Published: March 17th 2010March 17th 2010
So here goes, my first blog entry! I'll do my best for it not to become simply a catalogue of cliches but being a living stereotype this may prove difficult!
I realised just how typical of travellers I was last night; my first night in Bangkok. I got a meal at the first restaurant I came to (the meal of chicken noodles with a Fanta coming to 40B (c. 80p)!) and overheard some English speakers at a neighbouring table, at the end of my meal I bit the bullet and introduced myself (having finished eating I would be spared the embarrassment of skulking back to dine alone if it didn't go well). Fortunately they were both very friendly, there was Marc, from Copenhagen and- this was where I realised I'm far from unusual around here- Matt from, err... Farnham.
Both were leaving town the following day, Marc, early, to catch a bus to Ko Chang, to where I will be going in a few days' time, and Matt the following night to the Philippines. We had a fun evening drinking (I've finally started to like beer!), exchanging stories and generally getting on. On the meeting-people front I was thrilled with this good start- I hope it is as easy everywhere on my trip!
Bangkok really is as hectic as the guides say and tuk-tuks are quite simply the only way to travel. I have yet to work out what, if any(which seems unlikely) rules the traffic obeys. So far traffic lights, pedestrians, lane markings, other cars and even the assigned direction of the street do not warrant cars, bikes, tuk-tuks and buses slowing down- as you can imagine, crossing such roads is something of a life-in-your-hands experience.
Traffic is further complicated at the moment by the street demonstrations which have occupied (with the apparent consent of the authorities) many major avenues in the city; not far from the tourist heart centred around the Kao San Road.
Prices here are insane- a delicious and filling meal costs as little as 25B (50p)- a large bottle of beer 70B and 150 mile coach journey 280B! Today I booked a full day trip to the ancient Siamese capital- Ayutthaya, some 150km away for 550B. You learn to haggle over 20B on a tuk-tuk journey or 10B on a T-shirt. Today Matt and I went to MBK, a huge shopping centre, which functions much like an indoor market in places and went on a bit of a spree- I got some cheap sunnies, a fake T-shirt, some ominously described 'Uni-size' D&G tart pants and some weird cotton trousers for visiting temples (which I will be doing tomorrow).
The tuk-tuk driver on the way back dropped us on the other sides of teh protesters, within walking distance of the Kao San, resulting in us walking through the very heart of their encampment. Though nervous at first (we were the only Westerners we could see) we quickly relaxed as the whole thing, bizarrely had the feel of a music festival and a Guilfest rather than a Reading at that. The Reds are apparently very passionate about their cause but not afraid of having a good time with it. There were some serious speeches and many were stony-faced but others were listening to music from a large stage and they did not miss the opportunity to set up yet another market- from which we bought some red bandannas to the amusement of the stall-keeper. I wondered whether this was callous or demeaning, I'm not sure, I don't think so, we were just passing through and they seemed happy to sell to us so I won't be losing any sleep.
If you've read this far I'm flattered and impressed, only I've been having such a ball that I want to tell everyone about everything! 'Travelling', so far at least, really is all it's cracked up to be, I feel like a kid in a candy store, wanting to see and do everything, and, best of all, it's so cheap that I can!