Friday, 1 November 2013

Bangkok, oh how I love thee

Thursday 31st October Halloween

I woke up this morning bitten to fuck by insects, Carol is bite free and said so in the sheepish manner of a person who is glad that they are travelling with some one who attracts the bugs away from every one else! Yes, I am bug food in the very literal sense here. Another dawn saw us waking up with the sun and feeling quite content to do so, the streets outside are busy and there is even some building work going on somewhere, which given the state of the buildings around here means that another level could be being constructed on top of one of the rickety buildings in the street.

Breakfast was another treat of scrambled egg on toast and served by yet more polite and helpful Thai folk, who must be sick to death of travellers expecting the world on a plate here. I can honestly say that the people who work and run this hotel are so kind and considerate that to treat them with anything other than the same back would show just how poor European standards are when communicating with our neighbours. Carol has pointed out to me yet again the difference here among road users, Road Rage does not seem to exist here, it is just a case of live and let live. A truly remarkable way of being given the amounts of traffic on the streets and how much of it is young people on mopeds and scooters who ride about in the sort of gear that would horrify the average DSA examiner. Remember folks, back in dear old Blighty, for a young person to ride a bike they must take several tests and then be restricted to a certain power level decided not by their skill level but by their age.

Seeing another culture that is so different from our own in so many ways makes me realise just how tightly compressed and controlled the people of Britain are. Surely with the state of the nation people should be rising up and demanding change, not laying down like a dog pleased to have its belly tickled no matter the cost to personal dignity. There is Poverty here in Thailand and some of it is very extreme, but there is also freedom and peace. I have not felt at risk walking down the streets here like I do at home on a Friday night. Any violent outbursts I have seen so far have all been in form of tourists combined with alcohol or tourists combined with frustrated locals. This may well be a rose tinted view of the people here, but when every one is friendly and wants to know where we are from and wants to say hello, what can we expect. Yet when we eat breakfast, none of the other tourists will make eye contact and it almost feels like they wish to remain silent, talking only to those in their particular group. A very insular bunch it would seem.

One assault on the senses this morning was the rising smell of Bangkok, which Carol informs me is to her barely noticeable, one dreads to think how she achieved this level of immunity, but I suspect I know the cause of this and can possibly point the finger at my own bottom. For me though, the smell of Bangkok is close to revolting, that rising stench of drains and fried food, the delicate putrefaction of the streets lined with the bustle of a busy population.

Currently I am typing this while laying down on my tummy. It would seem that I am one of the very few travellers in the world who goes to exotic locations and gets constipation! I feel like I have eaten a tub of quick drying cement and it has balled up in my lower intestines, which means todays plans for a trip to the grand palace may have to be cancelled for a little while.

Friday 1st November

I did not sleep last night, being tired and emotional both of us had a rough evening and ended up fighting into the early hours. These are the things that a strong relationship can overcome and once the frustration at the things we cannot change and the anger over the things that hurt have faded away, love takes over and all is mended. That is until "she" starts snoring/farting and then one of us wants to kill the other!

So with two hours sleep behind me and more pain than I truly deserve we went for breakfast this morning and I managed two slices of toast before returning to our room and Carol putting me back to bed with the words, "get some sleep." So pumped full of painkillers I hit the sack under the icy blast of the air con machine. Bliss. I woke up at twelve and managed yet more painkillers and returned to sleep for another hour before I managed to wake up fully and then we got ready to go out and indulge in the joys of Bangkok.

By its own admission, Bangkok has a very serious hygiene problem, to paraphrase the man in the restaurant in the film The Blues Brothers "Frankly Bangkok is offensive, smelling, I mean it smells bad!" A combination of pollution, bad drainage, heat and street cooking make Bangkok an assault upon the nose, but I was able to ignore it for long enough to go out and enjoy some time with Carol. However as we crossed the river I noticed the tell tale signs of hydrogen sulphide bubbles rising through the water and bursting into the air.

Do not drink from here!
Years of the cities waste being pumped into the rivers and streams have given them an ecology that borders on toxic, any locals who are immune to that river have become so through great suffering. To any westerner who is foolish enough to go in that water, disease awaits.

Anyway, back in Bangkok and Carol was on a mission to find something nice to wear. It is nice to see Carol enjoying herself and after a while it became clear that every stall had the same old shit bought from the same supplier and then sold to Westerners who want that Eastern experience. The locals are wandering around looking good in nice dresses, jeans and shirts or nicely designed outfits. The serious tourists are the ones in sun cream and Rohan trousers, overly technical and barely used cameras weighing them down like anchors around their necks. Then there are the drunken slob tourists in shorts, flip flops and ripped vest tops and with a half drunk beer in each hand as they shout their conversation to the fellow slob stood next to them.

Some lovely tourists

Finally we have the hippy chic tourists, the one in the Indian style pants that have the crotch by the ankles so that it looks like they are wearing a pillow case that has been tied in each corner about their ankles. These tourists generally have dreads, a dirty face and an even dirtier back pack. Dirty feet are slid into dirty sandles and for the women there is the ubiquitous ankle bracelet that contains at least two small bells and depending on the length of the trip, more! I have nothing in common with any of these people and can only conclude that this is why none of our fellow travellers in our hotel will engage in conversation despite my smiles and politely spoken hellos.

Carol and I searched through the stalls and then like an oasis in the desert, we found the one stall that had one last skirt hidden in the dark under store of the piles of fashionable rags sold as clothes. In bold reds and blacks, it was beautiful and once she had slipped into it, Carol looked gorgeous. After hours of struggling to find it, we had succeeded and it was promptly bought for the price of about £2.00! From there is was off to the Tailors to see how her custom Bike Leathers were coming along.

St Michaels Fashions of Bangkok is a lovely shop and the charming gentleman who runs the store is both efficient and helpful.

As a guy in his mid twenties he is sharply dressed, cool in his height of fashion shoes and grey business trousers cut perfectly to his form. Originally from Burma he is as settled in Thailand as any local and he seems genuinely happy to be there. Carol's leather jeans were cut out in pattern form and stitched together as a fabric guide, the real leather will be cut soon and then it will be stitched together by a woman so small she can barely reach up to adjust the collars of the clothes she is making for us! The gentleman of the store adjusts carols waist coat pattern until it hugs her form perfectly and makes her look like a hard biker, even when she is on foot in a tailors in the posher bit of Bangkok!

Some one is a very happy teddy indeed.
Once happy, we made our outside and hired a TukTuk to take us back to the hotel and the cool of the air con machine. Our clothes were soaked with sweat and needed washing there and then, so it was into the shower and rinse the sweat and dirt from out clothes.

We then decided to head out into the city to find a restaurant and maybe have our first meal out together since arriving in Bangkok on Monday. As soon as I stepped out of the room, the hot stink of Bangkok filled my nostrils causing me to gag slightly. Down stairs the receptionist had the main doors wide open and the smell had invaded like the smell of the Diskworlds Foul ole Ron! Outside the smell was pungent and raped my olfactory senses in a brutal attack, I swallowed back the bile brought up into my throat and we made our way to a restaurant. With in meters of the hotel, any appetite I had had vanished to be replaced by the urge to purge the contents of my stomach onto the street. Carol was not impressed and so with a heavy heart and my hand clasped across my nose, we returned to the hotel. I truly am such a wimp.