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Published: December 23rd 2012
Whoever you are Thailand will provide you with some unforgettable experiences. I can promise you that.
I began my stay in Thailand near Khao San Road, the backpacker district of Bangkok. On my first night I found several places where I could obtain various false IDs and certificates claiming that I had graduated in any discipline I fancied from a university of my choice. Tattoo shops along the road advertised and promised that ' we use a clean needle every time'- always a little disconcerting- and at night several ladies pushed carts of cooked scorpions, cockroaches and all manner of hideous insects for your consumption. Insects aside the food in Bangkok was great.
Probably one of the most bizarre yet unique experiences I had in Bangkok was visiting the Siriraj Medical Museum at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok. The museum is, in a nutshell, stomach churning. It's a medical and forensic museum and we went there because the guide book told us that it displayed many everyday implements that had actually been used as murder weapons including, most amusingly, a dildo. In all honesty it was for the comedy value of the dildo that we chose to visit the museum
but I would later pay the price for this stroke of adolescent humour.
What the guidebook refrained from informing us was that the museum also contains, amongst others, the mummified remains of a serial killer who was executed in the 1950s. There are also graphic pathologist photos showing various causes of death such as axes and gun shots, and all manner of babies, adults and body parts bobbing about in phemaldehyde. If you're feeling brave, google it. if you're feeling really brave and almost invincible then google image it, preferably not too soon after lunch. By the time we got to the parasite section I'd had to start taking deep breaths and the hilarity of the dildo had paled in to insignificance. On another occasion, whilst taking a boat trip along the river, I looked overboard to watch some creature's intestines float past. These particular parts of Bangkok are not for the feint hearted.
Nor should the feint hearted stray to Patong, on the large Thai island of Phuket. I have to say that the beach in Patong is beautiful and the sea is unbelievably blue, clear and inviting. You can hire sunloungers for next to nothing and
the beach is clean and full of families. At night Patong is....something else entirely. Bangla Road is the focal point of Patong's nightlife. Bar after bar, older Western gentleman after older Western gentleman looking for a good time and any number of nimble south-east Asian Russian swinging round a pole, their faces locked in varying expressions of boredom. Being two women my friend and I thought that a night on Bangla Road would be relatively hassle free and chose a bar where our cocktails were served in glasses in the shape of a naked woman. However, it seems it doesn't matter who you are, the main aim of the bars is to get you to spend as much money on alcohol as possible through the medium of...connect 4. Yes, across Thailand this is a common tool to encourage you to buy shots for staff (who somehow always seem to win) and generally spend more money. At first it was quite entertaining because we weren't any under obligation to buy staff drinks and declined to do so. However, when, after a couple of sherries, a 'go-go girl' managed to get us to buy her a drink because she beat us at Jenga it ceased to be funny. Another bizarre experience on Bangla Road is that you can be walking down the road, minding your own business, when someone will thrust either a chameleon or some sort of bush baby at you and charge you £2 for the pleasure of having your photo taken with it.
Whilst in Patong we plucked up the courage to see one of Thailand's most infamous events- a Ping Pong show. After haggling the promoter down to a price of £4 we gingerly entered a bar to find a women on stage playing a trumpet. And when I say playing I ask you to use your imagination. My brain refuses to bring back too many details of the show but I can tell you that it seems that certain female bodies can also secrete two baby terrapins, 4 goldfish, a long string of razor blades and the inevitable collection of ping pong balls.
Bizarre forms of entertainment continued when we travelled to the party island of Ko Phi Phi. At night most people head to the beachfront bars. To draw the crowds each bar puts on a fire show. This usually starts with some of the staff juggling with or breathing fire. Later on in the night, when everyone's been drinking cocktails by the child sized bucket (I joke not) and inhibitions and common sense are beginning to fray, audience participation begins. The staff douse a large skipping rope with petrol and party goers can then have a go at jumping over a flaming skipping rope at ever increasing speeds. And when the novelty of that wears off they set a bar on fire and you can take a turn at trying to limbo under it. The place reeks of petrol and every now and again someone loses their eyelashes, if they're lucky. Those of you who witnessed me rolling around a Cypriot beach with my dress on fire at Zoe's wedding will be glad to know I decided not to participate. The fact that, at 30, I found myself lying about my age quite a bit means I'm probably not included in the target audience of this activity.
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