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Bangkok: In Transit

Well, I’ll be the first to admit that, given that this is a travel journal, Bec and I haven’t exactly done a lot of travelling over the past two months. Seven weeks in the Czech Republic, and three-and-a-half in Germany, with not a whole lot of travelling in between. But we’ve made up for that in the past five days, I can assure you.

Marr’y and Gab left Lubeck on New Years Day, leaving Bec and me, and Karen and Benno to spend a couple of quiet nights in town, which included a visit to Lubeck’s “Ice World”, featuring massive ice sculptures of the animal world. Very impressive these sculptures were, but a little hard to enjoy for too long when the temperature was minus 8 degrees celcius. You know something is not quite right when you have to go outside into the snow to warm up.

Early on January 3rd, around 7am, Bec and I headed out to Lubeck airport. Our 4 months in Europe was up. It was time to get out of the cold and head somewhere a little warmer; Southeast Asia. We caught a 9.30am flight back to London’s Stanstead airport, before heading across town to Heathrow, where we had a 9.30pm flight that night to Bangkok. We arrived at Heathrow at about 2pm; we didn’t want to be walking around London in the drizzling rain with our packs on, and so didn’t mind waiting at the airport.

Our flight left at about 10pm, or 5am Bangkok time, and 11 hours later we landed in Thailand. Upon departing from the aircraft, we made it through the air conditioned customs, changed some Pound Sterling into Thai Baht, and headed outside to grab a taxi into town. In the 15 metre walk from the airport doors to the taxi rank, I reckon I lost a kilo-and-a-half in sweat. It was hot. Damn hot. And muggy. Yeah, real muggy. By the time we got to our hotel (we didn’t want to have to wander around Kho San road looking for a guesthouse after the flight, so booked into a nice hotel for a couple of nights), it was around 27 hours after we’d left our Lubeck apartment.

And then, what does one say about Bangkok?

After two months of doing bugger all, Bangkok was, well, it was intense. It was hectic, friendly, scary, hot, smelly, cheap, refreshing, mesmerising. And I could go on. And on.

Our first night we wandered aimlessly along the streets. People had told me that the city smelt, and they were right. But, in contrast to what I’d been told, it wasn’t all bad. Sometimes, the smell would reach your nose stained with urine. But other times, it would be soaked with the delicious spices of the endless roadside food vendors. We stopped at one for dinner, paying little more than one dollar each for some refreshing pork noodle soup. We walked further up the road, where we encountered an elephant statue. Why would they put an elephant statue right in the middle of the footpath? I thought to myself. Then the statue began to move, ever so slightly. Yeah, this was no statue, this was a real bloody elephant. The sight was actually rather sad; the small elephant, and its smaller baby, had chains around their necks, and were being led by a couple of characters offering people peanuts with which to feed the sedated looking creatures.

Next morning, we walked towards the centre of the backpacking universe; Kho San road. We got lost on the way, and walked for an hour longer than we should have, although it took us nearly that long to cross the ten or so lanes of traffic at the city’s Democracy Monument, just a stones throw from our destination. Traffic in Bangkok is nothing short of insane. The amount of traffic is insane. The variety of traffic is insane. The way people drive is insane. Our first tuk tuk ride was possibly the highlight of our stay in Bangkok. At the end of Kho San road, we asked a tuk tuk driver how much to get back to our hotel.

“200 Baht,” he said.

“Nah, no way mate. ” I replied.

“180 Baht, and Thai massage.” He spun me round and began massaging my shoulders. Right then, 180 Baht it is.

It was like a fun park ride; a cross between the thrill of a roller coaster and the hairyness of the dodgem cars. Our driver whizzed through the cooler night air, swinging across three lanes at a time, ducking and weaving between cars. I found it unfathomable that I didn’t see a crash whilst I was there. The traffic is in constant chaos, with cars endlessly cutting each other off in the battle to switch lanes. But somehow they never touch. It is as though they are all magnetically charged with opposing forces, or protected by some kind of invisible force field. Or maybe that’s only the ones with monks in them. It’s sort of strange seeing a taxi drive past filled with orange-robed monks.

But back to Kho San road. We eventually found our way there, and picked up some supplies for our trip; a cheap Thialand guidebook (although it was 6 or 7 years old), a sarong for Bec, some sunscreen for me – man, my pasty white skin doesn’t know what’s hit it.

Kho San road is, basically, backpacker central. A stretch of road a few hundred metres long, the sidewalks are filled with vendors. Of course, there are only four different types of vendor along the whole street; most selling shorts and t-shirts. Heaps of ’em, all selling the exact same shorts and t-shirts. I asked for a certain size in one style at one vendor, and the guy yelled out to his mate across the street who bought over the exact same style, still not in my size. The majority of the rest sell sarongs and other girls stuff. Then you’ve got the odd place selling cd’s, and a heap of mobile food vendors. And this is the same along the whole street. Behind the vendors is a mix of guesthouses, most with open fronted bars at street level, more bars, a couple of restaurants, and then maybe a chemist, a couple of photo places, and more guesthouses and bars. Alll geared towards the traveller.

And then there’s the Kho San road traveller. The street is filled with people, walking out in the middle of the road, cars and tuk tuks occasionally honking to make their way through the crowd. The guys typically wear faded green camouflage shorts, t-shirts for Thai beers, or maybe blue Bonds singlets, with thongs, an unshaven face, and dirty, unkempt hair, sometimes with dreads of hair locked together, forming, er, dreadlocks. The girls mostly wear fake Birkenstock sandals, and that’s about all I noticed about them, cause I’ve got a girl, and she’s sitting right next to me looking at Flickr. Hi Bec.

Our plan was not to stay in Bangkok, but to head down south, and find ourselves a quiet beach on which to, in Bec’s case, sun herself, and in my case, hide under the shade of a tree looking whistlfully at the cool blue waters waiting out in the baking sun. Then to head back to the North of the country, spending in all about 3 weeks here. But that sort of changed. During a restless nights sleep on our second night at the hotel (which may or may not have been related to the fact that earlier in the night I snapped my glasses in half whilst cleaning them. Bec’s theory is that the heat had softened the plastic just enough for the glasses to snap, clean across the bridge. See, I told you it was bloody hot), I had recurring thoughts that we might struggle to find accommodation where we wanted, and that the crowds might be too much for us.

Early next morning, just after waking, I asked, “Would you consider dithcing Thailand althogether, and heading straight to Laos?”

“Yeah, why not.” She replied.

And just like that, we were leaving Thailand. We booked an overnight bus north to Chiang Mai for that afternoon, with plans to catch a connecting bus northeast to Chiang Rai, where we would stay one night before heading to the border town of Chiang Khong.

We boarded the bus around 6pm (after being told to be at the travel agents where we booked at 5pm, and being driven just 5 minutes down the road to the bus stop, where we waited for 55 minutes). It was a double decker bus, with the bottom level being for storage only, and the passengers taking the top level. Our set seats plonked us right at the front of the bus. After hearing some horror stories of bus drivers in Southeast Asia, I didn’t know if this was a good thing or a bad thing.

A television hung from the roof at the front of the bus, almost directly above our heads to the left, but in front of us just enough so that we could see, should a movie come on. My hopes weren’t high; in 4 months travelling around Europe, not one bus used the tv that inevitably sat at the front. But after an hour or so of driving, the tv fired up, and two words appeared on the screen that had the little kid in me squealing with delight, and the older part of me, the one trying to finish my book, a little nervous. I’m going to write those words for you now, and for emphasis, I’m going to repeat one of them.

Norris.

Chuck Norris.

The film was dubbed into Thai, and I missed the first half hour due to my book, but it didn’t matter, I picked up the ‘plot’ in no time. Chuck Norris, yeah man.

We arrived in Chiang Mai around 5am, and had been told a bus would be heading to Chiang Rai at 8am. Upon buying tickets, we were told that one left at 6am. Beauty. We had also been told that bus would take six hours. But at 9.30am, after a bumpy ride squashed up against a smelly Thai guy, we pulled into Chiang Rai bus station.

“Bugger staying here all day, let’s head straight to Chiang Khong.” I suggested.

“Sure.”

And the bus to Chiang Khong, the one we expected to take 4 hours, only took two-an-a-half. And so by 1pm we were checked into a guesthouse in the Thai border town of Chiang Khong, resting sleepily on the banks of the Mekong River, looking across to Laos, and only 20 hours after putting on our backpacks at the travel agents in Bangkok.

Five days, 47 hours of travelling. Sort of makes up for the last lazy 2 months in Europe, don’t you think?



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4 Responses to “Bangkok: In Transit”

  1. Mark Hogan Says:

    G’day guys, good to hear from you. Had a great Christmas and got heaps of photos and things to show you when you arrive at the end of Feb. Take it easy in Asia, there’s been a few horror stories in The Age lately about Thailand and young travellers getting murdered, robbed, raped etc etc. One young Welsh girl was killed there recently and there’s some fairly nasty reports coming back from other travellers who haven’t had the best of times, so glad to hear you skipped staight to Laos. Anyway, you guys don’t need a lecture from me, just keep having a great time and see you in a couple of months.

  2. Posted from Australia Australia
  3. sean Says:

    Chuck Norris does not sleep, he waits.
    The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain.

    etc. etc.
    Lots more fun randomness like the above at the link below.
    Decent if you have a few minutes to kill on the Internet and need a good laugh.

    http://www.4q.cc/chuck/index.php?topthirty

    Cheers.

  4. Posted from United States United States
  5. admin Says:

    Thanks mate. Wasn’t sure if that Welsh girl’s murder would be reported back home. When we were waiting at Heathrow for 56 hours it was front page news on all the papers. The broadsheets treated it a little cautiously, as at that stage not a heap of details were known, but the tabloids went the full schtick; whole front pages, with headlines like “Murder in Paradise”. I was going to mention it in the above post, but if it wasn’t reported back home I didn’t want to give Bec’s mum or our mum more to worry about.

    And I’m stoked we’ve come to Laos. The place is brilliant.

  6. Posted from Lao People's Democratic Republic Lao People's Democratic Republic
  7. fettabsaugen bauch kosten Says:

    Nach dem Fett absaugen ist mit Bluterg├╝ssen und leichten bis mittelstarken Schwellungen zu rechnen.

  8. Posted from Bangladesh Bangladesh

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