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Published: June 26th 2009
I’m using the two hour bus journey from Kuala Lumpur to Melaka to catch up with the travel blog. I’m sitting in some pretty plush seats with only three seats across instead of the usual four and I even have the singular seat, so much more space. Typically Malaysia, just that notch more advanced than the rest of south east Asia.
So, having visited the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh and also the country’s national landmark, Angkor Wat, AJ and I decided to get ourselves to Bangkok again. I really don’t believe in rushing through a city or a country but the east of the country with loads of great trekking, magnificent waterfalls and real off the beaten path - simply wasn’t doable with the time I had left nor the effort required on very bad road networks. The other possibility was reentering Laos and covering what I missed whilst I was in the north, namely the entire south. One of the highlights in the south is a river delta called Four Thousand Islands and apparently a chilled place where you lay in a hammock and didn’t do anything for a week- not really what either of
us was looking for and more importantly was it wrthh the $25 visa?
We’d gotten the idea of getting to Malaysia and then hopefully onto Indonesia if time allowed. When the latter was the Dutch East Indies AJ had family who owned a plantation on the island of Sumatra before it was all “stolen” during the Japanese war time occupation. Amazingly, his grandfather was sent to work on the Burma Railway (the same one I had gone to in Kanchanaburi - Thailand) and his grandmother was put into an internment camp where his uncle was later born. AJ was hoping to visit the old family house that still stands in Sumatra and I was more than happy to join him. Makes me envious of AJ that I don’t have a colonial family connection apart from 700 years of English rule in Ireland.
At the Earthwalkers hostel we met a French girl called Stephanie who was also staying there. We went out for dinner in Siem Reap twice and she was just a very pleasant (sane) lass from Brittany who was working as an engineer in Singapore as an ex pat. Anyway, she very kindly offered to put us
Never happened, the blind woman had a kid to deal with and never came back...!
up in Singapore when we got there, in her two bedroom job pays for it all condominium in the city I might add. This is a real boon because Singapore is meant to be really expensive for accommodation.
We settled our bill at the hostel and then piled onto a bus headed for Bangkok. I was a bit suspicious of the whole ting because it was almost too cheap. Anyway, the bus journey to the border with Thailand took about 3 hours, stuffed into a decrepit tiny bus with loads of other Westerners and our bags piled up at the back. When we got to the border of Parathet I instantly recognized it as the same one I had visited as part of my visa run to Cambodia from Thailand. The formalities took about 45minutes to an hour and then we were away again, this time on an air conditioned mini van to Bangkok.
AJ and I got talking to a Dutch guy from the north of Holland who was gonna be a doctor, amazingly he was taller than AJ- these Dutch are universally massive people. Anyway, AJ randomly showed him a video he took of hawleres selling
us stuff outside one of the Angkor temples. Low and behold Walthou recognized himself in the video, he was walking in front of us during the beginning of the video. Bizarre.
Never say never to Bangkok
Starting some kind of tradition I’d booked a place to stay in Bangkok and one of the few with a swimming pool - the same place where I lost my wallet the first time around (or had it stolen on the bus) - whichever. So AJ and I swam in the mornings whilst I visited a Wat I hadn’t been to as yet on the other side of the river. I went on the prowl in the evening for some fun around Khao San Road and I ended up talking to some 50 year old Aussie woman on holiday with her daughter and their spoilt brat of a kid. Drinks were had and we went on to some other late night bar just talking about England, Australia, the royal family, the religion of Theosophy (a member of this loopy religion) and ending up arguing about Thailand with some intellectual Thai guys next to us. Of course, her arguments were those of an ignorant simpleton
but at least I was able to show that we’re not all like that and took sympathy with the yellows versus the reds argument that is currently dividing the kingdom. I ended up helping her back to the hotel (same one as mine), went to get her a bottle of water and of course, she’s gone. An interesting night, and the Thai guy was an editor for a magazine in Bang who insisted we meet the next day at 4.30pm so he could tell me more about Thai politics. Shamefully, I was pretty hungover so I didn’t keep to our appointment.
In the evening AJ and I met up with a Danish guy who we’d got talking to on the minivan from Angkor Wat. We took a tuk tuk together for an evening’s entertainment, namely eating at a local food stall on soi Rambuttri - just off the infamous Kao San Road backpacker area. We then went to the Muay Thai (Thai boxing) stadium and watched a couple of fights for about 500 Baht. It was very entertaining with the local men betting and shouting on the fighters, who by the way, were aged between 10 and 14 years
old. The music section was pretty funny to watch, this dinky music played during the fight, then stopped in between rounds, these old guys sitting together with a drum and pipes. We got outside and had a nice corn on the cob from a street food seller then haggled with a tuk tuk driver to take us to a “ping pong” show. Yes, that’s right ladies and gentlemen; I cannot visit Bangkok on the sixth time in about four months and not have seen some Thai boxing or a ping pong show - it just wouldn’t be right. So, we got taken to a suitably seedy back street somewhere in Pat Pong (red light district) and after some negotiations on price we got in for 300 Baht each which included a free beer. Dark, mirrored and loud music, a sensory overload in what I can only assume resembled a disco in Grimsby in 1987, we were of course placed in the front row in front of the stage.
Anyone for Ping Pong?
I won’t go into too many details but let’s just go over what I did see, various ping pong balls being rather skillfully dropped into a glass from
a woman’s *whistles*. Other tricks included shooting a banana out of a *whistles* and catching it; opening a bottle of beer with a *whistle*. All different women of course, some were pretty, hot, old, haggard. One of the most impressive was drawing on a piece of paper using the power of *whistles* and writing “welcome to Thailand” and a picture of a bald man - one of whom was sitting uncomfortably opposite. We had some fun watching this bizarre spectacle and also the people inside watching it all, including couples and a rather funny Indian couple in their forties who seemed to be discussing the show by whispering into each other’s ears. Weird! The piece de resistance was a bit of a shock to the system, a woman gets up on stage and a man and basically they have sex on stage in about 10 different positions, he finishes off they stand up and bow. All during this is bloody Whitney Houston’s “Endless Love” being played, as if it’s some kind of romantic dance number. Disturbing!
Anyway, we got out of there, having seen it done it got the ping pong. The next day, AJ and I went to
the cinema to see Terminator: Salvation in what must be on of the most luxurious cinemas in the world. Set in a huge shopping mall, TV screens everywhere, plush seating areas, high high high, glass ceilings, long escalators, just another world really. AJ took lots of pictures. We all had to stand up at the beginning of the movie for the little short film/national anthem of Thailand, it’s so well put together and builds to such a crescendo that we both moved, must be something to do with all three of us having monarchy.
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