Bangkok with children

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BANGKOK – THAILAND, 24-25 Jan 2008. Bangkok with children: once a contradiction in terms, now a way of life. We chose to stay at the Sri Ayuttaya Guest House, a place of teak and exposed brick recommended by the Lonely Planet as ‘romantic’, which proved difficult for our taxi driver to find.

Although the guest house was clean and picturesque, the staff weren’t very helpful, and the traffic noise would have pissed us off if we didn’t have a toddler already waking us at 5.30am. That said, we enjoyed our stay in Thewet district, an older, leafy part of Bangkok, that is not only family-friendly but that rarest of things in Bangkok: pedestrian-friendly, too.

Thewet pier 1 We started Tash’s tour of the Thai capital with a swing past the local fresh food market where a vendor was netting live catfish from a shallow tub. The ones that (almost) got away writhed on the muddy pavement with as much confidence as they do in the water.

We made our way past mangy cats munching on fish entrails to Tha Thewet (tha = pier), famous as a place where monks and lay people alike feed the fish that gather there, leaping out of the water at the prospect. You can buy bread crusts or fish pellets on the pier or, as in our case, be accompanied by a child so lovely people give them food to feed the fish with. The water around the pier is so thick with jumping fish it appears to be boiling.

Thewet pier, fish are jumpingFrom the Thewet pier we caught the orange-flag ferry along the Chao Phraya River to Saphan Phut—the Memorial Bridge—the stopping off point for the Pahurat Market, the Indian district I wanted to scope out for my next novel.

Tash loved the boat ride and managed not to ‘pollute’ any of the monks on board by touching them. She also seemed to enjoy the market; at least she kept it together while Andrew and I took photos and I took in the atmosphere.

At this point, Tash started asking for a ‘red icy pole’ and we figured given how well-behaved she’d been all day, especially during the taxi ride from Jomtien, we’d try to find something along the lines of what she was asking for. We ended up at an ice-cream franchise called Swenson’s in a mall near Pahurat where, to her delight, Tash was given a placemat and crayons to colour it in, along with a scoop each of vanilla and chocolate ice-cream. Roo and I had our longest uninterrupted conversation since leaving Australia.

We don’t know whether it was something in the ice-cream but Tash went crazy soon after eating it, running laps around the mall, dancing to music, climbing on and off weighing scales, trying to open doors and jump on to escalators—we’d never seen her like this. We did the only sensible thing we could do and took her on a tuk-tuk ride back to Saphan Phut—the noisy, motorised pedicabs being the hyperactive child of the public transport family. And our little thrill-seeker loved it!

From Saphan Phut, we caught the ferry back up-river to Tha Phra Artit where I’d planned for us to have dinner at Ton Pho, a Thai restaurant on a floating dock between the pier and the UNICEF office and an old favourite of mine. Alas, the place where Ton Pho used to be is now the site of a new condo. However, we stumbled across an alternative called ‘The Old Phra Artit Pier’, a lovely teak place with a deck fronting on to the river, Beer Chang on tap, good Thai food (albeit under-spiced), groovy music and very kid-friendly, accommodating staff—especially given Tash was still pretty hyped up. She ate their custom-made chicken fried rice with more gusto than we’ve seen her eat anything since we left Australia.

Wat at sunrise Ang TashBack at the guesthouse, she slept soundly enough in the evening for us to chat over a couple of beers but woke early as usual, still adjusting to the time difference. By 7.30am, we were taking in the sunrise with a walk down to the end of Sri Ayuttaya St through the Rachathewet temple complex to the river (at least, the map says it’s called Wat Rachathewet, although it’s changed names a few times since it was made a Third-Class Royal Temple). The reflection of sunlight on the gold, red, green and blue glass of the temple exteriors prompted Tash to exclaim, ‘Rainbow!’

It was a lovely walk through what is effectively a Thai village nestled between the wat and the river. Schoolgirls in white shirts and navy pinafores bustled past us, while parents carried sleeping toddlers to the childcare facility within the temple grounds on their way to work. Various shrines were already smoking with incense and the monks were on their way back indoors after collecting alms of food and lotus blossoms.

Wat at sunrise, Tash & Roo After breakfast, we walked to the Dusit Zoo—or rather, Roo and I walked while Tash got carried. In one of the few signs she’s given of not being entirely comfortable with the change of scene we’ve subjected her to, she’s preferring to be carried rather than walk; Roo and I are building our upper body strength as a result.

Most of the Zoo’s exhibits had seen better days, though we were conscious that we’d never get this close to the animals in a contemporary Australian zoo. The highlights were: the Tapir taking a bath, the panthers rolling around in the sun like the big cats they are (signs warned us not to dangle any limbs inside their cage); having only plate glass and 3 metres between us and two Sumatran tigers; the dusky langur that scaled the side of its cage, took a flying leap, grabbed a rope and swung right up to where Natasha and I were standing, making her laugh out loud. Tash also enjoyed watching the Asiatic elephants and encouraging them to ‘Bath, here, now!’

Dusit Zoo tigerThe rest of the day was a write-off, spent getting us from Bangkok to Phnom Penh. It was our first experience of navigating the new, town-sized Suvarnabhumi Airport outside of Bangkok, flying on a relatively new budget airline (Thai Air Asia, not too bad). We got visas on arrival in Phnom Penh and then took a taxi to our guesthouse—only it turned out to be the wrong branch of our guesthouse, and we had to take a tuk-tuk to the correct place (Boddhi Tree Del Gusto). In retrospect, this day of waiting and intermittent travel was good practice for hunting for real estate in Phnom Penh…but that’s another story.

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4 Responses to “Bangkok with children”

  1. jan Says:

    I was reading your article and noticed you stayed at Sri Ayuttaya Guest House in Bangkok. I am considering staying there in November. You say the traffic woke you up at 5.30 a.m. Was your room air-conditioned. Would it put you off staying there again and do you think there would be better accommodation available for the same price?

    Thank you
    Jan

    PS I like reading your articles!

  2. angelasavage Says:

    Thanks for your message, Jan. Re: your questions about the Sri Ayuttaya Guest House in Bangkok, from memory our room was air-conditioned and also had ceiling fans. Traffic noise might not be such a problem if you ask for a room at the back. What put us off was the unhelpful staff and the fact that two flights of steep stairs weren’t very practical with a two-year-old. But it is a very pretty place with ambient downstairs bar/restaurant, and good value for money. Also the surrounding area Thewet is lovely.

    Not sure how it compares in price, but my current Bangkok favourite place to stay is the New Siam II a little further south along the river from Thewet off Phra Artit Road, see: http://www.newsiam.net/ns/newsiam2.php

    Keep enjoying the blog!

  3. Bangkok with children – Part 2 « Oh, the places you’ll go! Says:

    […] kids can join in a fish-feeding frenzy at the pier, followed by a visit nearby Dusit Zoo–see here for more […]

  4. Bangkok with children – part 3 « Oh, the places you’ll go! Says:

    […] with children – part 3 By angelasavage While Thewet is probably the most kid-friendly part of Bangkok, and Banglampu has the best family-friendly […]

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