|Alex ‘n’ Dan on Khao San Rd|
The week had flown, but we’d had so much fun. Unfortunately, time usually goes go all too quickly when on holidays. We were very excited; we were going back to our beloved Bangkok (people either love it or hate it … we love it!), where amongst many things, we would also be hanging out with our very special friend Dan.We had met Dan in Laos six years ago, but had then also visited him in his native Canada three years ago. He’d been teaching English in Thailand for the last year. He was coming from up north, where he was teaching, and we from the islands in the south … our meeting date was the day before new year.
|My chrissy pressie from Dan|
Dan had organised for us to stay at The Suan Dusit Place, and whilst we thought it was lovely and both clean and friendly, we felt that it was a ‘little far from the action’. So … we decided to hit our famous (and old stomping ground) Khao San Road (or as Dan likes to call it Khao San ‘freak’ Road), also known as the backpacker’s mecca! Dan is the easiest person to travel with – we left a note telling him we were making our way there and that we would call tomorrow and let him know where we were staying as he was not due to arrive until late afternoon on New Year’s Eve.
|Nothin’ like a few electricity lines!|
Khao San Road was only a short taxi ride away, and despite beiing crazy and busy and packed and mad, we felt at home right away. We headed
straight towards our old favourite, Lamphu House, but that was packed to the rafters! Pensiri recognised us straight away and told us that we should have booked! C’est la vie! So, we did what we normally do … walked around, checked places, checked prices, and chose! We ended up at the New Siam 3, very close to Lamphu House. It was comfortable, clean and friendly; all that we needed. We got ourselves organised in no time at all, and soon ‘hit’ Khao San Road. Although it was mostly as we remembered it (we had only been here a couple of years ago), we were still able to observe how much it had grown, so to speak; more food places, more restaurants, more food vendors and certainly more tourists! My little Asian backwater was gone! What was once intrepid travel, was now open slather. Whilst the essence of the place was still there, I cringed at a number of things … the locals ‘dressed up’ in hilltribe clothing and selling trinkets on the street in order to make a living, kids and teenagers holding up signs urging ‘falang’ (foreigners) to drink (obviously we have a reputation … like you can’t buy alcohol or get tanked at home!) and both women and men dressed up in THE most inappropriate clothing. But clearly the circus, oops show, must go on!
|Does this even require a comment?!|
The first hour was spent walking up and down that famous road observing; I am sure that I was a social anthropologist in my last life! I am probably secretly one in this life too! Human behaviour fascinates me; actually humans fascinate me. Dinner time – that’d be Pad Thai, street style. Cheap (very) and cheerful! Without a doubt, the best food I have tried in Thailand is the street food. You might get sick! You might get food poisoning! Yeh, I might get hit by a car too! I want to live my life to the max and savour every little bit of it, including food! It had been a pretty huge day, from leaving the island to munching on street food late at night … that night our sleep was well-deserved.
|Food time is always a good time for Alex|
Friday 31 December 2010, New Year’s Eve day we woke up, and were on a mission … well, at least I was. Alex and I had written a list of the things we had to do. Going to the dentist, having a massage (well, several!) and going shopping (for both clothes and ‘computery’ type stuff) were on top of the list. We would try and get some of this done before meeting Dan and Ku (Dan’s girlfriend) later that day. We had a relaxing day and fitting a lot of this in was not a problem. We later came home and got ready to end the ‘noughties’. We met Dan and Ku at their hotel. It was like meeting up with a long lost friend; Dan has become one of those special people one meets on their travels and I know that we will always be friends. When we hugged, it was like no time had passed at all. After a decent round of hugs we made our way to the area around Sukhumvit Road where apparently there were to be fireworks. Dan suggested that we eat in the area of Sukhumvit that was effectively Little Arabia – why not, always willing to give something different a go! We had a lovely meal in a small Arabic restaurant; the hummous was particularly good! And I must say, yes it did feel like little Arabia, as people from all parts of the Middle East and northern Africa appeared to congregate there. Globalisation has done many things to many people. In a world where everyone seems to live everywhere, racism seems like a ridiculous concept, the comedy of the absurd! I have never really understood the concept of racism, and often wonder why people struggle to accept each human being for who they are. I had better not even get onto this bandwagon, otherwise I’ll never get off (another blog, another day)!
|New year’s fireworks|
It was almost 11.00pm when we left the restaurant, and the idea was to walk towards the area of Sukhumvit where the people and fireworks would be. As the biggest countdown in Bangkok happens in Central World Square, we made our way towards it. It was, in good ol’ Aussie lingo, absolutely chockers! If there were rafters, they would have collapsed! If getting up close and personal ain’t your thing, this certainly wasn’t the place to be! It was bumper to bumper, with locals and foreigners alike. The countdown was quite tame, I thought, and then off went the fireworks, which I must say were pretty impressive. I pondered on all the places I had had the good fortune to wrap up the new year in … and there have been many, including Christchurch, Quito (Ecuador), Samoa and Nicaragua. I have definitely had, and continue to have a good life! Not luck, just choice! After the last snap, crackle and pop everyone started to disperse, and I suddenly felt extremely thankful that we were leaving a celebration and not some disaster, as a quick getaway would have been impossible! There were people moving in every which direction! It is here that we parted ways with Dan, and agreed to meet tomorrow. Alex and I had to walk quite a way (it was so packed I felt like bleating) before then having to wait a long time for a taxi, and then … that taxi ride seemed to take forever as there were people and cars everywhere …
|Welcome to Bogan central!|
… Meanwhile back at the ranch, that’d be Khao San Road, the drunken and disorderlies, injected with alcohol and probably a plethora of other substances, were being their OTT (over the top) obnoxious, loud, bogan and inappropriate selves. As they say in Spanish ‘tierra tragame’, or ‘earth, swallow me up’! At that moment (and there have been many), I was SO embarrassed to be a foreigner! We watched the circus for a while and then slinked away, back to our rooms. If tourists and travellers have ever wondered why some people from some countries think that foreigners are inappropriate, all of their questions would have been answered on this night.
|Good morning … Bangkok!|
New Year’s Day was a relaxing day; we got up late, had some breakfast, wandered around Khao San Rd and Banglamphu to do some shopping, and later met Dan and Ku. Yes, I do occasionally relax! Sunday was the Chatachuk Market. I just love this place! Thirty five hectares and 8000 stalls, this market sees some 20,000 people pass through it every weekend. There is not a solitary thing that cannot be found here. We went early, and finished late! Dan and Ku came for a while and then left. I was, more than a woman on a mission, I was on a marathon. Alex is a pretty patient person, but almost eight hours later, he was totally over it! Armed with all I’d set out to buy, I was a happy camper! That night we caught up with Dan and said our goodbyes as he was going back up north the next day, where he works as an English teacher. We were not so sad, as he will soon be in Australia to do a Master’s in Education (teaching English as a second language).
|More street food|
As would be expected, we spent our last two days packing it all in, both metaphorically as well as physically. We went to the dentist (sooooooo much cheaper than Australia, although it has gone up in the last few years) where we had our teeth cleaned, and in my case, I had a filling (which had, strangely enough, fallen out on the morning of our appointments). A few more massages, street food, some roti at a small Muslim restaurant we have been going to for years … the usual. We have been to Bangkok so many times now, that we just know what to do and how to do it. Ho-hum? Never!
|Saying goodbye, Bangkok airport|
And so, as the old adage goes, ‘All good things must come to an end’. We had to get up early to catch our flight and so the night before saw us packing our backpacks. I first looked at what we had bought, and then I looked at our backpacks. I really could not see how all that was sprawled all over our double bed and on the floor was going to fit in. Amongst all the stuff we had bought there were no nick-knacks or dust-collectors (we only buy clothes and things that we can use … I made this decision years ago, as I am not a hoarder and I do not like clutter). Included were six cushions for our benches (our table at home has two benches and not chairs) – I seriously could not see where they were going to go, or how they were going to fit in. Somehow, however, in true backpacker form, we filled EVERY tiny little bit of our backpacks, to the point where we thought we were going to bust the zips, yet still managed to be under the weight required. I should not have been so surprised; it’s an artform that we have perfected over the years.
|One last meal before boarding the plane|
An organised taxi to the airport? Nah! We got up, armed with our (by now) very heavy backpacks, and flagged a taxi down! We’ve done this a million times, and doing it ourselves has become second nature. The rest is the same old … arrive at the airport, check in, board the plane, in my case sleep, arrive home … and then start planning the next trip. And there’s always a ‘next trip’ looming on the horizon …. who said you ‘work to live’ not ‘live to work’? Welcome to our world!
“Religion is the opiate of the people” – Karl Marx
Next: Our stopover in Singapore before touching back down in Melbourne.
|Beer Lao, Alex’s pressie … in house joke|
|New friends Lili & Jaime from Brazil|
|I always knew Ronnie was evil!|
|My obsession with Ronnie|
|I love this!|
|Welcoming 2011 Thai style|
|Happy New Year with Ku and Dan|