A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand

I think somebody is trying to tell me something. B*stard.

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.

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Part of the beach in Hua Hin

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.

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Inside the Night Markets food complex

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.

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Bangkok's Royal Palace complex, What Phra Kaew

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.

Oh well.

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Sign in Pattaya. Eek. The Russians are coming. Or are already here. Either way, there's (annnoyingly) still nowhere to change money into Roubles

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.

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Local's street market in a back alleyway, somewhere in Bangkok

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.

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Cabbages and Condoms

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.

Ouch.

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.

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Passing the independence Monument on route to the station

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.

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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.

Posted by Gelli 02:30 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Catching up with an assortment of folks

Thailand is often described as the land of 1000 smiles.
Disappointingly, i can offer no notes on that at all, as i haven't seen more than average people smiling or looking even vaguely happy. Perhaps I'm missing it, or perhaps it's a myth, but most people are certainly not smiling, at any hour of day or night. Happily though Thai hospitals do indeed seem to live up to their reputations and I have no hesitation in recommending them.

I might even live long enough to see some of this place.

The bus (which seemingly only runs Westbound, not Eastbound) was fine, and only the last section to Poipet was unpaved meaning that i wasn't whacked around as much as I'd feared. Poipet was again an easy place to cross (i either got lucky or the stories have all been blow out of proportion), and I again pondered the building of hotels and casino's in no-mans land between the frontiers, which obviously makes sense from certain perspectives, but seems to have slight problems from others. I was thoroughly checked over in Bangkok proved i had nothing broken, given some pills for the pain and swelling and on my way again with ease. Cheap, efficient and friendly. Three things i am entirely unused to in the medical service.

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A sign you are unlikely to encounter on TfL's river service in London

I made some attempts to actually be a tourist whilst in Bangkok, and spent time wandering at random, riding up and down the river, visiting the Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha and Royal Palace and some of the other sights. If you ignore the traffic, and maybe the 500m2 around Khao San Road i think i could get to like this city despite first impressions. It is hot though, and you need to be showering about every 12minutes or so if you have any intention of trying to stay even vaguely fresh.

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New and Old together by the river, A ubiquitos Wat and peoples homes by the river

But my time in BKK can mostly be taken care of by a series of meetings with people. Timings worked to my favour, and sometimes these things just happen. A bit of good fortune every now and again is certainly no bad thing, and thus it was that in 4 nights, i managed to meet up first with my Aunt, passing back through at the end of her holiday, plus a friend of hers I'd met before and his lovely new wife. Then the following day, i caught up with James (Glorious leader of the intrepid quintet who left Shangers together to climb Huanshan and be attacked by monkeys) who was passing through on his way from India to Tokyo to work for a bit. Things seem to be going well between him and Kyoko, and I can only hope that (and she certainly seems it) Kyoko is significantly less marriage crazed and warped than Kiki was/is.

Update.

I'm being bombarded by emails from both, wanting me to try and sort out their marital problems (he wants a divorce, she - unsurprisingly - doesn't understand what the problem is. The answer, on the off chance - I pray not - that she ever finds this blog is that you conned a random foreigner into marrying you after knowing you for only 2 days, and when he was mullered out of his face).

It was great to see them both again although as it always does when you re-meet people in strange places, it feels a bit surreal. Sadly an attempt to hook up with Rick (from the old Landy days, for those who know about them) the following night failed on logistical terms, but i hope to catch up with him in the next few days. No big deal, as I spent an entertaining evening out with some guys from the hostel instead, more of which to follow. But on the fourth day, came the really odd one. After a small CS meet-up with the excellent Sam and Des, plus visiting Kiriyaki, a trawl around the Weekend market and watching in bemusement as Kiriyaki (who owns a clothing store in Greece and was on her way home from a fashion show in Korea) started running riot in the market, buying more or less anything she could lay her hands on, I headed into town to hook up with Matt Lavender and a group of his friends.

I don't know if you've ever done it before, but it is undoubtedly a very strange and surreal experience to meet somebody you haven't seen in about 16 years. Especially as you were both 12 when you last met.

I'd randomly come across Matt's website (http://www.geocities.com/fourontour/ ) through another school friend a few years ago. With another friend, he successfully went overland from the UK all the way to Australia, something which many try and most fail to achieve (the other two guys of the four had to fly out from SEA to Australia) due to the last leg from Indonesia. They had even done the same Zarubino - Sokcho ferry ride, something rarely attempted by travellers, although obviously at a better time of year... Anyhow, I'd got back in touch, we'd traded a few emails, and as he was now living in Thailand had agreed to meet up when (if?) i ever made it that far.

Amazingly, and against most peoples expectations - especially mine - i actually had.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, conversation was slightly different to our last meet. Whilst i can't remember in the slightest what we talked about last time I'm fairly sure that items such as "fancy another beer?", "look at the knockers on that slapper" and "impressive distance on that Banana" probably weren't amongst them.

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One of Matt's friends was leaving, so a group of them had come up to Bangkok for a going away party. As with the previous nights outing ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* very messy stuff. ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* although it should be noted that ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* ****** Eeeeek! ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** *********************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* Surely, that has to hurt. ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** *****It's very impressive what can be achieved with so simple a prop. ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* *** ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** but it didn't really turn out like that. Funnily enough, ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* and physiologically I'm fairly sure it's an impossibility ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** *********************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* and to top that episode off, Pompey have even pulled off a miraculous come back and are staying up. ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* Following on, she ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* and from there on in, it was pretty much all downhill ***************************** ********************* ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** *********************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* Indian TV star who just happened ******** **************** ******************** ****************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ******************************* Don't ask. *************************** ************************************ ******** ************** *********** ****** ****************** ******** ********** ************ ************* **************** ********* but it must be said that despite all that, and the vast reputation it has, to me (and no, i am in no way an expert) I was disappointed by just how tame and conventional most of the stuff was. Bangkok has a huge reputation, but on current evidence, it no longer really lives up to it.

I ended the night on my now strangely traditional efforts to help somebody. I had met a couple of young Scandinavian girls in Cambodia and agreed we should meet up in Bangkok again if possible. What i wasn't expecting was the 5am hysterical and incoherent phone call. One of the girls, who shall remain nameless, had somehow manged to loose the others after she went outside for a little, coming back to find the bar now shut and no friends. Or bag/money/key etc. After about 30mins of drunken stumbling, she had made it back to the hotel, to be told by the security guard that whilst she had been staying there, did she not remember checking out that morning and moving somewhere else? Now having lost the plot completely and then a shoe to boot (sorry), wandering around hopelessly lost and alone in tears, she had come across a group of drunken lads, who in their efforts to help had seemingly been more friendly than she would have liked.

She had managed to get to a police box, who had laughed at her story and kicked her out into the street. And perhaps unsurprisingly she'd really lost it at that point. 30mins after the phone call, I eventually found her curled up in a corner of a garbage skip on a side street in something of a state. Much coaxing later and we got her out of the skip, calmed a bit, water and food in to her, and with a bit of a plan. Proceeding then to knock on virtually every guest house in a 300metre radius of KSR looking for her new abode, until amazingly running into one of the other girls at about 7.30am, who realising she hadn't returned and had no bag, had set out to find her.

I think she'll be OK, but it will take some time. So much about travelling is great, but there are always things that happen which jolt you back into the sad reality that real life continues, and incidents do occur.

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The horrors of Khao San Road at night

Posted by Gelli 01:04 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

From Murray Head to Kim Wilde

It's possessed. It really and truly is. For those who have an unhealthy knowledge of my trip (i.e. you are stalking me) or a freakishly good memory may remember that when we climbed Huanshan, my MP3 player decided that it had a sense of humour, and showered me with strangely apt songs the entire way up. Now i think there is more to it. A four hour trek up to the Thai border during which we were all constantly being drenched with water thrown at the side of our open sided Sawgny (fl1ppin New Year. It doesn't mix well with Camera's and MP3 players...) followed by another surprisingly simple border crossing brought us to Thailand. The country in SEA that I have always been least interested in, but logistically I had to visit anyway, so will give it a bit of time. On the bus headed inland to make a connection to Bangkok, I put on my MP3 player, hit random play all, and then from a potential selection of over 8000 songs was treated first song to a nice rendition of the Murry Head classic. I laughed so hard I almost fell out of the back of the Sawgny.

The Night train from Udon Ratchatani was standing room only, so we ended up getting a bus. The 8hour journey took 13, and we were on what can best be described as a wannabe 70's party bus. A psychedelic paint job which even South American revolutionary (and recent Swedish convert) Markey would have been proud of, including go faster stripes, fins on the exhaust, huge numbers of speakers, disco lighting (including a glitter ball on the ceiling) and a back seat of a velvet horseshoe shaped couch were all new to me on a respectable public bus. And as the doors don't physically close, in the back you spend the night hoping not to fall the wrong way when asleep, or you will end up bouncing off tarmac at high speed...

Great.

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A much newer and significantly less pyschadelic bus that the one we were on, but you get the idea...

Whilst the journey itself was fine (sitting on the steps at 5am with your legs dangling over the road whilst watching the fields shoot by is strangely liberating), arrival in Bangkok was cunningly delayed so that it coincided with morning rush hour, and then we ended up being dropped on a slip road miles from anywhere useful. Yay. But managed to get some taxi's and head over to the infamous Khao San Road. It wasn't my idea. In fact, i had specifically wanted to avoid it. But the 3 returnees all swore it was the best and easiest place to stay and with no better idea and in urgent need of a shit and a shower, went along with it. It was a case of find somewhere which had space, which we all managed (in different guesthouses, naturally), and after taking care of business, went to have a look at the Khao San Road.

It's ghastly.

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I hate the Street, but admittedlky I did quite like this sign near to the Northern end of KSR

For all it's reputation, it is a surprisingly small and insignificant road, but even at about 7am, the number of white people around was scary, and not a single local who wasn't working was to be seen. Any number of people seemed to still be drinking from the night before, whilst of new arrivals and departees, all with huge overladen bags and looking bleary eyed, wandered randomly. And one of the biggest street cleaners I've ever seen (that would have been fun to have for New Year water fights. Possibly only a proper water cannon - guessing the King had that - could have beaten it) was jet spraying piles of vomit off the road.

Welcome to Bangkok.

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Wat Arun in Bangkok

The reason that Thailand had never really appealed to me was that it struck me that it would be chocka full of mostly young (18/19) drunk, stupid and obnoxious British kids. Currently, travelling and gap year is the 'in' thing. Everybody travels. What they really mean is they go to Thailand for a month, then Australia for a year and then go home. And with that, they know everything and have travelled. Whilst I have no problem whatsoever with people doing such trips, I just don't want to be near them the whole time. After all, if i want to see lots of young drunk Brits, I'll just go to Sydney.

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Chris enjoying a well needed Chang beer in Bangkok...

Sadly, Khao San Road at least confirmed a chunk of my fears. I'm not writing Thailand off by any means, but I was happy to leave KSR as soon as possible. Which as it turned out, meant the following day. I spent a day mostly doing chores and sorting stuff out, during which time I happened to browse the Russian embassy of Cambodia page, and discovered something I had previously forgotten. It's only open 3 days a week. In mornings only. Russian bureaucracy means that you need an invitation to get a visa, and your invitation specifies the embassy/consulate where you will apply. I had long heard that the Russian embassy in Cambodia is one of the easiest in the world to deal with, so whilst in China had sorted my invitation and put down PP. So i couldn't say sod it and just use Bangkok. Erin meanwhile had to get her Indian visa, and as there is allegedly no Indian representation in Cambodia, she had to do that in BKK. The bureaucracy of diplomacy and visa's is a constant source of amusement and delight for me, just because it's always so unpredictable.

A check of buses at agencies on KSR told me that (although i don't believe it and intend to prove that it's rubbish when in Cambodia) there are actually no direct BKK - Phnom Penh buses. I would have to go to Siem Reap, spend a night and go from there. And in order to be certain to get to the embassy that week, I had to leave the following morning. I went to a dozen travel agents, was quoted between 270 and 900 baht for a ticket, took the 270 one and left the following morning, with vague plans to hook up with Erin again in Siem Reap with all visas in place. The same bus contained people with tickets from several different places and who had paid (in one case) up to 1100 baht (!). All bought from KSR agents. That's over 4 times what I paid, and is very scary.

Yes, you can buy your Cambodian visa at the border. However, if you are on a bus, this will be handled for you by an agent at the cafe where you stop for lunch before crossing the border. And you will pay heftily for the privilege. Oddly enough, despite all the rumours of bribes and payments needed at the border, it was an easy crossing, although I had to do my normal 'walk quickly and pretend you know where you are going' trick to lead everybody to the border after we were unceremoniously dumped in car park and told vaguely to go "that way"...

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A warning sign on the Thai side of the Thai - Cambodian border at Poipet, and the crossing itself

Three buses later, and we were in a packed minibus leaving Poi Pet heading towards Siem Reap along one of the most fun roads in Cambodia. Allegedly, they will make it a real road in the next year or so, but that would be impressive going. It's not all that bad providing you accept that you will be bounced around like buggery, and that it will take a good 6hours+ or so to go about 130km. I have had many many worse journeys in my time, but that doesn't make the constant bone jarring any better. Plus the slow speed made us perfect targets for still enthusiastic crowds of New Year celebrating kids and their water. And then a lightning storm added to the excitement.

I don't even need to tell you what my MP3 player came up with after only 3 attempts, do i?

Rolled into Siem Reap around 9pm, taken straight to the obligatory Guest House of bus company in middle of nowhere, and despite the previous protestations from the entire bus that we would mutiny if not taken to the town centre (and even though half already had reservations for places), in the end despite everything, only myself and an English girl Sharon - the only other solo traveller on the bus - actually said f*ck it and escaped. Gullible fools.

And despite it being after 10pm, we even managed to find a room in a great place in the centre - the Dead Fish. It's hard to describe, except maybe as laid back, semi labyrinthal, has rooms which from the outside like like a temporary film set, and which includes a large crocodile pit in the restaurant. I admit that I've never stayed (or eaten) in a place with a crocodile pit full of respectably sized - up to maybe 1.7m long - crocs before, and the fact that their pit was unprotected on one side with only a small picket fence on the other, and less than half a metre deep (i thought crocs could climb, at least a bit...) gave the place an interesting twist. You have to wonder how many drunk people have fallen in by accident.

I spent 6 hours on the bus the following day, greeted on arrival in PP with a mad scramble of maybe 80 deranged tuk-tuk and moto riders and Guest house reps all baying for blood, or at the very least, the business of the 8 white people on board. The were so crazed that as we sat there, the bus was being rocked back and fore a la scenes you see in riots, whilst people were climbing over the bus and literally trying to smash windows to get to them. It's actually quite funny (especially watching those to whom this is a new experience), and you always at least feel welcomed! I somehow escaped with both my bag and my life, but it was a damned close run thing. And I seemed to end up in the frying pan anyway, spending the evening and night being utterly ravaged by evil mozzies. Despite that, i met some cool people, and my first quick look at Phnom Penh was definitely promising. I look forward to returning. But before that, it was a morning trip to the embassy (later than planned due to the 5 moto riders who all got lost and dropped me in increasingly unlikely and unhelpful places), to hand over my passport and stuff. And then another 6hour bus ride back to Siem Reap where a smaller and slightly less frenzied moto crowd awaited, although the drop in scale was compensated for by the fact that I was (along with a very scared looking English girl) one of only two tourists on board for them to attack.

Yes, i have just travelled North from Don Det, via a third country, Siem Reap and Phonm Penh, 4 days of solid travel and a detour of several thousand km, just to get to Siem Reap. And yes, it is barely 300km from my start point, but by now you must be used to my barely logical movements. But at least I'm finally in Siem Reap.

Tomorrow, i visit Angkor.

Posted by Gelli 00:18 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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