Thursday, April 6, 2006

Bangkok 24-12-2005

Well, we've arrived in Bangkok unscathed.
As you know, we couldn't cross the border overland due to extensive flooding (worst in at least 20 years apparently) so we took a flight with Air Asia from KL which turned out to be quite fun in the way that only Asia can be. Halfway through the flight the head attendant got up to thank everyone for flying with them... and to say thank you we all got to search through the pockets in front of us and if you found a laminated picture of a gift you won a prize. Nothing for us unfortunately but the guy behind us (only one seat away from me dammit!) won a little pillow and a pen... and when he got up to receive his gift he was requested to sing a song and so he launched into a garbled version of jingle bells and we all clapped along That could only happen here hehehe. That was it for the in-flight entertainment but fun nonetheless.
So we arrived at BKK airport, waited for ages and ages to get through immigration. It doesn't seem to matter what country you are in, there is always a disproportionate number of counters to the number of staff so a few hundred people from several flights were lined up in three separate slow moving lines, but we got through and jumped in a taxi which hardly took the long way around to Banglamphu at all and although his maths wasn't that great (180baht + 50baht = 300baht apparently) we didn't bother to make a fuss (it's Christmas after all, spirit of generosity and all that). We found a place to stay easily on Soi Rambutri, just over from the infamous Thanon Khao San but infinitely nicer as there are trees, a temple/monastery over the road and not so crazy-busy.
Nothing has changed, nothing at all. It's like coming home in a funny way. There are still the fruit, pancake and phad thai stalls. There's still a falafel stall out the front of the police office. There are still about 5 times as many westerners as Thais here, and still the obligatory annoying backpackers. Just the type you want to shake and say 'Chill out man! Not everyone is out to get you!'. Some people act like an offer of a tuk-tuk is an attack and respond in kind, angrily and aggressively. You get so much further here by being friendly, not ignoring people and chatting before you refuse what they are trying to sell. Shouting at someone over 20 baht (that's about 60c AU) does nothing but make you look like a fool. Just my opinion of course.
But somehow this time it seems easier here. Maybe we're not a bit jaded like we were last time when it took us about 3 months before we got to BKK but this time it just seems a bit more relaxing. We've paid a lot more for a room than last time too, making it a lot easier to find one as competition for the super-cheap rooms is big so we have a nice, big, clean and quiet room with a bathroom overlooking a pretty courtyard with trees, a big fish pond, orchids and a spirit house. I love the spirit houses here. They're usually out the front of a house or hotel or business and they are often built before the actual house because it's important to have somewhere for the house spirits to live. People leave fruit and flowers and light incense to keep them happy. It's technically an animist thing, not a Buddhist thing but many buddhists believe in it nonetheless, a blending of religions, at least that's how I understand it.
What is very strange here is that it's not hot! At least not after Malaysia anyway. The Thais are all rugged up in jumpers and jackets, it's not THAT cold to us but there was a definite nip in the air this morning and it hardly feels humid at all, it's great!
We've already dove head first into the food, having curries and Tom Kha (my most favourite soup of all time) and stirfries and painfully chilli hot Som Tum (green papaya salad). We were enjoying our lunch yesterday right up until a pigeon got squashed by a car on the road in front of the cafe which was more than a bit off putting (some of you know this already, hello family!), a street sweeper had picked it up within ten minutes but a blood smear and some scattered feathers remained (sorry if anyone was eating while they read this!) and I couldn't seem to stop looking at the damn thing! Morbid fascination, watching backpackers swerve around the body in disgust and a few unfortunate people who weren't paying attention... you get the picture in far too much detail I'm sure!
And the most exciting thing we have done so far is to have my hair dreaded I said I'd do it and I've been true to my word and actually done it! It was an experience let's just say that. It was 400baht ($15 AU ish... a far cry different to the $hundred/s plus you pay at home unless you DIY), down from 800 so I think we did alright there , I even did the bargaining myself instead of getting Dylan to do it. It took 1.5 guys (sometimes one, sometimes two) about 2 and a half hours to do it. I started off on a little plastic stool, then after about half an hour was moved to a plastic chair with a back and half an hour after that I was graduated to a proper cushioned chair, there was clearly a seat hierarchy going on, the longer you'd been there the better seat you got as people left. My hair was back-combed then viciously woven in and out with what looked like a very small crochet hook very very fast and quite painfully. They're really tight! By the end of it I was just closing my eyes and waiting for the pain to fade, gentle is not the name of the game here, speed is of the essence. My scalp may never be the same ever again. Pictorial evidence will follow once we get the pics off the camera Personally I think I look silly but Dylan thinks otherwise. Since last night they have grown on me a bit so only time will tell to see how long they last. It was dreads or cut the damn hair off tho, I'm not a long haired person (despite having long hair for about 18 years) and it was driving me NUTS. So I embraced the hippy within, all I need now is to get fatter rings in my ears and a couple of tattoos and I'm set for life.
I don't know when the next post will be, I'll check this before we leave for Burma on boxing day but the availability of the Internet in Burma is a closed book at the moment, hopefully there will be some access so I can keep writing.Anyway, we'll leave it there for now, I'm absolutely starving hungry!

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