So the night train was the usual affair of very efficient train staff (who seem to number in the dozens) making up the beds pretty much as soon as the train pulls away from the metropolis (i would say at speed but more like crawling at about 50km/h for the duration of the journey).
The thai people above and opposite me were quite cool. We started chatting and it turned out they were working for Beer Lao and were off to Laos for a couple of days to sort out some computer problems. Hopefully an unofficial factory trip might be in the offing. We shared about 10 cans of Singha (Beer Lao is better apparantly!) and chatted until about midnight when my head really needed to hit the pillow for seven hours of disturbed sleep ..the train goes fast, the hits some dodgy track, the stops, then appears to get shunted before repeating this process until 9.30am…
Unfortunately my stomach either didnt appreciate the runny eggs from the American Breakfast at the New Siam II, the train or the beer and (not to go into the vulgar details), I had my first very dodgy stomach of the holiday…
So we arrived and I shared a Tuk-Tuk (well actually they are Jumbos – converted motorbikes with a tuk-tuk shell) with the 2 thai guys. I realised halfway that I was without my sunglasses so we went back to the Station. For some reason I leapt on the train (which is about 20 carriages long) and acquired some help in the form of a cleaner to hunt out my seat. As I moved down the carriages, I noticed the train was moving… Mmm I thought, It appeared to be moving in the direction of Bangkok! Luckily it was just changing platforms but it mustve gone about 1km from the station (Now I was worrying about leaving my bags and belongings in charge of a person I had only met the night before)… To cut the story short. I get back and the station master hands me my sunglasses, I sign a piece of paper entirely in Thai and my bags are reunited….
After the usual border business (its 1$ extra on a weekend!) I step into Laos and jump in a 30 year old taxi, he harse smell of diesel fule engulfing the interior and make my way 22k along the partially paved road to Vientiene.
My stomach woes have continued into the evening so rather than eat some Laos cuisine (Dog, Frogs or whatever they serve up!) I have decamped to the net cafe… (All the guidebooks said it would be slow but i suppose 18 months is a long time in Telecommunications – its pretty fast and 200 Kips = 2 US Cents a minute)
First impressions of Laos? Well it doesnt seem as imposing as arriving in Cambodia did although the airport road has the same feel. (Slightly crazy driving without any lanes and animals, bike, houses, people scattered around randomly). I arrived in a pleasant square with a Scandinavian Bakery and found my guesthouse easily. It’s $4 a night! (although very basic just fan in room but clean).
So i strolled along the riverside and had a tea, the whole place had a very quiet air to it (Maybe its Saturday) but the centre only has a population of 200,000 (600,000 in environs) so its possible just the way it is. I just strolled around taking in the french influences. Coffee Shops, Wine Shops and the street sellers selling (tongue twister?) Baguettes (No!).
Then I went to the National Museum (previous the Revolutionary Museum) – this is such a funny place. It starts off with the history of the world (Dinosaurs made from cardboard) and seems to quickly skip to the French colonizations (The enemy invaders). They call the Americans the invading army and their puppets. Lots of graphic photos of injuries and bombs.
Then there are about 5 rooms of Laos today (Pictures of bridges, power stations and the like – very amusing!) and a shop selling pretty much nothing useful. And hundreds of photos of party conferences.
The place is really relaxing despite being a capital city – Looking forward to going to some more remote places for some R+R.
Laos Foot Massages appear to be a lot more painful than the Thai equivalent (My massage count = 4) but still very nice. Unfortunately I havent eaten anything since breakfast which will hopefully mean I can hire a bicycle tomorrow and explore..
So it was an interesting trip back from Ko Samet. Our 6 hour bus journey was halted 3 hours in when the driver realised the hub cap of the right rear wheel had fallen off. On closer inspection, 5 out of 8 screws had also snapped off leaving the wheel hanging on with only 3. Luckily we got off this bus and our journey was only delayed by 1 hour. Arriving into BKK at 11pm, you’d think the roads would be quiet – no chance. Sukhumvit Lane was rammed – this is like a 6 lane highway ploughing right into the centre of town with the huge concrete skytrain directly above and numerous footbridges etc. Parts of the centre are really very BladeRunner-esque.
So we did a bit of sightseeing; the giant swing (stopped being used early last century afer too many injuries/fatalies), the Royal Park (with so few exits you cant get out easily!), The Grand Palace (with Audio tour it makes a lot more sense!),a couple of amazing Wats and a few trips on the M25 that is the Chao Prao River. We managed to get into the very posh Marriot Hotel outside of Bangkok and had a romantic sunset cruise – we were the only people on the boat (apart from 3 crew members) – had some slightly cheesy photos taken too, but it was very nice! This was followed by Sushi in MBK Shopping centre , the night market and then bed!
For those who have been here, that old geezer is still attempting to sell Hammocks on Khao Sarn Road, the water is still 5Baht (8p) and people still manage to play Badminton on the main soi near the hotel.
The milkshakes are still as amazing as ever and my 2 eggs a week rule has probably multiplied ten-fold… I blame American Breakfasts, Omelettes and Pancakes..
Friday was spent lounging in the New Siam II Hotel Pool which was a pleasant little oasis in the middle of blazing heat, noise and traffic. Jess and co. left at 3pm and I just did some shopping (Tag watch for 4 quid – hope it lasts the holiday) and a ‘fake’ id; had a nice massage (cant get enough of them). Now im about to head for Hualampong Station to take the 20:45 night train up to the Thai border with Laos…
Ok so a few days have passed but Ive not been on the Internet! (Thats what quitting your job and travelling to a foreign country does!) So basically last Sunday I got up very early having discovered Jess et al where on Ko Chang. I took tuk-tuks, coaches, songthaews, boats and buses to the Island and finally found them lying under a palm tree at about 4pm! Ko Chang is a really nice island (Large rainforest and lots of nice beaches) It seems a lot more developed than Ko Pgan Gnan but maybe not as much as Samui however there are lots of ATMS, Resorts and stuff though in the low season it seemed really nice. The Treehouse guesthouse was amazing. The perfect place for a drink in the evening, however Nature Beach had a very rude English lady running the gaff and she kept accusing us of not paying and generally just being unhelpful. Oh well.
The roads were pretty windy and hilly – having never driven a moped/motobike before, my initial drive was in the dark with Jess on the back at about 9pm.. It went ok and it was automatic so there wasnt too much to think about. It was a lot more fun in the day though. We fed an elephant though it was chained up so maybe it wasnt the best thing to do?
We had 2-3 great days on the beach (avoiding the coconuts falling and the rude guesthouse owners, hiring mopeds around the island, visiting restaurants on wooden piers and watching the sunset) before a huge storm arrived and we headed back to Bangkok…
So its been a very hectic week. But I’ve arrived in Bangkok so thought i’d take 5 minutes out of the madness to talk about the last week. It already seems like a long time ago…
So on a steamy Wednesday morning I spent about 3 hours lugging boxes and bags into the Transit van and headed up north donned in my White Van Man attire (Red England Shirt unfortunately no Sun on dashboard). Unpacked it all again into storage with only minimal damage and CDs flung everywhere. Had some nice food and chat and slept on a sofa. Thursday headed back and popped into work for an hour. Then went out again and slept on an airbed. Friday went to work for the last time and at lunchtime had pub lunch with work colleagues.
What can I say. After 3.5 years and not even a goodbye card. I’m not quite sure what do think about that but it wasnt a very nice feeling.
But anyway I left Reading for the last time with lots of good memories but my general overriding impression was of a soulless Southern town luckily situated quite near to London to preserve everyone’s cultural and sociable sanities.
Beers in London before heading off to Heathrow on the extortionate but reliable Heathrow express and then a couple of hours making the most of my BA Silver card to have a nice shower and shave before getting on the plane. Was flying Quantas. The plane was going to Sydney but was only 1/3 full. I managed to have 3 seats to myself so got some proper sleep and then a nice english breakfast at 2pm (ok 8am in BST).
Thailand again! Looking over the fields at the orderly patchwork surrounded by little rivers and the occasional road, then Bangkok looming in the distance. The airport stuff was quick and soon enough I was in taxi flying along the expressway at 140kmh! Got to Khao Sarn after about 20 minutes and found a nice new guesthouse on Soi Rambutri. This road has changed so much in 2-3 years – it used to seem quite quiet and out of the way, now there are shops and hotels being built.
So yeah not sure where I’m going next as Jess is in an internet free zone (i think, i hope)! I lefy my mobile in the UK as I wanted to be uncontactable and also to stop ringing people when ive had too many beer changs.
Right time for a banana milkshake I think. Not quite sure what time my body thinks it is though.