Ahhh, Bangkok. How wonderful to be here again. Third time now and always a pleasure to be a guest here. Compared with the madness of India, the capital city of Thailand is like a tranquil, sleepy fishing village with relatively quiet car horns and no cows messing up the streets either. As soon as I stepped out of Bangkok airport I felt relaxed, calmer and fresh; ready to start the next part of my adventure.
Khao San Road is where most backpackers make a beeline for and I followed suit by booking a hotel smack bang on the street itself. Heart of the action location. As soon as I got out the taxi, the heat hit me instantly. Carrying my backpack was hardly helping matters but fortunately for me I found my hotel in quick time. It was dead centre of the street and just a ping pong shot away from all the bars heaving with sun scorched tourists decked out in Chang Beer t-shirts and dodgy tattoos. Bags dropped off and time to explore. I was pleased to see some of the old haunts I walked into,and staggered out of, many times previously. Not so pleasing was spotting the street food vendor, who gave me a severe bout of gut rot last time I was here, still serving pad thai dishes. My stomach was still recovering somewhat from Goa and could do without being reminded of past traumas.
In the evening I met up with some friends of mine from the USA and I had my first beer in a month after my self-imposed detox in India. A second, third and fourth quickly followed which gave me enough courage to eat a fried scorpion. Served on a stick, I munched this Asian delicacy which was burnt so much all I could really taste was charcoal. Still, another first on a trip full of firsts. We had a great night partying in various bars along Khao San Road until the early hours. Though the next day I felt like I had a trampolining team bouncing around my head. Being on the wagon for so long, I forgot how much pain a hangover can inflict. And did I learn my lesson?
The next night I did it all over again. This time with my Argentinian friends who I had first met in India a few weeks earlier. We proceeded to down a few cold drinks to celebrate being reunited. Before you know it, 2am rolls around and you’re swept up in the tidal wave of drunkenness that engulfs this section of Bangkok on a nightly basis. Two nights in a row. I am truly living the rock star lifestyle once more.
The next day, we arranged to meet at Wat Pho temple; home to the giant gold reclining Buddha. Inside one of rooms, the statue lay horizontally propped up on an elbow while tourists whizzed around trying to get the perfect photographic shot. The likeness of Buddha looked extremely calm and peaceful. How ironic as the city was currently anything but. Riots have been a regular occurrence of late with reports of people being shot and killed by the authorities amid angry clashes with anti-government factions in the streets. Barbed wire can be seen around most official buildings with a heavy army presence. However, Khao San Road has no time for such stuff. There’s drinking, shopping, tattooing and scorpion eating to be had.
It wasn’t until I ventured out for an afternoon stroll that I saw the wreckage from the riots for myself. Accidentally, I stumbled upon upturned, burned out vehicles strewn across one of main streets. A truck had it’s windows smashed, tyres slashed and been doused in graffiti while a nearby digger had similar damage except it was sporting a Thailand flag. Smiling tourists were climbing on board this discarded and destroyed vehicle to have their photos taken. The revolution will be televised and it will also be splashed across Facebook to accumulate ‘likes’. The strangest thing was that this carnage was only a 10 minute walk away from my hotel. By the time I had left the city, there were no fresh clashes on the streets. Thankfully.
For the rest of the day I took in a couple of religious monuments called the Golden Mount and Wat Arun. The latter may sound like the name of a Grand National winner, but it is actually a quite beautiful temple. Steep steps lead the way to the top and on all sides there are intricate carvings including those of several Asian elephants. These wouldn’t be the last elephants I would see on this leg of my journey.
Next stop for me in Thailand would be in the north at the country’s second largest city, Chiang Mai. Sleeper train booked. I left Bangkok around 10pm and was delighted when I saw my bed. Not only was it clean, it had a sheet, a pillow and a blanket. What a difference as the only things I got from an Indian sleeper train were a lack of sleep, a headache and a fart in my face. I felt like I was on the Orient Express. Look out, Chiang Mai. I’m on my way. The day before I had booked my hotel for first 2 nights there. It is called The Diva Hotel. I can only imagine what this place is like. I wonder if Mariah Carey is staying there? Hope not. Don’t want her warbling away butchering songs while I’m trying to sleep, thank you very much.