Change of plans. But the torture continues...
Trip Start Jul 11, 2005
62Trip End Apr 04, 2006
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I have found out that there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them
- Mark Twain
For the nth time
After a beautifully smooth flight from Siem Reap we arrived in Bangkok, Thailand. This would be, in some way, the last stop for all of us. The city has dominated Thailand's urban hierarchy, as well as its political, commercial and cultural life, since the late 18th century. It has been one of my favourite Asian cities since I first arrived in the city from Calcutta, India, as part of my Round The World trip back in December 2002. And due to it's central position in South East Asia and status as the major transport hub of the region I found myself returning to the city 3 times during that trip (after side trips to Chang Mai, Kanchanaburi and a journey through Vietnam and Cambodia, identical to the one I've just completed). Ironically Pat and his then wife were also with me on those occasions having joined myself and Bairbre, my then travel partner, for a 3 week holiday. So I guess myself and Pat have quite a bit of history in this city and it's ironic that once again we'd be parting here.
Bangkok - Convienient & Addictive
Bangkok. Although I love this city I have always found it hard work and tiring. But if you can resist the urge to dash to the nearest beach it's worth putting up with the coronary-inducing traffic jams, the pollution, the sticky weather, the hangovers and the bartering for everything to experience one of Asia's most exciting and busy cities. I've always enjoyed the in-you-face side of Bangkok. I also love the cheap and gorgeous street food, the nightlife (from the unfortunate go-go bars of Patpong to the backpacker bars on the Khao San Rd), the temples and the tuk-tuks (noisy three-wheeled power saws gone berserk) weaving in and out of choked traffic. But the thing I most like about Bangkok is the overall convenience of the place for the budget traveller; you can get, and do, anything you want here. And I remember vividly how comforting that was for me when I first arrived here in December 2002 having flown in from the madness of Calcutta, India.
For a city of this size, Bangkok is surprisingly full of quiet escapes. Just step out of the street noise and into the calm of one of the city's 400 wats (temple-monasteries) or take a river taxi on the Chao Phraya River. Must sees include Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Traimit. This latter is the Temple of the Golden Buddha, home to the impressive 3m tall, 5 1/2-tonne solid-gold Buddha image. Other sights include the touristy Wat Sai floating market in Thonburi, a boat trip through the city's extensive and pongy network of canals (klongs), the Saovabha Institute Snake Farm, Jim Thompson's House and the renowned Oriental Hotel.
For the love of a women
Not that I saw any of those aforementioned attractions this time around. When we arrived mid afternoon and got off the airport bus at the Khao San Rd we set about finding somewhere to stay. That's never a problem on the Khao San road. It's in the Banglamphu area of Bangkok and is the traditional budget-traveller centre. All the traveller conveniences I spoke about earlier can be found here and you could quite easily spend your whole time in Bangkok without leaving the road, its bars and the adjoining guesthouses. But that would be a shame. Our first few hours in the city were strange. Cal's trip was to effectively end here as he had no money having left it behind in Vietnam. I had to decide if I was going to continue onto India and Nepal alone. And considering I had planned, at the outset, to do this trip alone, even before getting to Korea and picking up Cal, the answer seemed an obvious 'Yes', right? But No. I had decided, prior to arriving in Bangkok, that I wasn't going to continue. Instead I decided to stop off at home before going to Canada to be with Meagan, a girl I met a few months earlier in Korea and who I had been keeping in touch with since leaving Seoul a month earlier. I guess I had picked up more than just one Canadian in Camp Korea and having secretly, and not so secretly, weighed up my options over the previous few weeks I had come to the decision to 'alter' my route. Admittedly, it was a decision made so much easier by Cal's misfortune and whether it turns out to be the right decision will only be known in time. But for now, my longing to continue on alone, it feels like the right thing to do.
So on our first afternoon in Bangkok Cal was busy organising a trip south to the beaches to meet friends (where we would decide is next course of action) and I was busy organising a flight home. Remember how I mentioned Bangkok is convenience central? Well, within only a few hours I had booked not only a flight to London, via Bahrain, but also an onward flight to Dublin and a flight to Canada for a couple of weeks later. It was a weird feeling having made all those bookings; I had been planning this trip I was on for a while and I was really looking forward to seeing India again, but more so Nepal and Tibet, places I hadn't been before. And although, truth be told, I had secretly know ever since Cal's mishap that I might not get beyond Bangkok it was still a big shock to suddenly, within the space of a few hours, have my trip ended and to have in my possession a flight to London and Canada. It's strange how things work out but I guess that's the unpredictable nature of free-spirited travel.
The Fellowship is broken
So that night myself and Cal parted company. It was a brief but sad occasion, especially under the circumstances we were parting. I had noted in previous entries how extraordinary well Cal took the loss of his money. It was only during our last few hours together, while enjoying a few beers on the Khao San road in Bangkok, that I first saw the situation he was in really starting to bother him. Although I was excited about the road I was about to take in going to Canada I was upset for Cal. We had big plans for the rest of the trip, and even for Bangkok, somewhere we were both really looking forward to getting back to. As the quote by Mark Twain at the beginning of this entry alludes to, there is always a risk travelling with someone. Well, I can vouch for Cal and can verify his compatibility as a travel buddy. He's bang on.
As you were
So with Cal gone there was myself, Pat and Dave left. And guess what we did for the rest of our time in Bangkok? Yep, played pool and drank beer. Copious amounts of it. We had 3 nights in the city (we arrived from Siem Reap on Wednesday afternoon and we all had a flight out of Bangkok on Saturday) and that seemed like an enormous amount of time to us considering we hadn't had more than a night or two in any location since we left Hanoi, some two and a half week earlier. As mentioned previously I had been in Bangkok a few times before, ironically also with Pat, and so my desire this time around to see sights I had seen before was low. Very low. Plus by the time we got to Bangkok it was the last few days of our whirlwind SE Asia trip and we were happily content to spend the final days of the trip recovering from the travel and drinking frenzies, both the ones that had preceded our arrival in the city and the ones we undertook while here. And so we did, mostly (we did spend an afternoon visiting some temples and wats, including a hill top wat that afforded great views over Bangkok... see photos for that evidence).
By the time Saturday mercifully rolled around we had, well and truly, had enough punishment. Well, I had. It had been a busy and, a lot of the time, torturous 3 weeks. It was an especially destructive stretch from the Why Not bar in Nah Trang, Vietnam, right through to Bangkok, where myself and Pat really pressed the self-destruct button with alarming ease. I for one was glad to be getting on a plane to escape the hurt. If the past few days has taught me anything it's that I'm definitely too old now for this sort of trip.
Bye bye Asia
And so that was Bangkok, part V. The flight out of Bangkok will take me to Bahrain and onto London. This is me saying goodbye to South East Asia. It has truly been a blast. Every time.