Apparently Facebook updates don’t cut it for detail, so this post is the exact reason why I created this blog. This post is going to be an attempt to detail my travels so far a little. It’s going to be long, it’s going to be messy (and I don’t necessarily mean the content, this keyboard is terrible, please excuse all the typos). Good luck to everyone.
So let’s hark back to the dim, distant past of the 4th March, when my travels really began. I’d arrived in Bangkok the night before, and I was pretty groggy from my travels. The last couple of days had entailed saying goodbye to Adelaide mates (where else, but at the Tonsley?) before flying to Melbourne and heading to Geelong for a night on the town with Wazza (oh Geelong, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways).
The next morning, 12hr flight to Bangkok. The plane wasn’t particularly full, but somehow the two tallest blokes had been sat next to each other where literally every other person had a spare seat next to them. No stretching out for Brendan and Av, the Melbourne based Israeli who did film animation and was visiting his family in Tel Aviv. Nice, interesting chap. We shared our hatred of ‘Alvin & the Chipmunks: 3’, though I think he had more reasons given his job. ‘Twilight: Breaking Dawn’ just compiled the shite. Understandably, then, I was fairly keen to get off the plane.
I was a little worried about going through Thai Immigration. On the Melbourne side, my Thai Airways check-in lady had looked at me with shock when she realised I had no outbound plans from Thailand. Why would I? I had no idea where I was going once I got there, and leaving Thailand was a month away. Plenty of time to research and then book something (and retrospectively, I was completely right). She made a phonecall, and reticently ceded that I ‘should be OK’. So after waiting in line for over an hour with about 3 other international plane loads of people, I fronted up to the Immigrations officer… who smiled and quickly stamped my passport- he couldn’t have cared less! Phew. My first case of the relaxed Thai way went very positively in my favour.
So after grabbing my bags and heading to the taxi rank, I had my first naive traveller moment. I went straight to the taxi, since it’s always faster cutting out the middle man; the taxi drivers are always ready to go. Except in this case, as soon as I started explaining where I wanted to go, the driver shooed me back to a lady at a desk. Fair enough, so I go to the lady at the desk where she gets me to write down the address of where I need to go. She then translates it to Thai for the driver- of course! He spoke almost no English. Duh. So after the lady reassures me the driver knows where my hostel is, I jump in the taxi and off we go. Only 5 minutes down the freeway, he pulls over to the side. Fuck. I’m about to get stabbed, robbed and rolled into a gutter in a foreign city, and I’ve only been here an hour. It somehow doesn’t seem fair that apparently my travels aren’t going to last as long as I hoped. Hang on, nope, he’s pulling out his phone, and he points at my hostel information. “You ring. Find. Find.” You’re kidding, right, buddy? You’re a taxi driver, and you said you know where it is. Apparently you were lying for my money. OK, I get this.
So from the hostel reviews online, I knew the lady who ran the hostel spoke English. This is a good thing. I ring her on the driver’s phone. No answer. Try again. No answer. Fantastic. “I try” He means he’s going to try driving and finding the place. Excellent, he’s going to try driving around a city of 13 million people to find my 1 little hostel. Off we go down the freeway- there seems to be no other way to go anyway and oh thank my lucky stars, 10 mins later the hostel lady rings back and explains the way to the driver. About 45mins and 500 Baht later ($15. I’m later told it’s only a good 1/2 hour / 300 baht trip, so he’s taken a massively windy route. I thought so when we were driving since I’ve got a fairly good sense of direction, but I couldn’t exactly communicate with him to ask) I’m at U-Baan Hostel, where I’m warmly welcomed by Joy (the hostel lady), her sister and a friend, and a couple of travellers. I’m immediately invited to sit down and share their Thai BBQ; an interestingly shaped coal fired metal contraption where the ‘soup’ sits in a ring around the outside in which the vegies and noodles are cooked, and the raised dome in the centre cooks the meat. Delicious. Soon after I’m playing cards on the roof of the hostel with an aussie chick from *insert place from up North I can’t remember that gives you a horrible ocker accent*, Paulo the Brazilian, and Alex from Strathalbyn. Adelaideans will know Strathalbyn is 20 mins from where I live in Adelaide. I’ve travelled many thousands of km’s across continents, and the first westerner I meet is from my home town. Crazy.
So the next few days in Bangkok were pretty straightforward sightseeing. First day Joy manages to amalgamate half her clientele to all go see the major sights together. So with me on the circuit of the Grand Palace, Wat Arun, and a few other places of which I can’t remember the names were Mike & John (America), Alex (Adelaide), Amy & Lizzie (Lancashire, I think. That’s Manchester, right? :p) and Katie & Azaria (Nottingham?). Besides all the amazing sights, I think the highlight was lunch, where I seemed to luck out on getting the only dish that was chilli infested. It was a completely delicious Red Curry, but I had tears on my cheeks and it successfully burned me twice. I secretly think my body really enjoyed me turning my insides to napalm. Dinner that night we ventured to Siam Central which has a shopping centre which is huge, completely western, and impressively shiny. Unfortunately that meant the food court had western priced food. So we went outside to the streets and found a vendor who sold chicken noodle soup. It was delicious, I was hungry, so I had 2. Only problem with it was that 2/3 way through my second bowl I was enlightened with the fact that the red cubes I had convinced myself were some form of bean curd were actually gelatinised chicken blood. Mind didn’t win over matter, and I picked the rest of them out.
Next day I went solo and decided to walk rather than take a taxi to my destination: china town & little india. Excellent decision. I spent the day not entirely sure of my location (but knew where I was within a rough area), wandering wherever took my fancy. Generally this meant that I looked down an alley, thought ‘I wonder what’s down there?’ and satisfied said curiosity. Highlights of the day: 1, lunch was a tiny little air-conditioned paradise of an Indian restaurant. I was actually getting light headed with the sheer heat and a lack of food, but I wasn’t going to sit down at one of the vendors in the alleys, my body was in no way prepared for that onslaught yet. So I chanced upon this hole in the wall, and stayed in there for 2 hours- eating an indian feast of 2 curries with rice(an amazing fish tikka and an excellent veggie/chickpea curry of unremembered type, with a dessert of gulab jamun, plus drink, all for around $5), and using the comfort of the air con to catch up on my journal and do a bit of research reading of my Lonely Planet. Highlight 2: On the walk back across Bangkok, I spied the tower of a temple which to my shock was not in my Lonely Planet. Had I chanced upon a non-tourist mecca? Why yes, I had, because there was almost nobody there, and certainly no foreigners. I was hesitantly wandering around the outside buildings but obviously looking curious, because a guard spied me and “come, come”. I didn’t know where he was taking me, but he showed me through a door to the entrance of the Wat proper (which I had assumed I wasn’t allowed through, especially since it was pushing 6pm and the sun was starting to drop). It led through to the inside of the circular wall which ringed the central tower, which was an impressively simple (given the over the top decorations of the other Wats), whitewashed monolith. I was even more impressed when instead of the usual stairs up the outside of the spire (like Wat Arun, a very impressive edifice with an amazing view over the river and surrounds, where I had been the day before), there were stairs leading to the inside of the spire. I followed them, and they led me to the wonderfully cool and breezy inside of the Wat. It was lit with golden light, which played off the 10 or so sitting golden buddhas that were 4m up in recessed alcoves, evenly spaced around the roughly hewn inside wall. A beautifully peaceful place, nestled within the craziness of Bangkok.
I did one more fairly uneventful sightseeing day in Bangkok, but unfortunately my body was hit by the shock of all the probably highly unsanitary food I had ingested, and I came down with some viral thingamy that left me fevery and completely lethargic for 3 days. The first day may have been compounded by a dedicated session on Khao San Rd the night before.
Anyway, I was fine to head to Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party with Brett and Alex (two Welsh lads I had met in Bangkok) on the train from Bangkok. To be continued…