(The entrance to the Pak Lred Babies Home, just outside Bangkok)

The day dawned and so did I. Dang – must still be on Australia time! 6:30!? What a joke! I tried to sleep but no could do.

I had the ‘American Breakfast’ at the Majestic, which was juice (orange), coffee (strong), eggs how you liked it (fried), toast (too pale and cool), bacon (good and crispy), tomato and ‘potato’ (not quite sure what it was actually…). All in all it was fine for me.

I had plenty of time to get ready to go downstairs. My guide was waiting for me as I arrived so that was a good start. His name was Pet, in his late-twenties with pretty good English skills although my ears were still getting over the pressure changes from yesterday. I found him a little hard to understand sometimes. We had a driver and a big mini-bus to cart just myself and my bag out to the Pak Lred Babies Home. (To explain what what I was doing at a babies home, you’ll have to blame my mum (see below) who put me onto a website called carryforkids.org/ – they set up my visit and helped organise the guide for me.) It took about 30 minutes or so.

There was a lot of construction along the way. The Thai government are putting in a lot of highways as well as extending the Skytrain so we were lucky there wasn’t much traffic around that Saturday morning. Pet said it could easily take 30 minutes more on a weekday. It really felt like a Third World city to me at this point, but quite a bit less dangerous from what I’ve read!

One thing that was interesting was the sheer amount of flags and images of the King and Queen of Thailand there were around the place. Thai people really love and respect their royal family and to criticise them or the institution is really bad to do. A few years ago a Japanese pop singer (who is known for being up herself) nearly caused an international incident by behaving like an idiot to the crown princess (see here and scroll down to the entry for Feb. 3, 2003). Another interesting sight was that nearly every home and place of work had a Buddhist shrine of some sort – even some of the slum areas I went through had beautiful roadside shrines.

The babies home was quite a large place with many buildings for the babies to sleep and play in and around. I saw many groups of young kids – mostly under three years-old I’d say. Sometimes the ratio of carers to kids was 1:15 but mostly I’d say it was more like 1:8. Pet said that the women who worked there were paid a small salary, but it was really just a token gesture; they were volunteers more or less. There were also a few foreign volunteers around the place helping out and giving the kids lots of attention. They do receive a lot of donations, which is really good to hear. Pet left a cash donation there himself while I was there.

He said the first time he took someone there it really got to him, but now he can see the difference that people are making to these kids’ lives. As I wrapped up my visit all I could feel is that my bag, which felt so heavy to me, was just a tiny drop in the bucket of what these kids need. The staff told me they need so many things to keep the children fed and healthy. As I left a family of Germans arrived, presumably to help out or make a donation as well. I’m glad that even though my contribution was so small, I (and my co-doners – thankyou!) were able to do something.

As Mother Theresa said, if you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.

I asked Pet if they could drop me off at the Chatuchak Markets on the way back, which they did.

This is the ‘famous market’ as the guidebooks say, a massive complex of shops selling almost everything you could imagine. I saw puppies, fish, fried scorpions (no I didn’t), huge wooden statues, traditional Thai clothing, more jeans than I thought existed in the world, home goods, fake watches, DVDs, piles of vibrantly coloured fruit, jewellery, books… you get the picture. I saw nearly the whole complex in two and a bit hours and only bought a bag and four t-shirts, which I think was remarkably restrained of me! I think K would’ve happily taken a couple of days to try on every shoe in the place….

I had Pad Thai (remember the song, Matt?) with prawns for lunch which was delicious.

After that it time to get back to the hotel via the Skytrain (which is an excellent way to get around the city). 40 baht one way from the markets to my station and it only took about 20 minutes. Excellent.

Napilarity ensued.

Suddenly it was 6:30pm and time for a feed. Conveniently my hotel was (almost literally) a stone’s throw away from what they call ‘Little Arabia’, a street cluttered with all manner of middle eastern food preparation services. I’d read about a place called ‘Al Hussein’ so I endeavoured to find it.

It didn’t take long. With a cry of “Welcome Sir!” and a menu thrust into my hand, I was quickly introduced to the shiniest table in Thailand. The whole restaurant was decked out with stainless steel tables and chairs that had all been polished to a mirror-smooth finish. I felt like I was dining in Ali Baba’s silver mine. Even though it was an open-air eatery, they had fans going hell-for-leather to keep the patrons cool, and there were quite a few of various nationalities, not just Arabic, enjoying the cuisine on offer.

I chose Indian fare; Garlic Naan, Chicken Marsala and a fried Dall. All were extraordinarily delicious. The spice mix for the marsala left me gasping but it was certainly one of the deepest and richest blends I’ve ever had. Will I eat there again? Will I! All that sumptuous feast cost about AUS$10!

After that I wandered down Sukhumvit Road. There were all manner of people plying their various trades along the pavement; hawkers selling all manner of goods, hustlers selling all manner of pleasures, beggars with their bowls, girls smiling and saying “Hello, handsome man” (must’ve been someone behind me… ), you get the picture. I bought myself my Genuine Fake Rolex, as well as a Genuine Fake Bvlgari Watch and a Genuine Fake Prada Wallet. I think I’m turning Japanese. We’ll see how long these last if they make it back through Customs. They certainly looked and felt real to me (coz I am such an expert on these things…).

I ended up near the neon-lit entrance to Soi Cowboy – a collection of girly-bars just off the main drag. I wandered past all the bars (which was quite easy to do – the stories of people being dragged inside weren’t true) and ended up at the Irish-style pub down the end run by a Dutchman! I read The Bangkok Post from cover to cover while disposing of a pint of Guinness. That was a very good way to spend a couple of hours!

The stalls were starting to be packed up as I wandered back to the hotel. I got a few more smiles and offers from the girls, the touts and tuk-tuk drivers, but it was time for bed.

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