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Published: January 27th 2008
Monday morning at Heathrow airport seemed more like we were going back to work to a really enviable job, it felt good to be alive. The flight to Kuwait was near empty, we were given leg room seats by the emergency doors. Before it got dark only bright sunshine shone for us below and above the clouds.
An Arab child that sat to my left was having many mad coughing fits, I truly sympathised with his distress as my journey back to England was much the same nightmare. The bark I mentioned previously hurt that much I couldn't recline in my seat and sleep as my lungs and upper back would start exploding if I did. Nor could I lean forward, as it was the dead of night and the seat in front had reclined back to its fullest position. This Arab child clearly had no idea that there are certain etiquettes that must be remembered when coughing in a public, air conditioned and very confined space, this would be to simply raise your hand to your mouth or use some kind of other barrier like a tissue. When the flight attendants gave the safety demonstrations they forgot to show
him this hand over mouth procedure, neither had his mother advised him on such a courtesy.
Kuwait airport was a blast, nine hours waiting in an Arab McDonald's smoking area, the smoking law has not changed here at all as everyone lit up and huddled around me, the tea was piss weak. When we arrived in Bangkok some 26 hours after we first boarded in London, I was topsie turvey with the time.
It took us a whole week to adjust, so we didnt move from the busy Khaosan Road area within the Banglamphu district. I felt unusually tired as England really drained the life out of me. So much so that during my first week here my brain wouldn't function beyond remembering to breathing in and out, watching illegal films and sleeping. This street is similar to London's Portobello Road on market day, possibly more so during the 1977 Jubilee week celebrations. This street is alive and busy with a very high ratio of white males (mostly Europeans) aged between 16 to 90 years old all clinging on to very young Thai ladies between the ages of 16 to 21, compared to the smaller
ratio of the rest of us like the crusty hippie traveller types, American gap year students, young families from Shire kinds of places, religious nuts, proper religious respectful monks, the tattoo & piercings tribes, the Gay and Lesbian fraternities and the beautiful suitably fashionable wealthy elite, this place is for everyone.
In England we queue up for everything, here they form rows, rows of benches for massages, rows of table and chairs to eat and drink from, rows of shoes as you have to take them off every time you enter a building, rows of reclining chairs for great reflexology, rows of long tables for facials and mass waxing sessions for men and women, rows of mats for Thai massage and possibly praying as they are very religious people. Street vendors have glass boxed bicycles that sell chopped up fresh fruits in plastic bags that costs pence to buy, along with fresh made Pad Thai and fried grubs, stick insects and crunchy cockroach looking creatures. The Thai's do sweetcorn on cobs, loose in bags, in small tubs and as yoghurt sold in the Seven Eleven. This street is noisy all day long until about 2 am with many heaving
bars and restaurants and the northern region trades women wearing traditional decorative hats all rubbing the backs of wooden frogs that makes that noise wild frogs make. Ranees
is a place with much charm and I stayed here 8 years ago. This was the place where I first heard the terrible news that English sporting personality Jill Dando had been murdered, it was one of those John Lennon shooting, Princess Diana crashing, Twin Towers 9-11 collapsing moments in time. I had my second out of body experience up in one of the top rooms here too, but that's a whole other story. Ranees does not function as a guest house any more but it still reigns as the best place to eat in town and it is one of very few places to have free wireless internet.
Sanskrit name means Invincible.
After spending months visiting old ruins and trying to understand the many customs, rituals and religions in the Mayan and Inca Americas, I now find myself in search of temples, pagodas, Wats, Buddhism, meditations, yoga's and Zen for myself, I connect more with them here than I do in south America. The old ancient first
capital of Thailand is called Ayutthaya, this is found 80 km north of Bangkok and it was already getting too hot in January to walk around comfortably. Our guide for the day looked as if he had just stepped out from the Ming dynasty, he had many strands of very long white hair growth which spouted from the big black mole on his lower cheek, the whiskers wafted in the air around his shoulder. It was a great day out as we waltzed around this graveyard for temples. It was founded in 1351 by U Thong who later became Rama hero of the Ramayana epic ruler of the arts. In 1685 it had a thriving population of over one million people, double that of London at the time, but half that in per square footage of London at that time too as it spread over a land mass of only 4 km, this small area was protected by a 12 km high wall. It grew over the years to be the nation of Siam.
History claims that the English were just one of forty nationalities who settled here at this time, all of these countries were allowed to settle
outside this walls perimeters but they had to provide something of value to the community as a whole. It is documented that he Japanese brought their finest Samurai to act as security and body guards to the Ayutthaya dignitaries, the Indians provided great restaurants, the Chinese provided acupuncture and medicine centres in every district, the Germans efficiently ran the banks and businesses, the Dutch cultivated all the pretty flowers and (medicinal) green wacky fun stuff so people could just relax, the English factory workers and labourers that repatriated there could not work because the unions claimed it was the 'wrong kind of heat' for their workers and so asked if they could be put on benefits until the weather cooled down a bit, the Ayutthaya's were sick of all this winging and called in the Polish and Czech nations at half the costs to get the job done on time and within budget. This left the English to moan that there was no hope for them what with all these immigrants they just freely let in to this golden capital of Siam, who swamped their ghettos and stole all their houses and jobs. But it all came to an abrupt
end on 1767 when neighbouring Burma who were the silent ones at the time and the ones to watch out for as they stormed in tearing down the high wall and captured all the above, taking thousands as prisoners back to Burma to prison camps. This place was then burnt and left for the jungle to claim it until modern man and tour operators saw potential. So the Ayutthaya people originally had high hopes calling it Invincible!
We visited the second largest reclining Buddha where we stuck gold leaf on it and said a prayer. We also witnessed performing elephants rocking from side to side in semi madness, desperate to run free from men in clown uniforms wielding very sharp sticks that they beat them with. The holidaying family unit would ride these show animals up and down the main road like royalty back in the days of the Raj and much fun was had by small children as the elephants that weigh a small ton rose up on their back legs while some idiot balanced on his forehead and fed him a banana. It felt too cruel to stay and watch.
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