Monday, 21 April 2014

Bangkok & some realisations

"Even the book stands all sold the same books, giving me the impression that travelling here to 'find yourself' could only result in you becoming another version of everyone else here."

10-11 April

I was nervous as we landed in Bangkok. I had visions of what it would be like, mainly built upon hundreds of viewings of the film 'The Beach' over the years. I told myself that if I could just about enjoy Ho Chi Minh City the second time around, Bangkok should be ok.

Landing and passing through immigration and customs was much the same as anywhere else in the world except the immigration officers were dressed in the brightest most colourful tropical shirts you can imagine. Perhaps this would be the land of smiles after all!

We quickly and easily found our way to the train station that would take us to the city. It was just like being on the London Underground except we were up above the city.

It was all going so well until we reached the end of the line and needed a taxi to take us to our hotel. I'd read that the taxi drivers don't have the best knowledge of the city, and there is a problem with finding metered taxis who will actually use the meter!  We had all these problems, even with a map of the city and the road we needed marked we were greeted with shrugs. Eventually we went back to the official looking taxi stand by the station. The signs all said 'metered' but buy the time we found a driver who could read a map/knew where we were going he simply quoted us price when we were out of the station and away from help. Tired and frustrated we accepted the extortionate fare 'because of the traffic'.

Finally we arrived at the hotel. They gradually found our booking, informed us the free tuk tuk service was finished for the day and that they could no longer offer baggage storage for free in the first 24 hours. 'Recent policy updates' since I booked about a week before.

This was beginning to frustrate me. Bad WiFi not helping, bed bugs finally pissing me off (sorry for swearing Nan).

Khao San Road

We decided to go get our bearings and find the famous Khao San road. Rambruttri Road came first, and it's bars and restaurants lured us in for a cold one. With their better internet connection we got the chance to catch up with our friends on a group chat which lifted our spirits a LOT and resulted in Mark eating a scorpion, 'crunchy' being his only way to describe it.

When we reached Khao San road I must admit I was a little underwhelmed. Sure it was big and busy, but with so many clothing stands all selling the same stuff it more resembled Primark on any given Saturday than what I expected the 'gateway to south east Asia' to be. Even the book stands all sold the same books (The Holy Cow, The Beach, Shantaram) giving me the impression that travelling here to 'find yourself' or become someone different could only result in you becoming another version of everyone else here; eating the same, dressing the same, reading the same. But isn't that why so many people come here, to leave behind their monotonous and repetitive lives for something different. Will they just find the same with spicier food and more humidity. 'Same same, but different' as they say.

I went travelling because I knew it was now or never. I would never again perhaps have the time, money or freedom to spend months away from home with no responsibilities. I wanted to quench my wanderlust and come home ready for adult life. House, dog, kids - they are all on my list alongside travelling. Deep down I think I thought I'd become the chilled our girl with baggy elephant patterned trousers and a basket of fruit from the market, happy spending a year or so wondering, but that's just not me (well I mean, I have bought the trousers, but its only because they are so comfy). I'm beginning to get the feeling that if life is the same everywhere, I'd much rather be with those I love whilst living. I don't think Asia has the life I want.

But I am so thankful for this realisation. At the end of all this I wanted to be ready to go home, and though I still have months on the road, when the time comes I will be ready.

Just one of hundreds of Buddha statues in Wat Pho, Bangkok

The following day in Bangkok we checked out of the hotel and checked our bags into the 3 hours of free storage we were allowed. We headed to the Grand Palace, but the £15 entrance fee diverted us to neighbouring temple Wat Pho, which houses the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand. Inside we said 108 prayers for our family, friends and life's pleasures.

Saying 108 prayers for those we love

We spent the rest of the afternoon dozing by the hotel pool with our bags before a hodge podge boarding of our coach to Ko Samui and the longest journey of all so far (even our flight from the UK)!