Outro

Lotus Flowers

“Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night.”
 – Hal Borland

The time has finally come for my summer to draw to a close. Bangkok has whizzed past in a blur of alcohol and cheap massages.

I’m not viewing my homecoming as the end, per say, more like a new start in a different place. To be perfectly honest I’d been looking forward to escaping the omnipotent smell of fish sauce.

Khao San Road - great spot for a big of haggling over typical backpacker goodies: baggy clothes, jewellery, pirated dvds etc etc

Khao San Road – great spot for a big of haggling over typical backpacker goodies: baggy clothes, jewellery, pirated dvds etc etc

Don't be alarmed - it's not me. Sandra, my mexican room mate, decided on a slightly clichéed visit to one of the multiple Bangkok tattoo parlours.

Don’t be alarmed – it’s not me. Sandra, my Mexican room mate, decided on a, slightly clichéd, visit to one of the multiple Bangkok tattoo parlours.

 

As has come to be a habit when visiting new cities, I took a trip to the National Art Gallery. It was in pretty bad condition; It appeared of going through some sort of construction work, with most of the building empty. However there was an inspiring little exhibition in an odd set-up outside of the main building. I was rather taken with a duo of intricate and lively collages by a man called Sittichoke Wichian entitled ‘Living Ways, Bonds and Happiness’. Here’s one of the two:
Bangkok National art gallery

Below is another piece which caught my eye as it reflected the craftsmanship that’s typical throughout South East Asia – silk weaving. It depicts a series of poses of a shrouded nun, through gaps in the indigo silk work.

Bangkok national art gallery

I’ve also tried to make the most of the fantastic street food in the last few days. My staple diet of curry, pad thai, Mango sticky rice and tofu stir fry extended into breakfast. Here’s my eight a.m tofu green curry!

I have to admit though, birds eye chillies in a green curry first thing in the morning are not so easy on the stomach.

I have to admit though, birds eye chillies in a green curry first thing in the morning are not so easy on the stomach.

I’m still not entirely won over by Bangkok, being a little put off by the overly aggressive approach of some of the vendors and the slight sketchy feeling you get from certain places at night time. However, I can’t deny that it’s a fun place to visit. It’s particularly great at the end of a trip as you can stock up on souvenir’s and $10 full body massages before heading back to reality. In my case, the return was a lavish three day journey, the highlight being the night spent on the stone floor of Mumbai airport.

Needless to say, it’s good to be home. It was a bit of a shock to the system to descend into the freezing grey ‘mizzle’ but as Steinbeck wisely puts it in his ‘Travels with Charley‘ “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” I’m heading out on a whole new adventure in a few short days as I move up to London to finally re-start university. This is by no means the end – more like a respite from excessing moving about the place  – with any luck there will be many more summers to come so WATCH THIS SPACE!

I really want to thank-you all for being such a huge support to me throughout this adventure – I really do appreciate it more than I can say. I’ll leave you with a quote from the brilliant Albert Camus as I attempt to descend once again into the charted waters of the bitter cold. Let’s hope the unpleasant days of the 2011 winter, the last one that I was around to experience, are behind me.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

~Albert Camus

Khao San Road by day

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Eye of the Tiger

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The most magnificent creature in the entire world, the tiger is.”
 – Jack Hanna

Today had been extremely challenging in many ways but also worth the trouble. Having been up the entire night with a fresh bought of illness and fever I was very disinclined to carry on with the tour that I’d booked the previous evening. However, it was non-refundable. So I grabbed a toilet roll and off I went!

This was perhaps a little stupid. I proceeded to faint in the middle of the street on arriving at the Dumnoen Sadwak floating markets and then collapsed on the ‘squat’ style toilet. Not pleasant. Thankfully I managed to perk up fairly quickly with the help of some fellow tourists and a noodle soup, so I hopped on a little boat to float down the market. It was disappointingly swarming with tourists, which was a little frustrating – slightly idealised views of the markets off films also left me feeling ever so slightly disappointed. Highlights however included seeing giant monitor lizards swimming about in the rivers as we floated by!

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Floating market bangkok

water lilly

Dumnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok

Snake Dumnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok

Dumnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok

We then headed off to the bridge over the river Kwai which apparently is pretty famous, although I must admit I hadn’t actually heard of it until then. The bridge itself, part of the old rail track from Bangkok to Myanmar was fairly unexciting. Walking through the market, however, I found a man with a pet 8-month year old Jaguar which he was letting people feed for a small tip. I know you probably shouldn’t encourage these things but just look at it! Of course, I couldn’t resist!

Feeding a Jaguar

Young Jaguar

The last stop was ‘Tiger temple’. About two hours from Bangkok is a monastery (now steadily becoming a tourist attraction) which also doubles up as a wildlife rescue sanctuary. The ‘temple’ seems more like a miniature game park – except with the odd shrine, Buddha, monk and meditation centre dotted about. It gets its name as the monks reared tigers there by hand and, having increased in number, with cubs being thoroughly familiar with human company from the word ‘go’, has resulted in a huge number of incredibly docile beasts. At first I thought they must have been drugged but we were assured by the American volunteers at the sanctuary that they were just naturally lethargic in the afternoon heat and total unperturbed by humans. It was certainly a fantastically novel experience!

Tiger Temple Bangkok

Tiger Temple Meditation Centre

Tiger Temple Monk

Tiger Temple Buddha

I now have some serious sleep catching up to do – particularly as we’ve got an eight hour journey to Cambodia starting early tomorrow morning!

Gimme Shelter

“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,

Gang aft agley,

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promis’d joy!”

   – From ‘To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough’ by Robert Burns

 Plan: 20:15 transfer flight from Thailand – Tucked up in bed in pre-booked accommodation in Yangon by 9:30 after a long couple of days travelling.

Reality: Wandering round the streets of Bangkok in the rain at 11 at night, alone, luggage in tow trying to find a place to spend the night.

How did this happen?  Well. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve had a ‘testing’ day.

I arrived into Bangkok airport, frail and exhausted, at around 6 o’clock local time after two long flights and a transit period in Delhi. The ‘jet airways’ Indian plane food had not made the experience any easier on my stomach. I won’t go into detail on that point. I head straight to the transfer desk stopping to inquire first that my luggage was going to be on the flight – I didn’t want a repeat of Rio. The young women at the desk promptly told me, with smiles on their faces I may add, that I wouldn’t be allowed to enter the country without a visa. What the hell was all of that bollocks I read about a ‘Visa On Arrival’? Absolute nightmare. Clearly my thorough research had been outdated or just plain wrong.

At this stage I had a minor break down as all the difficulties this presented became apparent to me: I would need to go and get a Visa from the Myanmar embassy in the city tomorrow. Of course they gave no helpful information such as how long this might take or where it was – they just guessed a couple of days. I therefore managed to push my case firmly enough to get my flight rescheduled for two days time. I then frantically headed off to find internet – calling the hotel I’d booked to warn them of my delayed arrival as I went.

The major problem in all this was the complete lack of English spoken. In fact, as my story develops the language barrier becomes increasingly crippling. This is actually the first time I’ve been to a country which doesn’t have a European-based first language (or places where pretty much everyone speaks English anyway) so I felt completely isolated.

I found out that it was in fact possible to get a visa in one day – with lots of queuing and a day spent at the embassy to look forward to but I couldn’t really be picky at this stage. So I hurried to the arrivals (being now shut off from the previous desk that’d been ‘helping’ me) and after 10 minutes of frantic searching found someone who could change my flight again to tomorrow.

Great. Well now at least I only had one night in a strange city to worry about. As far as strange cities go, Bangkok is pretty outstanding. It seems like a scene out of a vivid nightmare – a chaotic mesh of roads crossing over each other in the mess and rain. Taxi’s are the least of the evils but even then, you can’t be sure that you’re not about to re-enact ‘taken’ – but crucially without Liam Neeson and his ‘particular set of skills’. I looked up a hotel near the embassy, gave the name to a taxi driver and off we went.

Of course, it’s never that simple. He took me to a different hotel with a similar name. I’d even pointed at a map! It became increasingly apparent that even the taxi drivers don’t have a clue about places in the city. So I had to appeal to another non-English speaking lady at the reception of a hotel miles away from where I needed to be with a price tag as high as Mount Everest on the rooms per night. She thankfully helped me to order another taxi which, of course, had no Idea what I was talking about. I eventually managed to break through with ‘Myanmar embassy’ so we headed there where he promptly dropped me in the middle of nowhere.

Here we are back where I started. I did manage to find a hostel eventually, thank-god. Fingers crossed that tomorrow will be easier.

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Ironically this is the hostel I’ve sought shelter in. Not really feeling the love right now. Forgive the absence of photos – have not really felt it appropriate to whack out the camera as of yet.