We buzz back across to Bangkok to pick up P's passport from the Embassy. We would have had it a lot sooner had it not been for Thai New Year and Easter holidays. Anyway, the FCO service is great and P has a shiny new passport firmly in her hand.
Can't get her Thai visa replaced til the following Monday (she's technically an illegal immigrant), so we pick a random place out of the book to visit for the weekend. Seven-hours (should have been 3 but the engine broke down) on a rickety train takes us south east out of Bangkok to Phetburi. We arrive late, sweating and starving, and spend the first ten minutes in the hotel room Christ-like in front of the air con unit.
Next morning move to a small teak guesthouse on the river, nearer the centre of town, and go for a wander in the drizzle. Its really off the beaten track and we cop loads of stares from the locals as we browse through the market, amazed at the prehistoric looking crabs for sale in buckets.
Rain clears and we hire a scooter and head 60km to the coast. Get a puncture
Saint & Greavsie bottom left.
on the way, which is fixed in an impressive 10 minutes by a roadside mechanic for a quid. We arrive in the seaside resort of Cha-am, weekend destination for partying Thais.
There's a huge screen set up on the seafront for the Manchester Derby, so we plonk ourselves down cross-legged with a few cans of Chiang beer and watch the game, along with a few hundred others. Paula switches into work mode and drools over the equipment. Some questionable health and safety issues, not least the projectors wrapped in bin bags in case it rains. A column of smoke rises behind the screen at one point, as something catches fire, but no-one seems to mind.
A dull game made more enjoyable by the live commentary from 2 blokes (a Thai version of Saints & Greavsie) perched at a desk in front of the screen. The last minute United winner is celebrated bizzarely by a troupe of cheerleaders who come on stage to 'I like to move it move it'. (Reminds me of my sister's made up 'Thriller' dance routines in the eighties.) Ride home in the dark with insects the size of sparrows bouncing off my head.
Next day we're off on a scooter again (swapped for a different one that doesn't weave so violently at speeds above 50kmh) to a nearby national park. Ten kilometres along a 'motorway', with huge trucks and buses thundering past. At one point we overtake a herd of cows being driven the wrong way up the hard shoulder. Arrive with numb buttocks just in time for lunch. I pick 20 fresh chillies out of my soup, then lose all feeling in my face for the rest of the day. Feed some big carp-like fish from a Temple of Doom style rope bridge across a lake, then sit in the shade to watch 2 almighty storms cross over the mountains in front of us.
We go for a walk through some woods, when an ant finds its way into my shorts and begins to bite me. I drop my bag and run along doing a little hopping dance, then pull down my pants to get it out, all the time patting myself like I'm on fire. This is all in full view of the restaurant we've just eaten in a few yards away. Immaturely, and quite insensitively, P finds this very
funny and does impressions of me throughout the rest of the day. I never do find the ant. In fact, it was probably a scorpion.
Food highlight is some crispy catfish, and a deep fried omelette with soft sweet shallots and a bit of chilli. Chew on this as we watch a lizard longer than my arm zig zag along the shallows in the river below, propelling itself with its long stripey tail.
Back to Bangkok by bus early the next day. P goes to get her visa sorted, along with a few hundred others, apparently stranded by some sort of volcano that has affected one or two airports in Europe. There's not much about it on the news. She submits to government bureacracy for a whole day and watches her passport move slowly from one pile to another behind a perspex screen.
I do some shopping and have lunch with the red shirt protesters. Lots of gazebos and tents under the shade of the sky train above. Various people asleep, lounging about, eating and swatting away flies. Loads of stalls selling red flags, t-shirts and bandanas. TVs on tables showing footage of the violence from the
previous week on a loop. A few stages with people shouting out of loud-hailers, with some muted cheering and clapping. The vibe is friendly and relaxed. Feels a bit like the last day of a festival, with piles of rubbish at the kerb and queues for stinking portaloos.
Airport the next morning for our flight out to country number two...
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