End of the World Travel

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Millennium Travel Pt 7

31/1/02 - Pat Pong Ping Pong Balls

Caught the bus back to Bangkok where we decided to head north to the Golden Triangle and Chang Mai. So off to the travel agents we trotted, well it was only across the road actually so it was more of a very short stroll. Actually felt like seasoned travelers this time round as we where able to go directly back to the warm varnished carved wood, smell of incense creating an exotic Asian feel backpackers and settle in like natives (cause, you know, we'd been travelling like, about 9 days by this stage). Thought we may as well plan ahead so we organised a visa to go to Vietnam while we where there. Apparently these take a while to come through so how organised were we.

I have to mention at this stage that I had also wanted to go to Laos but had been well and truly put off by our Kanchanaburi nurse friend and her partner. Apparently they had a bad experience trying to cross the border from Chang Mai (known to be within the Golden Triangle* )and were quite vehement about us not going there if we didn't want to have to hand over all our cash to the border guard. So, not being the seasoned travelers we actually believed ourselves to be, we totally listened to them and missed out on the opportunity to visit that beautiful place.

*The Golden Triangle is known for being one of the two major opium producing areas in Asia the second apparently being Afghanistan in the Golden Crescent. Not sure why these areas are referred to as being “Golden shapes”perhaps one feels golden after imbibing the product or maybe a side effect of the pastime is that one develops a love of geometry!

Hindsight, and conversations with other travelers further down the line confirmed the regrets that I felt for listening to them and not being my own woman*

*Like Eleanor Roosevelt - Learn by Living circa 1960 

Anyway, once again I digress, So, travel plans organised we took an evening stroll down Kao San Road came across a “Boots”. For the uninitiated, Boots is an iconic pharmacy in the U.K. that will supply all your pharmaceutical and toiletry needs. When travelling abroad the familiar sight of such an icon makes you feel relaxed, safe in the knowledge that all is right with the world. Spent a fortune (mostly on items from nurse friend's list!) before realising that we would have to carry all this crap. Live and learn.

1/ 2 /02 – Today found us jaunting round the city centre of Bangkok. Came across a shrine where authentic Thai dancers boogied on down to help the prayers of the Bangkok citizens reach whichever deity they chose to pray to. I like this concept. I wonder what form of dance the late great JC (Jesus Christ) would have appreciated*?

        I'd go with the other late great JC and Burning Ring of Fire (circa 1963) as it seems to fit the christian doctrine admirably

Went to a shopping centre, (I know, but in my defence, I had been travelling less than a fortnight and still had western consumer tendencies) and purchased some toe rings (cause it's hot, I'm in flip flops and they will go well with the tie dye outfits...as soon as I slim down enough to fit into them). They were a steal at around £2 each but I suspect they might have been pinky rings! Here we go again, westerners...big shoes, big feet, big toes. 

Sampled some street market food* and headed back. 

*Deep fried something balls...not a cockroach in sight thankfully

We met some more really cool people who we proceeded to get to know over several beers at the backpackers. There were a couple of English guys (teaching English abroad) a dutch dude and a couple of Israelis, quite the cosmopolitan group. Unfortunately the English couldn't handles the pace and were in slumberland by 9pm (pansies) so it was left to the stalwart drinkers to carry on into the Thai night to see what unfolded.

I don't know whose idea it was...but we all went along for the ride...seemed like a good idea at the time...almost ended up as Thai tourist meatballs...here's what happened!

Let's go check out Pat Pong they said, can't go to Bangkok and not go to Pat Pong they said. So off we went to Pat Pong, otherwise know as the Red Light District, to see what all the fuss was about.

Found a bar, was told our entry fee gave us a free drink, went in and were entertained by a bunch of very bored* Thai females opening bottles, smoking ciggies and dispensing ping pong balls from there nether regions**while being watched by big fat sweaty European men...and our little party.

*When I say bored I suspect stoned on any number of illegal substances was probably nearer the truth.
**Dispensing with an alarming amount of accuracy I might add, damn near got a ping pong ball in the eye!

I mean, impressive and all that but when is  a skill that like ever going to come in useful in polite society. Can't see it going down well during your average family Christmas night charades session.

Anyway, once again I digress. Remember the free drink we were supposed to get? Well we didn't. This upset my travelling companion's(TC) Celtic sensibilities, considering we had already been fleeced for the entrance fee, who had to be physically restrained from introducing the small scary Thai gentleman to a "Scotch Kiss"*

*A movement that involves the forehead of the annoyed person connecting with the bridge of the nose of the person doing the annoying. Also referred to as "throwin the heid in". 

This was very disconcerting as the aforementioned small Thai gentleman was quite probably a champion Thai boxer and definitely had a "don't mess with me" look about him. So after convincing him that TC would not make a good substitute for the ping pong dispensing lady already on the stage, we made a sharp exit stage right sans free drink. All was not lost as the dutch dude very kindly offered TC a pacifying shag later on that evening*.

*Once again, is offering to become violent what one needs to do to find someone to get jiggy with you? I am all astonishment in manner of Elisabeth Bennet (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice circa 1813)

We finished off the evening in a quiet little bar further down the street,congratulating ourselves on our lucky escape. Bumped into Declan, a 60 something Belfast man who kept apologising for the fact that he was keeping company with a young Thai lady who was requesting 2000 baht to sleep with him*

 * A bargain I would have thought, considering it would have been shagging an old bean bag with half the stuffing missing!

Eventful evening all round I would say.

N.B. So how did these chain of events change my life as I knew it?

I have learnt to do my own research and not to take other people's word as gospel or follow them blindly! Oh, and don't even think about head butting a Thai kick boxing bouncer...looks can be deceiving!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Millenium Travel Pt 6

30/1/02 – Leonardo Di Caprio-half man half fish

So, as I mentioned earlier, a cheaper form of accommodation had been procured and we settled in for a quiet night watching a movie (The Beach). Now, for those that have seen this movie you will be aware of it's location (Thailand) and it's story line (strange). So imagine my surprise when I awoke next morning with the vivid vision of Leonardo as a half man half shark person.* I am noticing that my subconscious mind is definitely having a field day with my new surroundings and experiences.

*Note to self, dreaming of movie stars as part animal tends to kill any eroticism that may have been otherwise attained...of course it would depend on the type of animal and what bit of said movie star was being animally portrayed!...Is animally even a word? If not it should be.

We have met a nice couple who will accompany us on our waterfall journey as well as sharing the joy of using public transport, in another country, like the true intrepid travellers (IT) we have become. Lucky bus station is right by new accommodation as IT or not, I like to know where I am, how I got there and how I'm getting back! Slowly getting the hang of this “travelling malarky”*

*Malarky – nonsense (English)
Malarky – exaggerated talk (Urdu)
Malarky – Soldier, E Company, 101st airborne div (Band of Brothers, HBO TV series circa 2001)
Little bit of trivia...just in case you're interested.

So here I am again, rising at stupid o'clock in the morning and all ready to go by 6.30 am. Must say, not use to being up and about at this time (unless I'm just getting home...oh er) but when you're carefree and in foreign parts one appreciates the sunrise and the peaceful stillness of the morning. Another good thing about being a carefree traveller is the fact that if the early morning start proves a bit traumatic, you can return to bed for a snooze any time you like...ah the decadence of it all.

Went for breakfast with our new friends and it wasn't long before the conversation turned to stools* and the consistency thereof. Why, I hear you cry, would you be discussing the less pleasant bodily functions over your morning porridge? 

*Stools of the steaming rather than sitting on variety

Well, if you have a two hr bus journey plus a walk of several km ahead of you, these things become vital. At this point i think it fair to warn anyone travelling to S.E. Asia about the toilets, or rather, holes in the ground with ceramic footplates (if you're lucky).
Image result for image of toilet in se asia
Oh yes, I'm not joking. The attractive bucket on the left is your average flushing mechanism.

 Having a bit of a public toilet phobia* I am struggling with these ablution blocks (where squatting is the traditional stance) as leg strength and balance (two things I currently lack) play a huge part in the operation. So I would advise a few weeks at the gym prior to travelling to perfect this excersise.

*I once went round twice in a long queue for the toilet in a hotel as the pressure to perform was so great (can't go if rude people keep banging the f**king door...you know who you are). Ended up having to walk back to my accommodation, doubled over, to attain the privacy required to relieve myself!

So with breakfast and bowel movements organised and out of the way we set off, boarded the bus and headed for Erwan falls.
Nice view...and the waterfalls not bad either!
We arrived, what can I say, beautiful, awe inspiring, otherworldly, wet! What an amazing place, a seven tiered set of falls so inviting. Clear flowing water cascading into deep azure pools...bliss. You would think so wouldn't you but be warned. The main pool at the bottom was full of flesh sucking sobo carp (fish ) which attached themselves to your limbs as soon as you entered the water. Don't get me wrong, the fish weren't dangerous, just very unpleasant. Some people rave on about the benefits, cleaning any wounds, good for psoriasis and eczema etc but the experience just gave me the screaming ab dabs*

*Abdabs-akin to heebee jeebies. Not unlike the feeling you get when you hear nails scraping down a blackboard

From here on in any male administering unwanted attentions will be known as an SC (Sobo Carp) and will illicit the following response...SC 11 o'clock, dive,dive, make for cover, every woman for herself!

On returning we made an unofficial stop to enable our new friend to relieve herself. The bus driver was more than happy to wait for her which was very cool, can't see that happening on a number 36 to Victoria. We are definitely not in Catford* anymore.
Spent a quiet evening in the mellow surroundings of our latest raft house eating far to much (bowel movements not a concern as toilet close by) and watching movies. Our new friend (a nurse) has kindly furnished us with a list of potential medical ailments common to IT's in this part of the world as well as the medicine required to combat them. So our list covers everything from mouth ulcers to scabies inclusive of dysentery and intestinal worms. At this point the thought of continuing any further with my travels, knowing of the potential dangers to my person lurking in every meal, glass of water, or backpacker bed, has me wanting to run back to my room, pack my bags and leg it to the nearest western country with a first class health system! Forewarned is forearmed I suppose.

*Catford, for those who are not aware is a small suburb of S.E. London. Known for it's..erm...ah...well, not really know for anything actually apart from the fact I lived there briefly and Kate Bush who lived in Brockely which is just down the road.

N.B. So how did these chain of events change my life as I knew it?

Well, I have learned to plan ahead when in unknown territory with unknown number of public conveniences and, have discovered that I really need to work on the strength of my legs as a result of said public (and private) conveniences!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Millenium Travel Pt 5

29/1/02 - Sparrows fart/ Kanchanaburi

It’s the crack of dawn and I’m up and about (what’s wrong with this equation…ah yes that’s it, I’m up and about!). The IT is about to sample a “travel by elephant” experience. You may be thinking to yourself, “Self, what’s so special about an elephant ride?”
Sure c’mere an I’ll tell ye.” Says I. For me, the elephant is one of the most exotic animals there is. Apart from being one of the largest, strongest mammals on the planet, (blue whale not withstanding) and, the mammal that helped Hannibal (circa, 218-202 BC) cross the Alps with the thought of whipping the Romans ancient butts, they are incredibly interesting animals.
When I look at an elephant* I see a creature as old as time with a look on its face which states, “well, if I knew then, what I know now…things would be different I can tell you!”

*Obviously I only really did this for the first time today. I did go to the elephant house at the Zoo once but they were disinclined to acquiesce to an audience with the great human unwashed…in other words, they wouldn’t come out of the enclosure.

At this point I should like to point out that if anyone from the BBC/Discovery channel happens to read this little missive, I’m available to take part in any narration/filming of animal doco. I love animals, I really do…except maybe cockroaches. Can someone please explain to me the reason for cockroaches? I mean, what purpose do they actually serve (apart from giving most people the heebie jeebies) and why, why, why (sorry, Esther Rantzan “That’s Life” moment,1973-1994, classic British T.V. Blimey I’m showing my age now so I am) do they deserve to be one of the very few creatures that will be able to survive a nuclear attack (or disaster based on human error which is probably more likely!).

Anyway, I digress, again, which I do quite regularly, you will get used to it I’m sure. Now, where were we, ah yes, the elephant ride. Interesting mode of transport your average elephant, as a horse rider I have to say I wouldn’t fancy trying to stop one if it decided it wanted to run free. What I found really odd, apart from the fact that the concrete jungle I have become accustomed to has been replaced by an actual real green Tarzanesque* jungle…complete with wild animals…one of which I happen to be sitting on the back of, which, for the record isn’t something your average Belfast woman does on a regular basis!, is the fact that both the elephant and the little dude who appears to be in charge of the elephant, are competing to see who can grab the juiciest leaves of the trees as we pass. The elephant, as you may imagine, intends to ingest said leaf whereas the “little dude” appears to be rolling his and smoking it! Hhmmm, interesting, must investigate further.

*Tarzan the Ape Man, 1932 – Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller apparently produced the famous Tarzan yodel we have all come to know and love.

In case some of you are at this point thinking about illegal smoking substances, let me remind you that we are in Thailand, home of the Bangkok Hilton. In movie metaphor land I’m talking “Midnight Express, 1978 – replace Turkey with Thailand. Moral message “Don’t indulge kids”! Crazy idea you would think…wouldn’t you? More on this later!

Our friendly neighbourhood elephant deposited us by a beautiful, quiet, calm river which we proceeded along by bamboo raft. The ride itself was very peaceful and serene. I felt a bit like Katharine Hepburn in “The African Queen”, 1951 (from the 1935 novel from C.S. Forester) but without Humphrey Bogart, the leeches, the torrential rain and of course the German soldiers. Sorry digressing again.
Our jungle experience came to an abrupt ending when we were kicked off the raft and left by a petrol station, in the arse end of nowhere, to await our guide. To add insult to injury they, as in the petrol station employees,’ attempted to fleece us again for a can of juice, I mean, 30bt for a juice…that’s a whole 50p that is. I can get a tuk tuk* to Khao San Rd for 60bt for goodness sake! We have decided that we are on an economy drive, TC’s culture starting to rub off (have you guessed what it is yet? as Mr R Harris would've said, if he was not currently spending time at her Majesties pleasure). Well, we've been travelling a week already and of course when you have to pay for accommodation EVERY night, one can’t be too careful can one? See, turning into tight backpacker and English upper class twit, I am becoming an oxymoron…I wonder if the chemist has anything for that?

*Tuk Tuk, small open sided vehicle driven by mad manic Thai person.

When we were finally picked up by our guide we went for lunch and I was delighted to come into contact with my first monkey* It was of the “small grey monkey” family and was, for me, another big reminder that I had indeed gone “forn” (this word must be read with a Belfast accent then you will understand). Our Asian body sized lunch (veg and rice) behind us, TC and I took a trip on the death railway**

*The first of many on this trip…and not all necessarily of the hairy non-speaking primate kind either!

**Named for the amount of POW’s killed while building it and not, as I assumed at the time, because of the 3,000,000ft drop down a craggy cliff face to certain death at the bottom although, I’m sure whoever named it thusly took aforementioned drop into consideration…I’m sure I would.

I would just like to add at this point that, while we were waiting for the train, we encountered quite a few wee saffron robed persons looking very Dalai Lama like in orientation although…do proper monks wear socks and carry video cameras? Was I wrong to expect cymbals and chanting? Takes all sorts I suppose. Travel really does broaden the mind, but not the waistband…I think I am definitely well on the way to size velly velly rittle*.

*Apologies for very bad stereotyping of Asian way of speaking.

Same day – Mountain Museum somewhere near Hell Fire Pass

The next stage of our day took us to a place called “Hell Fire Pass”*. Before embarking on the trek to the pass, TC and I made our way round the museum (WWII) and watched a short documentary on the liberation of the POW’s in the area. Ok people I am about to become very serious in my description of the sights, sounds (or lack of them) and feelings that I experienced while in this area. I don’t do this very often as I do try to look at the world in a humerous fashion however, sometimes that is just not possible.

*A pass blasted straight through the mountains creating a more direct route for the Burma railway. Built by the POW’s who worked 24/7. The prisoners literally worked at night using bamboo torches so as to complete the railway on schedule…hence the name Hell Fire.

Firstly, the museum itself offered very little in the way of exciting artifacts. More rifles, a few medals and some rivets and bolts from the railway, uninspiring you might say. At this stage I was not feeling particularly moved nor, as happens when I’m around places or objects of antiquity, did I have that feeling of awe which leads to a perceived idea of what it felt like to be part of the environment or situation of the time.

As we moved through the museum we followed the corridor to the screening room and there, in the dark, for the next seven minutes I began to experience the emotions which would stay with me for quite some time.

On the screen I watched as line after line of emaciated men stood beside the same rusty train carriages as I had seen in Kanchanaburi. I looked at their faces and felt the despair that I saw etched there. Although this was photo graphical evidence of their emancipation, there was no joy, relief or excited anticipation of returning home. Instead, all that was visible to me was misery and confusion. The men that were staring out at me from their celluloid window gave me a glimpse of what it looks like to have lost all hope, faith and joy. I grew up in a country that was gripped in what some have referred to as “civil war”, (I say some because as far as I’m aware, neither my peers, family nor colleagues ever thought of life in Belfast in this way. It was what it was and, when I think of civil war, I always picture Iraq or Afghanistan which are areas that I considered to be a lot worse off than Belfast.) I can honestly say that I have been fortunate enough to never have felt such a total absence of hope.

As we trekked through the jungle towards Hell Fire Pass I am thinking, “How on earth did these poor men keep going?” The heat and humidity are unbearable and we are not even here at the hottest time of the year. As well as the climate, these Australasian warriors* also had to cope with dysentery, malaria and many other diseases which are equally as unpleasant. What struck me as we neared the pass was the silence. If any of you have experienced a jungle, forest or countryside environment you will have noticed how incredibly noisy it can be…lack of people and vehicles doth not the silence make. So the lack of insect, bird or reptile noise made for a very eerie atmos. The pass itself was silent as the grave and I have only experienced this type of stillness once before, in the WWI memorial park at the Somme in France. It’s as if all things, with a natural capacity for life and living, have deserted these places due to the essence of pain, horror and evil left behind by the thoughts and deeds carried out by one group of humans towards another.

As a species I do wonder where we get off and I do not believe for one minute that we are the most intelligent of all living things. The most destructive, yes, the most arrogant, yes, the greediest most self absorbed egocentric creatures around, yes, yes and thrice yes. Let’s face it, in developmental life stages your average human is in the 0-6yrs old, “all about me” phase. Heaven help the world if we ever reach the equivalence of adolescence! Ok Universe, put the cosmic car keys right out of reach and empty the drinks cabinet. The human race in general is not to be trusted.

Hell Fire Pass During WWll

Hell Fire pass Today
*Most of the soldiers where from Australia and New Zealand.

So, heavy laden with so much despair, TC suggests that we move to another raft house. The saving of another 0.03p per night has lifted our spirits tolerably (see how fickle we are) and we are now within walking distance of the bus station (always a bonus). We have come to the conclusion that a trip to anywhere that does not involve war, famine or human suffering is on the cards and have therefore opted to visit a set of waterfalls somewhere in the vicinity which requires a trip on local transport (go the bus station). The Plan for the evening is as follows; a beer or two, a movie in communal guest area and bed. The IT sleeps safe in the knowledge that a saving of o.o6p per night in accommodation costs has been attained.

N.B. So, how did these chain of events change my life as I knew it? 

In the space of one day I understood AGAIN how lucky we "post war people" are and felt gratitude for the life I was able to have thanks to the people who fought and died to make it so...AND I SAW AN ELEPHANT AND  MONKEY :)

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Millennium Travel Pt 4

Pt 4– Road to Kanchanaburi (Still no sign of Bob or Bing!)

27/1/02 - Somewhere between Bangkok and Kanchanaburi

Packed up early and left the busy, smelly, so many people I’m afraid I’m going to get mugged, better safety pin my money bag to my knickers*, big smoke and hopped on a bus to the tranquil peaceful environment of the River Kwai. Using the very able services of the lonely planet guide, the IT and trusty TC find a very basic room on the river. When I say “on” I mean literally that. There are lots of little raft houses floating on the river which are connected by wooden slatted gangways (wouldn’t look out of place in an Indiana Jones movie. Probably “Temple of Doom”, 1984, as the rest were set in the desert).

*Hindsight now allows me to admit that the only consequence of this action, (in case you are considering it a good idea when embarking on your own travel experience), is likely to be this; if the bum-bag is grabbed, the additional pull on the pin would force it to open either stabbing me in the process or, ripping a huge hole in underwear, or worse, removing underwear altogether. At the very least I expect you would end up with a nasty welt or two somewhere in the lower abdominal region as well as being sans money bag.

My actual money bag attached to actual knickers

When I say “basic” I mean four walls, one roof, and two beds, rather like a cell actually. My good friend, Princess Funny fanny*, wouldn’t be seen dead here…There’s nowhere to plug in a hairdryer!

 *No, of course funny fanny is not her real name…honestly! She knows who she is and that's OK!

No matter, us back packers are a resilient (and a bit tight I’m beginning to realise) lot and it’s very picturesque…and cheap. Total rent 150bt, (Baht…Thai currency), which amounts to about £1.50 each. Absolute barg* I say.

*Sorry, am being frightfully lazy with the old language. I seem to have slipped into English upper class twit mode. The word I am referring to is of course bargain.

Righto, it is time to explore. I, along with TC, (who’s colouring is causing her a little difficulty what with all the sun and heat and the like) decide to view the countryside on pushbike (big and bulbous be dammed, rice and veg Asian size here I come).

Luckily, the terrain is very flat, allowing us to cycle at our leisure, and we eventually stumble on a WW II museum which is alongside an old POW camp (Prisoner of War... honestly, what do they teach you at school these days, lest we forget and all that!). After having a quick look round, there wasn’t much to see, a few old rifles, the original rail cars used by the Japanese to house the prisoners and the ruins of original R. Kwai bridge (unfortunately made famous by Alec Guinness movie rather than Japanese occupation of Thailand and appalling treatment of POW’s – Check out Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, 1983, David Bowie up to his neck in sand…you’ll soon get the picture).

I signed the visitor’s book and included a request for world peace (why wouldn’t you?). Maybe, because it’s written by an IT from “Norn Iron”, some entity somewhere (Buddha, Allah, God, the Universe or all of the above) might put it on their “Things to do Today” list…or am I just being arrogant and naive ? I mean, they must be very busy what with all the nonsense in the world today. Maybe there’s a specific request form one has to complete*

*In capital letters, using black ink, to be returned to the above address, in triplicate…failure to complete the written instructions will result in your request being lost forever in the system of whatever parallel universe the ill addressed form manages to find itself. N.B. The company takes no responsibility for requests that get lost in an inadequate system.

All in all, it turned out to be a very strange emotional kind of day. It might have had something to do with the fact that as we tried to make our way across the river Kwai, via the famous “Bridge” (blew up more times than a balloon apparently…just like the Europa Hotel in Belfast but without the bomb proof window glass!), we were assaulted by many Japanese people on route.

Bridge as it is today. Not my actual photo but one very similar to the one that I would most certainly have taken as a tourist and then lost in transit somewhere between then and now. 

I do not mean that they were physically assaulting us in manner of prisoners falling under the boot of the mighty oppressor, rather they surrounded us demanding pictures of these tall, statuesque, (me) fair Celtic coloured (TC), non-rice and veg sized females. Bit ironic I thought. What a difference 60 years makes. That would be an ecumenical matter I suppose.

Spent the evening in the communal guest area (more warm, varnished, carved wood, very nice) watching Robin Hood, 1991, Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman. One of the best versions in my humble opinion…no tights! Went to bed vaguely thinking “I wonder if anyone would die for me?”, when cynicism returned in all its sarcastic glory stating, “Only if it was an accident inadvertently caused by you via stupidity or clumsiness.”

28/1/02 - On a bike, somewhere in Kanchanburi, working on veg and rice Asian size body

Managed a mammoth cycle in a complete circle today, ending up exactly where we started, Which is what you want really isn’t it? We do however; remember how to get back to the bus station which is a bit of a bonus. We may have only been travelling for a week, but the penny pinching is setting in. We are moving to different digs tomorrow because it is 0.03p cheaper than where we are at the moment! This drastic tightening of the belts occurred as a direct result of being, in TC’s opinion, “fleeced” on a trip by a whole tenner*. With a completely different mindset, my feelings on the subject are as follows; “but we get to see an elephant, how often does that’s happen…c’mon!”
So, after several (but not as many as night one…growwwlll) beers and a game of pool, it’s off to bed in our new, 0.03p cheaper, room.

*In this case ten pounds stirling.

 N.B. So, how did these chain of events change my life as I knew it? 

Definitely highlighted the fear and nervousness naturally generated when one realises that there will be no more monthly paychecks for a while...even though funds have been saved, the first response is PANIC!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Millenium Travel Pt3

 Downtown Bangkok

25/1/02 - Downtown Bangkok

Today TC and I thought we would treat ourselves to a traditional Thai massage while also visiting a rather large famous reclining gold Buddha type chap. We hopped onto a water taxi and enjoyed a pleasurable trip up the Chao Phraya river to Bangkok’s oldest and largest temple, Wat Pho.* For those of you who have never experienced Thailand, (or in fact any other nation whose culture has a penchant for ornate gold everything), go have a look at your local theatre (if it’s more than 20-30 years old). Combine the experience with a viewing of the movie “The King and I”, 1956. Leave out Yule Brynner singing and the Rogers and Hammerstein “Shall we Dance” routines and you now have a thinly veiled idea of the splendour of this amazing place.

*Re-modelled, apparently, in the ornate post-Ayutthaya style by a couple of kings called Rama lama dingdong or something similar.

After the cultural tour through the golden splendour* that was Wat Pho, we went to search for massages of a Thai nature. To describe the experience I must run with the few choice descriptive words and phrases which positively spring, like Tigger on speed, into my mind. Words such as…sadist for example, or purveyor of pain perhaps or, even executor of extreme ouchiness all go a small way to giving an idea of my feelings at the time. Visions of the implements of torture used, in medieval times, to inflict immense amounts of pain and suffering onto the populace, pale into insignificance like harmless toys when compared to the hands, fingers and knuckles of your average Thai masseuse. Alright, so I admit that I did actually feel a tad looser when the whole episode was over but still…the pain…oh the pain!

*Apparently bright yellows and gold’s are the colours of enlightenment. A bit obvious really. It would be hard not to see what was going on if everything was painted bright yellow and gold.

By the time TC and I returned to the aromatic, wooden, temporary place of habitual abode*. We had both made a major decision. The IT avec TC are on the road to Kanchanaburi on the famous River Kwai.** We received plenty big info on the subject from a chap called Matt who lives in a forest with monks…so it must be true and kosher!

*The backpackers in Sampeng.
**As in Bridge on the River Kwai…Alec Guinness, 1957, it’s a classic, check it out

26/1/02 - Fantasy body size land/Bangkok

Arranged our trip to Kanchanaburi and proceeded to do bugger all else due to heat exhaustion. Actually, that last statement was a big fat lie based on my own denial and bad form. Did In fact return to Khao San Road in an attempt to purchase some loose vest tops. For some bizarre reason, known to no-one in particular, I actually thought that I might have slimmed down to rice and veg Asian size in the space of 48hrs!

Question: Why would I think this?

Answer: Ask the people who go back to the fridge after 10mins in the vain hope that the 2 slices of bread, half an onion and the dehydrated lettuce that were its only previous contents, have miraculously morphed into something a lot more appetising. It’s the same optimistic concept.

The result of this optimistic endeavour was an angry 10min rant on the idiotic business sense of those who do not realize that their main customer base i.e., Westerners, come in more sizes than bloody wafer thin skinny. This was in fact about the time that I arrived back once again feeling very large and bulbous. I believe it was at this point I was overcome with heat exhaustion and had to retire to my room all “Jane Austen” like and very “Out of Sorts”.

At this stage I feel obliged to point out that, if you haven’t already noticed, I tend to describe things in relation to movies, the characters from movies or the literature that inspired movies. This will no doubt continue as a descriptive theme throughout this bijou novelette …what can I say, I like movies.

Yet another N.B. So, how did these chain of events change my life as I knew it? 
For the first time ever I admitted that my body shape, and dissatisfaction with it, was my own fault and only I could change it...also had to admit that it would probably take longer than 48 hrs and  involve more than one Thai massage to achieve this goal but, at least I have a goal :)  

Monday, 13 March 2017

Millennium Travel Pt 2

Millenium Travel Pt2 - Sampeng - Bangkok

24/1/02 - Sampeng - Bangkok

HANGOVER ALERT! I’ve been bitten by the tiger…Nough said.
My Travelling Companion (TC)* has had her first shag** A 12yr old English boy, TC is 43, (He was 23yrs old actually. Thus embarks the I T’s journey into the benefits of recreational use of 20 something men…more to follow no doubt).

**Shag-A Sexual encounter (for those not acquainted with this colloquialism).

Not even 24hrs into our trip and TC has pissed me off already. “Ha ha, you’re just jealous.” I hear you cry. No and yes as a matter of fact. No, because the real reason for the pissed offedness is that she locked me out of the cockroach infested room until 4.30 in the morning, forcing me to endure a stealth induced frenzied attack from the local beer, and yes because I, (in my normal tradition), proceeded to get incredibly intoxicated*

*Pissed as a fart

(Mental note to self: Stop getting drunk and terrorising men. Try being nice to them…It might just work!)

Anyway, moving on, after re-locating to a much classier backpacking establishment, (warm varnished carved wood, smell of incense creating an exotic Asian feel), TC and I start to appreciate that we are not in Camden any more.

We decide to head off to Khao San road, famous for its seedy rooms and cheap designer bling. The combination of hangover and heat is seriously numbing my brain. Basic movement and co-ordination is still a problem and, to my absolute delight at this time, stalls of fried bugs have now been added to the plethora of sights and aromas assaulting me at every turn.

Our main aim at this stage is to acquire some sexy designer sun glasses and attire that befits the Irish traveller attempting to blend in with the local environment. In this case I am referring to anything cotton, tie dyed and floaty, in manner of hippy trying to find oneself and not, as traditionally pictured, of balaclava’d camouflage in manner of terrorist trying to find someone else! However, unfortunately for the 33yr old slightly overweight IT (that’s me, you’d forgotten already hadn’t you…please pay attention as I will not be reminding you again), free size does not fit all when sizing is based on the childlike frame of the average rice and vegetable eating south east Asian, as, opposed to the fried fish and chip eating European.

The first shopping experience of my trip is therefore less than pleasing. I return to the exotic smelling accommodation feeling fat, frumpy, hot, bothered and thirsty. TC has fared slightly better on the shopping front as she is of a smaller mold than I am in size and stature. I am starting to feel jet lagged and I find myself in possession of several pairs of Thai fishing trousers which can be best described as large nappies with legs. My only comfort at this time is that the newly discovered rapid bowel movements caused by the change of diet, (in conjunction with the heat, dehydration and the thought of fried bugs for tea) should have me fitting into the “one size fits all small Asian people“ in no time.

N.B. So, how did these chain of events change my life as I'd known it? 
I had a lesson in learning to love that which you cannot immediately change, i.e., my fish and chip eating European body and traditional, large nappy with legs, Thai trousers! :)

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Millenium Travel - Pt 1

Millennium Travel PT1

Ah mother this London’s a wonderful sight
But the people around here talk nothing but shite
At least when I asked, here’s what I was told
These eejits do nothing but talk through their holes
And for all that I found there, I’d much rather be
In a street in Bangkok, having cockroach for tea


Dedicated to my cat Monkey for always looking at me in that condescending,
You could do so much more with your life if you made an effort you lazy human,” Kinda way.

Please note that the episodes in this blog referring to the Asia experience all take place at the turn of the last century,ergo, it all happened 15yrs ago. This is why there will be references to exchange rates, prices, places that may not exist today. This is due to an ever changing world and not, as you may believe, the ignorance and/or stupidity of the author…Keep it in context people.

Part 1 - Road to Bangkok (like the movie, 1952, minus Bob Hope and Bing Crosbie)

23/1/02 - Somewhere between London and Bangkok

After very cheerfully giving the finger to the big smoke as I cruised gracefully towards 35000ft, I sat back, adjusted my seat belt and thought, “Right girl, this is it, the beginning of the next phase of your life.”* Finally, after several movies that were hard to listen to because of interference from machine and human alike, the Intrepid Traveler** (that’s me) arrives in Bangkok.

*As we continue through the journey that is this part of my life, this statement will become clearer…I’ve had quite a few phases. I find it pays to have a new life phase at least every 7-9yrs.

**Intrepid Traveller (IT) is the non de plume I shall adopt for the duration of this story. Please remember it stands for Intrepid Traveller and not Information Technology, so…don’t be pretentious.

After sitting in a taxi for 2.5 hrs, touring the city on a journey which, incidentally, should have taken no more than 20-30 mins, traffic not withstanding, “Well, you know how it is at this time of night, blah blah blah.” I am beginning to believe that we, that is my travelling companion, (more about her later), and I have managed to acquire the only Bangkok taxi driver who has only ever viewed the city streets from a badly drawn map. My suspicions lead me to believe that he might in fact be an illegal cockney immigrant from London!*

*Those of you who have had similar taxi experiences in London will at this moment be recalling the pigeon English of the foreign gentleman driving the battered ford Cortina that belongs to his cousin.

So, I’m just about to say, in the politest way possible for a woman from Belfast who is really getting fromaged off, “Hey you, shift your, you have no clue where you’re going, arse off that seat and let me drive ye fecken eejit, when...we finally arrive in Sampeng. We grab the first room we find, (which is cockroach central but sure we can move tomorrow, let’s just get drunk for now), deposit our shiny new back packs and head off into the oriental Sampeng night.

Intoxicated by the sights, sounds and smells, (which, to the untrained nasal passages, are quite frankly a bit rank and, also really quite disgusting, on first sniff) we begin morphing into backpacker mode by introducing ourselves to lots of people and consuming vast quantities of the local brew (it’s called Tiger beer for a reason…it stalks you and you are blissfully unaware of the bite until you get bitten, which is usually when you stand up and try to walk!) This is going to be a great trip. 

N.B. So, how did these chain of events chance my life as I'd known it? 
The relief and pure joy I felt at leaving London behind proved to me that I was on the right path and, had been correct in following my heart and my intuition :)