After a very long flight, several wines (maybe one too many, but I only did that to help me sleep – honest!), and approximately four hours after we lost all feeling in our backsides, we got to Bangkok. Cripes that’s a big airport! We really wanted to pinch one of the golf-carts the staff drive around in there, but being deported immediately would not have fitted in with our plans, so we walked and used the Jetsons-style moving footpaths instead.
It took aaaaages to get to our hotel. Every traffic light here seems to stay red for about 10 minutes. When we got to the hotel, feeling absolutely knackered, the receptionist proved my theory on the snootiness of the night reception staff being in direct proportion with the poshness of the hotel. And this one had a huge lobby lined in black marble and several floors of balconies above us – all thanks to Gill’s one-night holiday arrival splashout combined with a complimentary second night’s stay. When you’re feeling that tired and it’s 5 o’clock in the morning at your place in New Zealand, it’s amazing how uncivilized you can suddenly feel. I began to have visions of leaping across the counter and slapping her face by the time she gave us our room cards. We tried to find out what floor room 2327 was on, but by the time she repeated it a third time and we still didn’t understand, we removed ourselves (before she slapped us) and bluffed it until we made it. (Yes, it was on the 23rd floor. But hey, we’re two blondes and that doesn’t make life easy you know.)
We dropped our bags and braved the lift again to sit at the pool and break open our duty-free grog (again, purely as a soporative…). The palms by the pool were pretty cool – lights wrapped around the trunks, all the way up.
We got to sleep finally, then at 4.30am we got up and had a coffee, because of course it was 9.30 am in New Zealand. The usual time/body clock adjustment thing kicking in.
Day 2. Off to the train station to book our tickets to Chiang Mai (up north). It’s Songkran in a few days here – the Thai New Year. Otherwise known as the water-soaking festival. Our tuk-tuk driver was a really nice guy, but we had to do the obligatory stop at his brother’s uncle’s daughter’s cousin’s shop, which turned out to be a frighteningly expensive jewelry manufacturer’s and shop. We were taken out into the manufacturing part, which was quite interesting. We then went through the showroom, where we were shadowed to within an inch of our lives by the staff. Usual story – white equals rich. Trying to explain to them this is not the case with us – no go. Resistance is futile. Never mind, it was all glittery and shiny and it’s nice to see what the rich people wear. And we did get a free lemonade out of it.
We also went to (insert relatives names here) food place, where we dined at a decadent rate – and that’s having chosen about the cheapest meals on the menu. Gill asked about one of their fresh shrimps, which they were selling at 300 baht per 100 grams. This one weighted 200 grams. That was a NZ$30.00 shrimp! Granted it was a big one (at first I took it for a peeled crayfish) but we managed to beat things down to a $15.00 meal and took vows at the same time that from here on out we will eat street food.
When the tuk-tuk’s stop at the traffic lights they turn their ignition off to wait for the lights to turn green. On the way to the food place, this guy halted on top of a railway line and stopped his motor. Gill and I looked at each other. ‘Okay, this must be a disused railway line.’ we said. We then started joking about if a train came she would push me out of the tuk tuk then jump out and land on top of me, as it would be a fairly soft landing for her. After a few minutes, Gill pointed to a light approaching some distance down the track. There really was a train coming! And we were sitting in a stationery, turned off tuk tuk right smack in the middle of the lines. But did we panic? No we did not. We started laughing. And laughing. Then we laughed so hard that tears rolled down our faces. I managed to gasp to the driver ‘you can move now’ and thankfully he started his motor and shifted so our tail was inches from where the train would pass. Then the traffic was piling up behind us honking madly because they were on the lines, the crossing bells were going off and a traffic police guy was trying to pull a barrier across the road. I think our driver thought we were totally mad, laughing like we did. But it was such a mad, typical Asian scenario that we just couldn’t help ourselves. It was well worth the entertainment and, thank God, we didn’t die before having our first fantastic Thai meal.
On to Khao San road – the main backpackers ‘cool place to be’, where there was a band making a racket and stalls all over the road, etc. We walked past the sign ‘Fucking Good Beer’ on the side of a trolley that I had taken a photo of in 2005. (Sorry about the language Dad.) Good to see some things stay the same. Wandered round looking accommodation to come back to when we return from up North, then finally took a tuk-tuk back to Pratunam, to our hotel. The driver (different guy this time) drove faster than a speeding bullet – he was pretty unhappy because I had bartered the price down so much, then on the way he found out that we were staying at a highly expensive hotel. I’m sure when he turned into our hotel driveway, which is curved, he was trying to throw us out of the tuk-tuk by utilizing it like a slingshot. However, we disappointed him by hanging on. But when we got out and walked into the lobby, we felt really alive!!! What a great first day in Thailand! We felt like we’d just lived through a real-life Jackie Chan movie. So out came the duty free grog once more – this time not for the purposes of sleeping, but to celebrate triumphantly the fact we were still alive. Take that, Bangkok! You can’t kill weeds you know.
Okay, day 3 now and we’re passing the time waiting for our train to Chiang Mai. We go well prepared – we are both equipped with water guns and plastic bags for cameras, ready for the inevitable soaking of everyone within range that apparently goes on for 3-5 days up there.