Squat, Splash and Dash

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jun 18, 2011

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Well after living in Phuket for the last 4 weeks of our lives it has come time for us to leave!! Over the last week or so we have both started to call our guesthouse 'home' and we are really sad to be say goodbye to the little life we have forged for ourselves in the small town of Nai Yang. It’s been hard work but we’ve had a nice routine here: we don’t have to get to work until 10am, we get to walk to work in the sunshine, spend the day working on the veranda, drink Chinese tea all day long and then go to our favourite café (roadside stall with patio furniture) for our tea. But it has come time to move on and so we have decided to head up to the capital of Thailand, Bangkok, for a few days to see the sights, but to also get our Vietnamese visas organized. We haven’t heard great things about Bangkok: since we’ve come traveling we’ve only actually met two people who like it there! But we need to go to get our visas issued, so we are going to bite the bullet and go, but I can’t say we are particularly looking forward to it.

After going for one last coffee with our friends at the office it was time to pack our bags, but first I had to mend my backpack because the stitching has started to come undone along the waist strap… good job I’ve become a master stitcher since we left home! The next day we went to eat our last meal at our favorite café, where the lady who does the cooking is blind as a bat but somehow she still manages to make the world’s best fried rice and chili sauce! And then, feeling very nervous about being back on the road, we caught the local bus down to the bus terminal to buy our long-distance bus tickets to Bangkok. We’ve become really rusty at traveling lately and we were both anxious about how we were going to get to Bangkok, but luckily there was an overnight bus getting ready to leave and we hopped on and settled down for the night. We left Phuket at 5pm and didn’t arrive in Bangkok until 6am the following morning and the bus seats were MEGA uncomfortable but they showed one of the funniest (and rudest!) kung-fu films ever made…so we were relatively happy on our bus journey. Luckily there was only one stop during the night, at about 11pm, when we got to nip to the loo and fill up on Pringles and water before we had to get back on the road. I don’t think I’ve explained so far how the toilets work in Asia…so I thought I’d take this chance to tell you all about the lovely toilet situation here (aren’t you lucky!). Okay, so other than in hotels and posh restaurants, there are no flushing toilets in Asia. Instead you get to use a squat toilet, which is basically a hole in the floor with two little steps on either side, then you do what it says on the tin…squat (and hope that your aim is good). There is no toilet paper because the plumbing in Asia isn’t wide enough to take paper, so instead there is a little hosepipe with a squirty handle on the end that you use like a bidet (is it gross that I’m telling you about this?). Okay, as there is no flush button on a squat toilet, there is a huge vat of water next to the toilet with a little bucket floating in it: you use this to clean the toilet out before you leave (although most Asian people also seem to use it to randomly pour buckets of water all over the toilet floor). And that is how you go to the toilet in Asia! So in case you ever find yourself stranded in an Asian toilet and you have no idea what to do, just remember: squat, hosepipe and bucket. Oh and wash your hands thoroughly….whatever you do, don’t forget that one!

So back on the bus, we finally arrived in Bangkok at 6am and stumbled off the bus to find that our backpacks had been unceremoniously dumped in the middle of the parking area and Tom’s bag had been ripped. If we weren’t so exhausted we would have been pretty pissed off, but at that moment we were too tired to care and so we hailed a taxi. The taxi driver actually had no idea where the street was which we wanted to go and kept on pulling over asking other people where he was… again, if we hadn’t been so tired we might have been more concerned. Finally we arrived at our accommodation at 6:30am. The office at the guesthouse didn’t open until 8am and we didn’t expect to be able to check into our room until the afternoon, so we were quite happy to have a little nap on the tables and chairs outside, when a women came and told us that our room was ready for us and that she was making us an English breakfast and coffee to help us feel better. Having been stuck on a crappy bus for the last 13 hours and then finding myself in a strange new city, I could have cried when she was so nice to us. Before we knew what was happening our bags were being whisked up to our (gorgeous!) room and we were sitting down to a breakfast of toast, scrambled eggs, sausages, fruit salad, coffee and orange juice… all at 6:30am! It’s really funny, because as a traveler, you are on your guard all the time against people trying to rip you off or take advantage of you…when you meet a genuinely nice person it is like have a ray of sunshine come into your day. After enjoying our breakfast (especially Tom, who was very happy that he got to have my extra sausages) we headed upstairs for a little lie down.

God only knows what she put in the coffee because, despite not sleeping a wink all night, we both felt amazingly perky. So we got showered and decided to head out into the city to get our Vietnamese visas sorted. Considering that it was still only about 8am we got all our forms filled out, had all our documentation organized and passport photos ready! Bangkok is renowned as being one of the world’s worst cities for transportation: the layout of the city makes no sense whatsoever and there is no one transport system (metro, ferry, train) which links the whole city together. So we ended up having to walk 20 minutes to the nearest canal ferry terminal so that we could get the canal barge to the area of the city which houses all the foreign embassies called Siam Square. The first thing we noticed about being out in the city was how lovely and calm it was: we had expected it to be chaotic, but there weren’t too many people about and the touts were actually very softly spoken and friendly! There is a Buddhist monastery a few doors down from our guesthouse so we ended up seeing dozens of monks in their beautiful orange robes walking down the streets around us: we had read in our guidebook that Thailand has lots of monks, but we hadn’t expected to see them wandering the streets of Bangkok! Over in Siam Square we finally managed to find the Vietnamese Embassy and went in to the visa office. By this time it was mid-afternoon and we were expecting to find huge queues of people: we were pleasantly surprised when there was only 3 other people there! We went up to the counter to hand in our forms and found out that they have changed their visa fees and we ended up getting royally ripped off: instead of paying £40 for our visas it actually ended up costing us almost £100. But that is just how embassies work: they can charge whatever they want because they know that if you want to get into their country you have to pay the fees.

By this time the magical coffee had worn off and we were both exhausted so we headed back to the canal barge and went back to our room for some much needed sleep. On the way we saw a Buddhist temple which is considered a ‘good luck’ shrine: if your prayers for good luck get answered by the Gods then you have to return to the shrine and donate money to the musicians and dancers at the temple who will perform a song for you. We also saw Thailand’s main police training facility, which had about 30 or so recruits practicing their riot control techniques on each other in the car park. They were pretty rubbish and we had to try really hard not to laugh at them too much. The things which you come across just walking down the road in Asia are amazing sometimes: that’s why I love being here, every day feels like an adventure. Later that evening we ended up eating at a local Thai Vegetarian cafe and we had some of the best food on the trip so far: Tom had veggie tempura with satay sauce and I had Thai curry noodles with tofu. The food was incredible: it was the kind of food where you end up involuntarily swearing like a trooper because it tastes so good. So after our first day out in the big city we crawled into bed thoroughly exhausted but extremely happy to be traveling again.       
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