Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Going... Not going... Going, Gone

Thailand diary, a very curious adventure indeed.
Still in the UK...
Thursday 17th October, 2013.

I am still not sleeping right, and my jaw aches from clenching my teeth, but that is not the biggest issue I have. No, the big issue is that we are booked to fly out to Thailand on the 28th of October for the holiday of a lifetime. Yet I am still to have my passport sorted out and more importantly I am still to find the enthusiasm to leave the comfort of my bedroom and venture into the big wide world. I picked up my medication today, that I have ordered for the trip and frankly it is silly, it fills my bag on it’s own and is heavy enough to cause me some worry.

Carol remains buoyant and  is so excited about the trip she talks about little else, her excitement exactly counters my indifference and together we manage to carry each other through without going to the extremes of our emotions. While she plans and plots on maps, I sit next to her and build machines out of Lego, but even here my enthusiasm wanes after an initial interest. The joy of clinical depression is that it makes day to day life hard to bare and going outside is a difficulty I would rather not have to face, I do not know how it has happened, but I have become a recluse who would rather stay in one room in the flat than venture outside! Not even my precious motorcycle can prise me from my room. When did this happen to me, when did I become a prisoner to my own discomfort?

In two and a half weeks I turn 40 and we plan to spend that day in Bangkok. shopping in the market surrounded by half of the population of Thailand. As I lay here in the relative discomfort of my bed, my shoulder aching and feeling like the outside world is a place I do not want to encounter, I cannot imagine a more hostile and and feral place to be! When is keeping me in this warm place is the comfort, something that has become a big part of my life since being hurt at work in 2009.

The reasons are many and varied, the fear feels real, but I know that fear is a choice, fear is the biochemical reaction to stimulus that is out of control. This should be the primeval fear of predators, not of leaving the comfort of my home.

Were it not for Carol, I rather suspect that I would be housebound by now, her enthusiasm should be infectious, instead I resent her happiness because I do not feel it when I think about leaving the house. Thailand is going to be good for me, but I rather fear that once I am out of here, I will not want to return. With my Darling Carol by my side, I could travel the world and beyond.



Friday 18th of October

It is ten days until we fly out to Thailand and I still have no passport, and to cap it all last night once I finally got to sleep and some time after five AM, I had a night of the worst nightmares filled with grief and worry. Yesterday was overall a very positive day, I went out and even managed a trip on my bike, albeit only a short one. Today though the shoulder aches and the thought of going out once again fills me with a mild feeling of disgust. The thought of going abroad and leaving our precious Alby and Jasper behind in the care of others is almost strong enough to make me not want to go. If anything happened to either of them I would be heart broken, utterly and completely heart broken.

This trip is also the first time that I have been out of Europe, flying to the other side of the world suddenly feels quite unsafe as we pack and prepare. We are having jabs and I am due my final one next week, another typhoid shot in the arm so I plan to ask them to stick in my right arm.

Our dear friend Rich has agreed to drive us to the airport so we have put him on the insurance of our car and have even bought him a little thank you gift. Just thinking about this I can feel the excitement building within me and I cannot wait to check in and get on that plane, yet my worry for my pets if a stark reminder that I am after all only human and I do not see Jasper as just a mere cat, he is a dear little soul, a much loved member of this little family, a miniature person and although she is a little more basic, out pet owl Alby is no different. I will miss our pets and I will miss the two teenagers who live with us, I will miss the gentle comments of support from my step daughter and the comfort that brings, but most of all I think that I am going to miss my Jasper who cuddles up with me every night, to sleep out of harms way snuggled into my feet on the end of my bed.

It is funny how the trip of a lifetime can be turned into an anxiety issue over something that some people would not even consider. What do we do with our pets, bless them?



Saturday 20th October

It is a week until we go to Thailand, a whole week and I still have no passport. Also the airline has contacted us and told us that out seats have been cancelled despite us having paid for them already. So things are looking a little difficult for us at the moment.

So while we bury our heads in the sand and ignore these difficulties, Carol is still getting excited and I am getting to the point where I do not believe it will happen. However, I have dyed our hair ready for the trip and have packed my bag ready to go, leaving out only the very last few things that I still need.

Now, one of the joys of a holiday is spending some time quietly reading while relaxing somewhere beautiful. I have a choice of two books, the last Iain M Banks Sci-Fi novel, or a history of the atom bomb. I wonder which one I will be allowed to take on the plane, should I ever get a passport…

Sunday 20th October

Eight days to go and I still have no passport! So tomorrow I must call the passport office once again, in the mean time I have been packing and repacking my main bag. I have got the weight down as much as I can, but with the sort of things that we need, we have to make some sacrifices on luxuries. Yet we still are close to our limit and still have things to pack.

I seem to have put on a fuck load of weight too, part of which is down to illness and medication, so I plan to diet at some point, I am sure that I can start while we are away. Also I am sure that a dose of Thai belly will empty me out at some point and that will no doubt help me to lose some weight too as disease prevents me from eating for a couple of days and my system squirts the filth from every orifice!

Carol is preparing her kit too, although she is not yet packed the way I am. In fact she has asked me to sew a button onto her trousers so she can pack them, which I shall do in a moment. So we are still getting ready with the hope that we will actually be able to travel. I do hope that she has made the right decision in booking and paying for everything, because without a passport, we have just wasted a great deal of money.

Wednesday 23rd October

With no passport and the passport office being unhelpful, it looks unlikely that we are going to fly out on Monday. The frustration is burning through us both and the disappointment lies heavy on our hearts like a blanket of pissy snow. If you were to ask us how we feel, the answer would be numb and I know that Carol is affected badly by this, the chances of us having our dream holiday are evaporating with each day that passes.

I am still not sleeping and it is nearly three AM once again, after three hours sleep last night, five hours the night before and god knows how many nights of restless sleep prior to this trip, I do not know how I remain functioning.

Carol is to phone the passport office again tomorrow



Thursday 24th October

What a day, spent lots of money, travelled fucking hundreds of miles and ate far too much shit. Yes, we had a road trip today and the delightful Jan came with us. The destination? The glorious city of Peterborough. No we did not even look around once we got there, we went to one building, spoke to three people, came out again, got in the car and made for Weston! Why you may ask, although I suspect that you already have guessed. I now have a Passport! Carol drove like a legend, despite one accident with a doughnut dripping jam on her top and the steering wheel making both very sticky! Jan was great and gentle company who kept us both amused and pacified when arsehole drivers tried to kill us, well she has such a lovely calming nature that we would recommend her highly as a friend.

So once back home we discovered that Alby had had a poo on my pillow once again, I swear that it is a dirty protest and she is in her little bird brained way trying to tell me something. Yet once we had changed the bedding again and climbed onto bed, Jasper came and had a cuddle making me feel so guilty about going away and leaving him behind. He loves his Mummy and I know that he is going to pine for me. I am if I am honest, greatly worried about both Alby and Jasper and hope that the two young people who share their home will look after them well.

So as I prepare to turn in and get some sleep (well once I have had a read of my new engineering text book, yes it does involve Lego!) I have to think about Monday morning and try not to shit myself with fear, it is not Bangkok that worries me, we have to go near London! Ewwwww...

Monday 28th October

Going to bed last night was a waste of time, neither of us could sleep and so we gave up, got dressed and wandered around doing stuff like last minute packing, repacking and trying not to over think everything. Rich arrived at just before three and I was awoken with a start by Carol who told me that we were set to leave. Bangkok here we come. As things go, our journey to Heathrow was tolerable given that the country seemed to believe that a super storm of epic proportions was about to wash the whole country into the sea, so as we set off in some rain, we feared the worst. Once again the media over hyped a seasonal change and turned it into the apocalypse when in fact it was just a bit of gusty rain. I will admit that I slept through most of it!

Arriving at the air port saw us checking in our main bags and standing in a queue that seemed endless. The woman on the counter was chewing gum and looking thoroughly disinterested as she allowed carnage to riot through a group of travellers who could not decide who was first in the queue. As we stood waiting, another member of staff took pity on us and ushered us through to an empty desk where our bags were weighed in and disappeared into the great machine of baggage handling, leaving us to find breakfast and Jan to find what ever loonies she could.

Breakfast was in a little cafe called Leon, a nice little place that served good honest food. Once my hunger was sated, I promptly fell asleep on the table and awoke an hour or so later just in time to wave good bye to Jan and Rich, our trust travelling companions. Waving good bye to them both was a painful joy, as sorry as I was to see them go, I was also starting to feel excited about getting on the plane. Although to be honest that excitement is mainly based on the thought of having somewhere to sleep!

Passing through the security search was problem free for Carol, for me though I was body searched by a raven haired security woman, a not entirely unpleasant experience if I am honest. Carol can search me like that any time she likes! I had to remove my boots and belt, hand over any weapons I had concealed, be subjected to a metal detector and finally passed through to wander the shopping court as we waited for our plane, which sadly was delayed due to a late arrival.

Finally got through to the waiting area for the plane and it is huge, a big four engined monster that will be chucking pollution right into the upper atmosphere! Yet as I look at it I am struck by its imense beauty, each engine the size of a small truck, producing so much power it can launch hundreds of tonnes of metal into the air with ease. Damn, I love planes. While we wait we can see them loading the food on and doing some basic maintenance like bolting the wings back on and putting some plasters on the tyres! The excitement is settling in now and really can't wait to get on board. Sadly for Carol she needs another wee and there is no toilet here. Bugger...

Tuesday 29th October, Singapore Airport Terminal two
Not the UK anymore...

Our flight was beautiful, the food served was lovely and the air was fragrant with the hint of beautiful spice. Although the windows were tiny little portholes the sizes of a biscuit tin, the views through the cloud were often spectacular. As we flew above New Delhi the streets were lit like gold thread on a frosty black cotton, the outlying regions were smoked glass of silver and gold and resembled the random scattering of autumn leaves on a freezing lake, heart stoppingly beautiful. I have discovered that fashion seems to be the same the world over and young women here in Singapore look the same as the young women waiting for lectures outside Weston college, albeit some what colder. Yet you cannot judge a country based only on the airport, but if you could this place would be heaven. The difference here to what we saw in Heathrow is exceptional. There is a glitzy calm to the place here, it looks like it was designed by the man who likes glitzy hotels with lots of lights and plastic tropical flowers, only here these flowers are real. Once again Carol has departed my company to search for her two main functions, passing water and smoking cigarettes.

Outside the airport looks like any other city I have seen, but cleaner. Has the UK really sunk so low that even its own residents find it dirty and smelly? Heathrow did not smell like this, this is pleasant and fragrant and quiet. However, even in this air conditioned building, I am sweating like a rapist!

Carol has just informed me that she has just had a most satisfying poo, clearly foreign travel agrees with her. One thing that has not agreed with us too well though is that our flight was delayed in London and we have missed our connection from Singapore to Thailand. However as we disembarked from the plane, we were issued with new tickets and given a lunch voucher. It is however too hot to eat here and I really need a shower... Just think, in a few days I shall be trekking in the jungle, where will my shower be then?

My name is Jayney, super adventurer!

Bangkok... Oh my!

Bangkok is wild and frenzied, the buildings have exciting features that the average free runner would sell a kidney to play on, the armed Policewoman smiled at me radiantly as I stepped from the cool plane into the toaster oven that is Thailand! After only a hundred meters or so, I am soaked with sweat, my feet hurt and I really really want to lay down. I have barely slept on this journey, well actually I managed two hours before we left, so in the last three days I have slept for less then six hours and I can feel it in every joint of my body. Every damaged part of my body aches with exhaustion and as I get more tired the aches turn into throbs.

Our first stop in Thailand is the railway station and now fully loaded with back packs and a sense of adventure we await the arrival of the train. Which arrives in only a few minutes. I am struck immediately by how clean everything is, First Great Weston can learn a thing or two hundred million from the trains in Bangkok, seating is clean, the floor is clean and they trains are a nice place to be. I nearly fall asleep against the the shoulder of the person sat next to me, a young Thai student working through her Crib Sheet of English words, some of which would be beyond the comprehension of some of the English students the schools I have worked in!

As we climb from the train, I am struck by the industrial complexity of the semi complete concrete structure that houses the station, it is a combination of BMX playground and bank, yet I cannot see a bike anywhere. Outside the station we find two people who are clearly here to sort out useless tourists who cannot find their arse with a map. Slightly put off by our insistence that we know where we are going and that we can even produce a map, they call a Taxi for us. A green and yellow Toyota Corolla, the new version of our very own car. In the back Carol and I both nearly fall asleep, until the driver growing impatient with the heavy traffic pulls out suddenly and then slams on his brakes to avoid the bike of  Policeman. I expect an angry exchange, a fine or even an arrest. The Policeman scouls and waves the taxi through. Our Hotel is an oasis in the desert, our bed is huge, we have wi-fi and best of all, we have air con. Sleep cannot come fast enough, although the shower first is exsquisite.

Wednesday 30th October

My initial feelings are that Bangkok is a city on the cusp of development, mixed into the new chrome and glass buildings are the squalid concrete and corrugated iron cubes of Thai homes and business. Next to those are the basic requirements of cover, a plastic sheet patched against the rain covering a frame work made from old bicycles and scrap metal. Under these live families trying to scrape a living from selling tat to tourists who then quibble over a few Baht for something that costs pennies in their native currency. I do not like this aspect of Thailand. Poverty and international commerce combined into a city that smells of a combination of exotic spiced food and blocked drains. Seeing a street vendor cooking on a trolley what appears to be animal lungs in a spiced sauce caused me to want to vomit! I may have pretensions of being an exciting traveller, my palate clearly does not. I am going to lose some weight here on this trip, maybe I can be a size twelve again very soon, just show me the local cooking being done over a blocked drain. I will never eat again!

Carol has insisted that we go for a walk, given that I have done nothing but lay dying in our room with a combination of tiredness and heat exhaustion. Our first step out before heading over to Khaosan Road, is to find the tailors who are to make her custom bike leathers. The young man we meet is an exile from Burma and as we ask him about back him his face darkens with memories of military law and oppression. His comment of "it is not very nice there" seems to be a huge understatement until his smile returns as he explains how he enjoys living in Thailand. He asks casually about our bikes and is shocked when Carol explains about the engine size of Noreen, the average bike here as a capacity of under two hundred CC, the thought of something that is eleven hundred CC is alien to these people and thinking about it the context of here, would be so impractical as to be laughable. In Thailand, the moped is what the cool guys have.

Once measured up, we head over to what the travel pages of Wikipedia call the Back Packers Ghetto. Khaosan Road... I agree with Wikipedia, it is not a place that says happy things and it is here that I see my first act of violence by one person against another as a Tourist threatens a taxi driver. The shame carried by this man is shared by all of us as we wander about, shouted at by ticket touts, bugged by Tukkuk drivers who say that it is too hot for tourists to walk and again assaulted in the nose by the smell of spiced food and blocked drains. Chaos is everywhere as bikes and cars compete for space with pedestrians and street sellers. This whole district is designed to extract money from the heavily loaded pockets of the tourists. Be advised, think about the exchange rate, Fifty Baht to the pound makes the Baht sound cheap, but it is very easy to appear to be an arse when flashing wads of paper money and in Thailand with the polite friendliness of the locals, it is too easy to forget just how long you have to holiday and how long that wad of Baht has to last.

While we stop for a rest, a ticket tout approaches us and informs us that the road of ahead of us is closed to tourists following an armed exchange between government troops and locals. He describes a riot and informs us that he is happy to handle for us a trip into a another temple where we will be made welcome and not have to worry about being shot or over charged for an ice-cream! Our polite refusal is ignored and he carries on until Carol gets more firm and politely informs him that we intend to go elsewhere and that he needs to leave us alone now. I smile and carry on watching the chaos around me as inside my heart rate rises and the anxiety of being in a crowded city starts to rise another notch. I cannot wash that smell from my nose, the sweet aroma of blocked drains makes me gag at one point and the constant weaving in and out of traffic by the bike riders fills me with the fear of witnessing an accident.

The walk back to the hotel takes us down some of Bangkok's back streets, the places that you will not see on the tourist tracks and finding myself walking along the river bank on rotted boards only feet above the heavily polluted waters of the river is both interesting and scary. Falling in that water is going to result in disease. Again it is almost shocking to see what little a human being needs to have a home, a simple tarp covered frame work of scrap metal and more bicycles gives a family the home they need to shelter from the elements. I cannot imagine how comfortable such a home is when the sky is bleeding rain during the monsoon. One thing that does connect us with home though is the love of pets that these people have. Street vendors that are cuddling cats before giving them back to adoring owners. The most striking pet of all was a pure white alley cat with the bluest eyes you have ever seen. At any moment I expect a horde of Fremmen warriors to come over a dune and declare this cat to be their leader! That is how blues its eyes are. Its lustrous coat is a tell tale of the love it gets from the woman who carries it.

Back at the hotel, I am wet with sweat, slick and sticky at the same time, too hot to move, too wet to get into bed and too tired to stand up. At some point this Jet Lag has to sort us out! Back at home where you lot are, it is ten past ten in the morning, here is ten past five in the afternoon. My insomniac body is even more confused than normal.