Thursday, 1 March 2007

Hua Hin, Bangkok tattoos and Isaan.

Baby elephant
We caught a train from Hua Hin to Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. It took five hours and cost 65p for a seat on a wooden bench. It was nice watching the rice paddies, mountains and palm trees through the open windows with a welcome breeze on our faces. We found a room near Hualampong train station and rode the subway to Patpong where you can buy tons of fake stuff at the night market. If you're bored of shopping you can have a beer in one of the surrounding gogo bars that are nestled, not so discreetly, alongside the stalls. The sleazy nightlife attracts sex tourists who mingle seamlessly with the shoppers. What a place! We caught a noisy tuk-tuk home after spotting our first Thai elephant, ironically, in the middle of this huge metropolis.

Chao Praya River
Interestingly, Bangkok is called Krungtep in Thai. Why does it have two names? No idea. We took a boat down the choppy Chao Phraya river which dissects Bangkok and headed for the backpacker's ghetto of Kao San Road. KSR is a decompression chamber for newly arrived Westerners. It's a lively place that never seems to sleep. I got some Chinese characters tattooed on my arm here (世界公民 = Global Citizen) for £15 before moving into a decrepit hostel for £1.50/night.

Bangkok tattoos
I've met some intriguing characters here. A 30yo Irish boxer/musician, a 50yo Aussie historian looking to be an English teacher, a Northern Irish heroine addict (who got busted by the Thai police while I was there), a drug dealer from Manchester (who's done time in both the UK and Thailand), an old cockney geezer with 6 kids in 6 different countries who lives in India, a Burmese t-shirt seller, a gay Thai lad who's saving to become a ladyboy once he's shagged enough foreigners to pay for the operations, a retired Canadian airline pilot and an old Brummie who's just written a book about Cambodia. You meet all sorts in Bangkok!

I did a lot of drinking in the hostel with these guys. The one thing they all have in common is a self-destruct mechanism that they push to the limit. Every night we'd sit and drink shit-loads of cheap beer and smoke until our lungs ached. Needless to say I participated with schoolboy-like enthusiasm and came to the conclusion after a week that this place will kill you sooner rather than later.

Tuk tuk
We did do some normal things like take a canal boat down the Seb Sen canal to visit Sukhumvit Road. This is Bangkok's Regent St but also hosts some of Bangkok's notorious nightlife; namely Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy. We strolled around Nana Plaza at dusk as everybody was preparing for the night ahead. This involved hundreds of women doing makeup and hair at various points within this three floored drinking complex while European men hung around boozing in anticipation. We took a tuk-tuk back to KSR and the clinic (our hostel's nickname) for a drink with the lads.

Royal Palace
We visited the impressive Royal Palace and collected our passports from the Cambodian Embassy before jumping a bus to Khorat (aka Nakorn Ratchasima) feeling like we'd cheated death by escaping Bangkok alive. I had a painful insect bite on my lip that swelled to the size of a marble - punishment for all the boozing. We watched movies in a posh AC room while recovering from the excesses of Bangers. Despite the insect bite I got a tooth filling here for 100baht. No appointment was necessary and I was out within 20 minutes. The dentist spoke no English so I had no idea what she was doing but it worked out in the end and you can't complain at under £2. 

Another bus to Surin deep in Thailand's Isaan province. Isaan is Thailand's poorest rice farming region with few foreigners visiting so you get an authentic Thai experience. I'm currently sitting in Surin's only Internet cafe which is full of bairns playing games. This place was packed last night so we waited until the they were at school today but it's still packed??

Next stop Cambodia via the remote, rarely-used Chong Chom border crossing.

Kao Pat Gai (Chicken fried rice in Thai)

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