fire.  I also ordered a tamarind slush ($0.80) and Filbert ordered a watermelon slush ($0.80).  We were quite content with our lunches and would happily eat there again.

Thai fast food

I had really wanted to eat at one of the million street vendor stalls, but it was pouring rain and around 90 degrees and most of the street vendors don’t have tables and chairs so we thought a food court type of place would be a better idea.  Vendors sell whole fish, little sausage balls, chicken wings, various noodle dishes and all sorts of things that we don’t even know what they are.  Most Thai do NOT cook at home since it is cheaper to eat out.  So, they eat from a street vendor or at a food court or something like that.

Rainy Bangkok

We’ve noticed that at any given time, about 10% of the population wears a light yellow polo shirt with the King’s crest on it and so then I decided I had to have one.  The Thai people LOVE their King and this is NOT an official uniform, but these shirts are sold everywhere and everyone seems to wear them.  I found one on sale for $4.50 in one of the malls.  (It’s probably $3 at a street market!)  We’re trying to get one for Filbert, too, but so far none are big enough.  It’s yellow since the King was born on the day of the week that is represented by yellow.  My day is orange (Go LadyVols!) and Filbert’s is red.

Well, we got to the Regency Club at 5:30 and the guy just came around to ask if we wanted anything else since the food is being taken away.  That means it is 7:30.  Time to go to the night market!  We didn’t look out our windows as we were getting ready for the night market.  We went down to the lobby only to be surprised by the pouring rain.  We decided to skip it and watched HBO.

October 11 (Thursday, Day 10, Bangkok) –

Tong picked us up at 6:30 AM to go see the Tiger Temple (  On the way, we drove by salt farms and shrimp farms.  She also took us through a little town where the people that can’t afford to rent space for a market stall literally set up their wares ON the train tracks.  The trains come 8 times a day and a whistle blows giving them 4 minutes to clear the tracks of their items.  Then they go back to the tracks to sell their fruits, vegetables, clothing, prepared food, whatever it is.  It was amazing to see the tracks packed full of stuff knowing that at some point, the owner would have to pick it all up for a few minutes.  No one has ever died, or so they tell us.

Railroad Market

We stopped at a temple whose interior was completely done in 3D carved teak.  The government was going to tear down the temple in the 70s since the province had too many temples (per the government) but the locals poured money into it and basically dared the government to tear it down.  It’s still standing and is very impressive.  We’ve noticed that the Thais spend a lot of money on their temples and offerings.  Each neighborhood has a temple and they seem to be more expensive than our neighborhood churches and considering this is a developing country, it makes it that much more impressive.

Teak carvings

We also stopped at a porcelain factory where we saw about 15 men and women painting porcelain with tiny paintbrushes.  Nothing is for sale at this factory since all of the orders are placed and then it takes about 4 months for the porcelain to be created.  This factory produces the porcelain for the King and the Prince, among others.  It was very exquisite.

Long live the King

We went to the floating market which is a very touristy place (and Tong knew we didn’t want to do touristy things but we were okay with this).  It’s a market set up on a bunch of canals and the people in the boats are actually selling goods.  We rented a boat and the three of us went for a ride.  Tong knew we liked to eat (and we hadn’t had breakfast) so she had our oarsman stop at one of the boats and ordered us one $0.60 bowl of rice with red pork with a sweet sauce on it for us.  She got a $0.60 vegetarian bowl for herself (but let us taste it and it was vinegary and spicy – very good) since the Vegetarian Festival started today and will last for 9 days where many Buddhists won’t eat meat.  As a result, a lot of the food vendors only sell vegetarian dishes during this time.  They fly yellow flags with red writing to indicate that they are vegetarian.  We ate our pork and rice bowl in record time.  (The oarsman sees to it that the bowls and utensils get returned to the correct floating restaurant.)  At the next stop, she bought Filbert a $0.60 bowl of noodles in a spicy broth and me a $0.60 bowl of noodles with no broth and I saw that she put 3 spoons of sugar on mine before stirring it all up.  Filbert’s was very spicy and mine wasn’t.   I put some of his broth on mine to spice it up a bit.  (There seem to be 4 condiments for Thai food – sugar, soy sauce, hot cut up little peppers in vinegar and crushed red pepper flakes.  They tend to put three of the four on each of their dishes.)

Braving the floating market

A little while later she bought us chicken legs and pork skewers for $1.20 total but they tended to taste like teriyaki items you could get at any US mall food court – not bad, but not what we want to eat while in Thailand!  The boat finally took us out of the market place and took us along the other canals that are lined with houses.  It was very peaceful back there.  At the end, Tong bought us deep fried finger bananas and as everyone knows, anything deep fried is yummy!  She also asked a vendor if I could have a fresh tamarind so I could see what a fresh one is like.  It was as long as my finger and looked like a very large peanut in the shell.  After easily taking off the woody peel, the texture of it reminded me of eating a date (and it had a squarish pit in it, too) and it’s taste is kind of sour.  It was very good.  By the way, now that you’re thinking, “Snookums and Filbert are pigs” (and we are!), Tong told us that we wouldn’t have time to have lunch due to the timing of the Tiger Temple.  So, we had to pack it in when we could.

Floating market food
More floating market food

After our feast at the floating market it was time to get back in the car and continue our journey.  We stopped at a Thai handicraft market where we saw the men chiseling the wood to make the various 3D teak scenes.  Tong had warned us to not buy anything since it would be overpriced.  We kept telling her that she didn’t need to worry about us buying anything, anywhere!  We also stopped at the Bridge of the River Kwai for a few minutes and some pictures.  Then we got to Tiger Temple around noon.  Now the real fun began.

Bridge over the River Kwai (note Snookums’ Long Live the King polo shirt)

Bridge over the River Kwai (note Snookums’ Long Live the King polo shirt)

The trip continues in Part Eight, here.
Part Six is here.
Our Round The World Trip home page is here.

The Credit Crisis (Bear Stearns goes belly-up)

OK, so what we have is:

A bunch of banks lend money to people they really had no business lending money to.  Those people were, in old-fashioned language:  credit risks.  Surprise, surprise, they couldn’t pay back their loans.

Who’s to blame?

Well, first, the poor stupid dupes who got convinced that home ownership was the key to their financial success, if only they could somehow get a mortgage they couldn’t really afford.

Second, the financial institutions who loaned the money to the aforementioned poor stupid dupes.

But most of all, the ones to blame are the politicians who forced the financial institutions to loan money to poor stupid dupes, in order to buy the votes of the aforementioned poor stupid dupes.

There is a place in Hell reserved for these politicians.  This should be a cautionary tale regarding the power of government to do harm while saying it is doing good.  But of course, the politicians will, again, get off scott-free and successfully redirect the blame–in this case to those evil financial institutions (and, usually, the Republican Party just, you know, because.)

Around The World, Part Six

Our Round The World Trip home page is here.
Part Five is here.

October 8 (Monday, Day 7, Tokyo to Bangkok, continued) –

After dinner we decided to see the Erawan Shrine which is on the corner next to the Grand Hyatt.  It was bustling with local Thais.  I just love the fresh marigold garlands and other flower offerings that people buy to pay their respects.  It is a Hindu shrine that houses a statue of four-faced Brahma. It often features performances by resident Thai dance troupes who are hired by worshippers in return for seeing their prayers at the shrine answered. On March 21, 2006, a man vandalized the shrine and was subsequently killed by bystanders.  (The Thais are a very religious people and take it very seriously.)

Erawan Shrine

The Erawan Shrine was built in 1956 as part of the government-owned Erawan Hotel to correct bad omens believed to be caused by laying the foundations on the wrong date.  Construction of the hotel was delayed by a series of mishaps, including cost overruns, injured laborers and the loss of a shipload of Italian marble intended for the building.  An astrologer was brought in to provide a solution to the bad luck, hence the shrine.  The hotel construction then proceeded without problem.  In 1987, the hotel was demolished and the site used for the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel.

We continued walking, without looking at a map, and found ourselves on a very long street that didn’t have a cross street for probably 1.5 miles.  I had a map, but we were fine.  We turned at our first opportunity and ended up making a big square hike.  It was a longer walk then either of us really wanted, but we survived just fine and slept soundly!

October 9 (Tuesday, Day 8, Bangkok) –

We had arranged for a driver/guide for two days in Bangkok and this morning we met her.  I found her from a bunch of glowing reviews on  Her name is Tong Tong ( and I figured that the $100 for us to be with her for up to 10 hours was well worth it.  Her husband ended up driving for us today since they hadn’t really seen each other in several weeks.  They live about 1.5 hours from Bangkok and he is an optician in Bangkok at his family’s business.  She’s a private guide (i.e. she doesn’t work for a company) and often leaves before he is awake and gets back after he is in bed.  So, he took the day off today and drove for us!

We started off by seeing the Golden Buddha.  This huge Buddha was coated in cement during some war way in the past to keep it safe and then within the past 30 years or so someone chipped it and discovered that a gold Buddha was under the cement.

Golden Buddha

We then went to the Grand Palace and Royal Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  The Grand Palace is a huge complex that Tong normally would spend 3 or 4 hours in.  However, since we aren’t history buffs and don’t like long explanations, it took us about 1 hour to see the major sites.

Views of the Grand Palace:

Thai military at the palace

When we left the Grand Palace complex, she bought us papaya juice and carrot juice from her favorite juice vendor.  Then she hired a boat for the three of us (and the boat driver) and took us on a tour of the khlongs (canals).  We saw a few nice houses along the canals but most of them were very shabby.  Then we went to Wat Pho which is famous for its huge reclining Buddha that is probably as long as a volleyball court.

The canals of Bangkok
Really big water monitor (all the other pictures were even blurrier)

The trip continues in Part Seven, here.
Part Five is here.
Our Round The World Trip home page is here.