Evening in Bangkok, first day

I chanced upon a keep fit and dance workout by the fort near the river at sunset. A hyper Thai instructor with a radio mic and all the steps. High energy techno covers of Kyle etc and housewives, grandmothers and a couple of strapping guys trying to keep the hectic pace in the humid evening.

 

I meet up with hon later. Confusion over which Burger King he is outside. We dither around until settling at a pavement bar which is less loud than some and get 2 beers for the price of one neither of us can sleep that night, and he decides to brave the night and get back home then rather than wait til morning. We negotiate a rather twisted post midnight khaosan road where everything is ratcheted up to the max and everybody is losing control. Same same only even worse. There are never going to be any buses at this time so he gets a cab, and I stay awake with jet lag for a few more hours!

Phi mai

Phi mai at night. It’s a small place. A central crossroads where there is a sports fields (conctrete) with a stage at one end, and behind that, on a mound, the remains of a laterite chedi overlooking the town. At the cross roads is the foods market selling fresh vegetables, fish, jasmin, lottery tickets. I buy some sweet fried dough things and some banana fritters dipped in flakes of coconut, and a sour orange and lime shake. I sit under the central tower where roosting birds are chattering loudly. The market slowly winds down. Trying to work out what all the kids uniforms mean. Some boys where an almost military cadet uniform. All tan with Shoulder insignia. Other boys wear blue shorts and white shirts, others coffee coloured shorts and very pale pink shirts. They all look so smart, clothes well pressed and clean. In spite of being poor, dressing their kids for school is something parents obviously take seriously. Thai kids look so cute. Simple hair styles, simple clothes, they are sociable. They don’t have smart phones to play with every second of the day.

But…Don’t Thai kids have homework to do? How come they’re out on the streets now? Maybe with their mothers buying the food for dinner. I see some climb aboard their mothers’scooters. Some hanging around their mothers’ stalls, waiting for them to finish work. Young teenage boys and girls hanging around the tower. All still in uniform at 7.30 pm. Very different from uk, that’s for sure.

The phanom phi mai is literally opposite my guest house. It opens at 7.30. I really want to catch it in the morning light.

Suddenly there is a loud bang and a terrific flash…what the fuck was that? Some of the lights have gone down behind the tower. There’s no screaming, no hysteria, no confusion. Everyone pauses than carries on…I look to see what the source is..but there is nothing obvious, and it wasn’t a bomb… Back at the guest house they tell me it was something to do with the electricity supply!

This is day 4

Day 4

Wake up and unsure what to do. After chatting to another French couple I’m swayed to go to phi mai, a few hours north of here. The bus is a local one and there are hawkers selling some barbecued skewered animal on the bus.

It has just struck me how I saw none of the ubiquitous monks in buriram province.

Bus to khorat. It’s actually raining on arrival, but it’s sticky rain that doesn’t leave you wet. I’m on some fairground attraction of a bus with chrome backed seats and chrome lined ceiling, wooden floor and ceiling mounted green, red, blue lights that I bloody hope don’t start flashing

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Actually maybe the decor is more cheap nightclub. I get cruised in the toilet at khorat bus station. For heaven’s sake! The conductor is blinded up, skinny guy with flat cap, white towel round his neck, like a boxer, looks like a hustler. He offs me chewing gum. His information about bus times is as confused as my memory of Thai numbers. When asked how long the trip to phi mai is he says 6 hours, which then becomes 2 when I show him how many fingers.

It’s a local bus, more and more hawkers jumping on and off, bus fills up with tired students going home.

 

Pimai feels small, safe, friendly. I’m 1 minute from the khmaer temple. No hurry to explore. Welcoming young girl noan,who majored in English…lots of tattoos and very in-Thai. Her mum fixes me an out of hours pad Thai.

 

Travelling thoughts day 2 through to day 4

Actually as usual getting out of bkk is a headache and there never seems to be a simple way. The various mods of public transport are poorly linked, don’t get you where you want to go, and the roads are impassable most of the time. I get a boat down to thaksin bridge to pick up the sky train. This is actually going in the opposite direction from the one I need, but I figure it will be more relaxing, maybe Ben quicker, certainly cheaper than sitting in a taxi. After getting on a train that went the wrong way, in spite of the signage on the platform, I do get to mo chit station. With a name the same as the required bus station you would think they would be reasonably near. Not even within walking distance. A 20 minute bus ride away, but at least there was no fare…no conductor on the bus at all. Mo chit bus station is a sprawling and confused mess, and I need to go from one sides to the other,through a rabbit warren of market stalls, and end up at a terminal building of 3 floors. After asking at several counters I finally find the counter for nang rong. Whilst waiting I get a soup and end up chatting with a Thai woman with a young child. She has an Australian husband and is back in Thailand on a visa run and trying to get her daughter to Australia. I get the impression it’s a marriage of convenience. She gets a life for her daughter, he gets an obedient pretty woman. She’s is already saying she plans to go there only for around 5 years. I guess there is nothing wrong at all with this. I’m sure in faring marriages both parties know it isn’t real love. I wonder if its the same with gay marriages….from the Thai guys I have met, I can see that their are always ulterior motives. Take what you can get then thanks and see you.

Arrival in nang rong after 5 hours. It’s dark, quiet, the taxi drivers chatty but not pushy, and they leave me to my own devices, ie walking to honey inn. Along a busy main road. I miss the turning, make a call, and one of the women from the inn comes and gets me on a motorbike. At first I get the feeling she runs the place, yet the whole time I’m there the one who is always there, and cooking, cleaning, renting motorbikes, trying to make communication, is the cute 70 year old, or so I guess, grandmother.

Phanom rung. This is the place I’ve wanted to visit several times but its always seemed too far or too complicated.

Phanom rung is a Khmer temple the same style as Angkor wat and its on top of an extinct volcano surrounded by rustling bamboo trees. Hardly anyone there other Ghana plethora of young painters from khon kaen university at each corner of the site. The place is calm, spectacular, relaxing, with lily ponds and monstrous red dragon flies. It follows the layout of a long bridge with lotus bud columns. Climb a steep flight of steps flanked by the naga serpent. More steps takes you to the plateau where there are lily ponds, extensive view to probably Cambodia and a view straight through the main entrance which carries on past the central silhouetted linctum stone to the opposite door. This is bisected in the middle by an east to west passage that similarly passes through several doorways, dark to light to dark. The roofs are mainly intact and the central carved tower with scenes of Krishna and vishnu. Fortunately the day is cloudy and I’m not going to get burnt. Famous last words maybe…

I carry on winding down the steep road to prasat meung tan, a Khmer sanctuary..impressively restored,the 4 l- shaped ponds with lilies buds are most enchanting

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A posse of young school kids in blue shirts are sketching the ruins, many call out hello and how are you in English. I spend a meditative few hours here before a slightly uncomfortable ride back, the road now busy with trucks, overtaking each other willy nilly. I catch some glimpses of the rural life here. Old farmers wearing longyan with. Water buffalo crossing the roads, farmers planting paddies, wooden houses on stilts.

I decide to explore nong rung by motorbike. Not a lot here. The night market has a stall full of many new tropical fruits to me. The potato like one tastes of grapefruit. I get a banana pancake, recharge my phone and bump into Francois the French postman and his wife from reunion who are also staying at honey inn. I use my phrase book to point and show to manage to get a meat free pad thai, which is so so.

 

 

 

What does khaosan road, bangkok offer?

 

2 for 1 Chang or singha or Leo beer

Vodka buckets

Tattoos

Cheap suits

Pad Thai

Sexy lady, you want?

Smoking? You want? Opium, you want?……?.

Laughing gas

Neighbouring bars out- doing each other with deafening techno

Groups of ladyboys

Farang bars with reruns of premiership football

T shirt stalls

Laser pointers

Fried insect stalls (photo 10 baht)

Bemused European children in tow behind their ” cool” parents

Frazzled island hoppers

Amputee buskers

Fake degree certificates

Oh, and also McDonald’s, burger king, KFC

Tuk- tuk drivers and taxi drivers trying every conceivable way to meet whatever needs you have..or rather to tempt you

Babylon?

I can see how many people love this

But….

These are all things I do not come to Thailand for