The overnight train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok is the best. Far better than taking the all-day "express" train. We arrived at the Chiang Mai train station about an hour early, and the sleeping coaches were already lined up on the track. There was no one around to tell us not to, so we boarded and found our adjoining "first class" sleeping compartments. As with all the other trains we have seen in Malaysia and Thailand, this train was pretty dirty. They clean with a hit and miss attitude and the interior of the train cars never get thoroughly cleaned. Because of this, there is a gummy dirt build-up all over the floors and cockroaches sometimes peak out. We have seen roaches on every train in Malaysia and Thailand. We never saw a roach or insect of any kind on any train in China. The trains in China were much newer, much nicer, and MUCH cleaner!
We opened the doors separating our 2 compartments and had a snug little place for the night. We plugged in the laptop and watched DVDs until the attendant arrived and made up our 4 beds. We watched one more DVD and then turned in for the night. Surprisingly, we all slept soundly through the night. The attendant knocked on our doors around 06:00 to turn the beds back into seats, and breakfast arrived shortly thereafter. I would not recommend purchasing the breakfasts on these Thai trains. Better to bring along some granola bars or bakery rolls. The train arrived in Bangkok shortly before 07:00 right on schedule. A short taxi drive later we were back at the Phranakorn Norlen Hotel.
Our family room at the PN Hotel this time had 3 queen size beds and 2 bathrooms. This small boutique hotel is just wonderful for traveling families. The only drawback is that one must walk up to the third floor to the family rooms; there is no elevator. But, what the heck, we can always use more exercise.
Bill and I wanted to lie down and rest for a hour, but the kids weren't having anything to do with that idea. We managed to tolerate them sniping back and forth with each other until 10:00 and then Bill declared we were getting out of the hotel and doing something........anything. We walked the few blocks to the Thewet boat stop #15 and caught a boat heading south down the river.
At boat stop #4 we got off the boat and walked around Chinatown until we found Yaowarat Road and turned left. This was a most interesting section of Bangkok to Bill and me. The kids were not interested in anything we saw. They were both tired and very hot. The local people were even complaining about how unusually hot it has been for several days here in Bangkok. It is also unusually dry. Zach quickly realized that complaining wasn't going to accomplish anything with us and he marched on silently. But BeBe complained every few steps that it was too hot and too boring and she wanted to go back to the hotel. We ignored her and kept walking. Bill and I found the area very interesting -- there were many shops with all kinds of bronze fittings and we wished we had brought dimensions of some of the things we would like to replace or modify on the boat. Click on the photo of the ice creams and read the flavors. We saw these while walking through Chinatown. Even though we were all hot on this very warm day, none of us wanted to try any of these unusual flavors.
Eventually we came upon an air-conditioned very nice Chinese restaurant and immediately decided it would be the perfect place for lunch. It would shut-up BeBe's complaining and we could all use a drink of cold water and a rest in the air-conditioning. The prices were quite a bit more (like double) than we have seen anywhere else in Thailand, but the quality of the food was also extremely good. After a long delicious lunch and lots of cold water, no one complained as we walked onward to boat stop #5.
We caught a boat back to Thewet boat stop #15 and walked back to our hotel. We told the kids that if they complained or started arguing with each other again then we would take them on another long walk in the heat. No more complaints from anyone about anything. The rest of the afternoon in the hotel room was delightful. We all showered and felt much better. Both kids and Bill fell asleep (and not one of them normally naps!). I woke everyone up around 19:00 and we went to the hotel dining area and shared one small super-thin crust Hawaiian pizza and icy cold pineapple smoothies. After our big lunch none of us was very hungry. BeBe ate a small Thai omelet instead of pizza because one of her teeth is very loose and she can't eat anything hard like pizza crust. Then we retired back to the hotel room and watched DVDs on the laptop until bedtime. Amazing how much nicer everyone acts toward one another when they aren't hot, tired or hungry.
Sunday morning Bill and Zach walked the area searching for a store that might sell a USB charging cable for a DS Lite. None to be had nearby, but one of the hotel staff suggested we try the MBK Center. She said anything can be found there. The charging cable that Zach had brought died last Sunday and the kids have not been able to play their DS -- not a great inconvenience in Chiang Mai where there were lots of activities to keep us busy. But not having working DS(es) here in Bangkok when staying in a hotel without a television was becoming an annoyance both to the kids and to Bill and me. So off to MBK Center we went.
Finally, we had found the Bangkok that Bill and I had expected. This shopping center had everything one might wish for. We found the electronics on the 4th floor level and soon located a suitable charging cable. There must have been 1,000 shops in this large complex selling all kinds of things. Then we chanced upon a vendor selling DVDs and purchased 6 of those. We had to wait 30 minutes while the DVDs were burned, so we found a Burger King and enjoyed a fatty American lunch -- so good when you rarely eat it. We have seen Whoppers of all sizes at Burger Kings across the world. These Whoppers were really huge! Or maybe we have just forgotten how big Whoppers are back in the States and have gotten accustomed to the much smaller burgers found in Malaysia and Singapore. We returned and collected the DVDs and browsed some more.
We came upon a tiny kiosk shop called Upgrade. It so very much reminded me of the computer shop that I owned with our 2 sons for 5 years called Upgrade HQ. This guy was upgrading X-Boxes and Wii and other such game machines. Quite the little operation he had going. We talked a few minutes and soon found ourselves at his second kiosk where he sold DS games and did DS repairs. The screen on Zach's DS was very scratched. It did not have the protective film cover over it and the actual screen was badly damaged. The shop owner said he could replace the screen, apply the protective films and sell Zach another charger cable for 1,000 baht. Done deal!! Zach was willing to spend $33 of his own money to have his DS made like new again and have a new charger. The owner also said he could sell a R-4 module and 40 games for 900 baht. That really got Zach's and BeBe's attention. Both of them jumped at the chance to buy 40 games for about $30.
They started selecting which games they wanted. Neither one of them could decide on more than 25 games. So they each ended up buying the R-4 module including 25 games instead of the 40 games the shop owner offered to them for the same price. He gave them each a URL and a USB R-4 card reader so they can download games now instead of having to buy games from stores in Houston. And that was a bonus. No charge.
So, we did the real American thing today in Bangkok. We went to a mall; ate massive amounts of fatty burgers and fries; and spent money on things that we had no intention of buying when we left home. What could be more American than that?