Christmas Turkey: nil - Pad Thai Noodle: 1

Trip Start Aug 30, 2009
Trip End Mar 01, 2010

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chapter 1: Confuscious say "Man who walk sideways through turnstile is going to Bangkok"

Nadine and Duncan arrived into Bangkok airport in the early evening and headed downstairs to buy a ticket on the bus out to Sukhumvit where their hotel was. They walked out of the front door of the airport into the same heat they'd been used to in Australia and hopped cheerfully onto airport bus AE3 which was freezing cold due to the aircon and so they put all their warm clothes back on.

Two hours later they arrived outside their first hotel, the Youth Hostel in Sukhumvit. It was actually not more than a few miles away but the traffic in Bangkok doesn’t move and so the bus was a little delayed. After a little skilful navigation on Duncan’s part they walked up a narrow street past 20 or 30 street food sellers and entered HI Sukhumvit. Happily for Duncan, Nadine had lost her voice and so he was able to pick the dinner for that night. They headed out onto the street to find some tasty noodles.

“Duncan, over here!” shouted some English bloke stepping out of a taxi. This turned out to be Patrick, a friend they had met in Buenos Aires, who they had arranged to meet for one night only in Bangkok. Patrick was busy debating with his taxi driver:

“I’m sorry I don’t have change for the 500 note you’ve given me” the taxi driver was saying. “But the fare’s only 230 Baht” replied Patrick, let me check again if I’ve got any change. “No that’s fine I’ll take the change from this 500 as a tip” said the taxi driver. “I’ll decide that” said Patrick, snatching back the 500 Baht note and replacing it with 260 Baht.

“What about a tip?” asked the taxi driver. “260 Baht is 30 Baht more than the fare on the meter” said Patrick, “so you can take it or leave it”. He and Duncan walked back over to where Nadine was looking sorry for herself in front of the hostel and completed their salutations.

“All taxi drivers in Bangkok are #@*%s” said Patrick. “Yes we took the bus” replied Duncan. As it turned out their bus was more expensive than the taxi Patrick had taken but at least they didn’t have to deal with the lengthy argument required at the end of any taxi journey in Thailand.

After some tasty street noodles, the intrepid trio decided to employ a tactic Patrick had picked up of wandering brazenly into posh hotels and using their bars for a cheeky beer and pleasant view. This agreed, they headed up to the roof terrace of the Weston and sat outside waiting to order.

“So how’s everything going?” asked Patrick. “Very well”, replied Nadine, “although after travelling for so long and blowing a fortune in Australia we’re now on a tighter budget in SE Asia”. “And how’s that working out so far?” asked Patrick, looking over at Duncan ordering some drinks. “Good I think”, said Nadine, “those street noodles were only 50p so hopefully we can catch up on some lost money”.

A little while later the drinks arrived. “One beer”, said the waitress. “That’s me” said Patrick taking his beer. “Water?” continued the waitress, handing over a bottle to Nadine.

“One champagne cocktail?” she finished. “That’s mine” said Duncan, looking sheepish as Nadine glowered at him.

“Budgeting going well then” observed Patrick.

“My god what’s that over there” said Duncan, hurriedly changing the subject and pointing towards a hotel room two blocks away from them. “It looks like a couple locked in a passionate embrace” said Patrick, “oh hang on what are they doing now it looks like the girl has removed her clothes…”. Duncan fumbled with his camera, wondering if the 12x zoom would be able to capture this moment for posterity. As it turned out the couple eventually noticed the loud shouting and cheering that Nadine, Duncan and Patrick were providing as an accompaniment for their evening and closed the blinds, but not before Duncan snapped the below photo for all blog readers’ enjoyment!

Chapter 2: Tonsils and transport

The next day it was clear that Nadine wasn’t going anywhere and so Duncan booked them another night at the hostel and set off in search of the next hotel, nearer to the action in time for Christmas. For all readers who are not familiar with Nadine’s illnesses, every year around about Christmas she gets ill with tonsillitis, and as it turns out being away from the cold weather in England or Germany made absolutely no difference this year!

Duncan set off then on his lonesome toward Khaosan Road which is the touristy part of Bangkok and where he hoped to find something Christmassy for the couple to enjoy a western Christmas (the date is currently December 23rd). Duncan took the Sky Train to the central station and got off without incident about 20 minutes later. He then jumped onto a bus bound for Khaosan which some friendly local had pointed out to him.

An hour of heavy traffic later, it was clear that anything on 4 wheels was not an effective way of getting around Bangkok and so Duncan jumped out of the bus (without paying; for some reason nobody had asked for any money) and strode purposefully along the pavement towards Khaosan.

It soon became clear also that striding purposefully was an equally ineffective method of traversing Bangkok’s busy streets after having been knocked sideways by many small Thai people carrying huge loads and so he settled into a gentle loping gait and bumbled on to Khaosan Road.

After some cursory investigation of accommodation options on Khaosan Road Duncan reserved a room in the Dhang Derm and settled down for a red curry and beer before starting the long journey back to Nadine. (Author’s note: I’m missing out the part about me getting hopelessly lost as it wasn’t a very exciting story).

Chapter 3: Twas the night before Christmas

And not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Except in Bangkok, where even the mice were racing around under the street stalls looking for breakfast. It was just a normal day for Bangkok as Nadine and Duncan set out to retrace Duncan’s steps of the previous day towards their hotel.

They took a slightly different route as they were intending to go via the immigration office to get some amendments to their visas so that they could get back into the country after travelling around SE Asia. The walk from the train station turned out to have lots of exciting things along it for photo opportunities including the German Embassy and JP Morgan (see photos)!

Eventually they reached the immigration office to find lots of huge signs announcing the office was closed and had moved to an outer suburb or Bangkok. After an unsuccessful attempt to get a new visa from the guard operating the barrier to the car park they gave up and jumped into a taxi to their hotel. The hotel was operating a “soft” opening which basically means it was brand new and still being built. Having seen some of the other options available however Duncan had decided it was worth the risk of a little building work to have a nice new bed and beautiful rooftop pool.

Nadine was duly impressed with the Japanese style bed and brand new bathroom and particularly happy with the huge pool on the roof (and all this for 18 a night!). Duncan sat listening to his iPod next to the pool looking smug for a good couple of hours.

They eventually pulled themselves away from the pool to locate some free internet for the Skyping they were planning for the next day – Christmas day! This was found at a coffee shop down at the end of Khaosan Road and so after some street noodles they sat around for a bit of Facebooking, Skyping, Googling and many other made-up verbs. Cost of a beer in the coffee shop was 55 Baht for those of you interested (1 = 55 Baht).

At around 11pm they headed back to their hotel room to get some sleep. Duncan pushed open the door to be greeted by a wall of sound, “My god sounds like somebody’s having a party in our room” said Nadine. Duncan went to close the windows and curtains but they were already closed and the music from two different clubs was coming in through the walls!

Luckily they’d only booked one night and so after having installed their earplugs they went to bed, resolving to move elsewhere for Christmas day.

 Chapter 4: Chriiiiiiiisssssssssssstmas Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime!!!!!!!

On Christmas day there were a smattering of Santa hats around Khaosan Road. Duncan and Nadine started the day with a great breakfast buffet in their hotel – eggs, bacon, sausages, coffee, orange juice, noodles, toast etc etc. Shame about the music this hotel was lovely.

In the morning, Duncan wanted to show Nadine some of the temples he had passed the previous day and so they wandered off down the road (without a map – always a risk when following Duncan).

Unusually, the aforementioned temple was easily located and they wandered around for some photo opportunities. “So what’s this temple called then” said Nadine. “Dunno” replied Duncan, “there’s a sign over here let’s check it out”.

“Well I found the name” said Duncan, “but not sure if we can pronounce it”. “So what is it?” asked Nadine. Duncan pointed at a sign in front of them which was entitled

Wat Rajabopitsathitmahasimaram

Apparently this means 'bestest temple ever in the world built by the seventeenth king of Thailand’. Or something. Who cares anyway it had red pointy roofs and gold and stuff like every other temple they’d seen on the trip.

“So shall we go for a turkey lunch then?” asked Nadine. “I’m not so sure anymore” said Duncan, “I’m just not convinced a roast turkey in Thailand would resemble anything like what we might be expecting”. “You’re right of course” said Nadine, and so they went for noodles instead.

 “Merry Christmas” said Duncan, munching on his noodles. “Glad we went for this option, I’d much rather spend 30 Baht on some delicious noodles than 700 Baht on a dubious piece of turkey”. “Me too” said Nadine, who was sitting on the step next to him with a matching set of pad thai.

After lunch, they moseyed over to where the free internet was (or rather the pub in front of it so that they could have some cool beers whilst Skyping). As a security precaution, Duncan had left all the money and cards in their hotel room and so had to disappear off to get the moolah whilst Nadine commenced Skypin. Alfred was off working and so the German Christmas report came mainly from Nadine’s mum who was chattering excitedly about the various things that normally happen in Hamburg around Christmas – presents, food, snow, dogs, etc. This was punctuated by shouts from Nadine’s sister who was running around the house in the background. The webcam on teeny tiny was fully operational and so when Duncan came running up with the money he was greeted with loving cheers from his new mother and sister in law.

“One beer please” said Duncan to the extremely attractive waitress wearing a very short one piece dress in Heineken colours. All the bars on Khaosan Road had these waitresses who dressed in various beer brand colours – great way to sell beer they should try this in Clapham. In fact, that reminds me of when we were in Peru and there were girls dressed in beer colours giving away FREE beer. That was a great night. Anyway I digress, back to the story.

The next lucky recipients of a Coleshill call were the Crewkerne Coleshills themselves and so Nadine and Duncan dialled up the number and waited.

“Aaaargh, bleaurgh, aha” shouted the fools in Crewkerne, all waving glasses of champagne around. This time there was also a webcam on the receiving end and so whilst Crewkerne could see Khaosan Road, Nadine and Duncan could also see the living room in Crewkerne, including the ridiculous glasses currently being worn by Daddy Coleshill. The information shared on this call was much the same as from Germany except Duncan’s family had clearly had a little more booze than the Germans and were brandishing cats instead of dogs.

“Look here’s your cat” shouted Rachel thrusting Roxy into the computer and knocking it off the table. The cat didn’t look very impressed as the computer was righted.

Much hilarity ensued as teeny tiny was moved around the pub while Duncan tried to get a webcam shot of the attractive waitresses – this didn’t work but there were many waves and cheers from all the other people sitting in the pub as they saw the three Coleshills in Crewkerne on the laptop screen waving back!

Christmas effectively over for another year, Duncan and Nadine ate some more noodles and went to bed on their last day before joining their organised tour around Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

Chapter 5: Boxing day

Back in the coffee shop where wifi was to be found, the couple were enjoying a morning coffee and surveying their emails. “Looks like Victor is really going for this January date for his wedding” said Duncan, looking through his emails and various updates on Facebook. “I honestly thought they’d have to go for something little further in the future but he seems to be saying it’s definitely January 20th”. “Better have a look for flights then” said Nadine. “Already on it” said Duncan, dialling BA.

The plan was to cut short the 6 months by a few weeks and change the round the world ticket to come back to the UK early but as it turned out, the snow in the UK had caused havoc with international flights and there wasn’t any way of Duncan and Nadine changing the round the world tickets in time to get back for the Hoong wedding.

“Let’s brainstorm this” suggested Duncan, setting up a flipchart in the coffee shop. “We can then do a quick SWOT analysis on the options and select the best one”. “You’re an idiot” said Nadine, and searched eBookers for another flight. They managed to find an Emirates flight from Bangkok and also a local flight from Laos which is where they were going to be when they needed to head back. It actually took most of the day to book all the flights and stuff but that’s not a very exciting story so let’s cut to the conclusion which was that the flights were booked for Vic’s wedding from Laos to Bangkok, then Bangkok to Dubai, then Dubai to London where they were going to spend a couple of days before taking a BA flight from London to Amsterdam for the wedding. Simple.

An additional ruse was that Victor thought they were heading straight to Amsterdam so that Duncan could plan a surprise stag party in London on the Sunday before the Wednesday wedding. The planning for this was to take place over emails and Skype the following week, see future blog entries for what happened at the stag and wedding….
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