Another detour to a Thai hospital, and other stories.
In every travel, or indeed, life, you reach the stage where you start to think that maybe somebody is trying to tell you something and perhaps it's time to start heading home, or just quit. It could be as sneaky as an ATM taking your card due to big red flashing lights next to your account, as normal as dropping your bag into a crocodile infested canal by accident, or as simple as being arrested and interrogated for importing liquorice into a foreign country. Whilst I am, sadly, fast coming towards the end of my journey anyway, i have a way to go yet, let alone figuring how he fr1ggin hell i can make it back to Europe in time to fulfill some commitments without flying.
And hospital visits don't help.
They take time and money, and are usually the result of an infliction of pain.
And two transport crashes in two weeks is really beginning to make me wonder what the third one will be. At current rate, it won't be pretty.
But we're loosing chronology again. Important it might not be, but sometimes i just like it that way.
Together with Matt and some of the guys, I headed down to their home town of Hua Hin, home of the King's summer palace and a fairly relevant town about 3hours south of Bangkok. Thai geography and population growth means that they have one huge city of umpteen million (Bangkok) and then nowhere else of any great relevance whatsoever. Hua Hin is a strange place. Whilst I was aware that many Swede's and Scandinavians come to Thailand, I wasn't quite expecting them to have colonised entire towns.
Swedish (or Danish) is significantly more useful than English in Hua Hin. I saw at least half a dozen Swedish restaurants alone - plus ABBA karaoke songs, but no Ikea or Volvo's, sadly - plus any number of establishments named to do with Danish (such as hairdressers), Norwegian (Dentist) and Finnish (no idea as I can't read enough Finnish to workout what it was), plus Scandinavian real estate negotiators and agents and the inevitable hoards of Bars, Guest houses and restaurants either to do with them, or at least having Scandinavian menu's and signage. It was very, very strange. Not entirely unpleasant, but extremely strange. The town also had a foreign population demographic which was more or less reads:
Foreign people aged under 40 - 15, give or take
Older Scandinavians, mostly couples - Absolutely Sh1tloads
Old fat ugly British men with young Thai girls - A fair few
Real old &/or Really fat British men with young Thai girls - An unseemly number
Young kids/babies born to the above mentioned two group - way too many, the poor kids
Anyhow, it was an interesting place. Seeing a small-ish town through the eyes of one of the very small young and established (as opposed to transient) foreign community was very interesting, and one of the reason that i love staying with people instead of in hotels/hostels where you are entirely cut off from real life. Every town and village with a small (and obvious) foreign contingent probably has the same stories, but suffice to say that Hua-Hin life would be more than worthy of it's own soap opera. Didn't do much the time I was there except relax, have a few drinks, catch up with Matt (when you haven't seen somebody since you were 11, there are a few details from the past years to catch upon), and wander around Hua Hin. I got introduced to the wonders of Hua Hin on a Saturday night - vaguely surreal - which included the inevitable late night trip to a Karaoke bar. I was actually quite impressed with Thai karaoke. It's a kind of cross between Oriental (private groups in private rooms, meaning there is nowhere to hide from singing, and no strangers to laugh at/at you) and European style bars (open to everybody, including non-singers) which means a string of small bars of about a 20-25person capacity where you get to laugh at people and can hide, but not with so many strangers that you are worried about singing. Not a bad idea, although Thai karaoke music in general, is.
And yes, there really are reams of "Michael Learns to Rock" songs to choose from.*
Randomly, and off topic, I've just discovered that two people have had the gaul to unsubscribe from my journal. In fairness, I'm amazed it's taken so long for them to get wise and leave. Why anybody wants to read this sh1te, i have no idea, let alone why there are still so many of you actually subscribed. You should get your heads examined. Having said that, the fact you even consort with me suggests that you lack some of the necessary mental functions to succeed anyway...
After a great few days in Hua Hin, I returned to Bangkok. It has been a great and surreal experience catching up with Matt,and I hope it's not another 16years since we meet again. Annoyingly, i arrived in Bangkok in time to cunningly miss Rick yet again (who I'd travelled through Sweden and parts of Norway with, on the now mothballed - kind of, for full details contact Morten - old Landy RTW project, still possibly online at www.landy-rtw.com/). Rick now owns a bar and does diving courses etc on Kho Tao, and had returned South before I had managed to catch him. And sadly, I don't have time to get to Kho Tao on this trip. There will be other trips though.
Instead, I met up with Sam and Des again at the Night Market, along with another CSer, Laure, and a couple of her friends. Laure is a French girl who my lovely stalkers Kevin and Solene had stayed with in Korea. And as they are now at more or less at home - oddly, Irish Kevin is now in France brushing up on his French, whilst French Solene is in Ireland to learn some Gaelic - and no longer stalking me, I've taken it upon myself to go and visit everybody that they met on their way around this part of the world in kind of a reverse stalking manoeuvre. Some astounding dreadful(yet funny) singing by the band on the big stage, food, many beers and several hours sat on the floor of an umbrella shop playing kind of battle of the CD players and it was time to move.
I also finally managed to do some of the touristy stuff. I went all around the Royal Palace and wonderful Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha, bounced through a couple of museums, finally tried Phad Thai (no idea what all the fuss was about), got myself the obligatory fake student card (as they sell so many, surely you would have thought that by now they would have learnt how to spell "University" correctly) and wandered around numerous Wat's. Preperations for the King's 60th coronation anniversary are well under way, and Bangkok is being given a well deserved make over. Why such celebrations delay things which should have been done 15+ years ago (and it was the same in the UK for the Golden Jubilee) I'm not entirely certain.
I then spent a couple of days in Pattaya. Which I really don't recommend. It's Hua Hin on a significantly larger scale. A huge ugly resort town of the sort that i routinely detest. A couple of bus breakdowns leading to a midnight arrival meant i got hurled straight in to the "fun", and also was unable to find cheap accommodation that would let me check in at that time,meaning i had to stay in a fancy hotel. Neither of which helped my impressions. Whilst Hua-Hin is Scandinavian, Pattaya has a large German contingent, and also a large elder British one. Plus, slightly less expected, a large Russian presence. Whilst i never actually heard any Russian,and saw maybe only a couple of Russians (prostitutes,inevitably), there were signs in Russian everywhere, with a fair splattering of Russian restaurants (sadly, they didn't do Bosnian Cevapicci, but that's possibly unsurprising) and Russian estate agencies. Annoyingly though, my brain wave came to nothing as every time i tried to buy some Russian Roubles off people/exchange places/a Russian restaurant, I was looked at as though I was some kind of Martian, or Russian Roubles/currency were a new and unheard of type of algae.
The reason i had come to Pattaya was to catch up with Jasper (A cool Kiwi i had met in Cambodia), and Kay and Dave, a British couple who I'd never met, but had known online for some time due to their website www.britishexpat.com. Sadly, Jasper's schedules changed and we missed each other, but i spent a great day with Kay and Dave touring some of Pattaya's, erm, sights, indulging in some great seafood, and wandering the more sedate end of town at night. Oddly, my mental impressions of them both turned out to be surprisingly accurate, which is scary tome, as my mental pictures of people i know but have never met are normally wildly wrong.
I happily left Pattaya as soon as I could (i really don't recommend visiting if you can possibly avoid it). Admittedly not as soon as I'd hoped, due to the vagaries of Thai holiday traffic and bus services. Basically, you get a ticket for a specific bus and then end up on a completely different one an hour or two later along with people who all have tickets with wildly varying departure times (none being the same as yours, or when the bus departs), and to destinations in all possible directions, and pray that you get somewhere useful and returned to Bangkok for the final time. A boat across the bay - it's not far - from Pattaya to Hua Hin would make allot of sense, and would have saved me at least one trip through the mess and traffic of the capital. Just because I could, I staying this time at Sam and Des's, for my fourth different accommodation in 4 passes. Des was away for a wedding, so Sam and I and another CS'er passing through, Jessica, went for dinner at the curiously named "Cabbages and Condoms", where Condoms were much in evidence, but there was sadly no sign of any kind of Cabbage, even on the menu. An over sight which i was not impressed with. And then headed out for an interesting night of bar hopping in the Gay and Lesbian district. Having a 45year old man try and pick you up may be flattering in one sense, but wasn't really a particularly helpful event for either of us, and i have to say, even Kiki managed more charm than did this random Belgian.
It was the following day after i had left Sam's (i think she might have died from alcohol poisoning by now, although i swear that it is entirely her fault. I am fast beginning to think that Couchsurfing should carry a large health/alcohol warning. Soness, all is forgiven!) that the incident that i began this - a long time ago, i admit - entry with and which might have been the reason for your continued reading, occurred.
To keep a long story short and details between the relevant people (you REALLY owe big time for this one!), I had headed to the dreaded KSR to make some phone calls and get a student card which had the details correct, when i ran into somebody who shall remain anonymous at this point. The details and reasoning behind our subsequent trip will also remain hidden, but suffice to say that i got conned (don't ask) into joining her on a strange errand, and we took a speeding taxi across the city and deep into the obscure suburbs. That went fine, and astonishingly (especially to me) the reason for trip actually turned out fine. It was on our return, sitting in the back of a pickup truck at standard Thai speed (as opposed to BKK rush hour speed) on the 5lane elevated expressway that things went slightly wrong.
Let's just say that traffic accidents are not uncommon in a country where fate, and the religious belief that you will be protected until your time is up, in which case there is nothing you can do about it, run the rule. Impressively, our driver realised the trouble ahead in time to slam on the brakes and slow us down enough for it not to be fatal, and even more astonishingly, there wasn't anything coming at speed in the lane on our right to which i flew into as he swerved desperately into a wild spin.
Two weeks after jumping off the roof of a bus in Cambodia to avoid a crash, I'm being thrown out of the back of a pickup in Thailand on a 10lane highway due to another accident. As these things come in 3's, i would suggest that everybody takes care in being absolutely nowhere near my vicinity (Europe is probably close enough) for the next few weeks.
Amazingly, neither of us, or the driver/passengers up front were really hurt. A broken arm, an assortment of bangs and gashes, some bits of blood and lots of groans as we all struggled to shake off the effects were a small price to pay, especially as the pickup looked a complete write off. The people involved in the original incident which we had tried to avoid and a couple of other late comers to the party like ourselves all seemed to have come off a bit worse, but nothing seemed too serious. A few broken bones maybe, but not much more.
We were near a freeway exit, which allowed easy access through the chaos for ambulances etc, and after letting the more serious people head of first,we were whisked off with lights flashing and horns to blaring to a hospital. I may well be forgetting one or two, but I think that this is my first ambulance journey on this trip. WooHoo! A different one, but just as efficient as friendly as the previous one I had been to, and where we spent the next 3 or 4 hours being checked out. They wanted to keep us both overnight, but neither of us were keen to stay for differing reasons. And so, despite the odd bruise, bump, gash and assorted pains (my neck is really not happy by this constant state of affairs), i managed to get them to release me with enough time to have a fighting chance of leaving. And in a break with tradition, i successfully made it to the station just in time to jump onto the train north (and without the tuk-tuk crashing into a canal on the way) to Nong Khai.
Thailand has been strange time. I've spent waaay too much money, met some interesting people, caught up with a number of old friends, but i haven't really seen much of Thailand itself. It never really appealed to me prior to this trip, and on the evidence of Hua-Hin and Pattaya (which would both have been dreadful if I hadn't been with friends), I might have been correct. But there are chunks that i want to see and will be back. But now, I need to leave for liver and financial reasons if nothing else. It's been by far the most destructive couple of weeks of my entire trip, with way too many 5am + nights, and none earlier than 2am. Ignoring the fact that I have to if I'm going to make it back to China in time, and recent highway incidents, I need to leave Thailand in order to detox and preserve money. I will be needing both of these in the coming weeks, and more.
In a away, from here the journey is kind of over. Yes, I have almost 6months before I need to be back at work, but I have a few commitments coming up and now start the trek back to Europe. Don't worry, this blog and story has a ways to run yet. Hopefully, a long relaxing and incident and pain free journey awaits, but with the way i feel at the moment and the way things have been going I kind of doubt that's possible.
This scary looking manequin has been all over Thailand and also Vietnam. I must admit, that I have to wonder who the heck the model was, and what the heck had just happened when they took teh photo that was used to make the manequin. Any ideas? Answers, as always, on a postcard
* Anna and Tania, the two Danish girls we met on our way to Vietnam and travelled through most of that country with, first introduced me to this the fact. Michael Learns to Rock are a fairly average (I'm being diplomatic) Danish rock trio from the 80's. I knew of them and a couple of their tracks beforehand, but they hadn't done all that much in the UK, and hadn't come up often during my many visits to Denmark. What they have done,however, is seemingly take over much of Asia. In China, the standard CD of Chinese songs which play includes two ML2R tracks (which is what the girls had said, when they discovered it to their utter astonishment. It seems to be the main reason most Chinese have heard of Denmark), and then all through Vietnam it was noticeable that their stuff seemed to appear with alarming regularity. In Thailand, they are possibly even bigger, regularly play concerts here and are still big sellers. Essentially they a Danish equivalent of Shampoo in Japan and David Hasslehoff in the old East and West Germany.