One night in Bangkok - literally.
I took a walk along Sukumhvit Road, which is a major
thouroughfare, drinking in the night streetlife that is
so much a part of this region. I am convinced people
here do not come alive until the sun goes down. I
suppose it must be to do with the heat. I know it is
very cliched but the sheer vibrancy of the place is
amazing. Market stalls are set up selling every
concievable article and the smell of food barbecuing is
enough to make you salivate like a Pavlov dog, to borrow
from the Rolling Stones. It really is an incredible
sight and is replayed throughtout towns cities and
villages the length and breadth of SEA. I really wasn't
hungry, having eaten two good meals, but I did find a
bit of space for a few sticks of barbecued meat from a
roadside stall. Delicious.
I was asked by a friend before I left if I was not
worried about travelling in places like Bangkok and the
simple truth is that I am not. I feel much safer in
Bangkok, Vientiane or Rangoon than I do in London. OK,
Phnom Penh is a slightly different matter, although I
believe the situation is getting better there.
Undoubtedly, there is crime in all these places but it
tends not to be violent, at least not towards
foreigners. Tourism is big business and the local
authorities take a dim view, being unhampered by
bleeding heart liberal considerations like their
European brethren. I know it may sound a bit misty eyed
and over romanticised but I have always felt completely
at home here in a way I no longer do in Britain. The
people are genuinely nice and are prepared to smile and
say hello, even if we do not have more than about three
words of a shared language. Sure the odd taxi driver,
barmaid or whatever will try and rip you off for a few
quid but in general I have been met with nothinhg but
extreme kindness all the times I have travelled in this
part of the world.
I know I said I was going to try and be chronological
but I must break off to saythat an elephant walked into
the bar. This is not the prelude to some bad joke, it
happened. Well, technically it didn't as the entrance
wasn't big enough but it certainly managed to insert
it's trunk close enough for me to feed it some sugar
cane. Hopefully the photo gives some idea. We are most
definitely not in Kansas any more, Toto!
Back to the trip. After a good nights sleep, I woke
pretty early, no doubt still due to the body clock
thing, and decided I was going to get out of Bangkok.
Don't get me wrong, it is truly an amazing city but I
have been here several times before and I just fancied
making a quick getaway from the appalling smog. I
didn't want too long a journey, having travelled so much
the day before so I looked for somewhere within four or
five hours bus / train. Hua Hin was a contender
although it is rather commercialised, or at least it was
last time I was there, so I decided on the quiter Cha am
which is a few miles closer. I got a taxi to the new
Southern Bus Station and was glad I did as it took
nearly an hour through the horrendous Bangkok traffic.
Going there by bus would have been a nightmare. I
thought last time I was here that the traffic could not
get any worse but I swear it has, and I have no idea
where it will eventually lead. Total gridlock?