The Road More Travelled

Trip Start Jun 01, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Sunday, October 1, 2006

"Nothing is static... Everything is evolving... Everything is falling apart"

-- Fight Club

"I just feel like everyone tries to do something different, but you always wind up doing the same damn thing"

-- The Beach

They say that all roads in South East Asia lead to Bangkok, and that all roads in Bangkok lead to the Khao San Road.

The heart of the international backpacker community - cheaper than all western destinations, not as complicated as Tibet or as daunting as Calcutta, Bangkok is the definitive example of east meeting west. A springboard for millions of travelers, immersing themselves in a culture already immersed right back at them. Noodles or McDonalds, Temples or Multiplexes, Sang Sung Whiskey or Budweiser. As much or as little as you could choose.

And, the last time I was here, a den of sordid inequity, twenty four hour hedonism and ping pong balls - my kind of place.

Now it has changed, in that inevitable way all things do. It was a big thing for me, coming back to Bangkok. It had been the first step of my South East Asia trip three years ago, after a sixteen hour flight covering a journey of 8,000 miles. This time round we've come the long way, and in four months have traveled overland closer to 16,000 miles than 8 (one day we're going to work this out).

I was excited. And I rarely get excited about anything.

So it was always going to be a disappointment. That's just the way these things go. The debauchery is gone, the twenty four hour drinking is stopped by the police at midnight who line the ends of the street in their dozens. The whole place has just.... become more dull. It's still covered with backpackers, and although there are all sorts the dominant kind are those that never leave the Khao San but enjoy holding court about the road les traveled. You know, twats. That special breed that, if they saw a stranger in a restaurant eating a burger, would go over and say "A burger, wow. I just can't see why anyone would want to eat a burger when there's all this lovely Asian food to enjoy. You can get a burger back home, man". (Incidentally, the preferred response to this is "I can talk to pretentious arseholes back home too, yet here I am")

What happened to the Khao San, as I've been able to piece together, was this: Thais started to frequent it on an evening, the ones with money and a rebellious streak. This started a bit of a chain reaction, as it became a tourist attraction of a tourist attraction - the locals coming to see how the crazy farang lived. Then the government got involved, because while it's fine for foreigners to spend all their money on drinking, sex and drugs, a bad example was being set for the young Thais (many of whom are strongly anti-alcohol). So the clamp down started, the curfew was enforced, and the fun started to stop. It's probably a good thing.

Anyway I'm digressing (as is my style). Whim has served us well yet again, as I promised in my last post. After deciding to head to Bangkok and getting into Pakse we found we had an e-mail from Katherine and Catie - two legends from way back in the day of Tollerton Primary School, where everyone knew our name and they were always glad we came, were arriving in Bangkok that very day. Coincidence or providence? We met up with them for some good (and not so good) nostalgic reminiscing about old times over lots of beer... marvelous.

The effects of the military coup are quite obvious, with tanks in the streets still and the army making their machine gun wielding presence known. It's still mostly peaceful, although there was an article in the Bangkok Post this morning showing the remains of a taxi that had been driven into a tank in protest. The taxi had "illegal occupation" painted on the side, and the driver had purposefully driven it, at high speed, into a tank.... I mean... That's just.... baffling. The driver is in intensive care.... The taxi was a write off.... The tank wasn't so much as scratched. The soldiers must have been laughing their asses off.

One of the things we wanted to do while we were in civilization was go to the cinema. Bangkok Cinemas are among the best in the world, and quirky too - you have to stand for the king before the film starts and watch a little video about how great Thailand is, which is all cool.

What wasn't so cool was Katherine and Catie's choice of film. Vinny and I had wanted some high-octane, low-brow film that was centred around the idea of things exploding, but made that foolhardy move of declaring "Lady's Choice".

What we got was The Devil Wears Prada. This is, I can say with confidence, the worst film in the entire world. Please never, ever, ever, watch it. At one point Vinny and I both had tears streaming down our face and our fists forced into our mouths, trying to stop the uncontrollable laughter at just how mind-numblingly bad it was. It was an insult not only to the human race, but to all forms of life that have ever existed or ever will.

So that's nice.
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