SO, Thailand is a pretty crazy place. After landing in Don Muang airport, David and I were briefly stopped, along with every other white male on the flight. The policemen were looking for one Thomas Atkinson (clearly a pseudonym) and after showing our passports we were courteously let on our way. Outside of the airport we met Tom who helped us carry our bags and haggle for a cab to our hostel. The price ended up being some 100baht (about $3.50 AUD)
The roads in Thailand are insane, a frenetic free-for-all of Tuk Tuks, Scooters and Cars filling every square foot of road in no particular order. I say foot here instead of meter because it gives a more accurate impression of the space involved. When the cab started to drive faster than 100kmph I reached for my seatbelt, only to find there wasn’t one there. Somehow though we arrived alive and subsequently I haven’t seen a single crash or accident on the roads. Thai have some innate ability for this type of driving but it seems totally alien to me. Our hostel was located down Soi (denoting a side-street) 38 Sukhumvit Rd. Sukhumvit is an absolute hive of activity. Every day, food stalls, markets and businesses are erected on the street under the shade of the Sky Train, a concrete monstrosity of public transport that dominates the landscape. Famished as we were from our long flight we sat down in a market and were promptly presented with six different menus from six different vendors, which they pushed around the table in a Tetris like fashion, vying for the our attention. The humidity of that first night absolutely killed Dave and me; we were sweating so much, in fact, that when we were offered ice for our glass of beer we gladly accepted (despite warnings to the contrary, my bowels haven’t exploded yet, a good sign)
After dinner we caught the Sky Train a few stops to a popular area further down Sukhmvit to check out the bars. ‘Bar’ however is quite a loose term in Bangkok with some venues being little more than a few plastic chairs on the sidewalk next to a vendor with a coolbox, while some, presumably in place for quite a while have ornate wall fixtures laden with delicious drinks, some exotic, some familiar. Particularly delicious was Leo beer, which went for about 60baht (one dollar) and the buckets of margarita, which went for 300baht (ten bucks) Needless to say, we got pretty smashed and had a great time though being poked and prodded by the working girls got a little bit tiresome. After a raucous night of drinking we staggered back to our hostel, and knowing that we weren’t able to drink the tapwater, but too ruined to go and find bottled water, collapsed into our beds, unprepared for the vicious dehydration fuelled hangover that would persist much of the next day.
Not to say that the next day wasn’t fantastic though. After finding a ripper place to eat (I, un-adventurously ordered the American Breakfast) we met with Tom’s friend, Gon, at Pho, site of the amazing lying Bhudda and proceeded to get drenched by a monsoonal downpour which was somewhat mitigated by my fashionable 100 baht Minnie mouse umbrella (which gave up on life sometime later in the afternoon)
We then took a completely sodden boat ride over the river to view the Wat of Rama II, a really amazing structure that had a sign out the front prohibiting bootie-shorts or miniskirts.
Finally we went out to dinner in Bangkok’s Chinatown in a restaurant that served a variety of seafood (including shark fin which nobody in our party ate) I opted for some fried chicken and rice being not much of a seafood fan. After a cabride that Gon was able to negotiate for us at a reasonable price we went back to the hostel and relaxed, perhaps for the first time since we had arrived. It was to be a formidable trainride the next day, as we’d decided to leave Bangkok to the relative tranquillity of the northern city of Chaing Mai renowned for it’s party scene and awesome landscapes. The trainride was epic, more than twelve hours of some of the noisiest train travel I’ve ever experienced. A derailing some weeks previously on the same track was slightly disconcerting but there was scattered evidence of repairs all along the route and as it turns out we arrived in Chaing Mai safely. The cabins are spacious and far more comfortable than plane travel, and the ability to take life into your own hands and have a cigarette on the bucking walkway between carriages is awesome. Not to mention the beautiful scenery as soon as the train had cleared the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, jungles, which I’ve never seen before are awesome. Particularly when punctuated by the sometimes gravity defying mountainous rocks that dot the lush landscape. I had a quick conversation (with Tom translating) with the train’s janitor. Where I come from is flat and brown, I said, not mountainous and green like here, it’s beautiful! He knew the word, and as I gestured to the fog capped jungle peaks that the train was hurtling by he looked me in my eyes and gave a warm smile. People here are awesome.
Now we’re in Kiki’s guesthouse in Chaing Mai a really spacious, comfortable and welcoming place set in the heart of the old city. After Bangkok, the more laidback vibe is really welcome. In fact, this bed is pretty comfortable, I think I’ll have a nap.