Crossing the Lao-Thai border over the Friendship Bridge that handshakes the two countries across the vast Mekong River, I arrived for the second time on my journey to the Kingdom of Thailand. I got yapping to German Ulrika on the bus and while we waited on the platform at Nong Khai for our nighttrain, it was like a travellers reunited with familiar faces popping up all over the place. First the French folk from the elephant trekking who ive seen at every city since then. They cant keep away from me! ; ) Then American Blake from the minibus to Vang Vieng and then older Finnish dude Bob who Id been yakking to on the bus to Vientianne - they were all there!
While waiting for German Ulrika, I got talking to another lone traveller on the platform, Martha from Finland. Once the national anthem had been played, we boarded the train where I took a wander through the carriages and managed to find what I can only describe as the party car, basically a buffet car-come-bar but playing loud techno music. With this, I returned down the carriages to press gang all the people I knew and
Crossing the Friendship Bridge
Entering Thailand's border from Laos
canvas the party car. What a laugh that ride was. Belting through the Thai countryside in the party car of the night train listening to techno music and watching our train conductor dance like a mad man. By the end, he was dripping sweat and managed to take in a few bob from the smiling punters through his performance.
When we arrived in Bangkok at 6am, Ulrika, Martha and I shared a taxi and were driven to Koah San road, the tourist hotspot of Bangkok. Finding a place to crash was a bit of a nightmare at that time in the morning so we decided to have breakfast in an Irish bar where the tourists were still up from the night before, playing pool and drunkenly schmoozing the remaining local Thai ladies doing the rounds for some last-hour business. At the start of the new day in Bangkok, the national anthem was broadcast from the loud speakers on the streets and everyone stopped solomnly in their tracks until the ditty had concluded.
I only had 1 night in Bangkok before flying to Japan and once I had checked into my hotel, I noticed a taylor next to the
Team Night Train!
Blake (America), Marta and Bob (Finland), John and Tom (Sweden)
foyer where I could score off my only aim in Bangkok - to get a custom fitted suit. The taylor was awesome and got me all measured up, then had me back in twice throughout the day for refitting and adjustments. By 9 in the evening, the suit was complete, for the modest sum of $150 US!
While talking on the nighttrain with Martha, her 'must do' suggestion while in Bangkok was to go to a ping pong show (use your imagination!) My taylor advised me that the area I would have to go to for this "interesting experience" was Patpong, where the majority of Bangkok's sleazy shenanigans goes on. It was pretty late though and I was against wandering around Bangkok's red light district alone so I went into the bar next to my hotel to see if I could meet anyone to hang out with. Luckily, I met Mikel, from Finland who asked if I wanted to play pool and before we knew it, we were in a souped up tuk-tuk (the driver was busting wheelies in this thing from the lights!!) on our way to Patpong. Mikel turned out to be a seasoned Thai veteran and
had actually been before so when we got to the ping pong place and were asked for double the regular entrance fee, he was savvy enough to say "Forget it" before the doorman changed his tact and let us in for the proper price.
My advice for anyone visiting Bangkok is: dont bother with the ping pong show. It was pretty bad. Nevertheless, there were about 50 or 60 other tourists seated around the small stage and it was interesting to watch the nervous expressions of new comers brushing in through the curtain and finding seats as quickly and as inconspicuously as they could and hoping there was noone they knew in the audience, like their next door neighbour or something. After being torpeedo'ed on the foot by a badly aimed banana and having a balloon burst in my hand by a flying dart, Mikel and I made our excuses and left and made our way to a bar and a nightclub for a few drinks. In all, an interesting and certainly "different" evening from the norm...
The next day, I checked out of my hotel and whiled away the hours until my night-time flight by wandering around
Koah San road and buying trinkets and counterfeit goods. 1 night in Bangkok was enough for me and I was happy to be on the shuttle bus to the airport and eagerly anticipating the final country on the trip. At check-in for my Singapore Airlines flight to Osaka, I felt like I was already in the land of the rising sun. The solitary caucasian white dude, among a crowd of Japanese travellers, I kissed a 5 month love affair with the sun goodbye and we rocketed into the night sky towards Japan...
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