Saturday, 21 January 2012

I'm currently sat by the Mekong River in Laos, but that is an awesome tale for next issue.  So-  what what what...

After the islands of Thailand, I was looking forward to getting back to the 'real world' of the mainland, seeking less touristy, more Thai areas.  We'd loved Bangkok, so headed north to spend a few days exploring there.  We had some errands to run-  Laura needed some knitting supplies, something about double ended and circular needles.  Hopefully this will lead to some knitted socks for me next time it is cold enough to warrant wearing any.  I'd wanted to find a water heating element thing so we could make tea & coffee & noodles.  Didn't find one though- seems like health and safety regs might have knocked them on the head, even in Thailand?  Can't get them in England either apparently.   We do have one now though...this blog post is exciting isn't it?? No wonder you're still reading.  Enough! Lets try and knock it up a notch.

Thailand / Dukes of Hazard Taxi. Overload for maximum profit!
So, back into the commercial consumer crazy high street market street stall absolute FRENZY that is Bangkok.  There are markets for everything.  Morning markets, afternoon markets, night markets, right through the night (we were on our way home  at 2am and a band was playing- Eagles covers, naturally, just on a road side), floating markets, fish markets, phone markets,  Chatuchack / JJ market with 9000 stalls...

But what is most interesting about this is the 2 ends of the spectrum being right next to each other. Next to the 'back alley' food markets, with grinning pigs heads being butchered for scooter riding punters (engine running), wriggling eels in buckets and countless items I can't even recognise, stands these new super mall's with so many floors, floor plan maps, help desks, air conditioning with expensive designer clothes and electronics that cost mega bucks.  Pretty much one whole floor of the MBK mall is dedicated to mobile phones and accessories.  The sky train smoothly whisks you right inside without even having to weather the heat of the day.  Its crazy.  No water heating elements though...

Infamous Khao-San Road
China town felt like a whole other dimension.  The closest we've been to actually being in China, so far.   This is where you can buy yourself a whole shop's worth of giant cuddly toys, clothes pegs, pans, plastic screw drivers, flip flops, clothes, children's toys, egg whisks, coat hangers - anything and absolutely everything that must come out of Chinese factories in the relentless billions every day.   Its quite an eye opener.

Back in Rishikesh, India, I'd slipped over on a wet marble floor, cracked my elbow, saw stars and was very nearly immediately sick in the street, then spent 2 days in bed- Laura told me it was because my shoes were rubbish and were worn out.  I have some new shoes from china town now, a knock off pair of posh variety Crocs.  They are quite cool.

The man assured me they were definitely not genuine, in a nice turn of honesty.

We met up with Alice and Nat, a couple living in Bangkok, through a mutual friend we had met in Ooty, India.  It was great to be shown around by them, and both were very kind, hospitable and generous to us.  Thanks guys!  They put us up for a few nights, and again we made a vow to open up our house (whenever we have one) to guests and travellers more often.

After 5 or so days in Bangkok, we headed west to Kanchanaburi, on the river Kwai, for a bit of quiet.  A Lot of quiet, as it turned out.  We had a cool bamboo hut right on the river side, about 1km south of the infamous 'Bridge over the River Kwai'.    True to our recent spirits, we generally did a lot of lounging and can't really account for the days we spent there.  I did explore the characterful museum (JEATH), as am very interested in such WW11 things, although filtering information out of the awful rambling translations, weird signs, and dubious messages was hard work, and gave me a sore neck. Still, there were some great photos and displays (even if the glass cabinets were so filthy it was hard to see through them). It made our walk across the bridge the day before seem a lot more significant.  Laura stayed home to, err guard the hut I guess and catch up on some krazy knitting skills.

The bridge, showing the different middle section that was destroyed 

The Bangkok river ferries and taxis are a nice and fast way to get around

Back to Bangkok on the bus, a tasty quick meal and few beers with Alice and Nat by the train station, and we jumped onto the overnight sleeper train to the Eastern border town of Ubon Ratchathani,  where we crossed into Laos, and into the town of Pakse.

Thailand has been really interesting. Plenty of posh air conditioned gleaming cars roll around (does everyone polish their new alloy wheels every day???), but also you'll see as many wooden street carts and old school one man barber shop stools or noodle stands. Coming from India though, it was like stepping forward 20 years in time, but a lot of what made India exciting and surprising is a bit harder to find here.  I should also say that the people in Thailand (anyone you meet seemingly) are the happiest, most helpful, patient and generally best natured people I think we've ever met.

As I said at the start, we're in Laos now, with 2,000,000 Laos KIP in our pockets and where Laura will pick up the next post....





  1. Glad you guys are having an amazing time! Been doing some catch-up reading, so see that you visited some of my fave places in India - Ooty and Kerala! Take care, much love to you both :) xx

  2. Properly loving your updates!!!

    Sending you lots of love!!
    (I've been telling everyone about your squirrell jumper JC, as you can imagine I am quite jealous!!