Published: March 21st 2010March 21st 2010
I've got 24 minutes left on my computer, then it's been over an hour which is way too long to spend online when I'm in Thailand, I'm going to have to limit myself otherwise I'd write reams- to no one's benefit!
On my third day I went to Ayuthaya, the former capital which was sacked by the Burmese in 1767, after which point the king moved the capital to Bangkok. It was was one of the most splendid cities in Asia but sadly the temples now lie in ruins. It was interesting but I did get temple-fatigue by the end of the day, especially in 38C, annoyingly my camera was out of battery so I couldn't get the photos I would have liked to take, but I suppose I probably looked around more; it's easy to spend so much time recording what you're seeing that you don't see it properly in the first place.
This was an organised tour, which I picked up from on of the very many travel agencies around the Khao San Road. It was a format with which I rapidly became familiar as yesterday and today I took a similar such tour, over the course of two days, more on that in a little bit... All around Bangkok, fleets of minibuses ferry tourists around the various sites. Small and sweaty they are unpleasant but you become quickly used to it and it is a good opportunity to get to know other travellers.
Now, everyone books slightly different tour, paying more or less to see different sites and do different things, thus requiring different minibuses at different points in the day. The resulting system, known only to our guides is Byzantine in complexity, German in efficiency and hinges on the one small, coloured sticker you are given at the beginning of the day onto which you cling for dear life, lest you be abandoned! Fortunately I was able to hang on to my sticker and my life.
The second one was 2 days and took me to the River Kwai and the national park around it. At first the outlook was not promising. There were two Northern guys who spent the entire journey making inciteful observations such 'it's f***ing weird like, they've got loads of cars', a shy Korean woman and a fairly joyless-looking family of Eastern European origin. We had twenty minutes to go round the War cemetery, which didn't seem like long enough to look around respectfully, although it was still moving. The saddest bit was how trite and impersonal the inscriptions were. I can only assume this was because when they were buried the family could not be asked for some reason, perhaps they never knew where they lay.
However, poignancy was replaced by farce at the 'JEATH' museum- I should have seen it coming; JEATH being an acronym for Japan, England, America, Thailand History [Museum]. It was basically some bloke's garage with anything with anything to do with the past in it. There were a few knackered old rifles, old banknotes and these statues and descriptions of WW2 figures which looked like they were made by children. There were some fairly imaginative maps of the second world was and then pictures of anything and everything in history, the Great Fire of London, the Russian Revolution (with the wrong date) and somebody labeled 'Napoleon V'- who didn't exist. I could go on... and on.
We then visited the bridge, which was really busy and a bit boring to be honest. Then we picked up some really noisy Americans, who turned out to be Canadian and some fun Australians. We had a laugh waiting for the train (to go along part of the Burma railway, built by British and Dutch Prisoners of War and enslaved local people), everything would take 5 minutes. About 40 minutes later we got the train. Somebody had clearly tried to give us a home-from-home with the refreshments: a vacuum packed (but somehow stale) 'Strawberry cake' made at 'Europe Bakery Company Thailand'. From this point things really picked up, we had a delicious lunch and then split up again, I went to a beautiful waterfall where I could swim and walk. It was busy and obviously popular amongst Thais but still great.
The next day I found out why some times it's better to travel alone; one couple who joined us at our lodgings (Moses, who looked about as Jewish as it is possible to look and Yaeh) came away as a couple and within 3 days broke up, leaving them together for the next two weeks, unable to separate as the girl was afraid to travel alone! When I went on a walk with him and another person, they both spent the whole thing bitching about their companions!
Afterwards we went to our accommodation, it was described as a lodge, which could have meant absolutely anything but turned out to be unbelievable! It was a series of house boats, joined by bamboo gangways, with a pool table and dining room/raft which stuck out right into the middle of the river. The facilities were, err, rustic, i.e. the flush was a bucket and everything went into the river, which could be seen flowing between the planks in the toilet. It reminded me a little bit of 'Anaconda'- but in an excting, adventurous way, not a getting-eating-by-a-snake way. The river was fast flowing and as we ate dinner a huge storm grew and broke, lashing the boat house with wind and rain and thunder echoing through the green and mountainous landscape. It was fantastic.
The next day (today) I rode and an elephant, which was good but I think I'll do it again as it was clearly quite a cheap elephant farm- where we walked was barren and covered in poo. We also did a 'rafting session' which consisted of being dragged up river by a boat left to drift back to the boat house, not life-changing, but acceptable given how cheap the trip was! We noticed how little wildlife there was, I think this is because they eat absolutely anything here! Lastly we walked part of the Burma railway which was beautiful but tragic; we were exhausted from walking it, to build it must have been appalling. There was also a small but excellent museum here, which definitely made up for the pile of crap in the other town!
I probably sound really negative but I'm having a great time and the bad bits were funny rather than bad to be honest and the boat house was so fantastic I didn't care about anything else. I'm leaving for Ko Chang, an island near Cambodia tomorrow morning and I'll be glad to leave Bangkok, when I come here in future I'll not spend nearly as long here. I've ended up going on loads so hope it's not too self-indulgent!