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Published: August 17th 2010
1.3 billion people in China and I bump into a friend from UCD on an Air Asia flight! It’s the same guy, Danny, I met in Shanghai. We’ve stopped deliberately meeting up, there’s no point. Everyone backpacking in Asia just ends up doing the same route anyway!
From a combination of the Beijing Smog and sleeping under air conditioning units for about a week I ended up getting a pretty bad cold. It feels really strange coughing and sneezing when it’s about 35 degrees. First day in Bangkok I just about made it to the Vietnamese Embassy to apply for a visa, then went to a pharmacy, got some cough bottle and passed out for the rest of the day. Of all the potential ways I thought I’d end up passing out in Bangkok cough bottle wasn’t exactly high on the list.
I didn’t say anywhere near the infamous Khao San Road but I figured it was worth a look. It’s pretty tame during the day, more or less exactly what you’d expected: Benidorm transported to Thailand. There were a good few people around but it didn’t seem particularly busy. The red shirts may have retreated but I’m
guessing visitor numbers are still nowhere near what they once were.
Beyond the Khao San Road there’s more to Bangkok than Lady Boys, middle aged sex tourists and mix ups between the two groups. To be honest though there’s not a whole lot more. Bangkok’s three main (only) tourist attractions not directly related to the sex trade are all in the same district. Wat Phra Kaew is best known for its emerald Buddha, the adjoining Grand Palace was once home to the Thai royal family and Wat Pho is home to the largest reclining Buddha in the world. They won’t let you into the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew unless you’re” modestly dressed” (i.e. long pants). Ironic given you can commit any sin imaginable for about €20 less than 10 minutes away. I was surprised how impressive the temples were. I’d only really heard about the city’s nefarious side before visiting.
I picked up my Vietnam visa that afternoon and guess who I bumped into at the embassy? Turns out you don’t even need to apply at the embassy anymore. Keen to capitalise on Thailand’s misfortune Vietnam has eased visa regulations to lure more tourists east. You
can just purchase a visa online, print it out and show it at the border.
I went out that night with my friend Danny before we split up and went our separate ways for 2 weeks. Wherever we went I was offered every type of sex and sex show imaginable but my friend wasn’t asked once! Something about me obviously screams sex tourist. Even men walking around with their families were being offered sex. Although to be fair who goes on a family holiday to Bangkok! Even Josef Fritzl left the kids in the basement.
One night out in Bangkok was probably more than enough for me. It also convinced me that if I went to a full moon party I would be one of those 3 or 4 backpackers who die every year. 10 days in a brutally repressive military dictatorship is definitely the safer option.
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