Tag Archives: bangkok

Leaving Thailand, heading home

It's almost all over for another year. Waiting at Doha airport where the food options are poor and expensive, and don't make up for the disappointing meals on the first of my 2 flights.

As per usual it's a long journey home. I got up early and watched the sun rise in Prachuap, a cycle along the seafront. Already getting very hot. Then hanging around, my mind having already left the building. I don't want to leave. This was a place that felt very homely and was populated by similar souls wanting to be off the beaten track.

The four hour mini bus ride is actually 6, mainly due to the unbelievably congested sprawl of bkk. It doesn't leave me much time to do my planned shopping in mbk, and getting to suvarmabhumi is a rush.

The weather in brighton is 7 degrees. Looking forward to just one thing: my bed and not having no reason to stir from it!

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Brighton to Bangkok to ayutthya

It’s my first full day. I’m in ayutthya and it was a much better choice to decompress than Bangkok, though getting here was almost suicidal!

The trip started with a hiccup at brighton station with super officious ticket inspectors not letting me use my advance ticket without the reservation slip which I threw away weeks ago. That kind of set the tone for a fraught journey full of anxious moments and fears of near misses. The tube taking forever to get to Heathrow. Fran, my travel companion for the first hop, messing up with on-line checking in; the stopover in Doha being a hectic rush through the sprawling ultra modern terminal to get to the gate for the transfer with minutes to spare. I can never sleep sitting upright, so the flights sapped me. Arriving in Thailand where my body had to suddenly get used to being 25 degrees hotter than it had been was exhausting, not helped by by planned smart route to ayutthya being blocked. I was surprised with how militaristic the many people in uniforms here have become. I wasn’t allowed to get the shuttle bus to don muang, instead I had to take the underground then sky train into bkk. A 2 hour wait for a train, which left late, then typically took 4 hours for a two hour journey…but only 20 baht!

I’ve done this trip before. The first few miles are through shanty-like shacks. So close that you can touch them as the train goes by. I can see in kitchens, sleeping spaces, smell the people. The rest of the crawl through bkk follows extensive sky train construction. Concrete pillars half-finished, roads clogged with jams, workers in masks, the air heavy with dust, cement works, temporary shanty workers accommodation. There is a procession of women passing through the carriages selling prawn crackers, bananas, water. A very elderly monk sits across from me, the late afternoon sun ennobling the Orange robed form. He has some luggage, which he proceeds to open: a set of kitschy plastic statues of the Buddha on a horse before his enlightenment. The man across the aisle has a plastic bag containing some greenish water. He hands it on the window opener. Now that it’s backlit I can see it contains some small fishes.

it was dark by the time I got to ayutthya. With huge relief I get a room in the Chandana guesthouse. It’s a bit quiet, and I have to walk through reception cum living room of the very nice but not so useful thai ladies running the place. The room is 450, which seems fine. My jetlagged means I wake up at 2am. The water pump outside kicks in every 2 minutes and this upsets my sleep further. On the street are a number of low key and friendly guesthouses, bars, bike rental places. It’s certainly not khaosan road and there is no hard sale whatsoever.

Gubar seems to be run by a woman I thought was a man, and I’m still not sure, in spite of the breasts! Anyway she tells me I can’t eat as she’s too drunk to cook! I eat opposite and have what will be my first of many curries and excellent fruit shakes.

Last morning in Bangkok

I wonder how boring and relevant it is being a monk.

I’m at Wat Chana Songkhram at Khaosan Road. As locals come in to kneel at the shrine, clasping jasmine and incense, in the 4 school rooms on either side of the prayer hall novices are in class. The shady low stone buildings are exposed to the outside world by grills that function as windows and give the place the aura of prison. In each room sit 2 older monks at the front reading to the rows of younger monks who are sat behind dark wooden desks. Some are reading, some writing, some reciting, some face down and asleep. The whole atmosphere is rather dull, dry. I can only guess that these are Buddhist teachings. Dharma of Pali. To what ends? It’s all so obscure, mystical, yet commonplace.

There are. 3 younger ones, novices, sat outside around a table. Evidently trying to learn to recite something together. One looks very detached and bored. At the table is a large bottle of coca cola.

Arrival in bkk

Marooned in Hualamphong railway station Bangkok

Chiangmai so-called express arrives at 9am.  I awake to sunrise over the flooded paddies of Ayutthya.

Train struggles into BKK through shanty towns, construction, into the sinuous mess of modern BKK, the underbelly clinging to its arteries.

I can’t get anywhere easily quickly or conveniently and find myself people watching over congee, the trains shedding themselves of locals pushing scooters or carrying sacks of food.

In the concourse I am caught between tannoy of adverts, station announcements and Thai MTV…I’ve described the type of video before…….

A monk-only cordoned off couple of rows of seats. All seats facing a classically framed painting of the king. A row of Muslim girls black head scarves. A young boy in blue shorts playing with his young pink dressed sister, chasing in and out of a diorama. Like me there are hundreds sitting around waiting waiting.

I’m waiting to get across the city to get a train to the west, but the rain outside is torrential. It’s dripping through the concourse roof, a blue smocked mopping woman diffuses the pooled water rather than soaking it up.

I leave 2 hours to get to Thonburi station to catch a train to Kanchanaburi. Underground then sky-train then Chao Phraya river express. Rusty lurching overloaded diesel workhorse plying its way through the coffee coloured swell and tangles of thick green duck weed. Past temples, processions of cement barges, decommissioned WW2 motor boats, under sweeping bridges and the partially constructed new extension for the sky-train. Rain pouring down, splattering the choppy river. Rain and splashing bow waves sprays passengers. The whistling pilot at the rear of the boat is drenched head to foot.

I know I’m scheduled to get off at stop number 11, which doesn’t exist. At stop 12 I ask the pilot for Thonburi and he waves his arm meaning further on. 20 minutes or more and further on we reach the end of the line, where the high rise hotels have given out to cement works and low suburb urban houses. The duckweed almost unnavigablly dense. Nonthaburi. The pilot says Thonburi. I’ve missed my stop and a girl kindly helps me establish that stop 11 is no longer in use and anyway, by the time I get back down river my train will have left.

I’m resigned to a day or more in BKK. This place traps you, sucks you in. You have to fight to get out.

I check into the Rambuttri Village Inn. The room is high up, has a view of the fort and the suspension bridge. It’s warm, dry, comfortable. I decide to count my blessings.the rain carries on, and persists into early evening. Would being elsewhere, especially in the outdoors be any better I’d I’m wet all the time? Anyway I don’t have great desire to do anything.

Khaosan Road is boring.

I heard it in CM sung in Thai, now hear it here in BKK played by children on dulcimer type instruments: Hotel bloody California…..

The massage chairs are here as well. I feel sorry for the masseurs. Farang customers are drinking beer and texting whilst being massaged. Doesnt look like a special or relaxing moment to them.

My dinner at the same old place is underwhelming, and my request for spicy goes unneeded. A hectic criss-crossing of waiters, barmen, owners. A rerun of Newcastle 4 Arsenal 4.

Early bed, deep sleep.

Breakfast at 12. Punctuated by roving lighter and crocodile wallet sellers.

Legless harmonica player, propelling himself by his hands between the chairs of the cafe on a skateboard like platform. What a tough life.

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!