First stop: Bangkok

Having survived the 10-hour flight (3 films, chicken curry, chicken sausages, numb legs) in one piece with 505 other sardines, spending an hour at the back of the immigration queue, and encountering a wall of humid 35 degrees at the exit, we were then able to enjoy the luxury of an air-conditioned taxi journey through the early morning rush hour into the centre of Bangkok. Nice hotel, surrounded by lively street vendors and mobile cook shops. Unbeknown to us, the hotel specialises in Muslim guests – imagine our disappointment at no naked bathing or late-night disco but at least we have a fridge in our room for our smuggled bottles of Singha*!

Exercise 1: Find the English words in the text above for:
1. Schlange (stehen) –
2. heil überleben –
3. Enttäuschung –
4. eingeschlafen –
5. schwül –
6. klimatisiert –
7. Hauptverkehrszeit –
8. ohne jmds. Wissen –
9. nackt –
10. umgeben von –
*Singha – Thai brand of beer

Bangkok is said to be a great introduction to the Asian way of life. Here you will find a captivating mixture of bustling street life, friendly people and fascinating history, and all in a relatively safe environment! Bangkok is especially famous for its street kitchens, temples and waterways. It’s an ideal stopover if you’re travelling to Australia or New Zealand. We came here 7 years ago for 3 days and, as we had really enjoyed the visit and did not manage to see all the main sights, we decided to come again, this time for 5 days. There’s masses to see and do and, moreover, it’s quite cheap!

We exchanged 250 euros into Thai currency called Baht and in the end we had a difficult job trying to spend it – this amount easily lasted 5 days for all meals, drinks, entrance fees, taxis, ferries, some clothes, a pair of sandals etc!

Food and drink
The street kitchens are wonderful! As you walk along, you see lots of Thai people sitting and eating on tiny, primary school plastic seats on the pavement next to a mobile cooker. In the evenings some streets are transformed into food courts – the national dish of fried noodles with egg and prawns (‘pad thai’) here costs less than 2 euros, and the beer (600 ml) is also 2 euros!

Bangkok was only founded in 1768 after the previous capital, Ayutthaya, which lies approximately 50 kilometres north of Bangkok, had been invaded and destroyed by the Burmese army. After visiting the Royal Palace, royal temples, stupas (shaped like mounds and containing relics and ashes of important priests) we asked Artty, our guide, to stop in a typical street so that we could look around: by chance we came across a temple being renovated after floods. A lady was painstakingly restoring the intricately decorated window shutters – working full-time at one window a month!
Artty told us the very sad story of a Thai queen, Sunanda Kumariratana, (daughter of King Rama IV), and her daughter who both drowned when the royal boat capsized on the way to the Summer Palace. The many witnesses to the accident did not dare to touch the queen, because that was a capital offense — not even to save her life. The grief-stricken King then changed the law so that subject were allowed to touch royalty.

Thailand does not have 4 seasons like in Germany but only has 3 Seasons. According to our guide, these are called:
(1) hot (2) hotter (3) hottest

Speaking English
The impression we had was that hardly anybody in Bangkok speaks English well enough to communicate anything more than the prices, so it’s definitely a good idea to book a guided tour. We have had some good guides but even their English is not easy to understand! Thais find it difficult to say consonants, but the context helps:
In front of massage parlour: “mada wa a massa?” = ”Madame, do you want a massage?”
In front of a tailor’s: “Sir lai a soo?” = „Sir, do you want a suit?” (or, in other contexts, “soup”!)
At a temple: “No poi fee a Buddha” = „Don’t point your feet at the Buddha!“

You find a splendid ‘wat’, a Buddhist temple, every 500 metres! The walled area around the wat make for great retreats from the street noise! Meditate in front of the buddha statue but make sure you don’t point your feet at him! Outside is the Bodhi tree, a type of fig tree under which Gautama Buddha first achieved spiritual enlightenment.

Chao Phraya river and the Klongs
Water, water everywhere!! We had great fun being squashed like sardines on overloaded Express Boats racing up and down the river (no TÜV)! The express boats and the tuc-tucs are an exciting way to get around the city! Just zip along the klongs, man-made canals that connect various sections of the main river – or take a longtail boat driven by huge open lorry engines and spot the monitor lizards and riverside houses on stilts.

‘Farang’ is Thai for white European: we saw a lot of mixed marriages but not one older European woman with an older Thai man!

Find the words from the texts above (from General) which match the definitions below – the lines correspond to the number of letters in the words – some of the letters are given:

1. Long sticks which hold up houses in areas which are often flooded. You can also walk on these to make you seem taller!
_ _ i _ _ s

2. These are the body remains of religious leaders after death and which are kept in a church or temple.
_ e _ _ c _

3. This is an adjective which describes a lively street with people rushing around.
b _ _ t _ _ _ g

4. This verb describes a boat or ship that sinks.
_ a _ s _ _ _

5. This word describes a positive mental state in which you gain wisdom and you see the truth.
_ n _ _ _ _ _ m _ _ _

6. A time of the year where the weather changes.
_ _ a s _ _

7. This verb (past form) describes having very little space, being pushed and pressed on all sides.
_ q _ _ _ _ e _

8. You find these in front of windows to keep out the sunlight.
_ h _ _ t _ _ s

9. This verb describes death by taking too much water into your lungs.
_ r _ _ n

10. This is the fruit of a Mediterranean tree – in northern Europe we usually eat them in the dried form.
_ i _

11. This describes a big vehicle used for transporting goods – Americans call this a truck.
_ o _ _ _

12. This is what you feel when someone close to you has died.
_ _ i e _

13. This adjective means very small:
_ i _ _

14. These animals look like crocodiles without the big teeth but a long tongue like a snake:
_ _ n _ _ o _ / l _ _ _ _ d

15. This adjective describes the one before:
_ r _ v _ _ _ _

16. This is a person who saw an event first hand and can give a testimony:
_ _ t _ _ _ s

17. This is clothing worn mostly by men – it describes two pieces that match each other, usually a jacket and trousers:
_ u _ _

18. This verb means to show the courage required to do something difficult:
_ _ _ e

19. This noun refers to the area around. It can also mean the natural world around us:
_ _ v _ _ o _ _ _ _ _

20. This noun describes the name of the money used by a country:
_ u _ _ e _ _ _